The death of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega brings back memories of the dictator’s last hours of freedom. U.S. special operators tried to force his surrender using loud rock music — music now gathered together on two handy Spotify playlists.
Instead of storming a building owned by a neutral, noncombatant foreign power, the Navy SEALs and Delta Force operators developed Operation Nifty Package. It was a psyops mission, designed to force Noriega to rescind his right of asylum in the Vatican-owned Embassy.
When Pope John Paul II refused to comment on the incident and the Papal Nuncio wouldn’t force the dictator to leave, the U.S. Army Psychological Operations Command began to blare a “Rock n’ Roll Assault on Noriega…for three full days.
Noriega was captured and sent to Miami where he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug and money laundering charges. He was extradited to France in 2010 to stand trial for money laundering there. Noriega was then extradited to Panama the next year to finish his sentences for the disappearances of political prisoners in the 1980s.
Individual Americans invading other countries used to be a real problem for the fledgling United States. In fact, there were so many threats to U.S. security from its own citizens raising armies that the feds passed various Neutrality Acts to make it illegal for an American to wage war against any country at peace with the United States.
Still, it happened so often there were two words for it, “filibustering and freebooting” – but one man’s freebooter is another man’s freedom fighter, right?
Here are just a few of those American freebooters, some of whom were already judged by a jury of their peers.
1. A former Vice-President tries to conquer the entire Louisiana Purchase
Aaron Burr was the third veep, serving under President Thomas Jefferson. After his tenure as VP, however, his career took a steep dive. Not one to let massive unpopularity affect his career as a political leader, Burr conspired to create his own independent nation in the middle of what was 40,000 acres of territory belonging to Spain and the United States.
He created a group of farmers, planters, and Army officers, including the Army’s top general James Wilkinson, and equipped them for a fight. But before he could wage his little war, Burr was arrested and shipped back to Virginia to stand trial. Wilkinson provided the most damning evidence against Burr, who was acquitted anyway.
2. John Adams’ son-in-law sought to liberate Venezuela
A prominent Revolutionary War officer, William S. Smith rose in ranks due to both his station in life and his martial ability. He began his career as an aide-de-camp but was soon on the General Staff for both Lafayette and Washington. So he knew what he was doing when he secured funds, arms, and mercenaries to free Venezuela from Spanish rule. The ships and 60 of the men he sent were immediately captured by Spanish authorities.
Smith was put on trial for violating the Neutrality Act of 1794, like many of the people on this list. Also like many of the people on this list, he was acquitted. He claimed Thomas Jefferson told him to do it, and it led to the landmark Supreme Court ruling that the President “cannot authorize a person to do what the law forbids.” Smith would later be elected to Congress.
3. Vermont tries to liberate Canada
The brother of famed Patriot leader Ethan Allen was less than successful in his own efforts to unshackle the New World from the British yoke. After the Revolution, Ira Allen traveled to France to gain support for leading an insurrection in Canada, seeking to create an independent “Republic of United Columbia.” Instead, he purchased 20,000 arms and 24 cannon but was captured at sea by the Royal Navy. Britain thought he was going to arm the Irish and put him on trial for that. The escapade bankrupted Allen, who died in Philadelphia hiding from his creditors.
4. Patriots from Georgia attempt to annex Florida
In the early days of the American experiment, everyone wanted Florida. Unfortunately, it was full of the people who owned it — the Spanish. Americans were constantly gauging the Floridians to see if annexation were possible. One such endeavor was led by George Mathews, a former Continental Army officer.
When the Spanish governor of East Florida reneged on a deal to cede it to the U.S., Matthews established an intelligence network and then a full-on insurgency in East Florida. His “Patriots of Amelia Island” were successful enough, but the U.S. had to deny the mission there because of the War of 1812. The insurgency soon collapsed and Mathews died in Georgia.
