You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.
For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”
According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.
“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”
The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.
“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”
“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.
The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.
At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.
Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.
Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.
“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.
To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.
The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.
Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.
“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.
Picking a bomb and a target
We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.
Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.
The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:
Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”
Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”
Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones
When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.
We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.
Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.
According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.
“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”
Google Earth’s view
We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.
For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.
But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.
Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.
The Saudi-led coalition began striking the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014.
The Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of conducting unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into the country. Images of emaciated Yemeni adults and children have abounded, and at least eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and one million children are infected with cholera, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a recent strike, the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 45 more. The bride in the wedding was among those killed, and the groom was also wounded.
A Pentagon spokesperson, Major Rankine-Galloway, previously told Business Insider that the US sells weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition, as well as provides “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise.
Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider on May 3, 2018, that he could not confirm the Times report “about the deployment of special operations forces,” but provided the following statement:
“The U.S. military has had a mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades which includes military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operation Forces providing training, advising, and assisting in a variety of mission areas. The DOD’s limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis and improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties. Due to operational security, we cannot comment further on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Think it’s hard making it month to month in the barracks on just an E-1 pay? Well, the recruits who won America’s earlier wars had to make ends meet with much, much less to draw on. See how much troops made in each conflict, both in their own currency and adjusted for inflation:
Author’s note: The pay structure changed over time. From the Korean War to today, military pay has been relatively consistent across the services and the numbers listed in entries 8-11 reflect the financial realities of an E-1 enlisted servicemember. For earlier conflicts, pay was calculated using the salary of a first-year Army private or a junior infantryman.
1. Revolutionary War
Privates in 1776 earned $6 a month plus a bounty at the end of their service. That pay would equate to $157.58 today, a pretty cheap deal for the poor Continental Congress. Unfortunately for soldiers, Congress couldn’t always make ends meet and so troops often went without their meager pay.
That $8 translates to $136.28 in 2016. The bounties ranged from $528.10 to $2,112.40 for terms of five years to the duration of the war.
3. Mexican-American War
Young infantrymen in their first year of service during the Mexican-American War pocketed $7 per month, according to this Army history. That’s $210.10 in 2016 dollars.
4. Civil War
Union privates in 1863 brought home $13 a month which translates to $237.51 in modern dollars. Confederate privates had it a little worse at $11 a month. The Confederate situation got worse as the war went on since the Confederate States of America established their own currency and it saw rapid inflation as the war situation got worse and worse.
5. Spanish-American War
An undated photo shows soldiers manning a battle signal corps station during the Spanish-American War. Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command
While Army private pay in the Spanish-American War was still $13 like it had been in the Civil War, a period of deflation had strengthened the purchasing power of that monthly salary. In 2016 dollars, it would be worth $356.26.
6. World War I
A private, private second class, or bugler in his first year of service in 1917 was entitled to $30 a month. In exchange for this salary, which would equate to $558.12 today, privates could expect to face the guns of the Germans and other Axis powers.
World War I was the first war where, in addition to their pay, soldiers could receive discounted life insurance as a benefit. The United States Government Life Insurance program was approved by Congress in 1917 and provided an alternative to commercial insurance which either did not pay out in deaths caused by war or charged extremely high premiums for the coverage.
7. World War II
In 1944, privates serving in World War II made $50 a month, or $676.51 in 2016 dollars. It seems like toppling three Fascist dictators would pay better than that, but what do we know.
8. Korean War
The minimum payment for an E-1 in 1952 was $78 a month which would equate to $700.92 in 2016. Most soldiers actually deploying to Korea would have over four months in the Army and so would’ve received a pay bump to at least $83.20, about $747.64 today.
This was in addition to a foreign duty pay of $8 a month along with a small payment for rations when they weren’t provided.
9. Vietnam War
E-1 wages were not increased between 1952 and 1958, so Korean War and Vietnam War troops made the same amount of money at the lower ranks — except inflation over the years drove the real value of the wages down. New soldiers pocketing $78 would have a salary that equates to 642.71 now, while those with over four months of service who pocketed $83.20 were receiving the equivalent of $685.56 in today’s dollars.
