ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

U.S. forces in southern Syria came under attack by Islamic State militants around midnight local time on April 8, joining with local partner forces to repel the assault in an hours-long fight that required multiple airstrikes and left three U.S.-backed Syrian fighters dead.


U.S. special-operations advisers were on the ground near the al-Tanf border crossing when a force of 20 to 30 fighters with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked in what a U.S. Central Command spokesman called a “complex and coordinated” attempt to take the base from the coalition.

Also read: Here’s how the U.S. hit that Syrian airbase

“U.S. and coalition forces were on the ground in the area as they normally are, and participated in repulsing the attack,” said Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command, according to the Associated Press.

“There was close-air support that was provided, there was ground support that was provided, and there was med-evac that was supported by the coalition,” Thomas added. No Americans were killed or wounded.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Marines train for attacks like this. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

“Clearly it was planned,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon. “The coalition and our partner forces had the resources to repulse that attack. A lot of them wound up being killed and the garrison remains controlled by the people in control before being attacked.”

“Ultimately the attackers were killed, defeated, or chased off,” Thomas said.

U.S. forces at al-Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, had initially withdrawn to avoid potential retaliatory action after the U.S. strike on an Assad regime airfield in western Syria.

The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as U.S.-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from U.S.-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.

“Around 20 ISIS fighters attacked the base, and suicide bombers blew up the main gate, and clashes took place inside the base,” Tlass al-Salama, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya Army, part of the U.S.-backed moderate rebel alliance, told The Wall Street Journal.

Salama’s force sent reinforcements to the base, but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.

Related: Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons again

U.S. special-operations forces and their Syrian partners who had moved out of the base quickly returned, and they initially repelled the attack on the ground in a firefight that lasted about three hours.

Coalition pilots also carried out multiple airstrikes amid the fighting, destroying ISIS vehicles and killing many of the terrorist group’s fighters.

“It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official said April 10. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.”

U.S. special-operations forces had been training vetted Syrian opposition troops at al-Tanf for more than a year. The Syrian opposition fighters in question were operating against ISIS in southern Syria and working with Jordan to maintain border security.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

The pullback from al-Tanf to safeguard against reprisals was just one step the coalition took in the aftermath of the U.S. strike on Shayrat airfield, which was believed to be the launching point for a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village April 4.

The coalition also reduced the number of air missions it flew, out of concern Syrian or Russian forces would attempt to shoot down U.S. aircraft. The U.S. presence in Syria has increased in recent months, as Marines and other units arrive to aid U.S.-backed fighters.

ISIS may become more active in southern Syria as U.S.-backed forces close in on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital located in northeast Syria. Top ISIS leaders have reportedly fled the city in recent months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israeli military tweets missile strike against Iranian targets in Syria

Israel’s Defense Forces says they have begun striking Iranian targets inside Syria, tweeting that they are targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards elite forces, the Quds.

Israel has not provided any other details, but it’s military warned Syria on Twitter not to “harm” Israeli forces or territory.

Tensions have escalated quickly between forces within the two neighboring countries.


Netanyahu: “We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria.”

“We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” Haaretz.com reported the IDF as saying, adding that the IDF hit targets belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit Quds Force.

The move is a calculated response by the IDF which said earlier on Jan. 20, 2019, that it intercepted missiles launched out of Syria toward Israel.

Syrian media say air defenses managed to repel “an Israeli aerial attack,” following reports of strikes in and around the Syrian capital Damascus early on Jan. 21, 2019.

Associated Press reports that earlier on Jan. 20, 2019, the IDF said it had intercepted a rocket over the Golan Heights.

The statement is a surprising break with protocol for an Israeli military with a reputation for adhering to its own discipline and systems.

The IDF very rarely signals its intent with a statement to media or via any public admissions most particularly when considering its largely covert military operations in Syria.

With so much at stake, Israel has sought to keep its profile and involvement in the bloody and drawn out civil war to a minimum.