5. Trying to liberate Texas with Frenchmen
When he couldn’t fight the Spanish in Florida anymore becsause President John Quincy Adams purchased it from the Spanish, James Long set his sights on Texas. His original plan called for the use of Jean Lafitte’s pirate fleet. But Lafitte refused to help.
Instead, Long recruited dozens of former French soldiers and captured Nacogdoches, and proclaimed the first Republic of Texas, which lasted a month. Not to be outdone, he returned with 300 troops before being captured and shot by the Mexicans.
6. Doctor turned Lawyer turned journalist turned mercenary turned dictator
That’s one hell of a resumé – and yet William Walker did it all before turning 40.
In 1853, Mexico refused to give Walker permission to establish a fortified colony in Sonora, along the Mexico-U.S. border. He returned to San Francisco and built a 45-man army of slavery supporters from Kentucky and Tennessee to conquer Sonora and Baja California, forming the Republic of Lower California with his capital at Cabo San Lucas. After the Mexican government forced him out, he tried again to do the same thing, this time declaring the Republic of Sonora. When the Mexican Army intervened again and expelled Walker, he was tried for his illegal war in California but was acquitted in 8 minutes.
Two years later, Walker turned up in Nicaragua, leading 60 “colonists” to support the government. His gang and a group of locals attacked a Conservative Party group who were in open civil war against Nicaragua’s Liberal government. He inflicted heavy casualties and later captured the Liberal capital. He ruled Nicaragua as head of the army, even being recognized by the U.S.’ Pierce Administration as the legitimate government. Fearing further conquests, nations of Central America formed an alliance to take down Walker, who surrendered to the U.S. Navy. He eventually ended up in the hands of the government of Honduras, who promptly executed him.
7. A Confederate diplomat in Mexico starts a rebellion
John T. Pickett was sent to Mexico as an emissary of the Confederate government. He found the Mexican government to be less than receptive to the Southern cause and more welcoming to the North. Pickett was arrested after assaulting a member of the U.S. diplomatic party by Mexican authorities. Pickett attempted to raise a rebel army against the Mexican government but failed. He tried numerous times to negotiate a treaty to annex large parts of northern Mexico. He was again arrested by the government, thrown in jail for 30 days, and expelled from the country.
8. Naval officers want to conquer South America, found Confederate colonies instead
Matthew Maury, the founder of the U.S. Naval Academy, sent two officers on a mission to map the Amazon for shipping purposes. The officers, loyal to the Confederate cause (as was Maury), instead mapped it to conquer it for the Confederacy. When the South lost the Civil War, Maury helped 20,000 rebels flee to Brazil, where they founded the Confederate colonies of New Texas and Americana.
9. Aiding independence movements everywhere
One American thought supporting independence movements worldwide all the time should be the extent of American foreign policy and acted on it whenever possible. William A. Chanler started his career as a freedom fighter in 1902 when Dutch investors tried to overthrow Venezuela for defaulting on its loans. Chanler created an outlaw army, recruited through Butch Cassidy, that landed in Venezuela and marched inland. The President of Venezuela, finally complied with the terms of his loan and Chanler’s army withdrew. He shortly after assisted the Libyans in fighting the Italians, Somalis fighting Italians, and he helped the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in China
Requirements officers at the Pentagon and defense companies like to tout the “beyond visual range” capabilities of modern aircraft. On paper, these days a pilot could earn ace status and never see his or her opponents.
However, air wars aren’t fought on paper, and history has shown that in spite of all the sensors and early warning platforms chances are very high that a bad guy or two will make it into the visual arena. At that point it’s down to a good old-fashioned dogfight, mano-a-mano.
Here are the main thoughts that go through a fighter pilot’s mind in that dynamic environment:
1. “What kind of bandit am I fighting?”
This is where homework comes in. A fighter pilot needs to be able to recognize what kind of airplane he’s up against at the longest possible range and any aspect, and he needs to know what the capabilities of that airplane are including aerodynamic characteristics and weapons performance. This kind of recognition determines what kind of fight a pilot should attempt.
