The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:
The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.
American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.
If you look at the enlisted ranking system put in place by every branch of the United States Armed Forces, everything makes a good deal of sense. You start at the bottom — generally at E-1, but there are ways to get in at a higher pay grade — and work your way up to a certain point where you become an NCO. Officers have their own linear path, starting at O-1, and warrant officers are half way between the two.
But the Army has its very own conundrum with the E-4 ranks. Years ago, the hierarchy of ranks looked a little different: it went private first class, then corporal, then sergeant. Today, both specialist (the highest junior enlisted rank) and corporal (the lowest NCO rank) share the same pay grade. This means that, in a sense, being a specialist is just like being a corporal — only without the NCO benefits.
To understand the specialist rank we know it today, you’ll have to look back at the Army’s long-gone specialist ranks.
The same insignia that would later be used for private first class.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felicia Jagdatt)
In 1920, there was a consolidation that distilled 128 different rank insignia and titles into just seven. The results of this consolidation left us with something similar to what we use today — with a few key differences.
Since warfare involves much more than just general “infantrymen,” there was a need to identify the support soldiers, those who were specialists in their given field of expertise. Back then, it was assumed that all 5th-grade soldiers (corporals) fully understood what their job entails, but there needed to be a way to offer a little incentive to a privates to become known as a “private/specialist,” which was the name of the MOS at the time. That incentive came in the form of bonus pay — despite being paid more, a private/specialist was still officially of lower rank than a private first class.
The insignia of the private/specialist was a single chevron with a single rocker.
Think of the difference like today’s version of a master sergeant and a first sergeant. Same pay grade, same respect, but two very different positions and mentalities.
(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The next major overhaul came in 1942 when a need arose to differentiate between those who earned their rank because of how good they were at their job and those who earned it because of leadership abilities. And so the “technician” ranks were created, ranging from technician fifth grade (or “tech/5”) up to technician third grade (or “tech/3”).
They were distinguished from their peers by placing a ‘T’ under their chevrons. For all practical purposes, a technician third grade and a staff sergeant were on equal footing — same pay and same respect — but the staff sergeant was in a leadership position while the tech/3 was more of an instructor.
The joke used back then was “the NCOs may have been the backbone of the Army, but the specialists were the brains.”
The final shakeup came in 1955 when these two previous iterations of separating specialists in their given field from general leadership culminated an entirely new ranking system — the specialists. This took the original insignia of the 1920s private/specialist, inverted it, and added the Army Eagle to it. Promotions within the specialists meant adding another rocker to the top instead of a chevron.
A young private could prove themselves ready to enter the non-commissioned officers as a corporal — or they could focus on their MOS as a specialist. Between the years 1959 and 1968, it was entirely possible to make it all the way to E-9 as a specialist. Throughout the years, the highest achievable rank dwindled down and down until 1985, when only the Spec/4 remained.
Since all other grades of specialists were obsolete, the rank is now just called “specialist.” In essence, the rank holds the same meaning as it did in the 1920s — except now it’s more of a holdover rank before most E-4s make sergeant.
The Trump administration’s plan to bring US troops in Syria back home is being complicated by renewed attacks from the terrorist group ISIS, according to The Wall Street Journal.
ISIS has lost the vast majority of its territory and fighters over the past year or so, but many of the fighters who remained fled to the desert and are using stashed weapons and ammunition to stage attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
Prior to retreating from its strongholds in cities like Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, ISIS reportedly dug tunnels and set up sleeper cells in the desert that stretches across Iraq and Syria.
According to the report, this is a sign ISIS was more prepared for a military collapse than the US may have anticipated. It also means US troops in Syria might have to stay longer than the Trump administration previously thought because removing them could create a big window of opportunity for ISIS.
As Defense Secretary James Mattis said in late in June, 2018, “Some of you are questioning whether ISIS was completely taken down. … Just bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead.”
Mattis added, “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The situation in Iraq and Syria is exceptionally convoluted as an array of players with competing interests, including Russia and Iran in addition to the US, fail to find common ground in terms of what should be prioritized moving forward.
