The US military spokesman for the coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria acknowledged on Wednesday that American military advisors have been knee deep in the offensive to retake the city of Mosul.
“They have been in the city at different times, yes,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters, according to ABC News. Though, he said, “they’ve advised Iraqi Security Forces as they’ve moved forward. They remain behind the forward line of troops.”
The battle to retake Mosul began in October, and Iraqi forces have encountered fierce resistance and significant casualties. For example, Iraq’s elite “Golden Brigade” of special operations troops have suffered upwards of “50 percent casualties” in the fight, which could eventually make them combat ineffective, according to a Pentagon officer who spoke with Politico.
Casualties have also hit US forces as well. Since October, the number of Americans wounded in combat has nearly doubled since OIR kicked off in August 2014.
That’s likely due to US forces working more closely with their Iraqi counterparts. Though US officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region as merely training, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces, the latest situation report from the Institute for the Study of War says that US and coalition forces have “embedded their advisors at lower-levels in the [Iraqi Security Forces].”
In other words, US special operations forces are often not remaining behind the front lines — especially considering a “front line” in the anti-ISIS fight is murky at best — but instead, are right in the thick of it with Iraqi troops.
The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.
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.
Scientists examining the genome of Egyptian fruit bats, a natural reservoir for the deadly Marburg virus, have identified several immune-related genes that suggest bats deal with viral infections in a substantially different way than primates. Their research, published online today in the journal Cell, demonstrates that bats may be able to host viruses that are pathogenic in humans by tolerating — rather than overcoming — the infection.
Bats are known to harbor many viruses, including several that cause disease in humans, without demonstrating symptoms. To identify differences between antiviral mechanisms in humans and bats, the research team sequenced, assembled, and analyzed the genome of Rousettus aegyptiacus, the Egyptian fruit bat — a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus.
Jonathan Towner, Ph.D., of the Viral Special Pathogens Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the bats from which the DNA was extracted. Towner had traveled to Uganda to investigate the colony of Egyptian fruit bats implicated in a Marburg fatality there.
(Photo by Zoharby)
“Using that DNA, we generated the most contiguous bat genome to date and used it to understand the evolution of immune genes and gene families in bats. This is classical comparative immunology and a good example of the link between basic and applied sciences,” explained co-senior author Gustavo Palacios, Ph.D., who heads the Center for Genome Sciences at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.
In the process, Palacios and colleagues at CDC and Boston University made some striking findings. Specifically, they discovered an expanded and diversified family of natural killer (NK) cell receptors, MHC class I genes, and type I interferons, which dramatically differ from their functional counterparts in other mammals, including mice and nonhuman primates. A theoretical function evaluation of these genes suggests that a higher threshold of activation of some component of the immune system may exist in bats.
NK cells are immune cells that play a crucial role against viral infections. To be tolerant against healthy tissue and simultaneously attack infected cells, the activity of NK cells is tightly regulated by an array of activating and inhibiting receptors. In this publication, the authors describe finding genomic evidence of a bias toward the inhibitory signal in NK cells.
“Further evaluation of these expanded sets of genes suggests that other key components of the immune system like the MHC- and the IFN-loci in bats may have evolved toward a state of immune tolerance,” said Mariano Sanchez-Lockhart, Ph.D., of USAMRIID.
The team’s initial work focused on advancing the characterization of the bat animal model, as well as on generating antibodies that recognize bat-specific proteins and other reagents to characterize the bat animal model of infection. These tools will allow further characterization of the bat unique immune system.
According to Palacios, their next step is to build on the knowledge gained thus far to compare antiviral responses between bats and nonhuman primates. Ultimately, this information will be used to understand correlates of protection in bats and to develop therapeutics against Marburg virus and other lethal filovirus infections.
On June 21, a former Navy SEAL testified that his military career ended when he was shot in the leg during a hastily planned mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier left his post in Afghanistan.
Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the judge that his team had about 90 minutes to plan their mission and board helicopters after receiving information about Bergdahl’s purported whereabouts shortly after he disappeared in 2009. While pursuing enemy fighters on foot, Hatch was hit by fire from an AK-47. Hatch says he survived because members of his team quickly applied a tourniquet while waiting for a medical helicopter.
“They saved me from bleeding to death for sure,” he testified during the pretrial hearing. Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a service dog and a limp, said he’s had 18 surgeries because of the wound.
