Here's what makes a Combat Controller so deadly - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

The teams that have completed some of America’s most stunning special operations included a few airmen who are often overlooked when it comes time to glorify the heroes: Combat Controller Teams.


Combat Controllers are Air Force special operators trained to support all other special operators and to conduct their missions behind enemy lines. Here’s what makes them so effective under such challenging conditions.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Air Force special operators aren’t well known, but they have a reputation as both intellectuals and brawlers. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

First, Combat Controllers are certified as air traffic controllers and are also often certified as joint terminal attack controllers. These dual-certifications mean that they can direct friendly air traffic and request attacks against ground targets from the aircraft overhead.

Obviously, the guy who tells the A-10s where to shoot, the AC-130s where to fly, and the attack helicopters where they should enter and leave the battlespace is packing some serious firepower.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
The Air Force’s AC-130s are literally airborne artillery. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To do this mission, Combat Controller Teams move forward with Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other Tier 1 operators and use a radio to keep in touch with air assets assigned to the mission. In fact, CCTs were originally formed to pair with Delta Force squadrons on their super-secret missions.

When they near an objective or get close to enemy forces, the CCTs call up their big brothers in the sky.

The controller tells the pilot what target needs to be taken out, where it’s at, and sometimes even what weapons and flight path the pilot should take.

As the combat controller is doing all that, he’s still in ground combat. While he’ll usually prefer to use his radio rather than his rifle — 30mm cannon fire from the sky is more lethal than 5.56mm rounds from the ground — he’s perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers when necessary.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photographed: guys who are not afraid to fight you. (Photo: U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

This connection with air assets also gives the CCTs a coveted battlefield asset: real-time surveillance. Pilots can describe what they see on the ground to the controller who keeps mission commanders in the loop. In some cases, pilots and drones can even send data streams to devices carried by the controller so the airman can watch the enemy in real time.

All these capabilities are valuable for joint operations, but they also allow combat controllers to conduct their own missions — which they do.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
(Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

One such mission is covert airfield seizure. The Army will send Rangers or paratroopers to seize airfields from enemy forces, but dropping a few hundred infantrymen can draw a lot of attention.

So, sometimes the Air Force sends small teams of combat controllers and other Air Force special operators on their own if the base isn’t too heavily guarded.

The controllers will seize the airfield and then certify it for operations. Once they give their blessing to an airfield, reinforcements can land on the runway and support aircraft can come in for refueling and rearmament.

Controllers can also go into combat on their own to help allied forces or to direct airstrikes that will delay an enemy or break up an attack.

To get to the battlefield, the controllers can swim in with SCUBA and diving gear, parachute, ruck, drive, or even ride motorcycles.

Air Force special tactics officer Maj. Charlie Hodges described “bike chasers,” controllers who throw a motorcycle out of a plane, parachute after it, and then ride the bike to their objective when they reach the ground.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Wasn’t kidding about those bikes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gabe Johnson)

“All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles,” Hodges told CNN. Getting to the fight sometimes “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot.”

While Combat Controllers don’t always get the headlines and movies like SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and others, they’ve proven themselves to be professional, courageous, and deadly in combat.

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What North Koreans really think of their supreme leader

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Why does it always look overcast in North Korea?


The Center for Strategic and International Studies‘s Beyond Parallel released new polls that shed light on one of the most obscure areas in global studies — the opinions of ordinary North Korean citizens.

North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.

But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.

Also read: What you need to know about North Korean threats

“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.

Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Out of the 36 people polled, zero said that the country’s public distribution system of goods provides what they want for a good life.

Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.

While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:

State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.

Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.

The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.

The US and international community have long tried to lobby North Korea’s greatest ally, China, to exert some influence on the isolated dictatorship to ease the suffering of the North Korean people, and protect the region from Pyongyang’s nuclear belligerence.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

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Today in military history: Confederate invasion of Kentucky begins

On Aug. 14, 1862, the Confederate invasion of Kentucky began.

Wanting to draw the Union army away from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and hoping to win over Kentucky and the midwest for the South, Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith led ten thousand troops toward the Cumberland Gap and spent the month of August defeating Yankee forces throughout the state. 

Smith was joined by General Braxton Bragg’s forces, and throughout the fall the Confederates would repeatedly engage with Union General Don Carlos Buell, who finally secured a Yankee victory in October, causing the Confederates to retreat back to Tennessee. 

