A large, black torpedo glides toward the shore. Battery-powered, it barely hums. The sides crack open, and SCUBA divers emerge. Laden with gear, they swim and trudge to the beach, rifles trained inland, and sneak through the woods to their target.
These are the Navy SEALS of a special warfare group based out of Pearl Harbor, who could be coming soon to a beach near you.
The Navy held an open house May 2 in Poulsbo, Washington, to inform the public of its plans to expand the SEAL training area. Submersible insertion and extraction training has been conducted mostly invisibly here for 30 years, including since 2014 at Scenic Beach, Illahee and Blake Island state parks in Kitsap County, Washington. The underwater vehicles and their teams have been seen at the Tracyton and Evergreen-Rotary Park boat ramps.
They’re looking for more options and diversity to meet different training objectives. It could be public or private property, with the owner’s or manager’s consent. The assessment area includes most of the Kitsap County shoreline, minus tribal lands. Areas will be eliminated through an environmental process or because they don’t meet the Navy’s needs, until 25 to 30 percent remains, said Anna Whalen, one of a small army of subject matter experts armed with educational posters at the North Kitsap High School commons.
“This area is a very advanced marine environment. There’s nothing like it in the United States,” said Chief Warrant Officer Daniel, training officer in charge of the group. Daniel asked that his last name be withheld for security reasons.
Local currents and tides provide unique challenges for the teams, particularly the pilot, who, along with the navigator, stays with the submersible. Up to six divers are launched. They go ashore on missions of up to 72 hours, observed by hidden trainers.
“We’re looking to identify unique training sites to carry on with our undersea mission,” Daniel said. “Every different training location provides a particular training skill set.”
“The biggest thing we tell people is how low-impact this training is. The intent of the training is to stay stealth. We do not want to impact what happens out here to the public.”
A sprinkling of residents moved from station to station May 2. Some expressed concerns. Others volunteered their beaches. Seventy-year-old Brooke Thompson of Bainbridge Island sees the expansion as a Navy overreach and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“They’ve been doing this for 30 years,” she said. “Why do they need to extend into our public lands? The Department of Defense has a lot of land in this area, so they really should be using that.”
Mack Johnson, who lives near Bangor, also said the Navy has other places to conduct cold-water training. He is worried about residents “stumbling over commandos” and public parks being closed for training. Nationally, he prefers diplomacy over military actions.
“I think we could be creating enemies through the process of getting ready to defeat them,” he said.
The environmental study will take about a year, followed by more public meetings, said Navy spokesman Sean Hughes. Input and suggestions on the proposed training activities and locations are welcome until May 18. Visit this link for more information.
It’s been said that Marine Corps infantry chief warrant officers have more weapons knowledge stored in their pinkie fingers than most people will learn in a lifetime. And our experience over the years hasn’t chipped away at that assumption one bit.
Dubbed “Gunners,” these limited duty officers hail from the enlisted ranks and spend the balance of their careers acting as infantry experts for a variety of ground-related commands, including divisions and schools.
Basically, if you have a question about a weapon or tactic for the grunts, the Gunner knows what’s best and how it works. And more than that, the Gunners are the ones who more often than not nudge the Marine Corps into new directions.
But apparently, some grunts think throwing a muffler on the end of their guns is going to make the iron less effective — slowing down the bullet, decreasing the stopping power and making it less accurate. Most firearms aficionados know cans make rifles better, but coming from a Gunner, the statement has more weight.
So that’s why 2nd Marine Division Gunner CWO 5 Christian Wade put together this video to prove to his fellow Marines that using suppressors make the rifle better.
Yes, the movie has uniform errors and some technical mistakes. But, for a film about space aliens and government conspiracies, “Independence Day” actually represents the modern American military pretty accurately.
1. (1:00) America’s next great enemy begins its attack by waltzing past former U.S. military positions unopposed.
Seriously, the moon used to be America’s playground, then we abandoned it. If we had just left a residual force on the moon, we could’ve caught the alien menace and rooted it out before it got a foothold. Thanks, Obama.
