A US air attack in Northern Syria appears to have killed a very senior member of al-Qaeda along with other terrorists on Sunday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters.
The strike targeted a senior operational al-Qaeda meeting in Northwest Syria and resulted in several enemy kills, he added.
“We assess that al-Qaida’s senior leader, Abu Firas al-Suri, was in that meeting, and we are working to confirm his death. Al-suri is a Syrian national and legacy al-Qaeda member. He fought in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s and worked with Osama Bin Laden – another founding al Qadea members to train terrorist and conduct attacks globally,” Cook said.
Cook added that no additional details of the attack would be available.
Senior Member of al Qaeda Killed in Somalia
The Defense Department has also confirmed that al-Shabab senior leader Hassan Ali Dhoore was killed in a March 31 U.S. military airstrike in Somalia. As one of the top leaders of al-Qaida’s Somalian affiliate, Dhoore was a member of al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence wing and was heavily involved in high-profile attack planning in Mogadishu, Cook said in a Pentagon statement.
“He has planned and overseen attacks resulting in the death of at least three U.S. citizens,” Cook explained.
Johnie Webb’s corner office is full of memories from a grim but fulfilling mission.
As the Army veteran leans over his desk — strewn with gifts given to him over the course of a 40-year career — he grabs a wooden box and pulls out a modest bracelet. Engraved on stainless steel reads the name of a staff sergeant killed in the Vietnam War.
When he begins to share the story of how he received it, his light blue eyes well up with tears.
“I keep it on my desk, because this is what we’re all about,” said Webb, deputy of outreach and communications for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
Since 1975, Webb has traveled dozens of times to former combat zones as a Soldier and later as a civilian for the joint agency or one of its predecessors. The agency is responsible for locating the remains of the more than 82,000 Americans who are still missing from past conflicts.
While much of his time had been in search of those fallen service members, Webb, 72, is now an advocate for their families who continue to wait for updates.
“I’m not going to say closure, because I’m not sure if there ever is closure when you lose a loved one. But at least [we can] provide them answers and give that loved one back,” he said. “That’s extremely important and I’m honored to play a small part.”
Early in his Army career, Webb, a retired lieutenant colonel, led convoys as a logistics officer all over Vietnam to ensure bases had fuel for operations during the war.
Under the constant threat of roadside bombs and ambushes, he briefed his Soldiers to move their vehicle out of the road if it were ever hit so other vehicles could escape.
“If you block the road, then we’re all done,” he recalled saying.
During one of those missions, a Soldier did just that after a rocket-propelled grenade struck the cab of his 5-ton vehicle and left him with severe burns.
His sacrifice was something Webb never forgot.
“Unfortunately, he didn’t survive,” he said. “But he probably saved the rest of us by doing what we were trained to do and that was to get his truck off the road.”
A few years after his tour, the Army assigned Webb to the Central Identification Laboratory-Thailand, which was later moved to Hawaii and consolidated into DPAA.
The role of the new unit was to find the remains of Americans from the Vietnam War.
At first, he was confused, he said, since he knew nothing about the organization or its mission. In the Army’s eyes, though, he was qualified for the job because as a young lieutenant he once took a course on graves registration.
It would eventually come full circle for Webb in 1985, when he was chosen to lead the first recovery team into Vietnam only a decade after the end of the war.
“It became very personal for me,” he said, regarding the sacrifices made by fallen comrades. “We couldn’t let them be forgotten.”
Being back in Vietnam was initially “unnerving,” he said. After all, he had once fought an enemy there and it was uncertain how his team would be treated.
The mission was to search for human remains from a B-52 bomber crash site near Hanoi. But the team’s visit to Vietnam was also an opportunity to rebuild the diplomatic relationship between the former warring nations.
The Vietnamese still distrusted Americans then, he said, and even photographed his team with cameras that were crudely hidden in briefcases.
Now, more than 30 years after that first mission, Vietnamese officials work closely with the DPAA teams that rotate in and out of the country each year. The agency is even permitted to permanently base one of its detachments in Hanoi to support teams as they search for roughly 1,600 Americans missing from that war.
“We were there before we had diplomatic relations. We were there before an embassy was ever established,” Webb said. “A lot of groundbreaking effort went into getting us to where we are today.”
While the agency’s mission started with the work to account for those lost in Vietnam, it grew to include sites from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and other conflicts.
Webb was again behind another pioneering effort, but this time in North Korea. He and others took several trips to the country and helped negotiate with the North Koreans so teams could conduct missions at former battle sites from 1996 to 2005.
