Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)
The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.
The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.
The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.
The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.
U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.
The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.
The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.
“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
Amid a recent wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, current members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are using social media networks to reassure all Muslim Americans, and specifically Sofia Yassini, a Texas-based 8-year-old, they will fight for the rights of all U.S. citizens.
Inspired the social media story of Sofia’s mother reacting to her daughter’s fear of being deported, the hashtag #IWillProtectYou started trending on Facebook and Twitter.
Sofia’s mother, Melissa Chance Yassini, originally took to Facebook to write about her daughter’s reactions to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States:
“She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.“
The post was shared more than 20,000 times. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and Army veteran Kerri Peek of Colorado, also a mother, saw the story.
“I was up all night, it bothered me,” Peek told ABC News. “I’m a mom, for mother to mother … I know you want to protect your children from everything.”
She posted a photo of herself in her Army uniform with the message “Here’s a picture of me as a mom and soldier and I’ll come to protect you.” Peek then asked her veteran friends to do the same.
“Post on Facebook or Twitter with the #IWillProtectYou and your picture of uniform. Make this go viral so that these children see this.”
The Defense Department owes the families of the soldiers lost in Niger and the American people an explanation of what the soldiers were doing in Niger and why it was important, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said October 23rd.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said the four Special Forces soldiers who were killed and the two who were wounded in the Oct. 4 action, were conducting an important train, advise, and assist mission with Nigerien forces.
Building Capacity of Local Forces
“Our soldiers are operating in Niger to build the capacity of local forces to defeat violent extremism in West Africa,” the general said at a Pentagon news conference. “Their presence is part of a global strategy.”
The soldiers were on patrol with forces from Niger, he said, when a group linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked. “As we’ve seen many times, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida pose a threat to the United States, the American people and our allies,” Dunford said. “They’re a global threat enabled by the flow of foreign fighters, resources and their narrative.”
The four soldiers — Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright — were training local forces to conduct security in their own country. The four Americans were part of a multinational response to the threat these violent extremists pose.
ISIS seeks to survive in the dark corners of the world where local inhabitants lack the power and expertise to control the violent group, Dunford said. ISIS operates where it can exploit weaknesses in local government and local security forces, he added. Libya, Somalia, West Africa, certain places in Central and Southeast Asia are places where ISIS and like groups choose to operate.
“If you think of those enablers as connective tissue between groups across the globe, our strategy is to cut that tissue, while enabling local security forces to deal with the challenges within their countries and region,” Dunford said.
The United States is working with nations around the world to improve their military capabilities and capacities, Dunford said. U.S. troops, he added, have been working with forces from Niger for 20 years, the general said, training more than 35,000 soldiers from the region to confront the threats of ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.
“Today, approximately 800 [U.S.] service members in Niger work as part of an international effort, led by 4,000 French troops, to defeat terrorists in West Africa,” Dunford said.
Dunford related what is known about the Oct. 4 operation in Niger.
“On the 3rd of October, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Task Force accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a civil-military reconnaissance mission from the capital city of Niamey to an area near the village of Tongo Tongo,” he said. The village is located a little over 50 miles north of Niamey, and officials expected the chances of meeting an enemy were slight.
The next day, Dunford said, the forces began moving back, when they were attacked by approximately 50 enemy using small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and technical vehicles.
“Approximately one hour after taking fire, the team requested support,” he said. “And within minutes the remotely piloted aircraft arrived overhead. Within an hour, French Mirage jets arrived on station.”
Still later, French attack helicopters arrived on station, and a Niger quick-reaction force arrived.
During the firefight, two U.S. soldiers were wounded and evacuated by French aircraft to Niamey, and that was consistent with the casualty evacuation plan that was in place for this particular operation, Dunford said.
Three U.S. soldiers who were killed were evacuated the evening of Oct. 4, Dunford said.
“At that time, Sergeant La David Johnson was still missing,” the general said.
“On the evening of Oct. 6, Sergeant Johnson’s body was found and subsequently evacuated,” he said. “From the time the firefight was initiated until Sergeant Johnson’s body was recovered, French, Nigerien or U.S. forces remained in that area.”
Questions to be Answered
The combat was tough and confused, the chairman said. There are more questions that need to be answered, he added, and that is why U.S. Africa Command appointed a general officer to investigate.
The questions that need answers, he said, include: Did the mission of U.S. forces change during the operation? Did U.S. forces have adequate intelligence, equipment and training? Was there a premission assessment of the threat in the area accurate? And, How did U.S. forces become separated during the engagement, specifically Sergeant Johnson?