10. Persian Gulf War
Grunts who went into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein were paid the princely sum of $753.90 a month in basic pay, unless they somehow managed to make it to Iraq with less than four months of service. Then they received $697.20.
These amounts would translate in 2016 dollars to $1318.12 and $1,218.98 respectively.
11. War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War
Troops bringing the American flag back to Iraq in 2003 or deploying to Afghanistan in the same time period received just a little more than their Persian Gulf War predecessors, with $1064.70 for soldiers with less than four months of service and $1,150.80 for the seasoned veterans with four months or more under their belts.
In 2016 dollars, those salaries equate to $1377.93 and $1,489.36, a modest increase from the Persian Gulf War.
Captain Michael “Hell Roarin'” Healy, known for bringing the reindeer to Alaska, had another claim to fame in the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, forerunner to the modern-day Coast Guard.
Healy had a no-nonsense, often violent, style of command. Rumors spread that he had unruly people hung by their hands or feet in the hull of the ship. (And he weathered a couple of failed mutinies as a result.) When dealing with those who tried to block what he felt was the protection of the native people of Alaska, he could turn violent and belligerent until he got what he wanted. He stood for law and order along the 30,000 mile long Alaskan coast.
After multiple courts martial for drunk and disorderly conduct in the late 1890s, Healy was sent to a trial board for abusive conduct towards junior officers while intoxicated. While the trial board recommended him for discharge, Secretary of the Treasury John Carlisle instead removed him from command and placed him on shore duty for four years. Healy was also publicly humiliated by having his punishment read to every commissioned officer on every cutter in the service.
Healy was back on dry land for the first time after nearly 42 years at sea.
This punishment furthered Healy’s paranoia that “they” had been working to drive him out of the service, which he first expressed as early as 1893. While some officers thought this was the beginning of the end of Healy, they were wrong. The Healy family believed their lives could not be ruined any further. They did not know the true tragedy that would come.
At the end of his four year punishment, Healy’s life would take an ironic and drastic turn. Capt. W.C. Coulson, who had sat on the trial board and recommended his discharge, asked for Healy by name to replace him as the commanding officer of the Revenue Steamer McCulloch when his wife fell ill. While he served aboard the McCulloch, Healy received orders to serve upon the Cutter Seminole out of Boston. After more than twenty years on the west coast and nearly a decade in Alaska, he saw the transfer as another punishment because his wife had made her home in the west and his son, now grown, had started his own family there.
When he received these orders, his mental health took a turn for the worst. He was found sitting outside of the stateroom of a passenger on the McCulloch, yelling and threatening to kill himself. The following day, Healy attempted to throw himself overboard, stopped only after being violently wrestled to the deck by Second Assistant Engineer J.J. Bryan. At that point, executive officer 1st Lt. P.W. Thompson brought Healy to the ward room and informed him that he was longer in command of the McCulloch.
Healy was to be guarded in his cabin until Thompson was able to contact the Treasury. On the morning of July 10, 1900, Healy again attempted to throw himself overboard. While he was out of his bunk, he grabbed a piece of glass, and two days later almost succeeded in using it to kill himself. One onlooker offered an explanation for the suicide attempts as a cry for help as Healy was just returned to the ship after a drunken night out and would again be court-marshaled and kicked out of the service.
In 1903, Healy quietly exited the service at the mandatory retirement age and died a year later of a heart attack. He was buried in Colma, California, where he and his family finally settled.
Healy carried secrets with him that could never be uttered in early-twentieth century America. His wife, Mary Jane Roach, was a second generation Irish immigrant but despite eighteen pregnancies, they only had one child. He was constantly criticized for being Catholic, something that was still looked down upon at the turn of the century. In addition, Healy was the child of Michael Morris Healy, an Irish immigrant and slave owner and his slave, Mary Eliza Smith. This was kept a secret even from parts of his family. After his death, Healy’s daughter-in-law destroyed his four-volume diary. She was contacted by a film studio on the possibility of a movie based on his life and they wanted to see his diary in the writing of the film. As she read the diary for the first time, she discovered her husband’s grandmother was a slave.
