One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.
“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”
These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.
The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.
According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.
“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.
The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.
The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.
A US military Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk crashed in western Iraq on March 15, 2018, the Pentagon confirmed March 16, 2018.
“All personnel aboard were killed in the crash,” Brig. Gen. Jonathan P. Braga, the director of operations of Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement. “This tragedy reminds us of the risks our men and women face every day in service of our nations. We are thinking of the loved ones of these service members today.”
Seven US Air Force airmen are believed to have been onboard during the incident.
An investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing, but initial reports indicate the airmen were not on a combat mission and no hostile fire was taken, according to US Defense Department officials. Braga confirmed that the crash did not appear to be caused by enemy fire.
The primary role of the HH-60 is to conduct search and rescue operations. As a modified UH-60 Black Hawk, the capabilities of the HH-60 includes various communications and search tools to provide medical evacuations disaster response, and humanitarian assistance.
The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they’ll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.
Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies’ children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they’re impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it’s cool.
However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for “chocolate,” which means they’ll take any candy you have.
Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.
Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.
(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)
It might piss off their parents
Some Afghan parents don’t want their kids socializing with American troops because they don’t want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.
The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.
What if the kids have allergies?
Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won’t read the nutritional facts to see what’s in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.
If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you’ve just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.
It’s hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.
A friendship going bad
Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might “bro down” a little and give them some candy.
However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.
That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We’re speaking from experience here.
They might sell it for drugs
Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It’s possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.
We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn’t supposed to depress anyone… right?
The F-15 Eagle – an air-superiority fighter that has dominated the dogfight arena sine it was introduced into service, then later emerged as a superb multi-role fighter.
The Su-27 Flanker– Russia’s attempt to match the Eagle.
Which is the deadliest plane? To decide that, we will look at combat records, their avionics systems, their armament, as well as their performance specs to see who’d come out on top.
1. Combat Records
There’s no better way to judge a plane then how it has done in combat. Forget the specs you see on a sheet of paper, forget what it looks like. Just judge it by its record.
An F-15 Eagle departs during the mission employment phase exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The F-15 has seen a lot of action. Perhaps the most important number is: “zero.” That is how many F-15s have been lost in air-to-air combat. This is an incredible feat for a plane that has been in service for 40 years and seen action in wars. In fact, the F-15 has shot down over 100 enemy planes with no losses.
The Su-27 family has seen much less action. Su-27s flown by the Ethiopian Air Force that saw combat in the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea scored at least two and as many as 10 air-to-air kills. The Flanker has also seen action over Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia, scoring one confirmed kill over Chechnya in 1994.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
In the modern age of aerial combat, the plane’s electronics matter. Radar serves as eyes and ears, while electronic countermeasures (ECM) try to keep the other side deaf and blind.
The F-15 uses the AN/APG-63(V)3, an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar. This highly advanced system gives the Eagle a pair of very sharp “eyes” that locate targets up to 100 miles away and direct its radar-guided AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The Eagle also has the AN/ALQ-135 ECM system, which is very useful against opposing radars, whether on missiles or aircraft.
The avionics suite inside an Su-27 Flanker. (Photo from Wikimedia)
The Su-27’s avionics center around the N001 Mech radar, capable of tracking bomber-sized targets at 86 miles. For a target the size of the F-15, though, the range is only 62 miles. That is a difference of 38 miles – almost two-thirds of the Mech’s range. The Flanker doesn’t have internal jammers. Instead, there is the option to use two Sorbtsiya pods.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles. The usual load is four AIM-120 AMRAAMs and four AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also carries a M61 20mm Gatling gun with 900 rounds of ammunition. The AIM-120D now in service has a range of 99 miles, while the AIM-9X can reach out to 22 miles. The AMRAAM is a “fire and forget” missile.
The Su-27 carries six R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo” missiles), which have a range of up to 80 miles. These missiles use semi-active guidance, meaning the Flanker has to “paint” its target to guide the missile. That means flying straight and level – not the best idea in aerial combat.
