This is how a Predator can make the world a better place - We Are The Mighty
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This is how a Predator can make the world a better place

When a senior al-Qaeda terrorist (or one from the Islamic State or Boko Haram) gets blown to smithereens, it makes the world a better place. An MQ-1 Predator drone made that happen late last month when its AGM-114 Hellfire missiles killed a senior al-Qaeda leader by the name of Farouq al-Qahtani.


This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
A MQ-1B Predator from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom here July 9, 2008. Through the use of advanced capabilities, focused doctrine and detailed training the predator provides integrated and synchronized close air combat operations, to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)

According to a report by BBC News, al-Qahtani was hiding out in Kunar Provine, Afghanistan when the Predator carried out the strike on Oct. 23. Al-Qahtani’s death was confirmed by the Pentagon on Nov. 5. The Daily Caller reported that documents captured during the 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden mentioned al-Qahtani as a well-known figure, who was known by the alias Furuq al-Qatari.

“We have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari,” one operative of the terrorist group wrote. The United States admitted Oct. 28 he was the target of a drone strike.

Read More: The US just droned 2 of the top terrorists in Afghanistan

Predator and Reaper drones (also known as “Predator Bs”) have killed a number of high-ranking terrorists. Here’s some of the “greatest hits” that the MQ-1/AGM-114 Hellfire combination has pulled off:

Anwar al-Awlaki: A high-ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki was involved in the attempt to use an underwear bomb to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and had been in contact with the perpetrator of the November 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. He also preached at the mosque that was attended by at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki died on Sept. 30, 2011.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
An MQ-9 Reaper, also known as a Predator B, comes in for a landing. (Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi: Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi was one of the suspected masterminds of the attack on USS Cole in October 2000. The strike carried out in November 2002 that killed him and five other al-Qaeda operatives was the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle was used against a senior terrorist.

Hakimullah Mehsud: The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed on Nov. 1, 2013. During his tenure, the Pakistani Taliban carried out the murder-suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in 2010 and the shooting of Malala Yousefzai on Oct. 9, 2012.

Baitullah Mehsud: The founder of the Pakistani Taliban and the immediate predecessor of Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on Aug. 5, 2009. Under his leadership the Pakistani Taliban had carried out the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

Not a bad start. Hopefully, there will be many more.

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Enlisted pilots will fly for the first time since World War II

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place


Enlisted pilots have not been in the Air Force since its inception in 1947. They were not paid well,  they did not have many opportunities for promotion, and were treated “harshly” in training. Even the title of the book about enlisted pilot heritage is called They Also Flew. 

The lack of commissioned officers to handle global aircraft transport and other monotonous work led to three generations of enlisted pilots. Non-commissioned officers were usually certified to fly in the civilian world, but not qualified to be commanders.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Are you the valet? Don’t scratch my plane, Sergeant. (Air Force Museum photo)

In the grand military tradition of throwing enlisted bodies at work no officer wants to do, the Air Force will bring back the tradition of the enlisted pilot to help augment their drone pilot numbers.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
And ask any Security Forces troop how well augmentees work out. (U.S. Air Force photo)

After “months of study,” the Air Force is working to fix the issues of its drone operations programs. Drones have become the signature tool in the Global War on Terror in recent years, operating in intelligence, counter-terrorism, and surveillance roles. Drone pilots complain they are overworked and stressed out while Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says Air Force commanders demand more and more drone operations.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
The  RQ-4 Global Hawk (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobbi Zapka)

Now enlisted personnel will be allowed to pilot the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone and may eventually be permitted to operate the missile-firing MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones. The Air Force says the initial step of opening the Global Hawk is because it is easier to operate.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
See the Air Force enlisted corps as Deborah Lee James must see them.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh ordered Air Combat Command to initiate a six-month implementation plan for the new pilots.

