Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.
JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.
Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.
The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.
“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.
“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”
Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.
“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.
“Less than 10 meters.”
Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.
Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.
The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.
After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.
To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.
The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.
Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.
“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”
The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.
McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”
IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.
Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.
McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.
“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.
“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.
Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.
“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.
“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”
IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.
Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
For Israel, a simple threat was all the provocation necessary to prepare for war — even if that meant a first strike. After all, Israel did it to great success in the 1967 Six-Day War with Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Times were a lot more tense at this point for Iranian-Israeli relations (if you can picture that). The President of Iran, at the time, was the fiercely anti-Israel Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who infamously associated with the idea of Israel “being wiped off the map” and later described the Holocaust as a “myth.”
Israel doesn’t take kindly to this kind of talk.
According to old Israeli spymaster Tamir Pardo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israel Defence Forces to be ready to launch an attack on Iran with as little as 15 days’ notice. Pardo knew there were only two reasons to give such an order: to actually attack or to make someone take notice that your forces are mobilizing.
The attack would have featured a large air force component, as evidenced by the fact that IDF fighter bombers engaged in a massive air exercise shortly after the anticipated order failed to come in. The Israelis would also have used its Jericho missile systems, a “bunker buster” that can be fired from Israel and hit targets throughout the Islamic Republic.
In the end, the Israelis didn’t go through with the attack because Mossad wasn’t 100 percent certain the attack would be legal – or that Netanyahu had the authority to take Israel to war without the approval of Israel’s security cabinet. This wasn’t the first time Netanyahu tried to take Israel on the offensive against Iran under his tenure. The previous head of Mossad and IDF Chief of Staff were also given the same order by Netanyahu.
They also pushed back against pressure from the Prime Minister, convinced he was trying to ignore Israeli law.
NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.
We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW
Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.
According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”
Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.
Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.
Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”
If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”
Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”
Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.
Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.
“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.
The forecast for America is changing. The country has been dominated by a pandemic with no end in sight. However, the future for the military is looking bright. What does this mean for military families?
Why Members Serve
Surveys show most Americans believe military members serve for patriotic reasons. How do these views compare to the actual reasons why military members serve? Recent studies indicate many members are motivated to serve by the salary and benefits associated with the military. Recruits also express job stability and training opportunities as occupational motives for joining the service.
At the beginning of 2020, military recruiters were facing an uphill battle. The branches of the service were all competing for recruits as the economy and job market were excellent, and the pool of qualified candidates was small. The military was not only competing with itself, but with colleges, and the strong civilian job market.
Fast forward to the present day and consider the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. The pandemic is challenging all branches of the service in their ability to recruit and train personnel. Due to stay-at-home orders and quarantines, military recruitment and training has slowed in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The stall in recruitment is presenting a challenge no one could have predicted.
However, there is a silver lining. Current unemployment rates and the economic outlook are somewhat dismal. The occupational motives for serving are perhaps more important now than ever. The military provides job and financial security when few civilian jobs exist. Could the economic downfall of COVID-19 be the answer to the recruitment woes of the military? The future of military recruiting is looking bright.
Separation, Retirement, Retention
Some military members serve their initial commitment and separate from the service once the obligation is complete. Others make the military a career serving 20 years or more. The military experiences a high rate of turnover and retention is an on-going battle.
Military aviation serves as an excellent example. All branches of the service are familiar with the pilot shortages seen in recent years. Pilot retention found itself in a downward spiral due to the lucrative pay, flexible schedules, increased control over home life, and benefits affiliated with employment in the commercial sector. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the airline and travel industries are facing unforeseen turbulence. Could the effects of COVID-19 on these two industries be the answer to the military’s pilot retention woes?
COVID-19 is presenting complications for every armed service to maintain a mission-ready workforce. Most branches are currently implementing programs to keep members in the ranks. The Navy recently loosened some retirement restrictions for sailors and officers. The Coast Guard has introduced a new campaign to retain personnel. The Army has made recent promotion and retention policy changes as well. The bottom line is the military needs to keep people from separating. Could the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 in America be the answer to the military’s retention woes?
Impact on Military Families
Military families often express a desire to plant roots and have more control over their lives. Some long for a more “normal” life and discuss the right time to end their military service. Now more than ever, the discussion topic is: How long can we remain in the military? Luckily, military families are always prepared to expect the unexpected.
