Along with the USO, the company delivered 32,000 three-pack servings of its ready-brew coffee to Bagram Airfield, where it could then be further distributed to the approximately 9,800 service members stationed throughout the country.
“Getting a cup of coffee is something your average American takes for granted. But for our troops a cup of coffee is a special taste of home,” Alan Reyes, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, said in a statement. “Imagine a soldier coming off an arduous patrol or hostile fire, and then seeing that Starbucks logo – it takes their minds out of the war zone, even for a few minutes.”
The coffee giant is providing much more than just free coffee for U.S. troops. In March 2014, the company donated $30 million for research into post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and promised to hire 10,000 veterans or their spouses over the next five years.
“This is not charity, this is not pity. This is the right thing to do for them and for us,” Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, told NPR’s Marketplace.
Schultz recently wrote a book with Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran that highlights the courage and sacrifices of Post 9/11 troops entitled “For Love of Country: What Our Veterans Can Teach Us About Citizenship, Heroism, and Sacrifice.”
After the fallout from the January 6, 2021, riot that saw much of the Capitol Building wrecked and forced lawmakers to flee the chamber, Congress has been looking for a means to prevent the possibility of such a riot happening again.
The legislative body would also like to have a force it can call on to ensure that such a riot, once out of hand, would never again be able to breach the building and destroy so much of the building’s offices and files.
It’s an issue so important to Congress that the Senate was holding hearings to discuss passing a reconciled version of the one passed by the House of Representatives in May 2021. A sum of $200 million would be set aside for a standing force inside of D.C. that can be called on by the District of Columbia National Guard.
In June 2021, the commander of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel Hokanson told a panel of senators that a quick reaction force (QRF) wasn’t really in the scope of the National Guard mission.
“Many of these [duties] are actually a law enforcement mission set,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard, told reporters at the Pentagon. “We’re not a SWAT team. We’re not law enforcement. We’re soldiers and airmen trained and equipped to fight our nation’s wars.”
The Guard was deployed to the Capitol Hill area for four months after rioters broke into Congress in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election. The initial response was handled by local law enforcement and the Capitol Police – but the external response was so bungled that some began to suspect collusion between the rioters and the police officers.
Gen. Hokanson wanted lawmakers to know that the National Guard, even in the District of Columbia, can’t be the QRF they want, needed or not. He argued that the Guard doesn’t really have the resources, and he was on Capitol Hill to get lawmakers to pay for the four-month deployment of Guard troops to the Capitol.
It cost the Guard more than $520 million to deploy during that time. To redeploy would require the Guard to get 24 hours notice before being ready to act. Whereas law enforcement is on the job when it’s time to go, members of the National Guard have to leave their civilian jobs, grab their gear and then meet at the armory to prepare.
Only when a matter exceeds law enforcement capabilities is the National Guard called in to support the effort. Some senators instead support creating that QRF unit inside an existing federal agency, which they believe would be much more cost-effective.
As for the National Guard, funding is a big deal. The Guard used its maintenance and operational funds to pay for its four-month deployment to Washington, and so the lack of additional funds from Congress is beginning to affect its capabilities.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Army Chief of Staff were also concerned with the Guard’s lack of funding. The three defense officials told lawmakers that the readiness of the National Guard would be affected if it can’t get reimbursed for its deployment.
Army infantry veteran Joshua D. Hardwick will make his professional MMA debut Sat., May 14 in Bellator 154 in San Jose, California. The 160-pound striker is facing off against Staff Sgt. Jorge Acosta, a California Army National Guardsman.
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Acosta is 1-1 on the professional circuit. Hardwick is 5-2 on the amateur circuit (including three international fights in Thailand).
Hardwick served predominantly as a sniper in reconnaissance platoons. The future MMA fighter had relatively tame ambitions when he transitioned from the military.
