On July 10, 1940, the Nazis launched the first bombing attack on Great Britain.
Just one month prior, a defeated France signed an armistice, leaving the United Kingdom alone against the German war machine. The battle received its name from a speech Winston Churchill delivered in response to France’s armistice in which he stated, “the Battle of France is over. I expect the Battle of Britain is about to begin.”
He was correct.
Wanting to capitalize on his momentum, Hitler set his sights — and his Luftwaffe — across the English Channel. That first day, 190 German bombers and fighters struck British military targets, but the Brits fought back in what would become the first battle in history fought solely in the air.
Over the next 3 months, a strong air defense system, a robust air force, and even the aluminum pots and pans from British citizens would deliver the Luftwaffe a near lethal blow from which it would never fully recover. The Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt BF-109s attacked Britain’s airfields, air fighter production sites, and even cities, but the Royal Air Force defended her skies with Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes.
The British victory was decisive, but the losses were staggering – including 40,000 British civilians who were killed during the city-bombing raids known as “The Blitz.”
Still, the Battle of Britain would be the first major defeat of the war for Hitler. It became a turning point in the war, strategically preventing Hitler from gaining control of the English Channel or invading the British Isles. Britain became a base of operations for the American invasion of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, securing a major blow against Hitler in his waning days.
Finally, the Battle of Britain was a mark of British courage and resilience — and allowed Great Britain to remain free from Nazi occupation.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”
“Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Ain’t never been fired and only dropped once.” — Cowboy from Full Metal Jacket.
Many audience members may think this famous line served no other purpose other than showing a few Marine characters’ attempts to negotiate the cheapest deal possible with a Vietnamese prostitute and her pimp.
In fact, the remark is full of meaning when it comes to the relationship that American infantrymen shared with their South Vietnamese counterparts during the war.
Cowboy’s quote in the film was meant to surface the idea that the ARVN — or the Army of the Republic of Vietnam — didn’t do their part during combat operations.
For many Vietnam vets, that statement couldn’t have been more truthful.
When the U.S. entered the war in the mid-1960s, the goal was to aid South Vietnam with American personnel and equipment to help defeat the communist North.
Many of those South Vietnamese troops serving during the era were members of a militia known as the “Popular Force” or “PF.” Their mission was to protect the local villages from deadly Viet Cong attacks. Many Vietnam vets believed the PF fed intel to the enemy instead of engaging them.
Meanwhile, ARVN troops would patrol alongside selected Marine and Army units taking the fight to the enemy.
“A few of the ARVN units would stay and slug it out,” Vietnam veteran James “Doc” Kirkpatrick states. “But for the most part, they didn’t do shit.”
James “Doc” Kirkpatrick served in Vietnam at Fire Base Stallion (Hill 310) with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marines as a Hospital Corpsman from 1968 – 1969. Kirkpatrick had more negative run-ins with South Vietnamese troops than he’d like to remember.
While the NVA would consistently pound it out against American forces, the ARVN would commonly hesitate during the skirmishes and egress out of the area before the engagement was over — leaving their rifles behind.
This action severely upset American forces, diluting their respect for their counterparts.
Many Vietnam veterans were unclear about what the South Vietnamese’s actual goal was during the war, especially when experiencing first-hand the south’s lack of effort when compared to the North’s passion to fight.
Doc Kirkpatrick believes the South just didn’t care enough — or wasn’t well enough equipped — to fight the enemy. So the Americans were left shouldering the burden.
While serving as Miss Rocky Gap, Emma Lutton, of New Windsor, Maryland, had to combine her philanthropic efforts and pageant-winner responsibilities with another entirely separate set of duties as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Coast Guard.
Lutton won the Miss Rocky Gap title in March, and the last several months of her title reign have overlapped with her final deployment with the Coast Guard in the Caribbean. Now that she’s back in the States, Lutton is looking to expand her role in the Miss America Pageant system as she competes against other local title holders for the role of Miss Maryland this week.
