A hilarious incident report involving a Navy sailor using a raccoon to pass a breathalyzer test so he could drive his car home was passed around on the internet like wildfire this week, but … it was too good to be true: It’s all a hoax.
A few days ago, WATM noticed an image being passed around, purportedly from an incident report from Camp Pendleton police, telling the full story of what happened after a sailor left the bar in San Diego. Here it is:
We were skeptical, though we read it and basically went all Ron Burgundy afterward (“I’m not even mad, that’s amazing”). It sounded quite unbelievable, and it also had a suspicious watermark in the background. The watermark reads, “Always Watching, JTTOTS,” the tagline and acronym for a Marine-focused Facebook page called Just The Tip, of the Spear.
Since it picked up steam and has hit quite a few websites — including making international news — journalists reached out to the military for comment on the incident (We’d love to know how these calls went). Here’s what they said:
“While humorous, it’s not real,” Eric Durie, spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, told the New York Daily News.
“I called police records, and while they were highly entertained, they confirmed (the story) is absolutely a hoax,” 1st. Lt. Savannah Frank, a public affairs officer at Camp Pendleton, told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
So this story may not be true, but we have a strong feeling a drunk sailor will someday be inspired to try this.
Tensions in the South China Sea and continued warnings about Chinese militarization of the disputed areas has led many Pentagon planners and analysts to sharpen focus on Chinese Air Force acquisitions and technological advances.
The U.S. Air Force’s technological air power superiority over China is rapidly diminishing in light of rapid Chinese modernization of fighter jets, missiles, air-to-air weapons, cargo planes and stealth aircraft, according to analysts, Pentagon officials and a Congressional review released several years ago.
The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended that Congress appoint an outside panel of experts to assess the U.S.-Chinese military balance and make recommendations regarding U.S. military plans and budgets, among other things.Despite being released in 2014, the findings of the report – if slightly dated – offer a detailed and insightful window into Chinese Air Force technology, progress and development.
The Commission compiled its report based upon testimony, various reports and analytical assessments along with available open-source information. An entire chapter is dedicated to Chinese military modernization.
The review states that the Chines People’s Liberation Army currently has approximately 2,200 operational aircraft, nearly 600 of which are considered modern.
“In the early 1990s, Beijing began a comprehensive modernization program to upgrade the PLA Air Force from a short-range, defensively oriented force with limited capabilities into a modern, multi-role force capable of projecting precision airpower beyond China’s borders, conducting air and missile defense and providing early warning,” the review writes.
Regarding stealth aircraft, the review mentions the recent flights of prototypes of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter, calling the aircraft more advanced than any other air platform currently deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. The Chinese are also testing a smaller stealth fighter variant called the J-31 although its intended use is unclear, according to the report.
In 2014, China displayed the Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter at China’s Zuhai Air show, according to various reports. However, several analysts have made the point that it is not at all clear if the platform comes close to rivaling the technological capability of the U.S. F-35.
Nevertheless, the U.S. technological advantage in weaponry, air and naval platforms is rapidly decreasing, according to the review.
To illustrate this point, the review cites comments from an analyst who compared U.S.-Chinese fighter jets to one another roughly twenty years ago versus a similar comparison today.
The analyst said that in 1995 a high-tech U.S. F-15, F-16 or F/A-18 would be vastly superior to a Chinese J-6 aircraft. However today — China’s J-10 and J-11 fighter jet aircraft would be roughly equivalent in capability to an upgraded U.S. F-15, the review states.
Alongside their J-10 and J-11 fighters, the Chinese also own Russian-built Su-27s and Su-30s and are on the verge of buying the new Su-35 from Russia, the review states.
“The Su-35 is a versatile, highly capable aircraft that would offer significantly improved range and fuel capacity over China’s current fighters. The aircraft thus would strengthen China’s ability to conduct air superiority missions in the Taiwan Strait, East China Sea, and South China Sea as well as provide China with the opportunity to reverse engineer the fighter’s component parts, including its advanced radar and engines, for integration into China’s current and future indigenous fighters,” the review writes.