2. (7:15) America’s problems start with the enemy attacking satellites.
Whether it’s China shooting a satellite with a missile or the aliens crashing into satellites, America suddenly faces some serious competition in orbit.
3. (9:25) U.S. communications equipment is quietly sabotaged.
China steals data, the aliens quietly broadcast data to control a countdown. It’s different sides of the same coin.
4. (12:20) Washington splits into Hawks and Doves before anyone has any idea what’s going on. Marine general rolls his eyes.
One civilian: Let’s just ignore it.
Another civilian: Lets kill it with missiles!
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: You’re all idiots.
5. (14:53) The U.S. has no clue what is happening in Russia until it shows up on the news.
Guy: Mr. President! You might want to see this!
Cut to T.V. screen showing spaceship over Moscow.
Guy: There are aliens over Moscow?
Um, did you not know those spaceships were there before? They’re kilometers wide and you watched them enter earth’s atmosphere, headed that direction. And you didn’t realize where they went until it showed up on the news? You have spies and embassies and stuff right?
6. (17:30) Plan for the alien threat is “God help us” until someone can think of something better. No need to put together a working group or anything.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: And what happens if the aliens do become hostile?
President: Then god help us.
Chairman: Oh, well. It’ll just be IEDs all over again, then. A huge threat that we just hope will go away until a few thousand people or more are dead.
7. (24:30) Marine assumes everyone around him is running because they’re cowards. Doesn’t even entertain the thought that they may know something he doesn’t.
8. (35:43) The Marine’s girlfriend is a stripper.
9. (53:00) Marines are too busy cutting jokes to pay attention to the mission briefing.
This is despite the fact that the enemy has already destroyed three cities and the Marines are about to fight an enemy that neither they nor any other human has ever faced.
10. (1:09:00) The Air Force and CIA were collecting intelligence on aliens for decades but didn’t share information with any decision makers when aliens showed up.
11. (1:44:00) All the other world militaries have consolidated their forces into mobile, international strike groups that can hide from alien incursions. America has kept their troops segregated from foreign forces and consolidated on fixed military installations.
12. (1:44:15) Other militaries of the world let America take the lead. Because, ‘Murica and apple pie.
O.K., this scene is obviously super ‘Murica. But it seems like at least one or two of the other countries would have doubted the American plan or been reluctant to follow the U.S. into a questionable scheme. And they certainly would have been working on their own plans that may be better than, “We’ll use a human computer to infect an alien computer because we don’t know how computer code works.”
13. (1:51:04) Combat pilot won’t start the world-saving mission until he gets his cigars, fulfilling his superstitions.
14. (2:12:30) Americans celebrate their victory without reservation, ignoring the fact that it came at the cost of dozens of American pilots’ lives. They also conveniently forget that there could be smaller alien ships still flying around the world. Those fighters you just parked would probably be useful in presence patrols to protect the very limited number of survivors.
Happy Independence Day, folks. Now watch one of the most motivating speeches in military movie history:
US troops fighting in the coalition against ISIS came under direct attack near Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army soldiers in Northern Syria.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman told Business Insider that “unknown groups” have engaged with US forces on “multiple occasions over the past week or so Northwest of Manbij,” a town in Syria formerly held by ISIS.
“Our forces did receive fire and return fire and then moved to a secure location,” US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Reuters. “The coalition has told Turkey to tell the rebels it backs there that firing on US-led coalition forces is not acceptable.”
The US supports several Syrian militias that also oppose Assad, though the US now only supports them in their fight against ISIS. However it seems that the Turkish-allied forces likely knew they were exchanging fire with US soldiers.
“These patrols are overt. Our forces are clearly marked and we have been operating in that area for some time,” said Dillon. “It should not be news to anyone that we are doing this, operating in that particular area.”
“We’re there to monitor and to deter hostilities and make sure everyone remains focused on ISIS,” said Pahon. “We’re going to have to continue our patrols but we have had to move to some protected positions.”
