Ukraine's special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors - We Are The Mighty
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Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

Ukraine celebrated its Independence Day from the former Soviet Union on August 24 with a military parade through central Kiev.


Not only was Defense Secretary James Mattis in attendance, along with eight other foreign defense ministers, but about 230 troops from the US and seven other NATO countries also marched alongside Ukrainian soldiers.

It was the first time US soldiers ever participated in Ukraine’s Independence Day parade.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers from the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team march alongside Ukrainian troops and other NATO allies and partners during a parade in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 24, 2017. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

“We are honored to be here marching alongside other countries showing our support in Ukraine,” 1st Sgt. Clifton Fulkerson said.

As US troops marched down the street, a wave of cheers and applause reportedly went through the crowd of Ukrainians on hand.

But not everyone was thrilled with NATO’s involvement.

“That kind of parade is not a celebration of independence, but rather a show of dependence on the US and NATO,” a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician, Vladimir Oleinik, told Russian media outlet Sputnik, which the Russian Embassy in Canada tweeted.

“In the reverse, it would be difficult to imagine Poroshenko coming to celebrate the 4th of July in Washington while Ukrainian troops marched in Washington.”

Two other Russian state owned media outlets, Russia Times and TASS, also uploaded videos headlining NATO’s involvement in the parade.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Brig. Gen. Tony Aguto, commander for the 7th Army Training Command, reviews engineering plans for the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, Near Yavoriv, Ukraine, with IPSC Commander Ukrainian army Col. Igor Slisarchuk, ISPC commander (left). Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones.

After the parade, Mattis met with Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of supplying Ukraine with defensive weapons, such as the Javelin.

“Have no doubt the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things,” Mattis told reporters while standing next to Poroshenko after they met. “We support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to international law and the international order writ large.”

“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea. And despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
KyivPost photo by Mikhail Palinchak. Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

While he acknowledged that the US just recently approved giving Kiev $175 million worth of military equipment, he stopped short of saying whether the US would supply Kiev with $50 million worth of anti-tank missile systems.

“I prefer not to answer that right now,” Mattis said, adding that the proposal is under review.

Supplying Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other defensive weapons has been a controversial proposition. Former President Obama did not support such a move, arguing that it would provoke Russia. France, Germany, and some analysts have expressed the same concerns.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division

Many Russian politicians and officials have also spoken out against the plan.

But Mattis appeared to slightly give away his own take. “Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor,” he said at the press conference, “and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening.”

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This is the Soviet soldier found alive 30 years after dying in Afghanistan

Shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Russian 101st Motorized Rifles were caught in a firefight with the Mujahideen near the city of Herat. A young soldier, 20-year-old Bakhretdin Khakimov, was wounded in the fighting, lost on the battlefield, and presumed dead.


Until recently.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Bakhretdin Khakimov in 1980 and now.

Khakimov was a draftee from Samarkand who had only been in the Red Army a short time when he was injured in Herat Province, near Shindand. Some 30 years later, a group of Soviet war veterans founded the Committee for International Soldiers, a group whose mission is to find and identify missing Soviet soldiers or their remains. Most, like Khakimov, are presumed to be dead.

The young soldier now goes by the name of Sheikh Abdullah. He was rescued from the battlefield by locals, nursed back to health and opted to stay with those that helped him survive. He later married an Afghan woman and settled down to a semi-nomadic life. His wife has since died and he does the same work as the man who rescued him.

“I was wounded in the head and collapsed. I don’t remember much about that time,” he told TOLO news.

There are an estimated 264 Soviet soldiers currently missing from the 1979-1989 Afghan War. The Committee for International Soldiers actually found 29 living servicemen, 22 of which were repatriated to the former Soviet Union. The rest stayed in Afghanistan. The CIS has also identified 15 graves of Soviet war dead, exhuming and identifying five of those.

It is estimated that the decade-long war cost the Soviet Union 15,000 lives — not to mention those of an estimated one million Afghan civilians.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Khakimov poses with an old photo of himself in the Shindand area of Herat Province.