They even traveled from the capital, Pyongyang, to the Chosin Reservoir, where a decisive battle had taken place in the winter of 1950. As they were driven through the country, Webb recalled seeing how desperate the North Koreans had lived.
“It was very interesting times,” he said, “but it made sure you were really appreciative of being an American.”
As U.S. and North Korean governments currently aim to thaw relations between each other, Webb hopes it will lead the reclusive country to reopen its borders to the agency’s teams.
About 7,700 Americans are still unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
“If we want to get answers to the families, and we definitely want to get them answers, we’re going to have to get access back into North Korea,” he said.
With the days of digging at excavation sites now behind him, Webb maintains a pivotal role in keeping families, distinguished visitors and veterans service organizations apprised of agency efforts.
“I couldn’t say enough good things about Johnie Webb and the fact that he is literally one of the staunchest contributors to this mission,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
McKeague, a former Air Force major general, credits Webb’s “Texas roots” for his compassion and calm demeanor. There is no better person, McKeague said, to speak with families struggling with loss.
“Johnie has a sense about him to be able to communicate with them, to be empathetic to them, and to literally not just be their friend but be their confidant,” he said. “They have so much confidence in him.”
Whether in a foreign country or back at the headquarters in Hawaii, Webb said the younger troops at the agency have always impressed him.
“Most of them weren’t even born when the guy who they are trying to recover was lost,” he said. “Still, they feel that kinship to that military buddy who wore the uniform for them.”
The “grunt work” these troops — many of whom are Soldiers — do at an excavation site can take months to years to find remains, if there are any. Once recovered, it can take even longer to identify them by lab staff.
While the long process sometimes leaves families irritated, the agency wants to ensure human remains are properly excavated and identified.
“Not only is it frustrating to the families, it gets frustrating for us as well because we want to provide those answers,” Webb said. “We want to return that loved one, but we want to do it right.”
When the answers do come, some family members do not want to believe them.
Inside a wooden box on his desk, the engraved bracelet reminds Webb of one such family member.
The father of the staff sergeant whose name is on the bracelet often spoke to Webb about his missing son before he was found. He had hoped his son was still alive and pleaded to Webb to bring him back.
A team then discovered remains from a site of a crashed helicopter, which the staff sergeant was on. Shortly after, Webb advised the father to prepare to receive his son’s remains so he could honor his life.
“It was clear that he was not wanting to hear that,” Webb remembered.
Webb asked other families who knew the grief-stricken father and had also lost loved ones to talk to him so he could come to terms with the news. He finally did.
When his son’s remains were returned to the family, there was a huge outpouring of public support. The funeral had full military honors and even dignitaries showed up to it.
“It was a day of celebration for this young man to come back home,” Webb said. “I was happy that he had honored his son the way he should have been honored.”
A few weeks later, a brown envelope addressed to Johnie Webb came in the mail. In it, there was a “thank you” note along with the bracelet, which the father always wore.
“I’m giving to you the POW bracelet that I have worn since my son was lost,” Webb said, recalling what the father wrote. “I finally took it off when he came back home. I want you to have it as a token of my appreciation.”
When Europe went to war in 1939, America knew it was only a matter of time before it was dragged into another global conflict. To prepare, the country recruited and drafted hundreds of thousands of men in 1940 and held a series of exercises the next year that helped define how the U.S. would fight the Axis over the next six years.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Regular Army consisted of 190,000 poorly equipped soldiers and 200,000 National Guardsmen who had it even worse. That was simply not enough men to fight the war. So Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall and President Franklin D. Roosevelt recruited and drafted their way to a 1941 active force of 1.4 million soldiers.
To prepare to face the Nazis abroad, the Army’s top trainer, Lt. Gen. Lesley J. McNair, ordered a modern workup plan.
After learning individual and small unit skills, large units were sent to “General Headquarters Maneuvers” in Louisiana and the Carolinas.
It’s in Louisiana that the Army tested new combined arms doctrines established in 1940 and 1941. About 472,000 soldiers participated in the Louisiana training exercises across thousands of square miles of maneuver space.
But many of the Army’s new fighting methods weren’t going to work against the Axis powers, with the Army Air Force retaining control of its planes in Air Support Commands that often ignored requests by ground commanders, for example.
Tanks were also controlled by infantry and cavalry units who often squandered the advantage that the modern machines gave them. Instead of using the tanks to conduct vicious thrusts against enemy formations like Germany had famously done in Poland and France, American commanders used tanks as spearheads for infantry and cavalry assaults.
