Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder - We Are The Mighty
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Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.


That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.

Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.

But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Artillery units in Iraq serve two roles: to provide force protection for Coalition and Iraqi security forces and to support ISF ground maneuver, enabling them to defeat Daesh. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel I Johnson)

They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.

The result?

“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.

A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”

The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.

The U.S. military is still investigating the incident, which drew criticism from the United Nations and Amnesty International.

On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.

“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.

If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.

“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.

A Pivotal Moment

With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.

Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
ISIS trucks driving around Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: ISIS sources on the web)

The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.

The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.

The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.

A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.

And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.

Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.

He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”

Sectarian Civil War

After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.

Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.

A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.

From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.

When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.

Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.

Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.

“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”

Reining in Militias

The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.

A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.

In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
An Iraqi federal police takes a break before another day’s offensive to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.

“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.

Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.

“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”

To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.

“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

But the Iraqi Security Forces leading the fight have suffered a lot of casualties and are very tired, he noted, possibly causing them to rely on more firepower to limit their losses.

“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”

When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.

If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.

“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.

In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.

“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”

Articles

Here’s the military’s incredibly painful ‘OC spray’ training

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder


Being “OC sprayed” is an absolutely terrible experience.

OC, or Oleoresin Capsicum — better known as pepper spray — is used to train military and law enforcement personnel as a necessary exercise, so they know what it feels like and can continue to function if they are sprayed.

“It may be the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” former Marine Ben Feibleman told WATM. Echoing this sentiment, WATM’s own Mike Dowling described it as “the worst day of his life.”

Despite the suffocating and searing sensation of the face, it’s a non-lethal form of policing, riot control, and personal self-defense. In most cases, the worst that will happen is irritation of the skin, temporary blindness, pain and the psychological effect of fear, anxiety and panic. As part of their training, troops are subject to voluntary OC spraying and asked to perform crowd restraint exercises.

The active ingredient in most OC sprays is a high concentration of pepper and alcohol, which is why “pepper spray” is commonly used to identify the spray. The only way to mitigate the spray’s effect is a direct stream of water to the eyes to flush the chemical out. In most cases – depending on the chemical concentration – the average effect lasts 30 minutes, according to SABRE, a brand of OC spray.

Here’s what a typical OC spray qualification is like:

The spray is voluntary. He may look calm …

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada/USMC

… but here’s what he’s really feeling.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Next, nearly blind, the trainee must take down a threat by submission.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: Seaman Apprentice Brian H. Abel/US Navy

Then, the trainee must simulate fending off a potential threat.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada/USMC

Once training is complete, it’s off to rinsing your face with water.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Scott Dunn/USMC

Proper training prevents this from happening:

No matter how much it hurts, don’t be this guy:

MIGHTY TRENDING

TrueCar partners up with DAV and Team RWB to give cars to wounded veterans

Last year, TrueCar teamed up with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) to put on the DrivenToDrive program and awarded U.S. Army Veteran and Special Forces medic Major Peter Way the keys to a new, adapted van at the closing ceremony of Team Red White & Blue’s Old Glory Relay on Veteran’s Day.

In May, 2018, they did it again, awarding ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Goodrich a new 2018 Honda Ridgeline. Goodrich is a veteran of the Iraq War, during which he sustained traumatic brain and leg injuries. After traveling the long road to reovery, he dedicated his life to helping other veterans through the use of art therapy — and the DriventoDrive program gave him the perfect tool for the job.

Now, TrueCar is teaming up with DAV and Team RWB to do it again. This Veterans Day in San Diego, California, the DriventoDrive program is going to award another new car to another courageous vet in need — and they need your help.


Submit your DrivenToDrive application here.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Mike Goodrich receiving his new 2018 Honda Ridgeline.

An estimated 4.9 million veterans have a service-connected disability according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But, as many brave veterans like Way and Goodrich have shown, that doesn’t stop them from lifting up their communities.

