Articles

US commander sees major progress with Iraqi army after Mosul fight

Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.


Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.

In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.

The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.

Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.

ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.

They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.

Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.

Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.

“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.

Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.

That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.

A member of the Iraqi federal police stands guard on a street during operations to liberate and secure West Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. The breadth and diversity of partners supporting the Coalition demonstrate the global and unified nature of the endeavor to defeat ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.

Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.

“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.

ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.

Articles

This is why Russia can keep hacking the US

For decades, the US has leveraged the world’s greatest conventional and nuclear military forces to become a superpower that no country would dare attack.


But in 2017, the country finds itself under attack by nation-states in a way unseen since World War II amid a failure of one of the most important pillars of American strength: deterrence.

The US intelligence community has accused Russia of conducting cyber-attacks on US voting systems and political networks during the 2016 presidential campaign and election. Cyber-security experts also attribute a series of recent intrusions into US nuclear power plants to Russia.

While cyber-attacks do not kill humans outright in the way the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did, they degrade the faith of Americans in their political systems and infrastructure in a way that could devastate the country and that furthers the foreign-policy goals of the US’s adversaries.

Former US Army intelligence officer, Eric Rosenbach (right). Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“When Americans have lost trust in their electoral system, or their financial system, or the security of their grid, then we’re gonna be in big trouble,” Eric Rosenbach, a former US Army intelligence officer who served as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s chief of staff, said July 13 at the Defense One Tech Summit.

‘A failure of deterrence’

The US has long relied on the concept of deterrence, or discouraging nation-states from taking action against the US because of the perceived consequences, for protection.

The brazen hacks during the US presidential election and the recent cyber-attacks on Ukraine’s power grid and infrastructure for which Russia has been blamed reveal “a failure of deterrence” on the part of the US, Rosenbach said.

“Deterrence is based on perception,” Rosenbach said. “When people think they can do something to you and get away with it, they’re much more likely to do it.”

While the US conducts cyber-operations, especially offensives, as secretly as possible, mounting evidence suggests that the US has not fought back against hacks by adversarial countries as strongly as possible.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

After receiving intelligence reports that Russia had been trying to hack into US election systems to benefit Donald Trump, President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop and brought up the possibility of US retaliation.

Obama later expelled Russian diplomats from the US in response to the cyber-attack, but cyber-security experts say Russia has continued to attack vital US infrastructure.

A former senior Obama administration official told The Washington Post earlier this year that the US’s muted response to the 2016 hacking was “the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend.”

“I feel like we sort of choked,” the official said.

Photo from US Army

The Post also found that Obama administration’s belief that Hillary Clinton would win the election prompted it to respond less forcefully than it might have.

While the attacks on vital US voting systems and nuclear power plants highlight recent failures of deterrence, Russia has been sponsoring cyber-crimes against the US for years.

“The Russians, and a lot of other bad guys, think that they can get away with putting malware in our grid, manipulating our elections, and doing a lot of other bad things and get away with it,” Rosenbach said. “Because they have.”

Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

In physical war, the US deters adversaries like Russia with nuclear arms. In cyberspace, no equivalent measure exists. With the complicated nature of attributing cyber-crimes to their culprits, experts disagree on how to best deter Russia, but Rosenbach stressed that the US needed to take “bold” action.

While Rosenbach doesn’t find it likely that Russia would seek to take down the US’s grid in isolation, he pointed out that the nuclear-plant intrusions gave Russia incredible leverage over the US in a way that could flip the deterrence equation, with the US possibly fearing that its actions might anger Russia.

Russia’s malware attacks have been so successful, Rosenbach says, that the next time the US moves against Russia’s interests, fear of future attacks could “cause the US to change course.” The US losing its ability to conduct an independent foreign policy would be a grave defeat for the world’s foremost superpower.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 21st

It’s official. U.S. troops in South Korea will have their curfew lifted. The United States Forces Korea put out the memo on June 16th, and it’s now in effect on a temporary basis to try this whole “treating troops like grown-ass adults” thing out. It’ll be up until around September 17th, when they will evaluate if the troops can handle not f*cking up the one good thing they’ve gotten in years.

Every U.S. troop in Korea has been briefed on this. One single f*ck up and it’s over for everyone. They’ll be on their best Sunday Morning behavior the entire time. This may have something to do with it not being a payday weekend and everyone’s NCO will be hounding them all weekend to not even consider doing dumb sh*t.


