The Russians aren't even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov - We Are The Mighty
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The Russians aren’t even bothering to fly planes off the Kuznetsov

Is Russia really flying combat missions from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov? That is a question percolating as recent satellite photos caught some of the planes that are known to operate from the carrier at a land base, as opposed to operating directly from the carrier.


According to a report by IHS Jane’s, a satellite photo from Airbus Defence and Space shows eight Su-33 “Flanker D” fighters on the ramp of Humaymim Air Base.

That airbase, located near the coastal city of Latakia, has become Russia’s main center of operations during its intervention in Syria. Russia also has a naval facility in Tartus, roughly 45 miles to the south of Latakia, that has been used since 1971 under an agreement by the Soviet Union with the regime of Hafez al-Assad.

While it is not uncommon for carrier-based planes to operate from land bases (the n Cactus Air Force at Guadalcanal, which featured planes from the air groups of damaged carriers, is perhaps the most famous instance), this is a sign that Russia’s carrier is less than it seems. In essence, while the Russians are claiming that the Kuznetsov is carrying out a combat deployment and launching sorties, this ship really was more of a glorified aircraft ferry. This is the purported flagship of the Russian Navy.

Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

The Kuznetsov displaces 61,000 tons, and usually carries 15 Su-33 Flankers, but is also capable of carrying up to 20 MiG-29s. One of the MiG-29s crashed earlier this month due to issues with the carrier’s arresting gear combined with an engine failure on the modern multi-role fighter.

The pilot ejected and was recovered, a very unexpected hiccup in Russia’s efforts to showcase the carrier, which has had a reputation for breaking down while on deployment. Since the crash, the MiG-29s have apparently been grounded.

Russia has used the conflict in Syria to test out new weapon systems like the Su-35 “Flanker E” and the SS-N-27 Sizzler. Russia also has deployed the S-400 surface-to-air missile system to defend its bases in Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

As Iran’s missiles get better, US presses for new sanctions

The U.S. special representative for Iran has urged the European Union to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic-missile program, calling it a “grave and escalating threat.”

Brian Hook made the call on Dec. 3, 2018, two days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned what he described as Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile “capable of carrying multiple warheads” and striking parts of Europe and the entire Middle East.


The Iranian military has said it will keep conducting missile tests despite Western condemnation.

The latest statements from Pompeo and Hook come amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, which in 2018 imposed tough sanctions on Iran’s economy.

The move was part of a broader U.S. campaign to pressure Iran over what the President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign conduct” such as missile development and support for militant groups in the Middle East.

Remains of Iranian Qiam ballistic missiles seen at the Iranian Materiel Display at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington.

(DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

Tehran has repeatedly rejected negotiations over its missile program and insists the missiles are only to be used for defensive purposes.

Speaking aboard Pompeo’s plane as he traveled to Brussels for a NATO meeting, Hook told reporters that Washington “would like to see the European Union move sanctions that target Iran’s missile program.”

The U.S. envoy said that Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers in May “can be effective if more nations can join us in those [sanctions].”

“It is a grave and escalating threat, and nations around the world, not just Europe, need to do everything they can to be targeting Iran’s missile program,” Hook said.

He also said that “progress” was being made on getting NATO allies to consider a proposal to target individuals and entities that play key roles in Iran’s missile program.

European countries have criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and are working to preserve the accord that lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, even though they have also criticized Iranian positions on other issues.

In a Dec. 1, 2018 statement, Pompeo charged that Iran’s testing of a medium-range ballistic missile violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

Pompeo warned that Iran’s “missile testing and missile proliferation is growing,” and called on the country to “cease immediately all activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

The French Foreign Ministry issued a similar call, condemning the Iranian missile test as “provocative and destabilizing.”

Iran’s military did not confirm or deny it had tested a new missile, but said it will “continue to both develop and test missiles.”

“Missile tests…are carried out for defense and the country’s deterrence, and we will continue this,” the semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, as saying on Dec. 2, 2018.

Shekarchi said such activity “is outside the framework of [nuclear] negotiations and part of our national security, for which we will not ask any country’s permission.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bride divides internet when she asks Marine in uniform to leave

A bride has divided the internet after explaining how she kicked a guest out of her wedding for turning up in military uniform.

Writing on Reddit’s “Am I The A——” forum, the newlywed said she “felt kind of bad” for asking him to leave, “but it just didn’t feel right for him to be there like that.”

The man in question was the son of one of the groom’s family friends.

He arrived at the wedding in his Marines’ dress blues, complete with all his medals, and it did not go down well with the bride.


“Now, I have nothing against anyone in the military but this was a black tie optional wedding and frankly it felt very out of place and it seemed like he was just trying to show off,” the bride wrote.

“My wedding had over 300 guests and nobody else felt the need to wear something to make them stand out.”

The woman admits that he acted perfectly politely at the ceremony, and “graciously agreed” to have his photo taken with some of the female teenage guests who were excited to see him.

But the bride was not thrilled about how he was drawing attention.

(Flickr photo by Thai Chu)

“Many people were thanking him for his service, and frankly it just felt like the only reason he wore that was to be in the spotlight and make it about him, which I don’t think you are supposed to do at someone else’s wedding,” she said.

