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

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


AIR FORCE:

Tech. Sgt. Jason Umlauf, a 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal craftsman, sweeps an area with a mine detector during exercise Northern Challenge 16 in Keflavik, Iceland, Sept. 19, 2016. The exercise focused on disabling improvised explosive devices in support of counterterrorism tactics to prepare Partnership for Peace, NATO, and Nordic nations for international deployments and defense against terrorism.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder

Staff Sgt. Dale Rodgers, a 20th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion craftsman, examines an afterburner during an F-16CM Fighting Falcon engine check at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Sept. 26, 2016. An F-16 engine in full afterburn utilizes a thrust of 32,000 pounds to propel the aircraft into flight.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado

ARMY:

A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V at 7th Army Training Command’s Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. Exercise Allied Spirit includes about 2,520 participants from eight NATO nations, and exercises tactical interoperability and tests secure communications within Alliance members and partner nations.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman

U.S. Soldiers of Regimental Engineer Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment provide ground security for an AH-64 Apache while conducting a sling load operation during Exercise Allied Spirit V at 7th Army Training Command’s Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. Exercise Allied Spirit includes about 2,520 participants from eight NATO nations, and exercises tactical interoperability and tests secure communications within Alliance members and partner nations.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Rachel Wilridge

NAVY:

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 5, 2016) Seaman (AW) Brice Scraper, top, from Dallas, and Petty Officer 2nd Class (AW) Alex Miller, from Monroe, Michigan, verify the serial number of a Captive Air Training Missile (CATM) 9M, attached to an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 on the flight deck of the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The CATM-9M is the training counterpart to the AIM-9M Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Ronald Reagan, the Carrier Strike Group Five (CSG 5) flagship, is on patrol supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke

ARABIAN GULF (Oct. 4, 2016) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike) load ordnance onto an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Gunslingers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105. Ike and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

A U.S. Marine carries his gear and prepares to board the USS Mesa Verde (LPD-19) via landing craft utility boats Oct. 4, 2016 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Norfolk, Virginia as part of a disaster relief assessment team of approximately 300 Marines and sailors. The Marines and sailors are from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and will assist in providing damage assessment and information to disaster relief coordinators and leadership in determining the U.S. role in providing possible humanitarian aid in the region in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a reported Category IV storm that hit the region Tuesday.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan

Marines with 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment watch as a CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) approaches during an exercise at Fire Base Burt, Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 1, 2016. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez

COAST GUARD:

Coast Guardsmen, from units across the Pacific Northwest, carry a large American flag down Fourth Avenue during Seattle’s 67th Seafair Torchlight Parade, July 30, 2016. Dating back to the 1950s, the Torchlight Parade remains one of the longest running annual events in the Seattle area.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tanner King, a crewmember of Coast Guard Station Boston, is underway aboard a 45-foot response boat during a security escort in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 21, 2016. The station’s crew escorted the Norwegian-flagged LNG tanker BW GDF SUEZ Boston into a terminal in Boston.

Here are the best military photos of the week
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cynthia Oldham

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US commander sees major progress with Iraqi army after Mosul fight

Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.


Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.

In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.

The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.

ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.

Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.

Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.

“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.

Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.

That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.

Here are the best military photos of the week
A member of the Iraqi federal police stands guard on a street during operations to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. The breadth and diversity of partners supporting the Coalition demonstrate the global and unified nature of the endeavor to defeat ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.

Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.

“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.

ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.

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Chinese fighters buzz US patrol plane off Hong Kong

A United States Navy P-3 Orion was buzzed by Chinese fighters while in international airspace off Hong Kong. This is the second time that an American plane has had a close encounter in the last two weeks.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.

Here are the best military photos of the week
A P-3 Orion flies over Japan. (US Navy photo)

“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.

Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.

The day after the incident involving the J-10s and the P-3, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) passed within six miles of Mischief Reef, one of the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. The United States has been asserting freedom of navigation in the disputed waters, even in the face of Chinese threats to impose fines on American ships that don’t comply with their edicts in the maritime flashpoint.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.

The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.

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15 important and surprising differences between the Navy and Coast Guard

Every Coastie has at least once been called a sailor, asked if they aren’t just a part of the Navy, or otherwise been compared to the Navy. Just as siblings don’t care to be compared to one another, the Coast Guard works to set itself apart in many ways, from uniforms to missions to rates.


In case you were wondering, here are 15 very important differences between the seaborne branches.

1. They have different bosses

The major difference between the Navy and the Coast Guard comes from the very top of either branch – the Navy is part of the Department of Defense, while the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security. This allows the missions and structure of both branches to best serve the needs the country.

2. Their roster sizes are significantly different

Here are the best military photos of the week

U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Joshua Kitenko, boarding officer from the Coast Guard Cutter Forward, climbs down a ladder to board the cutter’s small boat, after a joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding on a fishing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Annie R. B. Elis.)

In the battle of Navy vs. Coast Guard, the Navy wins the heavyweight title. The Navy boasts 325,000 active duty and 107,000 reserve sailors, while the Coast Guard has just over 40,000 active duty personnel and 7,600 reservists.

3. Comparatively speaking, it rains money at the Navy Department

The Coast Guard’s entire budget for Fiscal Year 2015 was $9.8 billion, while the Navy’s was $148 billion.

4. They have different roles in combat

Here are the best military photos of the week

The Coast Guard’s role in combat has changed vastly over time. Since the early 1990’a and during the Gulf War, the Coast Guard’s combat role evolved to mostly port, maritime, and other asset security, as well as search and rescue. The Navy has a primarily defensive mission, prepared to fight back against a land-based or maritime enemy when called on.

5. The Coast Guard has more ships than you’d think (and more than the Navy)

The Coast Guard has nearly 200 cutters and 1400 small boats, while the Navy has 272 ships.

6. The Coast Guard paints operational aircraft orange

Here are the best military photos of the week
And operators know how to dangle.

The Coast Guard is proud of its more than 200 aircraft, mainly consisting of the iconic orange and white helicopters. The Navy, on the other hand, has a fleet of more than 3,700 aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world, second only to the US Air Force. (And the only orange Navy airplanes are trainers.)

