The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly - We Are The Mighty
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The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

The battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror group is a fight increasingly without front lines.


The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have breached the old city and control about a quarter of the terror group’s de facto capital, say American officials, but holding what has already been seized is proving a struggle.

Disputes between the SDF and some Free Syrian Army militias who have started to participate in the battle isn’t helping the advance, but the biggest obstacle remains the determined defense of IS fighters, who are using similar urban warfare tactics seen in the past nine months in the terror group’s fight to delay the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi security forces.

A month into the Raqqa assault, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and the use of an elaborate network of tunnels to mount ambushes — as well as exploiting civilians as human shields — are all being deployed by the militants. IS militants have also been using drones to drop explosives on SDF militiamen.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle. (Photo from Voice of America.)

A watchdog rights organization says in the assault’s first month it has documented 650 deaths — 224 of them civilians.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that relies on a network of activists for its reporting, 311 IS fighters, including a handful of commanders, and 106 fighters of the American-backed “Euphrates Wrath” forces have died so far.

“In addition, airstrikes left hundreds of civilians injured, with various degrees of severity, some of whom had their limbs amputated, some were left with permanent disabilities and some are still in a critical condition, which means that the death toll is still likely to rise,” the observatory says.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
SDF fighters among the rubble Raqqa. (Photo from Voice of America.)

Long battle ahead

Despite being only a tenth the size of Mosul, US officials say they expect the house-to-house fighting to last several weeks. Estimates on how many militants remain in the city range from between 2,000 to 3,000. Most of them are thought to be from eastern Syria or foreign fighters drawn mainly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

According to local activists, some Raqqa-born IS fighters have defected and are providing intelligence to the SDF. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, and co-author of the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” says local fighters have proven less than committed in the battle.

“The Islamic State will likely have to rely on the city’s still likely large population of foreign fighters as well as a new generation of young fighters brainwashed by the group’s ideology who typically fight viciously to the end,” Hassan argues in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the West Point military academy.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
YPJ and YPG forces work together. (Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle (CC by 2.0)

Despite the participation of experienced, battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, private security advisers say the SDF doesn’t have the same capabilities and training as the elite Iraqi units who have been confronting IS militants in Mosul since August.

“They are spread much thinner,” one European security adviser told Voice of America. “They are also not as well equipped and lack the armor the Iraqis have been able to use,” he added.

Keeping the advance going, and trying to pin the militants into smaller and smaller pockets, is proving grueling, he said.

On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to declare his security forces had wrested the wrecked city from the Islamic State, despite some continued fighting in at least one west Mosul neighborhood. Some US officials are reckoning IS fighters may be able to hold out in Raqqa for up to three months.

In a bid to disrupt the SDF momentum, IS is now more regularly using suicide bombers driving reinforced vehicles packed with explosives — although not to the same degree as seen in the battle for Mosul. Last week, one suicide bomber managed to destroy a forward HQ used by the SDF.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook.)

Civilian casualties

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, braving mines and savage IS sniper fire. Local activists estimate the number of civilians remaining in the city at about 60,000. They fault the international coalition for failing to have prepared for the handling of large numbers of displaced families.

Civilians have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food,” says the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The group has accused the attacking forces of using a scorched-earth strategy, utilizing indiscriminate aerial bombardment in order to force militants to withdraw. US officials admit there have been civilian deaths but say they are doing all they can to minimize casualties among non-combatants.

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Mattis threatens ‘overwhelming’ response if North Korea ever uses nukes

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis threatened an “effective and overwhelming” response by the US and its allies if North Korea ever uses nuclear weapons.


His remarks came on his first overseas trip to South Korea, where he met with his counterpart in the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Defense and other government officials.

“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis answers questions from the press during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017. | US Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith

He also praised South Korea — which has nearly 30,000 US troops stationed there — as a “lynchpin of peace and stability” in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mattis’ stern warning to the North is likely to be taken seriously, since Pyongyang often responds to the slightest provocation. For example, North Korea regularly threatens total war against its southern neighbor whenever the US and South Korean forces train together during annual exercises, which are regularly scheduled and known well ahead of time.

