Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa - We Are The Mighty
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Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.


The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.

The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
DoD Photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson

US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.

The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.

“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields

The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.

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Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

popular

6 top secret bases that changed history

Secrets are hard to keep, and secrets that require a lot of real estate are even harder to keep. Here are six examples of large-scale efforts that managed to maintain the utmost secrecy and wound up changing the course of history as a result:


1. The entire city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo: US Army Ed Westcott

Oak Ridge, Tennessee is now a mostly normal city that houses about 30,000 people, but it was originally established to create the nuclear bomb.

Army engineers tasked with building the infrastructure for the Manhattan Project chose the site of modern Oak Ridge and secretly created a top-secret facility with a peak population of 75,000 people. Oak Ridge was where the bulk of the nuclear material for the bombs was created.

In 1949, the site was opened to the general public and it was incorporated as a city in 1959.

2. The Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo: US Navy Greg Senff

Most people know Bikini Atoll, the site of many U.S. nuclear tests and the inspiration for the bikini. But Bikini Atoll was supported and largely ran by U.S. military forces at Kwajalein Atoll.

U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll still exists and sensitive operations are still conducted there, mostly missile testing and target practice.

3. Tonopah

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
F-117 Stealth Fighter (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Tonopah was a secret even among military aviators in the 1970s. Those in the know were sent to practice dogfighting against captured Soviet jets near Tonopah, Nevada.

But Tonopah had a different secret that would change military aviation. Stealth aviation was developed there and the F-117 flew many of it’s test flights from Tonopah.

READ MORE: The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

4. Area 51

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo: CIA.gov

If you don’t know what the cultural significance of Area 51 is, then stop lying because you definitely know what Area 51 is. The rumors around the test site spurned its own sub genre of entertainment with big movies like “Independence Day” and video games like “Area 51.”

Area 51’s military significance is that it was a testing ground for the U-2 and the SR-71 predecessor, the A-12 Oxcart. Officially, the site is named the Nevada Test and Training Range at Groom Lake.

5. Wendover Army Air Base

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo: Wendover Air Force Base History Office

Wendover Army Air Base was a tiny establishment when it was activated in 1942, serving primarily as a school for aviators headed to Europe.

But by 1944 a shroud of secrecy descended over the remote base with FBI agents and military police monitoring conversations and limiting movements of base personnel and their families. That’s because the base was being used to train the men who were hand-selected to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.

6. Muroc Army Air Base/Edwards Air Force Base

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo: US Air Force

Muroc Army Air Base started as a bombing and gunnery range in the 1930s but became a proper base and school for pilots during World War II. A few years after the war, its name was changed to Edwards.

Top secret projects began at Muroc in 1942 when the Army Air Force’s first jet, the Bell P-59 Airacomet, was tested there. It also served as an early testing site for the B-29s modified to drop nuclear weapons on Japan, was the base Chuck Yeager flew from when he first broke the sound barrier, and assisted in the testing of the space shuttle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The possible connection between defense cuts and deadly accidents

A staggering report from the Military Times concludes that accidents involving all aircraft of the US military rose 40% between the 2013 and 2017 fiscal years, and that those accidents resulted in the deaths of at least 133 service members.

The accidents are likely tied to the massive budget cuts that Congress put in place during the sequestration, as well as to an increase in flight hours despite a shortage of pilots.


The report is the first time the deadly crashes have been mapped against the sequester, showing the effect budget cuts may have on the military, according to Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Tara Copp, who authored the story.

Approximately 5,500 accidents occurred in the four year period, but the Military Times database records 7,590 accidents that have happened since 2011. They were divided in three categories: Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C.

Class-A was defined as an accident that resulted in “extreme damage, aircraft destroyed or fatality.” Class-B was defined as an accident that rustled in “major damage,” and Class-C as “some damage.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
A crashed CH-53 on the island of Okinawa, Japan.
(Kyodo News via NewsEdge)

Class-C accidents were the majority of the mishaps at 6,322. Class-B accidents were second at 744, followed by Class-A accidents at 524. The last three of those accidents, which killed at least 16 pilots or crew members, happened in the last three weeks.