Moreover, the conflicting goals of foreign forces in Iraq in Syria often clash with the priorities of local forces, further compounding the already complex circumstances on the ground.
ISIS has seemingly taken advantage of the confusion by staging attacks on an “array of adversaries,” according to The Journal, including US allies.
In early July, 2018, for example, ISIS staged its first attack in its former de facto capital, Raqqa, since it was driven from the city in October 2017. The group reportedly targeted US-backed Kurdish forces near a mosque in this attack.
Meanwhile, a recent Soufan Center report warned ISIS is looking to make a comeback by targeting Iraqi law enforcement, a tactic it embraced in 2013 before it rose to power and established a caliphate.
The Iraqi government recently executed 12 ISIS members, which was reportedly in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.
Accordingly, it seems the roughly 2,000 US troops stationed in Syria will not be leaving anytime soon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Moscow court denied release on bail for Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine jailed in Russia on an espionage charge. After the bail hearing on Jan. 22, 2019, Whelan’s attorney suggested his client was the victim of a setup. Whelan, who also holds citizenship from Ireland, Canada, and Britain, was arrested in Moscow by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents on Dec. 28, 2018.
American Jailed On Spy Charge In Russia Kept In Custody
The Navy gets 14 new ships, including a carrier; the Air Force adds 56 F-35s; the Army gets 17 Apache and 11 Lakota helicopters; the Marine Corps receives 24 vertical landing F-35Bs; and the Coast Guard gets a long-needed icebreaker.
All the troops get funding for a 2.4 percent pay raise that took effect at the beginning of the year, with the possibility for more next year.
The Air Force also gets $103 million for the wing replacement program on the A-10 Thunderbolt as a start in what Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said is a plan to keep the “Warthogs” flying at least to 2030.
These are some of the highlights from the submissions of the Senate and House Defense Appropriations subcommittees in the overall 2,342-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package for fiscal 2018, including nearly $700 billion for the military and $591 billion for non-defense funding.
The $700 billion includes $65.2 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations, or “war budget” funding mostly for Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
“Overall, this is the biggest year-to-year increase in defense funding in 15 years — a $61 billion increase over FY2017 enacted levels,” the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee said in its overview.
Yet Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it isn’t enough to completely reverse the shortfalls in readiness and modernization brought about by the budget restraints under the sequester process.
“It is not enough to fix our problems, but it’s probably the right amount to be spent this year,” he told Fox News on March 21, 2018.
The Defense Department has been promised $716 billion for fiscal 2019 under a two-year military spending plan already approved by Congress — $700 billion in 2018 and $716 billion in 2019.
All of that funding is contingent on Congress approving the $1.3 trillion omnibus package, which is still hung up on debates over health care, immigration, gun control, and the funding of Planned Parenthood.
Since failing to adopt a fiscal 2018 budget Oct. 1, 2017, the government has gone through two brief shutdowns and five continuing resolutions that kept spending at 2017 levels. The latest continuing resolution runs out at midnight March 23, 2018.
The proposed fiscal 2018 budget for the DoD includes $137.7 billion overall for personnel and the 2.4 percent pay raise; $89.2 billion for research and development, up $16 billion over 2017; $144.3 billion for procurement, up $25.4 billion over 2017; and $238 billion for operations and maintenance — about $1 billion above the Trump administration’s request.
The omnibus package would also fully fund an active-duty end strength of 1,322,500 and a reserve component end strength of 816,900 — an overall increase of 9,500.
The Missile Defense Agency would get at least a $2 billion increase over its original request to a total of $11.5 billion, mainly to counter the growing threat from North Korea.
The additional MDA funding includes $568 million to initiate the expansion of Missile Field #4 at Fort Greely, Alaska, with 20 additional Ground-Based Interceptors.
The proposed agreement calls for $23.8 billion to go to Navy shipbuilding programs, $3.4 billion above the initial budget request.