And, why didn’t they take time to find and recover Sergeant Johnson? Dunford said.
“We owe the families of the fallen more information, and that’s what the investigation is designed to identify,” he said.
The general said the campaign against violent extremists is making progress, but much more needs to be done.
“Even with the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, we’re at an inflection point in the global campaign, not an end point,” he said.
The general said he’s hosting the chiefs of defense and representatives from 75 different countries will meet to improve the effectiveness of the military network to defeat terrorism.
“In our discussions over the next day or two, we’ll focus on improving information sharing between nations to detect and defeat attacks before they occur, and to improve the support we provide to nations confronted with violent extremism,” he said. “And that’s exactly what our forces in Niger were doing.”
Many an airman have found themselves utterly confused whenever they encounter these wonderful and mythical creatures normally found somewhere downrange (or near one of our sibling service’s chow hall).
Their rank insignia is confusing for the airman seeing it for the first time — but don’t you dare stare! Yes, this rare and godlike commodity is the warrant officer.
What, exactly, is a warrant officer?
A warrant officer is a technical expert. For the branches that have them (i.e. not the U.S. Air Force), they serve as the technical base for their respective service. They, simply put, have become officers based on expertise and, well, warrant.
Sounds great, but does the Air Force need them? Here are five reasons why they might not:
The Air Force actually did once have warrant officers.
From the moment the Air Force become a separate branch on Sept. 18, 1947 until 1958, the enlisted ranks topped out at E-7. Congress then created the ranks of E-8 and E-9 for the Air Force, allowing for more growth.
The Air Force didn’t see a need for these technical experts anymore and used this momentum to usher out what had become a somewhat pesky group of individuals.
The Air Force made their last warrant officer appointment in 1959 and the one in active duty retired in 1980.
4. Wait, aren’t we actually getting them?
This is a rumor that has been going around for decades. I, personally, heard it back in my earliest days in Air Force blue and thought it was a great idea.
I heard it again a few years and bases later, and even right now the idea of re-introducing the warrant officer tier to the Air Force is being kicked around.
It’ll probably, eventually, likely, maybe-not-but-just-might happen… one day.
3. We must be different
Just like most younger siblings, the Air Force strives to be different from our big brothers in blue, green, and Marine.
We learn from their history, their triumphs, and their missteps to be a better version of awesome whenever and wherever possible.
Most of the time, that makes sense. But sometimes, different is just different — not better.
2. Because… air power
Keeping in line with the snootiness of being the baby sibling, the Air Force went a step further in hardening the line between enlisted and commissioned than our brothers did.
The Air Force zigged when the Army zagged.
Why? Because there will be no misnomer about ranks, positions, and titles in the Air Force, right?
We already have mythical, rarely seen, hard-to-catch creatures in the Air Force.
Unlike other services, where you commonly see some type of operator doing all types of things (from working out to shopping), in the Air Force, you could easily go your entire career without ever seeing a pararescueman or combat controller with your own eyes.
Oh, they exist like a motherf*cker but, unless you’re in that world, you’ll only see them in your dreams.
Pictured: absolute badass, Chief Master Sgt. Davide Keaton (Retired). (USAF photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)
Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.
“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.
Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.
What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.
The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.
Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.
“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”
A lasting legacy
Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.
“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”
To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.
Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.
“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”
There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.
While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.
As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.
He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.
“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”
Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.
In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.
“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”
Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.
The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.
Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.
“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”
One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.
“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”
Before service members deploy, they undergo several different medical screenings to check if they’re capable of making it through the long stretch.
We get poked and prodded with all types of needles and probes prior to getting the “green light” to take the fight to the enemy.
After acquiring your smallpox vaccination — which means you’re going to get stuck in the arm about 30 times by a needle containing a semi-friendly version of the virus — you’ll receive a bag full of antibiotics that you’re ordered to take every day.
Since most countries don’t have the same medical technology as the U.S., troops can get violently sick just from occupying the foreign area. The World Health Organization reported that over 75% of all people living in Afghanistan are at risk for malaria.
In the ongoing efforts of the War on Terrorism, thousands of troops have deployed to the Middle East. Each person runs the risk of exposure if they’re stung by an infected, parasitic mosquito.
To prevent malaria, service members are ordered to take one of two medications: Doxycycline or Mefloquine (the latter of which was developed by the U.S. Army).