The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke on the program earlier this year,

“DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”
Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

TrueCar wants to know what drives you. When applying, entrants should talk about the nominee, any details regarding his or her military experience and injuries sustained (if any), and what goals he or she hopes to achieve with a new vehicle.

All applications are then evaluated by a panel and, eventually, one winner is selected.

The ability to drive, especially in the United States, is a symbol of independence. It gives you the ability to go your own way — and TrueCar wants to give that freedom back to someone who worked to protect our freedoms back home.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win (or nominate a deserving veteran in your community), be sure to visit the DrivenToDrive website — but act quickly. Submissions are open between now and October 8, 2018, at 8:59:59 PM PT.

Articles

This is how Harry Truman’s prize swords were stolen from his Presidential Library

Presidential libraries aren’t usually the prime targets for well-executed heists, but in the case of Harry Truman’s located in Independence, Missouri, some of his rare collectibles weren’t well secured.


On the early morning of March 24, 1978, Truman’s library had one security guard stationed at the north end and he noticed a questionable woman walking around across the street — keeping the guard’s concentration (a decoy).

Related: Teddy Roosevelt’s prize pistol was stolen and returned 16 years later

Less than 10-minutes after the guard noticed the mysterious lurking female, an additional car pulled up near the south gate of the library and the “break-in” commenced as the thieves broke through a pane of glass to gain entry.

As the alarm sounded, the singular guard dashed at full speed toward the disturbance, 100 yards away from his post to discover that the thieves had padlocked the door from the other side where the thief was about to take place.

As the guard shook the door and yelled at the burglars, he heard the sounds of glass shattering as it fell to the floor.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
A view of the broken glass in the lobby exhibit case where swords and daggers were stolen. (Source: Truman Library)

The thieves took the merchandise they appeared to be after and made their escape all within less than 45-seconds after the initial alert. The rare daggers and swords that were stolen were gold and jewel encrusted art from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
The items were the museum’s most valued items. (Source: History Channel/ Screenshot)

At the time of the robbery, the net worth of the stolen items was valued at 1 million dollars.

According to the Examiner, this case is still under investigation.

Check out the History Channel‘s video reporting on the classic capper.

(History Channel, YouTube)

Also Read: This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump released a Gitmo prisoner to Saudi Arabia

A prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has been sent back to his native Saudi Arabia to serve out the remainder of a 13-year sentence, making him the first detainee to leave the U.S. base in Cuba since President Donald Trump took office.

The Pentagon announced the transfer of Ahmed Mohammed al-Darbi in a brief statement on May 2, 2018. He had originally been scheduled to return home as part of a plea deal no later than Feb. 20, 2018.


Al-Darbi pleaded guilty before a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba in 2014 to charges stemming from an al-Qaida attack on a French oil tanker. He is expected to serve out the rest of his sentence, about nine years, in a Saudi rehabilitation program as part of a plea deal that included extensive testimony against others held at Guantanamo

His lead defense counsel, Ramzi Kassem, said the transfer was the culmination of “16 long and painful years in captivity” by the U.S. at Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, with his children growing up without him and his own father dying.

“While it may not make him whole, my hope is that repatriation at least marks the end of injustice for Ahmed,” said Kassem, a law professor at the City University of New York who has represented the prisoner since 2008.

Al-Darbi was captured at the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June 2002 and taken to the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan. He has testified to being kept in solitary confinement, strung up from a door in shackles, deprived of sleep and subjected to other forms of abuse as part of his early interrogation.

In a statement released by Kassem, who was part of a legal team that included two military officers, al-Darbi described what he expected to be an emotional reunion with his family in Saudi Arabia.

“I cannot thank enough my wife and our children for their patience and their love. They waited sixteen years for my return,” he said. “Looking at what lies ahead, I feel a mixture of excitement, disbelief, and fear. I’ve never been a father. I’ve been here at Guantanamo. I’ve never held my son.”