Bakhretdin Khakimov was an ethnic Uzbek, with family roots not far from Afghanistan’s northern borders. Staying in the country was dangerous for Khakimov and those like him. The USSR would trade submachine guns to locals in exchange for “turncoats” trying to defect from the Red Army.

Russians captured by the Mujahideen did not fare so well — they could expect to be tortured to death. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Soviet soldiers were often brutally mistreated by their own officers. They would then take out their rage on the civilian population, sometimes even wiping out entire villages.

The last two battalions of Russian spetsnaz crossed the “Friendship” Bridge into neighboring Uzbekistan on Feb. 15, 1989. At that moment, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, told reporters, “There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind me.” He was wrong.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Soviet Troops Withdraw from Afghanistan into Uzbekistan, Feb. 15, 1989.

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How Russia plans to imitate US naval power with its aircraft carrier deployment to Syria

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the US should be flattered that Russia plans to deploy their only aircraft carrier, the 26 year-old Admiral Kuznetsov, off Syria’s coast for its first combat deployment.


A successful deployment of a full-blown aircraft carrier represents the kind of sophisticated military task only a first-rate world power can pull off, and that seems to be exactly what Russia hopes for.

Also read: Russia’s only aircraft carrier is a floating hell for the crew

Much like their 2015 salvo of cruise missiles fired from the Caspian sea into Syria, the event will likely serve as a commercial for Russian military exports — one of the few bright spots in Russia’s ailing economy.

The deployment will seek to present the best and brightest of Russia’s resurgent military. The Kuznetsov, which has suffered from a litany of mechanical failures and often requires tow boats, will stay tight to Syria’s shores due to the limited range of the carrier’s air wing.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in dry dock | Public Domain photo by Christopher Michel

The air wing, comprised of only 15 or so Su-33s and MiG-29s and a handful of helicopters, does not even have half of the US Nimitz class carrier’s 60 plus planes.

Furthermore, the carrier lacks plane launching catapults. Instead, the carrier relies on a ski-jump platform that limits how much fuel and ordnance the Russian jets can carry.

Even so, the Russian jets aboard will be some of the latest models in Russia’s entire inventory, according to Russian state-run media. The bombs they carry will be guided, a sharp departure from Russia’s usual indiscriminate use of “dumb” or unguided munitions which can drift unpredictably when dropped from altitude.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
An Su-33 on the deck of the Admiral Kuznetsov. | Public Domain photo by Todd Summerlin

Russian media quotes a military source as saying that with the new X-38 guided bombs, “we reinforce our aviation group and bring in completely new means of destruction to the region.”  The same report states the bombs are accurate to within a few meters, which isn’t ideal, but an improvement.

Indeed, the Kuznetsov’s entire flight deck will function as somewhat of a showroom for Russian military goods. China operates a Soviet-designed carrier, as does India. Both of those nations have purchased Russian planes in the past. A solid performance from the jets in Syria would bode well for their prospects as exports, even as India struggles to get its current crop of Russian-made jets up to grade.

“Despite its resemblance to the land-based version of the MiG-29, this is a completely different aircraft,” Russian media quotes a defense official as saying of the MiG-29K carrier-based variant.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
MiG-29K of INAS 303 prepares to catch the wire aboard the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya in 2014 | Indian Navy

“This applies to its stealth technologies, a new system of in-flight refueling, folding wings and mechanisms by which the aircraft has the ability to perform short take-offs and land at low speeds.”

But the Russian jets practice on land bases that simulate the Kuznetsov, and any US Navy pilot will tell you that landing on a bobbing airstrip sailing along at sea is an entirely different beast.

One thing Russia’s upcoming carrier deployment does have going for it will be having the world’s premier naval and carrier power, the US, at least nominally aligned with them in a recently brokered cease-fire.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congolese refugee’s work with Ohio National Guard serves as reminder of parents’ sacrifice

Each time Jacque Elama hands out a package of food, he connects with another family in need.

The interactions touch Elama, a specialist in the Ohio National Guard, on a personal level. He spent most of the first 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in his native Democrat Republic of the Congo before his family came to America. He is now 25 years old and part of a National Guard mission helping out at a food bank in Toledo.