Countless troops report having minor to severe nightmares after taking the preventive antibiotic over a period of time — but why? Mefloquine is a neurotoxic derivative antimalarial medication that is linked to causing “serious and potentially lasting neuropsychiatric adverse reactions.”
Mefloquine is a neurotoxic derivative antimalarial medication that is linked to causing “serious and potentially lasting neuropsychiatric adverse reactions.”
According to the Dr. Remington Nevin, the symptoms for taking the preventive medication includes severe insomnia, crippling anxiety, and nightmares. Multiple service members were instructed to take the medication while without being informed of the potential side effects.
In 2009, the Army did indeed depopularized the use of mefloquine.
She is the leader of the pack, so to speak, of the Class of 2021 at the US Military Academy at West Point, and the first black woman to hold the position.
That Cadet Askew shattered West Point’s glass ceiling is no small measure — no small measure in the armed forces, for sure, and no small measure of 21st century America.
The military, like the world of business, has long been considered a man’s world.
And the telltale signs of war, peace and tribalism reflect where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re headed. Cadet Askew and her teammates are leading America across a new threshold.
For one, West Point is the oldest of our military academies. It was founded after President Thomas Jefferson, who had not served in the military but became commander in chief when he was sworn into office, signed the Military Peace Establishment Act in 1802. The act specified that the academy be established along the Hudson River in New York.
One of the largest footprints Cadet Askew is stepping into belongs to Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, West Point’s first black cadet captain and now commander of US Forces Korea.
“We are role models to a lot of young people, not just African-Americans and soldiers,” the now 58-year-old Gen. Brooks once said.
Indeed, America’s current state of affairs proves that America’s future leaders will have much with which to contend. Geneneral Brooks, who, like Cadet Askew, attended high school in Fairfax County, Virginia, is staring down the barrel of the North Korea nuclear threat.
On the home front, civil unrest and tensions among various cultural factions make the rounds of daily news and undistilled social media every day.
Remember Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch, the two soldiers who were captured in Iraq in 2003 during the “global war on terror”? The Marines rescued both, and both wrote successful biographies.
They, too, became role models even though their capture spawned anew the debate over whether women should even serve in combat areas.
Cadet Askew, 20, had barely entered grade school at the time.
Cadet Askew not only is making history, she is studying it as well. In fact, her major is international history, an ever-changing subject in this ever-changing world of ours.
She also loves volleyball and is on the West Point crew team — understanding, as too many of America’s political leaders and wannabe political leaders do not, that team sports give you a different perspective on leadership.
The media gave anyone interested a glimpse of Cadet Simone Askew in her new role as first captain of cadets at West Point, leading the Long Grey Line of cadets on a 12-mile basic training trek — smiling all the way.
Cadet Askew already sounds like she’s preparing the Army Class of 2021 for the history books.
“It’s humbling,” she said, “but also exciting as I step into this new opportunity to lead the corps to greatness with my teammates with me.”
The sight of a low-flying Warthog — the Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II tank killer — may strike fear into the hearts of ISIS in Syria. But in Charlotte, North Carolina, it just raises questions.
Air Force blogger JohnQPublic says the A-10s were from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. The Air Force grounded the pilots after receiving FAA complaints about the August 29, 2016 low-altitude flyover. Regulations say aircraft must be at least 1,000 feet higher than the highest structure.
The Warthogs flew over the stadium in the middle of a practice game August 29. The Panthers were understandably surprised.
If you’re looking for tips on how to shirk military service, you’re about forty-some years too late. And if you’re looking to dodge a draft, you are also probably not our target audience.
For those unfamiliar with their civic duty, U.S. law says all male citizens of the United States and male immigrants (and bizarrely, illegal immigrants, too) have to register for the Selective Service System (SSS — aka “The Draft”) within 30 days of their 18th birthday. You are not joining the military but registering with the government to be available in a time where a draft would be necessary.
The U.S. first started drafting civilians during the Civil War. Back then, rich men had many other options open to them avoiding Civil War service. To dodge the Civil War draft, people could pay a less wealthy person to take their place in the draft, pay a crooked doctor to give them a bad health exam, or outright bribe draft officials.
The modern Selective Service system was established to raise an army to fight in Europe during World War I. It was used again from 1940-47 to raise troops to fight World War II, and then again to meet the needs for the Korean War. Between the end of WWII and the Korean War, men could just be drafted to serve, regardless of the demands of a national emergency.