In days gone by, enlisted pilots usually were assigned to fly light reconnaissance and artillery-spotter aircraft, cargo aircraft, and medium- and heavy-weight bombers. In 1942, Congress passed the Flight Officer Act, which replaced flying sergeants with Warrant Officers, which were also discarded by the Air Force. In 1943, all enlisted flyers were promoted to the new “Flight Officer” rank. The enlisted legacy is a long and storied one. Enlisted pilots taught Charles Lindbergh to fly. One of the last members of the enlisted pilot training program was Gen. Chuck Yeager, who would become famous for breaking the sound barrier later in his career.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Did you hear that, Secretary James? No? Maybe it’s because I got here faster than sound. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Drone pilots already complain that they are held in lower regard than traditional fighter pilots and that allowing enlisted airmen in will only increase the stigma.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Yeah, because who wants to be lumped in with Enlisted Airmen? (pictured: Air Force Cross recipient Zachary Rhyner- U.S. Air Force photo)

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US Army gives heroic Marine a posthumous medal upgrade to Silver Star

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Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps, Cpl. Joshua Murray)


The family of a decorated special operations Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011 received his Silver Star after the U.S. Army took the unusual step of upgrading one of his prior medals.

Staff Sgt. Nicholas Sprovtsoff, 28, an explosive ordnance disposal technician with MARSOC’s 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion earned the Bronze Star with combat valor device in 2011 for working heroically to disarm a bomb in Afghanistan before an explosion left him fatally wounded.

But a prior deployment to Afghanistan with an Army unit in 2007, Sprovtsoff had already distinguished himself as a hero. While serving as a sergeant with Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-1, attached to the Army’s 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, Sprovtsoff had conducted himself with distinction during a 48-hour firefight.

According to a medal citation obtained by Military.com, he fought with “disregard for his own safety and in spite of wounds sustained in combat,” coordinating his unit’s defense during the long fight.

The medal was approved and awarded as a Bronze Star, but upgraded to a Silver Star last year, said Capt. Barry Morris, a spokesman for MARSOC. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times Friday.

“[Sprovstoff’s] command at the time nominated him for a Bronze star with “V,” Morris explained. “As it went up the chain, his actions were so heroic, the Army upgraded him to a Silver Star; but at the end of the day, when someone hit the approve button, it was approved as a Bronze Star, rather than a Silver Star.”

Morris said the Army ultimately caught the error and coordinated with the Marine Corps to upgrade the award.

Calls from Military.com to the Army’s awards branch, which oversaw the medal upgrade, were not returned Friday.

The commander of MARSOC, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, presented Sprovstoff’s widow, Tasha, with the award in a ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado, according to Marine Corps Times.

“[Sprovtsoff’s] courage, dedication and sacrifice inspire us on a daily basis to help others, to cherish our freedom, and to try to make a positive difference in the world,” Osterman said in a statement. “Also, the individual sacrifices [his] family have made is extremely important for MARSOC to recognize. We will always be inspired by the actions of our fellow Raiders and we will strive to operate at a level that honors them and their family.”

Sprovtsoff was killed Sept. 28, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan and buried in Arlington Cemetery Oct. 6 of the same year.

According to his Bronze Star citation from that deployment, Sprovtsoff had fearlessly and safely led a team of Marines through a region filled with improvised explosive devices following an enemy ambush. His work during the deployment had led to the elimination of 40 IEDs.

Sprovstoff and his wife Tasha are featured in Oliver North’s 2013 book “American Heroes on the Homefront.”

While Sprovtsoff’s award upgrade appears to be an outlier due to an administrative error, there could be more upgrades coming for American troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Pentagon announced in January that it would review all Silver Stars and service crosses awarded after Sept. 11, 2001 — some 1,100 awards — to determine whether a higher upgrade is warranted. The military services have until Sept. 30, 2017, to turn their recommendations in to the secretary of defense.

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Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.


Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.

Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.

The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.

The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.

Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:

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Marines train with AK-47s, PK machine guns to prep for Afghanistan deployment

Marines are heading back to Helmand province, Afghanistan this spring for an advisory mission that will put them back in the thick of the fight between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces.


In preparation for the upcoming mission, the 300-man contingent of Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest spent a day honing foreign weapons skills to familiarize themselves with the arms the Afghans use every day. On Jan. 17, the Marines practiced firing two well-known Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons: the PK general-purpose machine gun and AK-47 rifle, according to a news release from II Marine Expeditionary Force by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins.

Related: Service branches and elite units are testing a 60-round drum

Hopkins noted in the release that these weapons are used by both allies and enemies in the region, making it important for the Marines to understand them and their use.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Marines with Task Force Southwest fire PK general-purpose machine guns during foreign weapons familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

“We want these Marines to familiarize themselves with weapons they might find down range,” Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Scott, the foreign weapons chief instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, said in a statement. “They need to be able to talk intelligently about them to their foreign security force, and that’ll help them build rapport and hopefully help them become successful in the long run.”

