The US Department of Defense may have wasted nearly $30 million over the past decade on uniforms for the Afghan military that featured a camouflage pattern inappropriate for the country’s desert landscapes, a top government fiscal watchdog said June 21st.
A 17-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says $28 million has already been spent by the Pentagon on the uniforms — and perhaps another $72 million will go toward them in the next decade.
According to the analysis, the Pentagon decided in 2007 on a uniform for the Afghan National Army that included a camouflage pattern that presented two problems: First, it included a forest pattern for a Middle Eastern country dominated by deserts — and second, the US government didn’t own the pattern, meaning it had to pay a private company for its use.
The report said that because the Department of Defense opted to use a private pattern, it cost the Pentagon an additional $26 million to $28 million. What’s more, it added, is that the department could have used one of the many patterns it already owns that’s just as effective — or ineffective — as the woodland camouflage pattern.
“Our analysis found that DOD’s decision to procure ANA uniforms using a proprietary camouflage pattern was not based on an evaluation of its appropriateness for the Afghan environment,” the report states.
“Our analysis found that changing the ANA uniform to a non-proprietary camouflage pattern based on the US Army’s Battle Dress Uniform … could save U.S. taxpayers between $68.61 million and $71.21 million over the next 10 years,” it added.
Because the US military continues to use the proprietary design, SIGAR recommended in the report that the Pentagon conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether there is a more cost-effective alternative in outfitting Afghan troops.
SIGAR, a congressionally ordered watchdog group that monitors US financial activities in Afghanistan reconstruction, said it shared its report with the Pentagon and department officials expressed “general agreement” with contents in the report.
The Department of Defense did not immediately respond to the SIGAR report as of June 21st.
When a massive earthquake struck two years ago in Nepal, a sudden coalition formed to help. Service organizations, allied militaries, and others rushed from near and far to dig out survivors and provide help. And some native Gurkha soldiers are still there, lending their expertise to the rebuilding of hundreds of homes.
A total of 8,891 people are thought to have died and another 22,300 injured in the earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, 2015.
Joint Task Force 5-0 in Hawaii is helping authorities handle evacuations, provide security, and monitor air quality as Mount Kilauea spews out clouds of toxic gas and lava destroys homes in its path.
About 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes so far on the big island of Hawaii, but the majority are staying with friends and family, said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, state public affairs officer. Only a few hundred are in temporary community shelters, he said.
More than 150 National Guard troops have volunteered for active duty to help with evacuations and to man checkpoints in front of the lava flow. Other troops are standing by in case more mass evacuations are needed.
Black Hawk helicopters are conducting aerial surveys to monitor the lava and check on fissures, Anthony said. At least 17 fissures in the Puna district are currently emitting lava and toxic gasses. One lava flow is approaching the Puna Geothermal Plant and Anthony said that situation is being watched closely.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
Members of the 93rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team are monitoring air quality to ensure dangerous gasses do not encroach on populated areas.
In May 2018, Army National Guard Soldiers went door to door in neighborhoods such as the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to warn residents of the danger and advise them to evacuate in front of the approaching lava flow. Anthony said some residents waited until the last minute.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
“I have no idea how anybody could stay inside that evacuation zone for days on end,” Anthony said. “The amount of gas and smoke and steam … sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid and all is incredibly nasty stuff.”
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
The troops of JTF 5-0 are staged in the town of Hilo, about 15 miles north of the evacuation zone. They go into the evacuation zone for about four hours at a time to conduct roving patrols and help police man checkpoints, Anthony said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)
Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara is the task force commander. He is the deputy adjutant general of Hawaii. Some active force officers and Soldiers from the island of Oahu have joined him on the JTF staff, Anthony said. They are planning for contingencies in case the volcano eruption worsens.
Despite the troubles with Mount Kilauea, across most of the island, business continues as usual, Anthony said.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)
“It’s just a beautiful, picture-perfect day on a Hawaiian beach,” he said. Then he contrasted it with the situation inside the evacuation zone where toxic fumes kill foliage and hot lava obliterates structures.
