Articles

Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago today

The US invaded Iraq 15 years ago on March 20, 2018.


The invasion was approved by Congress and had majority support among the American public, but is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

Former President George W. Bush’s administration sold it on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had, or was trying to make, weapons of mass destruction (most notably nuclear weapons), and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

Also read: John Bolton still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea

While Hussein’s links to terrorism and nuclear ambitions turned out to be untrue, the US occupied the country for nearly eight years before pulling out, creating a power vacuum that ISIS filled.

Two years later, the US military was back in the country — this time fighting a completely different enemy.

Here’s a look back at the last 15 years:

“The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade,” Bush said during the 2002 State of the Union Address.

U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2002 State of the Union address in January 2002. (Wikipedia)

For more than a year after 9/11, the Bush administration made similar comments about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, and also his ties with terrorism.

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Vice President Dick Cheney said in August 2002.

“We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN in September 2002.

These statements, and others made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, turned out to be based on faulty intelligence.

Some disagreed with the Bush administration’s intelligence assessments, including former Commander of US Central Command Gen. Anthony Zinni, and even argued that the administration lied about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions and links to terrorism.

On March 20, 2003, after Bush gave Hussein 48 hours to relinquish power, the US launched Tomahawk cruise missiles on Baghdad in a strategy the Pentagon called “shock and awe.”

The “shock and awe” bombing strategy was followed by an invasion of about 130,000 US troops.

In early April 2003, Baghdad fell, symbolized by the toppling of a state of Hussein in Firdaus Square.

In May 2003, Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln in a fighter jet while wearing a flight suit, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq were over.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72).

A large sign reading “Mission Accomplished” hung behind him as Bush spoke, but in reality, the US military would fight a long, brutal insurgency for years after his speech.

In March 2004, a few months after Saddam Hussein was captured near Tikrit, four Blackwater contractors were killed and hung by insurgents from a bridge in Fallujah.

The incident led to a nearly year-long battle for Fallujah.

An Iraqi T-72 tank during the Liberation of Fallujah by Iraqi

The insurgents that US troops battled over the coming years were a diverse group, composed of criminals, former Iraqi soldiers, Sunni militias, and eventually foreign fighters such as al-Qaeda.

al-Qaeda fighters.

In 2004, and in the coming years, US troops battled insurgents not just in Fallujah, but all across Iraq, including Mosul, Samarra, Najaf, Abu Ghraib (where it was discovered US troops were torturing and abusing detained Iraqis), and many more.

In January 2005, photographer Chris Hondros captured US troops accidentally killing the parents of 5-year-old Samar Hassan seen below.

The incident shined light on a growing concern that US troops were often accidentally killing civilians.

One of the most egregious incidents came in 2007 when Blackwater contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad.

By 2007, as Iraq was in chaos and US troops were battling a bloody insurgency that some characterized as a game of whack-a-mole, the US decided to deploy 30,000 more troops to the country in what became known as the “surge.”

(Photo by US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle)

With nearly 900 killed, 2007 was also the bloodiest year for US troops in Iraq, which added to the growing anti-war sentiment among the American population.

Some of the sentiment, however, had been tempered over the previous four years by Bush’s decision to not allow the media to photograph the coffins of returning US troops — something they knew helped the Vietnam protesters in the 1970s.

Source: NBC

Related: How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

Growing anti-war sentiment led not only to the Republicans losing Congress in 2006, but also the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, he announced the drawdown from Iraq, which culminated in the last troops leaving in December 2011.

In total, the war in Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, 4,500 American troops, and cost over $2 trillion.

But the Iraqi government and army could not fill the power vacuum left behind by the departing US military. In 2014, a new terrorist group called ISIS began taking large swaths of northern Iraq.

This photo from an ISIS video shows a painful part of the ISIS recruit training.

ISIS, which was founded by Abu Musab al Zarqawi in 2004, entered Mosul in June 2014.

In 2014, a few thousand troops were sent back to Iraq to dislodge ISIS, but this time the US had a new strategy.

US soldiers gather at a military base north of Mosul, Iraq, January 4, 2017. (Photo by US Army)

Whether learning from old mistakes or simply because there was a new administration with a different agenda, US troops this time were deployed mainly to train and support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish militias battling ISIS.

More: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

In October 2016, the main battle for Mosul began, where the Iraqi military slowly retook the city with US artillery support. By July 2017, the city had fell after a long siege.