Among the Iraqis freed in the US-led coalition’s liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State this month was Emad Mshko Tamo, a Yazidi who was separated from his family and trained as a soldier by the terrorist army for the past three years.
Wounded from shrapnel and covered in dust, the emaciated former captive shook hands with the Iraqi soldiers who freed him. He accepted a bottle of water and held it in his lap, sitting in the front seat of a truck that was to take him to a hospital for treatment.
Emad is 12 years old.
While the Iraqi government celebrates its victory over the Islamic State in Mosul, aid organizations report that hundreds of civilians remain trapped in the Old City and the humanitarian crisis in Iraq continues to mount, with 3 million refugees and almost 1 million displaced people from Mosul.
“In the last week of fighting, 12,000 civilians were evacuated, [and] their condition was the worst of the entire war,” Lise Grande, the lead coordinator of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said July 17 during a press conference.
“Many were elderly, disabled. There were separated children. They clearly did not have sufficient water, they hadn’t had sufficient food, and the overwhelming majority of the civilians who came out were unable, even on their own, to cross the front line to safety. They had to be helped,” said Ms. Grande, adding that the levels of trauma in Mosul are among the highest anywhere.
The Iraqi army next will move to liberate the cities of Tal Afar, Hawija, and western Anbar province, and humanitarian organizations are preparing for an even larger crisis.
Among the concerns are those for orphaned children and those separated from their families. Ms. Grande was unable to provide estimates but said the numbers are large and will require specialized care for months and even years to come.
Emad’s story is a bright spot in an otherwise dark saga, said Dlo Yaseen, an Iraqi-Kurdish translator who helped the 12-year-old while he was being transferred between hospitals from Mosul to Irbil.
Terrorists kidnapped Emad in the summer of 2014 from his village near Sinjar. He was one of thousands of victims of the Islamic State’s campaign of genocide against the Yazidi people — a Kurdish minority whose religious tradition, which mixes aspects of Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, is regarded as apostasy by the Islamic State.
The militants reportedly executed thousands of Yazidi men and boys and at least 86 women, and kidnapped and sold Yazidi women into sex slavery — among other crimes against humanity. An independent survey and analysis of survivors, family members, and civilians estimates that 3,700 Yazidis were slain or died during the summer assault, and that of the 6,800 who were kidnapped, 2,500 are still missing.
In Mosul, when the Iraqi soldiers realized that Emad was Yazidi, they called the only Yazidi soldier in their unit, Mr. Yaseen said. The soldier recognized Emad’s family name and was able to locate his relatives in Dohuk, a Kurdish city in northwestern Iraq.
Shrapnel from Iraqi army mortar fire had wounded Emad. Although Islamic State captors tried to treat him, he was still suffering. Personnel at a field hospital decided that he would be transferred to a larger hospital in Irbil for surgery.
In the meantime, five of Emad’s uncles traveled the few hours’ drive from Dohuk to Irbil for the reunion. They also brought news of Emad’s mother, who had traveled to Canada a few months earlier with two of his siblings. Emad and his mother were able to talk via Facebook chat.
Yazda, an international Yazidi aid organization, corroborated Emad’s story, saying his mother was resettled in Canada with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after the government’s decision to take in Yazidi survivors.
Shortly after Emad’s rescue, Mr. Yaseen posted a photo of him on Facebook: “A Yazidi boy rescued under ISIS and rejoined his relative.”
The photo is striking — Emad is composed, sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, his face turned toward the camera. He is covered in grime — a large and dirty blue T-shirt is the only clothing covering his twig-like frame. His blond hair sticks up at all ends, his face is covered in white dust, but his lips are red and stained with blood. His expression is calm, a slight furrow to his brows as they arch upward.
“I asked him, ‘How do you feel now that you are rescued?'” said Mr. Yaseen. “He said, ‘I’m happy. I’m going to go to my house, my family. I will be happy.'”
