Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.
Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.
“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.
Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.
“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”
Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.
Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.
“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.
“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.
Griest and Haver are following the same path.
Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.
“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.
Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.
“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”
Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.
“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”
When you look at the results country by country, however, some interesting nuances emerge.
First, the US, most European countries, and Russia see ISIS as the foremost security concern. This was the case last year, as well.
But a growing number of people, particularly those in Africa and the Americas, are now saying that climate change is a bigger threat to them than terrorism, cyber attacks, the refugee crisis, or the economy.
In countries that are hurting economically, like Venezuela and Greece, survey respondents predictably said the condition of the global economy was their biggest concern.
People in South Korea and Vietnam both listed China’s power and influence as the main security issue facing their nations.
And while it didn’t rank as the top threat for any nation, more people now say they worry about the United States’ power and influence than in previous years before President Donald Trump took office.
Worldwide, only 22% of people said in a separate Pew survey that they have confidence in Trump, compared to 64% when former President Barack Obama was in office. Similarly, 49% now have a favorable view of the US, vs. 64% at the end of Obama’s presidency.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first leak is coming full circle.
Last month a US appeals court ruled the NSA’s post-9/11 dragnet of millions of Americans’ phone-call records is illegal, noting that a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order “leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden” and published by The Guardian served as the catalyst for the decision.
The FISC order directed Verizon to produce to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The US government had justified the program by saying it was covered under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but the court ruled that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by § 215.”
On Monday, Section 215 and two other provisions of the Patriot Act expired — at least temporarily.
So for the first time since 9/11, partly thanks to Snowden, 31, the phone records of US citizens are not being scooped en masse under a law ruled illegal.
But the order comes from just one of as many as 1.77 million NSA documents Snowden allegedly stole while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013. And he gave only an estimated 200,000 documents to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.
On June 9, 2013, four days after The Guardian published the Verizon order, Snowden revealed himself in a video before going underground to seek asylum.
Snowden’s epic heist and search for asylum spans more than 10,000 miles, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in after Snowden decided to expose NSA spying.
Now that Snowden’s first leak is vindicated, here’s a look at three of the outstanding questions about his journey:
Whom did Snowden contact when he arrived in Hong Kong?
Snowden says he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone” — at least until Hong Kong.
“When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here,” The New York Times reported on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.
Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers, told The Times the person was a well-connected Hong Kong resident and became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.”
Snowden told The Guardian that after the “very carefully planned and orchestrated” theft of NSA information, he didn’t cover his traces in Hong Kong.
“I only tried to avoid being detected in advance of travel … on the other side I wanted them to know where I was at,” Snowden said. “I wanted them to know.”
In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden “arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name.”
Where did Snowden spend the first 11 days?
Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn’t check into the Mira Hotel until June 1, a couple of days before he met Poitras and Greenwald.
“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been ‘holed up’ in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1,” Epstein reported.
“I confirmed that date with the hotel’s employees,” Epstein wrote.” A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card.”
Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that “US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts” between May 20 and June 1.
What exactly happened to the documents Snowden didn’t give to journalists?
After checking out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, Ho said, Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of his carer’s friends.
On June 12, Snowden showed The South China Morning Post (SCMP) an unknown number of documents revealing “operational details of specific [NSA] attacks on [Chinese] computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks, and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.”
Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP that he possessed more NSA intel.
“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”
Eleven days later, Snowden got on a plane to Moscow.
In October 2013, James Risen of The Times reported that Snowden told him over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told me that the report was inaccurate.)
Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.
“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”
More to come
Snowden, who appears via video conference semi-frequently, has not explained these discrepancies yet.
In the meantime, as the effects of Snowden’s leaks reverberate in the US and the world, the saga continues.
The Air Force has made a number of moves to reduce its shortage of active-duty pilots, including bringing on more retired pilots to administrative roles in order to keep qualified fliers in the air.
Now the service is looking to expand the number of pilots it draws in from the Air National Guard and Reserve to fill vacancies across the active-duty force.
On Oct. 1, the Total Force Aircrew Management — Assignment Augmentation Process grew from 10 positions to 30, in an effort to bring active reserve-component fighter pilots who are available and interested into the active-duty force for two to three years, according to an Air Force release.