In addition to the cost of life, the various categories also take financial costs into account. Class-A accidents cost the most, at $2 million or more. Class-B follows at $500,000 or more, and Class-C at $50,000 or more.

For 10 of the last 11 years, the military was funded through continuing resolutions under the Budget Control Act, which was signed in 2011. As the sequestration efforts ramped up in 2013, the military saw more cuts.

The budget cuts due to the sequestration efforts have long angered many in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said in February 2018, that “no enemy in the field has done as much to harm the readiness of US military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Hopefully someone in Congress will wake up and realize things are bad and getting worse,” an active duty Air Force maintainer, who has worked on A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s, told Military Times. “The war machine is like any other machine, and cannot run forever. After 17 years of running this machine at near capacity, the tank is approaching empty.”

President Donald Trump signed a $700 billion defense policy bill in December 2017. Trump also signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill in March 2018, touting that it had the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The Air Force has responded to the report with an announcement that they have launched an investigation into the large amounts of Class-C accidents. They also stressed that Class-A incidents have been on the decline.

“Any Class A accident is one too many,” Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen “Seve” Wilson said in an interview with Military.com.

“The safest year ever was 2014, and 2017 was our second safest year, so our Class A mishaps have been trending down,” he added.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A brief history of US Army snipers

Throughout history, snipers have had two basic roles: deliver long range precision direct fire and collect battlefield information. Their heritage can be traced to the Revolutionary War.

Many of America’s soldiers fighting for their independence in the late 1700s were militia, marksmen by necessity, farmers, and settlers who hunted to feed their family. At the time, their weapons were still relatively primitive, little more than basic hunting rifles, but these hunters were skilled and, according to the American Shooting Journal, while fighting the British, long-range kills were common. Without any formal guidance, these volunteers were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today.


Snipers continued to play an integral part in battlefield operations during World War I, when trench warfare provided good hiding places for sharpshooters, World War II’s lengthy field deployments, and the Vietnam War, when sniper fire eliminated more than 1,200 enemy combatants.

Since 1945, we have recognized the sniper as an increasingly important part of modern infantry warfare. Sniper rifles and their optics have evolved into costly but effective high-tech weaponry. Although technology, as far as snipers are concerned, can never replace experience and skill.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Annual International Sniper Competition, October 2018.

(U.S. Army photos by Markeith Horace)

Infantrymen U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Micah Fulmer and Spc. Tristan Ivkov, 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry (Mountain), Colorado Army National Guard, showed off their sniper skills, taking second place at the 2018 International Sniper Competition at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October 2018.

The International Sniper Competition is also open to law enforcement agencies, and the 2018 competition featured some of the best snipers from around the globe, including the U.S. military, international militaries, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The best teams face a gauntlet of rigorous physical, mental and endurance events that test the range of sniper skills, including long range marksmanship, observation, reconnaissance, and reporting abilities as well as stealth and concealment.

It is a combat-focused competition that tests a sniper team’s ability to communicate and make decisions while stressed and fatigued, to challenge comfort zones of precision marksmanship capability and training methodology, and to share information and lessons learned regarding sniper operations, tactics, techniques, and equipment.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Army Staff Sgt. Mathew Fox waits to engage a target in the live-fire stalk event during the 2012 International Sniper Competition at the U.S. Army Sniper School on Fort Benning.

(U.S. Army photo)

Ivkov suffered a knee injury prior to the National Guard match. Despite the injury, his team took first place, securing their spot in the international competition. However, concerned about how the injury may impact the team’s ability at the next level, he felt as if they shouldn’t have even been there.

“We went in with quite the train up,” Ivkov said. “Coming in with a second place medal was even a little higher than we figured on.”

The team attended an eight-week training course just before the competition took place.