“When I got out of the Army, I went back to Washington and started logging and working in a mill with the intent of going back to school,” he told WATM. “Then when my girlfriend and I broke up, I decided to move to Denver and chase my dream. It’s worked out really well for me.”
Hardwick said that he’s excited to face off against another veteran chasing his dreams in MMA. While Acosta has more experience on the professional stage, Hardwick said he was sure that he can still control the fight and come out on top.
“I’m very confident in what I’m able to do and in my ability to defend from what he’s going to do and establish my game plan and my style in the fight,” he said.
“I’ve been training for my pro debut since I first started,” he said. “Every camp, every day that I’ve been training it’s been for this opportunity. I lived in Thailand for 6 months, I train on the best team in the world with Elevation Fight Team, world-class fighters. I couldn’t be more prepared for this fight than I am.”
While Hardwick prefers to fight a striking battle, he’s comfortable heading to the floor if the situation calls for it.
“I think I’m pretty decent everywhere,” he said. “I like to strike but I have three first-round submission finishes.”
Hardwick has been out of the military for a few years but stays close with his former brothers-in-arms. Their support is part of why he fights.
“So many of them are like family,” he said. “But even ones that I’ve lost touch with, they reach out and tell me that they’re inspired by what I’m doing and how hard I’m working.”
Inspiring other vets to go after the life they really want is important to Hardwick.
We all fought so hard for freedom, and when we get done fighting for it, we need to fight for our own dreams. Stop doing what society says we need to do and do the things that we think will make us happy.
He hopes that his own story will remind vets that they don’t have to come home to desk jobs if they don’t want to.
“Like me, I got out of the Army and I worked some jobs that made good money and I was going to go to school because I thought that was what I was supposed to do but that stuff didn’t really make me happy,” Hardwick said. “And, when I got the opportunity to give that all up and make zero money and move back in with my mom and start chasing me dream, and now it’s kind of all coming together.
“This is just the beginning and there’s a long, long road ahead but I couldn’t be any happier than I am today being a poor MMA fighter.”
The F-15 Eagle – an air-superiority fighter that has dominated the dogfight arena sine it was introduced into service, then later emerged as a superb multi-role fighter.
The Su-27 Flanker– Russia’s attempt to match the Eagle.
Which is the deadliest plane? To decide that, we will look at combat records, their avionics systems, their armament, as well as their performance specs to see who’d come out on top.
1. Combat Records
There’s no better way to judge a plane then how it has done in combat. Forget the specs you see on a sheet of paper, forget what it looks like. Just judge it by its record.
An F-15 Eagle departs during the mission employment phase exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Dec. 7, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The F-15 has seen a lot of action. Perhaps the most important number is: “zero.” That is how many F-15s have been lost in air-to-air combat. This is an incredible feat for a plane that has been in service for 40 years and seen action in wars. In fact, the F-15 has shot down over 100 enemy planes with no losses.
The Su-27 family has seen much less action. Su-27s flown by the Ethiopian Air Force that saw combat in the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea scored at least two and as many as 10 air-to-air kills. The Flanker has also seen action over Syria, Chechnya, and Georgia, scoring one confirmed kill over Chechnya in 1994.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
In the modern age of aerial combat, the plane’s electronics matter. Radar serves as eyes and ears, while electronic countermeasures (ECM) try to keep the other side deaf and blind.
The F-15 uses the AN/APG-63(V)3, an active electronically scanned array, or AESA, radar. This highly advanced system gives the Eagle a pair of very sharp “eyes” that locate targets up to 100 miles away and direct its radar-guided AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles. The Eagle also has the AN/ALQ-135 ECM system, which is very useful against opposing radars, whether on missiles or aircraft.
