Now that Snowden claimed his 'whistleblower' crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus - We Are The Mighty
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Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first leak is coming full circle.

Last month a US appeals court ruled the NSA’s post-9/11 dragnet of millions of Americans’ phone-call records is illegal, noting that a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order “leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden” and published by The Guardian served as the catalyst for the decision.

The FISC order directed Verizon to produce to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The US government had justified the program by saying it was covered under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but the court ruled that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by § 215.”

On Monday, Section 215 and two other provisions of the Patriot Act expired — at least temporarily.

So for the first time since 9/11, partly thanks to Snowden, 31, the phone records of US citizens are not being scooped en masse under a law ruled illegal.

But the order comes from just one of as many as 1.77 million NSA documents Snowden allegedly stole while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013. And he gave only an estimated 200,000 documents to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

On June 9, 2013, four days after The Guardian published the Verizon order, Snowden revealed himself in a video before going underground to seek asylum.

Snowden’s epic heist and search for asylum spans more than 10,000 miles, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in after Snowden decided to expose NSA spying.

Now that Snowden’s first leak is vindicated, here’s a look at three of the outstanding questions about his journey:

Whom did Snowden contact when he arrived in Hong Kong?

Snowden says he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone” — at least until Hong Kong.

“When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here,” The New York Times reported on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers, told The Times the person was a well-connected Hong Kong resident and became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.”

Snowden told The Guardian that after the “very carefully planned and orchestrated” theft of NSA information, he didn’t cover his traces in Hong Kong.

“I only tried to avoid being detected in advance of travel … on the other side I wanted them to know where I was at,” Snowden said. “I wanted them to know.”

In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden “arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name.”

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

Where did Snowden spend the first 11 days?

Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn’t check into the Mira Hotel until June 1, a couple of days before he met Poitras and Greenwald.

“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been ‘holed up’ in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1,” Epstein reported.

“I confirmed that date with the hotel’s employees,” Epstein wrote.” A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card.”

Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that “US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts” between May 20 and June 1.

What exactly happened to the documents Snowden didn’t give to journalists?

After checking out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, Ho said, Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of his carer’s friends.

On June 12, Snowden showed The South China Morning Post (SCMP) an unknown number of documents revealing “operational details of specific [NSA] attacks on [Chinese] computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks, and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.”

Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP that he possessed more NSA intel.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”

Eleven days later, Snowden got on a plane to Moscow.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

In October 2013, James Risen of The Times reported that Snowden told him over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told me that the report was inaccurate.)

Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.

“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”

More to come

Snowden, who appears via video conference semi-frequently, has not explained these discrepancies yet.

In the meantime, as the effects of Snowden’s leaks reverberate in the US and the world, the saga continues.

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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Army arms Stryker with laser weapon

The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.


Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.

Also read: Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.

“The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world,” Tim Reese, director of strategic planning, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The weapon is capable of destroying Group 1 and Group 2 small and medium-sized drones, Reese added.

The laser, which Reese says could be operational as soon as 11-months from now, will be integrated into the Fire Support Vehicle Stryker variant designed for target tracking and identification.

General Dynamics Land Systems is now working on upgrading the power of the laser from two kilowatts of power to five kilowatts. The laser weapon system uses its own tracking radar to acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat and has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to jam the signal of enemy drones. Boeing is the maker of the fire-control technology integrated into the laser weapon. The laser is also integrated with air-defense and field artillery networks

“The energy of the laser damages, destroys and melts different components of the target,” Reese explained.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
US Army photo

The Army is now in research and test mode, with a clear interest in rapidly deploying this technology. Reese added that GDLS anticipates being able to fire an 18-kilowatt laser from the Stryker by 2018.

One of the challenges with mobile laser weapons is the need to maintain enough exportable power to sustain the weapon while on-the-move, developers have explained.

“As power goes up, the range increases and time to achieve the melt increases. You can achieve less than one-half of the burn time,” he said.