“It’s a mix of paradise and a freaking hellscape,” he said.
Civilians sometimes try to understand the military, but between media depictions, the stories of bygone eras, and common misconceptions, there are a lot of jobs within the service that the public just doesn’t understand at all.
Here’s a list of just six jobs from the Army that civilians don’t understand:
This guy has to be able to provide emergency first aid under fire, read a battlefield to exploit enemy missteps, and call in helicopters and supporting fire when necessary, all while dodging bullets and attempting to outmaneuver an enemy who likely grew up in the fields he’s fighting in.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth Pawlak)
It’s easy to understand the infantry stereotypes of dumb grunts. In the old draft Army, lots of guys were shucked into the infantry and other combat arms branches to simply fill uniforms and foxholes. If they were dumb — oh well, their draft would end soon anyway.
Modern infantry is very different. While grunts today have a well-earned reputation for being occasionally immature and often crude, they also have a well-earned reputation for precision and tactical and strategic foresight.
Today, we expect 19- and 20-year-old specialists and corporals to lead small teams, positioning themselves and two other soldiers in the exact right position to have the maximum impact, sometimes without guidance from squad and platoon sergeants too busy with other tasks. It’s the age of the “strategic corporal,” and we simply can’t afford dumb grunts.
Soldiers bow their head in prayer during a Memorial Day Ceremony while deployed to Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Richard Barker)
People imagine the nerdiest kid from their Bible study class — and those kids do join as chaplain’s assistants sometimes — but the mission they’re required to do is less, “badly sing songs on guitar” and more “kill any threats to the chaplain while providing religious support to members of your faith, as well as Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Pagans, and members of any other faith who happen to be in your unit.”
See, chaplains and their assistants are tasked with tending to the spiritual needs of all members of the unit, even the atheists. The chaplain can only fire a weapon in a purely defensive way — and that very, very rarely happens. So that means the assistant, who also helps everyone, has to eliminate any threats to the chaplain when they’re working near the front.
Meanwhile, the chaplains and their assistants also provide counseling services to soldiers with various issues, from marital infidelity to survivor’s guilt to suicidal thoughts or actions.
That’s an Army tug, one of the service’s smaller watercraft. Larger vessels are big enough to carry multiple tanks and trucks at once.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Belton)
Most people assume that the Army has no ships or boats and, if they do, it must just be a couple of jet skis or landing crafts for hitting beaches. Well, the Army doesn’t have any ships, but they do have quite a few boats that are key logistical assets, moving massive amounts of much-needed supplies between ports and beaches. The vessels are both larger than people think and more capable than they appear.
Some of the vessels can carry everything from humvees to tanks. The larger vehicles can carry trucks, armor, and literal tons of ammunition, weapons, or food. The Army also has tugs and dredges to keep rivers and ports open. Some of the ships can cross the ocean, but typically operate near the shore or on rivers. And yes, watercraft operators deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they provided a key logistical service on rivers and canals.
These are military police. That is not a radar gun.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jameson Crabtree)
Yes, military police break up bar brawls and issue speeding tickets like you see in the movies. But many of them are also trained in maneuver warfare and have that as their primary role, meaning that they’re much more focused on defending American convoys from determined Taliban attacks — complete with machine guns, rockets, and IEDs — than whether you’re driving 22 in a 20-mph zone.
They’re equipped and trained for the maneuver mission with Mk. 19 automatic grenade launchers, M2 .50-cal. machine guns, and AT-4 anti-tank recoilless-rifles. The military police branch also includes investigators who serve as true detectives on base, solving crimes from petty theft to sexual assault to murder.
Truck drivers load ammo during an exercise.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joshua Boisvert)
Like infantry, these guys have a reputation for being dumb. Worse, they’re also assumed to be “in the rear with the gear.” But there’s an old strategy that states tactics win battles and logistics wins wars — and smart enemies know to attack the supply chains.
There’s a reason that so many images from Iraq and Afghanistan are of burning trucks. The insurgents were smart enough to target the fuel trucks and supply convoys to starve out remote outposts, putting the truck drivers in the crosshairs. Meanwhile, training the drivers takes a long time since most of them have to learn to drive everything from humvees to armored semi-trucks with loads ranging from two tons to over five.