In addition to stealth technology, high-tech fighter aircraft and improved avionics, the Chinese have massively increased their ability with air-to-air missiles over the last 15-years, the review finds.
“All of China’s fighters in 2000, with the potential exception of a few modified Su-27s, were limited to within-visual-range missiles. China over the last 15 years also has acquired a number of sophisticated short and medium-range air-to-air missiles; precision-guided munitions including all-weather, satellite-guided bombs, anti-radiation missiles, and laser-guided bombs; and long-range, advanced air-launched land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles,” the review says.
The review also points to the Y-20 aircraft, a new strategic airlifter now being tested by the Chinese which has three times the cargo-carrying capacity of the U.S. Air Force’s C-130. Some of these new planes could be configured into tanker aircraft, allowing the Chinese to massively increase their reach and ability to project air power over longer distances.
At the moment, the Chinese do not have a sizable or modern fleet of tankers, and many of their current aircraft are not engineered for aerial refueling, a scenario which limits their reach.
“Until the PLA Navy’s first carrier-based aviation wing becomes operational, China must use air refueling tankers to enable air operations at these distances from China. However, China’s current fleet of air refueling aircraft, which consists of only about 12 1950s-era H–6U tankers, is too small to support sustained, large-scale, long-distance air combat,” the review states.
The review also cites Russian media reports claiming that Russia has approved the sale of its new, next-generation S-400 surface-to-air-missile to China.
“Such a sale has been under negotiation since at least 2012. The S–400 would more than double the range of China’s air defenses from approximately 125 to 250 miles—enough to cover all of Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands, and parts of the South China Sea,” the review says.
The review also catalogues information related to China’s nuclear arsenal and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles such as the existing DF-31 and DF-31A along with the now-in-development DF-41.
The Chinese are believed to already have a number of road-mobile ICBMs able to carry nuclear weapons. The DF-41 is reported to have as many as 10 re-entry vehicles, analysts have said.
Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.
Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese
An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.
To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.
“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”
So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.
Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.
“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”
Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.
The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.
“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.
Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.
The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.
“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”
Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.
So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.
“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”
Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.
The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.
The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.
“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”
In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.
“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.
When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.
A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.
Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.
“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.
This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.
“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.
The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.
Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.
“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”
For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.
Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.
Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.
If a conflict in U.S. history ever came with baggage, it has to be the Vietnam War. Although the service and actions of the millions of Americans who fought in Southeast Asia have been slowly recognized, the unpopularity of the war at the time, and for many years after, left a scar in American society. This unpopularity also meant that extraordinary men and units, such as the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG), have fallen through the cracks of America’s consciousness, and are only known to a few old comrades, their families, and a handful of military history enthusiasts.
The innocuous-sounding MACV-SOG is such an organization, although its obscurity also has to do with its highly secretive nature.
SOG operators pulled off some of the most impressive special operations of the entire war; including some that seemed to defy logic itself. As successive U.S. administrations claimed that no American troops were outside South Vietnam, several hundreds of special operations troops fought against all odds, and against an enemy who always enjoyed a numerical advantage that sometimes exceeded a ratio of 1:1000.
The most secret unit you’ve never heard of
Activated in 1964, MACV-SOG was a covert joint special operations organization that conducted cross-border operations in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and North Vietnam.
Composed of Army Special Forces operators, Navy SEALs, Recon Marines, and Air Commandos, SOG also worked closely with the Intelligence Community, often running missions at the request of the CIA.
During its eight-year secret war (1964-1972), SOG conducted some of the most daring special operations in U.S. history and planted the seed for the creation of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
SOG’s main battleground and focus was the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, a complex stretching for hundreds of miles above and below ground, from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam, which the North Vietnamese and Vietcong used to fuel their fight in the south.