“If he wants to wear that to his own wedding then fine, but the whole point of having a dress code at a wedding is so that no one guest will stand out too much.

“I felt that he should have known this, since the whole point of uniforms in the military is so that you don’t stand out from everyone else!”

People in the forum were divided over whose side to take.

Some people pointed out that the marines formal uniform “looks classy and black tie,” but others argued it was “extremely disrespectful.”

The majority agreed that both the bride and the guest behaved badly.

As a former army sergeant pointed out: “Wearing formal military wear at formal civilian events is allowed per regulations (Army is AR 670-1, no clue for marines), but you have to be a special kind of a—— to wear it to a non-military wedding without specific permission of the couple.

Marines assigned to The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon)

“The reason for this is the same as wearing white to a wedding — this puts you in competition with the bride. He should have dressed in civilian-wear, or at very least, checked with the couple getting married.”

As for the bride’s decision to ask him to leave, the former sergeant said that “kicking him out of the wedding was a bit much.”

“It’s your special day, but you shouldn’t forget that you play dual roles — you are both the host and the one fêted. Don’t forget that former role.

“You probably should have grimaced and just gone with it along with other faux pas such as Uncle Larry puking in the bushes and cousin Jenny making out with the DJ. With 300 guests, one person in uniform isn’t going to kill your day.”

This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s about to unveil its new plan to fight wars — and Russia had better listen up

The Army will release a new combat “FM 3.0 Operations” doctrine designed to better position the service for the prospect of large-scale, mechanized, force-on-force warfare against technologically advanced near-peer rivals – such as Russia or China – able to substantially challenge US military technological superiority.


Senior Army leaders involved in ongoing analysis of current and future threats, as they pertain to a fast-changing operational land-combat environment, explained that changing global circumstances, inspired the need for the Army to craft new doctrinal specifics.

The new “Operations” doctrine, to be unveiled in a matter of days at the Association of the United States Army Annual Convention, is intended as a supplement or adjustment to the Army’s current “FM 3.0 Full Spectrum” Field Manual, a doctrine which first emerged more than several years ago.

Authors of the new doctrine explain that while many elements of the Army’s previous “Full Spectrum” doctrine are retained, updated and expounded upon in the new doctrine — FM 3.0 Full Spectrum was written when the Russians had not attacked Ukraine, the Army was fully immersed in war in Afghanistan and the current tensions in the South China Sea had not yet emerged to the extent they do today, Col. Rich Creed, Combined Arms Director Ft. Leavenworth, told Scout Warrior in an exclusive interview.

“The Army needs to be prepared for large-scale combat operations against potential near-peer capabilities within a regional context. The operational scenario is different now. We are retaining lessons and experiences from prior doctrine, but we need to address the tactics and procedures conducted by large-scale units to conduct land combat,” Creed said. “We update doctrine when the situation requires it.”

Spc. Anthony Tramonte, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, a native of Peachtree City, Ga., lines up a target as Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Corter, an instructor with the U.S. Army Sniper School and a native of Casa Grande, Ariz., coaches him during the final day of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) qualifications at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s Grezelka Range, July 10, 2013. The brigade’s soldiers are attending the U.S. Army Mobile Sniper School, a five-week course with graded marksmanship on the M24 Sniper System, M110 SASS, and the M107 .50-Caliber Long Range Sniper Rifle. Students are also trained and graded in range estimation, target detection, stalking techniques, and written exams. Upon successful completion, all students will receive a diploma and those soldiers holding an infantry and/or special forces military occupational specialty will receive a B4 additional skill identifier. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

Creed explained the new doctrine adjustments represent the natural evolution from the Army’s Unified Land Operations concept articulated in 2011-2012 as well as a Cold-War strategy known as “Air-Land” battle designed to defend Western Europe using initial air attacks in tandem with conventional ground force assault.

“Air Land Battle was devised to address a specific threat large-scale land combat on the European continent – large forces and it was a bipolar world. We live in a multi-polar world now. We may still be the lone superpower but there are other forces in the world that have improved significantly. We don’t have the luxury of focusing on one kind of threat or one kind of operation,” Creed said.

Air Land Battle, not surprisingly, envisioned massive US Army ground assaults accross the Fulda Gap in Europe heavily supported by large-scale coordinated air power.

One very senior US Army official told Scout Warrior that the new “operations” doctrine was quite necessary given the extent to which potential adversaries have studied US military techniques and technologies first used during Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

“Desert Storm showed the world Air-Land battle. We unleashed something they had envisioned or heard about. They have studied our military,” the senior official said.

Daniel Cisneros enjoys breakfast in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros via Flickr)

Creed added that the new doctrine is indeed cognizant of both future and current threats to US security, including North Korea, Iran, Russia and China.

While the emerging “operations” doctrine adaptation does recognize that insurgent and terrorist threats from groups of state and non-state actors will likely persist for decades into the future, the new manual focuses intently upon preparedness for a fast-developing high-tech combat environment against a major adversary.