An Iraqi-American soldier refuels vehicles during a drivers training class.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)
Notice that mention of fuel trucks above? Yeah, Army petroleum supply specialist may sound like a glorified gas attendant, but these guys have to build and maintain fuel points across the battlefield, sometimes within range of enemy artillery or mortars.
Imagine a gas attendant who’s willing to stay at their post as enemy shells are blowing up the huge bags of fuel surrounding them, trying desperately to get a final few, crucial gallons of fuel into the helicopter before it takes off the beat back the attack.
Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have “no value” and be a “humiliation.”
Trump said on July 30, 2018, he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions,” “anytime,” even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31, 2018, that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.
“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
“How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?” he added.
Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations.
The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was “no value in Trump’s proposal” given Iran’s “bad experiences in negotiations with America” and “U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments.”
Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States “is not trustworthy.”
“How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” he asked.
The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.
“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”
Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want,” adding that it would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”
Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.
Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31, 2018, that “respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal” would pave the way for talks.
Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that “negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now.”
“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari added.
Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.
“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” Trump said in July 2018.
Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.
“The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.”
“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course,” Marquis said.
In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the “pain” from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.
The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30, 2018.
The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran in June 2018.
Kelsey DeSantis’ accomplished much during her enlistment, including being the honor grad of her boot camp class and qualifying as one of the few female trainers at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. But in pop music circles she is perhaps best known for having Justin Timberlake as her date for the Birthday Ball in 2011.
“I didn’t do it because I used to wear N-Synch t-shirts or was a fan at all,” DeSantis told WATM while she prepped to compete for the title of Ms. Veteran America in mid-October of this year. “I did it because I was studying for the sergeants board and I had to know current events.”
“I had two female civilian roommates at the time and they were helping me study,” she explained. “One of them said, ‘Oh, look, Mila Kunis got invited to the Marine Corp Birthday Ball.'”
At the time Kunis and Timberlake were doing interviews to promote the movie “Friends and Benefits” that co-starred them. One interviewer brought up the fact that Kunis had been invited to the USMC Birthday Ball by a Marine in Afghanistan who’d posted a video on YouTube. Kunis claimed she’d never seen the video, which caused Timberlake to emphatically encourage her to attend, saying “you have to serve your country.”
Timberlake’s enthusiasm and the way he framed Kunis’ obligation to attend as a form of national service didn’t impress DeSantis. “He said it about three of four times – ‘do it for your country; serve your country – which made my blood boil,” she said. “I was like . . . really?”
So the young corporal decided to make a YouTube video of her own inviting Timberlake to be her date for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. “I wasn’t even sure where the ball was being held,” she said. “I thought it was going to be in Washington when it actually was going on in Richmond.”
DeSantis had never produced a video for YouTube, but she had a basic concept in mind: she’d address the camera with the appropriate mix of directness and sass with a line of her fellow Marines standing behind her. The next day she asked one of her senior enlisted guys if he’d be in the video, knowing that if he participated she’d also get others to join. The tactic worked, and without wasting any time the group assembled and shot the video. “We did it in one take,” DeSantis said.
“You want to call out my girl Mila?” De Santis says to Timberlake in the video. “Well, I’m going to call you out and ask you to come to the Marine Corps ball with me on November 12. If you can’t go, all I have to say is, cry me a river.”
As soon as the video hit YouTube “it blew up,” DeSantis said. Her CO called her in and ordered her to take it down. She demurred, saying that her roommates had posted the video on a special Facebook page they created to entreat Timberlake to respond and she had no control over that.
The concern of higher-ups intensified when Timberlake wound up accepting. But instead of fighting it, the Marine Corps public affairs machine decided to use the pop star’s attendance as a vehicle to promote the service in a positive light.
The night proved to be very successful from all points of view, including those of DeSantis and Timberlake. They shared one dance and a hug at the end of the evening.
“He was a complete gentlemen,” DeSantis said. “You could tell he genuinely enjoyed himself.”