His transfer brings the number of men held at Guantanamo to 40, which includes five men facing trial by military commission for their alleged roles planning and supporting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and another charged with the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
The U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer USS Cole gets underway after completing extensive repairs to the ship’s hull and interior spaces.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tina M. Ackerman.)

Al-Darbi, 43, pleaded guilty to charges that included conspiracy, attacking civilian objects, terrorism and aiding the enemy for helping to arrange the 2002 al-Qaida attack on the French tanker MV Limburg. The attack, which killed a Bulgarian crew member, happened after al-Darbi was already in U.S. custody and was cooperating with authorities, according to court documents.

Al-Darbi could have received a life sentence but instead got 13 years in the plea deal. He provided testimony against the defendant in the Cole attack as well as against a Guantanamo prisoner charged with overseeing attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-2006. Neither case has gone to trial.

Gen. Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor for the war crimes proceedings at Guantanamo, said in a February 2018 Defense Department memo that al-Darbi provided “invaluable assistance” to the U.S.

“Al-Darbi’s testimony in these cases was both unprecedented in its detail regarding al-Qaida operations and crucial to government efforts to hold top members of that group accountable for war crimes,” Martins wrote.

The agreement to repatriate al-Darbi was made under President Barack Obama, whose administration sought to gradually winnow down the prison population in hopes of eventually closing the detention center. Trump reversed that policy and has vowed to continue using the detention center.

In a separate statement on May 2, 2018, the Defense Department said it had sent the White House a proposed set of guidelines for sending prisoners to Guantanamo in the future “should that person present a continuing, significant threat to the security of the United States.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to provide any details about the new policy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

Articles

CSI Battlefield: 7 ways forensic science is used in war

Forensic science is associated with hit TV shows and catching criminals at home, but it’s also used by the military. Here are 7 ways it is:


1. Crater analysis

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Gross

Crater analysis is the study of holes caused by explosions and incoming rounds. It has two major uses. For decades, experts have looked at craters to determine what caliber weapon an artillery attack used and where it was fired from. Since the invention of IEDs, it has also been used to determine what size and type of explosive charge was used in the device.

2. Swabbing for explosives

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Army Sgt. James Bunn

Determining what type of explosives were used in an IED allows military intelligence to determine what methods insurgents are using to create or smuggle explosives. Tactical site exploitation teams swab IED components and test the residue to learn what the explosive is and how refined it is.

Troops can also swab suspected bombmakers hands or homes to prove insurgent activity, allowing U.S. forces or local military personnel to arrest probable insurgents.

3. Fingerprinting and DNA

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Army SPC Chenee’ Brooks

Fingerprint and DNA collection help commanders track the movement of people around the battlefield and aid in the prosecution of insurgents. Investigators grab fingerprints and DNA from inside known areas of enemy activity, from weapons and material, and from suspected insurgents.

Where each matching sample appears on the battlefield will let commanders know if a known bomb maker is in a certain region and will increase the chance that an insurgent is caught at a checkpoint where troops have a fingerprint reader.

Army scientist can even detect explosive materials in the fingerprints found at a site.

4. Testing for chemical and biological deployments

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Timm Duckworth

When troops come under biological or chemical attack, it’s obviously best if the military can quickly determine what agents were used against them. The U.S. has chemical warfare experts in most units who can quickly determine what threat is in the area with special collection papers that test chemical reactions.

The military has also developed an automated tool that automatically tests the environment all the time. The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (M4A1) alerts troops to the presence of an agent, tells them what level of protection is likely required, and identifies the most likely agent being used against them.

5. Searching combat camera, public affairs, and satellite imagery for clues

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Photo: US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Paul D. Bishop

Investigators and forensic technicians on the battlefield get precious few opportunities to collect data from many battlefields, especially if their side isn’t holding the ground at the end of the day. So they often collect data from military photographs and other imagery.

