In the Bay of Bengal, the United States Navy and the Indian Navy went head-to-head.
According to DefenceLovers.In, the modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov) and its air group of MiG-29K Fulcrums took on the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Air Wing 11, mainly composed of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, in a joint training exercise that should leave Russia, with similar aircraft in its force, indirectly warned.
The Indian Fulcrums and the American Hornets took turns maintaining a combat air patrol over a ship while the other side practiced anti-ship strikes.
“The MiG-29s that were flying off the Vikramaditya and the FA-18 Super Hornets flying off Nimitz made approaches to the opposite flight decks, got up in the air and got to do some dog fighting as well, which was pretty overwhelming,” Rear Admiral William D. Byrne, Jr., the commanding officer of the Nimitz carrier strike group, told the Indian site.
When serving with Russia as the Baku (later re-named Admiral Gorshkov after the fall of the Soviet Union), the Vikramaditya was a modified Kiev-class carrier armed with 12 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” missiles and 24 8-round SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” launchers, along with two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling guns, and two quintuple 533mm torpedo tube mounts. It carried a dozen Yak-38 Forgers and as many as 20 anti-submarine helicopters.
By comparison, Air Wing 11 on board USS Nimitz included four squadrons of F/A-18C, F/A-18E, or F/A-18F multi-role fighters, along with E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning planes, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes, and MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters.
North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.
While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.
A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.
Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.
Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.
While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”
On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”
To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.
While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”
North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.
A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.
“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.
“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)
“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”
But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.
And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.
To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.
You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.
The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.
First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.
Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.
ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.
An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.
President Donald Trump is less than one month away from making history as the first sitting US president to meet a sitting North Korean leader — but it’s increasingly looking as if he’s ill-prepared and sailing toward embarrassment.
Trump has of late talked up his work on North Korea, crediting himself with creating the conditions for talks through a hardline policy. But that self-congratulation could come back to haunt him.
North Korea has in 2018, pursued diplomacy with its neighbors on the back of a vague promise to denuclearize. Pyongyang’s apparent wish to make peace with Seoul after Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship throughout 2017, shocked much of the world and has generated Nobel Peace Prize buzz for the president.
Sanger reported that Trump had questioned whether he should even go through with the summit and hastily spoke on the phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for reassurance.
Trump has so far stayed the course with the summit, which would represent a major part of his foreign-policy accomplishments as president. For Kim, meeting a US president is a legitimizing win, lending his country previously unattainable international credibility.
Additionally, Trump is reportedly not thrilled about preparing for the summit, which is expected to cover not only the issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula but virtually every major flashpoint in East Asian geopolitics.
But if Trump is ill-prepared for the summit and it does blow up in his face, he can share some of the blame.
“It increasingly looks like the Moon administration overstated North Korea’s willingness to deal,” said Robert Kelly, a political-science professor who’s an expert on North Korea.
He added: “Moon likely exaggerated this to tie Trump to a diplomatic track to prevent him from backsliding into 2017’s war-threats which scared the daylights out of South Koreans. If Trump were less vain and had allowed his national security staff to vet the NK offer, he might have learned this.”
South Korea has reasons to push for diplomacy with North Korea, not least of which is that its citizens would be likely to bear the brunt of the suffering and death if war broke out.
The stuff could hit the fan
On June 12, 2018, in Singapore, Trump is set to face a task like never before in meeting Kim.
North Korea has measurably gained from its diplomatic offensive by forging closer ties with China — and, as Trump has acknowledged, seemed to get Beijing to ease off sanctions. Trump’s main achievement on North Korea thus far has been getting China to adhere to international sanctions.
Kim’s unwinding Trump’s win on the North Korea front with a sophisticated diplomatic ruse could prove embarrassing to Trump before the midterm elections in 2018, when he’ll look for a boost for the Republican Party.
Looking almost like an oversized pistol, the Heckler Koch MP7 is a cross between a submachine gun and a carbine that serves around the world in the hands of law enforcement and special operations units.
In the late 1980s, NATO developed requirements for a next-generation personal defense weapon that would be more effective against body armor than current pistol-caliber PDWs. While submachine guns based on the .45 ACP or 9mm deliver plenty of stopping power against unarmored targets, the growing availability of capable and affordable body armor meant that something new was needed.
SEAL Team 6 operators in Afghanistan armed with a mix of MP7s and HK416 rifles. (Photo from imgur)
So German gunmaker Heckler Koch developed the MP7 to meet these NATO requirements and it has served across the world since entering full production in 2001.