7. If the Coast Guard’s missions make them ‘jacks of all trades,’ the Navy is a master of one

Here are the best military photos of the week
A U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft prepares to drop supplies aboard the national security cutter USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) in the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during a patrol in support of Arctic Shield 2012. A(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo)

While the Navy serves to “maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.” The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has eleven missions ranging from marine safety to drug and migrant interdiction to icebreaking. Their missions range from saving someone in a sinking boat on the shores of San Diego to defense readiness in Bahrain.

8. USCG Rescue Swimmers are busier

Here are the best military photos of the week
The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrates how they conduct a search and rescue during the 2009 Sea and Sky Spectacular. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sunday Williams)

 

While both the Coast Guard and Navy have a rate for rescue swimmers, the Coast Guard takes pride in having the unique ability for their Aviation Survival Technicians, also known as rescue swimmers, to save lives on a daily basis. ASTs serve with Coast Guard air stations, deploying with search and rescue operations to recover civilians from dangerous situations.

9. Coasties actually have more uniforms than the Navy

 

You can tell the difference just in looking at personnel – the Navy’s NWU are often made fun of for blending a sailor into the water, but the Coast Guard’s ODUs are no better. The Navy’s dress uniforms are also universally known, complete with the “Dixie Cup” cover, but the Coast Guard’s are primarily based off of the Air Forces, with a few exceptions including Officer Whites, based on the Navy’s. There are even Coast Guard units who wear the Navy’s Type IIIs.

10. Coasties are bit more specialized

Every branch has a different names for its occupational specialty – whether MOS, AFSC, or rate. The Coast Guard and Navy both share the name “rating” for their specialities. The Navy has nearly 90 specialized ratings, while the Coast Guard lumps theirs into just 21.

11. Basic Training for the Coast Guard is a lot harder than you think

Here are the best military photos of the week
Company Commander OS1 Tom Carella looks out at new recruits outside of Sexton Hall at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, NJ. (USCG photo by PAC Tom Sperduto)

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Great Lakes Training Center relies on a process called “Sailorization” to turn civilians into sailors over the course of eight weeks. The Coast Guard’s boot camp was based on Marine Corps boot camp, but shortened from twelve to eight weeks. Recruits are purposefully stressed to the maximum they can handle through intense and constant time pressure, sleep deprivation, and physical training. The process allows recruits to learn how to make the best decisions under the most pressure – something necessary when attempting to save a life on a sinking ship in foul weather.

12. The Coast Guard filled in for the Navy after it was disbanded

The history of the branches isn’t what it always seems – While the Coast Guard’s history occasionally seems to be shrouded in mystery, it was founded as the Revenue Cutter Service on August 4, 1790. It has since been the longest continuous sea service in the United States. “But isn’t the Navy’s founding in 1775?” you might ask – and you would be correct. But shortly after the Revolutionary War ended, the Navy was disbanded, and was not reestablished until 1799, leaving the USRCS to serve the newly formed nation.

13. The USCG gets passed around a lot

The Navy has also been steadfastly its own branch of the military, as well as under the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard, on the other hand, has been under the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, the Department of Homeland Security, and yes, even under the Department of the Navy – five times.

14. Everyone has a chance to go to the Coast Guard Academy

Here are the best military photos of the week

Shown is an aerial view of the Coast Guard Academy with Hamilton Hall in center. (USCG photo by PA1 David Santos)

To apply to the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as the other service academies, a prospective student must be appointed by a member of the US Congress in addition to applying to USNA. The Coast Guard Academy, on the other hand, does not require congressional nomination, instead opening the applications to anyone and letting applicants be admitted solely on their own merit – both personal and academic.

15. Navy ships keep a supply of Coasties to maintain civil law and order

Here are the best military photos of the week
Members of a Coast Guard Maritime Search and Rescue Team prepare to depart USNS Sisler via Coast Guard Seahawk after storming the ship as part of maritime security exercise Frontier Sentinel (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

On many Navy ships throughout the world, a small Coast Guard contingent is placed with the crew to do maritime law enforcement. Because of the Posse Comitatus Act, the Department of Defense may not do any kind of civilian law enforcement. The Coast Guard, thanks to the 1790 Tariff Act and the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2006, may conduct boardings of vessels both foreign and domestic without a warrant. On Navy ships stationed in waters where illegal drugs and migrants are common, the Coast Guard serves to assist the Navy where it cannot serve.

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How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

By WATM guest Christian Bussler


“You are there for your brothers, and that’s all that really matters.”

It was that one line from the trailer of the upcoming movie “Last Flag Flying” that caught my attention and transported me back to another place and another time — Al Anbar province, September 2005.

At the time, I was a Marine staff sergeant on my third combat tour in three years. I had just returned to Iraq after being wounded by an IED the year prior.

On this deployment, I was to be the top NCO for all Mortuary Affairs operations in and around Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. My job was to recover our fallen warriors from the battlefields and return them home with honor.

Here are the best military photos of the week
(USMC photo)

As unassuming as that movie quote may be for anyone else, for me, those words ignited a spark. They instantly connected me to how my Marines and I felt about the fallen who were in our care back then. We would stop at nothing to return them home — because they were one of us, they were our brothers, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.

“Last Flag Flying,” which will be released in select theaters Nov. 3 and hit theaters nationwide on Nov. 22, stars Steve Carell who takes a departure from his normal funny-man roles by portraying former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd who tracks down two of his Marine buddies he hasn’t seen in 30 years (played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston). Shepherd reveals he had been notified two days prior that his son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.

He asks his friends for their help to lay his son to rest.

A story like this automatically kicks me square in the feels. In the short two minute trailer, I immediately recognized the two sides to this parable. One is a story of old warriors coming together to honor a son killed at war. The other is rarely depicted in movies in a time of strife. It is the human cost of warfare, the cost beyond the obvious war dead. It is the sacrifices made by their families and communities.

This is a truth that has replayed across our country close to 7,000 times over the last 16 years. The movie takes a look at this cost that has spared few communities in some way or fashion by our recent conflicts.