Advanced adversaries with aircraft carriers, stealth aircraft, next-generation tanks, emerging hypersonic weapons, drones, long-range sensors and precision targeting technology present the US military with a need to adjust doctrine to properly respond to a fast-changing threat landscape.

For instance, Russia and China both claim to be developing stealth 5th generation fighters, electronic warfare and more evolved air defenses able to target aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at much farther distances. Long-range, precision-guided anti-ship missiles, such as the Chinese DF-21D, are able to target US carriers at ranges up to 900 miles, presenting threat scenarios making it much harder for US platforms to operate in certain areas and sufficiently project power.

When it comes to land combat, the renewed doctrine will accommodate the current recognition that the US Army is no longer the only force to possess land-based, long-range precision weaponry. While JDAMs and GPS-guided weapons fired from the air have existed since the Gulf War timeframe, land-based precision munitions such as the 155m GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to hit 30 kilometers emerged within the last 10 years. This weapon first entered service in 2007, however precision-guided land artillery is now something many potential adversaries now possess as well.

In addition, the Army’s Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) is a GPS-guided rocket able to destroy enemies at ranges up to 70 kilometers; the kind of long-range land-fired precision evidenced by GMLRS is yet another instance of US weapons technology emerging in recent years that is now rivaled by similar weapons made my large nation-state potential adversaries.

Drones, such as the Army’s Shadow or Gray Eagle aircraft are also the kind of ISR platforms many nations have tried to replicate, adding to a high-threat, high-tech global marketplace.

All of these advancing and increasingly accessible weapons, quite naturally, foster a need for the US to renew its doctrine such that it can effectively respond to a need for new tactics, concepts, strategies and combat approaches designed for a new operational environment.

This involves greater global proliferation of jamming tactics, advanced sensors, cyberattacks and long-range precision weaponry.

Given this global threat calculus, the Army is now vigorously looking to innovate and harness new technologies for future platforms — all while emphasizing upgrades to major Army land war platforms, such as the Abrams tank, Stryker, Paladin and Bradley; for instance, many Army weapons developers explain that a series of high-tech upgrades to the Abrams tank make the platform superior to emerging Russian T-14 Armata tanks and the newest Chinese Type 99 main battle tanks.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly Kuzmin.

 

Also, a recent report from The Diplomat, citing Chinese military officials, writes that the Chinese are now testing a new tank: “The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has tested a new tank on the Tibetan Plateau in western China, the Chinese Ministry of Defense announced on June 29,” the report states. The US Army is now conducting early conceptual work on a new, next-generation tank platform to emerge in the 2030s.

 

Evolving Beyond “Full-Spectrum” Doctrine

The Army’s current doctrine, Field Manual 3.0, emphasizes what the service calls “full-spectrum” operations to include state and non-state threats. The manual addresses the importance of a “whole-of-government” approach aimed at counterinsurgency, combined-arms, stability operations as well as anticipated future developments.

The existing FM 3.0 doctrine is, among other things, substantially grounded upon the need for the Army to be prepared for non-linear, asymmetrical warfare fighting groups of insurgents often deliberately blended in with civilian populations.

Full-spectrum is meant to connote that Army operations will also include psychological operations, humanitarian missions, asymmetrical warfare, train-and-equip priorities as well as continued collaboration with allies and preparations for the full-range of combat possibilities.

With a decrease in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, the Army has been adapting its training focus to incorporate a broader spectrum of mechanized warfare, force-on-force threats following 15 years of counterinsurgency. This is something the new doctrine is expected to reinforce.

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — A Blackhorse Trooper, portraying an insurgent, takes cover during an engagement in an objective area, during NTC rotation 17-01 at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area, while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR)

While the existing FM 3.0 Full Spectrum does incorporate a need to address modern threats such as “hybrid warfare,” much of the focus stops short of recognizing the full extent to which other rival militaries are developing platforms and technologies comparable or superior to some US weapons systems.

Enemies such as ISIS and state-sponsored terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are equipped to fight with a blend of terrorist tactics and advanced weaponry such as sophisticated sensors, surveillance networks, and some precision munitions such as anti-tank guided missiles. This blended threat, requiring a mixture of both combined arms and counterinsurgency tactics, is the kind of scenario the Army has been preparing to confront.

The new manual also incorporates a fast-evolving Pentagon strategy referred to as “multi-domain” warfare; this is based upon the recognition that enemy tactics and emerging technologies increasingly engender a greater need for inter-service, multi-domain operations.

This focus includes accommodating the need to address fast-changing threats in the cyber, electronic warfare, precision weaponry, space, drones and C4ISR domains. Rapid developments in these areas underscores the importance of cross-domain connectivity and warfare, such as an ability of a sea-based F-18 to cue land-based artillery from tactically difficult distances.

“Space or cyber-enabled capabilities are not geographically bound but rather extend to an infinite amount of range. Commanders and staff need to be able to think about that when conducting operations,” Creed said.

US Air Force photo

Another example of multi-domain warfare includes the Army’s ongoing effort to test and prepare for maritime warfare scenarios such as the value of using land-based rockets to attack and destroy enemy ships. The Army is currently working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office on upgrades to ATACM missile sensors to enable the weapon to successfully attack moving ships at sea.