Who am I kidding? We know there’s still going to be that one asshole who screws it all up anyway and it’ll be gone before next weekend… Here are some memes for everyone not planning to be the biggest Blue Falcon in USFK.

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

(Meme via Not CID)

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

(Meme by WATM)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Secretary tells recruiters ‘failure is not an option’

Traveling about half the time of the year as a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy heavily relies on his wife to take care of their toddler and home.

“The whole reason why I’m here is the support that my wife is able to provide,” he said Feb. 4, 2019, before a ceremony at the Pentagon to honor some of the Army’s best recruiters.

Stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, McCoy is one of two warrant officer recruiters who handle the western region from Colorado to as far as South Korea.


While he may rack up some frequent flyer miles during his travels, he also gets numerous soldiers to stay in the Army or troops in other branches to join it.

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, McCoy had 150 individuals continue their careers as warrant officers in the Army — about one-third of all warrant officers boarded during that time.

Army Secretary Mark T. Esper honored McCoy and 12 other recruiters for their efforts this past quarter.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, left, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Army Vice Chief of Staff James McConville recognize Staff Sgt. Jon McCoy during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb 4., 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

“Readiness remains the Army’s top priority. Don’t doubt that. And you can’t achieve readiness without the right people,” Esper said. “It’s our recruiters serving across the country who are finding our nation’s best and brightest to join our ranks.”

Accessions are also now a crucial priority after Esper recently directed the Army’s recruiting efforts to modernize and give recruiters the resources they need to connect with qualified applicants.

Improvements to marketing and a larger presence in 22 target U.S. cities are also underway to bring greater awareness to the opportunities found within the Army.

Before the ceremony, Esper said he spoke to the group of recruiters and listened to their challenges and how they overcame them.

“The key to success is simple,” he said they told him. “It takes passion, it takes commitment, it takes honesty and transparency. That’s what America’s youth are looking for in a recruiter. That’s what their parents, their pastors, their counselors expect of us.”

Born and raised in Guam, Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Lujan works as a recruiter in Hagatna at the same station where he chose to enlist in the Army about 15 years ago.

Lujan, an aviation operations specialist, was able to sign up 19 recruits this past quarter.

“I’m able to relate to them and let them know that there’s more out there and that the Army is a stepping stone to help you get there,” he said.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, right, speaks during an awards ceremony for recruiters at the Hall of Heroes, Pentagon, Washington D.C., Feb. 4, 2019.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

He also strives to be a positive member of his community. He often volunteers to help his daughter’s Girl Scouts troop, joins in cleanups of the coastline, and helped collect ,000 worth of items as part of relief efforts for Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit Guam in September.

“We’re just not there to recruit and bring people in,” he said. “We actually give back anytime that we can get.”

About 10,000 recruiters are spread out over 1,400 locations around the world, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of the Army Recruiting Command.

“These recruiters here stand in the trenches everyday as the face of the Army,” Muth told the audience. “Their accomplishments this past quarter is a testament to their professionalism, dedication and laser focus on the mission.”

Being a recruiter still remains a difficult task to ensure the Army fills its ranks with quality applicants.

Only 29 percent of today’s youth are able to meet the minimum requirements to join the service, Esper said, and only 4 percent of them have the propensity to serve.

On top of that, the service is up against the greatest economy in decades, he said.

“This is a challenge that we must overcome,” Esper said. “We have no other choice. Failure is not an option.”

But that task should not rest solely on the shoulders of a few, he said, adding all soldiers need to educate people on the opportunities the service offers.

“Recruiting is everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “It’s the Army’s mission, not just ours. We are all recruiters.”

Articles

This veteran artist has some inspiring words for wounded warriors


Creative endeavors can be quite helpful for wounded warriors, and Marine veteran Shane Kohfield is a prime example.

Kohfield, a former Marine infantry machine-gunner, deployed twice to Iraq and now suffers from post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. But his wounds didn’t hold him back. One day, he thought: “I am going to become a painter.”

And paint, he did. Though he has only painted for about 8 months, Kohfield has already sold a few of his works, for anywhere from $500 to $2500. “I started doing this for something to do and then I felt the raw emotion,” he told KGW-Portland.

Kohfield uses an interesting method to create his abstract paintings, first spray painting across his canvas and then using a spatula to blend the colors. His technique developed out of necessity, since his trembling hand prevented him from using a normal paint brush, according to KGW-Portland.