According to Syrian military the IDF began intensive airstrikes, launching groups of missiles shortly after 1 a.m. local time. Reports via the BBC suggest that the Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the missiles before they hit their targets.

On Jan. 20, 2019, Syrian state media confirmed that air defenses successfully protected the international airport south of Damascus.

Syrian state TV said the war torn nation’s air defenses “prevented” the attack, saying Israel targeted 6 missiles near Damascus International Airport. State TV said that 5 were intercepted while the last was “diverted.”

Witnesses heard explosions overnight and while the damage remains uncertain, the BBC reports that the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes Israeli rockets were directly targeting Damascus.

The operation comes after Israeli said that “a rocket was fired at the northern Golan Heights and was intercepted by the Iron Dome Aerial Defence System”.

While Israel rarely confirms or denies it’s strategic operations inside Syria, or elsewhere, but with the political future of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the spotlight, the prime minister issued a warning himself while in Chad on Jan. 20, 2019.

After Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile shield intercepted a rocket fired toward the Golan Heights, Netanyahu, released a a statement reminding his constituents if Israel’s standing policy.

Israel’s Iron Dome

“We have a defined policy: to harm Iranian entrenchment in Syria and to harm anyone who tries to harm us.”

Netanyahu has previously claimed that Israel has destroyed hundreds of Iran-linked objectives in Syria, including a weapons facility linked to Hezbollah two weeks ago.

In May 2018, Israel said it destroyed almost all of Iran’s military infrastructure inside Syria in its such biggest assault since the start of the Syrian civil war 8 years ago.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The Navy’s new electronic warfare technology

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Boeing


The Navy is engineering a new, more powerful, high-tech electronic warfare jamming technology designed to allow strike aircraft to destroy enemy targets without being detected by modern surface-to-air missile defenses.

“The whole idea is to get the enemy air defense systems from seeing the strike package. It does not matter what type of aircraft we are protecting. Our mission is to suppress enemy air defenses and allow the mission to continue. This is not just designed to allow the aircraft to survive but also allow it to continue the mission – deliver ordnance and return home,” Cmdr. Earnest Winston, Electronic Attack Requirements Officer, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The Next-Generation Jammer consists of two 15-foot long PODs beneath the EA-18G Growler aircraft designed to emit radar-jamming electronic signals; one jammer goes on each side of the aircraft.

“It is able to jam multiple frequencies at the same time — more quickly and more efficiently,” he said.

The emerging system uses a high-powered radar technology called Active Electronic Scanned Array, or AESA.

“It will be the only AESA-based carrier offensive electronic attack jamming pod it DoD. What it is really going to bring to the fleet is increased power, increased flexibility and more capacity to jam more radars at one time,” Winston added.

The NGJ, slated to be operational by 2021, is intended to replace the existing ALQ 99 electronic warfare jammer currently on Navy Growler aircraft.

One of the drawbacks to ALQ 99 is that it was initially designed 40-years ago and is challenged to keep up with modern threats and digital threats with phased array radars, increased power, increased processing and more advanced wave forms, Winston explained.

The Next-Generation Jammer is being engineered with what’s called “open architecture,” meaning it is built with open computing software and hardware standards such that it can quickly integrate new technologies as threats emerge.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Raytheon

For example, threat libraries or data-bases incorporated into a radar warning receiver can inform pilots of specific threats such as enemy fighter aircraft or air defenses. If new adversary aircraft become operational, the system can be upgraded to incorporate that information.

“We use threat libraries in our receivers as well as our jammers to be able to jam the new threat radars. As new threats emerge, we will be able to devise new jamming techniques. Those are programmable through the mission planning system through the mission planning system of the EA-18G Growler,” Winston explained.

While radar warning receivers are purely defensive technologies, the NGJ is configured with offensive jamming capabilities in support of strike aircraft such as an F/A-18 Super Hornet or F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The jammer is intended to preemptively jam enemy radars and protect aircraft by preventing air defenses from engaging.