For five years, the young Special Forces officer spent most of his time in a cage and wasn’t allowed more than 40 yards from it. Limited to two cans of rice per day, Rowe and fellow prisoners would capture snakes and rats whenever they could. Rowe also tried to escape three times.
Angry at his deceit and the training he had provided South Vietnamese soldiers, the North Vietnamese sentenced Rowe to death. A Viet Cong patrol took Rowe into the jungle for the execution.
As they were heading to the execution point though, Rowe heard a flight of helicopters. He shoved a guard to the ground and sprinted into a nearby clearing, waving his arms to get the pilots’ attention.
They were American helicopters, but the first pilot to spot Rowe saw his black pajamas and nearly fired on him. Then he noticed Rowe’s beard that had grown out during his captivity. After realizing that Vietnamese men were incapable of growing a thick beard, the helicopter scooped Rowe up and carried him to safety.
Rowe returned to the states as a major. He left the military for a short period before returning in 1981 as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Fort Bragg. There, he developed the Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course using the lessons he learned in captivity.
Rowe later deployed to the Philippines as the ground forces director for the Joint U.S. Military Advisory group for the Philippines where he provided counterinsurgency training for Philippine forces.
The Nigerian Air Force carried out an air strike on Friday that bagged some of the top leaders of Boko Haram. The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed.
The Nigerian military announced the deaths late Monday on their Twitter feed. The military statement confirmed that Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman were among the dead in the “most unprecedented and spectacular air raid” on the village of Taye in the Sambisa forest. The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
The military’s statement also claimed that Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian terrorist group responsible for an attack that resulted in the kidnapping of over 300 schoolgirls from Chibok and for selling them into slavery, was fatally wounded. Shekau’s death has been reported before, only to be disproven by video appearances.
A photo released by the Nigerian military with their statement on the air strike showed pilots in a briefing in front of a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet of the 75th Strike Group. This multi-role aircraft serves in both the light attack and training roles, and can carry up to 5,500 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the BL755 cluster bomb and the AGM-65 Maverick. It has a top speed of 540 knots, and a range of roughly 380 miles. The plane also serves in the air forces of France, Thailand, Belgium, Cameroon, Togo, Qatar, Portugal, and Morocco. The plane has been retired by Germany and the Ivory Coast.
Nigerian Alpha Jets have been the primary strike weapon against Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden.” Nigeria also has Chengdu J-7 Fishbed interceptors and Areo L-39 Albatross trainers in service, but the former are primarily used for air defense (replacing Russian-build MiG-21 Fishbeds in 2009) and the latter planes have a very limited bomb load (roughly 600 pounds).
U.S. Army doctor Col. William Gorgas paved the way for the construction of the Panama Canal by destroying the mosquitoes that spread disease and doomed an earlier French effort.
When the Panama Canal Commission began construction in 1904, they began with the remains of a failed French canal. The French effort ended in bankruptcy in part because too many workers were hospitalized or died due to infections of malaria and yellow fever. Some estimates put it as high as one-third of all workers.
When the U.S. bought out the French company and began work, Gorgas was named the chief medical officer of the project. He immediately set his sights on controlling malaria. Gorgas had previously controlled yellow fever and malaria in Havana, Cuba by applying the research of U.S. Army Maj. Walter Reed and British Army Dr. Ronald Ross.
Gorgas drew up a $1 million plan with engineers and other doctors to reduce or eliminate the mosquitoes along the route of construction. Unfortunately, many other decision makers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, supported the “bad air” theory that said the diseases came from the soil and vapors in the air.
Roosevelt was eventually persuaded by his personal physician to back Gorgas’ plan.
Workers cut all grass to less than 12 inches high, drained open water where possible or sprayed a film of oil on it where it wasn’t. Custom poisons were spread across areas where larvae grew. Workers cleaned homes regularly and placed screens over windows and doors.
Progress was slow, but success did come. The campaign launched in the summer of 1905. In Aug. 1906, new yellow fever cases were at less than half of their historical norm. After Nov. 1906, no more canal workers would die of yellow fever. Malaria never went away completely, but in Jan. 1910 the death rate fell to 1 percent of the historical norm.