Unlike many others who began their pageantry careers earlier, Lutton said the Miss Rocky Gap competition was only her second ever attempt at winning a crown. She said she was inspired after seeing the work her younger sister was doing as a title holder.
“I had this misconception that pageants were just about looking pretty and being dumb,” Lutton said. “Then I realized how big of a difference I could make with charities and community service.”
Under the recommendation of current Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer, a Hampstead resident, Lutton decided to compete in the Miss Rocky Gap contest — the very same contest that started Brewer on her path to the Miss Maryland title.
Lutton said she was attracted to the Miss America pageants due to their emphasis on scholarships, which she is currently eyeing to help pay for graduate school. Lutton graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2015 and is currently interested in studying to become a patent lawyer.
Though her father and older brother both served in the Navy, Lutton said she wasn’t initially interested in the military.
“I thought, ‘You guys are cool, but I’m going to do my own cool thing,'” Lutton said. “My senior year, I realized I really wanted to be an engineer, but I love people and I love making a difference while not just sitting in a cubical.”
After visiting the Coast Guard Academy, Lutton said she knew it was the place for her. She said one of the main draws of the Coast Guard over the other military branches is the high percentage of women in the service and the lack of barriers for females.
“I didn’t want to work really hard and find out that a certain path is closed off to me just because I’m a girl,” she said.
For her platform, Lutton chose to support the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, providing care packages to service members overseas. She said she’s also passionate about supporting military family members, who don’t always have the support they need.”
“There’s not enough out there for families who are picking up and moving when we go,” Lutton said. “The most popular jobs for military spouses are nursing and teaching, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get re-certified every time they move.”
Emma’s mother, Patty, said she is appreciative of her daughter’s service in and out of the military.
“When she decided to go into the Coast Guard, we were a little apprehensive to have two out of our three kids in the military,” she said, “but we’re incredibly proud of her.”
Lutton has been competing in the Miss Maryland pageant throughout the week, with preliminary interviews, swimsuit, talent, and evening gown competitions taking place. On June 24th, the field will be narrowed down to the top 10, one of whom will be crowned Miss Maryland by the end of the night.
Lutton said she’s excited just to make it this far, and is thrilled that both the pageantry and her service can complement each other.
“I think the two things really help support each other,” Lutton said. “Being in the Coast Guard helps make me a stronger woman that little girls can look up to, and being in the pageant can help the visibility of the Coast Guard which is a smaller service.”
On July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — or NASA — was established.
NASA was created in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik One in 1957. The first satellite to orbit the earth, Sputnik kicked off the space race of the Cold War. Suddenly the United States had to consider the threat of Soviet weapons delivered from the cosmos.
The United States., determined to be at the forefront of space technology, created NASA, a civilian agency responsible for America’s space endeavors.
NASA is responsible for unique scientific and technological achievements in human spaceflight, aeronautics, space science, and space applications that have had widespread impacts on our nation and the world. Forged in response to early Soviet space achievements, NASA was built on the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and other government organizations, as the locus of U.S. civil aerospace research and development.
Over the last 60 years, NASA has continued to push the boundaries with cutting edge aeronautics research that has dramatically changed the way we build and fly airplanes. NASA has also completed the reconnaissance of our solar system, with intense investigation of all the planets. Using orbital spacecraft like the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has also dramatically changed our understanding of the universe around us, as well as our own planet. NASA’s early work on launch vehicles, communication satellites, and weather satellites has fundamentally changed daily life and created whole new industries. As a catalyst for international cooperation, NASA has also changed how and why humanity conducts space exploration. Now, NASA is preparing to take humankind farther than ever before, as it helps to foster a robust commercial space economy near Earth, and pioneers further human and robotic exploration as we venture into deep space.
Navy planners have for years been working on ways to make its battle groups less vulnerable to threats from long-range missiles, developing sophisticated radars, close-in defense and using aircraft to keep the bad guys far enough away that a launch would be futile.