2. “What’s my weapons loadout?”
Fighter pilots have a saying: “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” So it’s best to bring a gun to a knife fight . . . or at least bring a long, sharp knife to a knife fight. A pilot has to know what weapons he has on the jet at all times and be ready to select the right one and pull the trigger in an instant. Few things as wasteful as committing a missile outside of the acceptable envelope, especially in a multi-bandit environment.
3. “Where’s my wingman?”
Not only does a pilot need to keep track of where the bad guys are around him, he also needs to know where his wingman is. In the chaotic world of high-G this demands a lot of physical exertion and very clear, concise comms over the radio.
4. “What’s my airspeed?”
Depending on the type of fight, faster isn’t always better. If a pilot wants to out-turn a bandit he needs to have the jet flying at the optimum airspeed to carve max angles, not zorching around supersonic.
5. “What’s my altitude?”
Fighter pilots have another saying: “You can only tie the record for low flight.” True ‘dat! So it’s smart for a pilot to keep the scan going to stay aware of how high above the ground he is. Plus, different jets have different performance characteristics at high and low altitudes, so a pilot might want to take the fight higher or lower depending on what kind of airplane he’s up against.
6. “What’s my fuel state?”
Like flying into the ground, flaming out solves a bandit’s problem for him. It’s easy for a fighter pilot to get tangled up in the phone booth in max burner and drive himself way below his fuel ladder. “Tanker posit!”
7. “Which way is home?”
Killing all the bandits makes this problem less stressful, but short of that, a savvy fighter pilot needs to know the correct direction to bug out when the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise he’s going to have to fight his way back through the mess he just worked hard to get out of, and that’s a good way to get killed.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) was buzzed multiple times by Russian aircraft on Feb. 10.
According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the Porter was operating in international waters in the Black Sea after taking part in Sea Shield 2017 when the series of flybys occurred. One incident involved an Ilyushin Il-38 “May,” a maritime patrol aircraft similar to the P-3 Orion. The other two incidents involved Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer” strike aircraft.
“These incidents are always concerning because they could result in miscalculation or accident,” Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for United States European Command, told the Free Beacon, who also noted that the Porter’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Andria Slough, considered the Russian actions to be “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The Free Beacon reported that the Russian planes did not respond to messages sent by the destroyer, nor were they using their radars or transponders.
Last April, Russian Su-24s buzzed the Porter’s sister ship, the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). The Daily Caller also noted other incidents where Russians buzzed American warships. The Free Beacon also noted that this past September, a United States Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft had a close encounter with Russian fighters.
Tensions with Russia have increased since Vladimir Putin’s government seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine in 2014. Incidents involving American ships in the Black Sea have happened before.
The Soviet Krivak I class guided MISSILE frigate Bezzavetny (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (US Navy photo)
In 1986, the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Yorktown (CG 48) and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron (DD 970) exchanged messages with a Krivak-class frigate while sailing an “innocent passage” mission within six miles of the Soviet coast.
In 1988, the Yorktown and Caron were involved in another incident, with the Yorktown being “bumped” by a Krivak-class frigate, and Caron being “bumped” by a Mirka-class light frigate. All four ships suffered what was characterized as “minor” damage.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An F-16 Fighting Falcon with the 18th Aggressor Squadron prepares to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, shortly after sunrise Jan. 24, 2016, in transit to Kadena Air Base, Japan, to participate in training exercises. More than 150 maintainers from the 354th Fighter Wing will keep the Aggressors in the air and prepare U.S. Airmen, Sailors and Marines for contingency operations along with coalition partners in the Pacific theater.
A mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicle, driven by a member of the 451st Expeditionary Support Squadron Security Forces Flight, patrols the flightline as the sun sets on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2016. Security forces members at the airfield are responsible for the security of more than 150 aircraft and $2.2 billion in resources.