In total, the agreement funds the construction of 14 new ships: one aircraft carrier, two Virginia- class submarines, two DDG-51 destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships, one LX(R) amphibious assault ship, one Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, one Expeditionary Sea Base, one TAO fleet oiler, one Towing, Salvage and Rescue ship (ATS), and one T-AGS oceanographic survey ship.
The agreement also fully funds advance procurement activities for Ohio-class and Virginia-class submarines. Other critical shipbuilding investments include an additional $225 million for the expansion of the submarine industrial base and $150 million to accelerate procurement of a Heavy Polar Icebreaker, according to the Senate overview.
The Army would get $348 million for 116 Stryker Double V-Hull upgrades; $300 million for Stryker lethality upgrades; $1.1 billion for the upgrade of 85 Abrams tanks; and $483 million for the upgrade of 145 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
In addition, the Army would get $220 million for National Guard High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle recapitalization, including $120 million specifically for ambulance modernization.
The proposed bill includes a total of $44 billion for aircraft procurement programs, $9.5 billion above the amount requested by the Trump administration. The bill would provide:
• $2.9 billion for 10 conventional take-off, six carrier variant, and four vertical take-off F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as additional tooling and spare engines (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps).
• $739 million for 10 F-18 Super Hornet aircraft (Navy).
• $676 million for eight V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft (Marine Corps and Navy).
• $600 million for five MC-130J aircraft (Special Operations Command).
• $577 million for 17 AH-64 Apache helicopters (Army).
• $510 million for three KC-46A tanker aircraft (Air Force).
• $501 million for three P-8A Poseidon aircraft (Navy).
• $480 million for six C-130J aircraft (Air National Guard).
• $400 million for eight MH-60R helicopters (Navy).
• $387 million for eight CH-47 Chinook helicopters (Army and Special Operations Command).
• $343 million for four KC-130J tanker aircraft (Marine Corps).
• $250 million for two CH-53K King Stallion helicopters (Marine Corps).
• $221 million for seven UH-1Y/AH-1Z helicopters (Marine Corps).
• $207 million for two C-40 aircraft (Marine Corps).
• $130 million for two C-37B aircraft (Air Force).
• $110 million for additional RQ-7 Shadow systems (Army).
• $108 million for eight UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters (Army National Guard).
• $107 million for nine MQ-1 Grey Eagle vehicles and payloads (Army).
• $100 million for one HC-130J aircraft (Air Force).
• $90 million for 11 UH-72 Lakota helicopters (Army).
• $84 million for six MQ-8 Fire Scout vehicles (Navy).
• $40 million for two SATURN ARCH aircraft (Army).
• $29 million for one Dash 8 maritime patrol aircraft (Southern Command).
Noah Song did not enroll at the Naval Academy to become a professional baseball player.
First and foremost, he was focused on his education and becoming an officer. Improving his pitching repertoire was nice but not the primary goal. Like all Midshipmen, a military commitment awaited him upon graduation. Being drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2019 altered that timeline only slightly.
From ballplayer to Marine
“It was supposed to be four years and done with baseball,” Song said. “Everything after graduation has really just been a plus.”
Song, 23, reported to flight school in Pensacola in June, leaving behind an abbreviated stint last season for the Red Sox’s Class A short-season, minor-league affiliate in Lowell, Massachusetts. Song put away his glove without complaint, not surprising considering his family’s priorities.
His younger brother, Elijah, recently completed the Marines’ Officer Candidates School in Virginia and is one year from graduating from Cal Maritime. Song’s father, Bill, and older brother, Daniel, work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his sister, Faith, is a nurse.
“It seems like all the kids are gravitating to public service and servicing the country,” Bill Song said. “They’ve really fulfilled everything that I would want from a child.”
Elijah, 20, decided to become a Marine as a college freshman. He was interested in the military before Noah chose Navy but was impressed by watching how his brother matured there.
“To see him go through his transformation, just from a normal kid in high school to this refined military officer, … it made me tell myself, ‘Man, I want to be that squared away, that professional,”’ Elijah said.