“With surface-to-air missile systems, we want to deny that track an engagement opportunity. We try to work with the aircraft to jam enemy radar signals,” Winston added.

The NGJ could be particularly helpful when it comes to protecting fighter aircraft and stealth platforms like the B-2 bomber, now-in-development Long Range Strike-Bomber and the F-35 multi-role stealth fighter. The technology is designed to block, jam, thwart or “blind” enemy radar systems such as ground-based integrated air defenses – so as to allow attack aircraft to enter a target area, conduct strikes and then safely exit.

This is useful in today’s modern environment because radar-evading stealth configurations, by themselves, are no longer as dominant or effective against current and emerging air-defense technologies.

Today’s modern air defenses, such as the Russian-made S-300 and multi-function S-400 surface-to-air missiles, will increasingly be able to detect stealth aircraft at longer distances and on a wider range of frequencies. Today’s most cutting edge systems, and those being engineered for the future, use much faster computer processors, use more digital technology and network more to one another.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Raytheon

“Multi-function radars become much more difficult because you have a single radar source that is doing almost everything with phased array capability. However, with the increased power of the next-generation jammer we can go after those,” Winston said.

“It is a constant cat and mouse game between the shooter and the strike aircraft. We develop stealth and they develop counter-stealth technologies. We then counter it with increased jamming capabilities.”

The NGJ is engineered to jam and defeat both surveillance radar technology which can alert defenses that an enemy aircraft is in the area as well as higher-frequency “engagement” radar which allow air defenses to target, track and destroy attacking aircraft.

“The target engagement radar or control radar has a very narrow scope, so enemy defenses are trying to search the sky. We are making enemies search the sky looking through a soda straw. When the only aperture of the world is through a soda straw, we can force them into a very narrow scope so they will never see aircraft going in to deliver ordnance,” Winston said.

Winston would not elaborate on whether the NGJ’s offensive strike capabilities would allow it to offensively attack enemy radio communications, antennas or other kinds of electronic signals.

“It can jam anything that emits or receives and RF frequency in the frequency range of NGJ — it could jam anything that is RF capable,” he explained.

The U.S. Navy recently awarded Raytheon Company a $1 billion sole source contract for Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) for Increment 1 of the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), the advanced electronic attack technology that combines high-powered, agile, beam-jamming techniques with cutting-edge, solid-state electronics,” a Raytheon statement said.

Raytheon will deliver 15 Engineering Development Model pods for mission systems testing and qualification, and 14 aeromechanical pods for airworthiness certification.

The NGJ contract also covers designing and delivering simulators and prime hardware to government labs and support for flight testing and government system integration, Raytheon officials said.

Overall, the Navy plans to buy as many as 135 sets of NGJs for the Growler. At the same time, Winston did say it is possible that the NGJ will be integrated onto other aircraft in the future.

“This is a significant milestone for electronic warfare,” said Rick Yuse, president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. “NGJ is a smart pod that provides today’s most advanced electronic attack technology, one that can easily be adapted to changing threat environments. That level of sophistication provides our warfighters with the technological advantage required to successfully prosecute their mission and return home safely.”

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The Army proved semi-auto sniper rifles could kick ass in Vietnam

With the Army’s decision to adopt the Heckler and Kock G28 as the Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System to be the replacement for the M110, it seems as if semi-automatic sniper rifles are a new thing.


Nope. In fact, during the Vietnam War, the Army was proving a semi-auto could be a very lethal sniper rifle. They took a number of M14 rifles — which were being phased out in favor of the M16 rifle — and added a scope.

I hope you like gun-speak — there are some sweet (technical) nothings coming your way…

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
The M21 Sniper Weapon System. (US Army graphic)

The M14 had a lot going for it. It fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round — the same one as the M60 machine gun and the M40 sniper rifle the Marines used. But there were two huge differences between them that made the M21 a much more lethal rifle.