Senior Airman Ian Kuhn, a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, demonstrates how to build a concealed shelter during a combat and water survival training course at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016. During this training, aircrew members gained refresher training on using their emergency radios, tactical movements through difficult terrain, how to build shelters, ways to build fires and methods for evading the enemy.
Senior Airman Christopher Gonzales, of the 144th Security Forces Squadron, is welcomed home by Megan Woodby at the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Calif., Jan. 21, 2016. Gonzales was deployed for more than seven months in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
Green Berets, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, exit the water during a beach infiltration training exercise, part of Combat Diver Requalification, in Key West, Fla., Jan. 20, 2016.
Snipers, assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, make adjustments on the scope of an M110 semi-automatic sniper system during a field training exercise at Adazi Training Center in Latvia, Jan. 27, 2016.
Soldiers, attached to SOCEUR, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), participate in a night airborne operation near Malmsheim, Germany, Jan. 21, 2016.
Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Valentin Sanchez, from Brownsville, Texas, and Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Zack Smith, from New Caney, Texas, prepare launchers for F/A-18E Super Hornets on USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) flight deck. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
Personnel Specialist Seaman Dennis Tran, from Riverside, Calif., and Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Darryl Roberson, from Joliet, Ill., fish off the stern of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) during a fish call. Providing a combat-ready force to protect collective maritime interests, Stockdale, assigned to the Stennis strike group, is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
A Marine undergoing the 2nd Marine Division Combat Skills Center’s Pre-Scout Sniper Course prepares to move during a stalking exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 22, 2016. The exercise required students to traverse approximately 1,000 meters of high grass and fire on a target, all without being detected.
Marines with the Combined Arms Company, Black Sea Rotational Force Bulgarian and Romanian Forces conduct a joint exercise utilizing Bulgarian and U.S. main battle tanks, indirect fire, mechanized infantry, and close air support from U.S. Air Force assets during Platinum Lion 16-2 at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Jan. 15, 2016. Exercise Platinum Lion increases readiness and demonstrates our collective ability to operate as a single force committed to protecting the sovereignty of NATO allies and other European partners.
At Air Station New Orleans, we are one of the few units who train for and help support the Rotary Wing Air Intercept (RWAI) mission primarily carried out by Air Station Atlantic City. This National Capital Region air defense mission provides safety and security to not only the federal government and entities within Washington DC but its citizens as well.
Take a ride with U.S. Coast Guard Hawaii Pacific Air Station Barbers Point and Maritime Safety and Security Team Honolulu crews as they train doing hoists.
The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.
Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.
Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.
The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.
This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.
A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)
During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.
But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.
They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.
Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.
Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.
Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese
An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.
To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.
“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”
So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.
Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.
“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”
Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.
The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.
“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.
Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.
The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.
“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”
Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.
So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.
“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”
Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.
The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.
The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.
“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”
In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.
“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.
When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.
A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.
Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.
“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.
This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.
“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.
The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.
Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.
“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”
For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.
Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.
Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.
A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.
But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.
Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.
This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.
This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.
In 1944, the U.S.’s progress in its island-hopping campaign through the Pacific brought it to Ulithi Atoll. From March to September, they bombed the Japanese forces stationed there until they eventually withdrew, believing the atoll was too small to accommodate an airfield and therefore not of value to either side.
After WWII, the dividing line between Soviet-controlled East Germany and Western-backed West Germany became immortalized in a speech by Sir Winston Churchill. In a speech at Missouri’s Westminster college, Great Britain’s wartime Prime Minister famously said: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
For the rest of the Cold War, this dividing line between the East and West would bear the moniker of the “Iron Curtain.” The Iron Curtain was an ideal as well as a physical thing, a series of fortifications meant to keep Western forces out and Communist citizens in.