Today, Healy is known as one of the great giants of Coast Guard history. He singlehandedly saved large groups of natives from starvation, and his courage was unmatched by anyone else at the time. History was kind to him and glossed over his negative personal record in favor of his accomplishments. In honor of his legacy of arctic service, the Coast Guard’s newest ice breaker was named in his honor in 1997.
Interpreters who have been caught up in the executive order by President Donald Trump suspending immigration from seven countries have picked up some high-powered help from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and some veterans in Congress.
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Mattis has begun to compile a list of interpreters and other Iraqis who provided assistance to the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“There are a number of people in Iraq who have worked for us in a partnership role,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner. “They are fighting alongside us or working as translators, often doing so at great peril to themselves, and we are ensuring those who have demonstrated their commitment tangibly to fight alongside us and support us that those names are known.”
The Examiner also reported that Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a combat veteran and Marine Corps Reserve officer who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who currently serves in the Air National Guard and who received six Air Medals for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, have written President Trump in support of Mattis’s request for exemptions for the interpreters.
“We are concerned that, with specific application to individuals who worked with the U.S. Government on the ground, certain immigrants deserving prompt consideration are likely to be overlooked,” Hunter said in a statement. “We encourage you to make special consideration in the review process for these individuals, who are certain to face threats to their own lives as part of the broader pause in refugee and immigrant admissions.”
The Examiner noted that the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and others who have aided the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a flood of applications. As many as 12,000 interpreters and family members re seeking entry into the United States from Afghanistan.
Thousands of whiteboards owned by inventors and military contractors around the world contain designs for military technologies that could change the way that battles are fought if they’d ever see active service.
But as the U.S. military learns time and time again, these weapons don’t always work as well as hoped. Here are seven designs that would be awesome to fly, ride, or carry into battle if designers had just been able to work the kinks out:
But high costs and weight problems kept the weapon from reaching its potential.
When the XM29 was canceled, its airburst grenade technology was split off as its own weapon with 25mm rounds in the XM25. The new weapon even saw combat tests in Afghanistan, but a malfunction that resulted in injury in 2013 caused the grenade launcher to be pulled from theater.
Would’ve been nice to fire airburst rounds though.
The Comanche was supposed to be the attack/reconnaissance helicopter to rule them all. It was quiet, featured incorporated stealth technologies, and carried a 20mm machine gun and Hellfire and Stinger missiles.
And their high maneuverability would have allowed them to fly through cities and hover near buildings.
Unfortunately, the militarization of the 407 was not as smooth as anticipated. Delays and cost overruns got the program put on ice for a few months in 2007 and formally canceled in 2008.
5. Airborne Laser
The Airborne Laser was supposed to be the ultimate ballistic missile destroyer. It would fly over or near enemy territory watching for enemy ballistic missile launches. When one took off and entered the boost phase, the plane would fire three lasers. Two were for acquiring and tracking the target and the third would punch through the missile’s body and blow it up.
But the laser had a limited range and loitering capability, meaning that planes would have to spend a lot of their time flying within an enemies’ borders to actually have a shot at the missiles. Luckily, this program could get revived using a new kind of laser and flying on high-altitude, stealthy drones.
6. Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle provided better range, better speed, and better armor than the AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle it was meant to replace. It featured two 30mm cannons and was propelled through water with jets and it operated on land using its treads.
The EFV suffered some small setbacks during testing and development and then fell victim to budget cuts across the Department of Defense in 2011. The Marine Corps has wrestled with how to best move supplies and Marines from the ships to the shore since then.
The Surfaced-Launched Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile would have been the Army’s premiere system for defending troops from cruise missiles, helicopters, many jets, and other low and mid-altitude aerial threats. It featured a proven Air Force missile, the AIM-120C-7, originally designed for air-to-air battles.
World War I is commonly thought of as soldiers fighting across trenches that stretched along the entire European continent, but there were major clashes on the oceans, as well. The largest was the Battle of Jutland on May 31, 1916, the only time that the famous “Dreadnoughts” of Britain and Germany actually faced off in battle.