This initiative is of particular relevance given the current tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO. US Army Europe has been amid a large-scale effort to collaborate with allies on multi-lateral exercises, show an ability to rapidly deploy armored forces across the European continent and up-gun combat platforms stationed in Europe such as the Stryker.

Lasers at Forward Operating Bases

The Army is planning to deploy laser weapons able to protect Forward Operating Bases (FOB) by rapidly incinerating and destroying approaching enemy drones, artillery rounds, mortars and cruise missiles, service leaders told ScoutWarrior.

Forward-deployed soldiers in places like Afghanistan are familiar with facing incoming enemy mortar rounds, rockets and gunfire attacks; potential future adversaries could launch drones, cruise missiles, artillery or other types of weapons at FOBs.

Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.

Laser weapons have been in development with the Army for many years, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“We’ve clearly demonstrated you can takeout UAVs pretty effectively. Now we are not only working on how we take out UAVs but also mortars and missiles–and eventually cruise missiles,” she said.

The emerging weapons are being engineered into a program called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023 as part of an integrated system of technologies, sensors and weapons designed to thwart incoming attacks.

At the moment, Army soldiers at Forward Operating Bases use a system called Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar – or C-RAM, to knock down incoming enemy fire such as mortar shells. C-RAM uses sensors alongside a vehicle-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles as a way to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire.

Also, lasers bring the promise of quickly incinerating a wide range of targets while helping to minimize costs, Miller explained.

“The shot per kill (with lasers) is very inexpensive when the alternative is sending out a multi-million dollar missile,” Miller said.

Boeing’s Avenger Laser weapon successfully destroyed a drone in 2008 at White Sands Missile Range. Army weapons developers observed the test.

The Army is also developing a mobile high-energy solid-state laser program called the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD. The weapon mounts a 10 kilowatt laser on top of a tactical truck. HEL MD weapons developers, who rotate the laser 360-degrees on top of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, say the Army plan is to increase the strength of the laser up to 100 Kilowatts, service officials said.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“The supporting thermal and power subsystems will be also upgraded to support the increasingly powerful solid state lasers. These upgrades increase the effective range of the laser or decrease required lase time on target,” an Army statement said

In November of 2013, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used the HEL MD, a vehicle-mounted high energy laser, to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar (Enhanced Multi Mode Radar) supported the engagement by queuing the laser,” an Army statement said.

Miller explained how the Army hopes to build upon this progress to engineer laser weapons able to destroy larger targets at farther ranges. She said the evolution of laser weapons has spanned decades.

“We first determined we could use lasers in the early 60’s. It was not until the 90’s when we determined we could have the additional power needed to hit a target of substance. It took us that long to create a system and we have been working that kind of system ever since,” Miller added.

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The National Museum of the USAF is filled with the stuff of airplane buff dreams

The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio is airplane heaven. From prop planes to drones and decommissioned nuclear bombs, if it was flown or used by the U.S. Army Air Corps or the U.S. Air Force, it is probably here.


Related: The most important guy in military aviation history you’ve never heard of

With more than 360 exhibits, the U.S. Air Force’s official museum is the oldest and largest collection of aircraft and missiles in the world. The museum historically draws over 1.3 million aviation fans every year, making it one of Ohio’s most visited tourist attractions in the state.

There was a 25 percent decline in attendance during 2015, which museum officials suspect was caused by people holding out until the June 8th opening of building four. Now open, the 224,000-square-foot expansion houses more than 70 aircraft, including Presidential, Research Development, Space and Global Reach, according to the museum’s official website.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is a must-see destination for aviation lovers and military history fans. The best part about this one-of-a-kind attraction is its free admission, but the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber and SR-71 Blackbird displays are reason enough to make the pilgrimage.

This video by TechLaboratories shows what you can expect when touring this incredible aviation gem.