What was peculiar about SOG operations was the fact that they happened where U.S. troops weren’t supposed to be. Successive U.S. administrations had insisted that no American troops were operating outside South Vietnam.
SOG commandos, thus, wore no name tags, rank, or any other insignia that might identify them as Americans. Even their weapons had no serial numbers.
Duty in SOG was voluntary and strictly confidential. SOG troops weren’t allowed to disclose their location, missions, or any other details surrounding their covert outfit and they couldn’t take photographs—like all good commandos. However, SOG broke that rule frequently, as the numerous pictures from the time suggest. But as far as the general public was concerned, they were each just another American soldier fighting Communism in Vietnam.
SOG was commanded by an Army colonel, called “Chief SOG,” reflecting the predominance of Green Berets in the organization, and divided into three geographical sections: Command and Control North (CCN), Command and Control Central (CCC), and Command and Control South (CCS).
Service in the unit was highly selective. Not only did it recruit solely from special operations units, but the inherent risk required that everyone had to be a volunteer. Approximately 3.2 million Americans served in Vietnam. Of that number, about 20,000 were Green Berets, of those, only 2,000 served in SOG, with just 400 to 600 running recon and direct action operations.
Service at SOG came with an unspoken agreement that you’d receive either a Purple Heart or body bag. SOG had a casualty rate of 100 percent—everyone who served in SOG was either wounded, most multiple times, or killed.
Our “Little People“
What enabled SOG operations was a steady supply of loyal and fierce local fighters who passionately hated the North Vietnamese—and sometimes each other. These local warfighters worked with the American commandos as mercenaries. The “Little People,” as the Americans affectionally called them, proved their worth on the field, against impossible odds time and again.
These local partner forces included Montagnards, South Vietnamese, and Chinese Nungs, among other tribes and ethnicities. Indeed, local mercenaries made up most of SOG recon teams and Hatchet Forces (more on them later). For example, most recon teams would run cross-border operations with between two and four Americans and four to nine local mercenaries. Locals had an uncanny ability—some SOG operators would say a sixth sense—to detect danger. This ability made them perfect point men during recon operations.
Usually, when launching a cross-border recon operation, SOG teams would enter a pre-mission “quarantine,” much like modern-day Army Special Forces operational detachments do before deploying. During this quarantine period, they would eat the same food as the North Vietnamese, that is mostly rice and fish, so they—and their human waste—could smell like the enemy while in the jungle.
Today, where pre-workout and energy drinks are borderline mandatory, even on active operations, such measures might sound extravagant. But in a moonless night, in the middle of the Cambodian jungle, surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese trackers and troops, something as trivial-seeming as your smell could mean the difference between a SOG team getting wiped out or making it home.
The local troops, having a great understanding of the operational environment, were crucial in the survival of many SOG recon teams. When the war ended, some of them, such as the legendary “Cowboy,” managed to escape to the West and come to the U.S.
Death-defying special operations
SOG specialized mainly in strategic reconnaissance, direct-action, sabotage, and combat search-and-rescue.
Although SOG’s primary mission-set was strategic reconnaissance through its recon teams, it also specialized in direct-action operations, such as raids and ambushes. For these larger operations, there were different outfits within SOG.
The “Hatchet Forces” specialized in raids and ambushes, but also acted as a quick-reaction force for recon teams. Usually, Hatchet Forces were platoon-size and composed of five Americans and 30 indigenous troops. Sometimes, several Hatchet Forces would combine to create a company-size element, called either “Havoc” or “Hornet,” that could be very effective against known enemy logistical hubs or headquarters.
In addition to the Hatchet Forces, there were also the “SLAM” companies, standing for Search, Locate, Annihilate, Monitor/Mission, which were full-sized SOG companies with a few dozen Americans in leadership roles and a few hundred indigenous mercenaries who SOG had recruited.