“This is a growing total-force program,” said Maj. Walt Ehman, head of the TFAM-AAP. “It enables all air components to help fill pilot-assignment positions around the world.” (Positions are only open to fighter pilots and fighter-combat-systems officers, however.)
The TFAM-AAP, started in 2014, brings together the management of active-duty, Air Guard, and Reserve aircrew resources, whereas previously each component had its own office overseeing officers and career enlisted airmen.
“TFAM enables the use of a single agreed-upon model, in one office, to make training and resource decisions, provide policy guidance, and make integrated recommendations to solving problems like aircrew shortfalls,” Ehman said.
Boosting TFAM-AAP openings is one of many initiatives the Air Force is pursuing to improve retention, production, and absorption.
On the retention side, a number of quality-of-life improvements have been implemented, including reducing administrative duties for pilots and increasing pay and bonuses.
To boost production, the Air Force is considering outsourcing some aspects of training, like adversary-pilot duties, as well as partnering with external organizations to augment the training process.
The Air Force’s Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program is also open to up to 25 retired fliers from any pilot specialty code who elect to return to fill “critical-rated staff positions,” allowing active-duty pilots to stay with units where they are needed to meet mission requirements.
An amended executive order signed by President Donald Trump earlier this month also allows the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 pilots to active duty for up to three years. However, Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski, director of the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, has said the service doesn’t intended to force anyone back into active duty.
Rather, he told Military.com, the executive order is an addendum to the VRRAD, giving the Air Force “more access to more retirees” for a longer period of time. Koscheski said the order opened the VRRAD program to personnel who could act as instructors.
The Air Force’s component forces are about 1,500 pilots short of the 20,300 they are required to have. According to Koscheski, 1,300 of those absent are fighter pilots.
Moments after Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the U.S. House Majority Whip, was shot in the hip during an attack on a practice for the upcoming Congressional baseball game, an Iraq War vet was treating his wound.
“You never expect a baseball field in America to feel like being back in a combat zone in Iraq, but this morning it did,” Rep. Brad Wenstrup tweeted. The Ohio Republican congressman later told an aide the only difference between the Alexandria shooting and Iraq was being “without his weapon.”
According to a report by WLWT.com, Wenstrup began to treat his wounded colleague after Scalise dragged himself off the field. Wenstrup had seen wounds like that before he had ever entered politics.
According to the official biography on his web site, that is because Rep. Wentrup is also Col. Wenstrup in the U.S. Army Reserve – and he’s has served in the Army Reserve since 1998, after his sister had a battle with leukemia. During a tour in Iraq with the 344th Combat Support Hospital, Wenstrup was a combat surgeon, which he described as “the worst thing that ever happened to me, and the best thing I ever got to do.”
“I remember one Marine we lost on the table, and the anesthesiologist saying, ‘I had breakfast with him this morning.’ Or having to tell a group of Marines their buddy didn’t make it. Those were the tough days,” he told the college’s magazine.
He had good days, too, including helping to treat a four-month old girl who had pneumonia. Eventually, the doctors figured out the girl also needed gluten-free formula, and raised over $400 to help make arrangements for a U.S. company to send the girl’s father the right baby food.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is threatening to “shred” the nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers if the United States pulls out.
Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said on October 18 that Tehran will stick to the 2015 deal as long as the other signatories respect it.
He was speaking in Tehran days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would not certify that Iran is complying with the agreement and warned he might ultimately “terminate” U.S. participation.
Trump accused Tehran of violating the “spirit” of the agreement, in part for its continued testing of ballistic missiles, and said he would ask Congress to strengthen U.S. legislation to put additional pressure on Iran.
Trump’s announcement has put Washington at odds with other parties to the accord and the European Union, which have voiced their support for the agreement.
Khamenei welcomed Europe’s support but said it was not sufficient, saying “Europe must stand against practical measures [taken] by America.”
Under the nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions that have hurt its economy.
The six powers that signed the accord are the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany.
Over the past four months, a small team of air advisors, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve to Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, combined its efforts to enhance and improve the US Air Force’s compound, changing the working conditions for the airmen assigned there.