For his part, the next day Timberlake posted his sentiments on his blog, describing the Marine Corps Birthday Ball as “one of the most moving evenings I’ve ever had.”
DeSantis’ enlistment ended the following year, and she left the Corps to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter and to pursue her passion for veteran advocacy. The MMA part of the plan was interrupted earlier this year when she found out she was pregnant.
She feared her pregnancy would jeopardize her ability to be a contestant in the Ms. Vet America event to which she’d committed after being selected as a finalist, but when she informed Jas Boothe, the event founder, Boothe replied, “Are you kidding me? This is what we’re all about.”
DeSantis was eight months along during the Ms. Veteran America event, and her proud presence on the runway among her fellow contestants was evidence that this wasn’t just another beauty pageant.
See Kelsey Desantis in The Mighty TV mini doc about the Ms. Veteran America Event here.
The threat of the Zika virus has prompted many to suspend trips to hot zones like South America and the Caribbean because of fears of the mosquito-born pathogen.
But U.S. servicemembers don’t have that luxury, posted to bases and stations — and on exercises — in Zika-heavy regions where their orders force them to deal with the risk.
While the number of cases worldwide is less than 200,000 — with the vast majority in Brazil — of the roughly 7,000 cases reported in the U.S. and its territories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40 are from U.S. servicemembers.
“We take any ailment that may impact the health and wellbeing of our military men and women or their families very seriously,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Robert Cabiness told WATM. “The DoD is proactive in protecting DoD military and civilian personnel and their dependents, especially pregnant women, from the threats of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.”
While not deadly alone, the Zika virus can cause severe birth defects in newborn children of infected mothers. The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitos, but there have been cases where the virus was passed through sexual contact as well.
The Pentagon is taking special precautions to keep its troops and dependents safe, including eradicating mosquitos in high-risk areas, prepping medical facilities with Zika testing equipment and educating its troops on risk factors, prevention, and symptoms.
“Currently, testing of any individual is contingent on meeting the clinical symptomology and epidemiological criteria for exposure as outlined in the CDC guidance,” Cabiness said. “The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread.”
Bottom line, if you’re in an area that’s a Zika hot zone, you’re pretty much stuck there unless your commander says it’s too risky for you to stay. Pregnant servicemembers are probably the most at risk, and unit leaders are taking special precautions to keep them virus free.
“OSD Health Affairs has distributed Zika Guidance to DoD Medical Personnel, as well as reporting guidance on the disease, emphasizing the need to for pregnant individuals living in or planning to travel to the affected area to confer with their health professional on the potential risks associated with Zika,” Cabiness said.
More than prevention, however, the Pentagon is playing a key role in developing a Zika vaccine, teaming with the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and private research institutions to find a cure.
“The Department of Defense is supporting the interagency efforts to combat the Zika virus and mitigate its spread,” Cabiness said. “Our scientists are supporting a whole-of-government effort, led by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC.”
“DoD is actively involved with other federal and private partners in the development of a candidate Zika vaccine,” he added.
Former Secretary of Defense, retired general, and Patron Saint of Chaos James Mattis has announced that he will be publishing an autobiography called Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. It’s said to cover him coming to terms with leadership learned throughout his military career starting from his days as a young Marine lieutenant to four-star general in charge of CENTCOM.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m freaking pumped. Yes, I’d love to know the nitty-gritty of commanding a quarter million troops, but I want to know about his lesser-known butter bar years leading a weapons platoon. Because let’s be honest, that’s where the seeds of his leadership style really grew.
He probably made mistakes and got chewed out for it. He slipped up and got mocked by the lower enlisted. He would have had to ask for advice and eventually grow into one of the smartest minds Uncle Sam has seen in a long time. Even the Warrior Monk himself may have been that nosy LT who needed to be whipped into shape by the platoon sergeant, and that’s kind of motivating in its own way. Yeah, you may f*ck up once in a while, but not even Chaos Actual was a born leader. He had to learn it.
Just think. There’s an old salty devil dog out there somewhere who’s responsible for knife-handing the boot-tenant out of Mattis. And he’s the real hero of this story.