After Vietnam, President Gerald Ford abolished the draft entirely in 1975 but President Carter established the draft system in place today as a response to the potential threat posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
President Nixon established a draft lottery in 1969 but stopped drafting military-age males in 1973 when the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force, but not before an estimated half million people avoided conscription.
There were two kinds of methods to avoid being drafted when you number was called: illegal and legal. There were a few laws in place relevant to Selective Service meant to keep necessary men in their homes and with their families. Purposely pursuing a legal waiver or deferment for any reason is draft avoidance. Those who could not meet the criteria for legal would mitigate their responsibilities by illegal means, this is called draft evasion or more popularly known as “draft dodging.”
Those who received deferments (especially politicians and other people who like to closely associate themselves with the military) will fervently argue there is a distinct difference. Here are 11 ways people beat the draft in the 1970s.
1. Be a Conscientious Objector
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, the Amish, and Quakers are all considered Peace Churches who are opposed to any kind of military service. They were allowed to serve in other ways, however, but in a civilian capacity. Dishonest conscientious objection would be illegal. You can still be awesome as a CO, by the way. Clergymen and missionaries were also exempt from the draft, which is how Mitt Romney deferred while spending two years in France as a Mormon missionary.
2. Make up a health condition
The military is surprisingly strict about the medical conditions of those it enlists, even if they really need the manpower. Gastritis, ulcers, hepatitis and anemia are all common, treatable conditions the military will flat-out reject you for having. Diabetics are out, too.
If you don’t have one of these or you’re in perfect health, just make up a health problem! During the Vietnam draft, people would stay awake for days ahead of their medical screening, do a lot of illegal drugs, or otherwise make themselves appear generally unhealthy to avoid being draft. Ask Ted Nugent about doing meth and crapping his pants to avoid the draft.
3. Have children who need you
Men with children and families who depend on those men for their livelihood are in a lower draft priority than single men or childless husbands.
4. Be a homosexual
And if you’re not a homosexual, pretend to be! In the 1960s and 1970s, it was perfectly fine to both ask and tell. If men out to dodge the draft were afraid they wouldn’t be asked, they would wear women’s underwear to the medical exams.
5. Run away to Canada
Upwards of 40,000 draft dodgers fled to Canada between 1965 and 1975. Many stayed in Canada after the war’s end, and some even stayed after President Carter pardoned them all on his first day in office. Those who stayed became Canadian citizens.
6. Go to college
Student deferments were very common ways of beating the draft, though many students were really in school to be in school and not simply to avoid Vietnam. Notable examples of those receiving student deferments include Bill Clinton (1 deferment), Joe Biden (5 deferments), and Dick Cheney (5 deferments).
While a college deferment was very common, it is still a major point of contention for politicians seeking office today.
7. Have a high lottery number
366 plastic capsules, each with one date of the year, were dumped in a large glass container, then drawn, opened, and assigned sequentially rising numbers. The first capsule was September 14. So all men born on that date, from 1944 through 1950, received the first priority for call to duty.
The remaining capsules were drawn and assigned a number. A second lottery was also conducted for the 26 letters of the alphabet, to determine the order of priority (by last name) for each date. The highest draft number drawn was 195.
8. Hold an “essential” civilian job
These are also known as “reserved occupations” and are so necessary to a country’s war effort, drafting them is illegal. The jobs cannot be done by others and cannot be completely abandoned, but those men were required to continue working that job.
9. Get married
In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson changed the draft law to allow married males to be drafted, if they didn’t have children. Before August 26, 1965, however, getting hitched was a Get Out of Vietnam Free card. Johnson quietly changed the rules to keep up with the demands of the war. Hundreds of couples on the West Coast ended up in shotgun marriages to avoid serving.
10. Forge military ID or reserve papers
Some men in Northern states formed groups which made fraudulent National Guard or Reserve papers, identifying men who bore them as having already enlisted. For upwards of $5000, men could acquire these papers and take them to the local draft board to be relieved of their obligation.
11. Enlist anytime
Even during Vietnam, men received credit for serving. If you completed a military service obligation, you couldn’t be forced to re-enter the military. If you called up to be drafted, you could avoid it by enlisting and choosing your service.
If you couldn’t remember any of these tips, you could just learn the words to Phil Ochs’ “Draft Dodger Rag”
Failing to register for the draft could mean ineligibility to hold a government job, the inability to apply for student loans through the Department of Education, and a condition of citizenship for immigrants who arrived before their 26th birthday. It is also punishable by a 250,000 fine and up to five years imprisonment, among other consequences.