Baseball wasn’t always on this Navy grad’s mind
Noah was not always that squared away, especially on the baseball field.
Navy was his only offer to play baseball after he graduated from high school in Claremont, California, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. Scouts started paying attention during his junior year at Navy, and then Song blossomed as a senior, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.
He was among four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States.
“I never really thought about [getting drafted] so much, because the mindset was just on becoming an officer,” Noah said. “I completely agree with that. That’s the complete reason we’re there, so [the attention was] kind of weird.”
While awaiting his flight-school orders, Noah was allowed to begin his professional career last summer. In seven games for Lowell, he allowed two earned runs in 17 innings for a 1.06 ERA.
“When he first got here, I don’t think he was overly confident in who he was,” Navy baseball coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “He went from this kind of nervous, internal person to being a confident man, so to speak. It’s always great to see.”
Elijah was different.
He played golf in high school but was not that interested in sports. He enjoyed tinkering, once learning to load ammunition by researching it online and watching videos.
But mainly he loved flying. Aboard a Cessna 150, Elijah sat in the pilot’s seat for the first time as a high school junior.
“Feeling the pedals and feeling the yoke and feeling the plane actually move from my control, that was just a life-changing experience,” Elijah said.
Noah, whose future in baseball is uncertain, cherishes that view from the air as well.
He said his relationship with Elijah was tight-knit as children, but they were typical brothers. They argued. They fought. They made up.
“Looking back, it’s all just fond memories,” Noah said. “This military experience has definitely brought us a little bit closer than we used to be, just because we share a bond. We get to have that commonality between us, which is pretty cool.”
You see and hear this term all the time: “former Marine.” And, wherever you see it, you’ll also see Marines telling you (and everyone else) why we hate it. Sure, there are a few folks out there who agree with it, but those of us who hold the title near and dear to our hearts will tell you a different story.
In my opinion, there’s a damned good reason for the expression, “once a Marine, always a Marine.” Others disagree.
To be fair, this is not a mentality exclusive to Marines. Just because you “get out” doesn’t mean you’re no longer a Marine, soldier, airman, coast guardsman, etc. You don’t just instantly forget everything you’ve learned and experienced over the past few years once you get your DD-214. Joining the military makes you a part of a fraternity and you’ll find that you resonate better with other veterans than you do with people from any other walk of life for one simple reason: You became a part of something much larger than yourself.
Your membership was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears, along with the countless hours you spent dedicated to the cause. To say a veteran is an “ex-” anything is highly inaccurate.
However, there are certain qualities (mostly conscious choices) that define a former Marine. These are just a few of those qualities:
Maybe you just need some new Drill Instructors…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Severe lack of discipline
It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your discipline slide when you get out — in fact, a lot of us are guilty of this. But at some point, we pick it back up and we reintegrate it into our lives. To allow this discipline to drop off entirely is most definitely a conscious choice — one that can lead to the discontinuation of other hard-earned qualities.
Forgotten core values
No matter which branch you join, you’ll first learn the core values and then you’ll embody them. Those values shape your personal code and you live by them while you’re in the military. When you get out, if you aren’t still using them to find some direction in life, you’ve earn the “ex” in front of your title.
Just remember what you learned.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Lack of leadership
Almost everyone comes out of the military with some type of leadership capabilities. Something you hear often in the military is, “in the absence of leadership, be a leader.” This applies heavily to civilian life because there’s often severe absence of leadership. If you get out of the military without learning how to take control from time to time, you likely didn’t learn much else.
Lack of punctuality
We’re all guilty of being late to something at some point. It just happens, it’s the way of life. But, those who learned anything from time in service will remember the factors that played into that tardiness, both self-inflicted and external, and ensure it doesn’t happen again.
If you’re choosing to be late because you just don’t care — you’ve given up your title.