WATM asked Kohfield some questions about his artwork and how it has helped him cope with his injuries. Here is what he said (lightly edited for clarity):

We Are The Mighty: How did you get into art? What inspired you to start painting?

Shane Kohfield: I had just gone through a horrible divorce and at the same time I had my second TBI (back in the states, while on duty). I got into woodworking because my dad had sent me some tools for Christmas one year. My start with painting honestly came from a completely impulsive move on my part because I was driving home from school one day and this thought literally went through my head, as I say again, literally as follows “I am going to become a painter.”

I went to the arts and crafts store and bought all the supplies that I thought I needed and I went home and painted my first painting and less than a week later I sold it for nearly $2,000. Less than three weeks after starting painting, my paintings were being sold in an art gallery. I have only been painting for 8 months but what I have done since then is much cooler than that.

I am actually actively helping people with my art as well as actively helping veterans. Painting has changed my life and even though I could sell my paintings easily for thousands, I never sell a painting at a price people can’t honestly afford. Even if it means I only sell it to them at the cost of painting it.

WATM: How has art helped you cope with your injuries?

SK: Art gives me a way to express myself in ways I haven’t been able to before. I have written poetry once or twice and people have told me my poems have brought them to tears. I certainly never expected to hear that about my paintings but I have now it’s truly an amazing feeling.

I know my story is an impossible one but I have gotten enough news coverage for you to believe it’s true, and I believe all people — especially veterans — have their own version of painting. They all have this hidden talent they never knew existed but they refuse to take the chance to try something new, to expect to suck at something but give it 100 percent like you are going to be God’s gift to whatever you are about to attempt.

There are people who always have that attitude at things in life but they refuse to see what they can’t do because they fool themselves. If you can be honest and see what you can’t do, it allows you to move onto something you can do. I tried many different types of art before I found one that I was truly good at.

WATM: Would you recommend art therapy to other wounded warriors?

SK: I would not recommend art to veterans. It’s a thing with therapists: They recommend this, and they recommend that, and all of us have gone to them and they really haven’t helped us much.

What I truly recommend is to ignore what others think, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, emotionally, mentally, physically or financially — including yourself — and do what makes you happy. Find something that makes you complete, and at the end of the day, something that leaves you thinking about what you just did and not what you did in the past or what you saw in the past.

It doesn’t matter if its theater or squatting 400lbs, if its something you can take pride in again, something that gives you purpose again, and it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else then isn’t it worth pursuing regardless of what other people would think?

You don’t need art to cope. You need pride in what you currently do. You need a purpose and you need a work ethic to make it happen.

Check out more of Kohfield’s artwork below:

NOW CHECK OUT: The 32 best military movie quotes of all-time

Articles

Navy to fire electro-magnetic rail gun at sea

US Navy photo


The Navy plans to test-fire a deadly high-tech, long-range electromagnetic weapon against a floating target at sea later this year – as part of the fast-paced development of its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun.

The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.

In the upcoming test, the kinetic energy projectile will seek to hit, destroy or explode an at sea target from on-board the USNS Trenton, a Joint High Speed Vessel, service officials said.

The test shots, which will be the first of its kind for the developmental, next-generation weapon, will take place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

During the test, the rail gun will fire a series of GPS-guided hypervelocity projectiles at a barge floating on the ocean about 25 to 50 nautical miles away,

The weapon will be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon, Navy officials said.

The Navy is developing the rail gun weapon for a wide range of at-sea and possible land-based applications, service officials added.

YouTube

High-speed, long-distance electromagnetic weapons technology

The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.

The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.

The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.

The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.

U.S. Navy

Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.

A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.

Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.

The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.

While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.

Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers

Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.

The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.

The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year.

USS Zumwalt, first of three commissioned DDG-1000 Destroyers | U.S. Navy

Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.

Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.

The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.

It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.  Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.

For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Articles

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

Articles

Trump proposes budget cut from already-besieged Coast Guard

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.


Trump’s budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.

“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.

“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.

Also read: The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.

The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. That’s because, like China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40 icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.

The Polar Start icebreak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“We’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” Zukunft said.

The Coast Guard has only two icebreakers, one medium and one heavy — the latter being nearly 40 years-old.

“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers,” Zukunft said. He said that ideally, the service would need a fleet of 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers to remain competitive.

Cuts to the budget are likely to strain other parts of the Guard, such as its coastal maritime security teams, which help to the protect the president when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago, and the service’s inland fleet that maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways and in ports.