So it’s a good idea to register. The U.S. is unlikely to have a war which requires national conscription anytime soon and there hasn’t been a real draft since the last days of the Vietnam War.
North Korea is squaring off with a superpower, and propaganda has offered insight into the targets the North might aim for in the event of a conflict.
North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons technology is advancing rapidly. The North successfully tested a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile Sunday that some observers suspect may be the foundation for a future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the key to threatening the U.S. mainland.
“The objective is to preserve the regime, right?” Vipin Narang, a MIT professor with a deep knowledge of nuclear strategy, told The Washington Post. “You really have to stop the invasion. If you think you need nuclear weapons to do that, how do you deal with the fact that the U.S. is going to make you a smoldering, radioactive hole at the end of that? Well, if you can hold American homeland targets at risk, that might induce caution.”
The North is still developing the technology to strike the U.S. with an ICBM, despite their aggressive threats. Nonetheless, North Korean propaganda offers insight into the targets they might shoot for if they had one.
A North Korean photo from 2013 reveals a map, which some analysts call the “Map of Death,” identifying U.S. targets for potential nuclear strikes.
Open source intelligence analysts suspect that the four targets identified on the map are Hawaii, San Diego, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. The U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet is headquartered in Hawaii, and its home base is in San Diego. Barksdale is the headquarters for Air Force Global Strike Command, which is essential for U.S. nuclear deterrence and global strikes. The Department of Defense and other national security agencies are located in D.C.
Other analysts add Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where U.S. Strategic Command is located, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, according to WaPo. The North could also potentially threaten Seattle or San Francisco. North Korea revealed a propaganda video featuring a simulated nuclear strike on the latter during a state concert celebrating the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung last month.
An ICBM test is expected this year, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
While it cannot yet strike the U.S. mainland, North Korea has the weapons technology to hold Northeast Asia hostage.
Eager to stave off a U.S. invasion, the North, according to the rhetoric in their state media reports, would likely focus on U.S. military bases and high-profile strategic assets, like the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system being installed in South Korea.
North Korea launched a salvo of extended-range Scud missiles early March into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, with North Korean state media claiming the Korean People’s Army was rehearsing for strikes on U.S. bases in Japan. Open source intelligence reports revealed the North was aiming for Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, where a squadron of forward-deployed F-35s were stationed. When the USS Ohio made a port call to Busan last year, the North fired a missile into the sea. Open source intelligence, coupled with media reports at the time, revealed that the North was practicing bombing Busan.
The North’s newest missile, the Hwasong-12, has a range that puts Guam, specifically Anderson Air Force Base, within striking distance. The U.S. has a number of strategic bombers stationed in Guam, several of which have flown past the DMZ in a show of force.
“If the US goes reckless, misjudging the trend of the times and the strategic position of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], all the US military bases in the operational theater in the Pacific, including Guam, will face ruin in the face of an all-out and substantial attack mounted by the army of the DPRK,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in August last year.
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When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.
She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”
O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.
The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.
“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”
“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”
O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.
Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.
He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.
But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.
That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.
A Faucet Of Blood
It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.
The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.
As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.
“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.
“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”
O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.
“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.
His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.
O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.
“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.
“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.
O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.
The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.
“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”
Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.
They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.
“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”
Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.
“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”
On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.
Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.
The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.
“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”
The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.
“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.
No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.
Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.
“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”
PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.
Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.
The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.
O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.
“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”
When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.
Road To Recovery
His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.
Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.
“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.
The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.
“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”
His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.
Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.
“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.
O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.
“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”
The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.
O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.
Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.
Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.
“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”
Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.
“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.
Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.
The First Of His Kind
Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.
He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.
“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.
O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.
O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.
For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.
has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.
O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.
For more than 60 years, only seven people on Earth knew that the Soviets broke U.S. military and diplomatic ciphers. One of those people was former KGB Berlin bureau chief and master Soviet spy Sergei Kondrashev. Kondrashev and his peers searched desperately for American code clerks as they came and went from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The KGB knew next to nothing about American ciphers, the code room in the embassy, or even the personnel who worked there. That changed in the early days of the Cold War.
Tennent Bagley was a CIA agent working around Eastern Europe, including Berlin. In the early 1990’s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, he was to be featured on a German television show to discuss Cold War intelligence with former KGB agents. In preparation for the show, he met Kondrashev, his direct KGB counterpart. Kondrashev told Bagley things that the CIA never knew, including the story of “Jack,” a U.S. Army Sergeant who single-handedly sparked off the Korean War.