During my time in Iraq, my Marines and I would go to vast extremes to recover our fallen warriors. The thoughts of those families pushed us to work harder — no matter what it took or how difficult it was, we were going to get them home to their families.

Through helo crash scenes we crawled on our hands and knees, combing through the desert sands in search of remains and personal effects. We spent countless hours swinging sledge hammers to break apart the solidified parts of melted vehicles to recover the minutest fragments of DNA.

Repeatedly we put ourselves directly into harm’s way to gather our fallen brothers from the battlefields to get them home. We believed we actually worked for the families of the fallen. They would want us to go that extra mile to ensure that their loved ones were taken care of the best way we could, and we did exactly that, no matter the cost.

Here are the best military photos of the week
(USMC photo)

The connection between “The Last Flag Flying” and my experiences extends to how today we honor our fallen warriors with flags. In Iraq, my Marines and I changed the way we flagged the transfer cases of our fallen to pay them a deeper honor.

Before our tour in 2005, flags were merely taken out of a cardboard box, placed upon the transfer case, and tied down with a white cord. It just was how things were done going all the way back to whenever they first started flagging caskets. Realizing these flags were eventually given to the families, I knew we could do better. Instead we ironed and starched every flag so that they were crisp and sharp.

We also implemented a new technique so there was zero chance of the flag touching the ground. These procedures were eventually adopted by the military.

The common thread between my experience and “The Last Flag Flying” is that in our own ways, the director and I were trying to reveal the same narrative.

Quietly and largely unseen, brothers go to great lengths to care for their fallen brothers. And the story of sacrifice doesn’t just end on battlefields, it continues into the homes of our Gold Star families. It is felt on the everyday streets of our communities, and it is remembered in the resting places of our honored fallen.

WATM contributor Christian Bussler is a former Mortuary Affairs Marine and is the author of “No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor- A memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine,” available through Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, Kindle and soon at your local bookstores.

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Here is how a Civil War cannon tore infantry apart

When you think of artillery, you’re probably thinking of something like the M777-towed 155mm howitzer or the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled gun. But in the Civil War, artillery was very different.


Back then, a gun wasn’t described by how wide the round was, but how much the round weighed. According to a National Park Service release, one of the most common was the 12-pounder Napoleon, which got that name from firing a 12-pound solid shot. The typical range for the Napoleon was about 2,000 yards. Multiply that by about twenty to have a rough idea how far a M777 can shoot an Excalibur GPS-guided round.

Here are the best military photos of the week
The M1857 12-pounder Napoleon, probably the most common artillery piece of the Civil War. (Wikimedia Commons)

Another round used was the shell, a hollowed-out solid shot that usually had about eight ounces of black powder inserted. This is pretty much what most artillery rounds are today. The typical Civil War shell had a range of about 1,500 yards — or just under a mile.

However, when enemy troops were approaching, the artillery had two options. The first was to use what was called “case” rounds. These were spherical rounds that held musket balls. In the case of the Napoleon, it held 78 balls. Think of it as a giant hand grenade that could reach out as far as a mile and “touch” enemy troops.

Here are the best military photos of the week
Artillery shot-canister for a 12-pounder cannon. The canister has a wood sabot, iron dividing plate, and thirty-seven cast-iron grape shot. The grapeshot all have mold-seam lines, and some have sprue projections. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the enemy troops got real close, there was one last round: the canister. In essence, this turned the cannon into a giant shotgun. It would have cast-iron shot packed with sawdust. When enemy troops got very close, they’d use two canister rounds, known as “double canister” (in the 1993 movie, “Gettysburg,” you can hear a Union officer order “double canister” during the depiction of Pickett’s Charge).

To see what a canister round did to enemy troops, watch this video:

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Here is how aerial gunners were trained to fight their way past the Luftwaffe

The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.


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A U.S. Army Air Forces Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress flying through flak over a target. A hit by flak lead to the capture of Brigadier General Arthur Vanaman, placing ULTRA at risk. (USAF photo)

What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.

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Messerschmidt Bf 109. (Photo: Kogo CC BY-SA 2.0)

So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.

Here are the best military photos of the week
A look at the ball turret of a B-17 Flying Fortress, carrying a pair of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.

Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.

Here are the best military photos of the week

The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.

Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.

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B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe.— At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)

As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.

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5 jobs future recruits will enlist to get

As DARPA and other military research organizations create crazy new technologies for the battlefield, the military will have to start training service members to start using and maintaining these capabilities. Here are five jobs that the military doesn’t need today but will tomorrow.


1. Beekeepers and trainers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvLjX5YgWHw

The military began training bees to detect explosives and defeat IEDs, but they will also be useful for finding mines when the U.S. is fighting other nation states. Bee keepers will work in anti-mine and counter-IED teams to identify probable buried explosives. Since the bees’ training wears off after after a certain period, trainers will stay on forward operating bases to re-certify colonies. The bees move around the battlefield on their own, so these troops will rarely leave their bases.

2. Hackers

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Photo: US Air Force

The military already has cyber defenders and has discussed the possibility of some of those troops conducting limited counter-attacks to network incursions. This won’t be enough for long. Future enemies will have robust networks and drones. Maneuver commanders will need intelligence that can be stolen from enemy networks and will need enemy drones taken out as part of a planned assault.

They won’t need network defenders for this, they’ll need network attackers. These troops will likely stay on a well-defended base, possibly in theater for faster connection to the enemy’s network.

3. Forward drone controller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGJlne3bm1c

Every U.S. military branch has dedicated drone pilots with the Air Force’s being the most famous. But as drones become more intelligent, a second branch of drone operators will be needed. Rather than piloting the machines, they will input simple commands for the drone to move to a point or patrol a designated area.

These service members will go forward with patrols and control semi-autonomous drones in support of a platoon leader’s commands. There will be both walking and flying drones capable of ferrying supplies, surveilling key terrain on a battlefield, or carrying indirect fire radar or sensors to detect enemy muzzle flashes.