This concept is especially important given that potential adversaries are becoming more adept at being able to disrupt or de-synchronize US military joint operations.

This involves greater global proliferation of jamming tactics, advanced sensors, cyberattacks and long-range precision weaponry.

While naturally focused upon what would be needed in a massive, full-scale landwar scenario – the new doctrine also explores contingencies, scenarios and strategies needed to assess circumstances short of armed combat, Creed explained.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian propaganda has one surprising shortcoming

You ever seen those Google Translate music videos? Where singers or other entertainers sing songs that have gone through Google translate or another “machine translation” program? Whelp, it turns out, that’s how Moscow often creates its lower-tier propaganda. It either uses Google Translate or low-rent translators who are not especially proficient in the target language, leading to a problem where anyone who can read at a middle school level or better is largely resistant to it.


Google Translate Sings: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

www.youtube.com

(Side note: How is Ed Sheeran just as catchy when the lyrics become total nonsense? I’m in love with your system, baby.)

RAND Researcher Joe Cheravitch has a new paper in the Small Wars Journal and on the RAND Blog that discusses the problem in great detail, but it’s not new. In 2017, BloombergOpinion published a piece about how people are intentionally throwing off the machine learning of translators like Bing and Google to get funny results.

For instance:

In a similar situation last year, when Google Translate repeatedly translated “Rossiyskaya Federatsiya” (Russia’s official name in Russian) into Ukrainian as “Mordor” and “Lavrov” (the Russian foreign minister’s last name) as “sad little horse,” Google said it was just a glitch. That’s highly unlikely.

Basically, old machine translation was horrible because languages change too often and break their own rules constantly, so it’s impossible to translate living text with the rigid rules that computers follow. So Google and other mass translators switched to neural AI, where machine learning is used to look at entire passages of text in multiple languages.

Over time, the AI gets better and better at translating according to how the language is actually used. But it is always limited by the quality of the text it receives. And pranksters, bad actors, and others can throw off the translation of any rarely used word, such as a proper name, by suggesting a specific alternate translation repeatedly.

But of course, Russia can just drag in a couple of top-tier translators and fix the issue, right? There are native speakers in Russia. That’s where Edward Snowden ran off to and where he can still be found when he needs to promote his new book.

Well, apparently it can’t. Because while the Russian military hacking network “Guccifer 2.0” was legendarily successful at hacking the U.S. political apparatus and leaking data through WikiLeaks, it has also operated in Europe and elsewhere. Its ability to break into computers is impressive; its language skills are laughable. (Also, amusingly enough, its ability to prevent incursions on itself was also bad, according to reports in VICE.)

The obvious question is why Russian military intelligence approves these operations at high levels and recruits high-level hackers to break into the targeted computers but then fails to hire sufficiently skilled translators. There are a few potential explanations for this.

First, talent is expensive, and Russia needs translators that are fluent in foreign languages in a lot of places that are arguably more important than undermining Romanian support for a particular candidate. Russia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil. In 2017, 60 percent of its GDP came directly from oil exports. Since it’s selling across Europe through pipelines and the rest of the world through shipping, translators can make more money in that sector.

But worse, there appears to be a bit of a problem holding on to talent in the military if it becomes sufficiently proficient. Avid military news readers know that the U.S. military is struggling to retain pilots as civilian airlines scoop them up. Well, Russian-English translators can get easy work by joining the military. But the constant experience sometimes makes them better translators, allowing them to break into a new income bracket by leaving a few years later.

Back to Cheravitch’s paper for a moment, this brain drain may give digital forensic teams and U.S. policymakers a chance to catch these Russian influencers and create new programs to limit their effect:

Tipped off partly by linguistic mistakes, researchers with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab were able to piece together a distinct influence effort attributed to Russian military intelligence following the 2016 election-meddling effort. This sort of work could have obvious benefits for policymakers, who can more appropriately respond to this activity with a better understanding of the actors behind it.
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This World War II vet got his wallet back after losing it 70 years ago

We Are The Mighty is excited to partner with Paramount Pictures on #AlliedStories, a digital program inspired by the new Robert Zemeckis film Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard – in theaters November 23rd.  Within #AlliedStories users can upload photos of their family from the 1940s, including your military photos, war letters, personal stories…anything 1940s. Below is an amazing story about how one Army veteran got back his wallet and personal photos 70 years after he lost it in France. Submit your own stories and photos at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories! 


Eligio Ramos was an Army private making his way across Europe with the 250th Field Artillery Unit in 1945. During a night in an Austrian farmhouse, he lost his wallet filled with receipts, photos, and his identification.

Seventy years later, his daughter was surprised to read a letter from an Austrian doctor looking to re-unite the wallet with its owner. Dr. Josef Ruckhofer told the Department of Veterans Affairs how he found the wallet while cleaning out his farmhouse.

“It was in June this year, we removed some of the old wooden planks from the backside wall,” said Ruckhofer. “When I looked to the bottom, I found this old leather wallet, a little bit dirty, but still okay. I opened the wallet and found a lot of old photographs, stamps, papers and an American Soldier’s ID card from 1945 with his name, birth year and hometown in Harlingen, Texas.”