While we wait for the one book that will actually get Jarheads to read for fun on June 16th, here’s some memes.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via Not CID)
(Meme via SFC Majestic)
(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)
(Meme via Disgruntled Decks)
Fun fact: The Department of Energy renamed natural gas “freedom gas” in a memo. You know what that means, boys…
In April, 2015, the son of a New Jersey pizza shop owner left the United States. His destination was an Islamic State training camp in Syria. Shortly after arriving, he allegedly emerged in a video posted to social media, beheading Kurdish fighters captured by ISIS. Now, Zulfi Hoxha may be in command of ISIS fighters in the country.
How Islamic State fighters survive the onslaught from American, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and/or Turkish forces is baffling to many, but Zulfi Hoxha has managed to stay alive through it all, even after the fall of the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the subsequent collapse of the terrorist “caliphate.”
Hoxha now goes by the name Abu Hamza al-Amriki, the last being a nod to his country of origin. He’s been seen in a number of pro-ISIS jihadist propaganda videos, doing everything from encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in the United States to actually beheading enemy soldiers captured in combat. At just 26, he’s being touted as one of the most dangerous recruiting tools of the declining Islamic State.
Only a few dozen Americans have left the U.S. to join international terrorist organizations. Hoxha is significant in that he is now a major propaganda star and is featured as a senior commander of the Islamic State forces. But since the apogee of ISIS’ rise to power in 2014, the group has lost the kind of success that would attract followers like Hoxha.
Having graduated from an Atlantic City, N.J., high school in 2010, youth like Hoxha saw ISIS in control of some 34,000 square miles of territory cut out of Iraq and Syria – a territory roughly the size of Maine. In the years since, the group has lost most of that territory, along with the prestige, money, and followers that kind of success attracts. In previous years, ISIS members like Hoxha were propaganda stars on social media, but after the worldwide effort to curb ISIS recruiting, jihadists are more likely to be found on dark websites than on Twitter.
Iraqi Federal Police hold an upside-down ISIS flag after retaking streets in Mosul.
Hoxha has had minimal contact with former friends and family back in New Jersey. He sent a message to one friend shortly after leaving the United States to tell him that he had arrived in “the Safe House.” He also told his mother that he was going to be training for three months. Now he is one of just a few Americans who rose to a leadership position in the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.
Many of the others are dead, most killed by U.S. airstrikes.
After 33 days stranded on a deserted island, three Cuban nationals were rescued by the United States Coast Guard.
After losing their boat when it capsized, the two men and a woman swam to a nearby island. Far from any kind of civilization, they became stranded on the remote island for 33 days. The Coast Guard pilot flying a HH-144 Ocean Sentry plane from Air Station Miami saw them waving makeshift flags down below as they were patrolling the area.
Lieutenant Riley Beecher was first on scene. He shared that it was a normal patrol and he was flying at around 500 feet, until he saw something flickering in the distance. Beecher quickly told the crew he wanted to turn back around to get a better look. “We dropped down to about 200 feet and low and behold, there was a flag waving. As we got closer, two people came out waving their hands trying to get our attention showing that they were in distress,” he explained.
The crew signaled that they saw the people and then radioed back to their command center. They were directed to drop a radio, water and food. “We didn’t have any Spanish speakers unfortunately but in my broken Spanish I was able to ask where they were from, how many people were there, how long they’d been there and if there were any medical concerns. They were pretty relieved,” Beecher said.
He was due back to Miami and was unable to do much else. But Beecher was quickly replaced by Lieutenant Justin Dougherty, flying in with another crew who had two Spanish speaking Coasties on board. “The plan for us was to get on scene and establish communications with them. We were really concerned about their medical state,” Dougherty said, adding that it was essentially a miracle that Beecher had found them at all. “It was tough to see even though we knew exactly what we were looking for. It was unbelievable.”
Unfortunately, they were unable to immediately rescue the stranded Cuban nationals. “Being a fixed wing aircraft, we can’t do a water landing. We also can’t hover so the most we could do was drop them supplies,” Dougherty shared. The island was also just out of range for their helicopters in Miami. But more help was on the way.