4. Robotic systems maintainer

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Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Bobby J. Segovia

With the military getting robotic pack mules, robotic hummingbirds, and robotic people, they’re going to need dedicated mechanics to service the equipment in the field. Robotics systems maintainers will mostly replace whole parts and send damaged pieces to vendors for repair. They’ll likely operate like vehicle and generator mechanics do now: small teams will deploy to outposts when required while most maintainers will stay on forward operating bases or larger installations.

5. Powered armor maintainer

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Photo: Youtube.com

Currently, damaged body armor is simply replaced from stocks in supply. For expensive and complicated suits like the TALOS, this won’t be a viable option. Powered armor maintainers will operate like computer/detection systems repairers, working in a secure location to replace and repair damaged components. Powered armor maintainers may even be able to focus on the mechanical parts of the system while allowing computer/detection systems repairers, who already maintain a wide variety of electronic systems, handle any software or electronic issues.

Bonus: Jetpack qualifier

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Photo: Youtube.com

While it won’t be a separate job, certain units will field new DARPA jetpacks to allow soldiers to quickly move on the battlefield or for scouts to break contact if discovered on a mission. Going to jetpack school will be a privilege new recruits could enlist for or re-enlisting soldiers could choose. Like airborne or air assault schools, some graduates would go on to serve in units where they actually need to know jetpack warfare while others would just attend training for the cool skill badge and promotion points.

NOW: 6 jobs in the military that require insane brainpower

WATCH: The 7 Coolest Current High Tech Military Projects | Military Insider

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Here’s why Russia’s humongous new missile is worth worrying about

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RS-28 Sarmat ICBM wheeling out of a bunker.


Russia is testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that is so large and powerful it could hit any strategic target in the United States or NATO with independently targeted warheads possibly capable of penetrating ballistic missile defenses.

According to a TASS report on May 6, Col.-Gen. Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia will move their new RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles to bases at Uzhurskogo and Dombarovsky.

The first location is near Krasnoyarsk in Siberia; the second is located in the Urals in the Orenburg Oblast and is a major ICBM base first built by the Soviets during the 1960s. In particular, Dombarovsky is a site associated with missile training exercises.

For example, in the early 2000s the SMF held as many as seven launches from the Dombarovsky site using decommissioned missiles that delivered commercial payloads.

The bases also are ideal for launching the new missile toward targets either in the United States or in NATO countries such as Germany, France, or the United Kingdom once it becomes operational.

In the report, Karakayev also said a “completed missile complex” will hold the Sarmat as a “silo-based heavy missile” intended to replace the venerable SS-18 ICBM.

The Soviets first deployed the SS-18 in 1977 – the missile in its Cold War SS-18 MOD 4 configuration carried 10 multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles each with up to a 750 kiloton yield. An individual warhead had more than 20 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

It was specifically designed to attack and destroy American ICBM silos and other hardened targets.

Code named Satan by NATO, the SS-18 MOD 6 version of the ICBM currently deployed by Russia has a single 20-megaton warhead.

Russian sources say Sarmat will be operational by 2018.

However, not much else is known about Sarmat. Various Russian reports indicate that it is a two-stage liquid-fuel missile with an estimated operational range of 6,200 miles weighing about 220,000 pounds and capable of hefting perhaps a dozen heavy warheads, each individually steerable during reentry.

There is no information on the yield of each warhead. However, the hypersonic speed and increased maneuverability of the warheads apparently is an effort to thwart U.S. anti-ballistic missile systems.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said Russia is taking protective measures against the Aegis Ashore anti-missile systems deployed in Romania by the United States. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, told reporters while commenting on the anti-missile system “the question is not whether measures will be taken or not; measures are being taken to maintain Russia’s security at the necessary level.”

“From the very outset we kept saying that in the opinion of our experts the deployment of an anti-missile defense poses a threat to Russia,” Peskov said.

Despite economic hardships and Western criticism, Russia has aggressively worked on improving its strategic missile inventory and the destructive power of its ICBMs. Recently, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said revamping the nation’s strategic missile forces is a No. 1 priority.

Last year, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces general staff, said the United States and its NATO allies are developing the means to strike Russia precisely and effectively with strategic weapons. The Kremlin intends to introduce weapons that can penetrate the American missile defense shield and thwart this increased capability, Gerasimov said.

Russian writers for Sputnik, a Russian propaganda publication aligned with the Kremlin, have published reports touting the capabilities of the Sarmat. They claim the missile will “determine which direction nuclear deterrence will develop in the world.”

The story even claimed that Sarmat’s warheads could wipe out territory equivalent to a landmass the size of Texas.

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22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

Representative government has been a luxury that relatively few people have enjoyed throughout human history.


And while the vast majority of dictators fall short of Hitler- or Stalin-like levels of cruelty, history is rife with oppressors, war criminals, sadists, sociopaths, and morally complacent individuals who ended up as unelected heads of government — to the tragic detriment of the people and societies they ruled.

Here’s a look at 22 brutal dictators that you may not have heard of.

Francisco Solano Lopez (Paraguay, 1862-1870)

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Last picture of Francisco Solano López, 1870. Wikimedia

Although he became a revered figure in Paraguay decades after his death, Paraguayan president and military leader Francisco Solano Lopez unwisely provoked neighboring Brazil and Argentina by meddling in a civil war in Uruguay in the mid-1860s.

After that war concluded, Brazil, Argentina, and the winning faction in Uruguay secretly agreed to a plan in which they would annex half of Paraguay’s territory.

Lopez rejected the peace terms offered by the “triple alliance,” incurring a full-on invasion.

What followed was a devastating conflict in which an overmatched Lopez conscripted child soldiers, executed hundreds of his deputies (including his own brother), incurred steep territorial losses, and triggered an eight-year Argentine military occupation.

By the time of Lopez’s death in battle in 1870 and the war’s subsequent end, Paraguay’s population had plunged from an estimated 525,000 to 221,000, and only 29,000 males over the age of 15 were left alive.

Jozef Tiso (Slovakia, 1939-1945)

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Josef Tiso. Wikimedia

A Catholic priest who led Slovakia’s fascist moment, Tiso was in charge of one of Nazi Germany’s numerous satellite regimes for almost the entirety of World War II.