(Photo by US Army)

An AP investigation found that 9,000-11,000 civilians were killed in the battle for Mosul.

In December 2017, the Iraqi military declared the country “fully liberated” from ISIS. Although sectarian tensions still remain, Iraq has become more stable since the fall of ISIS.

There remains disagreement about who or what is responsible for ISIS gaining so much ground in Iraq. Some blame Bush’s initial invasion, some blame Obama’s drawdown.

While the two are not mutually exclusive, it cannot be denied that the Bush administration initiated the fighting.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Kelly’s response to a lawmaker who called him a ‘disgrace to the uniform’ is priceless

White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly issued a stinging response to Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, after the Illinois lawmaker said Kelly’s position on DACA qualified him as a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear.”


“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly told Fox News Sept. 10. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say ’empty barrels make the most noise.'”

Gutierrez attacked Kelly in early September for serving the Trump administration as it moves to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.

USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

“General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders,'” Gutierrez said in a statement issued hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out.

The DACA program, implemented through executive action in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and provides temporary work visas for those who qualify.

Kelly defended the administration’s decision to roll back the program, suggesting the move was a response to the program’s dubious constitutional status, rather than a personal decision made by Trump.

Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Photo under public domain.

“Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional. Every other legal scholar – right and left – says the same thing. Trump didn’t end DACA, the law did. That said, I worked and succeeded to give the congress another six months to do something. I am not confident,” he said.

Gutierrez’s office took issue with Kelly’s characterization of the program’s constitutionality, arguing the program has never been challenged in court.

“The constitutionality of DACA has never been challenged successfully in court and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, certainly never questioned its constitutionality at its inception or while hundreds of thousands signed up for it,” Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told Fox News.

The Trump administration repealed the program under threat of an impending lawsuit from a coalition of conservative state attorneys general. Trump seemed to soften following the announcement, expressing hope that Congress would codify amnesty for Dreamers through legislation before the six month reprieve period expires.

Articles

The Navy’s ‘first-of-its-kind’ stealthy destroyer is one step closer to activation

The Navy’s new “first-of-its-kind” stealthy destroyer will soon go to San Diego, Calif., where it will go through what’s called “ship activation” – a process of integrating the major systems and technologies on the ship leading up to an eventual live-fire exercise of its guns and missiles.


As part of this process, the Navy will eventually fire long-range precision guns and missiles from its lethal, stealthy new destroyer — in anticipation of its ultimate deployment on the open seas, service and industry officials explained.

The new Destroyer, called DDG 1000 or the future USS Zumwalt, is a 610-foot land and surface warfare attack ship designed with a stealthy, wave-piercing “tumblehome” hull.

The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

On Friday May 20, 2016,  the new ship was formally delivered to the Navy at Bath Iron Works in Portland, Maine.

“The shape of the superstructure and the arrangement of its antennas significantly reduce radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea,” a Navy statement said.

“The US Navy accepted delivery of the most technically complex and advanced warship the world has ever seen,” Rear Adm. (select) James Downey, DDG 1000 Program Manager, said in a written statement.

Several reports have indicated that ships off the coast of Maine recently thought the DDG 1000 was a small fishing boat due to its stealthy design. That is precisely the intent of the ship – it seeks to penetrate enemy areas, delivery lethal attack while remaining undetected by enemy radar. The ship is engineered for both land attack and open water surface warfare, Navy officials explain.

“In the next phase, the Navy will be driving, connecting, integrating and proving the functionality of the ship systems such as the radar, sonar and gun. The Navy will test out the basics make sure the ship can work then by testing those components of the ship that actually make it a warship,” Wade Knudson, DDG 1000 Program Manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“The Navy will be making sure that the propulsion system works to create the power to drive the ship at the speeds it is supposed to go.”

Ship delivery follows extensive tests, trials and demonstrations of the ship’s Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical systems including the ship’s boat handling, anchor and mooring systems as well as major demonstrations of the damage control, ballasting, navigation and communications systems, Navy officials said.

The ship is slated to be commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland Oct. 15.

“Zumwalt’s crew has diligently trained for months in preparation of this day and they are ready and excited to take charge of this ship on behalf of the US Navy,” Capt. James Kirk, commanding officer of the future Zumwalt, said in a written statement.

US Navy photo

DDG 1000 Weapons

The ship is engineered to fire Tomahawk missiles as well as torpedoes, Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and a range of standard missiles such as the SM2, SM3 and SM6.