Often referred to as the Confederate Heartland Offensive, the Kentucky Campaign was a strategic failure overall. Though it would slow Union forces down, they would regain the lost ground within a year and Kentucky would remain in Union hands for the remainder of the war.

Featured Image: The Battle of Perryville as depicted in Harper’s Weekly. (Public Domain)

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11 insider insults sailors say to each other

Sailors have unique ways to get under each other’s skin.


A comment that may seem harmless to an outsider might be a jab to a shipmate. Just add the word “SHIPMATE” to the insult to take it to the next level. Consider yourself warned and use the following sailor insults at your own risk:

140 sailors go down, 70 couples come back.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Submariners hate this one, used by surface sailors to mock submariners going on deployment.

“Unsat”

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

“Unsat” is short for unsatisfactory. This is not derogatory, but sailors hate the term being used to describe their work, something they did, their appearance — anything. When the chief says, “Shipmate, your haircut is unsat,” sailors know they’d better do something about it.

B.U.B.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Stands for ‘Barely Useful Body.’ Sometimes used in a derogatory manner, but sometimes used to describe someone who’s been injured or physically unable to perform 100 percent. Either way, it hurts the ego.

The Bulls–t flag

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

This is an imaginary flag someone raises when they believe that what you’re saying is pure bulls–t. It’s usually phrased, “I am raising the bulls–t flag on that one.”

Buttshark

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: US Navy

Otherwise known as a brown-noser or butt snorkeler. This is a person who tries too hard to buddy up with another – usually a superior – to gain favor.

Check Valve

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: US Navy

Also known as a “one-way check valve.” This is a term used mostly by submariners and surface ship snipes to describe someone who does things for him or herself but doesn’t reciprocate.

C.O.B.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

This one has several different derogatory meanings to describe the senior enlisted person aboard a ship: Chief of the Boat, Crabby Old Bastard, and Clueless Overweight Bastard.

F.L.O.B.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

It stands for Freeloading Oxygen Breather. This is a term mostly used by submariners to describe someone who is not carrying their share of the load.

“How’s your wife and my kids?”

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Seaman David Brandenburg/US Navy

A phrase used to get under the skin of sailors from opposite crews.

Joe Navy

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

A derogatory term used for a lifer with no life outside the Navy who engages in a lot of buttsharking.

Pecker Checker

This is the official, unofficial term used to describe a Navy doctor or corpsman. Sailors know better than to address the doc this way before a physical.

By no means is this a complete list, so feel free to add more terms in the comments below.

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Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

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


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

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

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

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

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

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

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

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt secretly talked to Edward Snowden to prepare for a movie

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly


In a profile piece on Joseph Gordon-Levitt from The Guardian, the actor revealed that he flew to Russia for a secret meeting with Edward Snowden in preparation for playing the NSA whistle-blower in the upcoming movie “Snowden,” directed by Oliver Stone (opening in 2016).

Gordon-Levitt said the motivation behind the meeting was to “understand this person that I was going to play, observing both his strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

The two met for four hours and though the actor wanted to tape record the meeting, it was advised that he did not.

In fact, according to piece, Snowden’s lawyers didn’t want Gordon-Levitt to admit the meeting had taken place.

The actor said that what he took most from the meeting with Snowden was he completely agrees with the actions he took.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Edward Snowden receives the Sam Adams award for Intelligence Integrity in Moscow. Photo: Wikimedia

“I left knowing without a doubt that what [Snowden] did, he did because he believed it was the right thing to do. That he believed it would help the country he loves,” said Gordon-Levitt.

“Now, as he would say, it’s not for him to say whether it was right or wrong. That’s really for people to decide on their own, and I would encourage anybody to decide that on their own. I don’t want to be the actor guy who’s like, ‘You should listen to me! What he did was right!’ I don’t think that’s my place. Even though that is what I believe — that what he did was right.”

“Snowden” is based on Luke Hardin’s book “The Snowden Files” and Anatoly Kucherena’s “Time of the Octopus.”

Along with Gordon-Levitt, the film stars Shailene Woodley as Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s girlfriend, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald, and Melissa Leo as Laura Poitras. Greenwald was the journalist and Poitras the filmmaker Snowden leaked the classified documents to.

Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, and Timothy Olyphant also star.