But what hasn’t changed is the size and relative lack of maneuverability a Navy ship — especially an aircraft carrier — would have in the open sea.
So China has reportedly developed a specialized anti-ship ballistic missile that it could fire from the mainland and target a specific ship over 1,000 miles away. Dubbed the Dong-Feng-21D, the missile is a two-stage, solid rocket booster with a maneuverable warhead that is reported to be able to avoid ballistic countermeasures.
While Navy analysts are nervous about the missile’s ability to destroy a carrier with one hit screaming out of the atmosphere at Mach 10, others argue that China still has a long way to go before it can find and target a ship over 1,000 miles away and continue updating the DF-21D warhead’s guidance in an electronic countermeasure environment.
On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh became a legend by making the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.
In 1925, New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize (that’s over $350,000 today!) to the pilot who could successfully fly from New York to Paris. Trans-Atlantic flights were risky with the technology of the day – six pilots had already died in attempting the flight.
Born in 1902, Lindbergh learned to fly at the age of 20, getting his start as a “barnstormer” — pilots who traveled the country performing aerobatic stunts and selling joyrides. He joined the United States Army Air Service in 1924, but the Army didn’t need active-duty pilots at the time, so he returned to civilian aviation.
Lindbergh began his historical attempt with take off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York. Lindbergh chose took off knowing that the day’s weather was questionable, and that only 12 days before, World War I aces Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli went missing in their own attempt.
Lindbergh flew a customized plane, retrofitted from a Ryan M-2 aircraft powered by a Wright (yes, that Wright) Jf-C engine and a longer fuselage, longer wingspan, and extra struts to accommodate the weight of the fuel needed to cross the Atlantic.
The now-famous monoplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, successfully carried Lindbergh for over 33 hours before landing in Paris to a hero’s welcome. He became an instant celebrity and received the Distinguished Flying Cross from President Calvin Coolidge.
Featured Image: (Left) Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in the background. (Right) The Spirit of St. Louis on display at the National Air and Space Museum.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
A member of the 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron refuels a 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10C Thunderbolt II during forward area refueling point training at Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Feb. 11, 2016. A single A-10 usually receives approximately 2,000 pounds of fuel in a four- to five-minute span during FARP training but the C-130 Hercules can provide tens of thousands of pounds of fuel if needed.
A B-2 Spirit bomber sits on the flightline prior to takeoff at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., for Red Flag 16-1 Feb. 2, 2016. Established in 1975, Red Flag includes command, control, intelligence and electronic warfare exercises to better prepare forces for combat.
Ohio Air National Guard members work in the early morning of Feb. 16, 2016, to remove snow from the flightline and fleet of C-130H Hercules at the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio. The Ohio ANG unit is always on mission to respond with highly qualified citizen Airmen to execute federal, state and community missions.
Royal Australian Air Force Sgt. Angus Shaw, a 37th Squadron loadmaster, left, talks with two 4th Squadron combat controllers aboard a C-130J Super Hercules during Exercise Cope North 2016 over Rota, Northern Mariana Islands, Feb. 12, 2016. Exercise The exercise includes 22 total flying units and nearly 3,000 personnel from six countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets.
A U.S. Army paratrooper, assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducts airborne operations at Fort Hood, Texas, Feb. 9, 2016.
A soldier, assigned to 3d Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a convoy halt at the Operations Group, National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 12, 2016.
Army pilots, assigned to 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division train with members of the U.S. Coast Guard rescue team off the coast of Honolulu, Hawaii, Feb. 16, 2016.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 16, 2016) U.S. Navy Sailors with the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group prepare MV-22B Ospreys with Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 Reinforced to take off from the USS New Orleans. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit will be operating in the Pacific and central Commands area of responsibilities during their western pacific deployment 16-1.
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2016) Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, perform a tethered flag during a training demonstration. The Navy Parachute Team is based in San Diego and performs aerial parachute demonstrations around the nation in support of Naval Special Warfare and Navy recruiting.