The avionics suite inside an Su-27 Flanker. (Photo from Wikimedia)
The Su-27’s avionics center around the N001 Mech radar, capable of tracking bomber-sized targets at 86 miles. For a target the size of the F-15, though, the range is only 62 miles. That is a difference of 38 miles – almost two-thirds of the Mech’s range. The Flanker doesn’t have internal jammers. Instead, there is the option to use two Sorbtsiya pods.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles. The usual load is four AIM-120 AMRAAMs and four AIM-9X Sidewinders. It also carries a M61 20mm Gatling gun with 900 rounds of ammunition. The AIM-120D now in service has a range of 99 miles, while the AIM-9X can reach out to 22 miles. The AMRAAM is a “fire and forget” missile.
The Su-27 carries six R-27 (AA-10 “Alamo” missiles), which have a range of up to 80 miles. These missiles use semi-active guidance, meaning the Flanker has to “paint” its target to guide the missile. That means flying straight and level – not the best idea in aerial combat.
The Flanker also carries up to four R-73 missiles (AA-11 “Archer”), which has a range of up to 19 miles, and has a GSh-30 30mm cannon.
Advantage: F-15 Eagle
The F-15 has a top speed of Mach 2.5, a combat radius of 1,222 miles, and can maneuver in a dogfight, pulling up to 9 Gs.
With three 600-gallon drop tanks and two 750-gallon conformal fuel tanks (Fuel And Sensor Tactical, or “FAST” packs), the F-15’s range is 3,450 miles. In short, this plane has long “legs” and it can be refueled in flight by tankers.
The Su-27 has a top speed of Mach 2.35, a range of 2,193 miles, and is capable of some amazing aerobatic feats, notably the Pugachev Cobra. Like the F-15, it can pull 9 Gs in a maneuver. The Flanker can carry drop tanks and be refueled while flying.
So, who wins? While the F-15 Eagle is an older design, its advantages — particularly avionics — put the Su-27 at a huge disadvantage. Russia has other planes in the Flanker family (the Su-35), but they are few and far between.
So, how might the engagement between four United States Air Force F-15s and four Su-27s from BadGuyLand go?
Well, the F-15s would probably detect the Su-27s first. Once in AMRAAM range, the Eagle pilots will open fire, most likely using two missiles per target. The Flankers would be obliterated.
If it got to close range, though, the engagement is likely to be a lot less one-sided. Here, the AA-11 and AIM-9 are equal, and both planes can pull 9 Gs.
The skill and training of the pilots will be decisive. In this case, we will assume that BadGuyLand’s dictator, Sleazebag Swinemolestor, hasn’t quite trained his pilots well, and some were selected for their political liability. In this mix-up, the Eagles shoot down three Flankers for the loss of one fighter – the first F-15 lost in air-to-air combat.
Either way, though, it is a safe bet that the F-15 still comes out on top.
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
Five years ago, I watched in the Situation Room along with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and members of the President’s national security team to see if U.S. Special Operations Forces could deliver the justice that every American had been waiting for for a decade.
In the three-plus months leading up to the operation, the White House’s National Security Council staff organized over two dozen inter-agency meetings to oversee preparations and consider all of the attendant issues: the evaluation of the emerging intelligence, possible operational courses of action, the consequences and implications of both success and failure.
What struck me most about that process was the absolute attention to operational security, discretion, and secrecy. Very few individuals beyond the most senior officials were involved in the policy piece of this operation. Extraordinary measures were taken to limit information flow, and those involved maintained an incredibly high degree of discipline.
All possible options and potential courses of action were considered, analyzed and debated at the very highest levels. All of the potential issues were reviewed: impact of an operation on our relationship with Pakistan and with our other allies, possible reaction by al Qaeda and the potential for retaliatory action against U.S. interests, steps needed to prepare for possible retaliatory attacks, and next steps in the wake of an operation whether it was successful or unsuccessful.
Reflecting on the lead up to the raid, Director on National Intelligence Clapper said:
“As is always the case in intelligence, it wasn’t complete. Right up until the last minute, we couldn’t confirm he was there. Some argued we needed more time.” Nonetheless, he never doubted the advantages of a raid compared to alternatives, “At least with a raid, you’d have people on the ground who could make judgments.”