Watch:

TechLaboratories, YouTube
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Marine MP and MMA champ break down the fighting in ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’

How realistic is the combat in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back?” To find out, we went to veteran owned and operated Military Muscle Gym in Davie, Florida, where owner Kelsey De Santis — a Marine Corps MP turned martial arts trainer — and MMA star Anthony “Rumble” Johnson broke down the weapon strategy, positioning and disarmament techniques from the film.


Any object can be a weapon, but you have to “make it count”

Positioning is key to destabilizing an opponent and gaining an advantage

Disarming a gun attacker at close range, according to a U.S. Coast Guard Weapons Specialist

Brought to you by:

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

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This military theme park lets you drive tanks, crush cars, and shoot machine guns

Whether in the military or not, most people don’t drive tanks. But for nearly a decade, Drive A Tank has opened its doors to civilians wanting to live out their tank fantasies.



Related: 5 things we’d love to do with the Army’s surplus battleship ammo

“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.

It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.

With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.

But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.

“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.

This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:

The Daily, YouTube

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Here’s how an aircraft carrier keeps track of where the planes are on the flight deck

Aircraft carriers are busy places. Sailors move dozens of planes, hundreds of bombs, and many gallons of fuel during launches and recoveries multiple times a day. To keep track of all this madness, the “Handler,” the man in charge of the movement of gear across the flight deck, uses a “Ouija Board,” a mockup of the carrier deck complete with model aircraft.


Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

The airplanes on the board are positioned exactly where they are on the actual deck. The sailors operating the board, usually some of the youngest members of the crew, get constant updates from their shipmates on the flight deck that let them know when an aircraft is being moved.

The crew uses colored nuts and bolts to indicate when a plane is being fueled or undergoing maintenance.

The Navy created computerized versions of the Ouija board and projected it would be in place on all carriers in 2015, but the electronic boards haven’t taken over yet. The F-35s first test flights were tracked on the USS Eisenhower‘s old-school Ouija board.

“Computers are nice, having electronic equipment is nice, but if you ever take any sort of battle damage, the first thing that’s going to go out is all those powered systems,” Capt. Ryan Shoaf, the air boss for USS Enterprise, told Air Space. While using the Ouija board, “if ship’s power goes down, you don’t lose a thing. It’s still right there in front of you. It’s cheap, it’s reliable, and it’s been working for the last 60 years. It’s an effective system.”

Just never bump one of these tables. The Handler won’t appreciate it.

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Can this Navy patent explain away many UAP sightings?

This new Navy tech aims to use lasers to fool air defense systems and missiles into thinking they see multiple aircraft or even a UAP for that matter–but the plan wasn’t to trick the world into thinking they were being visited by aliens.

America uses stealth technology not just to avoid detection, but to avoid being shot down after they’ve been detected. A recent patent filed by the U.S. Navy meant to increase the survivability of stealth aircraft might do just that, but if the system works the way it’s supposed to, it could just as easily be used to project images into the sky that would look and act a whole lot like the strange crafts depicted in UAP footage released by the U.S. military in recent years.

How can Navy tech be responsible for UAP sightings?

This video contains the same content as the rest of this story.

When talking military aviation, it’s not uncommon for many to think of “stealth” as a singular technology utilized to help advanced aircraft defeat detection. The truth, of course, is a lot more complicated than that. Stealth might be more accurately described as an approach to warfare, rather than a specific piece of gear. In order to leverage a stealth aircraft effectively, pains must be taken to limit the platform’s radar cross-section (from multiple angles), its infrared detectability (the amount of heat it releases), and to create a mission flight plan that keeps the aircraft operating to its advantage, rather than its detriment.