The secretary’s overseas trip was also another chance to push the South to continue with its deployment of the US’s powerful THAAD missile defense system, which would blanket the country with protection from conventional or nuclear-tipped missiles fired from the north.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Husband and wife veterans are among dead in Texas shooting

Beaver County native Scott Marshall and his wife Karen were trying out a new church Sunday because she had recently moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after finishing an assignment at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, family members said.


In what was the first and only time they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Marshalls were among 26 people shot and killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a service there. Authorities said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute .

Scott Marshall, 58, was retired from the Air Force and had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 35 miles west of La Vernia, said his father Robert Marshall, 85, of Crescent. Scott and Karen met while they were in the service together more than 30 years ago.

Read Also: Second Army victim identified among casualties of Orlando shooting

Scott grew up in Hopewell, Beaver County, and joined the Air Force after graduating from high school.

Karen was a Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard and had just finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Marshall said. Scott was driving her back to Texas, where she would officially retire. The couple stopped in Pennsylvania on their way home to spend a few days with Scott’s family. They threw a birthday party for Robert two Sundays ago.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

“It was a surprise party for my dad. He thought they were just celebrating her retirement,” said Scott’s younger sister Holly Hannum, 48, of Chippewa.

They left last Tuesday to continue on their way back to Texas, Hannum said. They were just settling back into life together, she said.

Hannum said Karen, who grew up in Nevada, wasn’t raised Baptist but she found a Baptist church that she liked in Maryland. She wanted to try another one of the same denomination when she got back to Texas.

“They wanted to try a Baptist church that was just 10 minutes from their house,” Hannum said.

Read Also: This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

Hannum was just returning from church herself when she said she felt a wave of apprehension come over her. Her heart sank when she saw news of a shooting in Texas and her brother wouldn’t answer her text messages. She reached Scott’s son Brandon, who told her that he was awaiting word from authorities about what happened to Scott and Karen.

The family found out early Monday morning — on Robert’s 85th birthday — that Scott and Karen were among the dead. Their red Xterra SUV was visible in many of the TV shots taken outside the church, Hannum said.

As of Monday night, the family was preparing for a trip to Texas — complicated by Robert’s need for an oxygen machine — by air and by car.

In addition to his father and sister Holly, Scott is survived by sisters Kim, Laurie and Amy; son, Brandon; daughters Martina and Kara; and five grandchildren. The Marshall family could not name all of Karen’s siblings.

Funeral arrangements were being planned for Texas, Hannum said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.

For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.


The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.

In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

Don’t give anyone any ideas.

On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.

American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.

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WWII vet founded this university to help fellow vets take advantage of GI Bill

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly


This article is presented in partnership with Grantham University.

In the wake of WWII, the Greatest Generation returned to American soil eager to build families, careers, and businesses worthy of the values they so valiantly defended. To aid their efforts, President Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act in 1944 — commonly known as the GI bill — to give newly transitioned vets the educational standing they needed to productively contribute to society. And the program worked in a big way. Vets who paid for college using the GI Bill went on to high-impact and rewarding careers as politicians, business leaders, actors, writers, and sports stars.

Among the newly minted heroes returning from the war was Donald Grantham, an engineer and radio operator who sought to help his fellow servicemen transition to rewarding civilian careers. He began offering Federal Communications Commission (FCC) License certification courses to other World War II veterans, helping them secure employment in the emergent film, television, and radio industries. He eventually founded the Grantham Radio License School in Los Angeles, California and opened additional campuses in Seattle, Washington; Washington D.C.; and Kansas City, Missouri through the 1950’s and 60’s. Grantham School of Electronics — as it came to be called — was officially accredited by the U.S. Department of Education in 1961, and has continued to grow ever since. Helping veterans take full advantage of education benefits remained a central focus through Grantham’s evolution.

Today, the GI Bill is stronger than it’s ever been. The post-9/11 GI Bill was introduced to great fanfare in 2009, providing the most comprehensive military benefit since the original GI Bill. Similar to its predecessor, Americans of the Next Greatest Generation are reaping the benefits of advanced education as they transition from active duty to civilian life. Meanwhile, other programs like tuition assistance (more commonly called “TA” in military circles) make pursuing the next level of education while on active duty a great idea.