For 870 miles, the divide was marked by fences, tank traps, barbed wire, dog runs, guard towers, and stone walls. There were sand strips to detect footprints and automated machine guns to end any attempt to flee to freedom. All this came crashing down in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Twenty-five years after the fall of Communism, the boundary areas have morphed into a green belt untouched by the pressure of German agricultural and industrial development, a place where endangered species like the European Otter have found refuge.
According to a recent NOVA story on PBS, the European Green Belt stretches over 7,700 miles from north to south. Black storks, moor frogs, and white-tailed eagles find refuge in the forests, meadows and marshlands linked by 40 national parks across 24 countries.
The government and European conservationists want to make the undeveloped areas into permanent wildlife refuges. They see a pan-European reserve that stretches from Finland to the Black Sea. The refuge has been a goal for East German environmentalists since the Berlin Wall came down. The original green belt petition was started December 9, 1989, just one month after the fall of the wall.
When the two Germanys reunified, the land was preserved to compensate people for expropriation by the former East German government. Over the years the funding stalled at the hands of the German legislature. At one point “Friends of the Earth,” a not-for-profit that included former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev as an investor.
Now, the green belt has the support of former East German Angela Merkel, who is now the Prime Minister of a unified Germany. What began as a symbol of division and oppression is turning into one of growth and renewal.
If you somehow are on the internet and haven’t seen the viral BBC interview of an expert on South Korea being interrupted during a BBC interview by his children, then you can see it here.
The dad is impressively collected as his wife rushes in to grab the children and pull them out, but the internet had a field day with the interview.
Now, a U.S. Air Force crew has created a spoof video where a pilot is attempting to read her takeoff clearance back when the crew starts stumbling in. Another airman, probably the chief, has to rush in and grab the other crewmen out of the cabin.
The results are pretty great. You can check the video out below:
It’s an inescapable reality that in big institutions, people will sometimes overlook memos and misplace equipment.
But that’s cold comfort to the U.S. Army, which is struggling to select a new handgun while also dealing with the fallout from its last, controversial pistol choice.
That’s right — overlooked memos and misplaced equipment.
In August 2015, the ground combat branch inspected its Beretta M-9 pistols to make sure the guns had key safety fixes. The Army was supposed to have finished upgrading all the guns … more than two decades ago.
“During a training exercise, a soldier was injured when a slide failure resulted in the rear portion of the slide separating from the receiver and struck him in the face,” an official warning explained.
“‘WARNING’: DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY TO SOLDIERS, OR DAMAGE TO ARMY EQUIPMENT WILL OCCUR IF THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS MESSAGE ARE NOT FOLLOWED.”
War Is Boring obtained the startling message via the Freedom of Information Act. Censors inked out the number of guns the Army believed were missing the updates, including a number of weapons in “SWA.”
This is a common Pentagon acronym for the Southwest Asia region, which includes Iraq. The warning applied to all M-9s in the inventory of the Army, its sister branches and Special Operations Command.
The redacted portion of the document suggests the total could be as high as six figures. Since Beretta delivered around 160,000 pistols to the military before adding the modifications at the factory, the Army may simply have ordered troops to check every one of the old weapons still in service.
Issues with the Beretta’s slide are hardly new. The broken parts were a key part of the controversy surrounding the Army’s first decision to buy the Italian-made guns more than three decades ago.
Between 1985 and 1988, the Army and Navy documented no fewer than 14 incidents where the slide failed. In four cases, the shooter suffered an injury.
“What is of particular concern is the safety hazard encountered when failure does occur,” the Government Accountability Office explained in a 1988 report. “Injuries resulting from four slide failures included face lacerations requiring stitches, a broken tooth and a chest bruise.”
The GAO had already forced the Army to hold a new competition after complaints of collusion in the original testing. Ultimately, the Beretta won out again and became the standard handgun across the U.S. armed forces.
With the winner settled for good, the Army issued an order to modify all the existing pistols with a set of safety features. The modification kit included a new slide, a reinforced hammer pin and and a left grip panel.