In order to keep things fair, “We used schoolhouse-issued weapons so everyone was running the same gear,” Ivkov said. “The competition lasted 96 hours…we probably slept 10.”

Their targets ranged from “M9 (Pistol) targets at 5 feet to .50 caliber at a little over a mile away,” Fulmer said. “The actual shooting is just a fraction of the knowledge and discipline you have to have to be a sniper.”

The team must gauge atmospheric and wind conditions, factors that can change a bullet’s course. At some of the longer ranges, even Earth’s rotation must be taken into account. They must also move undetected through varied terrain to get into the right shooting position.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning, Ga., during the Ninth annual U.S. Army International Sniper Competition.

(U.S. Army photo)

Hitting the target also takes “a little bit of luck,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Colorado National Guard. Working as mentor and spotter for Ivkov, he earned the honor of top spotter at the international competition.

U.S. Army Staff Sgts. Brandon Kelley and Jonathan Roque, a team from the 75th Ranger Regiment, took first place, for the second consecutive year. Swedish Armed Forces Lance Cpls. Erik Azcarate and David Jacobsson, from the 17th Wing Air Force Rangers, finished third.

The key for any sniper is to remain “calm, cool and collected,” Fulmer said. “We’re not going to let up now; this is just the beginning.”

With ever-changing combat environments and the necessity to stay ahead of the adversary, the U.S. Army, as recently as November 2018, awarded contracts for the fielding of the M107 .50-caliber, long-range sniper rifle. These rifles will assist soldiers such as Ivkov and Fulmer continue to take the fight to the enemy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.

Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.


The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.

“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”

According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.

Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.

For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.

Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.

“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.

Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.

“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Green Beret describes harrowing tank attack during Battle of Ben Het

When people think of the Vietnam War, they think of helicopter-borne Marines or soldiers taking on Viet Cong guerillas. They think of F-105s and F-4s going “downtown” to Hanoi, or ARC LIGHT B-52 missions. They don’t think about tanks slugging it out.


That’s the Arab Israeli-Wars, over on the other side of the continent of Asia.

Well, contrary to many people’s preconceptions, there was tank-versus-tank action in the Vietnam War. Not exactly on the scale of the Arab-Israeli wars, but when you’re the one being shot at, you’re dealing with a significant action.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
(Photo: U.S. Army)

Ben Het was a special forces camp overlooking one of the many infiltration points into South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Among the units there were Operational Detachment Alpha A-244, which consisted of 12 Green Berets. They were backed up by a number of Montagnard tribesmen, a battery of 175mm howitzers, and M48 Patton main battle tanks, and had the mission of tracking movements by North Vietnamese troops in the area. When they found the enemy, they particularly liked calling in air strikes by F-4 Phantoms and A-1 Skyraiders.

On March 3, 1969, the North Vietnamese attacked the camp with a force that included PT-76 amphibious tanks. These tanks had a 76mm gun, but were lightly armored. In that battle, the M48 tanks engaged the PT-76s. While one M48 was damaged, with two crewmen dead, at least two of the North Vietnamese tanks were also destroyed, along with a BTR-50 armored personnel carrier.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
A PT-76 that was destroyed during the Battle of Ben Het. (US Army photo)

The North Vietnamese were beaten back, and the Green Berets proceeded to evacuate their dead and wounded. Below, listen as retired Maj. Mike Linnane discusses his perspective of the Battle of Ben Het.

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How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

Articles

The Nazi’s (implausible) plan to invade the American mainland

In March 1942, the U.S. was fully engaged in the second World War, fighting against Japan and Germany. The Pearl Harbor attack had happened just months prior, and now there was a U-boat war happening right off the eastern seaboard of the United States.


Americans were understandably nervous. Then Life Magazine scared the heck out of its readers with an article about what would happen if the Nazis and the Japanese decided to invade.

In an article titled “Now the US must fight for its life,” Life shared maps of a potential invasion that must have been pretty terrifying to John Q. Public in the early days of the war.