As the GI Bill evolved, so did the schools serving the military. Brick-and-mortar schools don’t work for everyone, especially adults with jobs and families. Online education is a great option for busy active duty service members, veterans, and military families because students can matriculate anywhere and the hours are flexible. But not all online institutions are created equal, especially when it comes to providing value to the military community. Finding one that truly understands the military way of life is essential . . . and rare.

In the years since its founding, Grantham University has adapted to the changing needs of the military, and has become one of the strongest online colleges for military service members. That spirit of adaptability, combined with the latest online technologies, including effective use of social media, allows Grantham to offer military students targeted online degree programs in the most affordable manner possible.

Grantham walks the walk for military students in a number of ways:  The university offers reduced tuition for the military.  A convenient weekly enrollment cycle ensures students don’t get stuck with undoable semester start dates and schedules. Plus, terms last only eight weeks (56 days) each. A flexible, self-paced curriculum allows military students to work at their own speed when they have the time. And Grantham also assists in creating military-only study groups so classmates can relate to each other in all the ways that matter and make the educational experience more enjoyable and effective. And Grantham helps students choose a targeted degree that complements military experience

They’ve even designed course-loads with deployment in mind. Their 100 percent online courses are flexible enough to work around deployment schedules, or students may take advantage of the University’s Military Deployment Policy and put programs on hold until they return.

“If I can finish my degree with a hectic travel schedule, family responsibilities, hurricane seasons, and while preparing for retirement, anyone can do it,” says John M. Harris, who retired as a chief master sergeant after serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard for 26 years. “When I tell airmen and soldiers to take full advantage of their educational benefits, now I can lead by example and show them that it can be done.” Chief Harris completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Grantham and is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration in Project Management.

During his 19 years of performing his duties as a submariner, Lieutenant (junior grade) Christopher A. Martin has managed to earn four degrees from Grantham: an Associate degree in Electronic Engineering Technology, an Associate Degree in Business Administration, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, and most recently, his Master of Science degree in Information Management – Project Management.

“I enrolled at Grantham University with career advancement in mind,” Martin says. “During my walk with Grantham, I’ve advanced six pay grades, four of which have occurred in the last five years. But, career advancement is not all that I’ve gained from Grantham. I found myself applying the fundamentals learned in my courses to my everyday work environment. This is solely because the courses at Grantham are challenging and relevant.”

Grantham University has been recognized as a “Top Military-Friendly University” for the past six years (Military Advanced Education, 2008-2013; GI Jobs, 2010-2013); and a “Top University for Veterans” (Military Times EDGE, 2011-2013). Grantham is also a member of the National Association of Institutes for Military Education Services (NAIMES) and affiliated with the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).

Learn more today about why Grantham University is the university of choice for military members across the globe. Contact an admissions representative today at 1-888-Y-GRANTHAM or by email at admissions@grantham.edu to explore how Grantham can help make education more affordable for you.

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Pyongyang says North will talk to Trump

A top North Korean diplomat said Saturday that Pyongyang would be willing to meet with the Trump administration for negotiations “if the conditions are set.”


Choi Son Hui, director general for North American Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, spoke briefly to reporters in Beijing en route to Pyongyang. She was traveling from Norway, where she led a delegation that held an informal meeting with former U.S. officials and scholars.

Choi did not elaborate on what the North’s conditions are, but her comments raise the possibility of North Korea and the U.S. returning to negotiations for the first time since 2008, when six-nation talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program fell apart.

President Donald Trump opened the door this month to talks, saying he would be “honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Tensions have mounted in recent months after the Trump administration said it would keep “all options on the table” to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, including a military strike. The North responded by pledging to retaliate with a devastating nuclear counterattack, a threat it has made in the past.

In recent weeks, North Korea has arrested two American university instructors and laid out what it claimed to be a CIA-backed plot to assassinate Kim. Choi did not address the matter of the detained Americans on Saturday.

In Norway, Choi met with former U.S. officials and scholars for what are known as “track 2” talks. The talks, which cover a range of nuclear, security and bilateral issues, are held intermittently, and are an informal opportunity for the two sides to exchange opinions and concerns.