It was apparent that the President’s paramount concern was the safety and security of the operators. On a number of occasions, the President provided very pointed guidance to the Department of Defense and to Admiral Bill McRaven to make that very clear.
On the day before the operation took place, Saturday, April 30, President Obama placed a secure call to Admiral McRaven. The President was in the midst of his preparation for his scheduled appearance that evening at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. I had the privilege of staffing the President for that phone call, which the President conducted from the Oval Office. When I came in, the President’s speechwriters were asked to step out.
In that call, the President inquired if McRaven believed the force was ready to proceed and if they had everything they needed to carry out a successful operation. McRaven affirmed that they did, and the President wished McRaven and the forces under his command Godspeed.
A very brief call, but one that would prove historic.
During the raid itself, I clearly recall the role that Admiral McRaven played from Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In addition to carrying out his command and control function with his team, he was piped in via secure video conference (SVTC) to provide updates to the CIA and the assembled officials at the White House Situation Room, including the President. As the Department of Defense operators would move down their checklist, we heard McRaven’s voice as each operational or geographical mark or milestone was hit.
As Director Clapper said:
“There was a lot of tension, and then as it became clear that we were reasonably sure that yes, it was Osama bin Laden, there was, if I can use the phrase, not only emotional closure, but functional closure, in that the operation illustrated the effectiveness of what an integrated intelligence and operational community could accomplish.”
The amazing part to me was that McRaven’s voice — at least to my memory — never changed inflection, never conveyed concern or excitement or any sense that there was something dramatic happening, and never intimated anything other than calm professionalism. That included those incredibly tense moments when things did not go according to plan with the helicopter assault. You would never have known that anything was amiss if all you were going by was his voice doing the play-by-play.
Even when U.S. Special Operations Forces successfully took out Osama bin Laden.
President Obama delivered the news to the nation on May 1, 2011.
After the operators safely returned to base, McRaven noted that one way in which they had potentially confirmed bin Laden’s identity was by determining that he was in fact as tall in stature as we in the Intelligence Community knew him to be. He told the President they had had one of their taller SEAL operators, about 6’3″, lie down on the ground in the hangar at Jalalabad next to the remains and they assessed he was roughly the same height as the recovered body.
The President then noted over the SVTC with McRaven that they had all those millions and millions of dollars of Defense equipment but they didn’t have a tape measure, which obviously got a good laugh from all around the table and on SVTC. And when McRaven ultimately did visit the President in the Oval Office some days after the raid, President Obama did in fact “gift” McRaven with a tape measure from Home Depot mounted on a ceremonial plaque in case it was ever needed again.
I was recently down at Fort Bragg and saw that the gift remains prominently displayed in the Commander’s Conference Room at the Joint Special Operations Command.
When it was all over, I still remember my shock and surprise when I walked outside of the West Wing basement across the street to return to my office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, shortly after the President had concluded his address to the nation.
I was amazed to see (and hear) the streets surrounding the White House complex were filled with what seemed like thousands of people celebrating the fact that justice had finally been done, even though it was after midnight on a Sunday night — normally about as quiet and peaceful a time on the streets of Washington as you would ever see.
Director Clapper noted the enormity of the situation:
“It is hard for me to recall a single vignette that carried with it so much importance, and so much symbolism for this country. As an intelligence professional that has spent 50 years in the business, I cannot remember an event that would approach that raid and its success in my memory.”
The most meaningful moment came days later, when President Obama visited Fort Campbell to meet with some of the operators involved in the mission. A number of senior staff members, including myself, were privileged to attend a meeting and briefing with members of the assault force. The President heard firsthand many of the details of the operation and offered his admiration and gratitude for the work that had been done.
The enormous degree of respect that the President had for the Special Operations Forces was apparent to anybody who attended.
The bravery of these men, the justice they delivered, and the legacy they leave behind — that will be remembered by all of us.