A Marine provides security for his team during the night portion of a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, or TRAP, training scenario at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 18, 2016. TRAP is used to tactically recover personnel, equipment or aircraft by inserting the recovery force to the objective location. The Marine is with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Lance Cpl. Jarod L. Smith, a crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, fires a mounted M2 Browning .50-caliber machine gun from the back of the MV-22B Osprey during a live fire training session off the coast of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Feb 10, 2016. Marines with VMM-365 flew to a landing zone, which allowed pilots to pratice CALs in their Osprey’s and then flew several miles off the coast to practice their proficiency with the .50-caliber machine gun.
Coast Guardsmen stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Munro from Kodiak, Alaska, conduct helicopter in-flight refueling while on patrol in the Bering Sea, Feb. 15, 2016.
U.S. Coast Guard Station New York is helping theU.S. Coast Guard Reserve celebrate their 75th anniversary in style!
From the beaches of France and Iwo Jima in World War II, to the shores of the U.S. gulf coast for Deepwater Horizon, the USCG Reserve has been always ready.
For the better part of the past decade it was one of the most consequential questions in international affairs, with an answer that could potentially spark a war between two Middle Eastern military powers.
Just how close was Israel to attacking Iran’s nuclear program? And if Israel ever launched a preventative strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, what would such an operation actually look like?
“Cargo planes would land in Iran with Israeli commandos on board who would ‘blow the doors, and go in through the porch entrance’ of Fordow, a senior US official said,” according to Entous. “The Israelis planned to sabotage the nuclear facility from inside.”
At some point in 2011 or 2012, Israel was apparently serious enough about this plan to violate Iranian airspace in the course of its preparations: “Nerves frayed at the White House after senior officials learned Israeli aircraft had flown in and out of Iran in what some believed was a dry run for a commando raid on the site,” Entous reported.
The “dry run” could have been doubly aimed at signaling the seriousness of Israeli intentions — and Israeli military capabilities — to a US administration that was then in the process of opening backchannel nuclear negotiations with Tehran. But the US took the possibility of an Israeli strike seriously enough to alter its defense posture in the Persian Gulf in response to a possible Israeli attack, sending a second aircraft carrier to region for some unspecified period of time, the Journal reported.
Until the Iran nuclear deal was signed this past July, an Israeli strike on Iran was one of the most intriguing — and perhaps terrifying — hypothetical scenarios in global politics. Israeli officials often argued the country was capable of launching an attack that would destroy or severely disable many of Iran’s facilities. At times, Israel pointedly demonstrated its long-range strike capabilities. In October of 2012, Israeli jets destroyed an Iranian-linked weapons facility in Khartoum, Sudan, a city almost exactly as far from Israel’s borders as Iran’s primary nuclear facilities.
A September 2010 Atlantic Magazine cover story by Jeffrey Goldberg laid out what were believed to be the requirements of a successful Israeli attack on Iran’s facilities. Israel has no strategic bombers; its fighters would have to use Saudi airspace in order to make it to Iran while maintaining enough of a fuel load to return to base. Some of its planes might have had to land in Saudi Arabia to refuel, or even use a temporary desert base as a staging area. (One of the intriguing unanswered questions in the Wall Street Journal story is whether Israeli planes crossed into Saudi airspace during the alleged “dry run.”)
As Goldberg notes, it wouldn’t be enough for Israel just to destroy Iranian facilities. The Israeli mission would also have to have a ground component to collect proof of a successful strike.
The consequences of a direct hit on Iran’s facilities — something which might require the most sophisticated military operation in Israel’s history — are unknowable ahead of time. Perhaps an attack would touch off a devastating escalation cycle in which Iranian linked terrorists attacked Israeli and US assets abroad, Iran launched attacks on Saudi targets to retaliate for their perceived cooperation, and the Iranian proxy militia Hezbollah unleashed its arsenal of 200,000 rockets at Israel.