When the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group replaced the 123rd Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield in early March 2017, they inherited bare bone facilities. The prior contingency response groups had built the US Air Force’s part of Qayyarah West up from scratch to start operations, but their mission was not long term.
There was a small, open tent used for a passenger terminal that exposed waiting service members to the heat, a canopy spread across two conex boxes used as a vehicle maintenance area, which provided limited protection from the sun, and some of the enclosed tents had mold and rotting wood floors.
The air advisors immediately identified that the air terminal operations center tent had a mold issue that needed to be addressed, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tenebruso, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1 expeditionary maintenance flight chief.
After Qayyarah West Airfield, commonly referred to as “Q-West,” was recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in October 2016, the US Air Force promptly established a presence, repaired the destroyed airfield, and made it ready to be used as a strategic launching pad for the offensive in Mosul.
From mid-October until early March, the 821st and 123rd CRGs deployed personnel to quickly open the airfield and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations in the austere environment.
The current team from the 370th AEAG was the first air expeditionary force rotation or permanent party to call Q-West home outside of the short-term deployed CRG units assigned to rapidly establish operations.
“Everyone wanted to make this place better than what we came into,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Johnson, the NCO in charge of vehicle maintenance assigned to the 370th AEAG, Det. 1. “We identified the needs to better the compound trying to make things more efficient and safer. Everything we’ve done has a purpose and we worked together as a team to make the improvements happen.”
The small team of air advisors worked together to procure and establish tents to be used as a new passenger terminal, morale facility, vehicle maintenance tent and tactical operations center. With the assistance of their joint-service partners, the tents were placed on flooring designed to reduce future mold issues.
The new passenger terminal helped improve the 370th AEAG’s daily facilitation of large passenger movements for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support of CJTF-OIR.
The new vehicle maintenance facility improved efficiency for the maintainers as they can now not only get out of the sun to work on their vehicles, but also complete tasks during all hours of the day.
In order for the compound’s expansion to take place, the power grid needed to be upgraded.
“Staff Sgt. Benton took the lead on expanding the power grid,” said Tenebruso. “He is an AGE guy used to working on flightline equipment, but here he is working on power production and distribution. Thanks to his capabilities we are now almost as close to uninterrupted power as possible, which make our operations much more sustainable.”
Staff Sgt. Shawn Benton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman, as well as the other maintenance personnel, often work outside of their scope to assist with facility upgrades and sustainment at Q-West.
“We want to make this the best place that we can for future rotations,” said Tenebruso. “Everyone here is under the mentality that we leave this place better than we found it and make it so the next rotation does not have the issues we did. Things are very different than when we first got here.”
Initially, there was not a cargo grid yard for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron’s aerial port function, but the aerial porters worked with the Army to procure Hesco barriers and enclose a 32,000 square-foot grid yard to secure its assets.
With limited resources, the aerial porters scrounged up supplies from around the base to create a gate for the cargo yard and a flag pole out of reconstituted metal. The flag pole, which the whole aerial port team helped place in the ground, is the tallest flag pole on the base, Master Sgt. Cliff Robertson, the 442nd AES’s aerial port superintendent, proudly stated.
Another proud achievement of the Q-West Airmen is their “Iron Paradise” makeshift gym. According to Tenebruso, prior to their arrival there was just a wooden bench and a bar with chains duct taped to it that weighed in at a standard 135 pounds. The air advisors have since built a makeshift squat rack and preacher curl bench and acquired more weights, creating an area often filled with Air Force and Army personnel trying to maintain physical fitness in their austere location.
“I am amazed at how well this team has come together to improve the FOB’s conditions since they got here,” said Maj. Dave Friedel, the 370th AEAG, Det. 1 commander. “They made the camp much more livable while still performing their primary advise and assist mission. It’s all about teamwork here and there are a lot of people working well outside their expertise level to make things happen.”
The next round of Department of Defense funding will come with an important requirement: Congress wants the Pentagon’s outmoded and highly toxic practice of burning old munitions and other explosives in the open air to finally come to a stop.
The language of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act made public in early May 2018, which proposes $717 billion in spending, also demands that the Pentagon report back to Congress with a specific plan for ending the centurylong burning of munitions.