Gorgas went on to fight disease in South African gold mines before becoming the Army’s 22nd Surgeon General.
An Iranian semi-official news agency says the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has built a third underground facility designated to produce ballistic missiles.
On May 25th, the semi-official Fars news agency quoted the chief of paramilitary’s airspace division, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, as saying the force will “continue to develop our missile capacity” and that U.S. concerns over the country’s ballistic program are of no significance to Iran.
According to the report, the site is the third underground production facility for ballistic missiles in Iran. The report did not provide more details, say where it’s located and if and how many missiles have already been produced there.
Iran has long boasted of having missiles that can travel 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles), placing much of the Middle East, including Israel, within range.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, a front-runner for defense secretary in a Trump administration, could face stormy Senate confirmation hearings over his views on women in combat, post-traumatic stress, Iran, and other issues.
Mattis also would bring with him a bottom-up leadership style honed in command positions from the rifle platoon level to U.S. Central Command that seemingly would be at odds with President-elect Donald Trump’s top-down management philosophy and the by-the-book bureaucracy of the Pentagon.
In his writings, speeches and think-tank comments since retiring in 2013 as a revered figure in the Marine Corps, Mattis has been characteristically blunt on a range of issues from the role of women in the military and post-traumatic stress to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran.
Mattis also has praised the Mideast diplomacy efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry, who was often mocked by Trump during the campaign, but Trump has kept Mattis at the top of his short list for the Pentagon post.
The general has apparently cleared his calendar in anticipation of a Trump decision.
Mattis canceled a Dec. 14 speaking engagement at a Jamestown Foundation conference on terrorism, according to The Hill newspaper’s Kristina Wong. He has discussed the possibility of his selection as defense secretary with the leadership of the Center for a New American Security, where he is a board member, the Hill said.
Others believed to be under consideration for the defense post are Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and former Army captain; Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Jim Talent, a Missouri Republican.
Trump met with Mattis before Thanksgiving and later called him the “real deal” and a “generals’ general” who rated ample consideration for the defense nomination. Trump also said he was “surprised” when Mattis told him he could get more out of a terrorism suspect’s interrogation with a few beers and a pack of cigarettes than he could with waterboarding and torture.
Trump later spoke at length with The New York Times about the potential choice of Mattis and other matters, but did not touch on the roles of women in the military or Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s historic decision last March to open up all military occupational specialties to women who qualify.
Women in Combat
Mattis, now a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, has questioned whether women are suited for what he called the “intimate killing” of close combat, and whether male commanders would balk at sending women into such situations.
Mattis also said he was concerned about “Eros” in the trenches when young men and women live in close quarters in the “atavistic” atmosphere of combat. “I don’t care if you go anywhere in history where you would find that this has worked,” he said of putting “healthy young men and women together and we expect them to act like little saints.”
In periodic speeches to the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco, Mattis said that the U.S. military is a “national treasure,” and it is inevitable that women would want to serve in every MOS.
“The problem is that in the atavistic primate world” of close-quarters combat, “the idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success,” Mattis said. He stressed that he was not talking about whether women could perform the required amounts of pushups, pullups and other physical requirements — “that’s not the point.”
Commanders must consider “what makes us most combat effective when you jump into that room and you’re doing what we call intimate killing,” he said. “It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close encounters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea” as putting women into close combat.
If nominated, Mattis would almost certainly be challenged on women in combat in confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has six women on the panel.
One of them is Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years in the Army Reserves and Iowa National Guard. Ernst, who served a deployment in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is the first female veteran in the Senate, has applauded the opportunity for women who meet the standards to serve in the combat arms.
Opponents of women in combat have said that the next defense secretary could easily reverse the current rules opening up all billets to women.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told Military Times, “Those policies have to be rolled back. Right now, the policy is that women can and will be assigned to ground combat units. That pronouncement can indeed be changed by a future secretary of defense.”
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield,” said the argument is misguided since women have already proven their worth in combat.