Gordon-Levitt will next been seen in the Robert Zemeckis film “The Walk,” in which he’ll be playing another real-life figure, Philippe Petit. The film recounts Petit’s infamous tightrope walk across New York City’s World Trade Towers in 1974.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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7 things Marine Corps recruits complain about at boot camp

The Marine Corps doesn’t promise you a rose garden.


When potential recruits show up to boot camp, they quickly realize what they are in for. While standing on the yellow footprints at either Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California, young men and women are lined up, berated by drill instructors, and then go through a 36-hour whirlwind of receiving.

And then they have three more months to go. It’s a huge culture shock for civilians who have little idea of Marine culture or what happens at boot camp. The shock leads to some complaints, though they will likely never dare mention it to the drill instructors.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis

1. These drill instructors are literally insane.

They scream, use wild gestures, throw things, and run around a room and back again. In the eyes of a recruit, a drill instructor is an insane person, hell-bent on making his or her life a living hell. They kind of have a point.

During the first three days or so of boot camp, receiving drill instructors take recruits to supply, get their uniforms, feed them, and house them, before taking them to their actual DIs that will have them over a period of three months. As trained professionals, the DIs put on a front of being upset about basically everything a recruit does, right or wrong.

2. There’s no way I can put on this uniform in less than 10 seconds.

One of the “insane” things that drill instructors constantly stress is that recruits move fast. Impossibly fast. DIs will give countdowns of everything — from tying your right boot to brushing your teeth — that usually start from very small numbers like 20 seconds that rapidly dwindle depending on how hard the DI wants to make it.

The countdowns induce a level of stress in recruits that are used to completing tasks at a leisurely pace. When a DI says you have ten seconds to put on your camouflage blouse and bottoms, you better not still be buttoning at 11.

3. How are there no freaking doors on these bathroom stalls right now?

Who needs privacy when you are trying to forge a brotherhood of Marines? Walk into any male recruit “head” (aka the bathroom) at the depot and you’ll notice a couple of things: There is a big trough-like urinal with no dividers, and bathroom stalls have no doors on them.

Even during the times when a recruit is used to having maximum privacy, at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, there is none. Thankfully, once they are Marines, they will earn their Eagle, Globe, Anchor — and the right to have a bathroom door.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Photo: Lance Cpl. Vaniah Temple/USMC

4. This recruit really wishes he were treated like a human being.

The moment boot camp begins, drill instructors are teaching recruits that they are pretty much worthless, and they have a long way to go before they earn the title of Marine. Being the “worthless scum” of recruit means not even being able to speak in the first person anymore, and having to ask to do basic human functions, like using the bathroom (often refused on the first request).

No longer can recruits use “I,” “me,” or “my.” Instead, they must say “this recruit” in its place. “Sir, this recruit requests permission to make a sit-down head call,” is the way you ask to go #2. Three months later, it’ll be a bit weird at first when a new Marine can just walk into a bathroom and go.

5. What the hell is fire-watch?

Though it may not seem like it, recruits at boot camp usually get around seven to eight hours of sleep per night. But most will have to pull “fire-watch” during the night. Fire watch, put simply, is guard duty. But unlike a guard duty they may pull in Iraq or Afghanistan behind a machine-gun, guard duty at boot camp means recruits walk around aimlessly in the squad bay for an hour.

Pulling security and protecting your team of Marines is a basic function that recruits need to learn. But it’s also incredibly boring, and seems pretty pointless. And then, sometimes this happens in the middle of it:

6. Going to the head? ‘El Marko’? What language are these people speaking?

The Marine Corps has its own language, and recruits get their first taste of how weird it is during boot camp. There’s naval terminology mixed in with other terms that seem to not make any sense, and it takes a while to pick up. The bathroom is referred to as “the head,” a black Sharpie is now called an “El Marko,” the “quarterdeck” is where the drill instructor “smokes/kills/destroys” recruits.

Suck it up, buttercup. There are plenty more phrases you’ll need to learn in the years to come.