The ship also fires Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets, or ASROCs. ASROCs are 16-feet long with a 14-inch diameter; a rocket delivers the torpedo at very high speeds to a specific point in the water at which point it turns on its sensors and searches for an enemy submarine.

The first weapons to fire from the Mk 57 vertical launch tubes will be the ship defensive weapons called the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile and the Standard Missile 2, or SM-2.

The ship is also built with Mk 57 a vertical launch tubes which are engineered into the hull near the perimeter of the ship.

Called Peripheral Vertical Launch System, the tubes are integrated with the hull around the ship’s periphery in order to ensure that weapons can keep firing in the event of damage.  Instead of having all of the launch tubes in succession or near one another, the DDG 1000 has spread them out in order to mitigate risk in the event attack, developers said.

Artist’s rendering of the USS Zumwalt | U.S. Navy

In total, there are 80 launch tubes built into the hull of the DDG 1000; the Peripheral Vertical Launch System involves a collaborative effort between Raytheon and BAE Systems.

Also, the launchers are especially designed with software such that it can accommodate a wide range of weapons; the launchers can house one SM-2, SM-3 or SM-6, ASROCs and up to four ESSMs due to the missile’s smaller diameter, Knudson added.

“It has a common launcher to you can change the adapter or computer function which connects the ship to the missile,” he said.

The ship also has a 155mm long range, precision-capable gun called the Advanced Gun System made by BAE Systems. The weapon can, among other things, fire a munition called the Long-Range Land Attack Projectile which can strike target at ranges out to 64 nautical miles.

Most deck mounted 5-inch guns currently on Navy ships are limited to firing roughly 8-to-10 miles at targets within the horizon or what’s called line of sight. The Advanced Gun System, however, fires GPS-guided precision 155m rounds beyond-the-horizon at targets more than three times that distance.

New Sonar, Power Systems, Radar Technology

The DDG 1000 is unique in that it uses what’s called a dual-band sonar system; this includes both medium and high frequency sonar designed to detect both submarines as well as mines and incoming enemy fire. Most ships have only longer-range, lower frequency medium frequency sonar which provides an ability to detect submarines at long distances. Higher frequency brings a much more precise degree of detection, Knudson explained.

Sonar works by sending out an acoustic “ping” and then analyzing the return signal to process information through a receiver designed to help determine the shape, distance,  speed and dimensions of an object or threat.

“High frequency is better for detecting small objects. If you are only going after submarines, then medium frequency would be sufficient. You are going to find the submarine — then you would be able to fire one of the vertically launched ASROCs to engage that target,” Knudson said. “What makes this unique is that high-frequency enable mine detection and mine avoidance,” he added.

It makes sense that the DDG 1000 would be engineered detect mines because the destroyer is, in part, being developed for land-attack missions, an activity likely to bring the vessel closer to shore than previous destroyers might be prepared to sail. The ship is engineered with a more shallow-draft to better enable it to operate in shallower waters than most deep-water ships.

“It has a dome that is transparent to those acoustic waves. The acoustic signal detects sea life and submarines and then sends the signal back to the receiver which processes the information. Inside the bulb, ceramic tiles transmit the acoustic wave out through the water,” Knudson said.

The DDG 1000 is built with what’s called a total ship computing environment, meaning software and blade servers manage not just the weapons systems on the ship but also handle the radar and fire control software and various logistical items such as water, fuel, oil and power for the ship, Raytheon officials said.

The blade servers run seven million lines of code, officials explained.

Additionally, as a survivability enhancing measure, the total ship computing environment also ensures additional layers or redundancy to ensure that messages and information can be delivered across the ship in the event of attack, Raytheon officials said.

Many of the blade servers and other technical items are housed in structures called electronic modular enclosures, or EMEs. There are 16 EME’s built on each ship, each with more than 235 electronics cabinets. The structures are designed to safeguard much of the core electronics for the ship.

The ship’s integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 78 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to ship technologies and the application of anticipated future weapons systems such as laser weapons and rail guns. The ship’s electric drive uses two main turbine generations with two auxiliary turbine generators which power up two 35-megawatt advanced induction motors, Knudson explained.

“The induction motors drive the propellers,” Knudson added.

The speed of the propellers is run through the total computing environment as part of the ship’s controls.

The DDG 1000 also has an AN/SPY-3 X-band multi-function radar which is described as volume-search capable, meaning it can detect threats at higher volumes than other comparable radar systems, Raytheon officials added.  The volume search capability, which can be added through software upgrades, enables the radar to detect a wider range of missile flight profiles, he added.