The truth is, many of America’s most advanced stealth aircraft aren’t actually invisible to radar detection at all. The intent behind stealth isn’t truly to go entirely unnoticed in many instances, but instead, to prevent an opponent from being able to effectively engage and shoot down your aircraft. To that end, even “stealth” platforms like the F-22 Raptor can actually be spotted on radar using lower frequency bands. Radar systems leveraged in this way can spot sneaky intruders, but they’re not good for establishing a weapon’s grade lock on anything. In other words, lower-frequency radar bands can be used to see stealth planes coming, but can’t be used to shoot them down.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (U.S. Air Force photo)

However, coupling these sorts of radar systems with other forms of air defenses can make for a real threat for stealth aircraft. “Heat-seeking” missiles, which have been around since the 1950s and don’t rely on radar to engage targets effectively sniff out encroaching aircraft by following the infrared signature of the super-heated exhaust exiting the back of the jet. While design elements have been incorporated into stealth aircraft aimed at mitigating these infrared signatures, only so much can be done to hide the heat released by the chemical explosions we use to propel our combat aircraft.

So, even if America’s stealth planes were completely invisible to radar (which they aren’t), they still need to worry about infrared-driven missiles fired in their general direction either as a result of visual detection or low-band radar systems. Pilots go to great lengths to plan out their sorties prior to getting airborne to leverage their stealth aircraft most effectively. Limiting exposure to advanced air defense systems, operating at night to avoid visual detection, and employing strategies regarding altitude and angle of attack all play a role in maintaining a “stealth” profile.

In the event a “heat-seeking” missile does find its way onto the trail of a stealth fighter like the F-22, the aircraft has the ability to deploy flares in an attempt to confuse the infrared-led ordnance. But flares offer an extremely limited form of protection in heavily contested airspace. Because of this, the general rule of thumb on combat sorties is simple: try to avoid situations where the enemy can lob missiles at you, and your chances of success increase dramatically.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
(USAF Photo)

However, in a large scale conflict against a technologically capable foe like China or (to a lesser extent) Russia, America’s stealth aircraft would face challenges unlike any they have in modern warfare, as our fleets of sneaky fighters and bombers came up against some of the most advanced air defense systems currently employed anywhere on the planet. In such a war, losses would be all but certain, and while America may employ more stealth aircraft than any other nation, our total numbers remain in the hundreds. So each stealth aircraft lost would truly be felt.

But new technology under patent by the U.S. Navy could shift the odds even further into the favor of stealth aircraft: leveraging lasers to produce plasma bursts that could trick inbound missiles into thinking they’ve found a jet to chase that would actually be little more than a hologram.

This technology has already been used to create laser-plasma balls that can transmit human speech. I’m going to be honest with you here, that sentence is as hard to wrap my head around as the writer as it probably is for you to grasp as a reader. Talking plasma balls? 

Here’s a video from our friends at Military Times running down this cutting edge plasma technology:

Other applications for this laser system include use as a non-lethal weapon and even as a continuous flashbang grenade that could keep opponents in an area disoriented and unable to respond.

So, how does the Navy intend to leverage this sort of technology to make stealth aircraft even harder to hit? According to their patent, the laser system could be installed on the tail of an aircraft, and upon detection of an inbound missile, could literally project an infrared signature that would be comparable to a moving fighter jet’s exhaust out away from the fighter itself. Multiple systems could literally project multiple aircraft, leaving inbound missiles to go after the decoy plasma “fighters” instead of the actual aircraft itself.

These “laser-induced plasma filaments,” as researchers call them, can be projected up to hundreds of meters, depending on the laser system employed, and (here’s the part that’ll really blow your mind) can be used to emit any wavelength of light. That means these systems could effectively display infrared to fool inbound heat-seeking missiles, ultraviolet, or even visible light. Of course, it’s unlikely that the system could be used to mimic the visual cues of an actual aircraft, but it is possible to produce visible barriers between the weapon operator and the stealth aircraft emitting the laser.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
 That IR Target signature could feasibly appear to be a UAP to an uninformed observer. (Image courtesy of the US Patent Office)

This system could be deployed instantly, reused throughout a mission, and can stay at a desired altitude or location in mid-air; all things flares can’t do. With enough aircraft equipped with these systems (or enough systems equipped on a single aircraft) this method could be used to do far more than just protect jets. In the future, this approach could become a part of a missile defense system employed by Navy ships, carrier strike groups, or even entire cities.

“If you have a very short pulse you can generate a filament, and in the air that can propagate for hundreds of meters, and maybe with the next generation of lasers you could produce a filament of even a mile,” Alexandru Hening, a lead researcher on the patent, told IT magazine in 2017.

It’s likely that we won’t see this technology lighting up the airspace over combat zones any time soon, as there may well be years of research and development left before it finds its way into operational use. However, some have already begun scratching their heads regarding what it appears these laser-induced plasma filaments can do, and how that could explain the unusual behavior recorded in recently acknowledged Navy footage of unidentified aircraft being tracked on FLIR cameras by F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots.

It seems feasible that this technology could be used to fake just such a UFO or UAP sighting… but then, the earliest of these videos was produced in 2004, which would suggest far more advanced laser systems than the United States currently maintains were already in use some 17 years ago.

Could lasers have been used to fake UAP sightings? It seems feasible, but for now, the military’s focus seems set squarely on defensive applications for the patent.

Want to read more about groundbreaking patents filed by the U.S. Navy in recent years?

Read: NAVY TEAM FLOATS IDEA FOR A ‘SPACETIME MODIFICATION WEAPON’ MORE POWERFUL THAN NUKES


This article by Alex Hollings was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

Feature image courtesy of Transport Canada

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Army declares war on head injuries with motorcycle-style ballistic helmet

Three years from now, soldiers could be wearing a new ballistic head protection that resembles a motorcycle helmet as part of the Soldier Protection System under development at Program Executive Office Soldier.


The Integrated Head Protection System features a base helmet with add-ons such as a visor, a “mandible” portion that protects the lower jaw, and a “ballistic applique” that is much like a protective layer that attaches over the base helmet.

Related: SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The base helmet on the IHPS will be similar to the polyethylene Enhanced Combat Helmet that some soldiers are already wearing. Eventually all deploying soldiers will get the IHPS with the base helmet, which is the standard configuration. Other soldiers, vehicle gunners in particular, will also get the mandible portion and the ballistic applique as well, known as the turret configuration, Lt. Col. Kathy Brown, the product manager for Personal Protective Equipment at PEO Soldier, in an Army press release.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
The Integrated Head Protection System is part of the Soldier Protection System. | US Army photo

The visor portion on the IHPS provides ballistic protection to a soldier’s face but doesn’t provide any protection against the sun. So soldiers wearing it will need to wear darkened sunglasses underneath the visor if they are in bright environments.

PEO Soldier has authorized soldiers to wear a special type of sunglasses the can transition from clear to shaded lens with a press of a button.

Brown said the goggles will be available for units to be able to requisition as part of the Soldier Protection System.

“If we are able to drive the price down, the Army could eventually make a decision to include that on the list of items that we carry for deploying soldiers,” Brown said.

Brown said the IHPS will likely be available to deploying Soldiers sometime between 2020 and 2021.

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This Army mother and son duo deployed together

One of the most challenging parts of deployment for many soldiers is being away from friends and family. Soldiers and family members alike often lean on others who share a similar experience during long periods apart.


But one family in the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team is sharing an experience here to make deployment just a little bit easier.

Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, both assigned to Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, deployed to Kuwait recently from Fort Hood, Texas, for nine months in support of U.S. Army Central.

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
Army Capt. Andrea Wolfe, senior brigade physician assistant, and her son, Army Spc. Kameron Wideman, a behavioral health technician, both assigned to the Brigade Support Medical Company, 215th Brigade Support Battalion, are deployed for nine months to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leah R. Kilpatrick)

Wolfe, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, began her Army career as an enlisted lab technician 24 years ago.

“I had two sisters who were in the Army,” she said. “I followed them in. In a family of nine, we couldn’t afford college, so I had to do something to be able to get some kind of college education, and that was the way.”

As far back as she can remember, she said, she wanted to be a nurse. “It’s just something I wanted to get into to help people,” she added.

Educational Opportunities

That aspiration propelled her through her career, taking advantage of educational opportunities in an effort to make her dream a reality. “I tried to get into the nursing program,” she said. “When I was a lab tech instructor in San Antonio, I put in my packet three times for the nursing program.”

After 17 years of enlisted service and multiple attempts, the frustrated sergeant first class decided to try something different.

Related: 10 brothers who received the Medal of Honor

“So I put in a packet to the [physician assistant] program, got picked up the first time, so I figured that was my calling, and I’ve been doing that since 2009,” she said.

Meanwhile, Wolfe was raising a family. Her son, Kameron Wideman, was born in 1996 at her first duty station in Fort Lewis, Washington. Brought up in a devoted military household, it was no surprise when he enlisted in the Army, Wolfe said.

“I was good in school, but I didn’t take it seriously enough, but the Army was always my fallback plan,” said Wideman, a behavioral health technician. “I initially wanted to join just so I could help people. That’s why I got into the medical field.”

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

What started out as just a potential option won his heart, Wideman said, and now he plans on taking classes and completing the prerequisites to submit a packet for the Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program, as his mother did.

Meanwhile, Wolfe and Wideman are tending to the physical and mental well-being of the soldiers deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Wolfe said that while her focus is on her job and taking care of the soldiers, the mom in her can’t help but feel some of the same concerns stateside parents feel about having a child deployed.

Important Mission

“As a mother, you still have that deep-down concern of ‘What if something happens to my baby? What am I going to do?'” she said. “But I can’t let him see that, because I need him to focus on his job and what I need him to do, and that’s to provide mental health, which is something that is very much needed in this day and age.”

Wideman said he enjoys having his mother right down the road. “I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m blessed to have her with me.”

Although Wideman has served only two years in the Army, he is no stranger to the deployment experience from a family member’s perspective. His mother, father, and stepfather all serve on active duty.

Also read: Watch Jimmy Fallon and The Rock beautifully reunite a military family

“All three of my parents have deployed at some point,” he said. “It was tough as a little kid saying goodbye to your parents. When you’re little, you tend to have a big imagination. You’re thinking, ‘Oh no! I’m probably never going to see my parents again,’ because you’re little, and you’re in your own head about it.”

But the experience of being the kid who was left behind didn’t prepare him to actually be deployed himself, he said.

“I still didn’t really know what deployment was,” he said. “It was like this random place that my parents were going to for like a year and then coming back. I didn’t really know how to picture where they were.”

Thankfully, he said, he had a source close to home to answer his questions.

“I had the normal questions like, ‘How are we going to be living?” and me being a millennial, ‘Is there going to be Internet?’ and things like that,” he said.

Wolfe and her husband, Army 1st Sgt. Andrew Wolfe, a company first sergeant at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, Texas, help mentor Wideman through his Army career with advice and guidance.

Drive, Motivation, Discipline

Echoes of the same drive, motivation, dedication and discipline that exemplify Wolfe’s career path are evident in Wideman’s.

“We cross paths every now and then,” she said. “I don’t see him all the time. I let Kameron be Kameron. We are passionate about the military. This is our Army. My husband is a first sergeant, and I used to be an E-7 before I switched over, so that leadership is instilled in both of us, and that comes out in the way we raise our kids — the leadership, the discipline, the morale, the ethics, everything. This is the way you’re supposed to live.”

Wolfe said she often finds herself giving the same advice to her soldiers that she gives to her son.

“Get all you can out of the military, because it’s going to get all it can out of you, and that was my insight coming up,” Wolfe said.