But while the exercises exposed a lot of what was wrong with Army strategy mere months before Pearl Harbor, it also gave careful and attentive leaders a chance to fix problems with new doctrine and strategies.
First, tank warfare advocates met secretly in a Louisiana high school basement on the final day of the maneuvers in that state. Then-Col. George S. Patton spoke with general officers and tank commanders who agreed on a plan for creating a new Army branch dedicated to developing modern armored strategies.
A member of the group, Brig. Gen. Frank Andrews, took the recommendation to Marshall who agreed and created the brand new “Armored” branch. The infantry and cavalry were ordered to release their tanks to this new branch.
In Africa and Europe, these armored units would prove key to victory on many battlefields. Patton put his tank units at the front of the Third Army for much of the march to Berlin.
The cavalry lost much more than just its tanks. It was in the 1941 maneuvers that Army leaders ordered the end of horse units in the cavalry and ordered them to turn in their animals and move into mechanized units instead.
The air units also went through changes, though markedly fewer than ground commanders asked for. Ground units desperately wanted dive bombers that could conduct operations in close proximity to their own forces, breaking up enemy armor and infantry formations like the Luftwaffe did for Germany.
The Army Air Forces did respond to these requests, finally buying new dive bombers developed by the Navy and practicing how to accurately target ground units. But the AAF still focused on strategic bombing and air interdiction to the detriment of the close air support mission which was a distant third priority.
But the greatest lessons learned in the maneuvers may not have been about doctrine and strategy. Marshall and McNair kept a sharp eye out during the war games for top performers in the officer corps who could be promoted to positions of greater leadership.
A number of young officers were slated for promotions and new commands. Colonels Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower were scheduled for promotion to brigadier general. Lieutenant Col. Omar Bradley held the temporary rank of brigadier general during the maneuvers and proved his worth in the exercise, allowing him to keep his temporary star. He would hold the temporary rank until Sep. 1943 when it was made permanent.
While the 1941 maneuvers were imperfect and the Army still had many tough lessons to learn in World War II, the identification of top talent and outdated or bad strategies allowed the force to prepare for global conflict without risking thousands of lives, reducing the cost they would pay in blood after war was declared at the end of the year.
The Army wrote a comprehensive history of the Maneuvers which was updated and re-released in 1992. The U.S. Army GHQ Maneuvers of 1941 is available here.
Call of Duty is one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises in the world. Starting with World War II scenarios, this video game franchise has honored those who fought for freedom and against evil-doers for over a decade.
What you may not have known is that there is also a Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to support non-profits that are effective at helping the real-life heroes who have served make the transition from military life to civilian life. Yesterday, that endowment gave three such charities its Seal of Distinction, and announced plans to expand its recognition to charities in the United Kingdom.
The first charity recognized by the Endowment was Goodwill Southern California. In 2016, they placed 752 veterans in civilian jobs at a cost of $1,022 per placement, while still providing job placement, work experience, education, and training.
Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region was also honored by the Endowment for their Military and Veteran Services team’s ability to place 208 veterans into jobs at a cost of $1,076 per placement. This charity provides “individualized, holistic plans to help each participant succeed with the goal of achieving career placement, retention, and long-term financial education and stability.”
The third charity honored was Houston-based NextOp, Inc. Since its founding in March 2015, it has placed over 1,000 vets at a cost of $1,599 per placement. This charity specializes in placing “middle-enlisted military leaders” into industrial careers in the Houston region.
The charities supported by the Call of Duty Endowment have a strong record of delivering results. According to the endowment’s web site, the average cost per placement is less than $619, while the federal government spends almost $3,100. The average salary for the vets placed by charities supported by the endowment is $57,000, compared to just over $30,000 for those placed via government programs. The endowment has placed over 37,000 veterans into jobs since 2009.
It never fails. You sit down to watch a “Three Musketeers” movie or TV show and you’re quickly introduced to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis…and also D’Artagnan.
Not one of the movies ever takes the time to explain why the Three Musketeers blatantly features four musketeers.
But first, a little about the French Musketeers: Musketeers were actually a common European military unit, known for carrying, well, muskets. In France, they were a little more serious than that. Their full name was “Musketeers of the Guard” and the unit was created by King Louis XIII when he purchased muskets for a unit of light cavalry.
And of course, swords.
The Musketeers became the Royal bodyguard but also fought in France’s wars. they were like the Secret Service, if the Secret Service had a special operations unit that worked in frontline combat.
Back to the four musketeers.