The Flanker also carries up to four R-73 missiles (AA-11 “Archer”), which has a range of up to 19 miles, and has a GSh-30 30mm cannon.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a combat radius of 1,222 miles, and can maneuver in a dogfight, pulling up to 9 Gs.
With three 600-gallon drop tanks and two 750-gallon conformal fuel tanks (Fuel And Sensor Tactical, or “FAST” packs), the F-15’s range is 3,450 miles. In short, this plane has long “legs” and it can be refueled in flight by tankers.
The Su-27 has a top speed of Mach 2.35, a range of 2,193 miles, and is capable of some amazing aerobatic feats, notably the Pugachev Cobra. Like the F-15, it can pull 9 Gs in a maneuver. The Flanker can carry drop tanks and be refueled while flying.
So, who wins? While the F-15 Eagle is an older design, its advantages — particularly avionics — put the Su-27 at a huge disadvantage. Russia has other planes in the Flanker family (the Su-35), but they are few and far between.
So, how might the engagement between four United States Air Force F-15s and four Su-27s from BadGuyLand go?
Well, the F-15s would probably detect the Su-27s first. Once in AMRAAM range, the Eagle pilots will open fire, most likely using two missiles per target. The Flankers would be obliterated.
If it got to close range, though, the engagement is likely to be a lot less one-sided. Here, the AA-11 and AIM-9 are equal, and both planes can pull 9 Gs.
The skill and training of the pilots will be decisive. In this case, we will assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, Sleazebag Swinemolestor, hasn’t quite trained his pilots well, and some were selected for their political liability. In this mix-up, the Eagles shoot down three Flankers for the loss of one fighter – the first F-15 lost in air-to-air combat.
Either way, though, it is a safe bet that the F-15 still comes out on top.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.
A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.
US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flewthrough both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.
China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.
The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albionchallenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.
The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.
China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.
The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?
How much is it really costing us?
Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.
This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.
According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.
At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:
DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).
Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?
Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.
Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.
Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.
Their mental well-being
The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.
Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.
With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.
The way forward
Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.
Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.
The US Navy is the dominant force on the world’s oceans.
Helping to support open trade lanes, tackle piracy, and providing humanitarian missions are all part and parcel of the Navy’s mission in addition to its obvious military role. These massive responsibilities require that the Navy must be always ready to act.
Below, we’ve shared some of our favorite photos of the US Navy operating at night.
Boatswain’s Mate Seaman Clayton Jackson, from Minneapolis, guides an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Dragon Whales” of Sea Combat Squadron 28 during a night vertical replenishment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea.
Weapons Department Sailors on a sponson fire a .50-caliber machine gun and flares during a night gun shoot for tiger-cruise participants watching from the hangar bay aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado
An SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter is seen from the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown as the ship transits the East China Sea.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Lindahl
Sailors recover combat rubber raiding craft with Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit during night operations in the well deck of the forward-deployed amphibious-assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright
The Phalanx close-in weapons system is fired aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens during a weapons test at sea.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Kevin Williams directs an F/A-18C Hornet from the Warhawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 97 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate
A 25 mm machine gun fires during a live-fire exercise aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Mandello
CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters assigned to the Evil Eyes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 refuel on the flight deck aboard the amphibious-assault ship USS Boxer during night-flight operations.
An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Squadron 136 prepares to launch from catapult two during night-flight operations aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared M. King
A student at the Aviation Survival Training Center ascends on a hoist during a simulated night exercise as part of an aircrew refresher course in Jacksonville, Florida.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom
Sailors observe from the primary flight-control tower as an F/A-18 Hornet lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dylan McCord
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Zach Byrd directs a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter assigned to the Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 during nighttime flight operations aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam
An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 sits on the flight deck of USS Enterprise at night. Enterprise is deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater-security cooperation efforts, and support missions as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brooks B. Patton Jr.
Aaron Shamo went from being a clean-cut Eagle Scout and deacon in the Mormon church to a clean-cut but alleged fentanyl drug lord on the darknet. When police raided his home in 2016, they found $1.2 million, another $2.2 million worth of product – some 95,000 pills.