Ruckhofer had to do some internet sleuthing to find the original owner, but Ramos finally got his wallet back in June. On August 4, he shared the stories behind the photos with his family and others at a ceremony at the Fresno VA Hospital.

The wallet contained a lot of photos and memories, from pictures of his unit and newborn babies to receipts from his time in Europe.

Eligio Ramos WWII veteran lost wallet receipts and ID. Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

 

Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

Ramos was in the Army from 1942 to 1945.

Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

He fought with the 250th Artillery helping to liberate starving prisoners,” said his son, Rosando Ramos.

Eligio Ramos and his platoon. Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos family.

Photo: Courtesy of the Ramos Family

Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

One of the photos was of the farmhouse the platoon stayed in where Ramos left the wallet.

Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Joseph Ruckhofer

Standard documents from Army life in World War II, like ID cards and a rations receipt, were also in the wallet.

Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital Carmichael Yepez

Photo: Courtesy of Fresno VA Hospital

For more information, see the full story of the Ramos wallet at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

And don’t forget to share your photos and stories at alliedstories.com or post on your social channels using #AlliedStories.

“Allied” is the story of intelligence officer Max Vatan (Pitt), who in 1942 North Africa encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Reunited in London, their relationship is threatened by the extreme pressures of the war. 

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This guy allegedly sold $1M worth of military equipment to China and Russia

More than $1 million in weapons parts and sensitive military equipment was stolen out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and sold in a vast black market, some of it to foreign buyers through eBay, according to testimony at a federal trial this week.


The equipment — some of it re-sold to buyers in Russia, China, Mexico, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine — included machine gun and rifle parts, body armor, helmets, gun sights, generators, medical equipment, and more.

John Roberts, of Clarksville, Tennessee, is being tried in Nashville on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to steal and sell government property, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Six soldiers and his civilian business partner made plea deals in exchange for their testimony.

Photo from DoD

Roberts, 27, testified Aug. 30 that he did not know the soldiers were bringing him stolen equipment, and said the military items he bought and sold were commonly found in surplus stores, on eBay, and in gun stores.

“I didn’t try to hide anything,” Roberts said Aug. 30. “That’s why I filed taxes on everything I sold on eBay. I thought it was OK.”

Roberts said the soldiers told him the equipment was legally purchased from other soldiers or that the Army was discarding the equipment. He also said he didn’t know that he needed to have a license to export certain items overseas.

But a former business partner, Cory Wilson, testified that he and Roberts would find soldiers selling military items through classified ads or on Facebook, and then ask them for more expensive and harder-to-find items. It was “fast easy money,” Wilson said. Wilson pleaded guilty to buying and selling stolen military equipment, wire fraud, and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

DoD photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby

The soldiers they targeted were often young and broke or needed money for drugs, Wilson said, so “there were a lot of items and good money to be made.”

Wilson and Roberts shared a warehouse in Clarksville where they stored the equipment, but Roberts said they were not sharing funds. Roberts said the two just had a shared interest in selling things on eBay.

Wilson said Roberts set up multiple accounts to sell the equipment on eBay. They removed packaging that identified it as government property and used fake descriptions on shipping labels to avoid suspicion, he said. Under questioning from Roberts’ defense attorney, David Cooper, Wilson acknowledged that he initially lied to investigators about knowing the equipment wasn’t allowed to be shipped overseas.

In 2014, the US Customs and Border Protection agency notified Roberts that it had seized a military flight helmet he tried to ship overseas. The Customs letter noted that he was required to have a license to export that item. Roberts said he didn’t remember reading that paragraph. Roberts also testified that he changed descriptions and values on shipping labels to minimize the risk of customs theft in other countries and to lower import taxes for the overseas buyers.

USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Zeski.

Michael Barlow, a former Fort Campbell platoon sergeant who pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy, testified that they started small, but eventually escalated to truckloads of military equipment. He said Roberts even gave him a “Christmas list” of items he wanted the soldiers to steal in Afghanistan and bring back to the United States.

“They wanted more and more, mostly weapons parts,” Barlow testified.

Barlow said his company came home with five large cargo containers filled with equipment as the US military drew down troops and closed bases in Afghanistan. Barlow said he and other soldiers sometimes got $1,000 to $2,000 per truckload.

One non-commissioned officer was even charging civilian buyers $500 to come onto Fort Campbell to select items for purchase, Barlow said.

M16 assault rifles. DoD photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy

Roberts said he was invited to come on the Fort Campbell military post to look at cargo containers belonging to Barlow’s unit. Roberts said he was told the containers needed to be cleaned out of “pretty used stuff,” and that he took some items. He said the transaction occurred in broad daylight in front of other soldiers.

The conspiracy allegedly continued from 2013 into 2016. Text messages between the soldiers and the civilians pointed to regular meet-ups to swap cash for ballistic plates, helmets, scopes, and gun sights, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sarah Perry, an agent with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

One sergeant, identified in court as “E5 Rick,” texted Roberts about going “hunting” while on duty, which meant he was breaking into cars to steal equipment, Perry testified on Aug. 29.

The Army identified about five surplus stores around Fort Campbell that were selling military equipment through backdoor deals, she said.

USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Villanueva II.

Roberts’ defense attorney David Cooper asked Perry if she could prove that the equipment offered on eBay, or that Roberts had pictures of on his phone, was stolen from Fort Campbell. Perry said that in many cases she could not, because many of the stolen items did not have serial numbers, but were similar to items reported stolen.

Another former Fort Campbell soldier, Jonathan Wolford, testified on Aug. 30 that he and another soldier, Dustin Nelson, took about 70 boxes of weapons parts and other gear, some of it labeled with the name of their company, to Wilson and Roberts, who paid them $1,200. Wolford plead guilty to conspiracy to steal government property.

They were both in charge of their company’s arms supply room at the time, Wolford said, and started selling equipment that wasn’t listed in the company’s property books, including machine gun barrels, M4 rifle parts, pistol grips, buttstocks, and other items typically used to repair weapons.

Asked in court why he didn’t ask for more money, Wolford said, “I was making a little bit of money. I didn’t pay anything for it.”

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Army opens investigation into allegations of nude photo sharing

The US Army has opened an investigation into allegations that some active-duty soldiers may be involved in the online sharing of nude photos of their colleagues, Business Insider has learned.


The inquiry by the US Army’s computer crime investigative unit comes one day after Business Insider reported that the scandal initially believed to be limited to the Marine Corps actually impacts every branch of service.

The report revealed a public message board where purported male service members from all military branches, including service academies, were allegedly cyber-stalking and sharing nude photos of their female colleagues.

Related: Mattis speaks out on Marine Corps’ nude photo scandal

Special agents from US Army’s criminal investigation command “are currently assessing information and photographs on a civilian website that appear to include US Army personnel,” Col. Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the Army, told Business Insider. “They are currently assisting to determine if a criminal offense has occurred.”

Seiber said there was no evidence at this point suggesting the site was related to the “Marines United” Facebook page. That page, which was reported on by journalist Thomas Brennan, had some 30,000 members that were found to be sharing nude photos of female Marines.

“Army CID is speaking with [the Naval Criminal Investigative Service] and US Air Force Office of Special Investigation to ensure all investigative efforts are fully coordinated,” Seiber said.

According to the Business Insider report, members on a website called AnonIB often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of the victim.

Screenshot

The site features a dedicated board for military personnel with dozens of threaded conversations among men, many of whom asked for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or where they are stationed.

In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some users who appeared to be Army cadets shared photos and graduation years of their female classmates.

“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user said, apparently referring to photos taken surreptitiously in a women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.

In 2012, an Army sergeant who helped train and mentor cadets was discovered to have secretly filmed more than a dozen women in the bathroom and shower areas at West Point. The soldier pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison.

A Pentagon spokesman condemned such behavior as “inconsistent with our values” on Thursday, and Defense Secretary issued a statement Friday calling it “unacceptable and counter to unit cohesion.”

The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the real reason John McCain’s Liberty Medal speech was so epic

When all was said and done, all the American media saw was a presumed dig at President Donald Trump. But in the speech he gave while receiving the 2017 Liberty Medal, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said much more than that. He looked back on his life, his political career, the events that shaped America – and the events America shaped.


The next day, the headlines raved about McCain’s “half-baked spurious nationalism” dig at the sitting president.

The “half-baked, spurious nationalism” isn’t just a dig a President Trump. The world at large is consumed by the same kind of nationalism the senator from Arizona describes in his speech. A wave of far-right populism has especially swept Europe in the past few years.

French President Emanuel Macron just defeated Marine Le Pen, who wanted to ban any display of religious beliefs – including yarmulkes and turbans – which she considered “not French.” In the UK, far-right broadcaster and analyst Nigel Farage led a campaign that resulted in a vote forcing Britain to leave the European Union, for better or for worse. And across Europe – from Spain to Greece – a wave of far-right nationalist populism and isolationism has captured the interest of the population, each looking for a “scapegoat” of its own.

The Senator didn’t mention Europe specifically. He did say that America, “the most wondrous land on earth,” still has a special role to play in the world and should rise above the urge to isolate itself from the rest of the world, that American leadership is going to be as necessary in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.

He also implied that Americans should leave the past behind, a not-so-subtle reference to the resurgence of Nazism and Confederate pride in the U.S.’ recent days.

“This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world,” McCain said. “And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on Dec. 7, 1941.”

John McCain after his release from a Vietnamese prison camp, with his father, Retired Admiral John S. McCain.

The 81-year-old Vietnam veteran and former POW went on to speak like a man who is looking back on his life and leaving us with the parting thoughts of a lifelong public servant. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, and his prognosis was not good.

“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t,” he said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

Presenting McCain with his medal was former Vice-President, erstwhile Senate opposition, and longtime friend, Joe Biden. The two most notably ran on opposite tickets in the 2008 Presidential Election where McCain lost to the Obama-Biden ticket.

Before Sen. McCain began his remarks, he commented on the multi-decade friendship between the two.

Then Vice-President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain share a laugh behind the scenes.

“We served in the Senate together for over 20 years,” McCain said, “during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.”

