It’s not every day one of Europe’s largest economies votes to pull itself out of the European Union, the British prime minister announces his resignation and serious questions erupt regarding the future of the Western political order.
But fortunately for NATO and the British military, it’s not time to panic … yet. The military implications of Brexit will not set in overnight, and Britain has a backup plan.
However, there could be profound consequences for the alliance and the British military over the long term — some of them negative.
For one, NATO is responsible for Europe’s collective defense, not the European Union. The United Kingdom will remain one of Europe’s largest economies and will continue to wield outsized global influence due to its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Nor does leaving preclude Britain from participating in the E.U.’s military missions, such as chasing pirates off the Horn of Africa.
The British economy has tanked, but Britain will survive. The actual process of withdrawing from the European Union is also exacerbated by the entangling of European and British case law, which will take years to sort out.
Parliament must ratify the referendum for it go into force — and what remains of the British-European relationship years from now is a mystery. But there’s no doubt that Brexit (if it happens) could have major consequences for British foreign and military policy.
A June briefing paper from the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security research organization, described a a possible withdrawal from the European Union as “significant a shift in national strategy as the country’s decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases East of Suez.”
That’s a big, sweeping and once-in-a-generation shift.
It was evident at the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom withdrew its military from East Asia and the Middle East to focus on countering the Soviet army in Europe. This period coincided with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where British Army troops deployed beginning in 1969.
Britain joined the European Union’s predecessor organization in 1973. In short, Britain’s growing military ties with Europe were inexorably bound with growing economic and political ties.
Those ties shaped the British military.
The Royal Air Force scrapped its long-range Avro Vulcan strike bomber, which wasn’t needed to defend the homeland from a Soviet invasion. Britain put off building new aircraft carriers, but developed Trafalgar-class attack submarines to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic.
Britain’s Tornado fighter jets are also a product of the 1970s, built by a German-Italian-British consortium and designed specifically to fight Soviet forces in Europe.
The Falklands War served as a brief interlude in 1982. But beginning in the 1990s, Britain would shift to a more internationalist posture, fighting wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, where Britain still keeps 450 troops in an advisory role.
Today, British warplanes and advisers are involved in the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.K. military is increasingly involved in Africa.
In short, the British military is less focused on Europe, and is more globalist, than it was during the Cold War.
So in an irony for Brexit’s most isolationist supporters, one possibility is that a post-E.U. Britain might increase its role in NATO to make up for its declining influence in European capitals. Especially now that European governments worry about Russia’s military build-up.
“The U.K. might find that the extent of its commitment to European defense would be one of its few bargaining chips as it entered a period of tough negotiations on the terms of its future economic engagement with its E.U. neighbors,” Malcom Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute wrote.
The outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw in July are likely to further constrain the U.K.’s room for maneuver, committing the U.K. to invest in deployments and capabilities whose main role will be to contribute to deterrence of Russia. New crises in Europe and its neighborhood (for example in the Balkans or Africa) could also increase immediate demands on U.K. capabilities, especially in cases where the U.S. makes it clear that it expects Europe to take the lead.
In these circumstances, as Europe’s most capable military power, the U.K. could not easily stand aside from the European consensus without significant risk to its reputation as a reliable NATO partner.
Nor can a resurgence of security concerns closer to home be ruled out.
With their deployment coming to an end, they decided to properly send off the women that provided temporary release from their sexual repression, according to the video. The ceremony and obituary are pure comedy, check it out:
We gather here today to honor the eternal memory of the women that have sacrificed services for the good of those that have suffered sexual repression through geographic isolation, mainly: us.
These ladies of the periodical, queens of the center fold have inspired our imaginations and other parts that should not be mentioned at this time.
Though these many months have been long and hard, they provided us with a means for us to have a temporary release.
Your undying patriotism and service to those who serve has not been in vain and though our time together may have come to an end, you will forever live on in our hearts.
We salute you oh princess of the page, you will never be forgotten.