“The Pentagon will have to tell us what it plans to do to stop this practice,” wrote U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in an emailed statement to ProPublica. Shea-Porter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced the amendment to the spending bill that deals with open burns. Shea-Porter earlier led efforts to curb the Pentagon’s use of open burn pits at overseas bases — a practice believed by medical experts to have sickened thousands of U.S. soldiers — and she has often pressed for action against other defense-related pollution risks at home.
“If these answers aren’t satisfactory, I am hopeful that the Armed Services Committee will require the Defense Department to take appropriate action to curb this disturbing practice,” she wrote.
Shea-Porter told New Hampshire Public Radio that she and the Armed Services Committee took up the burn issue in 2018, after reading ProPublica’s reporting.
Neither a spokesperson for the office of the Secretary of Defense nor for the Army’s munitions department immediately responded to requests for comment. But in previous statements to ProPublica, the Department of Defense has maintained that its open burn practices have already been vastly curtailed over the past decade, and where they still take place today, they are both safer and far less expensive than alternatives.
Congress has pressed the Pentagon to phase out open burning for more than a quarter-century. In 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine began studying the risks and impacts of the Pentagon’s burn practices.
The new bill would force the Defense Department to report back to Congress on the findings of this study and set out exactly what it will do to implement any recommendations made by the National Academies. The measure appears designed to spur the Pentagon to propose its own solutions, but could well lead to a law requiring regulatory action.
If the Defense Department cannot lay out a specific course of action, “it is essentially telling the Committee that it won’t do anything after the Committee explicitly said it was concerned about the practice,” a Congressional staff person with knowledge of the bill told ProPublica. “That typically doesn’t go over well. The intent here is to get DoD to take this seriously.”
As military personnel paraded through Warsaw on foot, horseback, and armored vehicles on Aug. 15, 2018, Polish President Andrzej Duda reiterated his country’s call for a permanent US military presence on its soil — a presence that the Eastern European country has said it’s willing to pay $2 billion to get.
A permanent US Army presence would “deter every potential aggressor,” Duda said, it what was almost certainly a reference to Russia, whose recent assertive moves in Europe — particularly the 2014 annexation of Crimea and incursion in Ukraine — have prompted NATO members to increase their activity along the alliance’s eastern flank.
Duda’s remarks came during Poland’s Armed Forces Day holiday. The Aug. 15, 2018 holiday commemorates Poland’s defeat of Soviet forces in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War — a victory known as the “Miracle on the Vistula.”
2018’s celebration was larger and more vibrant than usual because it marks the centenary of the country regaining its independence after a 123-year period during which it was divided among Russia, Prussia, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“We won. Yes, we won. We Poles won,” Duda said. “Today we look with pride at those times.”
Armed Forces Day 2008.
His comments also came a few months after Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said he had discussed establishing that permanent presence with US officials.
Blaszczak said the US Senate had contacted the Defense Department about the matter. Local media reported at the time that Poland was willing to spend up to billion to finance a permanent deployment.
The US has yet to respond to the request. Such a deployment would be costly and would almost certainly anger Moscow, which has sharply criticized NATO’s recent deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe.
Poland has lobbied NATO for a permanent military deployment in the past. In 2015, a US diplomat said the alliance would not set up permanent military facilities in the country. At the time, the diplomat said the US would maintain a “permanent rotating presence” of US military personnel in the country.
Since 2016, NATO has deployed multinational battlegroups of roughly 4,500 troops each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The battlegroup stationed in Poland is led by the US and includes personnel from the UK, Romania, and Croatia.
US forces and troops from other NATO members have carried out a variety of exercises in Eastern Europe in recent months, as the alliance works to deter Russian aggression. Those exercises have focused on established capabilities that had fallen out of use after the Cold War — like maneuvering and interoperability between units — as well as new practices to fend off Russian tactics, like cyberattacks and hacking.
President Donald Trump has also goaded NATO members to increase their defense expenditures more rapidly, believing they unfairly allow the US to shoulder the bulk of that expense. Members of the alliance have boosted their spending (though some have done so with the aim of reducing dependence on US arms makers).