Although arguably a less energetic fascist than the leaders of comparable Nazi puppet regimes, Tiso led a brutal crackdown after a 1944 anti-fascist rebellion.

He also either facilitated or had first-hand knowledge of the deportation of the vast majority of the country’s Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

At the time, Slovakia had a Jewish population of over 88,000. However, by the conflict’s conclusion, nearly 5,000 were left in the country.

Döme Sztójay (Hungary, 1944)

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Döme Sztójay.Wikipedia

Hungarian leader Miklós Horthy had been an ally of Nazi Germany, collaborating with Adolf Hitler’s regime in exchange for assistance in restoring Hungarian control over lands the country had lost as a result of World War I.

Horthy began attempting to chart an independent path from the Nazis as the German war effort flagged in 1944 and largely refused to deport the country’s Jews — triggering a Nazi invasion and Döme Sztójay’s installation as the country’s puppet leader even while Horthy officially remained in power.

During Sztójay’s six months as Hungary’s prime minister, more than 440,000 Jews were deported from Hungary to concentration camps in one of the last major forced population transfers of the Holocaust.

Sztójay, who had been Hungary’s ambassador to Nazi Germany for the decade leading up to World War II, was captured by American troops after the war and executed in Hungary in 1946.

Ante Pavelic (1941-1945)

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Ante Pavelic. Wikipedia

Ante Pavelic started out as a politician who was opposed to the centralization of what later became officially known as the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

After Yugoslavia’s king declared himself dictator in 1929, Pavelic fled the country in order to organize an ultra-nationalist movement called Ustaše.

The Ustaše was dedicated to creating an independent Croatia, and sometimes resorted to terrorism. Ultimately, the group assassinated King Alexander in 1934.

After Axis forces took over Yugoslavia in the 1941, Pavelic took control as the head of the Independent State of Croatia (or NDH).

The country was nominally ruled by the Ustaše, but was essentially a puppet state of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Under Pavelic’s leadership, the regime persecuted Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Romani living in the NDH.

After Germany was defeated in 1945, Pavelic went into hiding, and eventually escaped to Argentina. He died in Spain in 1959.

Mátyás Rákosi (1945-1956)

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Mátyás Rákosi. Hungarian Government

Mátyás Rákosi became the communist leader of Hungary after consolidating political power in 1945.

He was called “Stalin’s best Hungarian disciple,” orchestrating purges and installing a repressive Soviet-allied regime.

After Stalin died in 1953, the USSR decided his regime was too brutal and told Rákosi that he could stay on as the Hungarian communist party’s secretary-general — on the condition that he give up his prime ministership to the “reform-minded” Imre Nagy.

Rákosi managed to stick around for a bit, until the USSR officially decided he was a liability.

Moscow removed him from power in 1956 in order to appease the Yugoslav leader, Mashal Tito.

Khorloogiin Choibalsan (Mongolia, 1930s-1952)

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Khorloogiin Choibalsan. Wikipedia

After several meetings with Stalin, Choibalsan adopted the Soviet leader’s policies and methods and applied them to Mongolia.

He created a dictatorial system, suppressing the opposition and killing tens of thousands of people.

Later in the 1930s, he “began to arrest and kill leading workers in the party, government, and various social organizations in addition to army officers, intellectuals, and other faithful workers,” according to a report published in 1968 cited in the Historical Dictionary of Mongolia.

In late 1951, Choibalsan went to Moscow in order to receive treatment for kidney cancer. He died the following year.

Enver Hoxha (Albania, 1944-1985)

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Enver Hoxha. Wikipedia

Albania’s communist dictator feuded with both the Soviet Union and China before promoting a ruinous policy of national self-reliance that turned his country into a Balkan version of modern-day North Korea.

During his four-decade rule, Hoxha banned religion, ordered the construction of thousands of concrete pillboxes throughout Albania, undertook eccentric public building projects, purged his inner circle multiple times, and severed nearly all of Albania’s meaningful international relations.

Hoxha enforced a Stalin-like cult of personality and created a completely isolated society with virtually no tolerance of political dissent.

An estimated 200,000 people were imprisoned for alleged political crimes during Hoxha’s rule, in a country with a current population of around 3 million.

Lê Duan (Vietnam, 1960-1986)

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Lê Duan. Wikipedia

Although he was never Vietnam’s official head of state, Lê Duan was the dominant decision-maker within the country’s communist regime for more than 20 years.

After the Vietnam War and the North’s successful invasion of South Vietnam, Duan oversaw purges of South Vietnamese anticommunists, imprisoning of as many as 2 million people and forcing more than 800,000 Vietnamese to flee the country by boat.

Under Duan, Vietnam also embarked on a failed economic-centralization effort that later generations of Vietnamese leaders would reverse.

Ian Smith (Rhodesia, 1964-1979)

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Federal government photograph of Ian Smith, then a Member of Rhodesia and Nyasaland’s Federal Parliament, circa 1954.

One of the most controversial figures in post-colonial African history, Ian Smith, a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, led the secession of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the British empire in 1965.

His aim was to preserve white rule in an overwhelmingly black colony.

As prime minister of an independent Rhodesia, Smith oversaw an apartheid system similar to the one in neighboring South Africa, seeking to ensure white rule through a system of racial separation and control.

Although whites were less than 4% of Rhodesia’s population, Smith’s government survived nearly 15 years of international isolation and civil war.

He agreed to a power-sharing accord that elevated Robert Mugabe to prime minister in 1980.

Although sometimes lauded for his willingness to surrender power — something that meant Rhodesia was liberated from minority rule some 15 years before neighboring South Africa — he still led a racially discriminatory regime for well over a decade.

Ramfis Trujillo (Dominican Republic, May 1961-October 1961)

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Ramfis Trujillo. Screen grab/YouTube.

Ramfis’s father, the more infamous Rafael Trujillo, ruled the Dominican Republic for over 30 years.