Perhaps military families need to put the retirement and separation plans on hold. It may seem ironic, but an extended active-duty military career is starting to look like a first-class ticket to stability. Given the current unemployment rates in the United States, the future for military families is looking extremely bright.
Marine scout snipers are often described more like a force of nature than a group of warfighters. The Corps has recently had just a few hundred of them at a time, but a massive mission rests on their shoulders. They’re true scouts, acting as the commander’s eyes and ears, but they’re also trained to take careful shots at foes. And they even train to hit targets from moving platforms like helicopters.
The scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long range, precision fire at selected targets from concealed positions.
But the Marine Corps is very specific that scout snipers are shooters, even going so far as to define the snipers’ primary mission as that “precision fire” and the secondary mission as “gathering information for intelligence purposes.”
So, they’re really highly observant snipers rather than scouts who have become more lethal. And being a top-tier sniper requires a certain amount of flexibility, especially in the Marine Corps where they pride themselves on their “Semper Gumby” mentality.
And so these Marines train on not just riding into battle on helicopters, but on shooting enemies from them with their precise fires. To practice, the Marines hop into Super Hueys and spit fire at targets floating in the ocean or staged on land. The shifting helicopters provide an increased level of challenge, but also allows the snipers to take out threats while inserting into the battlefield or while providing cover for infantrymen hitting the deck.
The two-man teams work together to watch over friendlies, engage enemy forces, and send targeting data and other intelligence back to the headquarters, whether they’re working from a helicopter, a ship, or a secluded ridge or rooftop on the battlefield.
A video from the aerial sniper training is available above.
Iraqi armed forces have pushed out Daesh from Tal Afar city while some parts of the district bearing the same name remain under the terrorist group’s control, a senior army official said Aug. 27.
“Joint forces of the army and the Hashd al-Shaabi — a pro-government Shia militia — have liberated two neighborhoods of Al-Askari and the Al-Senaa Al-Shamaliya, as well as the Al-Maaredh area, Tal Afar Gate, and the Al-Rahma village in the eastern part of the city,” Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, Mosul operation commander, said in a televised statement.
While all parts of the city have been recaptured, fighting for control of some parts of Tal Afar district continues.
Yarallah said only the Al-Ayadieh area and its surrounding villages in the district now remain in Daesh’s grip, adding the armed forces were advancing “towards the last targets in order to liberate them”.
On Aug. 27, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi — a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.
Ministry of Displacement and Migration official Zuhair Talal al-Salem told Anadolu Agency 1,500 people fled the district’s surrounding villages and areas.
“The displaced people were transferred from security checkpoints to Nimrod camp, where they are receiving relief assistance,” Al-Salem said.
Nimrud camp in the southeast of Mosul is said to have a capacity to house 3,000 families.
The ministry transferred some 500 displaced families to the camp after checking their names August 26 in the district of Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul.
How is it possible that two members of the same military service branch are so different? Like so many other behavioral traits, it all has to do with upbringing.
Enlisted troops go straight from the recruiter’s office and into active service while officers study to get a bachelor’s degree, go through officer leadership training, and learn a service-specific career field.
Neither is better than the other, but there are a few old tropes that make each easy to identify — even out of uniform. But sometimes, the lines start to blur…
1. Having gray hair in civilian attire
Every so often a Marine will have the blessing (and the curse) of naturally gray hair. Sometimes the cause is hereditary, other times it’s because they’re the only one with common sense. When I was in the Corps, one platoon would send a particular gray-haired Marine to the Postal Exchange because nobody would stop this distinguished-looking man from cutting to the front of the line. In the case of acquiring energy drinks and tobacco before a month-long field operation, the ends justify the means.
2. Saying things like ‘outstanding’ instead of ‘great work’
Officers are notorious for saying this unironically. It’s succinct and professional, but if used enough, it will spread faster than that “cold” everyone got before pre-deployment leave.
3. Never helping when you see others struggle
If you ever see an officer lend a hand in loading or unloading gear, report them to the nearest law enforcement agency because that person is a spy.
4. Walking around with a green log book and clipboard
If you want to be left alone, these two items will render you invisible. Troops will avoid you because it’s safer to assume you’re doing something important than to find out for certain. Even senior enlisted will about-face if the words ‘staff duty’ are overheard in conversation.