The M40 is a bolt-action rifle that carries five rounds in an internal magazine. The M14/M21 rifle is a semi-auto that has a 20-round detachable box magazine. The baseline M14 was deadly enough — Chuck Mawhinney is said to have used an M14 rifle to take out 16 of the enemy in one incident during the Vietnam War.

Once a Redfield scope (the three-to-nine power Adjustable Ranging Telescope) was added to the rifle and match-grade ammo was added to the M14, Army snipers had a real weapon.

Adelbert Waldron would use that rifle to become America’s top sniper with 109 confirmed kills. For the record, that’s 16 more kills than Marine Corps legend Carlos Hathcock has – and Hathcock was the third-best Marine sniper, behind Mawhinney (103 confirmed kills) and Eric England (98).

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Specialist Fourth Class (SFC) Theodore Amell scans the horizon with an M21 sniper weapon system for threats while on patrol near Mosul, Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The M14 also saw action in Grenada for the Army. Inexplicably, after proving the M21 was an awesome system, the Army chose to go back to the outdated bolt-action with the M24.

But the War on Terror soon saw the M21 making a comeback. The M24 is still sticking around, now upgraded to the M2010 configuration, but was also slated to be replace by the M110.

In short, the Army is re-proving what they proved almost five decades ago — that a semi-auto rifle can be an awesome sniper rifle.

Articles

This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
Articles

Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

Two top Navy fleet commanders said Tuesday that the next potential conflict hotspot would likely be in Korea.


“If there’s a fight tonight, it’s probably going to happen on the Korean peninsula,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, in a panel discussion at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.

Also read: US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”

The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.

Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.

“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”

Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
The Republic of Korea Navy amphibious landing ship ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) transit the Sea of Japan. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas

The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.

Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that preparations were underway to bring North Korean officials to the United States for diplomatic talks between former US officials.

7th Fleet, Aucoin said, is well-resourced and well-manned. “We’re ready to deliver decisive combat power on, above, and below the surface if necessary,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This year, Norfolk’s Battleship has more lights than Disneyland

Missing holiday lights this year? If you live near Norfolk, Virginia, you don’t have to! Amidst countless cancelations of winter festivities this year, the battleship Wisconsin is restoring a little light to the season- literally. Kicking off the massive ship’s first annual WinterFest, the entire boat is decked out with so many lights that they can probably be spotted from space. 

Decorating the ship was quite the undertaking. 

Just decorating an ordinary house takes hours. Try decorating a 50,000-ton battleship the size of three football fields! 

According to the Nauticus Executive Director, Stephen Kirkland, the event took months to prepare for. They had to enlist the help of Blue Steel Lighting Design, led by lighting expert Jeremy Kilgore, to turn the cold, metallic ship into a winter wonderland. And transform it they did. Working up to 15 hours a day, a small crew installed over 250,000 lights and custom-built displays that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. 

The ship itself isn’t perfectly primed for decorating. It’s not very symmetrical, which makes it trickier to make aesthetically pleasing displays. To add to the challenge, every installation has to be done by hand. It’s really a labor of love, but as you can see, the effort paid off. The ship’s massive guns were even turned into candy canes! 

While other battleships have been decorated before, including a series of annual decorating competitions in San Diego, nothing has ever been done to this scale. 

Beneath the glittering lights, the Battleship Wisconsin has a storied history.

It’s one of the largest battleships in American history, and one of the last to be built by the US Navy. She was first launched on December 7th, 1943, and commissioned the following April commanded by Captain Earl E. Stone. She earned five battle stars during WWII, along with numerous other honors. Visitors can enjoy the lights and learn more about the incredible ship’s history at the same time!

What to know before you go

The WinterFest will continue every weekend through the end of December. Tickets are $10 for kids and $12.50 for adults, with discounts for members. When you get there, expect plenty of fun with plenty of precautions. Tickets are timed to avoid overcrowding, masks are mandated for visitors ages 5 and up, and social distancing is required. 