His oldest son, who was made a colonel at the age of 4, only spent a few months as the Caribbean nation’s dictator — but he used them to mount a brutal reprisal campaign against those he suspected of assassinating his father on May 30, 1960.

An “accomplished torturer” and inveterate playboy, when Ramfis left the Dominican Republic by yacht to go into exile in Spain in late 1961, he reportedly took his father’s coffin with him.

What’s more, the coffin was filled with nearly $4 million in money and jewels.

Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1966-1976)

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Michel Micombero. Wikipedia image.

Michel Micombero, an army captain and then minister of defense, was just 26 years old when he led the 1966 counter-coup that landed him the prime minister’s chair.

That was a dangerous job in Burundi, considering that two of his predecessors had been assassinated since the country won its independence from Belgium in 1962.

Micombero, an ethnic Tutsi, swiftly abolished the country’s monarchy and exiled its 19-year-old king.

Micombero cultivated a Tutsi elite within the army and government, raising tensions with the country’s Hutu community.

In 1972, Micombero’s government crushed a Hutu insurrection by organizing mass killings in which an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 people were killed.

Although Micombero was overthrown in a 1976 coup, the Hutu-Tutsi divide persisted in Burundi, and helped spark a civil war in the country that lasted between 1993 and 2005.

Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1969-1971)

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Yahya Khan. Wikipedia

The Pakistani general and World War II British Army veteran dissolved the government and imposed martial law in 1969.

By the time he lost power two years later, Eastern Pakistan had broken off to become the independent nation of Bangladesh and Pakistan lost another war to its rival, India.

Meanwhile, Khan oversaw the mass slaughter of as many as half a million Bengalis and other minorities in India.

In March 1971, Khan ordered his army to crack down on a burgeoning separatist movement in Eastern Pakistan.

“Operation Searchlight” targeted Bengali nationalists and intellectuals and produced a wave of 10 million refugees that convinced India to intervene in Pakistan’s civil war, setting the stage for Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan the following year.

During a high-level meeting in February 1971, Khan was recorded saying to “kill three million of them,” in reference to the separatists and their supporters.

By the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of people were dead — and Khan had been deposed as president and sent into internal exile. He died in Pakistan in 1980.

Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio (Guatemala, 1970-1974)

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Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio. Guatemalan government

Carlos Arana Osorio was one of the several military rulers who were president in Guatemala during the volatile years following a 1954 coup.

During his presidency, he amped up government efforts to subdue armed rebels and persecuted “student radicals,” workers groups, and political opponents.

An estimated 20,000 people “died or ‘disappeared’” under the Arana Osorio administration.

Guatemala went had military presidents through 1986, but the country’s civil war continued until December 1996.

Jorge Rafael Videla (Argentina, 1976-1981)

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Jorge Rafael Videla. Wikimedia image.

Military officer Jorge Rafaél Videla took over Argentina during a coup d’état in 1976.

At the time, the country was straddled with a corrupt government and a battered economy, and was “besieged by attacks from guerrillas and death squads,” with many Argentines “welcoming Videla’s move, hoping the three-man military junta would put an end to the violence,” according to Biography.com.

Videla tried to bring back economic growth via free-market reforms, and was “moderately successful.” However, he closed the courts and gave legislative powers to a nine-man military commission.

His government conducted a notorious “‘dirty war,’ during which thousands of people considered to be subversive threats were abducted, detained and murdered,” among them intellectuals, journalists, and educators.

The official estimate of people killed during his presidency is 9,000, but some sources believe the number is between 15,000 and 30,000.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1985, but pardoned in 1990. He was once again put on trial in 2010, and received another life sentence. He died in prison in 2013.

Francisco Macías Nguema (Equatorial Guinea, 1968-1979)

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Francisco Macías Nguema. Wikimedia image.

The first president of Equatorial Guinea was a paranoid kleptocrat who declared himself leader for life, kept much of the national treasury in suitcases under his bed, and killed or exiled an estimated one-third of the former Spanish colony’s population of 300,000.

Nguema’s hatred of his country’s educated classes led to comparisons with Cambodia’s Pol Pot.

Extensive forced-labor programs brought to mind other historical cruelties as well: One visitor to the country during Nguema’s rule described it as “the concentration camp of Africa — a cottage-industry Dachau.”

Nguema was executed after his nephew, Teodoro Obiang, overthrew him in a 1979 coup.

Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea, 1979-present)

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Teodoro Obiang.Wikipedia

Teodoro Obiang overthrew his uncle Francisco Macías Nguema, the first president of Equatorial Guinea, in 1979.

In 1995, oil was discovered in Equatorial Guinea, which provided Obiang with an almost limitless means of self-enrichment.

While the country of 700,000 languishes in the bottom quartile of the Human Development Index, its resource wealth has funded one of the world’s most oppressive regimes.

Obiang’s government is accused of torturing dissidents and banning most forms of political expression.

At the same time, Obiang has attempted to turn the capital of Malabo into a tourism and conference destination, and has tried to portray Equatorial Guinea as one of Africa’s rising political and economic powers.

Siad Barre (Somalia, 1969-1991)

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Siad Barre. Wikipedia

Somalia’s socialist military dictator committed a disastrous strategic error when he invaded Ethiopia’s Somali-majority Ogaden region in 1977.

The invasion convinced the Soviet Union to withdraw its support from Barre’s government.

And instead the Soviet Union backed Ethiopia’s emerging communist regime.

After the failed war against Ethiopia, Barre continued to rule Somalia for 13 years.

He maintained control through a combination of blunt force and canny manipulation of Somalia’s clan system.

His most disastrous legacy is Somalia’s descent into civil war in 1991, which marked the beginning of over two decades of anarchy in the country.

Radovan Karadžic (Republika Srpska, 1992-1996)

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Radovan Karadžic’s arrest in November 1984. Wikipedia

Radovan Karadžic was president of Republika Srpska, the self-proclaimed ethnic Serb “republik” that seceded from Bosnia after Bosnia’s secession from Yugoslavia in 1992.

As president, Karadžic oversaw an ethnic-cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims that included some of the most severe human-rights abuses committed on European soil since World War II.