The weapons course also included live-fire ranges with weapons systems more familiar to Marines: the Mk-19 machine gun and the 60mm mortar.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
A Marine with Task Force Southwest fires an AK-47 during foreign weapons and familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Before the Marines deploy, they will also train with hired Afghan roleplayers–a mainstay of military cultural training.

“I find it… inspirational that I get to help and be a part of the step that gets Marines back into Afghanistan,” Sgt. Hayden Chrestmen, a machine gun instructor with the Division Combat Skills Center, said in the release “As an Afghanistan veteran, it’s extremely important they know how to operate these weapon systems because they’re protecting their brothers to the left and right of them.”

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Marines may expand PSYOPS with new job specialty

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred


As the Marine Corps looks to prepare for future conflicts and expand key highly skilled communities, the service will consider adding a new primary military occupational specialty: 0521, Military Information Support Operations.

A briefing document obtained by Military.com proposes expanding what is now a free, or additional MOS, into a primary MOS and increasing the total number of MISO Marines from 87 to a steady state of 322. The enlisted-only MOS would be composed chiefs of sergeants and staff sergeants, with a tapering senior enlisted leadership structure.

MISO, which has also been called psychological operations, or PSYOP, aims to influence emotions and behavior by targeted messaging and information distribution. It requires an understanding of the people and cultures with whom Marines will interact and how they are affected by various communication strategies. Humvees equipped with loudspeakers that blast messages to communities, leaflet information campaigns, and one-on-one meetings with local leaders all fall under the umbrella of MISO.

Currently, the Marine Corps deploys its small community of MISO Marines in teams of two to four aboard Marine expeditionary units and its special purpose Marine air-ground task forces for Africa and the Middle East. They also support elite operations at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and assist in major exercises and sometimes with larger Marine force operations.

The MISO MOS brief, prepared in October 2015 by Col. Drew Cukor, commanding officer of Marine Corps Information Operations Center in Quantico, Virginia, which contains the MISO program, notes that U.S. adversaries have seen success in exploiting the “information environment” to their own advantage.

“[Marines] may win physical battles but still lose because of failure to fight effectively in the cognitive dimension,” Cukor notes.

Creating a MISO primary MOS would allow the Corps to get more value from the investment it makes training its Marines, the brief notes. Currently, about 30 Marines a year complete a 17-week training course at Fort Bragg, N.C. at a cost of $12,000 per student, plus another $5,000 per Marine to obtain a required Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance. Total training costs add up to more than $600,000, according to the brief.

However, few MISO Marines remain in the community, with 80 percent choosing to end active service following their three-year tour in the free MOS.

In an award-winning Dec. 2015 essay published by the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, Marine Sgt. Dion Edon, a MISO Marine, said that those in his community tended to seek out other opportunities after their three-year tours because there was little incentive to stay.

“The Marine Corps loses an Army Special Operations Forces–trained Marine to the civilian contracting world, Army SOF, or the fleet, where their MISO-specific knowledge is unavailable,” he wrote. “The MISO MOS should become a primary MOS with warrant and limited-duty officer opportunities so that the Marine Corps can retain its investment in behavioral experts who can support senior-level staff with technical expertise and advice.”

Edon, who recently returned from a deployment supporting the 15th MEU as a MISO noncommissioned officer, also proposed giving MISO Marines more regionally focused and language specific training, and incorporating them further into Marine Corps planning and wargaming operations.

He quoted 15th MEU commanding officer Col. Vance Cryer, who said the addition of the MISO capability aboard the MEU had resulted in a “much more refined” approach to the integration of intelligence with operations.

“The MISO mission and support provides me [with] critical context, insight, and validation of various levels of information for use in the planning and execution phases,” Edon quotes Cryer as saying in the essay. “As a key part of a networked organization, it provides timely, value-added tools that enable asymmetric advantages to the MEU or MAGTF level of operations.”

Expanding the community would also better allow MISO Marines to meet high operational demand and increase the number of MISO personnel available to serve within each Marine expeditionary force and at MARSOC, Cukor’s brief shows.

Officials with Marine Corps Information Operations Center declined requests for an interview because the plans were pre-decisional.