5. Getting lost during land navigation
Land navigation is an important skill to master because a GPS will not always work in-country. The sheer weight of a lieutenant’s butter bar will offset the azimuth of even the strongest compass.
6. Marrying for love, not BAH
Barracks life can become so unbearable that you’ll be willing to sign another contract. Some Marines will roll the dice with just about anyone to escape the bullsh*t on base. Officers have had time to nurture their relationships prior to their service, before the green weenie tries to break them up.
7. When you get in trouble, the command has your back
Rank has its privileges and officers are often given the benefit of the doubt or a slap on the wrist. If you receive the same courtesy, you’re in danger of promotion.
Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.
“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.
“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”
The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.
“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”
When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).
“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”
Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.
“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”
Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.
“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.
“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”
For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.
“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”
So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?
“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.
Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.
“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”
Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.
“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”
To hire Karen, email her: email@example.com
To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.
After that, an intense arms race erupted to counter this devastating threat to ships.
The Styx is a primitive missile. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, based on the variant, and travels at 90 percent of the speed of sound, or around 600 miles per hour. It is radar-guided. While primitive, it can carry a 1,000-pound warhead, or roughly the same amount of high-explosives in a Mk 84 2,000-pound bomb.
The Styx is perhaps the most common of the early Russian-style anti-ship missiles out there. Versions have been made in China and North Korea.
The best way to kill the Styx – or any anti-ship missile – is to kill the platform carrying them before the missiles are launched. Second-best is to use missiles to kill the other missiles far away.
But sometimes, you don’t get to choose one of those options. Sometimes, the missile gets too close to use missiles.
That is where the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System comes in. This is essentially a self-contained package containing the targeting system, ammo, and a M61 Gatling gun – the same gun used on legendary warplanes like the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle, F/A-18 Hornet, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
A version is also used by the Army to shoot down rockets and mortar rounds.
The Phalanx has a top range of just under three and a half miles, but it is really only effective for just under a mile. In essence, it has six seconds to kill the target.
Fortunately, the M61 can spew out a lot of bullets in a very short period of time — up to 75 a second. Killing the missile will protect a ship from the worst of the impact, but the ship will be hurt.
However, fragment damage beats having a huge hole blown into a ship. And a damaged ship can be fixed and return to the front. Ships that are sunk are lost forever. You can see the Phalanx do its thing in the video below.
The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.
“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.
Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.
The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.
BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.
“They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”
The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.
Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.
NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.
“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.
Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.
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The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”
The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.
“War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.
In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”
IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.
US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
For the first time in over a decade, the US Air Force is publicly acknowledging it runs an air war out of Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
The US embassy in country recently worked with Emirati counterparts to make the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing — an Air Combat Command-run unit at the base — known, officials told Military.com.
Military.com first spoke with members of the 380th on a trip to the Middle East earlier this summer on condition the name and location of the base not be disclosed, and that full names of personnel not be used due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
While the 380th was established at the base on Jan. 25, 2002, the US military has had a presence on the base for approximately 25 years. The base is home to a variety of combat operations.
In addition to housing one of the largest fuel farms in the world, the wing houses such aircraft as the KC-10 tanker; the RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude drone; the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS, aircraft; the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane; and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jet.
Together, these aircraft carry out missions such as air refueling, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, ground attack, air support, and others.
The 380th also runs its own intel analysis and air battle-management command and control center known as “The Kingpin.”
Like moving chess pieces, “Kingpin has the [air tasking order] — they’re talking to people on the ground, they’re making sure these airplanes are provisionally controlled, getting them back and forth to tankers … they’re talking to the [Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar], they minimize the fog and friction for the entire [area of responsibility]” in US Central Command, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th AEW and an F-22 pilot.
Meanwhile, the general was candid about what the US mission could be after ISIS is defeated in Iraq and Syria.
Corcoran said, “We’re fighting an enemy — ISIS — in another country — Syria — where there’s also an insurgency going on, but we’re not really invited to be” a part of that, he said. “But we can’t leave it to the Syrians to get rid of ISIS, because that wasn’t working, right? So it’s really an odd place to be.”
He added, “We know … we’re going to defeat ISIS. Their days are numbered. What next?”