Karadžic is believed to have ordered the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Serbian militants killed over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the span of three days.

Karadžic went into hiding, and after Bosnia’s civil war, he became a homeopathic health expert under an assumed name and began writing articles about healing.

In 2008, he was arrested in Serbia and sent to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Theodore Sindikubwabo (Rwanda, April 1994-July 1994)

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Theodore Sindikubwabo. YouTube screengrab.

Theodore Sindikubwabo bears little personal responsibility for the organization of the Rwandan genocide, which was largely the project of hardline army officers and government officials like Theoneste Bagasora.

But when Rwandan president Juvenal Habyrimana’s plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, Sindikubwabo was the man that the genocide’s architects selected as Rwanda’s head of state.

The former pediatrician was the official head of a government that perpetrated the slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people.

Far from attempting to stop the bloodbath, Sindikubwabo appeared in Cayahinda, Rwanda, on April 20, 1994, to “to thank and encourage” militants carrying out the genocide, and to “promise he would send soldiers to help local people finish killing the Tutsi who were barricaded” in a local church, according to Human Rights Watch.

Sindikubwabo fled into neighboring Zaire after the forces of current Rwandan president Paul Kagame invaded the country during the closing days of the genocide.

He died in exile in 1998.

Than Shwe (Myanmar, 1992-2011)

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Than Shwe. Wikipedia image.

Than Shwe was the leader of the ruling military junta in Myanmar (Burma) and had been criticized and sanctioned by Western countries for human-rights abuses.

Up to 1 million people were reportedly sent to “satellite zones” and “labor camps” under his rule.

There was virtually no free speech in the country, and “owning a computer modern or fax [was] illegal, and anyone talking to a foreign journalist [was] at risk of torture or jail,” the Guardian reported in 2007.

Although Shwe stepped down in 2011, The Wall Street Journal reports that he “still exerts considerable leverage behind the scenes.”

Most recently, he pledged support to his former foe, Aung San Suu Kyi, as the Myanmar’s “future leader” — even though during his rule, the country’s Nobel Prize-winning opposition leader was kept under house arrest.

Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea, 1991-present)

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Isaias Afwerki. Wikipedia image.

Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 partly because of President Isaias Afwerki’s leadership in the armed struggle against Ethiopia’s brutal communist regime, which he helped overthrow.

Over the next 25 years, Afwerki built one of the world’s most terrorizing dictatorships.

Afwerki’s government maintains a network of brutal secret prison camps, and forcibly conscripts the country’s citizens into indefinite military service.

Eritrea’s internal oppression has led to over 380,000 people fleeing out of a population of less than 7 million — despite the lack of active armed conflict in the country.

Afwerki’s foreign policy has been equally problematic.

A 1998 dispute with Ethiopia over the demarcation of the countries’ border quickly escalated into the last full-scale interstate war of the 20th century, with Afwerki bearing at least partial blame for failing to defuse a conflict in which an estimated 100,000 people were killed.

Eritrea is also under UN sanctions for its alleged support of Al Shabaab militants fighting the Ethiopian military in Somalia.

Yahya Jammeh (Gambia, 1996-present)

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Yahya Jammeh. Wikipedia

Gambia’s president since 1996 has built one of the most oppressive states on earth.

Jammeh has used arbitrary arrests and torture as his preferred means of control, and has threatened to personally slit the throats of the country’s gay men.

Gambians are fleeing the country in droves.

Despite its population of only 1.8 million, Gambia is among the 10 most common origin points for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

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The Waco Siege was the most controversial use of federal force in decades

On February 28, 1993, a standoff between federal agents and an offshoot branch of Seventh-Day Adventists escalated into armed conflict on American soil. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raided the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, in an effort to execute a legal search warrant.


Once the shooting started, four agents and six Davidians were dead. The ensuing standoff would last 51 days. The conspiracy theories would live forever.

By March 11, there was a new sheriff in town – that is to say, a new top law enforcement officer was at the desk of Attorney General.

For Janet Reno — the first female to hold top cop job — one of the first tasks was a literal trial by fire: how to handle the ultimate hand of “Texas Hold ‘Em” happening down Waco way.

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Reno in an undated broadcast TV interview.

Related: This is how the US military would put down an armed rebellion

There are two segments to the Waco standoff, sadly bookended by violence. The first was the ATF raid for the initial search warrant. President Clinton was inaugurated the previous January, creating a transition period for many departments of the federal government. The Department of Justice was in what it called “caretaker mode” before a new AG could be appointed. For much of the time after the February raid, it was assumed by many that the FBI would negotiate a resolution with the Davidians, so that’s what the caretakers – senior justice department officials – did.

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Branch Davidian Compound (YouTube Screengrab)

The second major event came when the Attorney General’s office ordered a full-on storming of the compound by the FBI on April 19th. For the 51 days in between, FBI negotiators tried to end the siege peacefully — and came close a few times. It was when Davidian leader David Koresh proclaimed that God told him to remain inside the compound that factions within the FBI began to advocate for an assault. The Davidians made a number of demands, to a mixed reception by the FBI.

Though some children inside the compound were released to the care of the FBI, there were still children inside the Davidian compound. Allegations of child sexual assault prompted many to wonder why the government forces allowed the standoff to continue. Acting Attorney General Stuart Gerson, a holdover from the Bush Administration, requested military firepower from nearby Fort Hood. When President Clinton was informed, he demanded that Gerson not use the requested military vehicles for a “more aggressive” tactical push.

Federal forces used Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles and M728 Combat Engineer Vehicles to destroy perimeter fences and structures and to destroy the cars of people on the compound. Troops around the area also had 2 M1A1 Abrams Tanks. The feds used loud music, pre-recorded aircraft noise, and even the sounds of slaughtered rabbits to deprive the Davidians of sleep while cutting water, power, and communications to the compound. Koresh reportedly began to believe he was the second coming of Christ.

As incoming Attorney General, Reno was briefed about the Waco Siege situation on March 12. By April 18, she was informing President Clinton that she authorized the FBI’s use of tear gas on the compound. With the assurance that the children in the compound were protected, he left it to Reno to decide the next steps. The FBI planned the assault for 0700.