7. These flies are the devil (Parris Island recruit) — or — These airplanes are the devil (San Diego recruit).

The Marine Corps Recruit Depots on the east and west coasts follow similar training programs, so it’s hard to call either one easier or harder than the other. But they do have their own unique quirks. For recruits on the east coast, Parris Island is known for sand fleas, which make their home in the infamous sand pits and humid air of South Carolina. While recruits are getting “thrashed” — doing strenuous exercise — in the pits, sand fleas provide another terrible annoyance. But don’t dare swat one. If you are caught, a drill instructor is likely to scream about an undisciplined recruit and make you hold a funeral for the fallen creature.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

Meanwhile, San Diego recruits live right by the busy airport downtown. Throughout their time there, they will hear airplanes taking off and landing, and it’s usually not a morale boost. While PI recruits are isolated, San Diego recruits often daydream about being on one of those flights taking off from the nation’s busiest single runway airport.

MORE: Here’s what the first 36 hours of Marine boot camp is like

ALSO: 23 terms only US Marines will understand

OR WATCH: Life in the U.S. Marine Corps Infantry

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The youngest NCO in Army history shot a Confederate officer at age 12

Ohio native John Clem might have been small in stature, but he was big of heart. After running away from home following the death of his mother in 1861, he tried and tried again to join the Union Army as a drummer boy. He was rejected because he was only nine years old — and looked like it. 

Persistence eventually paid off, though. Even after the 22nd Michigan Infantry rejected the boy, he followed the unit wherever it went, and they eventually accepted him. The officers of the infantry unit all chipped in to pay him his regular salary until he was old enough to officially enlist.

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Not the face of a kid that wants to hear about your 5th grader’s problems
(Mathew Brady/Library of Congress)

Although there are claims he fought at the Battle of Shiloh, Johnny Clem’s first documented battle of the Civil War placed him at the epic Battle of Chickamauga in Walker County, Georgia. This would make him a veteran at just 12 years old. Contemporaries say he used a musket that was trimmed down to a size he could effectively use on the battlefield – and use he did. 

Chickamauga did not go well for the Union Army. The battle saw the second-highest number of casualties inflicted of the whole war, second only to the Battle of Gettysburg. As the Union forces retreated, Clem was confronted by a Confederate colonel who demanded his surrender. Instead, the young Clem shot the enemy officer. 

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Historians argue it may be the fastest a “Johnny” has ever become “John” (Mathew Brady/ Library of Congress)

After the fighting, Clem was promoted to sergeant, becoming the youngest non-commissioned officer to ever serve in the U.S. Army. Clem was captured by a Confederate patrol later that year. The men confiscated his Union uniform and used him as propaganda, claiming the Union was so hard-pressed for men that they had to put uniforms on children. 

Sgt. Clem was exchanged in 1863, in time to see more action with the Army of the Cumberland. He would be discharged in 1864, after being wounded in combat on two occasions. After the war, he finished high school and rejoined the Army. He attempted but failed to get into West Point but his service caught the attention of then-President Ulysses S. Grant, who gave Clem, now an adult, a commission in 1874. 

2nd Lt. Clem initially went to the Army Artillery School but transferred to the Quartermaster Corps, where he spent the rest of his Army career. He was routinely promoted and was still in the service when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898. He deployed to Puerto Rico to serve as quartermaster in occupied San Juan. 

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Can you imagine how tough this guy must have been on 20th-century kids? “When I was 9…” (Library of Congress)

By 1906, he was Col. John Clem, serving as chief quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. At age 64 in 1915, he was finally forced to retire. At this time it was custom for Civil War veterans who reached the rank of colonel to be promoted to brigadier general, so John Clem, the 9-year-old boy who forced the Union Army to take him as a drummer boy during the Civil War, retired as Brig. Gen. Clem.

He was the last Civil War veteran to retire from Army service. In recognition of that fact, he was promoted once more in 1916 to major general. He lived to see the United States join World War I but not World War II. He died in 1937 at age 85.

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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This Marine Became The First Amputee To Graduate The Corps’ Grueling Swim School

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks became the first amputee to graduate from the Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course, Nov. 25, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Eve Baker


QUANTICO, Va., Dec. 11, 2014 – The Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival course is a grueling training evolution that requires Marines to swim a total of 59 miles over three weeks.

Just six of nine course students were able to complete the challenge and graduate Nov. 25. One of those six course students had the deck stacked against him from the beginning, but he overcame adversity and graduated with his classmates.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Adam Jacks, company gunnery sergeant for Headquarters and Service Company at The Basic School here, is a motivated, extremely fit, Marine who said he quickly volunteered to attend the course when approached by the chief instructor trainer, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Marshall. The fact that Jacks’s right leg was amputated at the mid-thigh in 2011 did not faze either Marine.