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This fund helps the wounded and caregivers in ways the VA can’t

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: azcaregiver.org)


Years of war have rendered Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) service members with severe physical, mental and emotional scars that will likely impact them throughout their lives. The financial implications and consequences of these scars are well documented and can affect all aspects of their lives and lives of their family members to include housing, employment, and their financial well-being.

The PenFed Foundation’s Military Heroes Fund provides wounded veterans, military families, and caregivers with financial assistance and support that the Veterans Administration cannot offer due to budgetary and regulatory restrictions. These unmet needs are identified by VA advocates, National Guard case workers, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, and non-profit referral partners.

The Military Heroes Fund has two components:

  • Emergency financial assistance for OIF/OEF wounded warriors and their families facing short-term financial difficulties.
  • Family and Caregiver Transition Support
    • Child Care support provided for families of the wounded OIF/OEF families while receiving outpatient care at a VA medical facility, family visits, doctor visits, job-related.
    • Short term training or education expenses for job certification, licensure requirements and/or course materials such as course books technology fees, etc.
    • In-home health care for injured veteran to support caregiver respite needs.

The Military Heroes Fund gives grants to wounded veterans who:

  • Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
  • Have been wounded, ill or injured during your OIF/OEF service
  • Have received an Honorable discharge
  • Are facing a financial emergency which is short-term
  • Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification or have one in progress
  • Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization

The Military Heroes Fund also gives grants to caregivers who:

  • Are a Family member and/or caregiver of an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) veteran
  • Can provide a DD214 and VA Disability Rating Certification for veteran, or have one in progress
  • Send copy of invoice or estimate for requested services from a licensed/certified individual, institution, or facility on official letterhead
  • Can help us confirm your status by being referred by your Army Wounded Warrior advocate (AW2), Recovery Care coordinator (RCC), VA doctor or social worker, or another nonprofit advocacy organization

The PenFed Foundation continuously examine potential grantees who meet all the above criteria. If you qualify, fill out and return the application form along with copies of your DD214, VA Disability Statement and the bill from the institution or creditor which you need assistance with. (From receipt of all documentation, it can take up to 10 days to process the grant. Grants are paid directly to the creditor.)

For more on the PenFed Foundation go here.

MIGHTY MOVIES

LA veterans bring ‘Henry IV’ with Tom Hanks to the stage

Those attending the current four-week run of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ production of “Henry IV” at the West Los Angeles VA Campus may immediately recognize Tom Hanks as Falstaff, but what they probably don’t realize is that a crew of veterans not only built the stage, but are also working behind the scenes to make the production a success.

“It’s exciting to partner with The Shakespeare Center to provide our veterans incredible opportunities like the chance to work alongside professional actors, and to view live entertainment right here on the West LA VA campus,” said Ann Brown, director of VA’s Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. “Partnerships like this one are vital to bringing the vision for this campus to life and to transform it into a vibrant, welcoming, veteran-centric community.”


“Henry IV” performances began June 5, 2018, and run through July 1, 2018, at the Japanese Garden located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. The Shakespeare Center, in partnership with West LA VA, set aside 2,000 tickets for eligible veterans and active duty service members free of charge. To find out more on these tickets, visit http://www.ShakespeareCenter.org to receive information about reservations when they become available.

“We’re grateful to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the leaders of the West LA VA for this opportunity to bring our company to the Japanese Garden at the VA,” said Ben Donenberg, the founder and executive artistic director of The Shakespeare Center prior to construction. “We’re hiring and training 40 veterans to work on this production alongside consummate theater professionals to tell a riveting story about the forging of a Shakespearean hero. We’re proud to bring the vision of one of the American theatre’s most esteemed Broadway directors and the talents a world-class cast lead by Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, our long-time supporters, to this very special venue.”

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, have been long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through their 26 consecutive years of hosting and participating in Simply Shakespeare, a no holds barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness.

“The VA location speaks to our mission to present Shakespeare in urgent, vital, relevant and accessible ways that reflect the history, landscape and people of Los Angeles,” Donenberg said. “Our work with the VA and veterans inspires personal and community transformation.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This classic-rock legend is also a top missile-defense expert

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.

Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.

Unlike every other musician in the room, including Kid Rock, Baxter has built a successful second career as a defense consultant.


Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.

Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”

While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.

“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.

(InnoTown Conference / Youtube)

Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.

“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”

He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.

“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”

The big shift came in 1994.

Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.

“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”

Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.

“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”

Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.

Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”

Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.

(Department of Defense Photo)

“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.

The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.

He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.

“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”

He was also a hit at the Pentagon.

“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”

Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.

“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.

Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.

In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.

For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.

“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.

“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

How the Allies defeated one of their deadliest WWII adversaries

Entering the Imperial German Navy in 1911, Karl Dönitz, a Berlin native, served as a submarine commander in WWI as Hitler was coming into power. While underway on deployment in 1918, his UB-68 was badly damaged by British forces and eventually sunk, but Dönitz was captured and transported to a POW camp.


After nine months of captivity, Dönitz was released from custody back to German hands where he was appointed by General Admiral Erich Raeder to command and create a new German U-boat fleet.

Under his new position, he developed a U-boat patrolling strategy called “wolfpack” formations — meaning groups of submarines would maneuver in straight lines. Once the patrolling U-boats came in contact with enemy vessels, they would signal the wolfpack who would then charge forward and attack.

Related: This is the disease Hitler hid from the public for years

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In 1943, Dönitz replaced General Admiral Raecher as Commander-in-Chief (the same man who originally assigned him) and with his naval warfare expertise began winning Hitler’s trust.

During his role as Commander-in-Chief, Dönitz was credited with sinking nearly 15 million tons of enemy shipping, coordinating reconnaissance missions, and allowing his U-boat commanders to strike at will when they believed they could inflict the most damage. At that same time, he commanded of 212 U-boats and had another 181 on standby used for training. His tactics proved to be superior to those of his enemys until the invention of microwave radar which managed to spot his German created U-boats sooner than before.

After Hitler died, his last will and testament named Dönitz as commander of the armed forces and the new Reich president. For the next 20 days, he served the last leader of Nazi Germany until the British once again captured him on May 23, 1945.

During the Nuremberg Trials, Dönitz was charged with multiple war crimes and sentenced to 10 years in Berlin’s Spandau prison. Upon his release, he published two books and continued to state he had no knowledge of any crimes committed by Hitler.

The German admiral died on Christmas Eve, 1980.

Also Read: This is the legendary Nazi general who turned on Hitler

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to discover some of the German U-boats effects on the war.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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These 14 photos vividly show how the military rescues downed aircrew

The U.S. military is an expeditionary force capable of deploying anywhere in the world, and as a consequence of that, aircrews flying into harm’s way might get shot down or crash in hostile lands.  That’s when the work starts for combat search and rescue teams.


1. When the military needs to recover downed aircrews, it conducts a “personnel recovery” mission.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

2. Different branches have different names and preferred methods for these missions, but all of them include a lot of planning and attention to detail.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Mya M. Crosby)

3. Once a plan is created, a group of specialized warriors prepares to jump, fly, or drive into combat. In this photo, an Air Force pararescue team gets ready to parachute into a simulated mission.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

4. If the service doesn’t know the exact location of a downed aircrew, they dispatch people to go search for them. The preferred method is to fly over the area and use sensors to search the ground.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen)

5. Sometimes, aircraft are limited by weather, enemy activity, or other factors. This can lead to troops having to search through a dangerous area on foot.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

6. Personnel can get to the search area in a variety of ways, including parachuting in.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Justyn M. Freeman)

7. Helicopters are the most popular method of insertion of recovery personnel.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

8. In recent years the V-22 Osprey has been increasingly employed.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
The V-22 is a tilt-rotor aircraft that can fly quickly and for long ranges with its engines pointed forward but can rotate its blades up to allow it to hover and land vertically like a helicopter. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Shellie Hall)

9. Once the rescue crews are nearby, isolated personnel are encouraged to signal them using pre-assigned methods. Here, a simulated casualty swings a chemlight to signal to other Marines landing in a cloud of dust.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

10. On the ground, the recovery team is responsible for securing the area and watching out for enemy activity.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

11. Medical assets assigned to the team will evaluate any casualties and conduct emergency care for members of the downed aircrew.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Trever Statz)

12. Then, everyone gets back on the birds to get out of dodge before any enemies show up.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

13. For service members isolated in areas where helicopters can’t land, the rescue crews can bring in winches or other equipment to get everyone out anyway.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

14. Once everyone is on board, the birds head back to base. The formerly isolated personnel will then be offered medical care and either return to their unit or be sent back to the U.S. for additional treatment.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
(Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

Articles

North Korea threatens missile strike on US military in Guam

North Korea says its seriously considering a plan to fire nuclear-capable missiles at Guam, according to state-run media.