The rules could be changed by the next administration, but “the record of service speaks for itself,” Lemmon said. Even when regulations banned women from combat, “They were there. They were there because special ops needed them there,” she said.
“I have never thought this was about political correctness or a feminist agenda,” Lemmon said of the issue of women in combat, “but rather about military readiness and having the right people in the right jobs. In some ways, it is remarkable to me that we have Americans who want to say that even if you meet the standard, you cannot be there.”
Mattis has also differed with current thinking on post-traumatic stress and its treatment in the military and in the Department of Veterans Affairs, where the leadership has labored to remove the “stigma” against seeking help.
“We have such a fixation on disease and disorder that troops coming home have to be told, actually have to be told, ‘You don’t have to be messed up,’ ” Mattis said. “What’s the message we’re sending them?”
“My concern is we’ve got so many people who think they’re messed up now, or think they should be, that the ones who really need help are being submerged in the broader population and so the ones who need the help the most aren’t getting the attention they need to be getting,” he said.
“There’s no room for woe-is-me, for self-pity, or for cynicism” in the military, Mattis said. “Further, there is no room for military people, including our veterans, to see themselves as victims even if so many of our countrymen are prone to relish that role. In the military, we make choices. We’re not victims.”
The misperception about war and its aftermath is that “somehow we’re damaged by this. I’m on record that it didn’t traumatize me to do away with some people slapping women around,” Mattis said, but there was a growing acceptance that “we’re all post-traumatic stressed out” and that veterans were “somehow damaged goods. I don’t buy it.”
Mattis stepped down as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013, reportedly after clashing with the White House on Iran. Now, his views on the threat posed by Iran appear to line up with those of Trump.
“Among the many challenges the Mideast faces, I think Iran is foremost,” Mattis said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last April.
“The Iranian regime, in my mind, is the single most enduring threat to peace and stability in the Mideast,” and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action worked out by Secretary Kerry and others to rein in Iran’s nuclear programs has not altered the threat, he said.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran pact a “terrible deal” and suggested he would renegotiate it or possibly scrap it, but Mattis is against that course of action.
“It was not a mistake to engage on the nuclear issue” with Iran, he said, adding that the deal “was not without some merit” and “there’s no going back, absent a clear violation” of the agreement.
Kerry has been pilloried by Trump on his overall performance as secretary of state, but Mattis lauded his efforts in the Mideast, particularly on his thus-far fruitless attempts to bring about a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians. However, the two sides must want peace “as bad as the secretary of state. I admire and salute Secretary Kerry’s efforts,” he said.
Should Mattis get the nomination, he would take to the Pentagon a unique leadership style that relies on feedback from the ranks. “Generals get a lot of credit but very little of it is earned by their own blood, sweat and tears,” he has said, adding that the credit should go to the front-line troops.
“There are two kinds of generals — one gets briefed, the other briefs his staff,” and Mattis made clear that he was the second type of general. “I found it faster if I would go out and spend most of my time with the lead elements” in an effort “to get a sense if the lads thought we were winning. We didn’t use command and control, we used command and feedback.”
“Wandering around like that really unleashed a lot of combat power,” said Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad Dog” and who had the radio call sign “Chaos.”
When asked about the most important trait for a leader, he said, “It comes down to building trust.”
Leaders must be able to make those in their command “feel your passion for excellence. If they believe you care about them, you can speak to them bluntly and they’re ready to go back into the brawl,” he said.
If he were to be confirmed by the Senate, Mattis would be the first recently retired general to hold the defense secretary’s post since Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II. Marshall was named secretary of defense by President Harry Truman in 1950.
The choice of Mattis would for the first time put two Marines in the top uniformed and civilian posts at the Pentagon. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford served under Mattis as a colonel in command of the 5th Marine Regiment during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Senate confirmation would be the second hurdle for Mattis. He first would need a waiver from Congress to get around the rule barring military officers from accepting posts requiring Senate confirmation for seven years after retirement. Mattis left the military in 2013.