If you define yourself as an “ex-Marine,” by all means.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
A conscious decision to no longer be a Marine
There’s a common belief among those who served that states you should always work to justify the fact that you’ve earned the right to be called a Marine (or solider, or airmen, etc). You should continuously employ the values learned in service in forming your civilian life.
There is, however, another side to this — and it’s simple. If you decide you’re no longer fitting of that title because you’ve grown a beard or whatever other, arbitrary reason, then you aren’t.
Many of us still believe in our titles and we’re willing to continue to honor it. It’s a lifetime effort and, if you’re not willing to make the commitment, nobody else will make it for you.
A US military airstrike destroyed an al-Shabab training camp, killing eight suspected militants, officials said.
The US military in Africa says it carried out an airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight alleged al-Shabab militants at a rebel command and logistics camp, 185 miles southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
The Pentagon said the operation occurred at approximately 0600 GMT “in coordination with regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces.”
The statement emphasised that the strike was carried out as part of US President Donald Trump’s March authorization of American forces “to conduct legal action against al-Shababwithin a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of (the) partner force in Somalia.”
Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo confirmed the airstrike, saying that Somali and partner forces destroyed an al-Shabab training camp near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region.
“The mission which was successfully ended destroyed an important training camp where the group used to organise violent operations,” said Mohamed. “This undermines their ability to mastermind more attacks.”
Neither statement mentioned casualties.
There was no immediate comment on the airstrike from Somalia’s homegrown extremist group, al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaeda.
Warfighters have charged into battle throughout history with fully bearded chins. Sadly, the need to survival chemical weapons attacks has overshadowed the need to keep one’s chin beautiful.
Today, the most widely stated reason for requiring troops to keep a clean-shaven face is because facial hair prevents the proper sealing of a gas mask. Many studies and personnel trials have proven this true time and time again. That’s right, folks. Chemical weapons are so evil that they’ve even killed beards.
Maintaining a clean shave isn’t a problem for most troops. Military regulations prohibit facial hair and every male service member must remain baby-faced. This isn’t solely for potential chemical warfare reasons, but rather for maintaining a uniform and professional appearance among troops.
However, troops with religious reasons or a medical profile may be exempt from the shaving requirement. Unfortunately, their luck runs out when it’s time to visit the CS chamber. Despite knowing that their beards will prevent a complete seal, some in the chain of command will still send these troops in for whatever reason.
Well, my bearded friends, the military is developing an alternative to the standard M50 gas mask that will protect a troop from chemical weapons by forming a skin-tight seal at the neck instead of the chin. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much progress with the technology, even from the Canadian military, but trials are still ongoing.
This doesn’t mean that bearded gentlemen are completely screwed out of wearing a gas mask. A Marine veteran and survivalist YouTuber, TEOTWAWKI Man, has found a field expedient solution — all it takes is a bunch of Vaseline. What you need to do is slather the edges of the mask with Vaseline and coat your beard with it, too. It should be a nasty amount of goo.
It won’t be pleasant, but it will be a lot faster than shaving and a lot less painful than sucking up CS gas.
Three Marines will stand trial on charges of hazing and mistreating recruits at Parris Island, South Carolina, and a fourth may also face charges, Marine officials announced Tuesday.
Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez and Sgt. Riley Gress face charges of violation of a lawful general order and false official statement. Bacchus and Gress were also charged with cruelty and maltreatment. They all will receive special courts-martial, an intermediate-level trial for those facing sentences of 12 months’ confinement or less.
Another staff sergeant, who has not been named, faces an Article 32 investigative hearing for alleged false official statement, cruelty and maltreatment, and failure to obey a lawful order. The result of that hearing will determine whether he will face charges. The news was first reported Tuesday by Marine Corps Times.
The charges for the three Marines are the result of a year-long probe revealing a pattern of hazing and abuse at 3rd Recruit Training Battalion that ultimately was found to have contributed to the March suicide death of 20-year-old recruit Raheel Siddiqui.