Fought between 249 ships and 100,000 men, it is the largest naval battle in history (in terms of tonnage of ships involved).
“Dreadnoughts” were massive battleships named for the HMS Dreadnought, a British ship launched in 1906. Dreadnought was a feared battleship. It was massive, fast, and lethal. Its launch triggered an arms race that saw major navies of the world, especially Britain and Germany, race to create the largest and most technologically advanced battleships.
After World War I broke out, the people of each country eagerly awaited the chance for their navy to prove itself the most capable in the world. But the admirals on each side wanted to avoid this, fearing that a single major defeat in a battle between dreadnoughts could cripple their navy and leave the country vulnerable to attack.
But, by 1916 the British had forced Germany’s hand. An effective blockade of Germany’s coast had limited the ability of the German Navy to put to sea. Worse, German ships that made it into the North Sea couldn’t make it to the Atlantic Ocean because of British ships operating both in the English Channel and off Britain’s northern tip.
The German fleet was sent to draw out the British in late April and they did so by attacking British coastal towns. The British responded by launching the Grand Fleet. Twenty-eight of the fleet’s 32 Dreadnought and Super-Dreadnought battleships took to the waves with another 122 ships supporting them. They were coming for the 99 ships of the German fleet.
The British Admiral John Jellicoe waited until the Germans were fairly close before initiating his attack, giving up his advantage in range. But, he was able to maneuver against the German fleet effectively, three times “capping their T,” meaning he was able to get his battle line at the head of the German line.
The Germans, with the British line directly in front of them, could only engage with their forward-facing guns while the British, with their sides facing the Germans, could fire broadsides into the German ships.
Still, superior armor and ship design combined with excellent gunnery skills allowed the Germans to sink more British ships than they lost themselves. The British suffered 14 ships and 6,784 lives lost to the Germans’ 9 ships and 3,058 men.
A simmering conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria could have erupted into another regional war were it not for the intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an Israeli investigative journalist.
On Feb. 10, 2018, an Israeli air force helicopter shot down what Israel says was an Iranian drone launched from the Tiyas Military Airbase in central Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The drone was shot down a minute and a half after entering Israeli airspace, the investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, wrote in an op-ed article in The New York Times.
Israel responded by sending eight F-16 fighter jets into Syria to destroy the drone’s command-and-control center. While flying back to Israel, they came under attack from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles — one of which, an S-200, took down an F-16, forcing the pilots to eject.
Israel hit back, going after Syria’s air-defense system. The Israeli military says it hit multiple Syrian and Iranian targets.
Israel has long been worried about Iran’s activities and growing influence in the region, especially in Syria, where Iran has backed pro-government forces during the country’s years-long civil war.
“The response to the downing of the Israeli jet was intended to be a lot more violent,” Bergman wrote, adding that Israeli generals brought out plans “for a huge offensive operation in Syria.”
But a “furious phone call” from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces in Syria were close by, “was enough to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cancel the plans,” Bergman wrote.
A former Israeli army general appeared to confirm Bergman’s reporting.
If the F-16 hadn’t been shot down, Israel “would be able to keep this issue at a very, very low profile,” Udi Dekel, a former Israeli army brigadier general who was the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ strategic-planning division, said Feb. 14 on a call organized by the Israel Policy Forum.
“Because we lost the F-16, we decided to respond against many important targets inside Syria,” Dekel said, among them air defenses, Syrian army positions, and Iranian positions around Damascus.
Israel wanted “to send a message that we could not accept any idea that they would try to shoot down our aircraft in our skies,” Dekel said.
Dekel said Israel did not pursue further strikes because it wanted to see the Syrian and Iranian response. But he added that there was “intervention by the Russians, who asked us not to escalate the situation anymore and to try and calm down the situation.”
These recent actions are likely to increase tensions in the Middle East — but Dekel says he doesn’t think this is the “end of the story.”
“We killed Iranians operating the UAV and in other locations, so I assume they will try to find any opportunity for revenge against us,” he said, referring to the drone with the abbreviation for an unmanned aerial vehicle.