Now we will sound off a few of the names of those who have inspired us …
Russia has sent two modernized submarines equipped with advanced stealth technologies to the Mediterranean Sea as part of efforts to reinforce naval presence off the Syrian coast.
“The Black Sea fleet’s new large diesel and electric submarines, Kolpino and Veliky Novgorod … have arrived in the Mediterranean,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on its website on Aug. 28.
The ministry added that the two stealth submarines were fitted with new navigation systems, fully automatized control systems, high-precision missiles, and powerful torpedo equipment.
The submarines, classified by NATO as “Improved Kilo” class, were built in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg and are designed for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations in mid-depth waters. They are capable of holding a crew of 50 and have a top underwater speed of 20 knots and a cruising range of 400 miles.
A Improved Kilo-class submarine. Photo from Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
Part of Russia’s Black Sea fleet is engaged in the battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Syria.
Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against militant groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011.
Damascus blames the deadly militancy on some Western states and their regional allies.
The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.
Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.
But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.
Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.
In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.
But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.
The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.
Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.
“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.
US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Russia flirting with disaster
Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.
The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.
If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets are on a mission. Her nonprofit and the pin-ups who work therein are on a a 50-state hospital tour, visiting veterans at their bedside at military and VA facilities. In their 12th year, Elise and her cadre of volunteers will have visited over 12,000 veterans.
Choosing who gets to be in the yearly calendar is a much more difficult decision.
“We received so many incredible submissions from female Veterans all over the U.S.,” Elise says. “It is always so hard to select our calendar models, but there are only 12 months in a calendar, so we have to narrow it down. We are featuring an outstanding group of female Veterans in our 2018 edition, from a gunner’s mate to a surgery technician to a range coach. These ladies come from each of the five branches.”
Daphne Bye was selected for this year’s calendar. Bye was a TMO Marine, making sure equipment and other materiel got to where it was going. But she later became a range coach, teaching her fellow Marines how to properly use their weapons.
“The fact that I was the only female [on the range as a coach] was even better for me not only because we are so few in the Corps but because most would be shocked to see me there as a coach,” Bye says. “I was proud!”
Another Pin-Up featured in the calendar is Allison Paganetti. Paganetti was a Signal Corps in the Army and came from a veteran family. Both her grandfathers also served in the military.
“The truly brave and selfless individuals who provided my freedom should always be respected and never forgotten,” she says. “I am proud to do my part to shine light on any cause that supports my fellow veterans.”
Megan Marine was a Motor Vehicle Operator in the Marine Corps but has been watching the work of Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets for over ten years. She always wanted to be a part of the the organization and in the calendar. This year is her year.
“Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people living in this world who are in need of care, time, and attention,” says Tess Rutherford, another 2018 calendar alum. “But for me, I feel it is my duty [and] my responsibility to extend a helping hand to my fellow veteran.”
“It gives us vets the opportunity to do what we did while serving,” Rutherford says. “We are able to to put a smile on the face of a veteran who has just undergone horrific surgery or lighten up the countenance of one who is on their dying bed. The only thing that changes is we are allowed to be elegant, regal, sophisticated, and beautiful during the process. It brings a great feeling of euphoria to change lives in such a way!”
Brendena Kyles was a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy. She remembers being on call when the ship called her up in the middle of the night.
“I thought it was a drill till I saw three small boats mounted with weapons following us in our wake…it was definitely not a drill,” she says. “I sighted in with my 240 just waiting for the call, after a good 30 mins of nervously waiting for the call to shoot. They finally gave up and stopped following us, could not go back to sleep after that adrenaline rush.”
Michelle Rivera wanted to be part of the calendar because it’s important for her to try to find a way to give back to the other people in the veteran community. She’s a 3rd-generation Army veteran who loves the fact that Pin-Ups for Vets gives female veterans a chance to do something meaningful for hospitalized veterans.
Gina Elise and her volunteer pin-ups are incredible human beings who makes it their goal to ensure the pin-ups make it to all 50 states.