“It was a hard endeavor to overcome,” Elama said of his childhood. “Basically, my parents tried to shape me into a person who can be encouraging to others, because they themselves didn’t have what I have right now, the technology, the cars.”

Those things are not what prompted Core and Antoinette Elama, their five children (Jacque is the oldest) and one of Jacque’s uncles to relocate to Newport News, Virginia. Jacque said they arrived in 2004; Core recalled it was in 2005. Regardless of the timeline, one fact remained clear.

The Elamas were escaping their war-torn homeland in search of a better life, searching for a home in a country in which they were stepping foot for the first time.

“Once you come, you just come,” Core Elama said. “You need the help to get yourself set and [adjusted] to the new situation. You really need help in any way, so you set yourself in the community.”

The Elamas’ move from Congo, a country of nearly 90 million people in central Africa, was fraught with challenges, not the least of which was learning a different language. Jacque Elama’s parents needed jobs; they found work in factories. They did not know how to drive and never had experienced the mundane tasks that Americans take for granted, such as going to the grocery store, paying bills and scheduling medical appointments.

The family had never owned a television — or operated an oven, for that matter. So much was new, but they were ever so grateful.

Their circumstances were much improved from the world they left behind.

“The struggles were absolutely difficult, compared to how I’m living here in the U.S.,” Jacque Elama said. “The basic necessities were hard to come by [in Congo], so we had to struggle to get food and water for the family. Mostly as a child, I personally did not experience any personal hardship, because what you’re doing is just playing around, having as much fun as you can without worrying about the outside world.

“I was pretty much enjoying my life as much as I possibly could.”

A Catholic charity organization helped the Elamas relocate to America.

Jacque Elama credited one couple in that group in particular, Keith and Jill Boadway, with being especially helpful in easing the family’s transition.

“They came to our house for Thanksgiving,” Jill Boadway said. “Jacque used to come to our house during the summer and spend a week at our home. We have a son who’s about the same age. It was a real blessing.”

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

Spc. Jacque Elama. Courtesy photo.

The Elamas became U.S. citizens in 2010 and moved to Ohio when Jacque was in high school. He joined the Ohio National Guard in 2017 and embraced the opportunity to participate in his unit’s mission as a volunteer at a food bank.

Elama packs boxes for emergency relief, veterans and senior citizens and distributes them to those same groups, said Lt. Michael Porter, the task-force leader.

For 40 hours a week, Elama sees it as a way to give back. Each box reminds him of his parents’ sacrifice.

“I think about it every day,” said Elama, a senior at Bowling Green studying international relations. “It’s a blessing and an honor to be out there and help people, because that’s what I want to do in the future. I want to continue to help others.”

This article originally appeared on Reserve + National Guard Magazine. Follow @ReserveGuardMag on Twitter.

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How the Allies defeated one of their deadliest WWII adversaries

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


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

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

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

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Admiral Karl Dönitz meets with Adolf Hitler (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

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

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

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

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

The German admiral died on Christmas Eve, 1980.

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

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

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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Russian warplanes buzz an American destroyer in the Baltic Sea

Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.


Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.

The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.

The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low altitude pass by USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.

 

The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) while the ship was operating in international waters April 12, 2016. Donald Cook is forward deployed to Rota, Spain, and is conducting routine patrols in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)

The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.

“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
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8 famous people who served on D-Day

On June 6, 1944, the Allies embarked on the crucial invasion of Normandy on the northern coast of France. Allied forces suffered major casualties, but the ensuing campaign ultimately dislodged German forces from France.


Did you know these eight famous individuals participated in the D-Day invasion?

James Doohan

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
James Doohan | Golden Pacific Media, YouTube

Actor James Doohan is beloved among Trekkies for his portrayal of chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in “Star Trek.”

Years before he donned the Starfleet uniform, Doohan joined the Royal Canadian Artillery during WWII. During the Normandy invasion, he stormed Juno Beach and took out two snipers before he was struck by six bullets from a machine gun, according to website Today I Found Out. He lost part of a finger, but the silver cigarette case in his pocket stopped a bullet from piercing his heart.