Or maybe a jittery Tehran would hold back, cutting its losses after a superior military’s direct hit on one of the regime’s most important strategic assets. After all, neither Bashar al Assad nor Saddam Hussein retaliated when Israel destroyed their nuclear reactors from the air in2007 and 1981, respectively.
But administration of president Barack Obama was worried enough about the possible outcome of a strike to make the prevention of an Israeli attack one of it major foreign policy priorities. As Entous stresses, the US withheld information from Israel on the progress of its talks with Iran out of fear that Israel might attempt to sabotage the talks or use an attack to preempt a diplomatic resolution to the Iran issue.
Whether this was a legitimate fear was perhaps less important than the fact that the tactic worked: Israel hasn’t attacked Iran yet, and the Iran Deal substantially raises the costs of a future strike for Israel. The deal signed this past July may or may not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But it effectively removes an Israeli strike against the country from the realm of possibility into the foreseeable future.
As Entous’s reporting indicates, it wasn’t that long ago that Israeli officials really were thinking seriously about an Iran strike — enough to risk sending their planes into enemy territory, and raising tensions with their top ally.
Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.
Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.
The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.
The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.
Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.
NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.
A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”
The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.
The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”
The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.
Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.
Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.
Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.
Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”
He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.
In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.
Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.
NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.
The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”
During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.
Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.
Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.
The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.
Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.
ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.
Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.
Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.
“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.
Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.
That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.
The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.
Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.
“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.
ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.
Tony Mendez meets President Carter after the success of Operation Argo (CIA).
During the Cold War, fighting had grown hot in many countries, but never ignited between the two global superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. For the intelligence agencies of East and West, however, the Cold War was a daily war, with real losses and real victories.
There were many hotspots of international espionage. These were places like West Berlin, Vienna and Washington, where Eastern Bloc agents and Western operatives had a relatively free hand in movement and recruiting. In the Soviet-dominated cities of the world, spying was an entirely different matter. Agents caught by security services risked torture and death. CIA officers risked being exposed and sent back home to a potentially ended career.
In cities like Moscow, the KGB reigned supreme and CIA officers had to bring their best game with them while working there. CIA Officer Tony Mendez (of Argo fame) wrote three memoirs about his time in the CIA, and listed 10 unwritten rules officers and agents had to follow while working in Moscow, appropriately dubbed “the Moscow Rules.”
1. Assume nothing
This is just helpful for everyone in everyday life. Everyone could use a dose of skepticism, but it’s especially important for CIA officers working one of the Cold War’s harshest posts. Mendez says it was imperative to remind yourself that nothing was ever what it seemed to be.
2. Never go against your gut
If a situation doesn’t feel right, especially for a seasoned CIA intelligence officer, it probably isn’t right. Even the best get beaten and sometimes it’s important to just walk away rather than push your luck. Getting caught could put your life and the life of an agent in the field at risk.
3. Everyone is potentially under opposition control
This goes for literally anyone, Mendez wrote in one of his memoirs. Whether it’s someone shoveling snow in the winter or an ice cream salesman in Gorky Park in the summertime. Mendez also mentions that every bartender in the Soviet-era hard-currency bars were working for the state security service, as were half of Moscow’s cab drivers.
4. Don’t look back; you are never completely alone
This means they were never alone, even in their own dwellings. The KGB had everything that was of potential intelligence value wired for the best possible audio. They were not just looking for information, they would also look for ways to blackmail suspected enemy operatives and agents.
5. Go with the flow, blend in
It was of prime importance for officers to blend in and maintain their “legend” – the cover story for the person they were supposed to be while on a two-year tour in Moscow. Any deviation or suspicious action could destroy the legend or an operation. Even something as simple as running stop signs could be interpreted as trying to break away from a surveillance team.
6. Vary your pattern and stay within your cover
Every suspected American intelligence operative was under 24/7 surveillance by a team of KGB operatives. This means that any CIA officer had to check their public behavior at all times, and sometimes even their private behavior. Any step out of line would only mean an increase in the number of people or means used to track their movements.