“I don’t know how many colleges I went to, because I needed classes. I went to school all the time, and I was just taking advantage of the opportunities that were out there. That’s what I tell all my soldiers coming up in the military. You have to take advantage of it. No one’s going to give it to you. You have to go and get it.”

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How quickly a wing of nuclear bombers scramble for Doomsday

You might call it the Doomsday scramble, but it’s not exactly that. It’s when an Air Force bomber wing sends up its planes as quickly as they possibly can – before an inter-continental ballistic missile can hit its target.


Given that it takes an ICBM about 30 minutes, to arrive to its target – that is not a lot of time. In fact, it will get there faster than a pizza you ordered. So, it looks like a base would be doomed before it could get all of its bombers up. Well, you’d be wrong. During the Cold War, Strategic Air Command came up with what they called the “Minimum Interval Take-Off” – or MITO.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong

In essence, the MITO is a well-rehearsed mad dash to get the planes up. They take off at the rate of four a minute – one every fifteen seconds. This is done by a dance called the “elephant walk” – a specialized form of taxiing to the runway to get bombers (or transports or fighters) ready for a mad scramble.

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Three U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft from the 2nd Bombardement Wing take off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana (USA). Three cells of six B-52s and KC-10 Extender aircraft took off seconds apart under combat conditions during a minimum interval takeoff exercise in 1986. (USAF photo)

This video below is from Global Thunder 17, an exercise that took place this past October. It starts with a lot of SUVs and pickups driving like crazy – that’s how the Air Force gets the crews to the planes – which are dispersed to make it harder for one nuke to kill the entire wing. Then the BUFFs taxi to the runway.

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Two B-52Gs take off during a 1986 exercise. (USAF photo)

Then, one by one, the B-52H Stratofortress bombers take off. The goal is to have an incoming ICBM hit an empty base. So far, this has only been done in drills, but if that Doomsday moment ever comes, it looks as if the Air Force will be ready for it.

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This is why the UH-1 Huey became a symbol of the Vietnam War

The Vietnam War’s icon was arguably the UH-1 helicopter. Officially designated the Iroquois (‘Huey’ is more of a term of endearment), this helicopter has been the most-produced in history, first flying in 1956 — that means it has just over six decades of service with the United States military!


Over 7,000 Hueys were used in Vietnam, and 2,500 were lost during the war.

According to the Naval Institute Guide to World Military Aviation, the UH-1D had the ability to carry up to 16 passengers and crew.

The chopper could also carry just under 3,900 pounds of equipment in the cabin or 5,000 pounds in an external sling. It also could serve as a potent gunship, firing 70mm rockets, M60 machine guns in 7.62mm NATO, and M134 miniguns.

 

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Soldiers of the U.S. Amry 1/7th Cavalry disembark from a Bell UH-1D Huey at LZ X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang. (U.S. Army photo)

The secret to the Huey’s success was a gas turbine engine that not only was able to perform at higher temperatures and in less-dense air than previous helicopters, but it was also much lighter than previous helicopter engines.

This allowed the Huey to be smaller (48-foot rotor diameter, 57 foot length) and lighter — making it fast (a top speed of 135 miles per hour) and maneuverable. It had a range of 315 miles, giving American troops the ability to strike hard and fast at a distance.

The chopper’s mobility meant that in a one-year tour, the average infantry soldier saw 240 days of combat. For some perspective, in the Pacific Theater during WWII, the average grunt saw 40 days over the nearly four years that conflict lasted.

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U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom flies during an exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

Today, versions of the UH-1 are still in service with the Marine Corps (the UH-1Y Venom), the Air Force (UH-1N), and Navy (UH-1N). The Army’s last Huey mission was flown on Dec. 15, 2016. According to an Army release, the helicopter was handed off to the Louisiana State Police a week later.