David Niven

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
David Niven | Oscars, Youtube

Academy Award-winning British thespian David Niven became a lieutenant-colonel of the British Commandos during the Second World War. In the D-Day invasion, he commanded the Phantom Signals Unit, according to the New York Post. This unit was responsible for keeping rear commanders informed on enemy positions.

After the war, he declined to speak much about his military experience.

Yogi Berra

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Yogi Berra | Getty Photos / Al Bello

Famed baseball catcher Yogi Berra helped to storm Normandy by manning a Naval support craft. The vessel fired rockets at enemy positions on Omaha Beach.

The New York Post reports that Seaman Second Class Berra manned a machine gun during the battle.

Medgar Evers

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Medgar Evers | YouTube

In 1963, activist Medgar Evers was assassinated due to his efforts to promote civil rights for African Americans. Decades earlier, Evers served in the 325th Port Company during WWII, eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. This segregated unit of black soldiers delivered supplies during the Normandy invasion, according to the NAACP.

J.D. Salinger

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
J.D. Salinger | Wikimedia Commons

“The Catcher in the Rye” author J.D. Salinger belonged to a unit that invaded Utah Beach on D-Day. According to Vanity Fair, Salinger carried several chapters of his magnum opus with him when he stormed the shores of France.

John Ford

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
John Ford | Allan Warren | Wikimedia Commons

Director John Ford, famous for Westerns like “Stagecoach” and “The Searchers,” also went ashore with the D-Day invasion.

As a commander in the US Naval Reserve, Ford led a team of US Coast Guard cameramen in filming a documentary on D-Day for the Navy.

His film on the Normandy invasion ultimately saw a very limited release to the public, due to the amount of Allied casualties. Much of the D-Day footage has since disappeared, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Henry Fonda

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Henry Fonda | National Museum of the United States Navy | Flickr

According to “WWII: The Book of Lists” by Chris Martin, American actor Henry Fonda served as a quartermaster on the destroyer USS Satterlee, which provided support to the Allies during the Normandy invasion. Years later, he played a part in the war epic “The Longest Day,” which focused on the D-Day landings.

Alec Guinness

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Alec Guinness | Lucasfilm

“Star Wars” and “Bridge Over the River Kwai” star Alec Guinness served in Great Britain’s Royal Navy during WWII, according to the History Answers blog. StarWars.com reports that the Obi Wan actor served as an officer on a landing craft and transported British soldiers to the shores of Normandy on D-Day.

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This admiral is a great barometer for what the Chinese might do next

Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong is a leader in the Chinese Navy, a professor at Beijing’s National Defense University, Chief Weapons Specialist and Strategist, and what some call “the Head of the Strategic Fool You Agency.”


Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

The last is a nickname he earned because Chinese Netizens came to realize quotes from Adm. Zhang would suddenly mean the opposite of his intent. He said the Chinese would use fishermen on wooden boats to take out the new Zumwalt-Class destroyers, as the Chinese commissioned their first aircraft carrier, when he also said the Chinese defense against U.S. submarines would be “ropes of seaweed” a threat the U.S. did not foresee. He also publicly claimed the Chinese were not developing a fifth-generation stealth jet right before the Chinese test piloted its J-20 fighter in May 2011.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
The J-20 Fighter (CCTV)

Admiral Zhang once criticized U.S. media for overestimating the threat of Chinese power. He said China could not keep pace with the U.S.if it wanted to, which it doesn’t. He acknowledges the need to increase the strength of Chinese military, but only because of “provocation” from the United States.

“American media like to make claims about how fast China’s military will surpass the United States,” Zhang told Want China Times. “What I have to say is that China is not going to catch up with the United States even if it stopped all military projects.

The admiral publicly stated China should do everything in its power to protect Iran from U.S.-Israeli aggression, “even if it means a third world war.” In response to the U.S. deploying a laser weapon on the USS Ponce, he said he believes the smog covering Chinese cities are the best defense from laser weapons.

“Under conditions where there is no smog, a laser weapon can fire [at a range of] 10km (6 miles),” he said, adding, “When there’s smog, it’s only 1km. What’s the point of making this kind of weapon?”