Photos from during the battle can give up clues like which side was where when a war crime was committed, and satellite imagery has already been used to prove the location and scope of mass killings by ISIS. Digital information collected from ISIS social media postings has given Air Force commanders enough information to target a strike.

6. Searching for hidden graves or other evidence

After massacres and other war crimes, criminals often hide all the evidence they can including the bodies of their victims. To bring closure to families and to aid in prosecution down the line, experts hunt out likely mass graves or other caches of hidden evidence.

Iraqi forensic teams have been following the front line as Iraqi and international troops push back ISIS. In Tikrit and other cities hit hard, they’ve found evidence of large executions and exhumed mass graves.

7. Scanning the atmosphere to detect nuclear detonations and materials

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Detecting nuclear detonations from far away is hard. Detecting them from up close is easy. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration

After nuclear tests by foreign countries like North Korea, America and other countries use particle detectors to see how much nuclear material might have been detonated and to prove a detonation took place. During the Cold War, U-2 flights collected particles to learn what weapons the Cold War had in development.

Research is underway to help detect nuclear materials or weapons in transit to shut down smuggling routes and protect population centers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strikes on Syria were a public spanking of the Assad regime

President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.

The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.


Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.

“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.

What did the strikes change on the ground?

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
One of the US’s targets before and after the strike.
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.

Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.

The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.

Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.

Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.

Performative allyship in cruise-missile form

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
A poster of Bashar al-Assad at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus

Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.

But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.

The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.

Articles

Here’s how the US Army’s fitness standards have changed with the times

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
U.S. Army Leaders with 2nd Cavalry Regiment run in the front of a Regimental formation during a morale run March 28, 2013 at Rose Barracks, Germany. Troops with the Regiment ran three miles during morning physical fitness as a morale booster. | U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Joshua Edwards


There’s almost no way getting around it — if you’re serving in the US military, maintaining one’s physical fitness is a duty that you have to fulfill, unless you’d prefer to struggle to catch your breath.

In order to accommodate both the fluctuation of the average person’s physical traits and the demands of modern warfare, the US Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is constantly honing its physical fitness standards. Taking a look at this evolution of physical standards with Whitfield B. East’s, “A Historical Review and Analysis of Army Physical Readiness Training and Assessment” provides not only the insight to the demands of what was needed on the battlefield back then, but also answers the highly debated question of whether servicemembers back in the day could be considered fitter.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
West Point cadets in 1870 (where are their PT belts?) | Public Domain

Starting in the early 1800s, United States Military Academy (USMA) cadets neglected physical exercise and merely practiced military drills — even recreational activities were frowned upon. After realizing their mistakes, Congress and Army leaders sent officials to Europe to determine the best course for implementing a physical education program for their future officers.

Tasks within this new program included scaling a 15-foot wall without using tools, vaulting on a horse 15-hands high, leaping a ditch 10-feet wide, an 8-minute mile run, and a 3-mile march carrying a 20-pound knapsack in one hour. Also recommended in this new program was the ability to dive and remain underwater for 45-seconds.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
USMA Physical Education under Herman Kohler Combat Studies Institute Press via Public Domain

Shortly after the Civil War, the USMA appointed its first pedagogically-trained instructor, Herman Koehler, as its “Master of the Sword.” As the new head of West Point’s Department of Physical Education, Koehler focused on gymnastics as a key element for fitness and brought into existence the first Army-wide training manuals for physical training in 1887.

In 1906, the Army then implemented its first unit-wide physical training program. Tasks included a weekly 12-mile march for the infantry and 18-miles for horse-mounted artillery and cavalry units. Even the President at the time, Theodore Roosevelt, was obsessed about starting a physical regimen for the military — as a sickly kid during his childhood, he developed a philosophy of strenuous exercise.

