World War II history buffs are going to lose their minds. A Syrian rebel faction called the al-Tawhid Brigade stumbled on an arms cache of 5,000 German WWII-era Sturmgwehr 44 (STG-44) rifles.
The STG-44 was designed to increase the volume of fire for German infantry units fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. It accomplished this mission but was developed too late in the war to make an impact.
The rebels thought they’d found a cache of Ak-47s. The two don’t look that much alike, but it’s understandable how the ill-armed and ill-equipped group would get excited at their find anyway.
Besides, there’s little reason to see how 5,000 Nazi-built rifles worth an estimated $30,000 apiece ended up in the Syrian desert.
The al-Tawhid Brigade was an Islamist faction originally allied with the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Coalition against the government of Bashar al-Asad. In 2013, the al-Tawhid Brigade along with 11 other factions, would leave the Coalition and join al-Qaeda. That same year, its head commander died of wounds sustained in a Syrian government air strike and the group’s membership would defect to the various other groups fighting pro-Asad forces. The group is now defunct.
There is no word on what happened to the rare, expensive Nazi relics. For those keeping tabs at home, that’s a $150 million dollar loss.
Keep an eye out for those STG-44s. They’ve shown up in state-sponsored gun buybacks in California and Connecticut.
Some of you military types will be by the pool, some of you will be skating or shamming on duty, and at least one of you will be explaining to someone on Facebook that Labor Day isn’t about veterans or the military.
Let the best memes of the week help you stave off any labor (for at least a few more minutes) and give you some tips for celebrating the holiday.
1. Don’t forget to include your pets.
2. Remember: you can get arrested for a DUI while driving a boat.
3. Guys, be yourself when talking to the ladies.
You know it’s true because it’s the first thing he said to her.
4. Be prepared if the ladies reject your advances.
The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.
For most of our teams, the season will not end well. For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.
Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump
The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?
Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead
Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012. But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.
Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon
This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.
Buffalo Bills – Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege
If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.
Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers
The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.
Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan
I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.
Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland
Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.
Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder
Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.
Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens
A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.
Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood
The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.
Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump
No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day
Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.
Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers
Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.
Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan
As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.
Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III
They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.
Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg
Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.
Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down
Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.
New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper
Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.
New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo
It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.
New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now
Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.
New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape
Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.
Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator
An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.
Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill
No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket
Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.
St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter
St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.
San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers
It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!
San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon
The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.
Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun
Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan
The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?
Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down
You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.
Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory
No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.
What happens when U.S. troops in Afghanistan take fire from Taliban fighters, fortified inside a building?
It’s pretty simple. Call in the Warthogs to bring on the BRRRRRT.
The BRRRRRT comes from the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The Avenger fires beer-bottle-sized 30 mm chunks of aluminum alloy at 3,342 feet per second.
More than one re-upload on the internet says the attack is from a Pakistani F-16, but the distinctive BRRRRRT from the GAU-8 is an unmistakeable sound.
So whatever this building is made of – concrete, cinderblocks, who knows – didn’t stand a chance. It’s no wonder everyone who calls in close air support and gets an A-10 gun run has the same reaction to the jaw-dropping power of the GAU.
Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kenny Kennemer
Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.
Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.
Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.
“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”
But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.
“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”
The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.
“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”
During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.
Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models
Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.
“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.
Imagine it’s 1957 and you’re a high-ranking official with the British Army, responsible for keeping the West free from Soviet aggression. At your disposal you have a great arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, as well as teams of brilliant scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment constantly proposing ideas for new, more effective weapons.
One of your areas of greatest strategic concern is the possibility that the Soviet Union might make inroads sufficiently into Western Europe to bring its advanced rockets and bombs within range of the British Isles. Recall that during World War II, Germany bombed the snot out of Britain with tens of thousands of bombs dropped from Luftwaffe aircraft, as well as more than 10,000 long-range V-1 and V-2 cruise and ballistic missiles shot from sites in France and the Netherlands.
Deciding that the best way to keep the Soviets from your doorstep is a scorched earth policy, to “deny occupation of the area to an enemy for an appreciable time,” you choose from all your options that blowing any invaded areas in West Germany to smithereens using nuclear weapons is the best alternative. After all, this not only destroys enemy troops and denies them access to valuable infrastructure, but also makes the area around the explosion uninhabitable for some time after.