But the deputy commandant of Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, told Military.com that preliminary decisions could be made as soon as this fall regarding how to develop the MISO community.

“In MISO, within those specialties and capabilities, I think those are some of the things that we’re going to be wrestling with to determine whether or not the Marine Corps needs more structure, whether it becomes a primary MOS, whether it becomes an expanded MOS, or whether it becomes a series of MOSs, depending upon the specific specialties,” he said. “So if individuals are interested in MISO and expanded realm of information operations, etcetera, then they should stand by, because I think more will come out of this.”

He noted that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has directed Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, to conduct a study that defines where the Marine Corps needs to be in 2025 and whether the force is properly organized to address future challenges.

“One of the larger discussion areas is in cyber, information, deception, psychological operations, where is the Marine Corps with those capabilities, that structure, that capability inside the force,” he said. “So there will be a fairly robust discussion about where we sit today, and where we may want to go tomorrow.”

Brilakis declined to speculate whether the Corps could add even more MOSs, but said many decisions had yet to be made.

This push for a MISO primary MOS comes as Neller pushes to expand certain Marine Corps communities, including information and cyber warfare. He told an Atlantic Council audience in February that the Corps had two options in light of this objective: to ask for an end strength increase, or to restructure, perhaps shrinking other communities such as infantry, to realize growth in others.

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Marine Corps video shows ‘the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea’

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. | US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe


The US Marine Corps’ recent proof of concept for the F-35B short takeoff, vertical landing variant aboard the USS America produced “the most powerful concentration of combat power ever put to sea in the history of the world,” according to one F-35 test pilot.

Indeed the America is the US’s newest amphibious assault ship, designed for waging war on beaches and coastal zones with the F-35’s revolutionary technologies in mind.

Also read: The F-35 and the US’s newest carrier are getting ready to dominate the seas

Both the America-class and the F-35 programs have faced criticisms, sometimes harshly, for their departure from traditional warfare roles, among other things. But lately these programs seem to be shaping up nicely.

The America abandons well decks, or the space to launch landing vessels to take beaches, in favor of increased hangar space to haul and maintain more aircraft. In its most plane-heavy configuration, the America can carry 20 F-35Bs.

In the video below, the Marines placed 12 F-35Bs on the America to prove a concept that’s been literally decades in the making, and thereby creating a ship that’s not even technically classified as an aircraft carrier, yet one of the biggest and deadliest ships in the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwoGkDGDtS8
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This vet-owned company just shocked the gun world with its new H9 pisol

It’s so obvious that many wonder why they didn’t think of it.


And it’s so difficult, most have shied away from even trying.

But it looks as if new veteran-owned gun company has cracked the code with one a new pistol that’s causing big buzz at this year’s Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade show in Las Vegas.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
The new Hudson H9 combines the ergonomics and trigger of a 1911 with the reliability of a striker-fired action to do what few others have been able to achieve. (Photo from Hudson Manufacturing0

Made by Hudson Manufacturing, the new H9 is a double-stack 9mm that incorporates the straight-pulling 1911-style trigger with a striker-fired operating system. No other handgun has been able to incorporate the two sought-after features in one.

And the coolest part is that the company is run by a husband and wife Cy and Lauren Hudson who both deployed to southern Afghanistan in 2011 — one as a military contractor with the intelligence community, the other as an infantry officer with the 25th Infantry Division.

“In 2013 we began to research our favorite weapon systems and asked the question, ‘why can’t someone combine striker fired reliability with a 1911 trigger?’ ” the company said. “We were often met with skepticism and sometimes even discouraged from pursuing our vision. With a crude drawing and a knowledge base, the idea began to take shape.”

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
(Photo from Hudson Manufacturing)

The H9 has a 4.28-inch barrel with an overall length of just over 5 inches. It’s remarkably slim at 1.25 inches and has a very low bore axis due in part to its reengineered nose that allows the barrel and recoil spring to sit lower on the frame.

The H9 has a 1911-style grip with G10 inserts and a Hogue backstrap. The handgun ships with a Trijicon front sight and packs a 15-round magazine.

But all that high-end engineering doesn’t come cheap, at an MSRP of more than $1,000, the Hudson H9 will appeal to those who want it all in a single handgun.