In 1949, the memory of World War II and the existential threat to Russia was still fresh in the mind of Soviet Premiere Joseph Stalin. Tensions with the U.S. were higher than at any time in recent memory. The Soviet Union needed a way to predict American behavior.
They thought they lucked out when Sgt. James “Mac” MacMillan, a U.S. Army code clerk in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, began dating a Soviet national, nicknamed “Valya.” Kondrashev was the intelligence agent assigned to Mac. He persuaded Mac to give him any details of the code room and of anything else he knew. In exchange, the KGB offered to set him and Valya up with an apartment in Moscow and money to start their lives.
It was only a few weeks after their first meeting that Mac defected to the Soviet Union. Kondrashev soon learned Mac’s knowledge of the American codes was limited and the Russians were no closer to breaking the codes.
The Russians watched the U.S. embassy intently. Based on the information provided by Mac, they knew what the code clerks looked like, but after Mac’s defection, the Americans were on alert. The KGB’s got lucky again when agents reported an Army clerk visiting a local apartment, staying long into the night, and then returning to the embassy a few nights a week.
They code named that clerk “Jack” and his Russian lover “Nadya.” Nadya was single, attractive, and had her own apartment. She was an employee of the U.S. embassy. Jack was also single, but was short, overweight, and losing his hair. The Russians also discovered he had a history of alcoholism and was known to be greedy. Nadya saw Jack as an opportunity to live abroad at a higher standard of living.
The KGB discovered Nadya had been approached, as an asset but the intelligence agency had more than enough contacts inside the embassy and dropped her as a contact. At the same time, they instructed the young woman to foster the relationship.
She set up the meeting between Jack and Kondrashev, who would be his KGB handler. After a number of meetings designed to assess Jack’s vulnerability, Jack began to offer useful information. Russian government code breakers also started attending the meetings. For the rest of Jack’s tour in Moscow, he met with the KGB, for which he was paid more than $100,000 and told that Nadya would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union and join him in the West.
In addition to information about the code room, cipher machines, and code procedures, Jack also gave the KGB code schedules for when the deciphering procedures would be changed, broken and used cipher parts, and a print copy of the alphabet backward and forward (along with punctuation marks). The KGB was able to reconstruct the American code machine by the end of 1949. They were now able to read all American communications destined for installations worldwide.
Stalin’s fear of a direct military confrontation with the United States guided much of the Soviet Union’s foreign policy in the years following the Second World War. For years, Kim Il-Sung, the founder of the Communist regime in North Korea, urged Stalin for support (read: “permission”) to invade South Korea and unify the peninsula under his rule. Stalin hesitated to give Kim the green light because he thought the Americans would rush to defend the South Korean regime.
Deciphered American military communiques convinced Stalin that the Americans would not be as willing to defend South Korea as previously thought. The secret messages revealed that the U.S. had moved combat assets to the Japanese mainland and would thus be ineffective in defense of the fledgling republic. Stalin gave Kim the go-ahead and North Korean tanks rolled across the border on June 25, 1950.
Nadya was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union due to the KGB’s fears of American counterintelligence discovering Jack. Kondrashev’s superiors in the KGB did not survive Stalin’s purges. The codes Jack divulged to the USSR were used to read American diplomatic and military communications until 1961.
Jack returned to the U.S.; his identity was never discovered as Kondrashev went to great lengths to not disclose information to Bagley that might be used to compromise Jack.
(Author’s note: Bagley documented these stories in his book, Spymaster: Startling Cold War Revelations of a Soviet KGB Chief.)
Quoting a source familiar with the North Korean military, the newspaper’s China-based correspondent reported North Korea may be placing finishing touches on the missile, and could test the weapon soon.
The fuselage of the Pukuguksong-3 is slimmer than the Pukguksong-1, and up to two of the missiles can be deployed to a newly built submarine, the source said.
North Korea successfully tested the Pukuguksong-1 in August 2016. In February 2017, the regime tested the Pukguksong-2, an upgraded SLBM.
North Korea launched what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15, and released images of the launch on Nov. 29.
Images of Kim included the leader by the gigantic rocket.
Michael Duistman, an analyst with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies said the size of the Hwasong-15 signifies a new stage in North Korea’s nuclear development.
“Only a few countries can produce missiles of this size, and North Korea just joined the club,” the analyst said, according to the BBC.
The size of the missile’s nose cone indicates it could carry a “super-large heavy” nuclear warhead, according to the report.