Also on June 21, the military judge told defense attorneys they can ask potential military jurors about President Donald Trump on a lengthy written questionnaire. Defense lawyers have argued Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl will prevent him from getting a fair trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.
Prosecutors want to use the injuries to Hatch and others as evidence during sentencing if Bergdahl is convicted. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, already ruled that the injury evidence can’t be used during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial scheduled for October.
A legal scholar not involved in the case, Eric Carpenter, said the decision on the injuries could be pivotal.
“This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” said Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.”
Defense attorney Eugene Fidell declined to say after the hearing whether his client is interested in a plea bargain.
The topic also came up during the hearing. Defense attorneys asked the judge to rule that any alleged desertion ended when Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban hours after he left the remote post. They say the determination is needed so they can advise their client on how to plead to the desertion charge.
“We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are,” Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.
Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren’t satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense’s arguments about the duration of Bergdahl’s absence.
The judge also said he would rule later on a motion to dismiss the misbehavior-before-the-enemy charge, which could land Bergdahl in prison for life. Defense attorneys say prosecutors chose the wrong building blocks for the offense because the actions cited in the charge wouldn’t be independently criminal, an argument that prosecutors dispute.
Later in the hearing, Nance said he would allow the defense to probe potential jurors’ feelings about Trump in a questionnaire being sent in the coming weeks. Prosecutors have objected to 17 of the approximately 40 questions, including ones asking how prospective panel members voted in the presidential election.
“I’m going to let you ask pretty much all the questions, but with some changes to address the government’s concerns,” Nance said.
Nance asked for further written arguments before the questionnaire is finalized. The judge previously said he would allow the defense wide leeway to question potential jurors, even though he rejected a motion to dismiss the case over Trump’s comments entirely in a February ruling.
Bergdahl left his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban and its allies for about five years. The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade.
Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base, has said he walked off his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Almost 50,000 service members are homeless, but this man is working to change that.
“They had our backs, let’s keep the shirts on theirs” is more than just a motto for Mark Doyle. It’s the business model on which he built Rags of Honor, his veteran-operated business.
Originally a consultant, Doyle was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as a forensic accountant for the Army. After returning to the U.S., he saw the same men and women who had given their lives for their country struggling to survive. In fact, only one-quarter of returning soldiers between the ages of 19 and 25 were employed. Even worse, many were homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
“I could never square when I got back the commitment that they made every day, with the reality of their life when they came home,” Doyle says.
Founded in 2012, Rags of Honor is a silk-screen printing company based in Chicago that provides employment and other services to veterans. In the three years since its inception, Rags of Honor has grown from four employees to 22, all but one of whom are veterans at high risk of homelessness.
It’s been 10 years since the United States Air Force retired the F-117 Nighthawk (an aircraft so secret, Nevada folklore labeled it a UFO).
“The Nighthawk pilots were known by the call sign ‘Bandit,’ each earning their number with their first solo flight. Some of the maintainers were also given a call sign,” said Wayne Paddock, a former F-117 maintainer currently stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
“The people who maintained the coatings on the aircraft radar absorbent material were classified as material application and repair specialists (MARS). MARS morphed into Martians,” Paddock said. “MARS was a shred out from the structural repair/corrosion control career field.”
The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s as a capability for attacking high value targets without being detected by enemy radar. It had up to 5,000 pounds of assorted internal stores, two engines, and could travel up to 684 mph.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert)
“It was the first airplane designed and built as a low-observable, stable, and therefore precise platform,” said Yancy Mailes, director of the history and museums program for Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, and a former F-117 maintainer.
“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” Mailes said. “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building in Iraq.”
(Airman Magazine photo)
The first Nighthawk flew June 18, 1981, and the original F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group (renamed the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing in October 1989) achieved initial operating capability in October 1983. The Nighthawk originally saw combat during Operation Just Cause in 1989, when two F-117s from the 37th TFW attacked military targets in Panama. The aircraft was also in action during Operation Desert Shield.
Retired Col. Jack Forsythe, remembers being excited when he initially flew a Nighthawk while stationed at Holloman AFB in 1995.
“It was a unique experience,” he said. “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 and F-35 pilots feel today.”
After 25 years of service, the Nighthawk retired April 22, 2008. Forsythe led the four-ship formation to Palmdale, California, where Lockheed Martin staff said their farewells.
“We lowered the bomb doors of each aircraft and people signed their names to the doors,” Forsythe said. “It was really just kind of neat; they had designed it, built it, and maintained it for these 25 years, so it really hit home – the industry and Air Force partnership that made the Nighthawk great. I think the four of us were just really struck by that and have some really great memories of that flight.”