Once you get there, a one-way path will take you through a glowing forest, with live entertainment, Santa sightings, holiday treats, and sailboat parades on Saturdays. A live tree can be spotted in the harbor, too! To save a spot, purchase tickets online.

Will WinterFest become a new tradition for the Wisconsin? The odds are looking good. 

If you miss it this year, don’t sweat it. The event’s organizers hope to continue the tradition for years to come, as a “Hampton Roads’ version of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree”. Alternatively, you can always enjoy footage of the lights without leaving your couch on the battleship’s Instagram page

And who knows? Maybe the Wisconsin’s whimsical take on military Christmas will inspire other battleships to get lit, too! 

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened to this stealth fighter remains a mystery

More pieces from an F-35 stealth fighter that disappeared in the Pacific have been found, the Japanese defense minister revealed May 7, 2019.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter piloted by Maj. Akinori Hosomi mysteriously vanished from radar on April 9, 2019. The day after the crash, pieces of the tail were found floating on the surface of the water, but the rest of the fifth-generation fighter was nowhere to be found.

The fighter, believed to be lying somewhere on the ocean floor, has been missing for weeks, despite the best efforts of the US and Japanese militaries to find it.


Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced May 7, 2019, that parts of the flight recorder and cockpit canopy had been discovered at an unspecified location on the ocean floor, CNN reported. The flight recorder was retrieved by a US Navy salvage team dispatched to assist in the search.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

First operational F-35A Lightning II presented to JASDF’s 3rd Air Wing at Misawa Air Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

The defense minister said the flight recorder is in “terrible” condition. Critical memory components are reportedly missing, meaning that key data about the crash, the first for an F-35A, may be unavailable. Exactly what happened to the stealth fighter remains a mystery.

The downed F-35, which was built by Lockheed Martin but assembled by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Ltd., is one of a growing fleet of Japanese stealth fighters. In response to the crash, Japan grounded its remaining F-35s. They will remain on the ground while the related investigation is ongoing.

Japan currently has 12 F-35s, but it has another 147 stealth fighters on order. B variants with that need little runway to take off and land are expected to eventually serve on Japanese light aircraft carriers while the A variant will become the primary fighter of the Japanese air force.

The search for the missing fighter and its pilot is expected to continue.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 ways for the US military to get its swagger back

While the Pentagon’s new strategy is being released in 2018, it feels more like the year 2000 on Capitol Hill with members itching for the maverick spirit of then-presidential candidate John McCain’s campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express.


ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

The substance of the document is classified at the request of Capitol Hill, but there is a growing consensus about how to grade its success or failure. It is past time for a new National Defense Strategy that seeks to break the mold in honesty, clarity, conciseness, and fresh thinking. As an official articulation of Pentagon doctrine, this is an opportunity to mend the broken dialogue between the military and the government and people they serve.

To be relevant beyond a few news cycles, the Pentagon’s new defense strategy must:

7. Connect the strategy with geopolitical reality.

The most recent generation of strategies has repeatedly watered down the Pentagon’s force-sizing construct with each iteration — from the aspirational objective of fighting two wars at once to the declinist “defeat-and-deny” approach. Since a 2014 defense strategy was published, the dangers of a lack of credibility in American military power and political willpower have become evident in Ukraine, Iraq, and North Korea — just to name a few.

The newest defense strategy should emphasize three theaters of importance. As it is getting harder for planners to differentiate between war and peace, the need for a strong American presence in Asia, Europe, or the Middle East cannot be wished away as politically inconvenient. Planners should size forces to maintain robust conventional and strategic deterrents forward in all three of these theaters while equipping a force for decision in the event deterrence fails.

To effect this change, the strategy must clearly differentiate between forces and capabilities required to prevent a war versus those needed to win one. Unfortunately, the panoply of threats spanning from North Korean ICBMs to ISIS demands the American military maintain a broad array of capabilities.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
A North Korean ICBM (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

6. Tie means with ends.

Even with declining force-sizing constructs, U.S. forces have largely continued to do all that they have done under previous super-sized strategies. The armed forces have been asked to do more with less, resulting in various missions being shortchanged, ignored, or dropped altogether as the supply of American military power is consistently outstripped by demand.