A spokesman for North Korea’s military told KCNA that it would carry out a pre-emptive operation if there were signs of US provocation.

The warning comes after President Donald Trump warned North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US in a marked escalation of rhetoric.

The statement from North Korea mentioned using the Hwasong-12, the intermediate range missile tested in May. North Korea said at the time the missile can carry a heavy nuclear warhead, and independent analysis seems to fit with their statement.

The US military keeps a continuous presence of nuclear-capable bombers in Guam, which would make it an attractive target for a nuclear strike. North Korea specifically mentioned these bombers “which get on the nerves of DPRK and threaten and blackmail it through their frequent visits to the sky above Korea.”

CNN’s  Jim Sciutto says   that the  US flew  two  B1-B bombers over Korean Peninsula Mon out of Anderson AFB in Guam, part of “continuous bomber presence.”

But the US maintains a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile interceptor in Guam specifically made to protect from medium-range missiles. THAAD has performed well in test conditions but never intercepted a shot fired in anger.

Earlier, Pyongyang said it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any US military action.

Articles

NATO is hunting for this Russian submarine in the Med

Maritime patrol aircraft from several NATO countries — including United States Navy P-8 Poseidons — are scrambling to carry out a mission that comes from the darkest days of the Cold War: Locating sneaky Russian submarines skulking around good-guy ships.


In this case, NATO’s prey is at least one Oscar-class nuclear cruise missile submarine.

According to a report by The Aviationist, the hunt is on since two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle (R 91), are operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
A port bow view of a Soviet Oscar Class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarine underway. Each Oscar sub is equipped with 24 SS-N-19 550-kilometer-range missiles. (DoD photo)

While most submarines are designed to target an enemy merchant fleet, submarines, or enemy surface combatants, the Oscar was designed to take out two kinds of ships: supercarriers like the Eisenhower and de Gaulle or large-deck amphibious assault ships like the USS Wasp (LHD 1).

These are tough ships, not likely to go down after taking a single hit from a torpedo.

The main weapons of the 19,400-ton Oscar are its 24 SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles. With a warhead of over 1,650 pounds, a top speed of Mach 2.5, and a range of roughly 300 nautical miles, the Shipwreck is one powerful missile.

Oscar-class submarines also can fire torpedoes, with four 533mm torpedo tubes and four 650mm torpedo tubes. The 650mm torpedoes in the Russian inventory are arguably the most powerful in the world – and designed to kill escorts like the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or the Ticonderoga-class cruiser with one hit using a torpedo called the 65-76.

The 65-76 has a range of up to 54 nautical miles, a top speed of 50 knots and delivers a warhead of nearly 2,000 pounds. The Oscar’s 533mm torpedoes, like the TEST-71M, can handle surface ships as well, but also give this carrier-killer a weapon to protect itself from submarines hunting it.

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly
A look at the SS-N-19 cells on the Soviet battlecruiser Kirov. 24 of these missiles are on an Oscar-class sub (DOD photo)

According to the 16th edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Russia has seven Oscar-class submarines in service out of an original inventory of 13.

One, the Kursk, sank after an accidental explosion in 2000, and five others were retired. The seven survivors are the target of modernization plans.

According to a report from IHS Janes, they are slated to replace the 24 SS-N-19s with as many as 72 SS-N-26 “Sapless” or SS-N-27 “Sizzler” cruise missiles.

This Oscar hunt raises a very big question: Who is hunting whom? Is the Oscar (or Oscars) hunting the carriers, or is NATO hunting the Oscar (or Oscars)?