French author Alexandre Dumas’ epic takes place in the 1620s and follows a young man named D’Artagnan who has just left his home to go to Paris and join the Musketeers of the Guard. The young man meets and befriends “The Inseparables,” a trio of Musketeers named Athos, Porthos, and Aramis.
The barracks party with these three must have been off le chaîne.
D’Artagnan does not actually become a Musketeer of the Guard until two-thirds through the book. Since the story is from D’Artagnan’s point of view and he’s not yet a Musketeer, it would be a very early version of stolen valor on the young man’s part to call himself one.
If you read the book or watch the movie and just can’t get enough D’Artagnan, I have good news for you. The character was based on a real person, Charles de Batz-Castelmore d’Artagnan.
Dumas continues his adventures in “The Vicomte de Bragelonne: Ten Years Later” and “Twenty Years After.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.
Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.
The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.
The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.
According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.
“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”
Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.
Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.
According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.
Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.
Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.
The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.
Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.
Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.
The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.
Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.
One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.
One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”
Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.
That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:
Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.
Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.
These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.
Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”
The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.
So where does that leave the residents?
Right where they were, for now.
The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.
In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.
The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.
“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.
When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”
Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”
And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”
Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.
In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.
Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:
“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”
Update: Pvt. Erika Lopez turned herself in to Army authorities Feb. 4 after reports of her desertion went viral. The Army will now decide whether to charge her with a crime, administratively separate her from the service, or allow her to continue training. The original post on Lopez’s disappearance is below:
According to reports from Tennessee news channels, the first woman to enlist as a combat engineer from that state has gone absent without leave and has been gone for over 30 days, meaning she is now technically a deserter.
The Army has been unable to locate Lopez despite numerous attempts. It’s one of the few situations where the most desirable scenario is that a soldier deserted, since the alternative is that something has happened to her.
While there have been reports listing Lopez as the Army’s first female combat engineer, that title actually goes to Vermont National Guard Spc. Skylar Anderson who graduated the combat engineer course in December and continues to serve in Vermont. Lopez was actually the fourth woman to enlist as a combat engineer.
Similarly, Lopez has been described as the first woman to become a combat arms soldier. The term “combat arms” was rescinded in 2008 with an updated version of Army Field Manual 3-0, but the first female combat arms soldiers were those who enlisted into air defense MOSs in the early 1990s.* Combat engineers were a combat arms MOS when that term was in use.
*Updated Feb. 5, 2016: This paragraph originally stated that combat engineer was not technically a combat arms specialty. When “combat arms” was a doctrinal term, Army Engineering was a combat arms branch.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Airmen from the 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work together to remove the panel on the right horizontal stabilizer of an EC-130H Compass Call at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 30, 2016. The 755th AMXS plans and executes all equipment maintenance actions for 14 EC-130Hs.
The Shockwave Jet Truck fires up its 12,000 horsepower jet engine on the flightline during the Thunder Over Georgia Air Show on Robins Air Force Base, Ga., Oct. 1, 2016.
An F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., sits on the ramp at Rickenbacker International Airport, Ohio, Oct. 7, 2016. The aircraft sheltered at the airport during Hurricane Matthew.
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, maneuver their M1A2 Abrams tank to avoid indirect fire during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 7, 2016.
A 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment-Blackhorse Soldier provides suppressing fire with a M249 machine gun against 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers attending training at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin, Calif., Oct. 4, 2016.
SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 8, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, perform an Echelon Parade at Fleet Week San Francisco Air Show. The Blue Angels are scheduled to perform 56 demonstrations at 29 locations across the U.S. in 2016, which is the team’s 70th anniversary year.
SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 8, 2016) U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class David Coburn stands by as Landing Craft, Utility 1634, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, embarks the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20) during Philippine Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX). PHIBLEX 33 is an annual U.S.-Philippine bilateral exercise that combines amphibious landing and live-fire training with humanitarian civic assistance efforts to strengthen interoperability and working relationships.
Marines remove a tree from main road aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, Oct. 8. Marines and sailors with MCAS Beaufort worked to return the air station and Laurel Bay to normal operations. They removed debris and cleaned up main access roads to establish infrastructure after Hurricane Matthew.
A U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One engages targets during an urban close air support exercise at Yodaville, Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 30, 2016. The urban close air support exercise was part of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course (WTI) 1-17, a seven-week training event, hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.