McCain was presented with the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, a medal meant to honor “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

As he closed, McCain recounted the innumerable people he worked with in his 60 years of service in the Navy and in the U.S. government.

Senator McCain can’t fully raise his arms due to injuries he suffered as a POW.

“I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me,” McCain said. “I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.”

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‘Transpecos’ offers a gritty, detailed look inside the world of Border Patrol agents

“Transpecos,” winner of the SXSW Film Festival’s Audience Award, deals with what happens to a Border Patrol agent when he gets dragged to the other side by a drug cartel. It’s an impressive directorial debut from independent filmmaker Greg Kwedar.


Kwedar, whose work includes commercials, documentaries, and short films, took six years to make “Transpecos.” To research the film, he worked with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency that’s reluctant to share its methods – for good reason.  Their mission isn’t just keeping illegal immigrants out of the United States, they’re also fighting a massive, brutal enemy with unlimited funding and firepower, and no rules.

“Transpecos” is the story of three Border Patrol agents, a rookie named Davis (played by Johnny Simmons), a seasoned professional, Flores (Gabriel Luna), and salty veteran Hobbs (Clifton Collins, Jr.). They man a remote checkpoint somewhere near the U.S.-Mexican border. When one stop goes from routine to nightmarish, all three end up fighting for their lives.

“There’s this famous Western line: ‘silver or lead?,'” says Greg Kwedar, the director who co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley. “Money’s not a vulnerability for everyone. They [Border Patrol] have higher standards to live by. The leverage can be their own personal safety or that of their family. If an agent can rise above that then the cartel might say, “Who do you care about? We’ll use them.”

That’s exactly what happens in the film. Drug cartels use an agent’s family to force him to allow shipments of cocaine across the border. The Border Patrol agents find themselves torn between duty and family, between fulfilling their mission and protecting their own.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

To get access to the real Border Patrol agents Kwedar and his team went out into the desert and got lost (or pretended to be) in the hopes of finding agents who were on the job — a highly unorthodox and potentially dangerous process.

“Once they realized we weren’t antagonistic, that we really wanted to know more about them and their work, they really opened up to us,” Kwedar says. “They invited us into their world and from that we found real friendships, running the gamut from grabbing a beer in a one-stoplight town to sitting down with their families at dinner.”

The characters – Davis, Flores, and Hobbs – are the heart of the film. The Border Patrol depicted in “Transpecos” could just as well be any military checkpoint or remote combat outpost anywhere in the world. It’s hot and desolate. The guys manning the checkpoint can be just as bored as any troops on deployment at any given time. They even have to go out on foot patrols.

“It was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on some of those days,” says Johnny Simmons, who portrays the green Agent Davis. “Our boots were melting, we were covered in sweat at the end of the day when we took off our Kevlar. My brother is a Marine and working on this film brought me a little closer to what it must be like for him … only he and so many others do it every day.”

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

The credit for this realism goes to the film’s technical advisor, Sam Sadler. Sadler is a retired Border Patrol agent who joined the service at age 17. Before he retired, he was the second in command at Deming Station, New Mexico, the area where “Transpecos” was filmed. He rode ATVs; he rode horseback. He tracked people through the desert by their footprints, the way Native American tribes used to – a practice still in use by agents today. By the end of his 25 years on the border, Sadler was the go-to guy.

“[Kwedar and Sadler] gave us a great roadmap to the script,” said Clifton Collins, Jr., who plays the experienced, by-the-book Agent Hobbs. “They took us off the leash in regards to the research and I really brought a lot of that to the table.”

At heart, Kwedar made the film for Border Patrol agents and their families. Sadler taught the actors the protocol and search methods to make sure they got the details right.

“These guys are so isolated, and it takes a special person to be able to do that,” Gabriel Luna, who plays Agent Flores, said. “Working on this film really cleared up my view of the Border Patrol. These men and women are just regular people. They’re human, they’re doing this job day in and day out, and it’s such an incredible thing.”

“Transpecos” is now available nationwide on demand and digital including Comcast, DirecTV and iTunes. It will be released on DVD September 27, 2016.

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17 beautiful photos of troops training in the snow

Baby, it’s cold outside. But U.S. troops are still expected to use snow storms during peace as great training for snow storms during war.


So while the rest of the country starts sipping spiced coffees and hot chocolate, here are 17 photos of America’s troops braving the snow:

1. Airman 1st Class Avery Friedman plays “Taps” during training at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base amid snowfall on Dec. 15.

(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

2. Paratroopers scan for threats past purple smoke while maneuvering through the snow during a training exercise in Alaska on Nov. 8.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

3. Paratroopers maneuver across the snow at the top of a hill during training in Alaska on Nov. 8.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

4. Apache crew chiefs perform maintenance on an AH-64E during a snowstorm at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, on Dec. 8, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Army Capt. Brian Harris)

5. Maintenance sailors change the prop on an EP-3E Aries II amid driving snow at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island on Dec. 11.