Marine Corps Training and Education Command spokesman Capt. Joshua Pena said in a release Tuesday that the charges and allegations against the four Marines were not associated with Siddiqui’s death, however. This may indicate that more charges have yet to be finalized; in all, 20 Marine drill instructors and officers with oversight of 3rd Recruit Training Battalion were identified for possible legal and administrative action in light of the hazing.
Service records for the three Marines being charged show they were all experienced and decorated troops.
Bacchus, a fixed-wing aircraft mechanic by trade, had previously deployed to Afghanistan and had earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Lucena-Martinez, a food service specialist, had deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in the relief effort for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He had also received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and three Good Conduct Medals.
Gress, a motor vehicle operator, deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and also had been awarded a NAM and two Good Conduct Medals, according to his records.
“From the beginning, we have taken these allegations of misconduct very seriously,” Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general of Training and Education Command, said in a statement.
“As proceedings move forward, we will continue to maintain the integrity of the legal process while remaining transparent,” Lukeman added. “The Marine Corps Recruit Depots Parris Island and San Diego transform the best of our nation’s young men and women into U.S. Marines. The safety of our recruits and the integrity of the Marine Corps recruit training program remain our priority.”
To date, no hearings or arraignments for the Marines have been scheduled, officials said.
Military history is chock-full of concepts that, at one point, needed to be made, seemed good on paper, were eventually implemented, but, somehow, never really became a thing. In retrospect, it’s easy to point fingers at the short-lived Balloon Corps fielded by the Union Army during the American Civil War and say it was silly.
At the time, however, it served a valuable niche. There was a definite need for air superiority, and using hot air balloons to get a height advantage gave Northern scouts an edge. The Balloon Corps actually played a valuable role in yielding Union success at Antietam, Yorktown, and the various battles along the Potomac River.
The balloons themselves weren’t bizarre. The Chief Aeronaut and Commander of the Union Army Balloon Corps, Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, on the other hand… was basically a cartoon mad scientist who somehow wound up in the service of the Union Army.
He didn’t invent balloon travel. He just gave it a lot of style.
A few things to note about Professor Lowe first: He wasn’t ever actually an officer in the U.S. Army. He held the position and received the pay of a Colonel (payment that he received in the form of ‘s worth of gold per day — about half of what a colonel made then), but he was one of the very few civilians to lead troops.
Lowe, technically, wasn’t an actual professor, either. In fact, he never even got past the fourth grade. He used the title during his charlatan days. He simply liked how it sounded on a traveling magician he knew growing up, so he adopted it, too.
What he lacked in the actual pedigree, however, he made up for with knowledge. He was, by all accounts, a self-taught man. He picked up medicine to please his grandmother’s wishes, laid the groundwork in most meteorological studies we still use today, and held 40 various patents. His was notable work was in pioneering balloon travel.
I mean, I’m no aeronaut but I’m pretty sure you’d learn you’re flying into the south when you start hearing the banjos down below.
Lowe first tinkered with hot air balloons in hopes of eventually making a transatlantic voyage. The Smithsonian Institute became aware of his plans and even vouched for his research (referring to him as “Professor Lowe,” giving a degree of authenticity to his self-appointed title).
His first test flight from Pennsylvania to New Jersey aboard the Great Western ended when high winds ripped apart the aircraft. His second test in the smaller Enterprise went more successfully, but still went horribly wrong. The original plan was to fly from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., but high winds again flung him down south. His balloon landed in Unionville, South Carolina.
This second test happened just days after the Battle of Fort Sumter; the Civil War was now in full swing. Lowe was detained and arrested by Confederate troops who believed he was a spy for the North. They saw his balloon as a reconnaissance tool and saw him as a strategic threat. He reasoned with the Southerners, explaining that he was only a man of science in a failed experiment. Though true at the time, this sparked an idea in Lowe to actually use his balloons just as the Confederates had feared.
They were even known to have been given fire bombs to lob down below if they drifted too far from their allies. Because why not?
Professor Lowe equipped his balloons with telegraph sets and wire that ran down to the ground. He tested it above the White House for President Lincoln and sent the first ever aerial message to him. This impressed the President enough to give Lowe his first shot at military ballooning at the First Battle of Bull Run. It went, in a word, terribly.