Some of the most commonly-spotted submachine guns in the hands of law enforcement and other professionals are the MP5 and its successor, the UMP. These guns typify the classic submachine gun, being automatic weapons chambered for pistol cartridges.
The MP7, however, is chambered for the 4.6x30mm cartridge. The steel core 4.6x30mm was developed specifically to be a lightweight pistol-ish round delivering the penetration more like a rifle cartridge. The smaller, lighter round means that more ammunition can be carried and that it has a minimal recoil even in full-automatic shooting.
The 4.6mm cartridge was developed by HK for the MP7 and its companion sidearm, the UCP pistol. The UCP never got past the prototype stage, but the 4.6x30mm has definitely made its mark in the MP7.
The MP7, currently being produced as updated models MP7A1 and MP7A2, weighs less than 5 pounds with a loaded magazine and is only 25-inches long with its adjustable stock fully extended. The barrel is 7.1 inches long and the magazine feeds into the pistol grip, creating a compact, easy to handle package.
The action is a gas-operated short stroke piston like that of HK’s HK416 rifle and is rated at 950 rounds per minute. A folding forward vertical grip comes standard on the MP7, though this has been replaced on the new MP7A2 model with a standard lower rail which allows the user to easily install any grip if desired. A full-length top rail comes with removable folding sights and permits the mounting of any standard optic or other accessory, and side rails can be easily added for additional mounting options.
The 4.6x30mm ammunition means that magazine size is decreased compared to those holding traditional cartridges. A 40-round MP7 magazine is comparable in size to 30-round 9mm magazine like the ones in the MP5. This means more firepower ready for action and fewer mag changes, both of which can easily spell the difference between success or failure in life and death situations.
The MP7 utilizes a great deal of polymer in its construction, and the weapon’s light weight, ergonomics, and physical size allow it to be fired accurately with one hand. When the stock is extended and the forward grip used, it suddenly becomes a mini carbine with performance similar to full-sized guns as long at the range stays below 200 meters or so.
Military special forces utilize the MP7 much like they have used submachine guns for decades. Smaller, lighter weapons that can provide automatic fire are invaluable for close-quarters combat and the 4.6x30mm’s armor-piercing capability make the MP7 a natural choice for elite units needing compact firepower. The weapon’s design and tactical rails mean that the gun can be easily upgraded as needed with off the shelf accessories. Additionally, the MP7 is suppressor-ready, adding another level of utility to an already-capable gun for special operations use.
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team 6, is one of the most famous units that employ the MP7 in the special operations community. Many details of their equipment became known after the 2011 mission that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and the MP7 was said to have been chosen by some of the raid’s members.
Pistols will remain common sidearms for as long as sidearms are needed. And while standard submachine guns using pistol ammunition will continue to serve a vital role for years to come and carbine-configuration assault rifles will remain the standard infantry weapon in militaries for the foreseeable future, the HK MP7 and other weapons like it will fill a crucial middle ground for those looking for the best of all worlds.
Experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth, and in-space fuel transfer demonstration are heading to the International Space Station following the launch Dec. 5, 2018, of SpaceX’s 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.
The company’s Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 1:16 p.m. EST on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It’s carrying more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support the crew, station maintenance and dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station.
Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives two days later. NASA astronaut Anne McClain will monitor telemetry during the spacecraft’s approach.
Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, with installation coverage set to begin at 7:30 a.m.
Science aboard Dragon
The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI will be mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility and provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale. These observations will quantify the aboveground carbon stored in vegetation and changes that result from vegetation disturbance and recovery, the potential for forests to sequester carbon in the future, and habitat structure and its influence on habitat quality and biodiversity.
NASA’s new laser instrument, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI.
A small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot, will ride up in Dragon and then be installed in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft prior to its departure from the space station. SlingShot can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format. After the Cygnus cargo ship departs from station, the spacecraft navigates to an altitude of 280 to 310 miles (an orbit higher than that of the space station) to deploy the satellites.
Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) will demonstrate the first transfer and long-term storage of liquid methane, a cryogenic fluid, in microgravity. The ability to replenish and store cryogenic fluids, which can function as a fuel or coolant, will help enable long duration journeys to destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.
Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes an antioxidant protein found inside the human body to analyze its shape. This research may shed light on how the protein helps protect the human body from ionizing radiation and oxidants created as a byproduct of metabolism. For best results, analysis requires large crystals with minimal imperfections, which are more easily produced in the microgravity environment of the space station.
Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.
For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.
Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.
Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.
“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”
Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.
May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.
The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.
The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.
(London Metropolitan Police)
Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.
Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.
Poison in a perfume bottle
A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.
Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.
The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.
Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.
“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.
The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.
Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The suspects’ whereabouts
The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:
March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.
Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In May 2004, about 20 British troops were on the move 15 miles south of al-Amara, near the major city of Basra in Iraq. They were on the way to assist another unit that was under fire when their convoy was hit by a surprise of its own.
Shia militias averaged five attacks per day in Basra when the U.K. troops arrived. British soldiers tried to arrest Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for supporting the violence and the locals were not happy about it. An unpredictable level of violence broke out. British troops were frequently under assault – an estimated 300 ambushes within three months.
“We were constantly under attack,” Sgt. Brian Wood told the BBC. “If mortars weren’t coming into our base, then we were dragged out into the city to help other units under fire.”
Wood and other troops from the 1st Battallion of the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment were on their way to aid Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders who were attacked by 100 militiamen from al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army when their vehicle struck an IED. The surprise attack actually hit two vehicles carrying 20 troops on a highway south of Amarah. Mortars, rockets, and machine guns peppered the unarmored vehicles.
Rather than drive through the ambush, the vehicles took so much punishment they had to stop on the road. The troops inside dismounted, established a perimeter, and had to call in some help of their own. Ammunition soon ran low.
The decision was made: the British troops fixed bayonets.
They ran across 600 feet of open ground toward the entrenched enemy. Once on top of the Mahdi fighters, the British bayoneted 20 of the militia. Fierce hand-to-hand combat followed for five hours. The Queen’s men suffered only three injuries.
“We were pumped up on adrenaline — proper angry,” Pvt. Anthony Rushforth told The Sun, a London-based newspaper. “It’s only afterwards you think, ‘Jesus, I actually did that.’ ”
What started as a surprise attack on a British convoy ended with 28 dead militiamen and three wounded U.K. troops.
Jihadi propaganda at the time told young fighters that Western armies would run from ambushes and never engage in close combat. They were wrong. Irregular, unexpected combat tactics overwhelmed a numerically superior enemy who had the advantage in surprise and firepower.
The Chicago Tribune tracks the insane number of shooting victims in the area, broken down by year, month, and location.
And the numbers are staggering.
As gangs inflict casualties on other gang members and innocent bystanders in cities like Chicago, it’s tragically similar to a war zone — so similar, U.S. military medics have been training in the most dangerous parts of America’s cities since at least 2003.
Many of the armed forces’ medical personnel just do not get trauma training they need on the battlefields overseas, so they get it working the battlefields at home.
“It’s important to get them this kind of training here, so they can see how to stop that bleeding and save that life,” Lt. Cmdr. Stan Hovell, a Navy nurse who worked at Chicago’s Cook County hospital, told the Chicago Tribune. “They pick up those skills and carry it back to the Navy.”
Gangland violence is keeping up with the times when it comes to wounds of warfare. Gang members sometimes even use military-style rifles in their assaults, according to Dale Smith, the chair of the Medical Military History Department at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda. And they’ve inflicted bayonet-like stabbing wounds.
“The first night I took calls here, it was unbelievable,” Navy Cmdr. Peter Rhee, director of the Trauma Training Center at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center emergency room told the LA Times. “We ended up opening five chests; we had 10 people shot in the chest. We were operating all night long. It was truly as bad as any kind of wartime experience you could have.”
The doctors, nurses, and administrators love having medics and corpsmen rotating through their staff because U.S. military personnel are fearless.
“Some of them are very experienced,” Faran Bokhari, the head of Chicago’s Stroger Hospital trauma department told the Chicago Tribune. “They’re not green medical students out of la-la land. They’ve seen the blood and guts.”
Army Veteran Kenneth Augustus loved adventure. He loved to rock climb, and scuba dive, and always had a longing for falling hundreds of feet per second from an airplane.
VA Salt Lake City Recreation Therapist Lili Sotolong knew skydiving was a lofty goal considering his condition, but she was determined to make that dream come true.
“I got a call out of the blue to come work with this Veteran,” Lili said. “I was told he only had a few months to live but when I got there he was beyond positive, and so easy to work with. He had made peace with what was happening to him and was really preparing himself for the inevitable; he just had some things he wanted to experience first.”
Lili made several calls and finally arranged the jump through two very generous community partners: Skydive Utah and the Elks Lodge. It was go-time!
“He got to jump with his brother and his son, and they wanted me to do it with them! We had a group hug and were all fist-pumping in the plane prior to the jump. It really was an extraordinary experience.”
On Veterans Day 2017 Kenny Augustus fulfilled his dying wish. Attached to a highly-experienced instructor and with a big smile on his face, he dove out of a prop plane at 13,500 feet. Imagine a free fall at 120 miles per hour for 60 seconds. Moments later, the jolt of a chute opening was followed by a peaceful glide to the ground. Lili remembers Kenny’s smile and a big thumbs-up.