(Photo: U.S. Navy)

6. An Airman removes snow and ice from a KC-135 Stratotanker on Dec. 12 after a snowstorm at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mackenzie Richardson)

7. A B-52H pilot gives the thumbs up to ground crew from inside the cockpit before a training flight through the snow on Jan. 14, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

8. An Air Force engineer drives a snow plow across the flightline at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, on Jan. 14, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong)

9. A 10th Mountain Division soldier clears snow from parked Humvees at Fort Drum, New York, on Nov. 21.

(Photo: U.S. Army Spec. Liane Schmersahl)

10. Army paratroopers conduct a live-fire training exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska on Nov. 8, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Javier Alvarez)

11. A Marine Corps rifleman pulls security during training at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, on Jan. 29, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel Guerra)

12. A Marine Corps mortarman sits with his weapon on Oct. 22, 2016, during training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California.

(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Valero)

13. A Coast Guard petty officer clears snow from around a 25-foot Response Boat-Small on Jan. 24, 2016, in Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

(Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Clarke, III)

14. Army soldiers fire a 120mm mortar during training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, on Jan. 12, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Army John Pennell)

15. Army paratroopers in Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, conduct 60mm mortar training in the snow on Jan. 12, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Army John Pennell)

16. An Army mortarman moves through the snow during training at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Jan. 12, 2016.

(Photo: U.S. Army John Pennell)

17. An Air Force engineer drives a snow broom across the runway at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, on Dec. 4, 2015.

(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel)

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Russian spy ship near Navy bases on East Coast

While the buzzing of the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and Russia’s deployment of the SSC-8 cruise missile drew a lot of attention, another Russian action has gone somewhat unnoticed.


According to the Hartford Courant, a Russian naval vessel is operating off the coast of Connecticut. The vessel, described as a “spy ship,” has been operating up and down the East Coast.

The Karelia, a Vishnya-class intelligence ship similar to the Viktor Leonov, sails near the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39). (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

A FoxNews.com report identified the Russian ship as the Viktor Leonov, noting that it was also been loitering around Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world.

“The presence of this spy ship has to be regarded very seriously because Russia is an increasingly aggressive adversary. It reflects a clear need to harden our defenses against electronic surveillance and cyber espionage,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press release.

The Viktor Leonov is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship. According to GlobalSecurity.org, Vishnya-class vessels are very lightly armed with two SA-N-8 missile launchers and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The ship has a top speed of 16 knots, and is loaded with gear for carrying out signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT).

Aircrew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron One Four (HS-14) is embarked aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) lowers memorabilia from the Kitty Hawk Strike Group to a Vishnya-class AGI ship, Kurily (SSV-208), as a goodwill gesture. The Viktor Leonov is a sister ship to the one pictured here. (US Navy photo)

The Soviet Union built seven of these vessels in the 1980s, and all remain in service with the Russian Navy until 2020, when they will be replaced by a new class of vessels. The Leonov carried out a similar operation in early 2015 with much less fanfare.

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6 military jokes troops have heard a million times

Military members have their own inside humor that is often dark and quite hilarious. Then there are the cliche jokes that troops hear all the time. Often interchangeable (substitute an Air Force guy for an Army guy and it’s the same) and heard by your crusty old staff NCO, these jokes aren’t going away anytime soon.


These are the jokes we’ve all heard a million times.

1. A sailor tells a joke to Marines

A sailor in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, “hey, do you want to hear a Marine joke?” The guy responds, “well, before you tell that, you should know that I’m 6′ tall, 200 pounds, and I’m a Marine. The guy sitting next to me is 6′ 2″, weighs 250, and he’s also a Marine.”

“Now, you still wanna tell that joke?”

The sailor says, “Nah, I don’t want to have to explain it three times.”

2. The military pilot is the center of the universe

How many pilots does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one. He holds the bulb, and the world revolves around him.

3. The five most dangerous things in the Army (or Marines)

A private saying “I learned this in boot camp…”

A sergeant saying “Just trust me sir…”

A second lieutenant saying “Based on my experience…”

A captain saying “I was just thinking…”

… and a warrant officer saying “Ok now watch this shit.”

4. The Sergeant Major who always uses military time

A crusty old Sergeant Major found himself at a wedding when one of the bride’s guests approached him for conversation.

“Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?”

“Negative, ma’am,” he said. “Just serious by nature.”

The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said it looked like he had seen a lot of action.

“Yes, ma’am, a lot of action.”

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, “you know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself.”

The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner. Finally the young lady said, “you know, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but when was the last time you had sex?”

“1955, ma’am.”

“Well, there you are,” she responded. “No wonder you’re so serious. You really need to chill out and relax! I mean, no sex since 1955! Come with me.”

She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to relax him several times.

Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his grizzled bare chest and said, “wow, you sure didn’t forget much since 1955.”

After glancing at his watch, the Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, “I hope not. It’s only 2130 now.”

5. The silent professionals

How do you know if there is a Navy SEAL at the bar? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you.

6. The urinal joke

A sailor and a Marine are both in the bathroom taking a piss. The sailor finishes up and washes his hands. The Marine gets done, and then immediately starts heading for the door. The sailor stops him and says, “in boot camp, they teach us to wash our hands after we take a leak.” The Marine replies, “in our boot camp, they teach us not to piss on our hands.”

Have any to add? Throw yours in the comments section!

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