Shamo was just 26-years-old, living in a quiet, affluent suburb in Utah when police took him into custody. He was playing his Xbox like any other twenty-something when DEA agents and a SWAT team kicked in his door.
Shamo grew up like most kids in Suburban Utah, a member of the church of Latter-Day Saints, and a pretty normal kid by his sister’s account. He may not have been good at sports and didn’t excel at his studies, but he wasn’t in any serious trouble as a teen, either. His parents still thought he was headed down a bad path because he rebelled against their authority, skipped school and church, and began smoking marijuana, so they sent him to a “lockdown facility” in La Verkin, Utah. That’s where Aaron graduated from high school and earned his Eagle Scout status.
He seemed to have changed, no longer had a temper, and was even pleasant to be around. He soon went to college, but that wasn’t for him. He would much rather spend time outdoors than going to class. His parents soon stopped paying his tuition. It was in college he got interested in Bitcoin, the popular cryptocurrency. He thought he could make real money in Bitcoin. But he went a different route.
A Dark web drugstore similar to the one Aaron Shamo ran as “Pharm-Master.”
Shortly after his interest in Bitcoin grew, around 2014, he and a partner ordered latex gloves, postage, bubble wrap and gelatin capsules – everything needed to set up a pill press. His skills using the dark web for Bitcoin also provided an area of exchange to ship those pills. Aaron Shamo was now Pharma-Master on AlphaBay, the biggest darknet market. He was ordering his product from China and having it delivered to the homes of nearby friends and was the only bulk distributor around.
Pharma-Master offered anything from valium, Xanax, oxycodone, and MDMA, to Viagra and fentanyl powder. His wealth surged during this time, and everyone thought it was solely due to Bitcoin. Because few people truly understand how Bitcoin works, that was usually as far as the questioning went. Not for U.S. Customs or the Drug Enforcement Agency, however.
Pure fentanyl is so powerful, it can cause an overdose with direct skin contact. Officers wore HAZMAT suits to raid Shamo’s house.
The Feds began seizing his shipments in June 2016, but that didn’t stop Shamo from conducting business as usual. His longtime partner became less involved with the business. Shamo began to feel like he was being followed, and he was right. Homeland Security flipped a number of confidential informants who spilled the beans on his whole operation. Shamo was shipping fentanyl labeled as oxycodone around the country, significantly contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis and causing potential overdoses everywhere he shipped.
On Aug. 30, 2019, Shamo was convicted by a federal jury in Salt Lake City of organizing and directing a drug trafficking organization that imported fentanyl and alprazolam from China and used the drugs to manufacture fake oxycodone pills made with fentanyl and counterfeit Xanax tablets.
“The opioid crisis has devastated individuals, families, and entire communities across the nation. Aaron Shamo controlled and led a highly profitable organization that delivered fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills to every state in the union. Though his customers remained faceless on the dark web, their despair was real. Shamo profited off that despair and a jury of his peers has held him accountable,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said.
Shamo will be sentenced on Dec. 3, 2019. Prosecutors want him to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The Navy just took delivery of the world’s most advanced aircraft carrier on Wednesday, the service said in a news release.
The future USS Gerald Ford (CVN-78) finished acceptance trials under the shipbuilder, Newport News Shipbuilding, on May 26. Soon after those trials, which tested and verified the ship’s basic motor functions, the Navy officially picked up the ship from the builder, representing the first newly-designed aircraft carrier for the service since 1975.
The Navy plans to officially commission the Ford into the fleet sometime this summer.
The Ford is packed with plenty of new technology and upgrades, like a beefier nuclear power plant that can handle lasers and railguns. It also has a larger flight deck with an electromagnetic aircraft launch system, which can handle more wear and tear from launching jets off the deck than older steam-powered systems.
“Over the last several years, thousands of people have had a hand in delivering Ford to the Navy — designing, building and testing the Navy’s newest, most capable, most advanced warship,” Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, said in a statement. “Without a doubt, we would not be here without the hard work and dedication of those from the program office, our engineering teams and those who performed and oversaw construction of this incredible warship. It is because of them that Ford performed so well during acceptance trials, as noted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey.”