His balloon landed behind enemy lines and he was quickly captured. As if this story weren’t yet goofy enough, his wife and mother of his ten children, Leontine Lowe, got word of his capture. So, she did what any loving wife would do, she dressed up as an old hag and hid him and his gear in a pile of sheets, like a cartoon prison break.
Professor Lowe managed to gather some valuable information before his capture and gave it back to Washington. For his work, he was given command over the Balloon Corps. Despite his early failures, his and his men’s work provided the Union with valuable information from their eyes-in-the-sky. From high above the mountains, they could telegraph down troop movements and exact locations near instantaneously.
The moral of the story? Stay weird, my friends. Stay weird.
(Library of Congress)
Lowe’s military career was ended abruptly when he contracted malaria near the end of the war. His replacement, Captain Comstock, just didn’t understand the true insanity that was required to fly a giant hot air balloon into battle and, without a fearless leader, the Balloon Corps came to a close.
It took years for Lowe to recover, but he eventually moved out to California. There, he messed around with using hydrogen gas to cool things inside of an enclosed space. This was, essentially, the prototype of the more efficient refrigerator and compact ice machines we use today. He’d outfit several steamboats with these devices and transport fresh beef into cities without using preservative salts.
He was also the first to summit what is now known as Mt. Lowe, a relatively easy to hike mountain overlooking Pasadena, California, and earned naming rights to the mountain because, apparently, no one had ever bothered to try before.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte followed through on numerous threats to end his country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the US on Tuesday, notifying Washington of his intent to withdraw, triggering a 180-day countdown.
On Friday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he thought the two sides could reach a political resolution, but recent history suggests the pact’s demise could be an opportunity for China in a strategically valuable region.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly criticized the US and US officials. The US, which ruled the Philippines as a colony in the first half of the 20th century, remains close with the Philippines and is very popular there — as is Duterte, who had 87% approval in December.
But the Philippine president nevertheless decided to end the VFA, with his spokesman saying it was “time we rely on ourselves” and that the country “will strengthen our own defenses and not rely on any other country.”
While President Donald Trump said he didn’t “really mind,” the US Embassy in the Philippines said it would “carefully consider how best to move forward,” and Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “a move in the wrong direction.”
Asked on Friday about the decision, McCarthy touted US-Philippine ties.
Washington and Manila have “a long history” of working “very hard together” and of “very strong” military-to-military relations, McCarthy told an audience at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. “We have about 175 days to work through this diplomatically. I think we can drive forward to an end state that will work out for all of us politically.”
The US and the Philippines are also bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, but ending the VFA would undercut those and the legal standing US forces have when in the Philippines.
The latter effect would endanger hundreds of military exercises and other military cooperation. US Special Forces troops have been stationed in the Philippines to help fight ISIS-linked militants, and the US military has trained there with other countries in the region. The Philippines has also hosted US troops deployed as part of Pacific Pathways, which is meant to allow US and forces in the region to build stronger partnerships and readiness.
Asked about the effect of the VFA withdrawal on US basing and training, McCarthy said Friday that “conversations are underway” particularly among the White House and State Department.
“The VFA, by changing that would change basically the freedoms that you have to do the training,” McCarthy said, “but this is a very close ally, and we would work through that, but it’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through.”
There a number of reasons the VFA may ultimately survive. Philippine military and security forces value the relationship, under which they receive military assistance, training, education, and weapons.
Philippine officials have suggested a need to review the VFA “to address matters of sovereignty” but have stopped short of advocating withdrawal. Duterte’s foreign secretary also indicated on Tuesday that the announcement should be seen as a jumping-off point for such negotiations, saying “other reactions have been idiotic.”
But it’s not the first time the Philippines has pulled out of this kind of deal. In 1991, it did not renew a mutual basing agreement, leading to the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific, and the withdrawal of US forces.