Injured in Afghanistan

Jacks, a native of Newark, Ohio, was serving in Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, when he stepped on a pressure plate April 3, 2011, and was hit by an improvised explosive device blast. Among other injuries, Jacks suffered a traumatic brain injury and lost two-thirds of his right leg.

Though he easily could have medically retired, Jacks said, he “fought pretty hard” to stay on active duty, believing he had much more to contribute to the Marine Corps.

“Why I wanted to stay in is pretty simple: I wasn’t ready to hang up the uniform and turn the page into a new chapter,” he said. “I felt that I had a lot of fight left in me, and that I could help shape the Marine Corps into this new-age style of fighting, even with half of a leg, and to show Marines of all ranks and ages that it still can be done.”

Jacks asked to be placed in an expanded permanent limited duty status, a request that only the commandant of the Marine Corps can grant. Jacks said he met the commandant — Gen. James F. Amos at the time — and that Amos said to him, “If you want to stay in, I won’t push you out.” After about nine months of evaluations and paperwork, Jacks was granted permission to continue serving on active duty.

Specific Prosthetics for Specific Activities

Jacks said he has about 20 different prosthetic legs, each with a unique purpose. He has one for everyday activities, one for patrolling and one for running, among others.

“If I don’t have one that works well for the situation, that will set me up for failure,” he explained. He also has one prosthetic decorated with a blood stripe and some Marine graphics that he said he doesn’t like to wear much, because he doesn’t want to damage it.

What he lacked before starting the course, however, was a leg that would help him swim. The asymmetry in his body caused him to roll in the water when swimming, Jacks said.

“The first week [of the MCIWS course] was pretty hellacious,” he said, “because I had to relearn how to swim properly and use my upper body.”

He recounted having to fight feelings of vertigo from the lack of balance. Marshall said he and Jacks worked together to improvise a buoyant prosthetic that would enable him to stay at a level position in the water. Even with the buoyant leg, Jacks had to put in dozens of extra training hours to become more proficient, frequently staying at the pool until 6:30 or 7 p.m., up to two hours after the other students had left for the day.

High Standards

“We were not going to lower the standard,” Marshall said. “We were going to work with him to help him reach it.” And the standard was high. Marines had to complete conditioning swims up to 1,900 meters in length, including three that were timed. They also had to swim 25 meters underwater, complete four American Red Cross rescues with the aid of lifesaving equipment and four without, and pass all academic classroom evaluations.

“There were naysayers” who told him he wouldn’t be able to complete the course missing a limb, Jacks said, but he kept a positive outlook.

“You press on with it,” he said. “You use the adversities as fuel to get you through.”

Jacks and his fellow graduates are now certified as MCIWS instructors and American Red Cross lifeguards.

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Trump widens potential rift with Mattis over NATO

President-elect Donald Trump’s renewed criticism of NATO widened a potential rift with Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis on the need to shore up the alliance against the threats of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


In a joint interview Sunday with The London Times and Germany’s Bild publication, Trump recycled charges from his campaign that NATO is “obsolete,” questioned the worth of the European Union and said that Germany was wrong to admit refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

In his Senate confirmation hearing last week, retired Marine Gen. Mattis said, “If we didn’t have NATO today, we’d need to create it. NATO is vital to our interests.”

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with [in] Mr. Putin,” Mattis said. “We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps — the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps — working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.”

“There’s a decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and an increasing number of areas where we’re going to have to confront Russia,” he said.

Mattis also suggested that Trump is willing to hear opposing arguments on NATO. “I have had discussions with him on this issue,” he said. “He has shown himself open, even to the point of asking more questions, going deeper into the issue.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and Trump’s choice to become national security adviser, also supports bolstering NATO and other U.S. global commitments.

In a speech last week at the U.S. Institute of peace, Flynn said, “Alliances are one of the great tools that we have, and the strength of those alliances magnifies our own strengths.

“As we examine and potentially re-baseline our relationships around the globe, we will keep in mind the sacrifices and deep commitments that many of our allies have made on behalf of our security and our prosperity,” Flynn said.

‘It’s Obsolete’

After meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Monday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Trump’s criticism of NATO is “in contradiction” of Mattis’ vision of a strengthened alliance and U.S. support of NATO’s Article 5, which considers an attack on any member as an attack against all.