The ship will employ active and passive sensors along with its Multi-Function Radar capable of conducting area air surveillance, including over-land, throughout the extremely difficult and cluttered sea-land interface, Navy officials said.

As the first Zumwalt-class destroyer is delivered to the Navy, construction of the second is already underway at Bath Iron Works, Portland, Maine. The DDG 1001, the Michael Monsoor, is already more than 75-percent complete and fabrication of DDG 1002, the future Lyndon B. Johnson, is already underway, Navy officials said.

Articles

This daring commando raid’s only injury was from a negligent discharge

In March 1941, over 500 British and Allied commandos, sappers, and sailors launched a daring four-pronged raid against Norwegian towns occupied by the German Army. Despite the German forces spotting the commandos 24 hours before the attack, the British suffered only one casualty.


An officer accidentally shot himself in the thigh.

(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Operation Claymore, as it was known, was a commando raid targeting fish oil factories in the Lofoten Islands. The fish oil was a prime source of glycerin which is a crucial propellant for most types of weapons ammunition in World War II.

The islands are 100 miles into the Arctic Circle and guarded by a force of over 200 German troops. The commandos expected potentially heavy resistance and spent about a week in the Orkney Islands rehearsing their assault plan.

(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

On March 1, they began a three-day journey through rough seas to the targets. Two days later, they were spotted by a German aircraft but pressed forward, risking the possibility of hitting beaches with prepared and dug-in Nazi defenders.

When the British arrived, ice had formed further out than expected and the commandos were forced to get out of the boats early before running across it to hit the towns. All four groups managed to cross the ice and hit their targeted towns without facing any real resistance.

(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

In fact, the local Norwegians watched the British coming at them like it was a small show, and the commandos made it into the buildings before they even began to see German uniforms. With many of the defenders separated or still asleep, the attackers were able to quell resistance with few shots fired.

They captured 225 prisoners while taking every one of their objectives. Despite the attack force having been spotted by the German plane, none of the defenders were ready.

(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The grateful locals brought out coffee and treats for the attackers, the sappers planted charges against the fish oil tanks, and the Norwegians started recruiting the citizens into the Free Norwegian Forces.

There was an additional lucky break for the commandos. They hit a German-held trawler and killed 14 of the defenders.

The ship commander managed to throw the Enigma machine over the side but the British still captured technical documents and spare parts for the machine, giving code breakers in Bletchley Park near London a leg up.

(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

The mission was a huge success, but as mentioned above, the British did suffer a single casualty when an officer accidentally shot himself in his thigh with a revolver.

The British knew how well the mission had gone, and got a bit cocky about it.

One group sent a telegraph to Hitler with the captured communication gear asking him where his vaunted German soldiers were. Another group hit a nearby seaplane base and took all their weapons, just for additional giggles.

(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The German commander, who probably should’ve been grateful that he and his men weren’t added to the 225 prisoners the British had captured, later complained to his fuhrer that the commandos had displayed “unwarlike” behavior.

(Pretty sure the dudes captured without a shot fired were the “unwarlike” fellows, but whatever.)

When the commandos finally left, they blew the fish oil tanks, sending huge fireballs into the sky. They also sank some ships vital to the fish oil production including the most advanced fish factory-ship of the time.

Articles

This is what happens to the personal effects of fallen warriors

The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.


In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.

Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.

Staff Sgt. Luis Quinones speaks to the media about inventory process April 14, 2011, at the new Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.

With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?

The History

As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Nelson Delgado, operations management specialist (right) and 1st Lt. Marcus Hull, summary court martial officer, both with the Joint Personal Effects Depot, review personal effects inventory paperwork in processing line number 3 June 29, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.

“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.

“That’s how we got to Dover.”

In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.

The JPED building on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.

The Process

When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.

“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”

“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.

Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, demonstrates operating one of two x-ray machines at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.

From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.

“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.

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

“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.

Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.

At the two-year anniversary of the creation of the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del., the command continues to process fallen service members’ personal belongings with unparalleled dignity and respect. Pictured here, personnel from the JPED process the personal effects of someone who was killed in support of overseas contingency operations. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”

“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.

The Presentation

After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.

Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.

The entire process, from start to finish is done in one location to help eliminate items from becoming misplaced or cross contaminated with other service member’s personal items. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.

“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”

“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”

After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.

Items that move through the JPED are carefully cleaned, packaged, and sent to the families who have lost a loved one. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

The Connection

Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.

Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.

Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.

“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.

Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, stands in cage one at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.

For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.

“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.

“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Veterans benefit from new portable ultrasound device

Clinicians who are, or becoming, experts in Point of Care Ultrasonography (POCUS) are in awe of a new ultra-portable ultrasound device, the Butterfly IQ.

The Butterfly’s first use in the United States was at VA NY Harbor Healthcare System and at NYU Langone. It is a very lightweight probe that looks like a sleek black electric razor. It plugs into an iPhone.

The user prompts the probe into action and gives it directions with a finger-flick of an app and a tap on individual links that are pre-programmed for screening of the heart, lungs, veins of the legs and other parts of the body.


Squeezing some gel onto the head of the probe, the physician then places the device on a patient’s body in the specific area of concern. For example, it might be placed on the side of the patient’s chest corresponding to the location of the lungs. The interior structure and movement of the lungs then is visualized in real time on the physician’s cell phone screen.

Introducing Butterfly iQ

www.youtube.com

“Most of the time, you can figure out why a patient is having trouble breathing immediately at the bedside without sending the patient for any additional test,” said Dr. Harald Sauthoff.

Dr. Sauthoff considers the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) as his “home”, but he also sees patients on the general medicine wards, where he was using the Butterfly to examine LoRusso, a veteran with lung cancer. Fluid had been drawn and removed the previous day with a needle guided by ultrasound.

Dr. Sauthoff said, “I can still see a lot of fluid around the lung.” The patient was most concerned about not having another tissue biopsy that had been performed some weeks before. Dr. Sauthoff explained that use of the sonogram, unfortunately, might not eliminate the need for another biopsy.

He told the Korean War veteran that taking and testing more fluid might provide enough information to identify and then target the specific type of cancer cells that caused his disease.

Point-of-care ultrasonography (POCUS) is revolutionizing the way physicians examine their patients. Rather than just feeling and listening, physicians can now look into their patients’ bodies often supporting an immediate bedside diagnosis without delay and potentially harmful radiation.

Lightweight, portable, and simple to use, the Butterfly IQ is an enormously attractive clinical tool because it produces precise, high-quality results. The low cost will make it possible for more clinicians to examine their patients using ultrasound at the bedside, carrying an ultrasound probe in their coat next to the stethoscope.

The remaining hurdle for the widespread utilization of POCUS is lack of physician training in this powerful technology. Because most attending physicians are not trained in the use of POCUS, the traditional method of teaching students and residents is ineffective.

For this reason, Dr. Sauthoff has recently created a POCUS teaching course for hospitalist attending physicians across NYU, including VA NY Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan Campus. Carrying a Butterfly during their rounds, they are rapidly learning to use this powerful tool, and they will soon help to teach students and residents and change the culture of bedside diagnosis across VA and NYU.

Dr. Sauthoff using the Butterfly was recorded by BBC TV for an online program about innovation called The Disruptors.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

7 hilarious Marine shenanigans the commandant wouldn’t like

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, gave an interview recently where he critiqued Marines for getting into “general jackassery.” And while we strongly agree with most of Neller’s comments (don’t get drunk and commit crimes, don’t get drunk and get yourself kicked out, don’t get drunk and hurt yourself) we do hope that Marines keep getting into some general jackassery.


Because that’s how we get videos and photos like these, and these things are hilarious. (Just a heads up, most of these videos include some foul language.)

1. Marines creating spoof music videos

Come on, sir. This video is funny, family friendly, and no one got hurt. Assuming production didn’t affect operations, what’s the harm?

2. Marines racing in their sleeping bags

Alright, we get where you’re coming from with this one. Sure, it’s funny, but if those falls had gone a little differently the “Two Marines can’t train because of injury” would be a pretty expensive way to get some lulz. But we would still lulz, sir. We would still lulz hard.

3. Marines clearing their own barracks with brooms and mops

Come on, this is basically training.

4. Marines creating hilarious sketch videos

If it doesn’t affect operations but makes everyone laugh so hard they forget the green weenie in their butts, then it’s a net gain for the Corps. (Anyone who doesn’t know about Terminal Boots should follow them). This video even includes some good lessons for junior leaders like, “Never be the worst Marine in your grade.”

5. Marines dancing to what are likely video game instructions

Sure, they look ridiculous. But there’s no harm in that.

6. Marines trying to dance sexily in weird costumes

We hope no one actually finds this sexy, but it’s not exactly harmful or risky. (Also, that Marine in the back quietly getting ready to go somewhere like two dudes aren’t dancing in panda masks is our new hero).