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
United States Defense Visual Information Center via Wikimedia Commons

World War I then brought new fitness requirements for the Army — the first manual to identify quantifiable physical objectives was developed. This Individual Efficiency Test measured combat physical readiness with the following requirements: running 100 yards in 14 seconds, a 12-foot broad running jump, an unassisted 8-foot wall climb, throwing a hand grenade for 30 yards into a 10′ diameter circle, and an obstacle course run.

Shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US’ involvement in World War II, the US was seen as a complacent country that neglected physical activity due to the 20 years of peace and continued innovations to make life easier — over a third of the military’s inductees were considered to be in “miserable shape”, and half of them weren’t even able to swim well.

This proved to be a harrowing precursor to the landing of D-Day, when it was determined that a significant number of deaths were attributed to the fact that many servicemembers had drowned in waters that were 10-15 feet deep.

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Troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.Photo: Wiki Commons

To address these inadequacies, in 1944, the Physical Efficiency Test Battery was created. This battery of tests included pull-ups, 20 seconds of burpees, squat jumps, push-ups, a 100-yard pig-a-back run, sit-ups, and a 300-yard shuttle run. Normative scales were included during this examination to provide participants with the added incentive to score higher and to incite a “competitive spirit” amongst themselves.

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Flickr / DVIDSHUB

Finally, in the 1980s, testing requirements shaped into what it currently resembles within the Army. The gender-integrated Army Physical Readiness Test (APRT) evaluated soldiers on their ability to do push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run in that order, with 10-20 minutes of rest time between each event.

After receiving initial data on the results, research teams concluded that about 5% of soldiers should be able to score the maximum points allotted for the test. During the beginning of this era, there were no scoring standards for soldiers over the age of 40, and those that were only authorized to be tested on the 2-mile run.

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Marine Corps recruits perform ammunition can lifts during the Combat Fitness Test. | Public Domain

Since then, there has been much debate with the current scoring system in the Army’s physical fitness test — many scorn the “corporate fitness” model and it’s detraction from its more combat-oriented roots. It remains to be seen if the Army implements a more functional assessment to meet the demands of today, such as the Marine Corps’ Combat Fitness Test.

Whichever way the Army decides to keep rolling along, you can be sure that servicemembers will be profusely sweating.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WW2 Ace fought for both sides of the war

Fighter aces — those pilots responsible for taking down at least five other aircraft — are almost as old as aviation itself. Since World War I, young men have been willing to risk death to earn glory and become “knights of the air” or the “cavalry of the clouds.” There have been thousands of pilots who achieved ace status, many whom have racked up far more than five downings. None, however, have ever managed the singular feat of becoming a fighter ace on both sides in the same war.


That is, none except one…

Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on June 1, 1913. He joined the French Armee de l’Air in 1931 as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved ace status in both the French Air Force and under the collaborationist Vichy regime after the fall of France in 1940. With 18 kills to his name and as France’s fourth-highest-scoring ace of World War II, he remains the only pilot in history to become an ace on both sides of the same conflict.

When war came, he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS.406. On Nov. 23, 1939 he claimed his first kill, a Dornier DO.17 reconnaissance aircraft. Another DO.17 fell to his guns on March 2, 1940.

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Pierre Le Gloan with his famous D.520.

All pilots in Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D.520. Le Gloan lost no time in taking full advantage of the use of a better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June he shot down four German and Italian bombers: two Heinkel 111 planes and two Fiat BR.20 bombers.

It didn’t end there. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on June 15. His squadron met a squadron of Italian CR.42 fighters. Attacking with enthusiasm, he shot down no less than three of them. Encountering another CR.42 and a BR.20 on his way back to base, Le Gloan attacked and shot down both of them.

Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter aces, and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.

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Pierre Le Gloan (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

On June 20, his squadron was transferred to Algeria, then a French colony. With the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy puppet government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command. To Le Gloan, it made no difference. He’d flown, fought, and killed for France. Now, he would do the same for Vichy.