Besides being the most advanced ship ever built, it’s also the most expensive: The final tally to build it came just shy of $13 billion. Still, with it’s high-tech gear, the Navy expects to save about $4 billion on this ship over its lifetime since it has more automation and better systems.
Correction: A previous version of this article said the Ford was the first new carrier for the Navy since 1975. It is the first newly-designed carrier.
The US Navy has fired two senior commanders in the Pacific region in connection with recent deadly collisions of Navy ships, as part of a sweeping purge of leadership in the Japan-based fleet.
The announcement comes a day before the top US Navy officer and the Navy secretary are scheduled to go to Capitol Hill for a hearing on the ship crashes.
Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of the Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, fired Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, citing a loss of confidence in their ability to command. Williams was the commander of Task Force 70, which includes the aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers in the 7th Fleet, and Bennett was commander of the destroyer squadron.
Capt. Jeffrey Bennett (left) and Rear Adm. Charles Williams. Photos from US Navy.
Last month, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who previously led 7th Fleet, was relieved of duty.
The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided in Southeast Asia last month, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five injured. And seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.
The latest dismissals bring the number of fired senior commanders to six, including the top three officers of the Fitzgerald.
Navy Capt. Charlie Brown said Sept. 18 that 7th Fleet ships have completed the one-day operational pause ordered for the entire Navy to make sure crews were conducting safe operations. And Pacific Fleet is in the process of carrying out a ship-by-ship review of its vessels, looking at navigation, mechanical systems, bridge resource management, and training.
Rear Adm. Marc Dalton is now commander Task Force 70, and Capt. Jonathan Duffy, who was deputy commander of the destroyer squadron, took over as commander.
The US Navy has some of the world’s most advanced ships with electronics and automated systems that handle much of the manual tasks involved in the millenias-old craft of sailing — but that same technological strength may be its downfall in a fight against Russia or China.
“Reliance on digital technologies is particularly acute in the realms of communications, propulsion systems, and navigation and has produced a fleet that may not survive the first missile hit or hack,” Panter writes.
Panter’s comments follow a 2017 incident that saw two US Navy destroyers suffer massive collisions with container ships. These ships are among the world’s best at tracking and defending against incoming missiles flying at hundreds of miles an hour, yet they failed to steer well enough to avoid getting hit by a relatively slow container ship the size of a small neighborhood.
“Navigation and seamanship, these are the fundamental capabilities which every surface warfare officer should have, but I suspect if called to war, we’ll be required to do a lot more than safely navigate the Singapore strait,” US Navy Capt. Kevin Eyer, former skipper of the cruisers Shiloh, Chancellorsville, and Thomas Gates said in December 2017. Eyer was speaking in reference to the USS John McCain’s crash with a container ship in the Singapore strait, as Breaking Defense noted at the time.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields)
“If our surface forces are unable to successfully execute these fundamental blocking and tackling tasks, how can it be possibly be expected that they are also able to do the much more complex warfighting tasks?” Eyer asked.
The Navy responded to the two major crashes by replacing the commander of its Pacific fleet, but concerns about its reliance on mutable, fallible electronic and automated systems remains an issue. Additionally, the Navy has begun teaching navigation based on the stars to its sailors in an effort to mitigate over-relaince on technology.
Navigation, that quiet background endeavor without which missiles cannot be launched or guns fired, is similarly teetering one casualty away from disaster. For a loss of GPS, you switch to another; for a loss of a VMS console, you switch to another. But what happens in a total loss-of-power casualty? Wait until the 30-minute batteries on the GPS and VMS wind down, then switch to a laptop version—also battery-powered. The assumption, of course, is that help will be on the way.
Russia operates a more analog fleet than the US in both at sea and in the air, and China’s sea power is concentrated near its own shores where ground assets can back it up.
Through electronic warfare and a misstep in US Navy strategy, the world’s biggest, most powerful Navy could lose its next war as its strengths turn to weaknesses in the face of technological over-reliance.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.