The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers from the 193rd Infantry Brigade and Airmen from the 26th Special Tactics Squadron land after a parachute jump as a part of Emerald Warrior.
An MC-130J Commando II from the 9th Special Operations Squadron taxis for departure from the Red Horse Landing Zone in support of Emerald Warrior.
An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 performs ground turns aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3).
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) tip their caps to the crew of the MilitarySealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) following a weapons onload.
Philippine Marines train with U.S. Marines attached to the III Marine Expeditionary Force/Marine Corps Installations Pacific during a fast-rope exercise.
A Marine scout sniper candidate with Scout Sniper Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment looks through the scope of his rifle during a stalking exercise in the vicinity of SR-10 aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Admiral James Stavridis, a former leader of the US Southern Command and once the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, has shared some of his favorite books in an interview with Marcia Desanctis from The Millions.
Stavridis, who is now the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, is a voracious reader with broad literary tastes. For a person who was once one of the most important figures in the world’s most powerful military, books serve as a crucial way to make sense of a complicated world.
“Reading is integral to my life … And I think, in the end, we solve global problems not by launching missiles, it’s by launching ideas,” Stavridis told The Millions.
Here are some of Stavridis’ favorite books, along with his favorite naval movie.
“My Life In France” is a memoir documenting Child’s move to France with her new husband, Paul. The book follows the culinary icon’s growing career as a chef and author, and captures all of her successes and failures.
The book left Stavridis in tears.
“This is an incredibly quirky, wonderful book about discovering yourself and discovering your life,” Stavridis said. “The voice in the book is so authentic and so beautiful, so wonderfully rendered.”
“The Circle” is a disconcerting look at the future of online privacy. Imagining a world in which transparency is valued more than privacy, Eggers evokes a world that may not be too far off in the future.
“In the largest sense, by one of our most creative contemporary writers, David Eggers, it is a story about what we hold to ourselves, what is privacy, and what transparency can provide but take away from each of us,” Stavridis told The Millions. “It’s a profoundly important novel that helps us deal with this collision between privacy and transparency.”
“Gulag: A History” documents the rise of the Soviet prison camp system from the Russian Revolution through its collapse during glasnost towards the end of the Cold War. Applebaum’s research documents both the details of individual camp life and the greater significance of the gulag system for the USSR and its leaders.
“It’s a brilliant book,” Stavridis said. He also featured the book on the reading list at the end of his autobiography, “The Accidental Admiral.”
“Generation of Winter” is a novel that follows the saga of the fictional Gradov family from 1925 to 1945. With a vast range of characters and settings, the novel shifts from Moscow to the frontlines of WWII battles in Poland and Ukraine, capturing the difficulties of Russian life during that twenty-year time period.
“It’s a beautiful novel,” Stavridis said. “It’s also, I think, a portrait of a really interesting period in Russian society that transitioned from the World War II generation and how they were effectively betrayed.”
Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.
The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.
The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.
“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.
The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.
The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.
Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.
Debt of Honor and Gratitude
The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.
“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”
Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.
“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”
Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.
You could travel faster in your car
Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.
A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright
This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.
Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.
Let’s face it, there are some planes that can only be properly replaced by a newer version of that plane. The C-130 Hercules has done that twice (from the C-130E to the C-130H to the C-130J). The A-10 is clearly such a plane, and is far better than the contenders trying to replace it.
4. Re-open some cargo plane production lines
The C-17 Globemaster III and the C-5 Galaxy can haul a lot of stuff. That being said, there are only 78 C-5s (out of 126 built) and 213 C-17s (to replace 285 C-141 Starlifters) on inventory. They are good planes, but they can’t be in two places at once. Addressing this shortfall of airframes would make for a more efficient force.
3. Rebuild the air-superiority fleet
There have been some recent air-to-air incidents involving the United States Military over Syria. The Air Force’s air-superiority force is down to 106 F-15C Eagles and 159 F-22 Raptors. We know that multi-role planes, like the F-16 and F-35, can handle air-to-air face-offs, but perhaps 2018 is the year to safely secure air superiority.
2. Counter Russia’s treaty violations by bulking up the bomber force
Russia’s cheating on the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty has become blatant enough that America has begun its own ground-launched cruise missile program. But there are other options to address Russian cheating. A good one is bulking up America’s bomber force. Re-starting B-1 and B-2 production while upping the B-21 Raider buy to 295 (matching the production total of the G and H models of the B-52) would be an excellent response.
A two ship of B-1B Lancers assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly in formation over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010. Dyess will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first B-1B bomber arriving at the base with the Dyess Big Country Airfest and Open House on May 1, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
1. Expand the pilot training pipeline
The Air Force is short by two thousand pilots, and that shortage is only getting worse. It’s time to train more pilots — lots more pilots. Additionally, to increase retention, the Air Force should let pilots be pilots. For instance, if they decide to do a little stunt flying, as long as nothing’s damaged and nobody’s hurt, give them a pass. Hell, it worked out well in the case of Richard Ira Bong.
U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.
The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.
Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.
The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.
The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.
The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.
The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.
The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.
SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.
The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.
On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.
Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.
Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.
Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.
The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.
On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.
The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.
The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.
Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.
The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.
Lt. Cmdr. Maria G. Mannix is a Navy surface warfare officer who is competing in the 2016 Warrior Games. The cancer fighter has had to juggle her time between doctor appointments, her duties as a deputy director of the Training Support Center in San Diego, and training for the Warrior Games where she’s a competitor in shot put, discus, rifle shooting, and sitting volleyball.
The Warrior Games are an annual competition held by the Department of Defense where wounded and sick service members compete in an Olympic-style competition.