His second fighting streak came in June and July of 1941. Fighting for Vichy and taking on Britain’s Royal Air Force, Le Gloan shot down five of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters, a Gloster Gladiator, and another aircraft that remains unidentified. He’d taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end, only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables), and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces. Le Gloan’s career would not, however, last much longer.

Neither would his life.

The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942. With Allied forces liberating North Africa and Field-Marhsal Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ pushing westward after the victory at El Alamein, the Vichy regime’s days were numbered. So were Pierre Le Gloan’s.

Soon, all former Vichy forces were siding with the Allies, including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. Reequipped in May 1943 with the American P-39 Airacobra, a new fighter might have given the newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan another winning streak. Might have, if not for a design feature on the Airacobra that wasn’t on the Morane-Saulnier or the Dewoitine: an external fuel tank mounted under the belly meant to be jettisoned when empty or if about to enter a dogfight.

Also Read: This is what happens when the world’s best fighter jets face off against each other

Le Gloan had never flown a fighter with a drop tank. Over the sea on a routine patrol on September 11, 1943 he began to experience mechanical problems. As the Airacobra was not the finest fighter ever built — this wasn’t unusual for pilots who had to fly them. Comparing the Airacobra to the legendary Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang was like comparing a rent-a-wreck with a Ferrari. With smoke streaming from his aircraft, Le Gloan decided to return to base and land, forgetting to jettison the drop tank. It was a fatal mistake.

Le Gloan, in the midst of severe mechanical difficulties, might have been safer bailing out than trying to land, even if he had remembered to jettison the extra tank. As it was, he attempted to land. It would have been a difficult landing at the best of times in a malfunctioning aircraft and, his mind on other things, Le Gloan forgot to drop the tank. As he touched the ground, the undercarriage collapsed.

The drop tank, still full, ruptured instantly. As the Airacobra screeched along the runway, the mixture of aviation fuel and sparks caused the plane to erupt into a fireball. Pierre Le Gloan, 18-kill ace, only pilot ever to become an ace on both sides in the same war, was burned alive.

Today, his name is largely forgotten except to history buffs, aviation enthusiasts, and the townsfolk of Kergrist-Moelou. Deciding to either forget or gloss over his having flown, fought, and killed in the service of Vichy, the residents of Le Gloan’s hometown named a street after him. Even so, as time passes, fewer people who use it remember either the man or his remarkable place in military history.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vote for MISSION: MUSIC Finalist Bobby Blackhat Walters

UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!

Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!

Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.


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From left to right: Bobby Blackhat Walters (USCG) and guitarist Tom Euler

After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.

“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”

Return to the voting page and check out the other finalists!

For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Articles

This Aussie submachine gun looked whacky but it worked

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
Australian officers and enlisted men practice firing the Owen Gun at a range during World War II. (Public domain photo)


It’s weird- and whacky-looking.

It looks like it was made from mismatched pieces of plumbing.

What’s more, there is nothing “down under” about this Australian weapon’s magazine. The magazine loads into the top of the Owen gun – and spent cartridges eject from the bottom of its receiver.

But despite all its oddball features, despite the fact it was painted with jungle camouflage colors that defy description, the Owen worked astoundingly well.

The Owen is considered one of the most reliable submachine guns of the war, with a track record that not only includes the War in the Pacific but service with Aussies who fought in the Korean War and alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam.

Mind you, that’s a performance record earned during jungle warfare — an environment known for producing the kinds of things that cause weapons to jam at the worst possible moment.

The gun is the namesake brainchild of Lt. Evelyn Owen, a member of the Australian Imperial Forces who loved to tinker with firearms.

In 1938, Owen designed and built a homemade .22-caliber automatic carbine that had a large revolver-style cylinder instead of a magazine and a thumb-operated trigger.

Unfortunately, the contraption interested no one in the military. Owen literally set the gun aside, storing it in a large sugar sack and going about his business as an Army private.