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These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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The underground work of Belle Boyd and how she changed the Civil War

One of the most prominent Confederate spies of the Civil War was none other than Belle Boyd. Credited for reshaping the Rebel’s war efforts, Maria Isabella Boyd AKA Belle, was born in modern-day West Virginia to a Southern family. Her father fought as a Confederate soldier and at least three additional family members were listed as spies for the South. 

At just 17, she got a rocky start into the profession when she gunned down a drunk Union soldier. The man had spoken unkindly to her and her mother, and in anger, she grabbed a pistol and fatally wounded him. She was not reprimanded for the shooting, and instead, used the event to become a “rebel spy” in 1861. However, after the event, she was watched by soldiers, which taught her not only how to live under surveillance but how to charm enemy forces. She soon made friends with one of her first guards, who is said to have provided her with flowers and key war secrets. 

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Belle Boyd. Wikimedia Commons

From there on, Boyd was hooked. She began passing information and finding new ways to get secrets from soldiers. Her biggest tool was flirtation, using her beauty and flattering wardrobe choices in her favor. However, she was caught during one of her first spy missions, causing her to find more secretive ways to pass data. She then began using her slave, Eliza Hopewell, who traveled with information in a hollowed watch case. Hopewell would deliver the secrets, allowing Boyd to continue in the shadows. 

Over the next two years, Boyd traveled between battles, earning the trust of Union soldiers through flirtation and friendship. Her efforts were so prolific she was soon known by the Union forces, with descriptions of her attire published so leaders could be on the lookout. 

Her biggest claim to fame is passing along key info to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, just before he went into battle. She told him the Union force was small and to forge ahead toward triumph. It’s said Jackson wrote to her and thanked her personally for helping the cause. The event also earned her the Southern Cross of Honor. 

This is how a Predator can make the world a better place
Stonewall Jackson. Wikimedia Commons

Boyd was arrested six times before she was finally put into prison in 1862. She served a month before being released, then was imprisoned again the following year. This time she was imprisoned for five months, where, behind bars she sang Dixie — the de facto national anthem of the South, waved Confederate flags from her window, and continued to pass messages. By receiving a rubber ball via bow and arrow, she would sew messages inside the ball that was then received by other spies. 

By the end of the year, Boyd was released from prison after coming down with typhoid fever. A stipulation of her release remained that she not return into Union territory. However, she, with the help of her future husband, a Union soldier, traveled to Canada, then to England where the two were married. 

While in England, Boyd wrote her memoirs, which are seen as highly sensationalized to this day, Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison. The stories were performed on stage and listed as The Perils of a Spy, starring Cleopatra of the Secession. 

After the death of her first husband, she returned to the United States where she married twice more and traveled the country giving dramatic performances of her involvement within the Civil War. 

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Boyd’s grave. Wikimedia commons.

Boyd died June 11, 1900 in Wisconsin.

Featured photo: Civil War illustration/Canva; inset Belle Boyd/Library of Congress – Public Domain

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Coast Guard officer headed to Tokyo Olympics

United States Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Grade Nikole Barnes will be the first active duty female officer in history competing in the 2022 Olympics in Tokyo. Her journey to making it is nothing short of extraordinary. 

Growing up in the Virgin Islands led to a love affair with the ocean for Barnes. “I was in the water all the time,” she explained. Sailing was one of her passions and she was a frequent sailing competitor beginning at just 7 years old. 

Her older brother always had his eye on going into the Coast Guard but the military wasn’t for her, initially. “I was invited to attend the Academy Introductory Mission [at the Coast Guard Academy]. I told my parents I was just going to do it for them. I flew in the day after traveling from Croatia, I was at a youth world championship. I was tired and jetlagged. Then they started yelling.” After being screamed at, she headed into seminar after seminar about the mission of the Coast Guard and what life would be like. “I loved it,” Barnes said with a laugh. 

“I saw how the Coast Guard worked in the Virgin Islands and I learned a lot from my brother. I just wanted to make it safer on the water,” she shared. Barnes applied to the Coast Guard academy and attended a military prep school for a year in Alabama in 2012 before heading to the academy in 2013. 

During her time at the academy, she had her eye on the Olympics. “I was called into the Commandant of the Cadets conference room my senior year and I had two days to decide where I was going to go after graduation,” Barnes said. She was told that they wanted to see how good she performed as an officer and from there they’d consider letting her train for sailing in the Olympics. 