Mannix says that – despite the challenge of being an athlete and Navy officer while fighting cancer – participating in the Warrior Games and other sports competitions with the Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program has been an important part of her recovery.
“Safe Harbor has really been a positive part of my recovery process because you meet other teammates that have serious illnesses and serious injuries and you see how they’re dealing with whatever they have, and it’s inspirational. It gives you a different outlook on things,” she said.
It’s not just Mannix’s teammates who help push her forward. The competition from wounded warriors on other teams helps as well.
“I had met a lot of the other athletes from different branches, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force,” she said, “and the more I got to make friends in other branches the more I realized that I needed to step up my game. It’s wonderful to make new friends but you also get to see the competitive edge from everybody else that’s going to be at the games as well. It helped me to focus on improving my athletic skills and trying to get my upper body strength to the best fitness I could have to be here for the games.”
That upper body strength is very important for Mannix. She’s fighting breast cancer and her surgeries have made training a challenge, but a strong upper body is vital to her performance.
“I’ve had multiple upper body surgeries which, anatomically, have changed my upper thoracic cavity. It’s more than just getting ready for the games. It’s PT and rehabilitation as well. But when you’re on the volleyball court, you’re literally using your hands as your legs and you have to be quick so you can react to the ball. There’s a lot of muscle strength that you need to have there. Same with my field events, I’m doing shotput and discus throwing. Again, it’s more of an upper body requirement.”
Mannix says that this training and competition helps patients connect in a way they can’t with their care providers or loved ones.
“We’re having a fantastic time playing and competing, but we’re also recovering and helping each other in a way you’re not going to get talking to a counselor or your doctor or your nurse or even your family and friends. It’s a different type of bond and it’s a different kind of camaraderie.”
“You expand the support network you already have,” she said. “Everybody wants to come home with the gold medal and be the winner, in the end, when the games are done, you hug and you say, ‘The games are over. Let’s go have some fun now.'”
The Navy sitting volleyball team was eliminated early in the tournament, but the field events are taking place Jun. 16 when Mannix will compete in discus and shot put. She will also compete in shooting on Jun. 19.
It’s been six years since 1st Lt. Kimberly Colby, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, made her first visit to a dying veteran as part of the Honor Salute program.
It still sticks out in her mind.
He was a Marine infantryman during Vietnam and had earned the Purple Heart while overseas. He was dying of colon cancer.
During the visit, she and a fellow comrade, both in their service blues, saluted the Marine and thanked him for his service.
“He was stoic throughout the ceremony despite being in immense pain,” Colby said.
When she was about to leave he said, “You know what? That’s the first time I have ever been thanked for my service.”
At the time, Colby was a cadet (midshipman) in the Naval Academy and was one of the first volunteers to sign up as a project leader with Honor Salute, then known as Final Salute. The program began in 2010 at Hospice of the Chesapeake in Pasadena, Md., for young military members at the beginning of their careers to pay tribute to veterans at the end of their lives.
“The program struck a chord with me,” said Colby, whose father and grandfather were in the military. Her grandfather was in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and her father served in the Marine Corps during the post-Vietnam era.
Now after being stationed at Camp Pendleton, Colby has become instrumental in honoring San Diego-area veterans as a volunteer with the Escondido-based Elizabeth Hospice and the Carlsbad-based Hospice of the North Coast.
Colby has visited veterans at their homes and in senior living communities across the county and has spearheaded efforts to recruit fellow Marines as volunteers at the nonprofit hospices.
The hospices conduct pinning ceremonies throughout the year to recognize aging veterans and thank them for their military service. Ceremonies are held in dining halls of area senior living communities and at bedside for hospice patients. The ceremony includes a “Final Salute” where an active-duty service member salutes the veteran.
Since 2012, The Elizabeth Hospice has recognized more than 2,300 veterans.
Colby and the other Marines from Camp Pendleton who participate in the ceremonies spend time talking with the veterans. Some patients are able to share stories and some put on their old uniforms for the occasion, while others depend on family members to share the memories.
“It is especially meaningful for those who were never welcomed home or thanked for their service,” said the hospice’s veterans specialist Lisa Marcolongo, whose husband served in the Marine Corps.
“Kimberly’s smile lights up a room as she shakes the hand of a veteran,” Marcolongo said.
For Colby, the best part are the stories and instant camaraderie that can be built. The hardest part is saying goodbye to the veteran and his family and friends.
“Honoring veterans is something I consider a sacred obligation for those of us who wear the cloth of our nation,” Colby said.
Colby’s advice for current service members: “Go out of your way to honor veterans. It is within our lifetime that we will lose all WWII and Korean War veterans. Their stories and sacrifices should be honored.”
The Elizabeth Hospice is looking for veterans and active-duty service members to participate in its veteran pinning ceremonies.
When it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, there’s clearly a love-hate relationship within the military.
The Air Force is scrambling to find and train new pilots to fly the robot warriors, which hunt down high-value targets and fire missiles with relentless precision. But military planners are also concerned about increased access to the technology by America’s enemies, with ISIS using booby-trapped drones as IEDs and some groups actually dropping grenade-sized bombs on U.S. and allied targets in Iraq and Syria.
But one thing everyone can agree on is that the unmanned planes make for great aerial targets. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be programed to maneuver like a manned fighter and are tougher to acquire and track than a full-sized plane.
That’s why America and its allies in Europe are using the technology to help train their pilots, launching them in swarms and throwing up top-tier fighters to do battle. In this video, Danish F-16s fire advanced missiles — including the AIM-9x Sidewinder and AIM-120 Sparrow — at drone targets to hone their skills.
It’s an amazing look at how the advanced missile technology makes for an “unfair fight” in the future battle for the skies.
The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”
The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.
“War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.
In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”
IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.
US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.