The Australian military brass distrusted submachine guns, putting their faith in the tried and true Lee-Enfield rifle. Besides, they had been promised the Sten gun, a weapon touted by its designers to be more than adequate in battle.

But then came the fall of France in 1940. The British lost thousands of small arms that were destroyed or simply abandoned after the devastating rout at Dunkirk.

Bolt-action rifles from The Great War and hunting guns were often the only firearms available for some units. Terrified generals in Australia knew they did not have enough weapons to repel a Japanese invasion force – and the Sten gun wouldn’t be production until 1941.

However, Owen had a neighbor who managed a large Australian steel products factory. Vincent Wardell found the prototype gun and expressed admiration for the design.

Owen’s father, embarrassed by his son’ carelessness, explained to Wardell how the younger Owen tinkered with weapons.  Wardell didn’t care about whether the son picked up after himself – the simplicity of the firearm convinced Wardell that Owen’s skills were wasted as a mere foot soldier.

Wardell convinced the Australian military to transfer Owen from the infantry to the Army Inventions Board, which directed the development of new weapons.

Newly promoted Lt. Owen started to develop additional prototypes in different calibers. Slowly, the Australian government began to take an interest in his ideas.

In 1942, the John Lysaght metalworks factory made three versions of the Owen in 9-millimeter Luger, .38-200 caliber and .45 ACP. All were subjected to stress tests along with a Thompson submachine gun and the Sten gun as benchmark weapons.

The tests included immersing all of the guns in mud and water, then blowing sand at the weapons. The only gun that didn’t jam was the Owen.

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The Owen 9-mm submachine gun used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam by Australian armed forces. Photo from Wikipedia.

In fact, the top-mount magazine proved beneficial. Gravity helped feed bullets into the gun, and the ejection port at the bottom of the receiver meant water and gunk drained out of the chamber more easily.

In short, the Owen Machine Carbine as it was called officially was perfect for jungle warfare.

The government wanted the nine-millimeter version. Eventually, Lysaght produced 45,000 weapons and they were a hit with the Australians soldiers – nicknamed “diggers”—who wielded them.

It only weighed 10 pounds, fired at about 700 rounds a minute from an open bolt, and was easily fired from the prone position.

About its only disadvantage were the offset sights. The top-mounted magazine blocked a normal sight picture, so the sights on the Owen are designed so the shooter looks around the magazine – but it only works for a right-handed shooter.

The Owen routinely out-performed the Sten gun –known as the Austen in its Australian incarnation – and was so well liked that Gen. Douglas MacArthur even considered it for American jungle forces in the Pacific.

During the Korean War, the Owen remained in the Australian arsenal. Even though the Lee-Enfield rifle was the main weapon for the infantryman, Owens found their way into the hands of many soldiers. During the Battle of Kapyong in 1951, any Australian soldier who could get his hands on an Owen used one.

“All hell broke loose as Diggers cut down the surge of attackers, directing into them as much rapid fire as their weapons could produce, the Owen submachine gun being the most effective weapon for this and the dear old single-shot Lee-Enfield the worst,” Maj. Ben O’Dowd, 3 Royal Australian Regiment, Alpha Co., said in an oral history of the battle prepared for the Australian War Memorial.

Helicopter search-and-rescue crews also carried Owens, using them to fend off Chinese Communist and North Korean troops attempting to capture downed airmen.

In addition, infantry scouts and commando units carried Owens during Australian participation in the Vietnam War.

The Australians retired the Owen from mainline service in 1971. However, it still occasionally appears in the hands of special operators when they train fellow soldiers undergoing a weapons familiarization course.

Regrettably, Evelyn Owen’s life was far shorter than the oddball but long-lasting weapon he designed. Owen received £10,000 in royalties – about the equivalent of $728,000 today – but sold the patent rights for the Owen gun to the Australian government.