Consequentially, there is now a general dismissal of strategy because the reductions in force structure proposed in each iteration have not resulted in substantive changes in operations of the force. Nowhere is this more tragically clear than in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command. It is time to stop putting the cart before the horse by constructing budgets and then diving strategies, as the budget caps have encouraged but unrealistic strategies have exacerbated.

5. Identify what missions the military can stop doing.

Effective strategy is about choices and tradeoffs. In the last year, cargo shipments to Afghanistan were delayed due to hurricane relief, a private contractor evacuated U.S. troops after the fatal ISIS ambush in Niger, and the Air Force outsourced “red air” adversary training to non-military pilots. Instead of papering over these realities, the new strategy should identify what needs to be restored and which ancillary assignments may actually be more efficiently conducted outside the military.

Combat missions should not be exempt, either. For example, the sustained use of naval aviation to provide fire support to counterterror fights in the Middle East that could be resourced with light attack aircraft or artillery is expensive and ties up increasingly scarce aircraft carriers better employed elsewhere, particularly in Asia.

4. Prioritize among threats.

Claiming the five challenges of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and persistent counterterrorism operations are all equally important is not a strategy — it is the absence of one.

Policymakers must clearly rank the relative severity of these threats to help planners prioritize and make tradeoffs. Given the limited supply of American defense resources, not all of these threats can receive the same amount of attention or bandwidth — nor should they.

Also Read: Iranian protests have ebbed, but the anger remains

3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough.

The military needs more extant force structure and capabilities rather than an obsessive hunt for technological silver bullets. Putting too much stock in the wonder weapons of the future could be the military’s ruin — not its salvation — if it comes at the expense of immediate and medium-term needs.

If enemies know we are weak today but will be strong tomorrow, they have every incentive to strike sooner rather than later. Leaders should balance the acquisition risks introduced by speculative technological gambles with tried-and-true systems suited for immediate use to diminish any window of opportunity for aggression.

2. Recognize the Pentagon is a more than a Department of War — it is a Department of Defense.

As the largest federal agency, the Pentagon engages in a bewildering variety of deterrence and presence missions every day, in addition to fighting. It also supports part-time forces, families and children all over the world.

It is called the Department of Defense for a reason, and the strategy should reflect these large organizational, financial, educational, and bureaucratic demands. For example, while achieving reforms and efficiencies are noble goals, the belief that ongoing organizational changes will result in tens of billions in potential savings that can be reinvested elsewhere within the defense budget has yet to be proven.

1. Finally, stop scapegoating Congress and tackle problems head-on.

While sequestration has degraded the military’s capacity and capability gaps and encouraged the self-destructive practice of constructing budgets before inventing strategies to justify them, budget caps must cease to be the blame for all the military’s woes.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: Architect of the Capitol)

An over-emphasis on budgetary neglect creates the false expectation that a higher topline alone will solve the Pentagon’s problems overnight. The National Defense Strategy will need to address not just America’s declining fiscal ability to support all instruments of national power, but also the deteriorating international situation. Higher spending can alleviate the former, but new investments will need to be tied to clear strategic goals to address the latter.

It took years for the Pentagon to realize its current predicament, and it will likewise be years before it overcomes its contemporary challenges. To get there will require a redoubled commitment to the military by Congress through stable, sustained, and sufficient defense funding. But the Pentagon must also do its part to ensure that when fiscal relief arrives, there is a thoughtful strategy in place commensurate with the multitude of threats assailing the United States today. Now is the time to go big and bold.

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This is how many ISIS fighters America’s top commando says have been killed

During a discussion at the Aspen Security Forum on July 21, Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, cited estimates saying that the US-led fight against ISIS had killed 60,000 to 70,000 ISIS militants.