The American flag was painted on the entire underside of his F-117 by the maintainers to help celebrate American airpower.
“I think we all recognized that this was something historic,” he said. “We retired an airplane that people still reference today. We really understood that, so it was a sentimental flight to say the least. It was a great weapon system, very stable and easy to fly. It’s still a memorable experience.”
A top U.S. military technology company has announced that it’s working on new technology to give tank and armored vehicle crews a 360-degree view of the outside even when they’re buttoned up in armor with no windows.
Basically, crews will be able to see a virtual view of the world through the steel-plated sides of their tanks.
The new helmet technology being developed by Raytheon BBN Technologies is part of a project initiated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, to develop futuristic survivability tools for armored vehicles.
“Our team is developing a virtual experience that gives the crews of armored military vehicles greater awareness of what’s going on outside the vehicle, while also reducing their vulnerability to attack,” David Diller, a program manager for Raytheon BBN Technologies, said in a press release. “We’re creating a three-dimensional model of the environment in real time that gives users views of their outside environment that would not normally be possible from inside the vehicle.”
The team aims to incorporate trackers for friendly forces, hostile fire, and known threats into the crew’s displays so the troops can concentrate on maneuver and tactics.
The system aims to use lidar, the same laser-imaging science that is in Google’s self-driving cars, to create the map of the surroundings while high-definition video lets the crew see what is going on around them.
Pilots who fly the F-35 Lightning II currently have a system that uses that plane’s sensors to achieve a similar effect, allowing the pilot to “see” through the aircraft. While the F-35 program has come under fire for cost overruns and delays, pilots and program managers have pointed at the tactical awareness the helmet gives as a game-changer in future fights.
If tank crews can get similar awareness when they’re going toe-to-toe with enemy armor, that could tip the scales in their favor during a decisive battle.
Raytheon BBN Technologies is owned by the Raytheon Company and is working on DARPA’s Grond X-Vehicle Technologies program, which aims to improve America’s vehicles by enhancing mobility, agility, crew augmentation, and signature management.
Everyone in America saw it: a commercial from Google during the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII that highlighted their “Jobs for Veterans” MOS Translator. At last, many veterans watching at home exclaimed, Google has brought their unmatched search functionality to translate military skills and connect veterans to the right career opportunities.
“I was excited to try it out,” said Joe Bongon, a Navy veteran who now serves as an employment support specialist for veterans at the GI Go Fund in Newark, NJ. “Google makes everything easier; I was confident that they would help me find jobs for the vets I work with based off their skills.”
So, he entered in his military rating: Aviation Machinist Mate. The results were scattered, primarily offering jobs as a Food Service Specialist and Warehouse Worker.
“Unfortunately, it turned out to not be much different than a lot of the ones I’ve used before,” he said.
Such is the struggle for veterans looking for a system to accurately connect them to the right job opportunities. Military veterans have consistently performed tasks similar to those available in the civilian world, and have often done so under more difficult and stressful environments. So why do so many translators on the market, including the one recently developed by the most powerful search engine in the world, produce such underwhelming results? It’s all about the DATA!!!
Back in 1998, the Department of Labor (DOL) set out to provide veterans with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Translator that would connect them to civilian job titles based on what they had done in the military.
They created “My Next Move by O*NET,” which translated approximately 900 military careers into civilian language, as well as a handful of corresponding job titles that related to the military skills. While DOL’s O*NET translator was innovative at the time of its creation 20 years ago, it is now a static relic, having received virtually no updates in two decades, kinda like the canteen in a camelback world.
This means that many 21st century industries, such as robotics, cyber security, software development, or advanced manufacturing, which have become staples of the modern workforce, do not show up as potential job opportunities for today’s veterans. Even worse, every military branch periodically updates its MOS codes – over time, this has resulted in thousands of additions to their MOS listings that are not recognized in O*NET. For example (and there are many similar examples), if a Marine separated from the military today with an MOS of “6325 – Aircraft Communications / Navigation / Electrical / Weapons Systems Technician, V-22” and used the O*NET translator, it would populate zero results because this MOS did not exist in 1998. This MOS is for a technician for the V-22 Osprey, a tiltrotor aircraft that the Marine Corps began crew training for only in 2000, and did not formally introduce to the field until 2007.