“That’s been neglected probably for a half-century,” he said of infrastructure which sees roughly $4.5 trillion in commerce pass through.

Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in a letter to President Trump that such cuts “egregiously” conflict with his stated goals to strengthen national security.

“These proposed cuts … will guarantee negative consequences,” Hunter wrote, adding that it would “create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”

The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion by taking money from non-defense areas, such as the State Department.

Since the budget has not been finalized, a spokesman for the Coast Guard declined to comment on the matter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord will celebrate the diversity and honor of its service members, including Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major, a Cambodian-born American who lived through atrocities as a child in his homeland and is now proud to call America home.

More than 1 million people reportedly died as a result of the Khmer Rogue communist regime’s Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, at the end of the Cambodian civil war. A 1984 British film, “The Killing Fields,” documented the experiences of two journalists who lived through the horrific murders of anyone connected with Cambodia’s prior government.


It was more than a film for Sar, who lost several family members to the horrific killings. He spent time in refugee camps and prisons before arriving in America as a 12-year-old refugee with his mother and siblings.

“I’m proud to be an Asian American,” Sar said. “I don’t forget my heritage — but I’m glad to be an American.”

As a child, Sar grew up in the jungles of Cambodia. He lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rogues’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Thai refugee camps and housing projects, he said.

“I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and (avoided) more than 11 million landmines,” Sar wrote in a Northwest Guardian commentary published in February 2018.

Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major.

He told of the deaths of his grandparents, father, a brother, uncles, aunts and other relatives. His remaining family members were robbed by Thai security forces.

Sar and his mother, Touch Sar, older sisters, Sopheak and Phon, and younger brothers, Ath and Ann, came to America as refugees. They arrived in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1981.

At that point, Sar had never been to school and had “zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life,” he said; however, “Coming to America was like arriving in Heaven.”

He learned English by watching television.

“I watched a lot of commercials, like for Jack in the Box and (Burger King) ‘Where’s the beef?'” he said, with a laugh.

In 1989, Sar graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Houston in 1994. Next, he graduated from the Houston Police Academy in 1995.

Although Sar had long wanted to become a police officer, he realized a stronger passion and joined the Army in August 1996.

“I followed my dream to serve my country,” he said.

After basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Sar began a 21-year military career that included multiple deployments and duty stations. He has been at JBLM since June 2017.

“I like travel; I like deployment, and I love serving my country,” he said.

Sar initially wanted to be in the Infantry, but he was told he is color blind, to which he adamantly disagrees. Testing revealed he’d make a good chaplain’s assistant, he said.

Sar became a Christian while watching a film about Jesus while in a refugee camp in Houston.

“I learned about Jesus and how he sacrificed and died for me,” Sar said.

Being a military chaplain is the perfect fit for Sar, he said.

“I can go in the field shooting and spend time helping people,” he said. “I love taking care of America’s sons and daughters.”

Sar and his wife, Lyna, have three children ranging from 9 years old to 11 months.

The couple met through his aunt in Cambodia, who lived in the same village as Lyna.

“One year later, I asked God and he gave me the go ahead,” Sar said. “We’ve been married 15 years. She is a wonderful woman.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army’s crazy new camouflage can defeat night vision, thermal

The US Army is moving forward on next-generation concealment technology to ensure that American soldiers can hide in plain sight.

Fibrotex has built an Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System that can be used to conceal soldier’s positions, vehicles, tanks and aircraft. The new “camouflage system will mask soldiers, vehicles and installations from state-of-the-art electro-optical sensors and radars,” the company said Nov. 8, 2018, in a press release sent to Business Insider.

Fibrotex has been awarded a contract to supply this advanced camouflage to conceal troops from night vision, thermal imaging, radar, and more.


Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.

(Fibrotex USA)

Soldiers, vehicles, and other relevant systems can just about disappear in snowy, desert, urban, and woodland environments, according to the camouflage-maker.

The new program aims to replace outdated camouflage that protects soldiers in the visible spectrum but not against more advanced, high-end sensors. ULCANS “provides more persistent [infrared], thermal counter-radar performance,” Fibrotex explained.

The Army has awarded Fibrotex a 10-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract valued at 0 million. Full-scale production will begin in 2019 at a manufacturing facility in McCreary County, Kentucky, where the company expects to create and secure hundreds of new jobs in the coming years.