The first SOG recon teams were called “Spike Teams” (ST), for example, ST Idaho, with the term “Recon Teams” (RT), for instance, RT Ohio, becoming more popular later in the war. Usually, SOG commandos named teams after U.S. States, but they also used other titles, such as “Bushmaster,” “Adder,” and “Viper.” The number of active recon teams fluctuated throughout the war, reflecting casualties and increasing demand. For example, at one point, CCC ran almost 30 recon teams.
Some notable SOG missions include Operation Tailwind, a Hatchet Force operation in Thailand and one of the most successful missions in SOG’s history; the Thanksgiving operation, when SOG operator John Stryker Meyer’s six-man team encountered and evaded 30,000 North Vietnamese; the Christmas mission, when Meyer’s team went into Laos to destroy a fuel pipeline but almost got burned alive by North Vietnamese trackers who lit the jungle on fire; Operation Thundercloud, in which SOG recruited and trained captured North Vietnamese troops and sent them to recon operations across the border dressed like their former comrades; and Recon Team Alabama’s October 1968 mission that accounted fora whopping 9,000 North Vietnamese killed or wounded in action.
What stands out about SOG is how much responsibility was placed on its young operators. Legendary SOG operator John Stryker Meyer, for example, was running recon as a One-Zero (team leader) at the age of 22 and just an E-4. And rules of engagement were quite different, with less bureaucracy impeding the guys on the ground.
“The Bright Light missions [combat search-and-rescue] would seldom be deployed under today’s Rules of Engagement,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.
“And, today, they call can’t believe lowly E-4s were directing air strikes, total control on the ground, and experienced troops had final say on teams, regardless of rank. Experience over rank.”
Although techniques, tactics, and procedures were generally the same among the three SOG subcommands, SOG teams adjusted their approaches according to their geographical area. Laos, for example, has more mountains and jungle than Cambodia, which is flatter and more open.
Saviors from above: SOG’s Air Commandos
Pivotal to the success and effectiveness of MACV-SOG operations across the border were several aircraft squadrons from across the services and also South Vietnam.
The Air Force’s 20th Special Operations Squadron was dubbed the “Green Hornets.” They flew the Sikorsky CH-3C and CH-3E and Bell UH-1F/P Huey. First Lieutenant James P. Fleming, a Green Hornet pilot, earned the Medal of Honor for saving a SOG recon team from certain death in 1968.
The Green Hornets’ Hueys came packed with an assortment of weapons, including M-60 machine guns, GAU-2B/A miniguns, and 2.75-inch rocket pods. If ammo ran out, door gunners would lob grenades or shoot their individual rifles.
In addition to the Green Hornets, the South Vietnamese Air Force 219th Squadron, which flew H-34 Kingbees, was a dedicated supporter of SOG operations. These South Vietnamese pilots and crews were truly fearless, always coming to the rescue of compromised recon teams regardless of the danger. Captain Nguyen Van Tuong, a legendary pilot, stands out for his coolness and steady hand under fire.
Other notable rotary-wing units that supported SOG missions were the USMC Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, which flew the AH-1 Viper attack and the UH-1 Venom transport helicopters; the 189th Assault Helicopter Company “Ghost Riders,” which flew assault and transport variants of the UH-1 Huey helicopter.
SOG commandos on the ground could also rely on fixed-wing close air support, with the turboprop A-1 Skyraider being a favorite platform for close air support and the F-4 Phantom a good choice on any given day.
“Military politics always interfered, and our leadership had to fight from close air support assets, such as the A-1 Skyraider squadrons,” Meyer told Sandboxx News.
“For example, SOG brass had to fight to keep the 56th Special Operations Wing, operating from Location Alpha in Da Nang.
“That unit’s SPADs [A-1 Skyraiders] were consistent and fearless and were considered the backbone of CAS during Operation Tailwind. On day 4, for example, the NVA were about to overrun the HF [Hatchet Force] when Tom Stump made devastating gun runs that broke the back of those frontal attacks, giving McCarley time to get them off the LZ and out of the target as weather closed in.”