Not content to rely on gravity bombs or missiles, your crack team concludes that nuclear landmines (that could either be placed on the surface, buried or even submerged in rivers and lakes) are the way to go.
You settle on a 16,000 pound tub that resembles an enormous boiler from the outside, but inside hosts a large nuclear warhead and two firing units, with the design partially based on your country’s first operation nuke- the Blue Danube. With a predicted yield of ten kilotons, each bomb would create an estimated crater of 375 feet across for a surface blast and 640 feet if detonated 35 feet below ground. Versatile, the device could either be detonated by timer (capable of being set as far as eight days in advance), directly with a wire from up to 3 miles away, or simply detonated automatically if any of several anti-tampering devices were activated.
This is exactly what happened. In July of 1957, the British Army Council order 10 of these so-called Blue Peacock nuclear landmines. However, the designers of the bomb foresaw a problem. The bomb’s sensitive components had to be kept at a certain temperature, far above the average of mid-Europe in winter. They also had to be kept at that temperature for potentially several days after an invasion and subsequent deployment of the nuclear mines.
At this point the boy-wonders floated a couple of options for warming the device. By far the most interesting proposal was to place a coop filled with chickens and seed inside the bomb before deploying it. The chickens could survive in such conditions for at least a week- plenty of time for enemy troops to approach after the nuke was deployed. And, critically, the chicken’s body heat would maintain the proper temperature, while the coop itself would (hopefully) keep them from pecking at the delicate equipment inside.
Perhaps realizing how absolutely ridiculous the chicken idea is (although not the only viable bird-brained bomb idea to come out of this era- see: WWII Files: Pigeon-Guided Missiles and Surprisingly Effective Bat Bombs), or, more likely, realizing the risks of nuclear fallout on neighboring, allied populations (and political fallout once West Germany realized what the British had done to their homeland, invaded or not), in February of 1958, the MoD Weapons Policy Committee scrapped the project.
However, two inert prototypes were retained, and one still exists today, although the public remained blissfully unaware of it until 2004, when Operation Blue Peacock was declassified and included in a National Archives exhibition. Given that the exhibit opened on April 1st and a critical suggested component of the nuclear mines was chickens, more than a few people thought that Blue Peacock was an elaborate joke – forcing the National Archives to put out an official statement that while “it does seem like an April Fool . . . it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.”
Hollywood has a tendency to mess up uniforms, customs, and tactical thinking when it comes to military movies.
But they sure know how to give us quote-worthy characters. From the masterful intro speech of “Patton” to the character of Hoot in “Black Hawk Down,” these are the films that we remember for having characters with great dialogue.
We picked out some of our favorite quotes from classic military films. Here they are.
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
The Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum were both designed and built by Russia to fight World War III side-by-side. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, that conflict didn’t happen. However, the two Russian fighters would square off over Eastern Africa.
Since Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, a border dispute had been simmering between the two countries, mostly over the territory surrounding the town of Badme. Things heated up in 1998, when Eritrean forces stormed in and took the town.
According to a report by ACIG.org, the Eritreans had been building up their military for just such an occasion. Among their purchases were ten refurbished MiG-29s from Russia. The intention was to use the planes to secure air superiority on the battlefield.
When the war started, Ethiopia began to search for a counter to the Eritrean Fulcrums. Their F-5 Freedom Fighters and MiG-21 Fishbeds were clearly outclassed. Their choice to change that situation would be the Su-27 Flanker. Eight surplus airframes were purchased from Russia in December of 1998. By the end of the following February, they would be in action.
On Feb. 25, 1999, in a pair of engagements, Ethiopian Su-27s would shoot down two MiG-29s. The next day, Eritrean MiG-29s shot down a pair of Ethiopian MiG-21s. Ethiopia would claim that a “Capt. Asther Tolossa” would shoot down a MiG-29, but the existence of Capt. Tolossa is disputed.
In March, Ethiopian Flankers claimed two more Eritrean Fulcrums.
The last encounters in that war between Fulcrum and Flanker would take place in May 2000. On May 16, Ethiopia claimed that one of their Flankers shot down an Eritrean Fulcrum. Two days later, another Eritrean Fulcrum was shot out of the sky by a Flanker. The war ended in June 2000 with Ethiopia re-claiming the seized territory, and holding on to it despite an international court ruling favoring Eritrea.