“Obviously, the comments from President-elect Trump that he views NATO as obsolete were viewed with anxiety,” Steinmeier said.

In his remarks to The London Times and Bild, Trump said of NATO: “It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago.” He renewed his charges that most members of the 28-nation alliance are not living up to their responsibilities under the treaty.

The U.S. provides about 70 percent of the funding for NATO while other nations “aren’t paying their fair share, so we’re supposed to protect countries,” Trump said. “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to — five. It’s not much.”

Under agreements reached in 2014, when Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO members pledged to devote at least two percent of their budgets to defense and outlined steps to reach that goal.

Despite the criticism of NATO, Trump’s remarks could also be seen as a prod to get members to pay their dues. “NATO is very important to me,” he said.

However, Trump’s views that NATO is obsolete are in line with those of Putin, who has for years denounced NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders. In response to Trump’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “NATO is indeed a vestige of the past and we agree with that.”

A Deal With Putin

Trump also expressed interest in a deal with Putin that would lift sanctions against Russia in return for a mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” Trump said, according to the Times. “For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially; that’s part of it.”

The Trump interview came as U.S. troops and tanks were arriving in the Polish town of Zagan in a historic move to shore up NATO’s eastern flank that has infuriated Putin. In addition, 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway on Monday to join in training exercises.

In a ceremony as snow fell over the weekend, Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz told the first contingents of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Carson, Colorado, “We have waited for you for a very long time.”

“We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only one who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east,” Macierewicz said.

Reassuring Europe

To counter Russia, the Obama administration, with the support of Congress in the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, recommended boosting the budget for the European Reassurance Initiative from $789 million to $3.4 billion.

ERI was established in the fiscal 2015 budget to “reassure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security and territorial integrity as members of the NATO alliance.” It supported increased U.S. investment across five categories: presence, training and exercises, infrastructure, pre-positioned equipment, and building partner capacity.

To expand presence across the region, the U.S. Army began periodic rotations of armored and airborne brigades to Poland and the Baltic states; the Air Force added additional F-15 Eagles to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; and the Navy cycled ships through the Black Sea. The U.S. also spent $250 million to improve bases in Europe.

In a welcoming ceremony in Germany earlier this month for the 4,000 troops of the 3rd ABCT, Air Force Lt. Gen. Tim Ray, the deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said that its presence showed that the U.S. commitment to NATO is “rock solid.”

“I can assure you, this [ABCT] does not stand alone — it is integrated and combined with forces and other equipment in space, cyberspace, the air, land and sea, with our allies and partners,” Ray said. “A joint persistent rotational presence of American land, sea and air is in the region as a show of support to our allies and in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

“Let me be very clear — this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure the territorial integrity of our allies, and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”

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Iranian cruise missile test fails

North Korea is not the only rogue state that is testing missiles. Iran recently carried out a missile test, and just like North Korea, they couldn’t get their missile up.


According to a report by the Washington Times, an Iranian midget submarine attempted to launch an unidentified cruise missile. The test, part of an Iranian military buildup, failed.

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A C-802 missile in front of a JF-17 Thunder of the Pakistan Air Force on static display at the 2010 Farnborough Airshow. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World notes that that Iran has Chinese-designed C-802 missiles, as well as a home-built version of the C-802 called the Noor, as well as the C-704, and an indigenous missile called the Qader.

Combat Fleets of the World also notes that Iran has at least 16 North Korean-designed mini-subs, which are locally called the Ghadir-class. These subs each have two 21-inch torpedo tubes and a crew of 20.

One of these subs in North Korean service, which they refer to as Yono-class, is believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan in 2010.

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The North Korean Sang-O submarine ran aground in South Korean waters near Gangneung, in 1996. (Public Domain photo)

The Washington Free Beacon has reported that Iran is carrying out a major buildup since the July 2015 nuclear deal, increasing its defense budget by 145 percent and seeking to turn the Iranian Army into a force capable of offensive operations as opposed to supporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Washington Times noted that Iran has reportedly taken delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, and is seeking a license to build the Russian-designed T-90 main battle tank locally. Iran has also been building indigenous fighter and surface-to-air missile designs.