Manila “quickly discovered that after it did that it was rendered largely defenseless with its limited military capabilities, and China actually started taking very bold actions in the South China Sea, including the occupation of the Mischief Reef,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat, said on The Diplomat podcast.
“We’re now left in a situation where we’re not just hypothetically talking about what might happen,” Parameswaran added. “We actually have a historical record about what happens when the alliance goes through periods like this.”
Duterte has won concessions on other issues by pushing on Washington, Parameswaran said, calling a similar outcome this time the “optimistic scenario,” but in light of the impulsiveness of both Duterte and Trump, there remains “an element of risk.”
Agreements like the VFA take time to negotiate and ratify — after ending the basing agreement in 1991, the two countries weren’t able to establish the VFA until 1998 — and other countries in the region, like Australia and Japan, can’t replace US military assistance to the Philippines, leaving Manila weaker in the face of Chinese ambitions.
“That is the big, worrying scenario about Day 181,” Parameswaran said, “because the Philippine military, it’s building up in terms of its capabilities, but it’s still one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific, and that’s going to be laid bare on Day 181 if this doesn’t get sorted out.”
People think that the Joint Direct Attack Munition is an excellent system. Don’t get me wrong it is great when there is a point target you need to go away.
JDAMs usually land within 30 feet of their target thanks to the use of the Global Positioning System for guidance. In fact, a lot of other systems, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, use that system as their entire guidance package, or to supplement other precision systems.
But there are some things these precision-guided systems can’t do so well. In fact, the cluster bomb actually can do some things that the JDAM can’t – which is a reason why the United States has not signed the Oslo Treaty that bans cluster bombs.
Here’s a sample of situations where it proves useful.
1. Cluster bombs can hit multiple targets
This is the big thing. One JDAM can take out one target. Bridges or bunkers are the sort of thing the JDAM specialize it killing. But let’s take a look at a company of tanks. Here, we are talking anywhere from ten to fifteen vehicles.
This is the sort of target something like the CBU-87 cluster bomb was designed to handle. With 202 BLU-97 bomblets, it has a good chance of landing one or two on the thin top armor of tanks. One bomb can kill multiple tanks, or trucks, or enemy troops.
That can be very useful for an Special Forces A-Team in a fight for their lives.
2. Cluster munitions allow missiles to hit multiple locations
Next to the BGM-109B TASM Tomahawk anti-ship missile, the BGM-109D Tomahawk TLAM-D is often a forgotten missile. But the BGM-109D has the ability to hit multiple locations, something the latest Tactical Tomahawks can’t do.
This is because the BGM-109D’s BLU-97s – the same ones used on the CBU-87 – are carried in a series of packets. For instance, one missile could dump some of its bomblets on parked planes, then fly on to hit a supply base elsewhere. The BGM-109D, therefore can do the work of two TLAMs.
3. Cluster bombs provide multiple effects in one package
The JDAM has one warhead that can go off one time. But a cluster bomb can carry different kinds of submunitions in the same case. Perhaps the best example is the CBU-89 GATOR – it carried two kinds of mines – one was an anti-tank mile, the other was anti-personnel. The JP233 was another – it combined both a runway-cratering munition with area-denial munitions.
The other thing is that even when you have a bomb that is all one type of submunition, some bomblets can be set to go off immediately, while others could be set to wait for a period of time (the famous delayed-action bomb – or in this case, delayed-action bomblets).
4. Cluster bombs can provide surprises without going bang
Some cluster bombs don’t even need their submunitions to go bang. For instance, Designation-Systems.net notes that the CBU-94 and CBU-102 are “blackout bombs” that drop carbon fiber chaff over power lines. This shorts out an entire power grid.
The CBU-19, though, dispensed 528 bomblets filled with CS, better known as tear gas. If you ever saw “The Big Break” episode of the 1950s TV show “Dragnet,” you saw CS in use.
Finally, some cluster bombs can also be guided in, thanks to the Wind-Corrected Munitions Dispenser program. In essence, these systems can also be dropped within feet of their aiming point.