In 2017 she graduated from the Coast Guard Academy and headed to Florida. “I got stationed at Sector Miami at the Incident Management Division,” Barnes said. She spent a year getting qualified and on her off time, sailing every chance she got. In 2018, she received word that the Coast Guard was going to approve her to train full time for the Olympics. 

The pandemic would cause the Olympics to be pushed out another year and she was granted permission to continue training. “During COVID, I was able to be in there seven days a week to knock out qualifications and help with the COVID response. My command is very supportive,” Barnes Shared. 

In 2021, Barnes and her teammate qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. “I think that week was the best and worst week of my life. I was just not sleeping, throwing up and always nervous. But the moment we got on the water it was just amazing,” she said. “When we turned the corner for the finish I remember being relieved and overwhelmed, I just knew we qualified. I just knew deep down that we did it.”

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From left, Coach Robby Bisi, Teammate Lara Dallman-Weiss and LTJG Nikole barnes

In the midst of making it through the trials and qualifying, Barnes was navigating through transfer season. She’ll be headed to the USCG District 7 Command Center in Florida this summer. She said that knowing if she didn’t make it to the Olympics she was still going to get to do her job as a coastie made it all worth it. “It wasn’t a matter of needing to win, it was a matter of wanting to win and to just be in it,” she said. 

Barnes will represent Team USA well as the first Coast Guardsman to make the team in any Olympic sport. It’s fitting that the military service which began with sailing vessels back in 1790 is sending one of their own to compete on the world stage for it. 

Putting her career as a Coast Guard officer on the back burner isn’t easy for her, even as she heads to the Olympics. “It’s always been a balance. I still struggle when I see my shipmates advancing in the Coast Guard or making big drug busts,” Barnes explained. “But I love this extraordinary opportunity and I am so grateful for the chance to represent my country.”

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Here are 8 of the American-est things you can do to celebrate the 4th of July

Every July 4th, we celebrate our independence by displaying our patriotic spirit and pride in all things American. Here are some ideas to help you celebrate America and all its glory the right way!


1. Recite the Pledge of Allegiance

 

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U.S. Air Force

 

Find an American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (And listen to the words as you say them.)

2. Attend a Naturalization ceremony

One of the most patriotic things you can do is support our nation’s newest citizens by attending a naturalization ceremony. Each year, cities and some overseas military installations host these ceremonies on the 4th of July. Many of these individuals have been waiting years to become citizens and some have even served in the military. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, more than 7,000 new citizens will be welcomed this year. To see if there is a ceremony in your town, please check out this link: https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/celebrating-independence-day-naturalization-ceremonies-0

 

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Spc. Samuel Diaz and 155 other service memembers take the Oath of Citizenship during a naturalization ceremony July 4 2010 in the Al Faw Palace rotunda at Camp Victory, Iraq U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, administered the Oath of Citizenship. (DoD Photo by Lee Craker)

 

3. Head to the ballpark

 

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U.S. Air Force

They don’t call it America’s pastime for nothing. Baseball was born right here in the good ole USA. Have some peanuts and cracker jacks and enjoy the ball game. And don’t forget to stick around for the seventh inning stretch.

4. Watch Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog eating contest

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating contest is an American staple held each year on America’s birthday. This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Nathan’s Famous. There is something very American about watching men and women chow down processed meat to earn the title of hot dog eating champion and a shiny championship belt.

5. Grill out and have a cold one

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Watching grown men and women scarf down as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes can make you hungry. So do what Americans do best and fire up the grill. Cook yourself a massive steak, have a mountain of potato salad, and enjoy a nice cold beverage in the company of friends and family.

6. Eat a slice of Apple pie

 

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Wikimedia Commons

After stuffing your face with BBQ food, grab yourself a slice of apple pie. Adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream will only make it taste better.

7. Watch the Fireworks

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing)

Fireworks have been a part of Fourth of July festivities since the first anniversary of the nation’s independence. Thousands of public firework displays will be held from coast-to-coast for the public to check out. If you chose to do your own fireworks, please be careful. Safety first!

8. Thank a veteran or current service member

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This one is pretty easy and will make our forefathers proud!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

Let us know what other great American things to do on the 4th of July in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter at @alexlicea82

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The weapons the Army, Air Force, and Navy all want desperately

Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.

For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.


“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”

The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.

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U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018

(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)

“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”

As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.

The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.

The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.

Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.

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

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