A Marine Corps veteran and co-chair of Donald Trump’s national veterans coalition is under investigation by the Secret Service after saying Hillary Clinton should be “shot for treason.”
Al Baldasaro, a state representative in New Hampshire and delegate for the Republican presidential nominee, first made the remarks on Tuesday during a radio interview on WRKO in Boston.
“I’m a veteran who went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm. I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton, to me, is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam,” Baldasaro said.
He was referring to the actress’ 1972 visit to Hanoi, during which she was photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun — a trip that stirred many Americans to call her a traitor and earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane.”
Clinton “is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” Baldasaro said.
The 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi in which four Americans were killed has been a recurring topic this week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the Americans slain in the attack, on Monday spoke at the event and said she blamed the presumptive Democratic nominee for the tragedy that resulted in the death of her son Sean Smith, a U.S. foreign service information management officer; Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens; and the others.
Referring to Clinton, Baldasaro said, “She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back-up security. Something’s wrong there. I wish they made the documents public. … This whole thing disgusts me. Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
Baldasaro, whose LinkedIn page states he retired as a first sergeant after serving 22 years in the Marine Corps, went on to refer to Marine Maj. Jason Brezler, a reservist and member of the New York City Fire Department, whose military career hangs in the balance of a legal case stemming from improperly handling classified material.
In 2012, Brezler sent colleagues an email from a Yahoo account containing a classified profile of an Afghan policeman whom the Marines believed was corrupt and sexually abusing young Afghan boys.
Baldasaro was angry at what he said was a different level of legal scrutiny applied in the Marine’s case. “They’re trying to kick him out of the military,” he said.
Baldasaro hasn’t apologized for his remarks about Clinton. Indeed, on Wednesday he repeated his calls for her to be executed during an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire.
“I’m a military man first, and anyone who takes information about our CIA or Secret Service and people at our embassy and puts it out on a server where anyone can grab it, putting Americans in danger to be killed, should be held accountable,” he said, according to The New York Times. “As far as I’m concerned, it is treason and the penalty for treason is the firing squad — or maybe it’s the electric chair now.”
Baldasaro in May defended the Trump campaign for having distributed $5.6 million to veterans charities. The money was raised during a fundraiser in January, though many large charitable donations had only been distributed in the week before the press conference detailing the gifts, the Associated Press reported.
Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said the agency is aware of comments made by New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro and that it “will conduct the appropriate investigation,” according to the newswire.
A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, Hope Hicks, told reporters that Baldasaro doesn’t speak for the campaign, the AP reported. She didn’t say whether he would continue to serve as a veterans adviser to the candidate.
Russia wants to hide its most sophisticated air defense missiles from U.S. spy satellites and spy planes by using containers that block the emission of electromagnetic pulses caused when operating electronic equipment, a Russian newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Citing an anonymous Ministry of Defense source, the Russian newspaper Izvestia said the S-400 Triumf (NATO designation: SA-21 Growler) and the newly developed S-500 Promethey will receive special containers designed to the block side electromagnetic interference (EMI). The missiles, their launchers, radar units, command vehicles, and other vehicles essential to the weapons systems will be placed in the containers.
The article also described “booths” that could house personnel. All of the containers would be in different lengths and weights sufficient to hold vehicles and men.
They could be installed on the launcher’s chassis or transported by trucks and trains. Some of the containers have already entered mass production, while other types are currently being tested, according to the article.
“This year we plan to obtain containers intended particularly for the latest anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems including the S-500,” the anonymous source said. Izvestia described him as a Ministry of Defense specialist involved in creating electronic warfare systems.
Russian officials say that once deployed, the S-500 will be capable destroying aerial targets including hypersonic cruise missiles as well as intercontinental ballistic missiles and near-space targets such as nuclear warheads.
Russian propaganda sources such as the on-line magazine Sputnik and the Kremlin’s Instagram newsfeed tout the news as a way for the missiles to become “invisible.”
The article is vague about the technical details behind the containers. It says the containers have special coatings and sophisticated equipment that prevents the escape of EMI.
If it works, the containers could thwart the five super-secret Orion spy satellites which are designed to collect signals intelligence for the U.S. government from geosynchronous orbits above the Earth. Also, the U-2 spy plane is known to carry highly sensitive SIGINT gear capable of detecting EMI.
But “invisible”? That’s a stretch.
Both missile systems are big and they require support vehicles and personnel. Even in containers, it might still be possible for drones, spy planes, and satellites to photograph them – even if the containers are disguised in some way – because they’ll stand out like a sore thumb because of sheer size alone.
Heat from the containers might also give their presence and contents away to the right equipment.
That said, there is historical precedent for concern about this development at Pentagon and in the intelligence community.
In 1962, the Soviets deployed intermediate-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and approximately 80 nuclear warheads to Cuba during Operation Anadyr. The discovery of the launch sites for some of those weapons led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the Cold War superpowers ever came to actual nuclear war.
One of the methods employed by the Soviets was the use of shipping containers and metal sheeting to mask the weapons transfer from the Soviet Union to Cuba while on board cargo vessels. The containers blocked the missiles from view; the metal sheets blocked infra-red surveillance that could have revealed the missiles.
As the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate collapses across Iraq and Syria under unrelenting pressure by the US-backed coalition, the whereabouts of the group’s chieftain, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain a mystery.
Since fleeing the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa in May, various reports over recent weeks allege the terrorist leader either has been killed by Russian or coalition forces or is still at large in the group’s redoubts in central Syria.
The impetus inside the White House and Pentagon to kill or capture al-Baghdadi has seemingly been lukewarm at best compared to the hunt for al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, which ended with the Navy SEAL raid on the terrorist leader’s Pakistani hideout in May 2011.
The defeat of the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, along with the death of its emir, has been the clearest objective of President Trump’s national security and foreign policy strategy, and one that critics claim has been heavy on rhetoric and little else.
What remains unclear is how the Trump White House plans to carry on the fight against Islamic State once al-Baghdadi is no longer in the picture.
US military officials have reiterated that al-Baghdadi’s death remains a top priority for the American-led coalition battling Islamic State. However, coalition commanders and Pentagon officials also claim that the Islamic State chieftain has been effectively sidelined from any command-and-control role over the group’s operations in the Middle East and across the globe.
The Islamic State leader “is somebody who we would like to see dead,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters July 17.
US and coalition-led operations to kill or capture Baghdadi and other Islamic State leaders are integral to the mission to dismantle and destroy the terrorist group and its affiliates worldwide, Capt. Davis said during a briefing at the Pentagon.
“Leadership strikes are important,” he said of the coalition’s operations to hunt down the upper echelon of Islamic State, starting with al-Baghdadi. Such missions provide the “moral authority or imperative” to American and coalition forces fighting to curb Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
But the Pentagon spokesman made clear that while the hunt for al-Baghdadi may be morally essential, his loss will mean little on the battlefield.
“Militarily speaking, he is already irrelevant,” Capt. Davis said.
Those comments echo those of Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said al-Baghdadi’s death would create “disarray in the enemy’s ranks” and upend efforts by Islamic State to hold onto its territorial gains in the Middle East.
“We’re not here to help him through his midlife crisis. We’re here to give him one,” the Pentagon chief said.
Top Islamic State leaders, including al-Baghdadi, reportedly began fleeing Raqqa for Deir-e-zour and Madan en masse in May ahead of the coalition’s operation to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa, which had been the group’s self-styled capital in the country since taking the city three years ago.
Since his departure from Raqqa, unconfirmed reports of the Islamic State leader’s demise have permeated across a number of media outlets over the last several weeks.
Russian news outlets, citing defense officials in Moscow, had reported al-Baghdadi’s demise months earlier, saying he had been killed during Russian airstrikes on Islamic State positions outside Raqqa in May.
Most recently, members of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — which has a strong track record for accuracy in the chaotic Syrian struggle — claimed they had irrefutable evidence al-Baghdadi had been killed in counter-terrorism operations in the Deir-e-Zour area in eastern Syria.
Those claims were upended by reports from Kurdish intelligence officials who said al-Baghdadi remains alive.
“It is not about Baghdadi necessarily, there are other leaders waiting” who are former Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein, Lahur Talabani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intelligence services, told Reuters July 17. “Do not expect the game to be over anytime soon for the Islamic State.”
“Lucky” Lucca is a Marine Corps working dog who successfully led about 400 patrols through combat zones without once allowing a service member under her care to be injured by IEDs, even on the day she lost her leg to a secondary IED after finding the primary. She received the Dickin Medal, an award for animal valor, Apr. 5, 2016.
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Chris Willingham was her first handler. He deployed to Iraq with Lucca two times.
“She could see when I was getting kitted up for a mission, you could see her energy increase because she knew what time it was,” Willingham said. “I put the searching harness on Luca and she knew it was game on.”
Willingham later deployed with Lucca to Afghanistan and led 30 working dog and handler teams. When Willingham was sent to a new duty station, he asked one of his handlers, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, to take over as Lucca’s handler.
It was on Lucca and Rodriguez’s second deployment to Afghanistan that Lucca lost her leg. She had indicated the presence of one IED and Rodriguez showed the explosive ordnance team where it was. Lucca was looking for more IEDs when Rodriguez heard a loud boom and saw dust erupt under Lucca. Lucca immediately tried to return to Rodriguez.
“I see Lucca trying to get up and attempting to run towards me,” Rodriguez said. “At this point I took the same path she already had cleared and ran towards Lucca. I picked her up and started running towards the treeline.”
Rodriguez placed a tourniquet on Lucca and the pair were medevacced out. Lucca had lost her paw at the blast site. Doctors later had to amputate the rest of her leg. It didn’t keep her down for long.
“As soon as she woke up, she wanted to get up,” Rodriguez said.
“She was so quick to adapt to having three legs that in a few days she was walking on her own.”
Willingham adopted Lucca under Robbie’s Law which gives handlers the first chance to adopt retired working dogs. When it came time to decide who would escort Lucca to where Willingham lived in Helsinki, Finland, Willingham immediately asked for Rodriguez.
In retirement, Lucca has experienced snow for the first time and gotten to play on the beach with the Willingham family. See Lucca in action and hear the full story from Willingham and Rodriguez in this video:
Lucca received the Dickin Medal, known as the animal version of the Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest award for valor, the equivalent of the U.S. Medal of Honor.
Previous American recipients of the Dickin Medal include G.I. Joe, a pigeon who flew 20 miles in 20 minutes and prevented the accidental bombing of American troops, and Salty and Roselle, two guide dogs for the blind who got their humans out of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made waves on Friday when he expressed his dissatisfaction with decades of failed diplomacy towards North Korea and mentioned that the US would consider “all options,” including military strikes.
To be fair, the US has always considered all options.
If any nation in the world threatens another, the US, with its global reach, considers a range of diplomatic, economic, and even kinetic options to shape the situation.
But defense experts say a military strike against North Korea is unlikely for a number of reasons.
“There is no plausible military option,” Jeffrey Lewis, founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk told Business Insider. “To remove the North Korean government is general war.”
North Korea has a large amount of massive fixed guns trained on South Korea. | KCNA
Because North Korea has missiles hidden all across the country, there’s simply no way to quickly and cleanly remove the Kim regime from power or even neutralize the nuclear threat, according to Lewis.
“This is not a case where you’re striking a nuclear program in its early stages,” said Lewis, who noted that North Korea has been testing nuclear weapons for more than a decade. “The time to do a preemptive attack was like 20 years ago.”