Close air support was vital and probably the most important factor in the survival of numerous SOG teams. However, although SOG commandos enjoyed air superiority and North Vietnamese aircraft never posed a danger, the Air Commandos supporting SOG had to face the extremely potent anti-aircraft capabilities of the North Vietnamese, which included anything from light machine guns to heavy anti-aircraft cannons to surface-to-air missiles. Every hot extraction forced a penalty of downed helicopters and fighters/ or bombers, or at least a few riddled with bullets.
SOG commandos called in close air support themselves, usually by using a compass and smoke canisters. Forward air controllers, nicknamed “Covey,” flew overhead and assisted in coordinating with the team on the ground and controlling all air assets and close air support. In CCS, Covey usually flew solo, doing both tasks while also flying his plane. In CCN, however, Covey was a two-man affair, usually entailing an experienced SOG operator joining the pilot and helping out with his unique experience, having been on the receiving end of close air support numerous teams.
Years after the Vietnam War ended, it was discovered that there was a mole at the SOG headquarters in Saigon who had been passing information on team missions and locations to the enemy.
SOG operators, including special operations legends like Colonel Robert Howard and Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, earned 12 Medals of Honor throughout the conflict.
Although service at SOG came with the unspoken agreement of a perilous life full of danger and risk, it also came with an unbreakable sense of loyalty and trust between the men who served there. A sense of loyalty and trust that time and again SOG operators proved through their commitment to leave no man behind, dead or alive. That effort, that commitment, continues to this day.
While cyber-attacks do not kill humans outright in the way the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did, they degrade the faith of Americans in their political systems and infrastructure in a way that could devastate the country and that furthers the foreign-policy goals of the US’s adversaries.
“When Americans have lost trust in their electoral system, or their financial system, or the security of their grid, then we’re gonna be in big trouble,” Eric Rosenbach, a former US Army intelligence officer who served as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s chief of staff, said July 13 at the Defense One Tech Summit.
‘A failure of deterrence’
The US has long relied on the concept of deterrence, or discouraging nation-states from taking action against the US because of the perceived consequences, for protection.
“Deterrence is based on perception,” Rosenbach said. “When people think they can do something to you and get away with it, they’re much more likely to do it.”
While the US conducts cyber-operations, especially offensives, as secretly as possible, mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against hacks by adversarial countries as strongly as possible.
After receiving intelligence reports that Russia had been trying to hack into US election systems to benefit Donald Trump, President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop and brought up the possibility of US retaliation.
A former senior Obama administration official told The Washington Post earlier this year that the US’s muted response to the 2016 hacking was “the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend.”
“I feel like we sort of choked,” the official said.
The Post also found that Obama administration’s belief that Hillary Clinton would win the election prompted it to respond less forcefully than it might have.
While the attacks on vital US voting systems and nuclear power plants highlight recent failures of deterrence, Russia has been sponsoring cyber-crimes against the US for years.
“The Russians, and a lot of other bad guys, think that they can get away with putting malware in our grid, manipulating our elections, and doing a lot of other bad things and get away with it,” Rosenbach said. “Because they have.”
In physical war, the US deters adversaries like Russia with nuclear arms. In cyberspace, no equivalent measure exists. With the complicated nature of attributing cyber-crimes to their culprits, experts disagree on how to best deter Russia, but Rosenbach stressed that the US needed to take “bold” action.
While Rosenbach doesn’t find it likely that Russia would seek to take down the US’s grid in isolation, he pointed out that the nuclear-plant intrusions gave Russia incredible leverage over the US in a way that could flip the deterrence equation, with the US possibly fearing that its actions might anger Russia.