The command at Miami began communicating with Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump out of Key West was headed their way in the meantime. “We dropped them another radio…bottled water and some MREs,” Dougherty said. They also gave them signaling devices and life vests. “We let them know someone would be there to pick them up whether it was a Coast Guard boat in the morning or a helicopter sometime in the evening.”
When Coast Guard Pilot and Lieutenant Mikel “Mike” Allert arrived on scene, there were piles of shells were clearly visible next to the makeshift flags. Although the national news media reported that the Cuban nationals had been surviving on coconuts, that wasn’t true. It was confirmed that they were sustained on conchs and rats, according to Allert. “They also had a makeshift cross that they had made with driftwood,” he shared. With no where safe for them to land near them due to the narrowness of the island, they made the decision to hover and launch a rescue swimmer.
“He assessed them medically because he is a qualified EMT and his assessment showed that they needed to go to a hospital. They were showing obvious signs of fatigue, dehydration and they were relatively gaunt for being out there for that extensive period of time,” Allert explained.
All three pilots expressed their awe in the survivors. “The fact that they had been there for 33 days on the sheer willpower to live is impressive,” Beecher said.
“Thanks to our aircrews diligently conducting routine patrols, we were able to spot people in distress and intervene,” said Sean Connett, Command Duty Officer at Coast Guard Seventh District said in a press release. “This was a very complex operation involving asset and crews from different units, but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”
“As Coast Guard operations go, it just goes to show the coordination involved in utilizing these assets all across the state,” Allert said. “We were fortunate to find them and blessed to be able to go pick them up.” Although this case definitely got a lot of media attention, much of what occurred is just a normal day in the life of a Coast Guardsman, always ready for any and everything.
A YouTube feature designed to stop the spread of misinformation became a major source of confusion on April 15. Multiple YouTube viewers tracking the devastating fire at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris reported that live streams and news videos were displaying an information panel related to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
YouTube’s algorithm automatically determines when a subject is trending news and attaches an information panel automatically. The information panel feature is available only in the US and South Korea, and it is meant to provide news from verified sources and counter videos that share conspiracy theories and false narratives.
There have been no reports of the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire being a terrorist attack, so it’s unclear why YouTube would link the two events.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Philip Kearny would have been better suited serving as a knight on a medieval battlefield than fighting in the age of gunpowder. Although he received an inheritance of around one million dollars in 1836, Kearny abandoned comfy civilian life and joined the army in search of glory.
Kearny savored war and was universally recognized for his reckless and heroic deeds, winning the French Cross of the Legion of Honor on two separate occasions. The loss of an arm in battle did not slow him down one bit, and, until his untimely death, his mere presence on the battlefield inspired the men under his command to phenomenal feats.
Born into a wealthy family in 1815, Philip showed the first signs of his attributed rash behavior as a youth, terrifying his father with his wild horse riding stunts. While in college, his grandfather pleaded with the rambunctious boy to pursue a religious vocation.
Kearny wanted no part of this pious lifestyle, yearning instead for glory on the battlefield. He entered the U.S. Army in March of 1837 as a dragoon with the rank of lieutenant.
In 1839, he was permitted to travel “on special duty” to France to study cavalry tactics in Saumur. He accompanied the Duke of Orleans to North Africa as an aide-de-camp. The American lieutenant impressed his French allies, one account noting that, “I have often seen him charging the Arabs with his sword in one hand, his pistol in the other, and his reins in his teeth.”
For his gallantry and fortitude during these operations, the American was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor — he had to decline it due to holding rank in the U.S. Army.
He returned to the United States in the fall of 1840, and led a cavalry company during the U.S.-Mexican War. At the Battle of Churubusco, Kearny led a hell-for-leather charge to pursue retreating Mexican soldiers outside of Mexico City, spurring his horse over the enemy’s ramparts. Kearny’s men were forced to fall back when they overextended the pursuit.
A well-directed round of Mexican grapeshot crushed the bone of Kearny’s left arm between his shoulder and elbow. His gory figure managed to escape back to friendly lines, collapsing from the loss of blood and sheer exhaustion.