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Iranian naval vessels have repeatedly harassed U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The most recent incident involved the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). Over the last year, a number of other incidents occurred, including multiple attacks on the destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

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STRATFOR: Loose Nukes In Russia Will Be ‘The Greatest Crisis Of The Next Decade’

The most alarming prediction in the Decade Forecast from private intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting, or Stratfor, involves a Russian collapse leading to a nuclear crisis.


The firm believes the Russian Federation will not survive the decade in its present form, after a combination of international sanctions, plunging oil prices, and a suffering ruble trigger a political and social crisis. Russia will then devolve into an archipelago of often-impoverished and confrontational local governments under the Kremlin’s very loose control.

“We expect Moscow’s authority to weaken substantially, leading to the formal and informal fragmentation of Russia” the report states, adding, “It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form.”

If that upheaval happened, it could lead to what Stratfor calls “the greatest crisis of the next decade”: Moscow’s loss of control over the world’s biggest nuclear weapons stockpile.

Russia is the world’s largest country and its 8,000 weapons are fairly spread out over its 6.6 million square miles. According to a Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists study, Russia has 40 nuclear sites, which is twice as many as the US uses to house a comparable number of warheads. This policy of dispersal makes it difficult for an enemy to disable the Russian nuclear arsenal in a single attack, but it also makes the Russian stockpile difficult to control.

The Bulletin report also found that the Russia was uncertain exactly how many short-range “tactical” or city-busting “strategic” nukes it has, nor what the weapons’ state of assembly or alert status may be.

Stratfor fears that the dissolution of the Russian Federation could cause an unprecedented nuclear security crisis. Not only could the command-and-control mechanisms for Russia’s massive and highly opaque nuclear arsenal completely break down. Moscow might lose its physical control over weapons and launch platforms as well.

“Russia is the site of a massive nuclear strike force distributed throughout the hinterlands,” the Decade Forecast explains. “The decline of Moscow’s power will open the question of who controls those missiles and how their non-use can be guaranteed.”

In Stratfor’s view the US is the only global actor that can formulate a response to this problem, and ever that might not be enough to prevent launch platforms and weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

“Washington … will not be able to seize control of the vast numbers of sites militarily and guarantee that no missile is fired in the process,” the Forecast predicts. “The United States will either have to invent a military solution that is difficult to conceive of now, accept the threat of rogue launches, or try to create a stable and economically viable government in the regions involved to neutralize the missiles over time.”

The forecast doesn’t go into detail about what kind of “military solution” might be appropriate. US Special Forces could conceivably transport fissile material out of the country or temporarily secure the most vulnerable sites, but those materials would have to be evacuated to another country, something that would undoubtedly raise tensions with whatever authority still rules in Moscow. In fact, the surviving Russian government would probably consider any US or allied military action to be an act of aggression.

Regardless of the extent of the collapse, Stratfor predicts a major security vacuum in Russia in the next decade.

The firm also predicts declining US assertiveness in world affairs, the fracturing of the European Union, and the decline of Germany’s powerful export economy, and more.

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

The territory controlled by the ISIS is vast and spreads across wide areas of Iraq and Syria. To date ISIS has proved resilient in the face of American airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iranian-backed Shia militias, battle-hardened Syrian rebels, Asad regime forces, and even other jihadist groups.


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Institute for the Study of War

In 2014, ISIS surprised the world with a string of military victories in Iraq, even threatening the central government in Baghdad before American and Kurdish intervention. The swath of territory under their control has not shrunk by much since then.

So how can a paramilitary organization with no recognized trading partners maintain an economy, infrastructure, and sustained military campaigns on multiple fronts? By any means necessary, it appears. Some bloggers suggest Turkey is funding them, or the U.S. government, or even payday lenders. The reality is much more simple and ISIS remains one of the most well-funded paramilitary terrorist organizations ever, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

Here are ISIS’ 10 main sources of funding:

1. Oil Smuggling

ISIS captured oil wells all over Iraq and in Northern Syria in 2014. With refined gasoline running near $7.50 per gallon across the border in Turkey, any relief from those kinds of prices is a welcome relief, even if that cheap oil comes from a group like ISIS. The terror group controls 80,000 of Iraq’s total 3 million daily barrels of oil, but the area of oil fields under their control is the size of the UK. In Syria, ISIS controls sixty percent of total production capacity and is selling oil at a rock-bottom $25 per barrel. As of October 2015, the market price of oil was $43. Cross-border smuggling of cheap crude oil earns ISIS and estimated $1.5-3.6 million each day, maybe as high as $800 million each year.