Coast Guard crew members from Air Station Clearwater, Florida, prepare an HC-130 Hercules airplane Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, for an overflight. The crew flew to areas north of Daytona, Florida, for an assessment of Hurricane Matthew’s damage and Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander Coast Guard Atlantic Area, held a press briefing when they landed.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Luis Martinez points to a training mannequin in the water Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, during a man overboard training exercise in Jacksonville, Florida. Martinez is one of several Coast Guard reservists from units throughout the 7th Coast Guard district attending a weeklong 45-foot Response Boat—Medium school at Coast Guard Station Mayport, Florida, to help sharpen their boat crewmember skills.
After Syrian forces fired missiles at Israeli jets returning from airstrikes in the country’s ISIS-held eastern side, Syria reportedly issued a stern warning to Israel through their Russian allies — more airstrikes will be met by Scud missile fire in return.
“Despite a 6-year war Syria is not weak and knows how to defend itself,” a Saturday-evening post in Lebanon’s Al-Diyar newspaper said, according to The Jerusalem Post.
At the time of the most recent airstrikes, Syria described them as an act of aggression that helped ISIS.
But Syria’s several-generations-old Scud missiles don’t pose a real military threat to Israel, which employs some of the best missile defenses in the world.
Israel has infrequently carried out airstrikes in Syria, where Iranian-aligned and anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah operate.
“When we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Israel’s incursions into Syria, according to Russian state-run media.
Be careful how you dial the newly minted Tricare East’s 800 number, or you could unintentionally end up on what appears to be a phone sex hotline.
That’s a lesson one Tricare East user learned the, er, hard way Jan. 24, when she misdialed the Tricare East contractor by one digit. Instead of dialing Humana’s number 1-800-444-5445, she dialed 1-800-444-5455.
“Hey there hot stuff,” a sultry female voice greets callers. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Are you ready for some tantalizing fun?”
It gets, uh, hotter from there. But for a $7.99 access fee plus $4.99 a minute, with a surcharge of $8.99 for “certain selections,” you hear even more than we did.
To be sure, the greeting is more entertaining than the one on Humana’s Tricare East number.
“Welcome to Humana Tricare East,” it states. “Medical emergencies should hang up and dial 911.”
Tricare East and its new 800 number rolled out Jan. 1 as the system shifted from a three contractor, three region system — Tricare North, South, and West — to the two contractor, two region system of Tricare East and West. Tricare East is managed by Humana, while Tricare West is managed by Health Net Federal Services.
We stopped our unofficial investigation into the incorrect number short of entering our corporate credit card information — we didn’t think the bean counters would understand such research. But we’re not worried about the number showing up on the phone bill. After all, the recording promises that the whole thing is “discreetly billed.”
Neither Humana nor Tricare officials responded by deadline for requests for comment. But what is there to really say about this, anyway?
For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.
In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.
But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.
Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.
• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.
• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.
• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.
Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.
• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.
• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.
• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.
• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.
• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.
Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.
• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.
• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.
• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.
• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.
• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.
• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.
• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.
Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)
• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.
• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.
• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.
• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.
• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.
Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.
(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)
• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.
Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.
(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)
• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.
• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.
• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.
The US Navy’s destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land-attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out-ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian systems.
China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.
Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.
The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out-range and beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.
Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, US Naval Institute News reports.
“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile,” Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, USNI News reported at the time. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”
With missiles out-ranging China and Russia’s fleets many times over, the US could engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access and area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and the Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.
While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don’t expect their ship-based missile defenses to hold a candle to the US’s Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.
But also don’t expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.
“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News.
USNI News estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.
Russian special forces staged a mock invasion of an island in the Gulf of Finland just days before President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital.
The Russian forces parachuted onto the island of Gogland, which is part of Russia but located roughly 70 miles from Helsinki, from a Mi-8AMTSH helicopter at an altitude of 2,500 meters. The soldiers used satellite equipment to steer themselves to the landing site, according to a July 10, 2018 press release from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Once on the ground, the Russian forces camouflaged their parachutes and headed into the interior of the island to destroy a series of mock communications stations, radars, and ASM batteries, Defense One reports.
The island is equipped with a helipad, but after destroying the targets the soldiers prepared a landing site for the helicopter for their escape.
The soldiers who participated in the mock invasion had “not less than a hundred jumps with parachutes of various types,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry statement.
This exercise comes amid increasing concern from many European countries about Russian agression in the region in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Meanwhile, as Trump prepares to meet with Putin, some NATO member states seem to be concerned he’s too soft on the Russian leader and doesn’t fully value the historic alliance.
Trump was widely criticized for his rhetoric and demeanor at the summit. Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, accused the president of “diplomatic malpractice” and expressed concern over Trump’s disposition toward Putin.
“You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO,” Burns said on July 11, 2018. “I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends, and he’s misrepresenting the facts.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.