Zhang “retired” from the PLAN in 2015 and is now the most well-known and most senior military commentator on China’s state television.

NOW: This is China’s version of SEAL Team Six

OR: Here’s how China’s aircraft carrier stacks up to other world powers’

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

Articles

These daring defectors turned the Vietcong against itself

In 1966, the Marines in Vietnam found themselves with an unusual opportunity – to turn the tables on the enemy.


This came by way of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors who were willing to be retrained to work and fight with American combat units. In exchange, they would receive better treatment and pay than they had at the hands of the communists.

This program dubbed “Chieu Hoi” (translated as “open arms”) offered defecting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese amnesty, healthcare, money, and employment assistance. After barely surviving under communist oppression, many were more than willing to give it up.

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Kit Carson scouts were recruited from Vietcong defectors for their knowledge of the terrain and the local population. (Photo from AirborneOCS.com)

These incentives were enough to convince thousands of Viet Cong to desert and join the Americans. Due to their inherent knowledge of the terrain and the locals, the Marines called them Kit Carson scouts after the famous American frontiersman.

To the Vietnamese they were Hoi Chanh – or “one who has returned.”

To prepare for missions with American forces, communist defectors first had to pass training to become Kit Carson scouts.

For the 3rd Marine Division, an early proponent of the Kit Carson program, this training took place at Quang Tri City. Sergeant Maj. Tran Van Tranh, a communist infiltrator who defected when he saw the good life in South Vietnam, led the school there.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Recruiting leaflet for the Chieu Hoi program. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

At the school he lectured on mines, booby-traps, snipers, and ambushes. And how to detect and disarm each one.

In 1967, after seeing the effectiveness of the program with the Marines, U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered all divisions to recruit and train at least 100 scouts each.

Other schools with other divisions soon followed. In the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division the Hoi Chanhs became known as Tiger Scouts.

Despite their training and experience many Kit Carson Scouts lacked English language skills. This was overcome in the Marine Corps by training young Marines in the Vietnamese language prior to arriving in country. These Marines were then assigned as “handlers” to the scouts assigned to their unit.

The Kit Carson Scouts were able to perform numerous tasks that made them priceless to the American fighting men. They were able to talk to the local Vietnamese in their native language and could identify Viet Cong guerrillas in the villages.

Through their training and experience they became adept at spotting booby traps – often having laid some themselves – saving countless Americans from death and dismemberment.

Due to the nature of their work and being out in front of American forces the Kit Carson scouts often found themselves engaged in combat as well. Relying on their guerrilla instincts and proper military training from the Americans, they excelled.

Many were recommended for awards for their bravery.

The scouts proved their value early on. In a short period of time in late 1966 the few Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the Marines were credited with nearly 50 enemy kills and the detection of nearly 20 mines, booby-traps, or tunnels.

Another scout led Marines through unfamiliar territory, at night, allowing them to surprise and capture a 15-man contingent of Viet Cong.

In another instance, a scout on patrol with Recon Marines fought savagely when the unit was ambushed. His suppressive fire in the face of overwhelming odds drove the enemy back. He then located a suitable landing zone for extraction and single-handedly carried two wounded Marines there. It was only after he fell, exhausted, while working to clear the landing zone that the Marines realized he had been shot three times but had never stopped.

The usefulness of the Kit Carson Scouts did not stop on the battlefield though.

They were equally as valuable in civil affairs and psychological operations due to their understanding of the local population and the enemy. Most importantly, they could help recruit more Viet Cong to rally to the government’s cause.

In total, over 83,000 Viet Cong were convinced to defect to South Vietnam, though only a small number would become Kit Carson Scouts.

In a paper detailing his experiences as the Officer in Charge of Kit Carson Scouts for the 3rd Marine Division Capt. William Cowan explained “the methods of effective Scout employment are restricted only by the imagination…success varies proportionally with the unit’s attitude and methods of employment.”

He gives the example of a Kit Carson Scout, Nguyen Thuong, who worked with 2nd Battalion 9th Marines. This particular scout could do it all.

In one instance Thuong discovered a well-concealed trap but because of his experience he suspected an enemy observation post in the area. His keen instinct was correct and the Marines were able to sweep through and destroy it.