Russia’s malware attacks have been so successful, Rosenbach says, that the next time the US moves against Russia’s interests, fear of future attacks could “cause the US to change course.” The US losing its ability to conduct an independent foreign policy would be a grave defeat for the world’s foremost superpower.
Some much deserved tender loving care begins August 22 in the nation’s capital. The revered US Marine Corps War Memorial — often referred to as the Iwo Jima Memorial — will get new gilding on its engravings and pedestal, plus a meticulous cleaning and wax of its five immense 32-foot bronze figures, a 60-foot flagpole, and granite base.
There also will be updated lighting, new landscaping for the surrounding parkland, and improved infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.
The rehabilitation is a big project. It also uses no taxpayer funds.
The upgrade was made possible through a $5.4 million donation from businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, a man who believes in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.”
David M. Rubenstein. (Photo from Flickr user Jean-Frédéric.)
Besides his many donations to academic, art, or hospital-related institutions, Mr. Rubenstein has donated close to $100 million in recent years for historic preservation projects to restore the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and other major sites. Now, it is Iwo Jima’s turn.
“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy. I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system,” Mr. Rubenstein said on announcing his donation.
The Marine memorial draws 2 million visitors a year and was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps. The entire original cost of the statue — $850,000 — was donated by individual Marines, friends of the Corps, and members of the naval service. Again, no taxpayer funds.
WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely satisfied with the political furor in the United States over what U.S. intelligence calls a Russian hacking campaign to meddle in the presidential election.
Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas) said during the January 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would not be surprising if Russia’s leadership sees the uproar “as something that might well rebound to their benefit.”
“I have no doubt that the discourse that’s been taking place is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say: ‘Wow, that was among the objectives that I had, to sow doubt among the American political community, to suggest somehow that American democracy was not unique,'” Pompeo said.
Trump has publicly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian involvement, though a day earlier he acknowledged that Moscow was likely behind the cyberattacks targeting the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Trump insists, however, that the meddling had no impact on the outcome of the election.
Pompeo was responding to a question by Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) about the hacking campaign, in which Russia denies its involvement, and unsubstantiated claims that surfaced recently alleging that Russia possesses compromising information on Trump.
Pompeo said he accepts the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.
Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he attended last week’s meeting at which top U.S. officials briefed Trump on the matter.
“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound,” Pompeo said.
Russia denies it was behind the cyberattacks.
Pompeo also said he believes Russia is “threatening Europe” while “doing nearly nothing” to destroy Islamic State (IS) militants.
“Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction of ISIS,” Pompeo said in his written testimony submitted to the committee, using an alternate acronym for IS.
Trump has said he wants better relations with Russia, including greater bilateral cooperation in fighting IS militants in Syria.
Pompeo also said he would drop his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal if confirmed for the post and focus on “aggressive” verification that Tehran is complying with the terms of the accord.
A fierce critic of the deal between Iran and world powers during his time in Congress, Pompeo said in his confirmation hearing that he would have a different role if the Senate confirms his nomination.
“While I opposed the Iran deal as a member of Congress, if confirmed, my role would change — I’ll lead the [Central Intelligence] Agency to aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts have the time, political space, and resources to make objective and sound judgments,” Pompeo said.
Trump has previously said he could scrap or renegotiate the deal.
Pompeo has said that the CIA must be “rigorously fair and objective” in assessing the accord.
In his testimony, he called Iran “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and said the Islamic republic “has become an even more emboldened and disruptive player in the Middle East.”
Israel’s Arrow missile defense system managed to get its first kill. This particular kill is notable because it was a Syrian surface-to-air missile.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, Israeli jets had attacked a number of Syrian targets. After the successful operation, they were targeted by Syrian air-defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles.
Reportedly, at least one of the surface-to-air missiles was shot down by an Arrow. According to astronautix.com, the system designed to kill ballistic missiles, had its first test flight in 1990 and has hit targets as high as 60 miles up.