The Army reportedly concluded that brittle metal in the original slides was the source of the gun’s failures. However, Beretta and its allies implied that the military’s overly-powerful ammunition was actually at the root of the problems.
Whatever the cause, in March 1989 troops began installing the new parts on around 160,000 potentially defective pistols. On June 30, 1993, the Army declared that all the guns complied with the so-called “modification work order,” or MWO.
Or so it apparently thought.
“Recently, a soldier found out the hard way that the MWO hadn’t been applied to all M-9s when a slide broke and hit him in the face,” was how the Army’s P.S. Magazine described the matter on Facebook on Oct. 28, 2015. ” All armorers need to immediately check their M-9s.”
Billed as “the preventive maintenance monthly,” the magazine in question publishes notices and tips on defects, recalls, common problems and other issues for troops. In continuous publication since June 1951, each issue features comic book-style art to help these important message stick.
“Are you kidding me?!” an anthropomorphized pistol asks the shooter in a version of the message in the January 2016 edition. “That MWO was supposed to be done 20 years ago!”
The issue is so old that the order isn’t even available online — and the Army doesn’t have any modification kits on hand. Anyone who finds a problematic gun is supposed to send it back by registered mail to the Defense Logistics Agency. We don’t know what will happen to the guns after they go back to the warehouse.
All of this comes at at time when the Army finds itself embroiled in another controversial attempt to buy new pistols. Eight years ago, the services canceled their previous handgun projects.
Around the same time the slide flew off the old Beretta, the ground combat branch asked pistol-makers to offer up new options. If this program goes according to plan, troops should start getting their new weapons sometime around 2018.
Under the proposal, the Army will buy no fewer than 280,000 guns for itself. Other services would have the option of signing up to get their hands on another 212,000 pistols.
With the previous experience of the Beretta decision, the Army itselfquestioned how realistic this timeline might be when it explained the need to buy Glock pistolsnow for commandos and allied troops in 2015. The contract document pointed out that the service had already spent two years trying to get its latest project off the ground.
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol,” the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley told a gathering at New America’s Future of War Conference on March 10. “Two years to test? At $17 million?”
“You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million,” the Army’s top officer added, referring to the Nebraska-based outdoor goods chain, which sells firearms.
But Milley’s obvious frustration notwithstanding, the Army knows full well how complicated the project might turn out to be due to budgets, politics, competing priorities and the sheer size of the American military. Replacing hundreds of thousands of pistols is no easy task.
In February 2015, the Army also formally rejected Beretta’s offer to update the existing pistols. The Italian company’s American branch subsequently decided to sell these M9A3 guns on the commercial market.
It took seven years for the Army to settle on the M-9, more than a decade for everyone to get them and about as long to get important fixes installed — and people are still getting hit in the face by faulty slides.
The Free Beacon broke the news of the sub – code-named Kanyon by the Pentagon – and the Kremlin confirmed its existence two months later. The Russians call it “Ocean Multipurpose System ‘Status-6,’ ” and Gertz’ sources in U.S. intelligence say the drone sub is designed to carry the largest nuclear weapons in existence.
It could render any blast site uninhabitable for a century or more.
The Pentagon also confirmed the weapon’s existence.
“Status-6 is designed to kill civilians by massive blast and fallout,” Former Pentagon official Mark Schneider told The Beacon, noting that such targeting violates the law of armed conflict. “[The sub] is the most irresponsible nuclear weapons program that Putin’s Russia has come up with.”
The Russian superweapon is launched from a Sarov submarine and controlled by ships on the surface. It is self-propelled and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 6,200 miles. The vehicle can submerge to a depth of 3,280 feet and travel at speeds of up to 56 knots – meaning it can outrun American homing torpedoes.
At the time of its initial disclosure, operational testing for the weapon was due to begin in 2019 or 2020. A test of the system was conducted in November 2016, which shows the Russians are way ahead of their own development schedule.