The magazine, fortunately, was way, way off. The Germans did investigate a potential invasion of the U.S., aided by the the long-range Amerika bomber, but they eventually found such an endeavor too costly, especially as the war continued to go poorly for them.

Though German U-boats were sinking some ships off the American coast, fielding a long-range bomber against the U.S. needed a nuclear bomb underneath it to be truly effective, which the Germans never figured out. And Berlin simply didn’t have the resources or manpower to stage a feasible land invasion — a point nailed home by the fact that Germany had previously scrapped an invasion plan for England in 1941.

Regardless, it was a scary time for Americans in March 1942, and it was the heyday of military propaganda. So here is how Life imagined such an operation:

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military Spouse Mental Health – Who are our advocates?

In May we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. The military lifestyle is one of constant change and uncertainty. This alone can be a trigger for mental illness. As a nation, we are now facing unimaginable mental illness triggers as quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing continue. Throughout this month, let us focus our attention on this issue and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?



Mental Health Facts

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is defined as a condition which affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. Mental health conditions can be triggered by influences in one’s environment, lifestyle, and/or develop as a result of genetics. A USO study conducted in 2018 reported military spouses expressed a lack of identity and sense of purpose. The same study highlighted their difficulty maintaining networks and support systems. In addition, military spouses felt a lack of control over their lives and expressed an inability to plan for their futures. A 2017 DOD study found that military spouses experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Think about these statistics and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

Barriers to Seeking Treatment

What barriers exist that prevent military spouses from seeking mental health treatment? There is a stigma associated with mental health disorders and a lack of knowledge regarding available treatments and resources. Some people may not even recognize they have an issue. Military spouses may have an additional fear of their condition negatively affecting the active duty member’s career. Could it affect opportunities for promotion, potential for future assignments and/or duty locations? There is a fear of family, friends, and colleagues being judgmental. In order to remove the barriers to seeking treatment, we need to remove the barriers to discussing mental health within the military spouse community and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

Changing the Mental Health Landscape

How do we change the landscape surrounding the mental health of military spouses? We can begin by supporting each other and fostering a culture of inclusiveness. Be an active part of the solution amongst our own by lending an ear, asking questions, and encouraging others to ask for and accept help. We need to increase our knowledge of available resources and share them with others. A list of free, confidential mental health resources is included at the end of this article. We have the ability to change the stigma. Let’s be the voice for those who aren’t able to speak by asking:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

No matter how resilient we are, there will always be aspects of our lives that are beyond our control. However, we need to recognize that we do have the ability to control our own identity, purpose, wellbeing, and mental health. It takes courage to ask for help and there is no shame in needing it. Military spouses have a duty to advocate for their active duty members and their families. In order to be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must advocate for fellow spouses, ourselves, and our own mental health.

Mental Health Resources

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of hurting themselves or others, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room to get help immediately. Please don’t let a cry for help go unheard. Included below are several mental health resources.

  1. Tricare Mental Health Information: Phone numbers for a crisis hotline and nurse advice line, as well as information on coverage, available programs and resources.
  2. Military One Source: Comprehensive list of available military and nationwide resources for a wide range of mental health conditions.
  3. National Institute of Mental Health: Information on how to find help for yourself, a friend or family member, struggling with mental health issues.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

Dutch police testing eagles, hawks as small drone hunter-killers

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Dutch police are testing the use of hawks and eagles to take down small drones.


Dutch police are going retro in their approach to taking out small drones — by using birds.

The use of trained birds of prey for hunting dates back more than two millennium. But back then, the prey was usually smaller birds.

Now, it’s drones.

A video released Netherlands police shows a small quadcopter drone — a hobbyist model capable of carrying small payloads — rising into the air, only to be quickly snared and brought down by a trained hawk.

Though much of the world’s attention is routinely focused on the large military drones flying combat missions at medium- and high-altitudes, domestic security and law enforcement agencies have their own concerns over smaller recreational models.

In January 2015, for example, a drone too small to be detected by White House radar crashed into a tree on the south lawn in the middle of the night. Secret Service immediately recognized it had a new kind of problem.