“Today, more than ever, military forces and opposition groups are using night vision sensors and thermal devices against our troops,” Eyal Malleron, the CEO of Fibrotex USA, said in a statement.

“But, by using Fibrotex’s camouflage, concealment and deception solutions, we make them undetectable again, allowing them to continue keeping us safe.”

Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System.

(Fibrotex USA)

Enemies can’t see in, but US soldiers can see out

The result came from roughly two years of testing at the Army’s Natick Soldier Systems Center, where new technology was tested against the Army’s most advanced sensors.

Fibrotex noted that the netting is reversible, creating the possibility for two distinctly different prints for varied environments. And while outsiders can’t see through the netting, those on the inside have an excellent view of their surroundings, as can be seen in the picture above.

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Mobile Camouflage Solution.

(Fibrotex USA)

The new camouflage for troops and vehicles has reportedly been tested against the best sensors in the Army, and it beat them all.

The Mobile Camouflage Solution (MCS) takes concealment to another level, as “the MCS provides concealment while the platform is moving,” the company revealed. Business Insider inquired about the secret sauce to blend in moving vehicles with changing scenery, but Fibrotex would only say that their “technology combines special materials, a unique fabric structure and a dedicated manufacturing process.”

ULCANS and its relevant variants are based on “combat-proven technologies” designed by the Israel-based Fibrotex Technologies Ltd., the parent company for Fibrotex USA, over the past two decades. The company’s products have been specifically modified to meet the needs of the Department of Defense.

“We have more than 50 years of experience, with thousands of hours in the field and a deep understanding of conventional and asymmetric warfare. The U.S. Army tested our best camouflage solutions and the camouflage repeatedly demonstrated the ability to defeat all sensors known to be operating in the battlefield and throughout the electromagnetic spectrum,” Malleron explained.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Royal Navy updated a famous WW2 poster to warn its sailors about tweeting

The Royal Navy has revamped one of the most famous wartime propaganda slogans to warn its sailors to be careful what they tweet.


It issued an updated version of the 1943 “loose lips sink ships” poster, tweaked to refer to social media instead, and featuring the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier going down in flames.

The message was posted on Twitter Jan. 11 by the official account of HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with a reminder that “OPSEC [operational security] isn’t a dirty word!”

As the images show, the new, Royal Navy-branded poster is an homage to a well-known 1943 propaganda poster distributed by the United States Office of War Information.

(Image from Royal Navy)

Instead of the 40s-style battleship shown sinking in the original poster, the 2018 version shows the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is identifiable from the trademark “twin islands” design of its flight deck.

The message the poster is designed to convey is the same as in the ’40s, though the media are different.

In WWII, commanders were worried that people with access to military information could carelessly share it in conversation, which could eventually be picked up by hostile intelligence services and used against the U.S. military.

Also Read: 8 military acronyms that will make you cringe

Today, the concern is that sensitive information could inadvertently be posted in public by somebody on board who did not realize the significance of what they were sharing.

It’s easy to find images taken by people on board the ship on social media who tagged their location, though there’s nothing obvious in them to suggest they could risk the ship’s security.

 

Business Insider went aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in December and spoke to sailors on board, including one who talked about social media.

Able Seaman Callum Hui, the youngest member of the ship’s company, said that he uses networks like Snapchat to post photos to his friends back home — but that there are sensitive areas on board he knows not to document.

In a statement to Business Insider, the Royal Navy declined to elaborate on the specific poster campaign, but said it was part of a “robust” operational security plan.

It said: “The Royal Navy takes operational and personal security very seriously and robust measures are in place to ensure the security of the ship and the ship’s company is not compromised.”

Articles

This is the Air Force vet who forced KSM to reveal his darkest secrets

James Mitchell had a successful 22-year career in the U.S. Air Force — most notably as a top trainer at the Air Force’s survival school — before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.


And while he earned some awards and accolades for his service as a SERE leader, it was what he did as a contractor for the CIA after his retirement that truly marks his career.

See, Mitchell is the man who broke al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (often called “KSM”) and other high-ranking members of the terrorist group in the months and years after 9/11.

Photo provided by Crown Publishing

After the release of his new book about the interrogation program titled “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell sat down for an interview with Marc Theissen, a Washington Post columnist and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

During the 90-minute discussion, Mitchell both clarified details about the controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” he used and provided insights into the minds of the terrorists.

 

First, Mitchell explained the difference between interrogation and what he describes as “how do you do” visits.