From one extreme to the next: scuba diving one last time (check)
Later that evening, Kenny went scuba diving with his son via virtual reality goggles at the Crater in Midvale, Utah. He was too sick to go in the water, but enjoyed the next best thing. Using a drone especially equipped for water, Kenny followed his son underwater and experienced everything his son was seeing. Kenny was hoping for the real thing, but just being there, surrounded by the love and support of his family, was thrill enough.
A week later, Kenny passed.
“I went to my supervisor and I just broke down,” Lili said. “I am touched and hurt all at the same time. I really got to know him and his family over a short time. I just never thought it would hurt this much.”
Lili agreed to tell this story because of this extraordinary Veteran she came to admire. His spirit and positivity in the face of such pain and uncertainty impacted her in ways she never imagined.
Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.
The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.
Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.
But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.
“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”
In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.
Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.
With the Pentagon making strides to include women in combat arms roles, you might actually be surprised to hear that the Army’s top counterterrorism force has included female operatives for nearly 30 years.
That’s right, the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment “D,” also known as “Delta Force,” has a history of hiring female soldiers to serve alongside male operators, having begun the practice in the 1990s.
More commonly referred to as “the Unit,” Delta Force is home to some of the most elite soldiers in the world, famously called “operators.” The selection phase for prospective operators is nothing short of grueling. Former Delta operator Eric Haney details in his book, “Inside Delta Force,” this process which sees candidates hike and orient over adverse terrain, perform rigorous physical testing and training, and psychological evaluations.
Upon completion, a candidate isn’t out of the woods yet, and can still be dropped or withdrawn from the course if the instructor cadre feels he’s unfit to serve with the unit.
An intensive Operators Training Course follows, which trains each soldier in a variety of skills which they’ll eventually use in real world situations. Millions (you read that correctly) of rounds of ammunition are expended on a monthly basis, honing each candidate’s proficiency with a variety of firearms. Vehicle instruction, VIP protection, surveillance, and even tradecraft (i.e. the art of spying) are all part of the OTC curriculum.
Operators are trained to blend into any environment and urban setting, though sometimes, that’s very difficult to do with a gaggle of military-aged males hanging around in groups.
In 1982, the Unit attempted to solve this problem by recruiting female operators. After putting a small group of candidates through a modified, yet still highly arduous, selection course, four women were able to graduate and meet the standard set before them. However, this solution turned out to be a bust, due to friction between male operators and the new female selectees to the unit.
Eight years later, Delta made another attempt to bring women into the fold, after SEAL Team 6 the Navy’s counterpart to the Unit, had demonstrated some success in pairing a female petty officer with a frogman, posing as a romantic couple, while reconnoitering objectives in Panama prior to Operation Just Cause in 1989.
In 1990, Delta began targeted recruitment initiatives that brought women into what was then referred to as the Operational Support Troop. Female candidates were once again put through a difficult unique selection and training course in order to bring them up to speed on firearms usage, espionage skills and tradecraft, advanced driving techniques and more, so that they could serve on surveillance and reconnaissance missions overseas along with male operators.
U.S. Army Cultural Support Team soldiers, with Special Operations Task Force – South, speak with a young Afghan girl in Darvishan Village, Khakrez District, Afghanistan, June 10, 2011. The CST serve as enablers, supporting U.S. Army special operations forces by engaging the female population. The CST also assist in medical civic action programs, search and seizures, humanitarian assistance and civil-military operations.
Among the first female operators to be recruited to the Unit’s OST was, in fact, the same Navy petty officer who served briefly with SEAL Team 6 in Panama, according to Sean Naylor in his book “Relentless Strike.” Later on, the OST was re-branded as “G Squadron” — a name which it apparently still has today.
In the mid-to-late ’90s, Delta Force was active in the Balkans, along with SEAL Team 6. It’s since been understood that female members of G Squadron were critical in helping make Delta missions a success in the region, with male and female operators posing together as lovers or married couples while conducting surveillance.
Today, the recruitment, selection and training process for G Squadron members is wholly unknown and completely classified, as is the modern iteration of OTC for Delta’s assault-troop operators. The requirements for OTC still stipulate that candidates sent over for selection be male, so it could be assumed that female operators continue to be brought in and trained through a modified program of their own.
However, what we do know is that women do indeed operate with the most elite special operations force in the world, undercover and sometimes even in plain sight.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”
The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.
“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.
As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”
The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.
Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.
“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.
Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”
“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.
The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.
Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.
Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”
“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.
“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.