On his first visit to the tense but eerily quiet frontier between North and South Korea as US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis conveyed the message he hopes will win the day: Diplomacy is the answer to ending the nuclear crisis with the North, not war.
He made the point over and over – at the Panmunjom “truce village” where North literally meets South; at a military observation post inside the Demilitarized Zone, and in off-the-cuff comments to US and South Korean troops.
“We’re doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically — everything we can,” he told the troops after alighting from a Black Hawk helicopter that had ferried him to and from the border some 25 miles north of central Seoul.
“Ultimately, our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines,” he added, “so they speak from a position of strength, of combined strength, of alliance strength, shoulder to shoulder.”
At Panmunjom, where the armistice ending the Korean war was signed in July 1953, Mattis quoted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as saying, “Our goal is not war.” The aim, he said, is to compel the North to completely and irreversibly eliminate a nuclear weapons program that has accelerated since President Donald Trump took office.
Despite unanimous condemnation by the UN Security Council of the North’s missile launches and nuclear tests, “provocations continue,” Mattis said.
As Mattis arrived at Panmunjom alongside South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo, a small group of apparent tourists watched from the balcony of a building on North Korea’s side of the line that marks the inter-Korean border. Uniformed North Korean guards watched silently as Mattis and Song stood just yards away.
Atop Observation Post Ouellette, where he could see deep into North Korea and hear their broadcast taunts of the South, Mattis listened to Song recount some of the history of the 1950-53 Korean war in which thousands of Americans and perhaps more than a million Koreans died in a conflict that remains officially unsettled.
“It reminds us that we fought together in very difficult times, and we stick together today,” Mattis said inside a Demilitarized Zone of craggy terrain, millions of landmines, and ghost-like reminders of the war.
The US has about 28,500 troops based in South Korea and has maintained a military presence there since the Korean War ended.
Mattis’s counterpart, Song, gave the former four-star Marine general the lay of the land, noting that the North has 342 long-range artillery pieces aimed at Seoul, among other weapons. That’s a threat that cannot be defended against, Song said, so Washington and Seoul must come up with “new offensive concepts” to be able to eliminate the artillery before it can be used, should war break out.
Mattis called the North “an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare, and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons and their means of delivery in order to threaten others with catastrophe.”
He noted that earlier this week in the Philippines, he and Song joined Southeast Asian defense ministers in committing to a diplomatic solution to the North Korea problem, even though Pyongyang and its young leader, Kim Jong Un, show no interest in negotiations.
Two other developments Oct. 26 showed the US intention to continue building diplomatic and economic pressure on Pyongyang. The Trump administration imposed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and organizations over human rights abuses and censorship, including a diplomat in China accused of forcing North Korean asylum seekers home.
Meanwhile, a rare military exercise involving three of the US Navy’s aircraft carrier strike groups was being planned for next month in the Asia Pacific, a US official said. The likely exercise would happen around the time that Trump travels to the region, including to Seoul.
The three Navy carriers and the ships that accompany them are currently thousands of miles apart in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. But they are moving through the region and could be closer together in weeks.
Trump entered office declaring his commitment to solving the North Korea problem, asserting that he would succeed where his predecessors had failed. His administration has sought to increase pressure on Pyongyang through UN Security Council sanctions and other diplomatic efforts, but the North hasn’t budged from its goal of building a full-fledged nuclear arsenal, including missiles capable of striking the US mainland.
On Oct. 28, Mattis will be joined by Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in annual consultations with South Korean defense officials. They are expected to admonish North Korea, vow to strengthen allied defenses, and discuss prospects for eventually giving South Korea wartime control of its own forces.
US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.
Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.
These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”
“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.
“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.
Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.
US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.
“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.
PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
(US Air Force photo)
But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.
“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”
Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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A US military commander said on Aug. 31 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and hiding in the Euphrates River valley between Iraq and Syria.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition, said in a conference call with reporters.
Townsend said he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdadi is precisely, but he believes the reclusive extremist leader may have fled with other IS militants to the river valley region after IS lost control of its former bastions in Mosul, Tal Afar, and parts of Raqqa.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said, using another well-known acronym for the extremist group. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead,” said Townsend. “There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive.”