Owen built a saw mill with the money he received. He continued to tinker with firearms, particularly sports rifles, but he never achieved the same success he had with the Owen gun. In addition, heavy drinking took a toll on his health.

He died of heart failure in 1949 at the age of 33.

Articles

Why is it so hard to understand what it’s like to be a veteran?

Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal. 


As soon as he wrapped up his studies in film and literature at Boston University, Henry Hughes followed family tradition and signed up for the Army. For the next five years, he took fire, dodged IEDs and grappled internally with the meaning of military service while on two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. After Hughes returned home and earned another degree from the American Film Institute, he began making movies, including his short film,”Day One,” which tells the story of a female Army interpreter facing a moral quandary during her first day on the job: saving the newborn child of a known enemy. The film was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for best live-action short.

NationSwell spoke to Hughes, a Got Your 6 Storyteller, by phone from Los Angeles about the lingering questions from war and their portrayal on film.

 

What inspired you to serve your country?

For me, it was a long family tradition. We basically had someone in the Army since the [American] Revolution. I wanted to be part of that tradition.

Is there one question that you continually ask yourself about your experience?

It’s probably, “why is it not so simple?” It’s a very complex part of my life, not something that is full of simply good memories or simply bad memories: it’s a mixture of all types of life. So I always wonder why it’s not like anything else. At this point, why can’t it be simpler? Why is it so difficult for everyone to understand it?

I’m guessing that’s why did you decided to make the film “Day One?”

For sure, it’s about those questions. There’s not a reducible answer like the one I just tried to give you. So that’s why I thought I could make a movie about it instead, to kind of show the way it felt. So the movie is not a true-to-life of what exactly happened to me that one day. But the feeling when I’m watching the movie, it’s that sublime space of things that are horrible and beautiful in the same breath.

What’s the most important lesson civilians can take away from art that’s made about war?

I would say that everyone’s wartime experience is subjective. I don’t know if there’s some sort of universal experience.

What’s your favorite movie about war?

For me, it’s “The Thin Red Line.” I think it touches me because there’s no other war movie like it, that accepts the soulfulness of the warrior experience. A lot of movies don’t go that way, they kind of go along the more visceral, more experiential route.

What is the quality you most admire in a comrade?

What I actually admire most is hard to come by in our community: vulnerability. When it’s a vulnerability to look at your military experience, I really love meeting those people.

Who was the most inspirational person you encountered while serving?

I would say my interpreter on my second tour. She’s the one I based the movie on, or it’s inspired by her. She’s an Afghan-American woman, naturalized as an American citizen, but born over there. The deck was stacked against her, and she looked inside herself to find out what she thought was right and wrong. It wasn’t something that someone told her to do. She just had incredible integrity.

If you could change one thing about your service, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want one of my guys to be wounded or for any of my guys to die.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I would probably say chasing down my wife. It was a long shot, and it worked out. In 2010, after my first tour, I flew to New York without knowing she was there. We hadn’t spoken in a long time. We knew each other as children, when we were 13, and I hadn’t seen her in a number of years. I thought I could track her down, and so on Facebook messenger, I basically said, “Hey, I just landed in New York. Let’s hang out. We haven’t seen each other in a decade.” We went on one date and then a few more dates. She started me writing me a lot of letters when I was in Afghanistan again for my second tour, and we decided to be together.

How can the rest of us, as civilians, do more to support veterans?

Just look at them as people first. I feel like there’s a big divide on some level, but a lot of it is imagined. The fact of the matter is that all of those veterans are just people. I would look at them that way first and then look at their experience.

To you, what does it mean these days to be a veteran?

Well, it’s inescapable, I suppose. The definition of being a veteran is you can never not be a veteran one once you are one. And that speaks to, I think, how profound that experience is. There’s no way you can stop being a veteran.

 

Articles

Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.


Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.

“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”

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A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.

After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.

“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.

Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.

Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.

A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.

“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”