On April 19th, agents from the FBI and ATF, as well as troops from the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard, were authorized by Clinton to assault the compound. Reno told the president the risk of abused children inside was high while the siege was costing the government upward of $1 million per week.

Federal forces used the CEVs, .50 cal machine guns, and explosives to punch holes in the walls of the compound. The area was then saturated with tear gas in an attempt to flush the Davidians out. The people inside the complex responded by firing on the CEVs. The federal forces maintained they never returned a shot. For six hours the Davidians held out.

But fire is what ultimately ended the Waco siege.

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The Davidians’ Mount Carmel Compound in flames on April 19, 1993. (FBI photo)

Three fires began at separate locations within the building at about noon local time. Nine people escaped the blaze, but 76 died inside the walls. The government forces maintain the fires were started by the Davidians in the compound while those who escape claim the fires were a result of the assault. According to an official Justice Department report, poor construction, high winds, and the holes created by the government attack helped vent the fire and contribute to its fast spread.

Time Magazine reported that 12 autopsies found Davidians who died from bullet wounds to the head, “indicating either suicide or murder.” Koresh was killed by his right-hand man during the Waco siege, who then turned the gun on himself.

“I’m accountable,” Time Magazine reported Reno as saying on April 19, 1993. “The buck stops with me.”

After all was said and done, the original ATF warrant was founded in fact. The Justice Department reported they recovered a number of illegal weapons from the compound, including 1.9 million rounds of spent ammunition,  20 fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles, 12 fully automatic AR-15 assault rifles, at least two .50 caliber semi-automatic rifles, and anti-tank armor-piercing ammunition.

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This Air Force plane makes bad guys go blind

Among the many planes flying sorties against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is a version of the C-130. No, not the AC-130 gunship – although that plane did help blow up a lot of ISIS tanker trucks according to a 2015 Military.com report.


Here we’re talking about the EC-130H Compass Call. And while the highly-modified cargo plane doesn’t have the firepower appeal of the AC-130, it brings a lot of lethal wizbangery to the fight.

Things can go pear-shaped even with the best-laid operational plans when comms are crystal clear. Commanders can issue orders, and subordinates receive them and report information up the line.

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An EC-130H Compass Call prepares to taxi Dec. 5, 2016 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The Compass Call employs a crew of roughly a dozen Airmen working together to jam Da’esh communications. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Park)

Now imagine being an ISIS commander who is unable to send orders to units, and concurrently, they can’t send you any information. You’re now fumbling around, and figuratively blind as a bat against the opposition.

When the anti-ISIS coalition comes, backed up by special operators and air power, pretty soon you find yourself in a world of coalition hurt.

According to an Air Force release, the EC-130H has been doing just that against ISIS. This plane is loaded with jamming gear that cuts off communications.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, it works with the EA-18G Growler, the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, and the EA-6B Prowler. The plane, though, has been in service since 1983. It was first designed to help take down air-defense networks, usually by working with other planes like the F-4G Wild Weasel and the EF-111 Raven.

These are old airframes. The plane may have entered service in 1983, but the airframes are old.

“We have a 1964 model out here on the ramp and you run the gamut of issues from old wiring to old structural issues (and) corrosion. You find that many of the items on the aircraft have been on there for well over 20 or 30 years, and parts fail all the time. So the aircraft more often than not come down and they need us to fix it before it can fly again safely,” 1st Lt. John Karim, the Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, told the Air Force News Service.

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OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM — An EC-130H Compass Call with the 398th Air Expeditionary Group takes off from a forward-deployed location for a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert J. Horstman)

They might be old, they don’t make things go boom, but they still help kick some terrorist ass.

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‘Tactical miscalculation’ likely if Iran boat harassment persists

With a recent rash of close encounters and fast approaches by Iranian vessels in international waters prompting U.S. ship commanders to fire flares and warning shots, the Navy’s top officer is warning that the consequences of this harassment could be significant and is advocating for an agreed-upon rule set to govern these at-sea encounters.


During a discussion at the Center for American Progress on Monday in Washington, D.C., Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told Military.com that individual ship commanders had broad autonomy to respond to these Iranian harassment incidents.

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Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

“There’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond,” Richardson said. “These things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow those commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond. They’ve got to know what their commander’s guidance is, they’ve got to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, and also to make sure that they can respond to these very fast moving opportunities.”

To date, these responses have been limited to warning measures and rebukes. But the Iranian ships’ behavior, Richardson suggested, could have grave consequences.

“From the standpoint of, is our Navy prepared to respond, I would say, yes in every respect,” Richardson said. “These are some of these potentially destabilizing things. A tactical miscalculation, the closer and closer you get to these kinds of things, the margin for error gets smaller, human error can play a bigger and bigger role. I think it’s very important that we eliminate this sort of activity when we can and nothing good can come from it.”

Richardson said he hopes to establish a dialogue with Iranian naval leaders in order to develop a code of conduct to govern encounters at sea. He added that such a rule set had been very effective in dictating behavior during maritime encounters with the Chinese Navy, even amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

“We’re working to sort of think our way through what are the possibilities there, both with the Iranians and I would say with the Russians who exhibit this behavior as well,” Richardson said, “so we can get up on the line and sort of have a conversation of, whether this would be helpful or hurtful, this is not in the helpful category.”

It remains unclear whether the leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy would be interested in engaging in the sort of dialogue Richardson wants.

The deputy chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri, told a state news agency this week that Iranian boats involved in the encounters with U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf were in keeping with international standards and norms.

“The claims [of harassment] are not only untrue, but stem from their fear of the power of Iran’s soldiers,” Jazayeri said, according to Agence France-Presse reports.

The Pentagon has reported at least five incidents of harassment by Iranian boats in the last month. In at least one of the encounters, an Iranian vessel came within 100 yards of a U.S. patrol ship.

Separately, Iran over the weekend threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy aircraft — a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance plane and an EP-3 — that were flying in international airspace near the Strait of Hormuz, CNN reported.

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