A disabled veteran once told Elise, “When you are here, my pain is gone!” Since then, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated more than $56,000 to help VA Hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
Training Squadron 7, part of Training Air Wing One out of Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi, observed a stand-down October 2, Lt. Elizabeth Feaster, a spokeswoman for Naval Air Training, told Military.com.
Cmdr. Jason Gustin, commanding officer of the “Eagles” of Training Squadron 7, will determine October 3 whether the squadron needs to extend the stand-down further, she said.
Feaster said she is unaware of any broader actions being taken regarding Training Air Wing One or the Navy’s Goshawk fleet in light of the crash.
The T-45 went down before 6 p.m. in the Cherokee National Forest, roughly 45 miles southwest of Knoxville.
Navy officials arrived at the crash site Monday morning and confirmed the origin of the aircraft and that the two pilots, a student and instructor, did not survive.
Feaster said Navy officials had been en route to the site Sunday night, but emergency responders suspended search and rescue and blocked off the area after dark.
A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, Terry McDonald, told Military.com that the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department had been first responders at the scene, with the U.S. Forest Service and Tennessee Wildlife Agency also contributing to disaster response efforts.
The executive officer of Training Squadron 7, Cmdr. Stephen Vitrella, visited the site Monday, Feaster said.
Flights would resume the same month, but with strict altitude and G-force restrictions as a Navy team assessed possible causes of the “physiological episodes.”
In August, training flights finally resumed with new measures in place to measure air pressure and flow and cockpit contaminants.
Feaster told Military.com it is far too soon to indicate or rule out anything as a cause of Sunday’s crash. The chief of Naval Air Training, or CNATRA, is assembling the team that will investigate the tragedy, she said.
Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.
As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.
“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.
While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.
Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.
“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.
As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.
Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.
“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.
This article contains spoilers for Season one of Homecoming. You have been warned.
The second season of Homecoming is live on Amazon Prime Video. A psychological thriller based on the podcast of the same name, Homecoming unravels a conspiracy around an organization that ostensibly exists to help military veterans transition to civilian life but in reality was designed to make warriors forget their trauma so they’d be willing to reenlist.
In the first season, Julia Roberts played a character named Heidi Bergman, a therapist working for the Homecoming Transitional Support Center. The season followed two timelines: one in 2018, where Heidi worked with veterans at homecoming; the other in 2022, where Heidi couldn’t remember the details of her previous job and worked to unravel the mystery of what really happened there.
Season two begins with another mystery, as lead actress Janelle Monáe wakes up adrift in a rowboat with no memory of how she got there or who she is. Here’s the trailer:
HOMECOMING | Trailer – New Mystery on Prime Video May 22, 2020
“I knew something was wrong with me, but I couldn’t explain it to anyone. It was like the people around me were keeping a secret,” her character shares. As images of the red fruit from season one — which was responsible for the characters’ memory loss — flood the trailer, Monáe uncovers an image of herself in uniform.
“What was I doing? Why was I there?” Monáe asks Hong Chau’s Audrey Temple, who appeared as an assistant in season one until she forced her boss to confess to Homecoming’s dark purpose.
“It’s complicated,” replied Chau.
What makes conspiracy stories – especially military conspiracy stories — so compelling is that they are uncomfortably conceivable. Service members are expected to color inside the lines and follow orders without question. The conflicts they fight in, the targets they neutralize, the people they kill are all ordered by someone above them they hope they can trust.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.
“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.
Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.
Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.
The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)
In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.
In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.
The Nigerian Air Force carried out an air strike on Friday that bagged some of the top leaders of Boko Haram. The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed.
The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed. The military statement confirmed that Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman were among the dead in the “most unprecedented and spectacular air raid” on the village of Taye in the Sambisa forest. The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
A photo released by the Nigerian military with their statement on the air strike showed pilots in a briefing in front of a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet of the 75th Strike Group. This multi-role aircraft serves in both the light attack and training roles, and can carry up to 5,500 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the BL755 cluster bomb and the AGM-65 Maverick. It has a top speed of 540 knots, and a range of roughly 380 miles. The plane also serves in the air forces of France, Thailand, Belgium, Cameroon, Togo, Qatar, Portugal, and Morocco. The plane has been retired by Germany and the Ivory Coast.