“These enhanced interrogations that I was part of really only dealt with about 14 of the top folks. I didn’t have anything to do with the mid-level or low-level folks at all,” Mitchell, who’s a licensed psychologist, said. “And most of these interrogations took place over a period of time of about two weeks. KSM’s took about three weeks. And then after that, there was no enhanced interrogations for KSM — you know, none at all.”

He later added, “[O]ur goal in doing enhanced interrogations was to get them to make some movement, to be willing to engage in the questions instead of rocking and chanting and doing the other sorts of things that they had previously been doing.”

Once they broke, it was all about “cigarettes and beer,” to borrow a quote from Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis.

“We switched to social influence stuff because we know that the real way that you get the cooperation that you want is not by trying to coerce it out of them,” Mitchell said. “It’s by getting them to provide the information in a way that they don’t feel particularly pressured to do it.”

Mitchell made it clear that after the terrorists broke, the nature of his visits were more along the lines of maintenance. During one of those visits, he described how the mastermind of 9/11 revealed that he had personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

“He describes cutting his head off and dismembering him and burying him in a hole. And [we] asked him, was that difficult for you to do, thinking emotionally this had to be hard to do,” Mitchell said. “And he said, ‘Oh, no. I had sharp knives. The toughest part was getting through the neck bone’ — just like that.”

Mitchell also described KSM’s shock at George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, revealing that the terror leader thought the U.S. would treat the attack as a law enforcement problem and not go to war over it.

Photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed taken after his capture by American personnel. (Photo by DOD)

“And then he looks down and he goes, ‘How was I to know that cowboy George Bush would say he wanted us dead or alive and invade Afghanistan to get us?’ And he said it just about like that, like he was befuddled, like he couldn’t imagine it,” Mitchell said.

And Mitchell firmly denies that his EITs were torture.

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell said. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” is published by Crown Forum and is available at Amazon.com.

Articles

This Japanese pilot led the attack on Pearl Harbor then moved to the US

Mitsuo Fuchita was just shy of 40 years-old during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he took off in the observer’s deck of a Nakajima B5N2 ‘Kate’ torpedo bomber that day, he probably never imagined he would spend much of the rest of his life in the country he was set to destroy.


Commander Fuchita was in the lead plane of the first wave of bombers that hit Hawaii that day. He was the overall tactical commander in the air and led the attacks that destroyed American air power on the ground and crippled the Navy’s battleship force — a strike group of 353 aircraft from six Japanese carriers.

It was Mitsuo Fuchita who called the infamous words “Tora! Tora! Tora!” over the radio to the other Japanese planes.

He later wrote:

“Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. During the next three hours, I directly commanded the fifty level bombers as they pelted not only Pearl Harbor, but the airfields, barracks and dry docks nearby. Then I circled at a higher altitude to accurately assess the damage and report it to my superiors.”

See Also: The attack on Pearl Harbor by the numbers

Fuchita next led the Japanese bombing of Darwin, the largest enemy attack ever wrought on Australia. He then led attacks on British Ceylon — now known as Sri Lanka — where he sank five Royal Navy ships.

He was still aboard the Akagi during the Battle of Midway, perhaps the most pivotal naval battle in American History.

When Midway began, Fuchita was below decks, recovering from appendicitis. He could not fly in his condition so he assisted other officers, coming up to the bridge during the fighting. When Akagi was evacuated that afternoon, Fuchita suffered two broken ankles as the bridge, already burning, exploded.

A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

He was soon promoted to staff officer rank and spent the rest of the war on the Japanese home islands. Fuchita was even one of the inspectors who went to assess Hiroshima after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city.

When WWII ended, he left the Navy and converted to Christianity after reading a pamphlet written by Jacob DeShazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders who was captured after the raid. He was converted by the pamphlet but was astonished upon meeting DeShazer  a few years later.

He called the meeting his “day to remember,” referencing the attack on Pearl Harbor. The experience with the Doolittle Raider changed him “from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living,” Fuchita wrote after the war.

Mitsuo Fuchita with Jacob DeShazer and family after WWII ended.

After his conversion, Fuchita toured the United States and Europe as a traveling missionary, regretting the loss of life he inflicted during the war. America, the country he attacked in 1941, eventually became his permanent residence. He wrote numerous books about his wartime experiences and conversion to Christianity.

Though he spent much of the rest of his life in the U.S., Mitsuo Fuchita died in Japan in 1973.