7. Seriously, what is it with Marines, weird costumes, and “sexy” dancing?

Seriously, sir, you may want to train your men on what the word “sexy” means. Also, if either dude tried to dance on the bannister, we would be back to the injury problem.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian show of force fails to impress after U.S. sanctions

Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.

The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.

“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.


But while Iran has some credible naval capabilities that could shut down the waterway for a time, the assets it displayed don’t really seem up to the task.

Iran flew Mirage fighter jets, F-4s and Sukhoi-22s as part of the display. The F-4 and Sukhoi both first flew in the 1960s, and the Mirage first took flight in the 1970s.

Iran, under heavy sanction, hasn’t bought new fighter jets or components in a long time, but has shown considerable skill in keeping its stock flying for decades.

But the US maintains a presence in the Persian Gulf, most recently with an aircraft carrier full of F-35 stealth fighters.

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

The US has considerable air power in the Middle East and closely monitors the Persian Gulf. Additionally, US allies like Saudi Arabia don’t exactly sail rubber duckies through the gulf either.

On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.

Already Iran has found itself abandoned by its former oil clients in anticipation of US sanctions. Iran frequently threatens military force against the US or its neighbors, but rarely follows through.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Vietnam vet’s long lost dog tag resurfaced in Hurricane Irma debris

After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”


Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.

The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.

“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Linda Makiej.

Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.

“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”

Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.

Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Chain of events

William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.

Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.

That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.

On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.

Logo for Disabled American Veterans.

It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.

The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”

Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.

Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.

Photo from Flickr user Jamie.

Home again

At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.

The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.

When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.

She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.

A Coast Guard flood punt team assists with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. USCG courtesy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Matthews.

She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.

She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”

She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.

“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.

At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.

“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”

Tag trek

Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.

So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?

A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment slides his hand down a pair of dog tags as he hangs them upon the pedestal on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg.

It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.

Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.

Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.

George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”

The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”

Articles

The Marine Corps’ Security Force Regiment is an old hand at special ops

The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.


But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.

In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.

Marines engage an armed objective during a room-clearing exercise at Advanced Interior Tactics training aboard Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va., Dec. 7. During the course, Marines were taught to identify the hands of an individual to determine whether or not they posed a threat, in order to control the scene and conduct thorough house clearings. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kayla D. Rivera)

When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.

The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.

Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.

AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.

According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”

U.S. Marines and British Royal Commandos enter a building together in the first phase of security forces training in New Castle Upon Tyne, England, Sept. 21-25, 2015. Training included various breaching techniques, close-quarters battle, live-fire ranges, training simulators with various military and the state-of-the-art training facility in Gateshead with the Northumbria Police Department. (USMC photo)

The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.

In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.

To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:

Articles

Taliban kill a 10-year-old boy for effectively defending against them last year

A few days ago, Taliban gunmen shot and killed as 10-year-old Wasil Ahmad, who was held up as a hero by his fellow Afghans for leading a militia’s defense against a Taliban siege last year.


A man on a motorcycle shot Ahmad in the head as he walked out of his house in Tarinkot in Urozgan Province, an agricultural intersection of Pashtun tribes. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility.

The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.

The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.

“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 conducted its first ever airstrike in Afghanistan

The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has seen some action over Syria – but now it can also add Afghanistan to the places where it has fought. The fifth-generation fighter made its combat debut against the Taliban on Nov. 20.


According to a report by the Aviationist, the Raptors took part in strikes against Taliban-operated drug labs that produced opium. Opium can then be refined into heroin, which is worth $200 a gram in the United States.

A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq, Jan. 30 2015. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)

A release by Operation Resolute Support headquarters noted that the F-22s were selected due to their ability to use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB. The release noted that the reduction of collateral damage was a consideration in the selection of the F-22 to carry out the attack.

According to Designation-Systems.net, the GBU-39 comes in at 285 pounds, has a 250-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and a range of over 60 nautical miles. A F-22 Raptor can carry up to eight in its internal weapons bays. Improved versions, like the GBU-40 and GBU-53 add multi-mode seekers to engage moving targets.

Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The F-22 strikes come in the wake of President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan. As part of the new strategy, rules of engagement were loosened. Prior to the announcement of the new strategy, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a tunnel system.

The war in Afghanistan has also seen the employment of a very old aircraft. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NASA used a version of the B-57 Canberra over the combat theater.