Nigerian Alpha Jets have been the primary strike weapon against Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Nigeria also has Chengdu J-7 Fishbed interceptors and Areo L-39 Albatross trainers in service, but the former are primarily used for air defense (replacing Russian-build MiG-21 Fishbeds in 2009) and the latter planes have a very limited bomb load (roughly 600 pounds).
In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.
Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.
The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.
Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.
These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%? That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)
Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.
On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.
Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.
As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.
“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”
The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.
“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
This operation would have looked different in 1992.
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.
At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.
“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.
“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”
After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.
Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.
There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.
But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.
Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.
“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”
Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.
“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”
Each person defines success differently.
Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.
“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”
Paying it forward
“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.
Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.
After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.
“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.
Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.
“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.
When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.
“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”
A new generation
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.
This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.
Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.
But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.
After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.
“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.
After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?
“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”
The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.
“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”
Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.
“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”
Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.
“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”
When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.
“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”
Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.
“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”
Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.
“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”
Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.
“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”
Thousands of flights around the world were canceled or rerouted when Pakistan closed its airspace amid flaring tensions between it and nuclear rival India.
Authorities in Pakistan closed the entire country’s air space after a confrontation between it and India over the contested Kashmir region, in which Pakistan says it shot down two Indian military planes.
The closure had a massive effect on the aviation industry, given Pakistan’s pivotal position between Asia and the Middle East.
Thousands of flights regional flights, as well as flight to Europe and Canada, were cancelled or rerouted to avoid Pakistani airspace.
Here are some of the airlines and routes affected by the closure across Feb. 27 and 28, 2019:
Air Canada warned of delays of flights to Bombay and New Delhi on Feb. 27 and 28, 2019, because of airspace closures “due to political activity.”
Qatar Airways said that flights to Peshawar, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Sialkot were delayed or suspended until further notice.
Singapore Airlines said on Feb. 27, 2019, that a number of flights to Europe would be rerouted so they could stop to refuel en route to their destination.
British Airways was forced to reroute an unspecified number of flights, Reuters reported.
As of Feb. 28, 2019, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority’s website said that most flights scheduled to arrive in all of Pakistan’s airports are cancelled.
Flight tracking website Flightradar 24 shared an image of what it said was “the most extreme example yet of the circuitous routing required due to the closure of Pakistani airspace” on Feb. 28, 2019. The Uzbekistan Airways flight was from Uzbekistan to India.
Flightradar 24 also shared a map comparing airspace above Pakistan when the closure was made, versus a month before:
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority told passengers to contact their airlines for updates on their flights to and from Pakistan.
Tension has increased between two rival nuclear powers
Pakistan’s military on Feb. 27, 2019, said it had shot down two Indian aircraft that crossed into Pakistan’s side of the disputed Kashmir region, while India said that it had shot down one Pakistan Air Force plane.
Pakistan has one Indian pilot in custody, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
General Vijay Kumar Singh, the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, described the pilot as “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless courageous soldier” and called for his safe return.
“During these testing times the country stands, as one, behind him his family. Our efforts are on under the #GenevaConvention we hope that the brave pilot would return home soon,” he said.
Pakistan released a video of the detained pilot, which India called a “vulgar display” and an “unprovoked act of aggression.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said at a press conference on Feb. 27, 2019, that the two countries “should sit down and talk.” He urged “better sense to prevail.”
Khan said that given the two nations’ nuclear arsenals, “My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation on Wednesday and said India and Pakistan should sit down and talk.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Feb. 28, 2019, that “the entire country is one and is standing with our soldiers.”
He did not specifically mention Pakistan, but said “When our enemy tries to destabilize the country, when terrorists attack – one of their goals is that our progress should stop, our country should stop moving ahead,” CNN reported.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.