Poland has already met the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that the NATO allies agreed to work toward by 2024. On Aug. 15, 2018, Duda said he wanted Poland to increase that outlay even more, reaching 2.5% of GDP by 2024.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The head of NATO has demanded that Russia release Ukrainian sailors and naval vessels it seized in a confrontation at sea, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea are “absurd.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke on December 3 as Russia continued to hold the 24 Ukrainian seamen in Moscow jails on border-violation charges Kyiv rejects.
NATO chief warns Russia over Crimea incident after chairing emergency talks
“Russia recently seized Ukrainian ships and sailors near the Kerch Strait. There is no justification for this use of force. We call for calm and restraint. Russia must release the Ukrainian sailors and ships,” Stoltenberg said on the eve of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers who will address that issue, among others.
Russia, he said, “must also allow freedom of navigation and unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian vessels — military as well as civilian — have the right to navigate through the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.”
Russia has been holding the sailors — crewmen from three Ukrainian naval craft — since the confrontation on November 25 in which Russian Coast Guard ships rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on the boats before special forces boarded them.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and took over from Ukraine in March 2014, and raised fears of a flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Peskov dismissed concerns that Russia could seek to gain access by land to Crimea by seizing or helping the separatists to seize territory on the Azov shore from Mariupol to the isthmus further west that links the Ukrainian mainland to Crimea.
“It’s an absolutely absurd claim. It is another attempt to generate tension. Regretfully, attempts like this will most likely continue as we approach” the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled for March 31, he said.
Peskov claimed that “Russia has never invaded anything or created any corridors anywhere.”
But in addition to occupying and taking over Crimea, Kyiv, NATO, and Western governments say there is ample evidence that Russia has given the separatists in eastern Ukraine major military support in the war.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for one of the Ukrainian sailors confirmed on December 3 that all 24 had been charged by Russian authorities with “illegal border crossing.”
Nikolai Polozov, who is representing Denys Hrytsenko, said the sailors were formally charged on November 27.
Dzhemil Temishev, an attorney for another of the sailors, said on November 29 that 21 of the detainees were being transferred from Russia-annexed Crimea to the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.
Russian authorities say three other Ukrainian sailors wounded on November 25 were receiving medical treatment at a different, unspecified detention center.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova said on December 3 that the detained Ukrainian sailors had food, “clothes, and all the necessities.”
In remarks that appeared aimed to portray the jailing of the sailors as a strictly legal issue and tell the world that they were not being mistreated, Moskalkova said on state-run Rossia-24 TV that rights monitors “have visited the sailors and spoken with every one of them.”
She said the sailors “have no complaints about custody conditions or medical aid” and that lawyers had access to their clients. Her comments could not be independently verified.
The incident has raised tensions between Kyiv and Moscow to their highest point since Moscow seized Crimea.
Ukraine imposed martial law for 30 days in 10 regions, including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov.
Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the altercation. Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all sea traffic during the incident, and Kyiv says Russia has continued to deny passage to Ukrainian commercial traffic in and out of Mariupol and Berdyansk, another port on the Sea of Azov.
Western leaders — including all members of the G7 leading industrialized states — have called on Russia to release the Ukrainian crew and return the seized navy ships to Kyiv.
It’s not just about air shows or conferences anymore for defense aerospace companies.
Firms are showcasing their goods for US military leaders outside the usual weapons buying process, facing off with one another to prove who has the best platform — and who could win the big contracts.
“We’re experimenting and innovating, and we’re doing it in new and faster ways,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said August 9 during a media day for the service’s “light attack experiment” at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, the most recent opportunity for plane-makers to strut their stuff.
She also gave a sneak peek into the service’s plans for more rapid acquisition experiments in the future, including an upcoming drone battle dubbed, “Thunderdrone.”
Wilson said the service wants to look at drone swarm data and performance, and other ways small unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles can be used on the battlefield and beyond.
The Thunderdrone drone-battle event, to be held September 5 through November 3, will take place in a “state-of-the-art, 7,000 square-foot, indoor drone test range for drone experimentation, prototyping, and testing,” according to its host, Tampa-based SOFWERX.