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2. Donations from Angel Investors

ISIS is a fundamentalist Sunni Islamist group. Their ideology is close to the Wahhabi brand of Islam espoused by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise there are wealthy oil magnates in the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies, like Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates who share ISIS’ core beliefs and are willing to send money to help them. Experts believe angel investors in Qatar are sending the largest portion of individual investments. Their interests may lie more in the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Asad, whose government supported Shia muslims in Syria. This income source comes to the tune of $40 million over the past two years.

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3. Organized Crime

Calling ISIS “thugs” isn’t just a way of demeaning those who fight, work for, or otherwise support the group. As the only form of law enforcement in the areas under its control, ISIS has a “massive” organized crime operation. It demands large sums of money from those in its territory. Anyone who wants to start a business, withdraw from their bank account, or just be alive are taxed on almost every aspect of daily life. These taxes also extend to dams, granaries, and even oil fields. These taxes can be as high as ten percent per transaction. They’ve even been known to take necklaces and earrings off of women.

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It’s really weird that they pose like this.

4. Looting Banks and Museums

When ISIS captured Mosul in 2014, it famously looted the central bank, cashing in on a large amount of money. It also loots smaller banks as it swarms through new territory under its control. In Mosul alone, ISIS took over 12 branches. All told, experts believe $1.5 billion was captured by the terror group in the past two years.  Bank robbery plays a part, but the terror organization will also loot museums and sell valuable artifacts through towns on the Turkish border with Syria. 1/3 of Iraqi archeological sites are under ISIS control and the looting of these sites for artifacts to sell on the black market is the group’s second largest income source.

5. Hostages and Kidnapping

Capturing Westerners and other foreigners is a major source of income for ISIS. Knowing full well the group will fulfill its word to brutally murder those it captures, hostages for profit earns ISIS an estimated $12 million per month, and at least $20 million in 2014. American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff were held by ISIS for ransom, but because ransoming the men would have been illegal, their families didn’t pay and the two were beheaded. France is known to have paid $14 million for four captured journalists. For locals, the price is $500 to $200,000.

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6. Illegal Drugs Sex Trafficking

An Iraqi in Qatar told Newsweek nearly 4,000 women and girls from the Yazidi minority in Iraqi were forced into marriage or sold for sex. There are many more women from other minorities. Girls as young as 14 are forced to either convert to Islam and be wives or be sold into slavery. Reports of cocaine and methamphetamine use are rampant, but more reliable reports indicate ISIS grows marijuana on the outskirts of major cities for sale in Turkey. ISIS is also known to smuggle cigarettes and alcohol, all of which is strictly forbidden under their brand of Islam.

7. Bitcoin

Bitcoin is not a regulated currency, and Israeli intelligence agencies acknowledged they know ISIS is using the currency for fundraising efforts in the United States.

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8. Fake Foreign Aid

Unregistered charities worldwide provide ISIS with a method of laundering money from various sources and donors, turning the money into “humanitarian aid.” Fighters will coordinate dropoffs of the aid payments through international data messaging services like Kik and WhatsApp. $11 million of fake aid came to ISIS through Qatar since the start of Syrian Civil War in 2011.

9. Internet Cafes

In Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS territory, there were less than 20 internet cafes in the city before the rise of ISIS. Since then, the number has grown to more than 500. According to Syrian activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently the city is now dependent on expensive satellite internet connections controlled by the militants.

10. Fines for Breaking Sharia Law (al-Hisbah)

The terror organization charges steep fines for breaking strict Islamic laws, for everything from smoking tobacco to arriving late to the mosque for prayers. As brutal as the group’s methods are, people living under ISIS rule can now pay fines to avoid torture or execution. Even actual crimes like theft and fraud can be mitigated with payments in Syrian currency.

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ISIS burns through cash, spending on military hardware, equipment, infrastructure, safe houses, mass transportation, food, and its own high-quality media center, al-Hayat (the life) and a magazine called Dabiq, not to mention tens of thousands of fighters operating in the fieldNo matter how much the group spends, it makes an estimated $6 million from these sources every day. There may be no limit to how much the group can expend in its effort to further its ideology.

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