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Sinking ships? The Army requests $1 billion to do just that

With the Department of Defense reorienting itself toward the Pacific, the Army is requesting to purchase more than triple the number of Precision Strike Missiles (PrSMs) in the fiscal year 2022 compared with 2021. The service is requesting 110 of the new long-range attack weapons. Seeking to solidify both a stronger operational capacity in the Pacific and to deter China, the Army hopes for more than $1 billion to fund 2022 research and development of long-range missiles, such as the PrSM, for targeting ships at sea.

According to the Army, the Precision Strike Missiles will not be fully operational until 2023. However, in May, the Army successfully hit a target with the missile at 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. During this test, which produced the longest distance yet that the Army has fired the projectile, the missile was fired from a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

“PrSM accomplished all of the Army’s test objectives again today in its longest flight yet,” Gaylia Campbell, vice president of precision fires at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said in a press release.

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A Precision Strike Missile launches from a HIMARS during a demonstration in 2019. The Army has requested 110 of the missiles for 2022. US Army photo, courtesy of Lockheed Martin/released.

Later this year, the Army plans to test the Precision Strike Missile out to distances of at least 1,000 kilometers, Defense News reported. To do so, the Army is requesting $5 million in the 2022 budget to develop this capability, describing it as one of its “critical technologies.” Additionally, the Army has made Precision Strike Missile development a priority program in order to replace the older Army Tactical Missile System and solidify the service’s role in the Pacific.

While working to extend the range of the Precision Strike Missile, the Army is also enhancing the missile’s guidance system and requested $188.5 million in 2022 funding to do so. Currently, the missile is guided by GPS, which has proven accurate in testing. However, Defense News reported that the Army would add “seekers” to the missiles as it refines the weapons platform. The added guidance will enable the missile to precisely engage smaller targets, such as ships.

“The early capability is against long-range artillery and integrated air defense systems,” Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team director, told Defense News. “As you integrate the seeker technology, it gives you the ability to go after the mini-targets. Those mini-targets can be maritime in the Pacific; those mini-targets can be fire control radars [and airfields] in the European scenario.”

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Both the Army and the Marine Corps currently employ the HIMARS system to test different anti-ship missiles and capabilities. US Army photo, courtesy of Lockheed Martin/released.

The focus on long-range strike capabilities, particularly against naval vessels, comes as the Office of Naval Intelligence estimates that the Chinese navy is on pace to have 400 ships by the end of the fiscal year 2025. In a May essay in War on the Rocks, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen. Laura Potter wrote that an Army presence supporting naval operations through Long Range Precision Fires would be vital to deterring China and, if necessary, fighting a war.

Flynn is the US Army chief of staff for operations, strategy, and planning, and Potter is the US Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

“If naval and air forces are out of position, the Army can still access and employ its greater intelligence network with integrated protection and long-range fires to enable the military to deliver multi-domain effects,” the pair wrote. “Without landpower, the commander is reliant on the positioning of naval and air forces to deter and respond. With it, he can assure, deter, and respond at any time and in a manner of his choosing.”

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A live-fire demonstration using multiple HIMARS systems is performed during Exercise Talisman Sabre. US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Maldonado, courtesy of DVIDS.

The development of this anti-ship capability by the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force indicates what Pentagon leadership envisions will happen in a future fight. Speaking before the Hudson Institute, Gen. John Hyten, 11th vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described how there would be no “lines” on a future battlefield. Each service, therefore, will have overlapping capabilities.

“In the future, those lines are eliminated, which means an army capability can have on its own platform, the ability to defend itself or the ability to strike deep into an adversary area of operations,” Hyten said. “We create such a huge advantage for the future joint combined force that it will create huge challenges for our competitors around the world.”


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Bill Boeker/released.

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Marines arrive in Syria to support assault on ISIS capital

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.


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Marines with the 11th MEU train in Djibouti. Leathernecks from the 11th MEU reportedly just deployed to Syria to bolster an assault on Raqqa. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Read More: STRYKER combat vehicles roll into Syria

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

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