Army-Technology.com notes that the Israeli system has a range of up to 56 miles and a top speed of Mach 9. That is about three times the speed of the legendary SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane.
The surprise, of course, is that the Arrow proved capable of killing the unidentified surface-to-air missile the Syrians fired.
Surface-to-air missiles are much harder targets to hit than ballistic missiles because they will maneuver to target a fighter or other aircraft.
Furthermore, the SAM that was shot down is very likely to have been of Russian manufacture (DefenseNews.com reported the missile was a SA-5 Gammon, also known as the S-200).
Most of the missiles are from various production blocks of the Arrow 2, but this past January, Reuters reported that the first Arrow 3 battery had become operational.
While the Arrow 2 intercepts incoming warheads in the atmosphere, the Arrow 3 is capable of exoatmospheric intercepts. One battery has been built so far, and will supplement Israel’s Arrow 2 batteries. The Arrow 3’s range is up to 2,400 kilometers, according to CSIS.
While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.
“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.
Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.
To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.
For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.
According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.
But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!
The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.
Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.
Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.
During the spring of 2003, the first medivacs were returning to Camp Pendleton from the battlefield of Iraq. Karen Guenther, a Marine Corps spouse who’s husband was deployed at the time, was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton, and saw firsthand the needs of the wounded arriving there.
Guenther immediately realized most of them were in need of basic health and comfort items, so she enlisted the help of some fellow military spouses and began assembling “welcome bags” full of toiletries, phone cards, and other items intended to make life better for the wounded Marines.
“We went out to local churches and Boy Scouts and had everybody help,” said Wendy Lethin, one of the first to join Guenther’s effort. “Everybody was very generous, but we realized there was much more than welcome bags needed.”
During this same time, the spouses learned of parents of wounded Marines sleeping in their cars while visiting hospitals because they could not afford to stay at local hospitals, and they also helped to provide an adapted vehicle to a Marine whose wife was having difficulty lifting him into their truck
“That was kind of the idea for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said.
Guenther gathered her group of spouses around her kitchen table in her house aboard Camp Pendleton and started brainstorming what they should do to get their collective arms around all of the needs that they saw rapidly emerging. They researched existing non-profits and were surprised that there didn’t seem to be any that were doing what they had in mind.
“We had the right group at the right time,” Lethin said. “We read all kinds of books on non profits and did our research. And we agreed to the ideals and tenants of the organization that still guide us today.”
As stated on the Semper Fi Fund’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
The Fund’s first official donation came for the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, California. The entire donation was given to the first three wounded Marines referred by the hospital with the thought that even if that was all that was raised it would at least help those three and their families at a difficult time in their recovery. Little did the organizers realize that that donation would be the first of many.
In the 12 years since the Semper Fi Fund has transformed the lives of thousands of wounded service members and their families. The Fund now has a dedicated staff supplemented by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
“I’m proud of what we do and how we do it,” Lethin said. “It’s a sacred duty to be able to do what we do.”
The Fund’s next major event is the “InVETational,” a charity golf tournament hosted by comedian and actor Rob Riggle (who, among other roles, is currently playing Col. Sanders in KFC commercials). Riggle is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan. The tournament will take place at Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
“We are so excited that Rob is doing this for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said. “He has the heart of our mission. He’s a Marine who knows the power and good of what we do.”
The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.
In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.
“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.
IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.
It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.
At a parade touting Beijing’s massive military might on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, China rolled out it’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-31AG.
Another upgrade to the survivability and lethality of the missile comes from the truck that carries it. Like the DF-31, it’s mobile and therefore can evade attacking forces, hide, and fire from surprising locations. But unlike the previous model, the DF-31AG can actually go off road, further complicating any plans to neutralize China’s nuclear might.
Watch the rollout of the DF-31AG below:
China’s new DF-31AG intercontinental missiles make public debut at military parade in Zhurihe base in Inner Mongolia pic.twitter.com/PaTeQp4TPN