When all was said and done, ACIG noted that the Ethiopian Flankers had shot down at least five, and as many as seven, Eritrean MiG-29s, as well as one Learjet. The Eritrean MiG-29s had shot down three MiG-21 Fishbeds and a MiG-23 Flogger.
In that war, the Flanker had bested the Fulcrum, and cemented its place as one of Russia’s hottest exports. Ironically, Eritrea was among the countries to buy Flankers, operating two of those planes according to World Air Forces 2017.
No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.
For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.
In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.
A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.
There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.
The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.
This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.
This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.
The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).
To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.
On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.
If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.
Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.
Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.
A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.
On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.
The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.
American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.
The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.
During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.
Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.
Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.
US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.
As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.
In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.
ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.
The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.
Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.
Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.
The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.
The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.
The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.
The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”
In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.
“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.
“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.
He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”
Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.
Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.
The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”
The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.
Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.
The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.
“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.
An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.
Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.
Congress sent President Donald Trump legislation to provide the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade.
The Senate cleared the bill by voice vote on August 2, passing the second piece of legislation aimed at addressing urgent problems at the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs in as many days. The House passed the bipartisan college aid legislation last week.
The measure is a broad effort to better prepare veterans for life after active-duty service amid a rapidly changing job market.
Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or a similar cash amount for private college students — the bill removes a 15-year time limit to tap into GI benefits and increases money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Technical Institute and Corinthian Colleges. Purple Heart recipients, meanwhile, would be fully eligible for benefits, regardless of length of time in service.
“This bill invests in the proven success of our veterans,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our veterans return home, they should have every opportunity available to them to pursue their desired profession and career.”
The panel’s top Democrat, Jon Tester of Montana, says the bill “also does right by Guardsmen and Reservists by getting them the education, housing, and health care that they have earned. I look forward to working with President Trump to quickly sign our bill into law.”
Tester is one of the more vulnerable Democrats up for re-election next year, seeking another term in a state Trump won last year.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
The Senate, on August 2, backed a measure that authorizes $3.9 billion in emergency spending to avert imminent bankruptcy in the VA’s Veterans Choice Program of private-sector care. About $1.8 million of that money would bolster core VA programs, including 28 leases for new VA medical facilities.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
A wide range of veterans’ groups had supported the expanded GI Bill benefits. The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, hailed the proposal as launching a “new era” for those who served in uniform.
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom.
Veterans of Foreign Wars estimates that hundreds of thousands of veterans stand to gain from the new benefits.
The expanded educational benefits would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years. Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait in a move which brought swift condemnation from much of the rest of the world. In response, U.S. President George H.W. Bush ordered planes, ships, and troops brought in to Saudi Arabia as quickly as possible to help mount a defense against possible Iraqi aggression. As Iraqi troops massed at the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, Operation Desert Shield began in full force, as the Coalition forces grew to 48 nations.
The United States isn’t known for its passivity when it comes to aggression against its interests, however. The U.S. was actively planning a response to the Iraqi invasion and a subsequent liberation of Kuwait, which happened between January and February 1991 in what became known as Operation Desert Storm.
We pretty much sent everyone. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Jackson)
During the military build-up, planners wanted to fool Saddam into thinking the Coalition forces would invade Kuwait near the “boot heel” of the country, while planning to really hit the Iraqi occupation forces with a “left hook” strategy. The centerpiece of this deception effort was at Forward Operating Base Weasel, an effort unlike anything since Operation Fortitude during WWII, the misinformation campaign designed to cover the real location for the D-Day invasions.
FOB Weasel was what Rick Atkinson, author of Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War called “a Potemkin base… giving the impression of 130,000 troops across a hundred square kilometers.” Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.
The U.S. army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. They set up a network of small, fake camps with a few dozen soldiers using radios operated by computers to create radio traffic, fake messages between fake headquarters, as well as smoke generators and loudspeakers blasting fake Humvee, tank, and truck noises to simulate movement. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.
As late as February 21st, Iraqi intelligence still thought the Americans were near the Kuwaiti boot heel, well after the Iraqis were expelled from Kuwait.