SOFWERX is a partnership between US Special Operations Command and the Doolittle Institute, a rapid innovation office that works to bring service members collaborative solutions by connecting private companies with the Defense Department.
Thunderdrone will bring together defense, industry, and academia to test “drones (sea, land, air, and space), tactical swarms, payloads (kinetic/non-kinetic), and their associated data science applications for the Special Operations community,” SOFWERX says.
Part of the “rapid prototyping event” aims to apply innovative thinking to “existing or envisioned voids” warfighters may face and come up with solutions, the organization’s website says.
How a drone’s performance will be measured has not been disclosed, but the special operationscommunity will give feedback, the site says.
In addition, “using SOF and USSOCOM feedback, Thunderdrone may also pick and fund a select few technologies for further development following the [rapid prototyping event],” SOFWERX says.
ATLANTIC OCEAN — The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is bringing vital information to the fleet from its Aircraft Compatibility Testing (ACT), which began off the East Coast, January 16.
ACT is allowing the crew of Ford to further test its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), two Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) systems unique to Ford.
It’s also allowing the crew and embarked test personnel to rigorously evaluate the effect of the CVN 78 air wake, or burble, and its compatibility with all types of fleet aircraft the Navy utilizes on an aircraft carrier.
“What we’re doing is validating years of test catapult shots that were done at the EMALS test facility at Lakehurst, New Jersey, and years of arrestments on AAG at Lakehurst, then taking that data, bringing it to sea and using it on installed equipment aboard our ship, now in an austere underway environment with different wind and environmental conditions to build those safe flight envelopes,” said Capt. John J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer.
Ford’s ACT has seen the first arrestment and launching of E-2D Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, EA-18G Growler, and the T-45 Goshawk aircraft on these new systems unique to Ford-class carriers.
“Honestly it’s great to be the first ones to fly the E-2/C-2 out on an entirely new class of carrier,” said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Thurber, a test pilot assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20.
“We spent some time up at [Joint Base McGuire-Dix] Lakehurst, New Jersey doing some of the developmental testing for the systems before coming to the ship, so it’s neat to have seen the entire system land based; see some of the issues we have here, then go back and correct it and come out to the ship and test it at sea.”
Cummings reflected on the historical aspect of ACT for the entire Ford class of aircraft carriers.
“We are pioneers in this new class to figure it out, and we will. We will do this for the Ford-class and then that’s it, done,” said Cummings. “Our crew is extremely proud to be a part of this historic event; to do this testing and get it to the fleet, and then get ready to accept all fleet aircraft.”
Testing also includes an F/A-18F Super Hornet which was also previously used for testing aboard Ford in 2018. Prior to ATC, Ford had 747 launches and arrestments.
Since getting underway on January 16, Ford has already seen over 70 successful launches and arrestments using the new EMALS and AAG technologies, and will continue to increase the sortie frequency in the second half of testing.
“To see it all come together and see the ship do what it’s designed to do — which is to launch and recover aircraft — it’s extreme pride for our crew and for the aviators who’ve come out here to support that,” said Cummings. “So I’m extremely proud of the work by the team to get here, and we’ll continue to keep pushing to get a lot of flying in this next year.”
This round of testing is allowing the crew to further test the improvements made during its post-shakedown availability (PSA) at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding while also allowing the crew to gain experience on these unique systems.
WorkSafeBC is the name of the Worker’s Compensation Board of the Canadian province of British Columbia, covering 2.3 million Canadian workers. The Board is responsible for processing claims, complaints, and (among other things) prevention of workplace accidents. This is where they really shine.
The accident prevention videos the Board makes and uploads to YouTube received more the 25 million views since 2006. They’re short and to the point, illustrative of the importance of accident prevention, and have many fans. One such fan is the United States Air Force.
A video called Struck by Mobile Equipment really resonated with the USAF, who formally asked WorkSafeBC if they could use the video as part of their official safety training.
In an article from the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), an official at WorkSafeBC told CBC he received an email from the Air Force saying “We love this piece. It’s really effective for our target audience in our Mishap Prevention Program for people who are 18 to 24 years old.”
Other areas covered by CBC but not picked up by the Air Force include Returning to Work and Caring for People with Dementia.