A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.
“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”
Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.
Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.
“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.
Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.
Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.
“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.
Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.
“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.
Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.
During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.
“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.
That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.
“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.
The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.
That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.
As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.
The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.
“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”
Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Howard “Howie” Sanborn was an all-star on active duty. He was an Airborne Ranger infantryman who conducted long-range surveillance for the XVII Airborne Corps before doing five years as a member of the U.S. Army’s premier high-altitude demonstration team, the Golden Knights.
As a Golden Knight, it was Howie’s job to share his experiences in the Army with civilians and act as a brand ambassador. Now, he uses a wheelchair and is off active duty, but he still spreads the Army message far and wide as an adaptive athlete.
“For me,” Howie said, “the Warrior Games are an amazing opportunity to get back with my team. I’m part of Team SOCOM. Once you leave the military and you’re retired or you just get out, you don’t necessarily lose that sense of camaraderie but you’re kind of separate from your buddies. So when you get to do events like this together or training events together, it’s a chance to rub shoulders with guys who’ve been through the same thing you’ve been through.”
At the 2016 Warrior Games, Howie competed in his racing chair in track events, taking home three gold medals for Men’s 1500 Run 2.0, Men’s 800 Meter Run 3.0, and Men’s 400 Meter Dash 3.0, as well as one silver medal in Men’s 200 Meter Dash 2.0.
Military veterans and adaptive athletes prepare for the start of the 2016 Warrior Games. Sgt. 1st Class Howard Sanborn is in the grey shirt in the foreground. (Photo: WATM)
Author’s Note: The events are broken down by each athlete’s functional ability. The 2.0 and 3.0 notations in the event titles refer to Howie and his competitors’ functional ratings.
Outside of the Warrior Games, Howe competes on the Parathriathlon Team for the U.S.
As an alumni of the Golden Knights and an adaptive athlete, Howie was the obvious choice for narrator during the Golden Knight demonstration in the opening ceremonies.
As part of his duties in the opening ceremony, Howie presented a special award to Gen. Frederick M. Franks. Franks was pioneer in the wounded warrior community, fighting his way back into combat units after losing his left leg below the knee.
Recent North Korean missile launches, including four into the Sea of Japan earlier this month, have prompted a major deployment of U.S. forces, including B-52 Stratofortress bombers, also known as BUFFs (for Big Ugly Fat F*ckers), and F-35B Lightning II fighters to the Korean peninsula.
According to a report by The Sun, the deployments come as part of the Foal Eagle exercises, which are held by American and South Korean forces. Other assets being deployed in support of the exercises include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and its strike group, as well as B-1B Lancer heavy bombers.
The B-52s can carry a wide variety of ordnance.
Some of the things that they can deliver a lot of to the North Koreas, if Kim Jong Un continues on his present course, include dumb bombs (usually the Mk 82 500-pound bomb or the M117 750-pound bomb, but Mk 84 2,000 pound bombs are an option as well), AGM-86 cruise missiles in both conventional or nuclear versions, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, CBU-87 cluster bombs, CBU-97 cluster bombs, GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (2,000 pound GPS guided bombs), the AGM-142 HAVE NAP missile, the AGM-158 JASSM, and the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon.
The F-35s that will participate are Marine Corps F-35B variants that are based in Japan. The F-35Bs are fifth-generation multi-role strike fighters, capable to engaging targets in the air or on the ground. The planes carry AIM-120 AMRAAMs, AIM-9 Sidewinders, JDAMs, JSOWs, and cluster bombs.
Two F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, prepare to land at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Jan. 18, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)
The planned exercises will involve 315,000 troops, most of them South Korean. North Korea has routinely claimed that the Foal Eagle exercises are rehearsals for an invasion. Earlier this month, a battery of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missiles were deployed to South Korea, a decision criticized by China, which vowed to make South Korea “feel the pain” for allowing the deployment.
Someone needs to tell Kim, “You’re making Chaos angry. You will not like it when Chaos gets angry.”