Franklin Pierce, future president of the United States, then serving as a general, held Kearny’s head still as a surgeon amputated his mangled left arm. He was shipped back home to recover, received promotion, but sat out the remainder of the war. The pinned up left sleeve of his uniform became his trademark for the remainder of his military career.
Bored with uneventful frontier duty, Kearny resigned from the army in 1851. In 1859, he offered his services to Emperor Napoleon III. The one-armed American fought at the Battle of Solferino “in every charge that took place,” clenching the bridle of his horse in his teeth and wielding his sabre with his remaining arm.
For his gallantry, he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor for the second time, which he accepted.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he received an appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers in July of 1861. At the Battle of Chantilly in September of 1862, the noble soldier’s life came to an abrupt end. He stumbled into a Confederate picket line and was shot and instantly killed when he attempted to flee.
His luckless death was a shock to men on both sides of the conflict. The next day, in a show of respect, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Kearny’s body back to Union lines under a flag of truce. Upon receiving word of Kearny’s death, his old superior, Gen. Winfield Scott, exclaimed in a letter, “I look upon his fall, in the present great crisis of the war, as a national calamity [his own italics].”
Today a towering bronze statue of “the bravest among the brave” stands guard over the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.
The United States has increased its military posture in the region to back up the threat of force. A U.S. submarine designed to carry 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles entered a South Korean port on April 25. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group is also heading to the region and conducting naval exercises with Japan and South Korea. And the United States this week began to move part of the THAAD missile defense system to its deployment site 250 kilometers south of Seoul.
Rain of fire
However, analysts say an actual U.S. strike is a risky proposition. A surgical U.S. missile strike to take out one or multiple nuclear or missile sites would likely not be sufficient to destroy or degrade North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals, which are reportedly in numerous fortified underground sites across the country.
“It might involve artillery attacks on Seoul or elsewhere along the demilitarized zone (DMZ.) It might involve covert operations, but they have several levels of escalation to go before they get to nuclear or even chemical weapons,” said John Schilling, a missile technology specialist with 38 North, a North Korea monitoring website run by Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington.
North Korea has more than 21,000 artillery weapons, positioned mostly along the inter-Korean border, that could put in jeopardy the lives of 25 million people that live in and around Seoul, the South Korean capital located 56 kilometers south of the border.
An assessment of North Korean military capabilities by Strafor, an intelligence analysis organization in Texas, notes the North’s artillery arsenal includes 300mm multiple rocket launcher systems that can “rain fire across” Seoul and beyond. “A single volley,” a Strafor report said, “could deliver more than 350 metric tons of explosives across the South Korean capital, roughly the same amount of ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers.”
While the North has not yet demonstrated it can successfully mount a miniaturized nuclear warhead on a missile, U.S. and South Korean officials have said they believe Pyongyang has a nuclear Nodong missile that can fire a one ton warhead a distance of up to two thousand kilometers, which would put all of South Korea, most of Japan and parts of Russia and China in range.
“I think the majority of people now believe they can put a warhead on top of a missile that can hit targets in Northeast Asia. But when you get to the much longer range they need, such as hitting the United States, I think, we don’t know for sure. But most people would believe that it is a work in progress,” said Joel Wit, the co-founder of 38 North and a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS.
In addition to the 10 to 20 nuclear warheads North Korea is believed to have, its missiles could also be armed with deadly chemical weapons from suspected stockpiles of sarin nerve gas.
A Nodong is a single stage liquid fuel rocket based on scud missiles developed by the former Soviet Union. Some of North Korea’s most recent tests were solid fuel Musudan missiles that have an estimated maximum range of three thousand kilometers, which could potentially reach targets in Japan and as far away as U.S. military bases in Guam.
The more than 28,000 U.S. forces in Korea and 50,000 troops in Japan would also be possible targets for any North Korea retaliatory strikes.
Analysts say any North Korean counter strike would draw a quick response from the United States, South Korea, and Japan that could further escalate the conflict, draw in China, and lead to a second Korean war.