Only days earlier, during a Department of Homeland Security conference on the dangers posed by small drones, one official warned that the remotely piloted devices could be mounted with chemical or biological agents.

“Guard from Above,” the company Dutch police are using for its anti-drone efforts, says some drone operators may also mount cameras on the machines to look where they have no business looking.

“Our GFA-trained birds and GFA-trained Birdhandlers are stationed at high risk locations,” the company says on its site. “We also train staff of Police, Defense forces, Prison and correctional officers and security companies to handle GFA-trained birds.”

If the anti-drone hawks and eagles prove successful in The Netherlands, perhaps the U.S. military branches will come up with a new occupational specialty for base security: falconry.

Articles

Boeing unveils commercial for Eagle 2040C


The F-15C has a very enviable combat record. Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that during Operation Desert Storm, United States Air Force F-15s scored 36 kills in air-to-air combat.

The Royal Saudi Air Force notched two more kills with the F-15, and Israel has a number of kills with this plane as well.

Related: The real purpose behind China’s mysterious J-20 combat jet

But at the same time, the F-15 has been facing increasingly better competition. Perhaps the most notable is the from the Flanker family of aircraft (Su-27/Su-30/Su-33/Su-34/Su-35/J-11/J-15/J-16), which has been receiving upgrades over the years.

Boeing, though, hasn’t been standing still, even as it lost the Joint Strike Fighter competition. Instead, it has been pursuing F-15 upgrades.

The Eagle 2040C is one for the F-15C air-superiority fighter, which has been asked to continue soldiering on with the termination of F-22 production after 187 airframes.

In the video, one of the planes is seen carrying 16 AIM-120 AMMRAAMs — enough to splash an entire squadron of enemy planes! (“You get an AMRAAM! You get an AMRAAM! EVERYONE gets an AMRAAM!” a la Oprah)

Check out Boeing’s Eagle 2040C video above. Seems like they missed an opportunity for one hell of a Super Bowl commercial.

 

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Oct. 14

All the best military memes, distilled down to these 13 funniest.


1. Hey, a lightning strike would probably get you a decent profile for a few days, as well (via The Salty Soldier).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

2. Spraying each other with the hose isn’t funny when the pressure could tear a hole in the MOPP gear (via Military Memes).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
No horseplay during chemical attacks.

3. Why no American allies like American MREs:

(via Australian Warfighters)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Sorry, Australia. That stuff really messes up your down unders.

SEE ALSO: The US Navy strikes back after dodging rebel missiles off of Yemen

4. $15 isn’t bad for custom food in the field (via Military Memes).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
And you could label all your crayons, so no other Marines eat them.

5. “Sir, we’re definitely walking in circles. That guy who keeps turning around ahead of us? That’s our rear security.”

(via Military Memes)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

6. Gotta keep those buoys Semper Paratus:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Buoy tending isn’t glamorous, but someone has to do it.

7. You’ll never escape. There aren’t even any discharge papers in that maze (via Military Memes).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Aint no discharge in the maze, ain’t no discharge on the ground, ain’t no discharge all around.

8. “Wouldn’t it be great if there were an animal patrolling with us whose primary skill is puking hairballs and showing off its butt?”

(via Military Memes)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

9. Everyone’s greatest hope during firewatch is that the drill instructor would talk to the other guard (via Team Non-Rec).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

10. He’s going to spend hours pointing out everything you did wrong (via The Salty Soldier).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
Wouldn’t it be great to see this dog discussing an incident with an MP military working dog? Like, I would watch a TV show of an all-dog military just dealing with random, garrison shenanigans.

11. Soldiers will make fun of you for being weak and coddled …

(via The Salty Soldier)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
… while being secretly jealous of how much you are coddled.

12. The best part is that first formation isn’t until 0500 (via The Salty Soldier).

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa
And SP is at 0900.

13. Just. Make. It. Stop. (via The Salty Soldier)

Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

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