In a later mission, Thuong braved enemy mortars to determine their firing position and called out the coordinates, in English, to the Marines who were able to call for fire and silence the position.

Thuong also made broadcasts for the Marines psychological operations efforts and acted as a clandestine agent in the villages around the Cam Lo artillery base. His intelligence gathering was far superior to anything the Marines could hope to accomplish on their own.

The service of men like Thuong proved invaluable to the overall war effort. By wars end over 200 Kit Carson Scouts had been killed in action out of less than 3,000 who served with the Americans.

MIGHTY TRENDING

All hell broke loose after a Russian pilot died in Syria

Syrian rebels shot down a Russian jet on Feb. 3 and then killed the pilot on the ground, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, triggering a furious barrage of dozens of airstrikes that observers say hit hospitals and killed civilians.


Adding to a chaotic weekend in the country, Turkish forces poured into Syria on Feb. 4 to fight U.S.-backed Kurdish militias there, suffering their heaviest day of losses so far with a tank being destroyed and troops coming under attack.

Now in Idlib — a stronghold of rebel forces considered terrorists by Russia and Syria — reports of yet another episode of chlorine gas attacks have surfaced. Children are said to be among the victims.

In neighboring Afrin, Turkey targeted Kurdish forces that the U.S. had worked with to counter the Islamic State terrorist group.

Also Read: Mattis wants to punish Syria for using chemical weapons

Caught in the crossfire are civilians, who are likely to pay the price of a furious Russia, which looks to have picked up its bombing runs to levels unseen since the fall of 2016.

Babies on stretchers, hospitals on fire

On the morning of Feb. 5, social media was replete with horrific footage believed to be taken from the ground in Syria.

The White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose members regularly pull civilians out of the rubble from bombings, posted pictures of babies in stretchers being taken from a burning hospital.

Several videos show men being treated for attacks apparently from chemical weapons, which Syria and Russia have vigorously denied using.

Russia vowed to find out who shot down its plane and where they got the weapon, which is said to be a man-portable air-defense, or Manpad, missile. Russian lawmakers went as far as saying they had information that “Western countries” had provided the system.

Other Russian officials threatened to punish countries that may have provided the weapons to the Syrians who shot down their jet, a Su-25 attack plane.

Throughout the first six years of Syria’s bloody civil war, the U.S. considered providing Manpads to Syrian rebels as a means of defending themselves against Syria’s air force, which has been accused of bombing and gassing civilians.

But as the war progressed and more and more hardline Islamist elements became entwined with the more moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. publicly declined to provide the rebels with such weapons, which can also be used to take out commercial aircraft. Over the weekend, the Pentagon denied providing Manpads to Syrian rebels.

A new phase in the Syrian war?

But now Manpads are believed to have made their mark in Syria, possibly provided by powers that wish to erode Syria’s or Russia’s airpower or possibly plundered from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces themselves.

A soldier from the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that Turkey backs, was seen on video with a Russian-made Manpad in late January. In response to the highlighted threat from Manpads, Russia has ordered its jets to fly higher to avoid ground fire.

Also Read: The ‘Hell Cannon’ is the Free Syrian Army’s homemade howitzer

On top of the brewing conflict over the fate of the Kurds in Afrin, the U.S. has increasingly been discussing unverified reports of chemical-weapons attacks in Syria.

U.S. policy on the matter has dictated that if Syria uses chemical weapons on its own people, the U.S. will retaliate with force, as it did in April. So far, the Trump administration hasn’t shied away from implicating Russia in its prosecution of chemical-weapons violators in Syria. But any response now would come with Russia on edge and violence escalating between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi Arabia might be killing off suspected assassins

Mashal Saad al-Bostani of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, who was named by pro-government Turkish media as one of 15 suspects in the alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, has reportedly died in a car accident on return to the kingdom.

An article titled “Riyadh Silenced Someone” on Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper that strongly supports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cited anonymous sources as saying Bostani died in a car crash, without giving a specific time or location.

Yeni Safak has proven a major voice in coverage of Khashoggi’s disappearance, with daily scoops from unnamed Turkish officials giving gory details to what they allege was a murder within the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018.