So the DOL, the agency that is tasked with ensuring all Americans are able to connect to the best job opportunities, has a military skills translator that is in desperate need of an update. Worse yet, virtually every private sector or nonprofit organization that has developed its own translator is relying on this same outdated data in O*NET. This, as one could imagine, has made the task of finding a quality MOS translator for the modern workforce difficult. We’ve spent years trying different MOS translators to find one that works for today’s veterans. However, we did find one translator that considers other variables besides just your MOS code; JobPath.
JobPath is built on the idea that a veteran’s rank, service, and experience also play an important role in finding the right job. While other translators fail to differentiate between ranks, and focus solely on the job category, which often leads to inappropriate matching between actual military experience and civilian positions, JobPath provides a glimpse into the type of leadership roles the veteran held, as well as their additional responsibilities within their units.
Justin Constantine, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel JAG attorney and author of From We Will to At Will about veteran employment hiring, tried MOS tool after tool over the years, but was continually disappointed. Most MOS translators produced less-than-accurate results. “One in particular said I should be a mascot or work in the company store,” said Constantine. “I didn’t become an attorney to stand around all day in a costume taking pictures and waving to kids. No veteran I know is looking for a job like that.”
That’s when Constantine, now the Chief Business Development officer at JobPath, took on the mission to build a more effective tool. In partnership with military leaders and HR professionals from Fortune 500 companies, JobPath developed their translator to ensure that their data is clear, concise, and modernized for today’s marketplace. They manually evaluated, rewrote, and matched every MOS code to the best job categories and compatible employment opportunities. The end result: over 7,000 military career codes mapped to the correlating civilian job openings utilizing the appropriate industry buzzwords and keywords recognized by recruiters and Applicant Tracking Systems.
“Our software intelligently connects veterans to the right job opportunities based on their military skills, education, rank, job training, and civilian work experience, each of which are important elements to understanding a veteran’s full work history,” said Constantine.
We are glad to see that there is a translator like JobPath’s out on the market, but one is not enough. Until major companies throughout the employment space build their translators the same way that JobPath did, most veterans will not receive the job translations they deserve.
A U.S. Air Force C-146A landed unannounced (and apparently uninvited) at Libya’s al-Watiyeh airbase last weekend. The numbers on the airplane that landed at the base Southwest of Tripoli match with craft assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron. Once on the ground, it dispatched a number of personnel, presumably American special operators.
The team of armed men wearing civilian clothes deplaned after 6am on December 14, 2015 without any cooperation from local authorities, which is why they were asked to take off. Their arrival had just enough time for the Libyan Air Force to broadcast them on social media.
The visit comes at a crucial time in Libya’s post-Qaddafi history. Factions of fractured Libya formed coalitions, militias and legislatures to claim legitimacy as the true head of government. One faction is Islamist-based and controls the traditional capital of Tripoli. The other is the democratically-elected, internationally-recognized government with the support of the Libyan Army, based in Tobruk. The two have been fighting since 2014.
The purpose of the short layover is not yet known. The plane is part of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of unassuming special-ops planes with civilian call signs. (The Air Force has 17 of these.) According to Inquisitr, when the Libyan Air Force personnel asked the assumed special forces members why they were there, the soldiers replied that they were part of a larger operation held “in coordination with other members of the Libyan army.” The forces were turned away anyway.
Actress Gal Gadot took a break from shooting the highly anticipated Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel to 2017’s incredibly successful Wonder Woman, to visit the children at the Inova Children’s Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia early July 2018. And Gadot went big with it. Not only did the Israeli actress show up in full Wonder Woman regalia, she took photos with seemingly every patient in the place. One can only guess that the kids were pleased, but the adults took some time geek out really hard too.
The pictures say it all, Gadot just seems pleased to be able to make a few people happy. The photos shared to Twitter and Instagram, show her kissing some babies and posing with a huge chunk of the hospital staff.
“When Wonder Woman (the REAL Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot), comes to visit, you take as many pictures as you can!” wrote one enthused healthcare worker.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.
Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.
The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.
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The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, a $684 million Legend-class cutter, the second longest of its kind, nabbed an estimated $748 million worth of cocaine in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2015, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson released in a statement. Its single largest bust saw it catch 7.5 tons of the drug in a narco-sub off the coast of Central America.
To put the Bertholf’s haul in perspective, a Coast Guard task force seized a fast boast laden with cocaine in early November 2015, hauling 22 packages worth a paltry $17 million in comparison. Her crew probably has bragging rights for the next decade.