Last September, the country tested a nuclear weapon some estimates suggest was more powerful than the bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima.
While North Korea’s nuclear threat has grown, according to Lewis, massive artillery installations hidden in the hills and trained on South Korea’s capital and most populous city, Seoul have long been a problem.
But artillery and shelling is nowhere near as destructive as nuclear weapons. If North Korean artillery fired on Seoul, South Korea would counter attack and suppress fire.
“It would kill a lot of people and be a humanitarian disaster,” Lewis said of a North Korean artillery strike on Seoul. “But that’s nothing like putting a nuclear weapon on Seoul, Busan, or Tokyo. North Korea’s ability to inflict damage has gone way up.”
As Tillerson accurately stated, diplomatic efforts to quash North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have failed for decades. The US’s patience has been understandably tried by the recent missile launches clearly intended as a saturation attack, where a large volume of missiles would overwhelm US and allied missile defenses.
However, there is a way out. China recently floated a North Korean-backed proposal for the US to end their annual military drills with South Korea and, in return, North Korea would stop working on nukes. The US flat out rejected the offer, as they have in the past.
“The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations,” Mark Toner, the acting spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.
Toner suggested that comparing the US’s transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills in South Korea with North Korea’s 24 ballistic missile launches in 2016 was a case of “apples to oranges.”
North Korea’s position is “not crazy,” according to Lewis. There is a long history of serious military conflicts beginning under the pretense of military exercises, as Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia did.
“The reality is that the US forces are there, we say they’re there for an exercise, but you can’t take that as a promise, you have to treat it as an invasion,” said Lewis.
Instead, Lewis suggested that part of the purpose of the military exercises has always been to make sure the US and South Korea can capably execute their war plans, but the other purpose has always been political — to reassure South Korea.
Meanwhile, each year the Foal Eagle exercises, where the US and South Korea rehearse their war plan for conflict with North Korea, grow in size. Lewis said that reducing the exercises could go a long way towards calming down North Korea.
If diplomacy and sanctions continue to fail, the consequences could be disastrous.
“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon. They’re not going to stop cause they get bored,” Lewis said.
The US and North Korea are currently locked in strategies to “maximize pain” on the other party, according to Lewis. The US holds massive drills in part to scare North Korea, while North Korea tests nukes to scare the west.
Without some form of cooperation between the two sides soon, diplomacy will continue to fail until it fails catastrophically. And that makes military confrontations, though unlikely, more viable every day.
DARPA has found a single, hyper-efficient motor that they think could power large UAVs, electrical generators, and robots. The engines are so small and so efficient, that soldiers could carry powerful generators in their rucksacks.
DARPA signed a contract with LiquidPiston for nearly $1 million to develop an engine that is much lighter than current military generators and that could generate the same amount of electricity for half as much JP-8 fuel.
“Today’s diesel/JP-8 engines and generators are extremely heavy,” Dr. Nikolay Shkolnick, a co-founder of LiquidPiston, said in an press release. “For example, a typical 3kW heavy-fuel generator weighs over 300 pounds, requiring six people to move it around. LiquidPiston’s engine technology may enable a JP-8 generator of similar output weighing less than 30 pounds that could fit in a backpack.”
The engine would get its outstanding efficiency through a patented “High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle,” design that is a large departure from piston engines. LiquidPiston holds the patent for this type of engine. See how it works at 0:40 in the video below.
And, with only two moving parts, the engines are much quieter and stealthier than those they would replace.
“Our engine has no vibration at all and it’s a lot quieter,” Alexander Shkolnik, the president of LiquidPiston, told MIT News while discussing LiquidPiston’s smallest engine. “It should be a much nicer user experience all around.”
If everything works out, forward operating bases and UAVs would get much quieter, generators could be delivered to outposts more easily, and the need for convoys in theater would be reduced as fuel requirements dropped.