Saudi Arabia flatly denies any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts or disappearance, but US intelligence officials have started to echo the view that the prominent Saudi critic, who recently took residence in the US, was murdered.

In particular, Yeni Safak has reported having a audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder, but Turkish intelligence has not turned over the tape to the US. The US and Turkey are NATO allies with extensive intelligence-sharing agreements.

“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said of the tape on Oct. 17, 2018. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”

Turkey has also become possibly the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with few independent voices left in its media scene.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

(CCTV)

“Let’s be honest,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Business Insider on Oct. 17, 2018, “the Turks have leaked some pretty serious allegations through the press that they have not been willing to make public. There are not a lot of clean hands.”

“We should acknowledge that most of what we know is through leaks from the Turkish government,” he continued. “At some point the Turks have to give us exactly what they have instead of leaking all of this to the press.”

The Daily Beast on Oct. 16, 2018, cited “sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington” as saying Saudi Arabia would try to pin the murder of Khashoggi on “a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”

This holds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “rogue killers” took out Khashoggi, and not the Saudi monarchy itself.

CNN and The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2018, also reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing an alibi that would acknowledge Khashoggi was killed.

But to date, no Saudi alibi has emerged. After a trip to Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State said that the Saudis didn’t want to discuss the facts of the case, but that they would conduct an investigation and hold any guilty parties accountable.

Saudi Arabia is known for its exceptionally high rate of car accidents and fatalities.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is creating a new military ‘megabase’ in South Korea

As Pyongyang continues to erode mountains with weapon tests and exchange fiery rhetoric with President Trump, the U.S. Army has been hard at work prepping for the possibility of open conflict by creating a strategic megabase.


3,500 acres of space, housing for 36,000 inhabitants, and $11 billion worth of recent renovations: Welcome to Camp Humphreys. In addition to an airstrip, communication facilities, and barracks, the base, about 40 miles south of Seoul, houses shops, schools, churches — and even a golf course.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
A ribbon cutting ceremony is underway at U.S. Army Garrison at Camp Humphreys where a new post exchange is opening up, Nov. 20, 2017. (Photo by USAG Humphreys Public Affairs)

Nice amenities aside, you might be wondering why, with an existing 174 bases in South Korea, the U.S. Army needed such a powerhouse. The answer is two-fold:

1. Consolidating Forces

Camp Humphreys is located just a few miles both from Osan Air Base and Pyeongtaek harbor. Whether forces and assets are coming in via air or sea, they’re just a short jaunt from this megabase, making it an ideal waystation for troops funneling into the peninsula and moving toward the front.

Expanding Camp Humphreys is also a way for the US to consolidate forces in the country. Just a little over a decade ago, forces were spread across over 170 bases in South Korea. With a bolstered Camp Humphreys, the U.S. is on track to reach their goal of dividing forces among under 100 bases by 2020. Plus, if conflict does open up, the U.S. will have a single, central meeting place for quick communications and decision-making.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, guide the unloading of M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks from Korean railcars July 13, 2016 on US Army Garrison Humphreys. (Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Dennis)

2. Moving the Battlefield

Previously, the U.S. Army garrison at Yongsan in Seoul was seeing heavy use. While it’s good to maintain a force in South Korea’s capital, it’s probably not a good idea to keep your primary base within range of Northern artillery lined up along the border.

Additionally, the North has threatened (as they love to do) to attack key military installations — going as far as to honor Camp Humphreys with the distinction of target #1. Moving the North’s bullseye south, away from civilian-dense Seoul, just makes good sense for the unlikely event that Kim Jong-un makes good on a threat.

Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test. (DoD photo courtesy of Missile Defense Agency)

Although it’s out of artillery range, as a prime strategic target, Camp Humphreys needs to be protected from North Korean ballistics. To this end, the base is protected by Patriot Air-Defense missiles installed at Osan Air Base and THAAD missiles further to the south.

Of course, the best outcome in Korea doesn’t involve open conflict. However, nobody prepares for the best and an expanded Camp Humphreys has been ramped up to deal with the worst if it comes.

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