It is not the first time US military officials have given estimates for ISIS body counts — Thomas himself cited a similar number in February — but those estimates have been made despite doubts among military leaders and government policymakers about their accuracy and usefulness.

When asked about the whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Thomas downplayed the ISIS leader’s influence and said that while Baghdadi’s fate is currently unknown, “we will get him eventually.”

To underline his point, Thomas elaborated on the damage done to ISIS’ personnel network.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

“I mean, everyone who worked for him initially is dead or gone. Everybody who stepped to the plate the next time, dead or gone,” Thomas said. “Down through a network where we have killed in conservative estimates 60,000 to 70,000 of his followers, his army. They declared an army, they put it on the battlefield, and we went to war with it.”

Those comments come several months after Thomas claimed that more than 60,000 ISIS fighters had been killed since the campaign against the group started in summer 2014.

“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” he said in February, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference. “So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific.”

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Members of the 9th Iraqi Army Division, supported by Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, fire a heavy machine gun at ISIS fighter positions. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull.

Body counts — which earned scorn during the Vietnam War — are considered a dubious metric by which to measure the success of a military campaign, particularly ones against groups like ISIS. It is typically hard to estimate how many fighters such groups have, and it is not always clear how many have been killed during military engagements.

In 2014, an observer group estimated the terror group had 100,000 fighters. The Pentagon said in summer 2016 that it had just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in Iraq and Syria.

The February number given by Thomas was not much higher than the 50,000 ISIS-dead estimate made by US officials in December. But the December number given by US officials was twice as high as the figure cited by UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon that same month.

And the figure cited by Thomas on July 21 was only slightly higher than what he said in February, despite the increased intensity of anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria in the intervening months.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.

Air operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria increased significantly after Trump took office in January, with military leaders emphasizing an “annihilation campaign” aimed at eliminating ISIS fighters.

But those air operations appear to have caused a considerable increase in civilian deaths.

The US government reversed its policy on body counts several times during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numbers given by the government have been undercut or criticized by civilian and military personnel alike.

“My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense from 2013 to 2015, told CNN in December 2016. “Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This service’s Gold Star program supports the military families that have lost

The Air Force family tree has many branches and one branch, representing the service’s Gold Star families, has leaves that glow consistently with the rest.


Gold Star families are survivors of military service members who lost their lives during armed hostilities, including deployments in support of military operations against an enemy or during an international terrorist attack.

The Air Force’s Gold Star program provides enhanced support and outreach for the lifetime of each survivor, or until the survivor no longer needs or desires the services. The program is designed to let families know the Air Force cares for them and will continue to embrace them as part of the Air Force family.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. Photo from the city of Vienna, WV.

“Our primary purpose is to continue recognizing and honoring the sacrifice these families and their loved ones made in the service of our nation,” said Vera Carson, Air Force Families Forever program manager at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Gold Star families fall under the Air Force Families Forever program, which ensures all families of our fallen Airmen are never forgotten.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed the provision of additional lifelong support to Gold Star families in April 2017. Gold Star family members, such as parents, adult children, and siblings, are now being offered the opportunity to receive a Gold Star identification card, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii. For additional information, contact your Air Force Families Forever representative at the local airman and family readiness center.

By allowing these families unescorted access to Air Force installations, they can visit their loved one’s gravesite, attend memorials and base-wide events, and stop by the local airman and family readiness center for immediate and long-term compassionate support.

“General Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, want to ensure our Gold Star families remain a part of the Air Force family, and this special ID card is helping us make that happen,” said Carla Diamond , Air Force Gold Star and Surviving Family Member representative. “We are reaching out to surviving family members, establishing contact, and ensuring that their needs are met.”

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
In 1967, an Act of Congress established the Gold Star lapel pin (left) for issue to immediate Family members of servicemembers killed in combat. The Next of Kin pin (right) signifies a service-related death or suicide during active duty other than combat. Photo by Edward Johnson, FMWRC PAO.

One resource for survivors is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. This program provides emotional support and healing to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. The staff provides military survivor seminars, Good Grief Camps for young survivors, peer mentors, and resources relating to grief and trauma.

Taking care of each Airman’s family is vital to ensuring an Airman is prepared and mission ready.

“Supporting family members is critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient and ready to meet their mission objectives and serve our nation daily,” said Randy Tillery, Airmen and Family Care director. “The Gold Star program reminds our surviving family members they are still an important part of the greater Air Force family.”

Gold Star families are not new. The term traces back to World War I when Americans would fly a flag with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. The star became gold if the family lost a loved one in the war. Along with the US flag, these family members now receive a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background.

Since 1936, the last Sunday of September is observed as Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day. Air Force officials are now planning events to commemorate the special day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Angry frustrated veteran shot in VA clinic altercation

A man said to be a military veteran seeking mental health care was shot by a security officer at a Veterans Affairs clinic in southern Oregon on Jan. 25 after an admissions area altercation in which authorities said the man became combative.


The man was flown to a hospital after the shooting in the southwestern community of White City with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, the Jackson County sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Shawn Quall, an Army veteran of the first Gulf War who is from Bend, Oregon, said he heard the man shouting before the situation escalated.

“I was walking down the main hallway when I overheard a veteran yelling at intake people that he was here for the fifth time trying to get healthcare, and was upset at what he thought was a runaround,” Quall told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (right) has been steadily working to reform the VA.

Quall kept walking down the hall, but when the yelling got louder, he started running back and heard someone yell, “He’s got a knife!”

“Then boom, a loud shot. I saw the guy holding his stomach and then fall to the ground,” Quall said. An officer told onlookers to leave, saying there was nothing to see.

Sgt. Julie Denney of the sheriff’s office said she could not confirm that a knife was involved.

“The details of the events leading to the shooting are still under investigation,” she said in a text message.

Also Read: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

VA police responded “after reports of a combative patient in the admissions area. An altercation ensued between the man and VA Police officers, resulting in the discharge of a firearm,” the sheriff’s office statement said. The man and the officers involved were not identified.

Veterans at the clinic receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues expressed shock about the shooting.

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

Outpatient Joel Setzer, a U.S. Army veteran who also served in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf, said, “this is the type of incident that should have never happened out there.”

The VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center Clinics says on its website that it “offers a variety of health services to meet the needs of our nation’s Veterans.”

Quall said it’s not unusual to hear veterans arguing with the center’s staff.

“Often you hear guys yelling,” he said. “It’s dealing with the federal government, and it is frustrating at times.”

A spokeswoman for the clinic did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Articles

Watch a real US Army honor guard perform the ‘Razzle Dazzle’ from the movie ‘Stripes’

The 1981 film “Stripes” featured what is probably the worst group of movie soldiers ever to join the Army (that was kinda the point of the film). Bill Murray’s John Winger is a New York cab driver who loses his job, apartment, and girlfriend and decides to join the Army as a way to avoid being a total failure in life. He convinces his best friend Russell Ziskey (played by the late Harold Ramis) to join with him. Their drill sergeant, Sgt. Hulka (played by the late Warren Oates), is injured during mortar practice and the group has to finish basic training without instruction (suspend your disbelief for this comedy, troops).


ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

In an effort to stay in the Army and graduate from Basic Training, Winger and his platoon stay up for an entire night (the whole night!) in order to put on the unconventional yet highly produced and coordinated routine. Uniform violations are everywhere, so if that’s the kind of thing that gives you seizures, try not to look too closely:

Scenes from the movie, including those on post and those in Czechoslovakia, were filmed on Fort Knox, so the film is close to hearts of the Fort Knox, Kentucky community. The movie celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016. To help that celebration, an honor guard from the U.S. Army’s Human Resources Command performed the entire Stripes “Razzle Dazzle” graduation routine at Fort Knox (complete with uniform violations).
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