7. Lull them into a sense of complacency
This means staying within your cover always, never trying to break surveillance, and acting the way you’re supposed to at all times in accordance with your legend. It’s basically a reminder to follow all the rules that came before. This will give your surveillance team the reassurance that you are not an operative and they may begin to make mistakes in following your movement.
8. Don’t harass the opposition
Remember, you’re undercover, trying to lull them into complacency, not daring them to catch you doing some spycraft. Don’t give the KGB a reason to want to catch you in the act. They’re the KGB and if they want to make up a reason to expel you, they will.
9. Pick the time and place for action
Arranging any kind of meeting with an agent (if it has to be a meeting, most of the time communications were done via one-way radio or through dead drops) should be done on the case officer’s terms. The officer needs to have control over the environment for any kind of meeting or exchange. When the agent demands a meeting on their terms, see rule number two.
10. Keep your options open
The intelligence landscape in Moscow was an ever-changing environment where agents could turn and be turned at any time. It was important for officers to be open to new potential sources and never be fixated on a certain doctrine or plan.
The term “gear porn” might conjure up visions of late-night SkinaMax movie shorts, but this time we’re not talking about adult flicks after dark.
Instead, we’re talking about three new pieces of kit recently announced by their manufacturers that might just find a home in your gear locker: An adapter to attach a night vision monocular to your camera, a very interesting new multi-tool, and…
TNVC (@tnvc_inc) has re-released its SLR camera adapter for PVS-14 NVGs. This thing will allow you to place any NVG that uses the PVS-14 eyepiece assembly and retaining ring on a DSLR or SLR camera, providing a 46 mike-mike step ring for the camera lens. It will also work on Sony e-mount lenses with the proper step-up or -down from the 46mm. The three piece ring mounts and optically aligns the AN/PVS-14 monocular to the camera by clamping around the NVG’s ocular. It is secured with a threaded ring.
TNVC, a veteran-owned and -operated company, describes it as the best way to take photos through the tube. As they tell it, “It works especially well with high magnification capable lenses for running surveillance at night, or just taking photos of landscapes, animals, stars, or your neighbor.” That sounds legit to us. It damn sure beats an old school weapon mount with a camera adapter ring. It’s manufactured from machined aircraft aluminum finished in Type III anodized hard coat.
Gerber Gear Center Drive Multi-Tool
This is the Center Drive, a multi-tool built with a full-size driver on the center axis with a standard bit. It hails from Gerber Gear (@gerbergear), built in the company’s Portland facility with American steel and will be available November 2nd. Sliding jaws open with one thumb, allowing access to spring-loaded pliers or a liner-locked, full-size knife blade with reverse thumb support. The replaceable bits include a Phillip’s and flat head and 12 others. All are magnetic.
Gerber describes it as, “Not for posers, slackers, hipsters, or momma’s boys.”
The tools ship with a nylon and elastic sheath that can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.
The Center Drive’s 14 tools include the folowing:
Magnetic 1/4″ Bit Driver
Fine Edge Blade
Cats Paw Pry Bar
Rotatable Carbide Wire Cutters
Ruler (stamped into handle)
Optional Standard Bit Set
EDCCB – Every Day Carry Concealment Belt
From Tactical Jay and Silent Bob from US PALM (@uspalm) down in Phoenix comes the US PALM EDCCB (Every Day Carry Concealment Belt). Designed in collaboration with The Wilderness, the EDCCB is a low profile belt that holds your britches up and hides assorted goodies inside a lengthwise zippered compartment.
It’s built from Frequent Flyer belt Delrin, double rings and a polyethylene-insert CSM (Combat Shooters Model) to support IWB or OWB holsters. It’s available in S, M, L, and XL sizes, and in either black or ranger green colors.
The EDCCB is just one of several pieces of kit in the new US PALM deep concealment lineup. Check out their Ankle-FAKs, LowProGear Urban Havok Bags and other bits of sneaky fightin’ goodness.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth.