US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen - We Are The Mighty
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US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen

U.S. helicopters airlifted soldiers to a central Yemeni province where they targeted an al Qaeda compound, clashing with suspected militants and killing at least seven of them early on May 23, according to the American military, Yemeni security officials, and tribal leaders.


The Central Command said the U.S. forces killed the militants using “a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes” to attack the compound. The Defense Department said the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen’s government.

According to Yemeni officials, the raid took place in the al-Sirim area in the province of Marib in the early morning hours. Tribal members said explosions were heard in al-Sirim, followed by helicopters and gunfire.

The helicopters landed in the outskirts of the town of Jouba near al-Sirim, which is known as one of al Qaeda’s hideouts and which has been targeted by a series of airstrikes that reportedly killed six al Qaeda militants.

According to the officials, there was also bombing in nearby Bayda province. The officials and the tribesmen spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to reporters. They also did not have any specifics on casualties.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
AQAP fighters in Yemen.

The Marib raid is the second publicly-known U.S. ground deployment in Yemen in 2017 against al Qaeda militants. The United States has stepped up airstrikes as part of a sustained assault on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in areas of Yemen where it is most active, after a late January special operations raid that resulted in the death of aNavy SEAL.

Washington considers AQAP as one of the most dangerous branches of the terror network.

The January raid also killed 25 civilians, including women and children, and sparked outrage in Yemen. The U.S. military said 14 militants from al Qaeda were killed in the assault and that U.S. service members captured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

Also read: Another ship attacked off Yemen

Over 75 U.S. airstrikes carried out since the beginning of the year have reflected an almost double increase in the yearly totals since the drone program against al Qaeda in Yemen began in 2009, according to analysts.

But al Qaeda has used the chaos of Yemen’s civil war following the 2015 launch of the Saudi-led campaign targeting the Shiite Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, and other areas in the country, to expand its footprint and recruitment efforts.

The militant group has also effectively emerged as a de facto ally of the U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his backers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the battle against the Shiite rebels.

The United States also supports the oil-rich Saudi Arabia with military advisers, logistics and intelligence, in addition to billions of dollars in arms.

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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

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This is why the former French carrier Foch is headed for a sad scrapyard farewell

Six months ago, the Brazilian Navy announced that its aircraft carrier, NAe Sao Paolo was to be decommissioned and sent to the scrapyard. It’s a sad end for the Clemenceau-class carrier, which entered service with France in 1963, serving for 54 years.


What makes her unique is that the Sao Paolo is one of the last conventionally-powered aircraft carriers in service.

Most aircraft carriers today are nuclear-powered. The Foch and her sister ship Clemenceau — both named for French leaders in World War I — were to be replaced by a pair of nuclear-powered carriers. Only one of the new carriers was built, but France disposed of both carriers, selling the Foch to Brazil, and the Clemenceau to a scrapyard. The Foch was commissioned in 1963, and served with the French Navy for 37 years before she was sold to Brazil, where she served another 17 years.

The French had hoped to keep her in service until 2039, but the Foch was proving to be the maritime equivalent of a hangar queen.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
The Sao Paolo, operating AF-1 Skyhawks (former Kuwaiti planes) and a S-2 Tracker. (Wikimedia Commons)

The demise of the Foch is part of a larger trend. Most navies seeking a carrier that launch high-performance planes (as opposed to those that operate V/STOL jets like the AV-8B Harrier and Sea Harrier) have gone nuclear. The United States has 11 nuclear-powered carriers, France has one.

India, Russia, and China each have one conventionally-fueled carrier that launch high-performance jets, and India and China are building more. But Russia and China are planning to go to nuclear-powered carriers. The British are building the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, but they’re only flying the V/STOL version of the F-35 Lightning.

Why are conventional fuels like oil or gas fading out for supercarriers? It’s very simple: endurance matters. When you’re launching a conventional plane from a carrier, you need to get them up quickly or they go in the drink.

Aside from the fact that splash landings like those involving the Russian carrier Kuznetsov tend to draw lots of merciless mockery, they are also a good way to get a highly-trained naval aviator killed.

The Foch’s forward deck, showing some of the planes she operated in French service. (Wikimedia Commons)

To get those planes to climb quickly, carriers use catapults, but it helps when they can turn into the wind and go at speed. A nuclear-powered carrier can do that for years. Really, the only limits are how much ordnance and gas for the planes and food for the crew it can carry.

For a conventionally-fueled carrier, well… it’s got to refuel, too. That means you need to invest in a lot more ships.

So, as the Foch heads off to become razor blades, joining many other conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers not designed to use high-performance jets, it marks the departure of one of these magnificent vessels. The United States has been scrapping many of its old conventionally-fueled carriers, too. The fact is, if you want a carrier that can operate high-performance jets, you gotta have a nuke – and that leaves no future for ships like Foch.

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The Navy is paying big bucks for SEAL commanders to stay

The United States Navy is about to offer experience SEAL officers up to $25,000 a year on top of their pay and allowances to stay in the Navy for up to five years.


According to an All Navy administrative message released last month, the service is offering this Naval Special Warfare Officer Retention Bonus to any active duty officer with at least 15 years of active-duty commissioned service, and who has screened positive for an XO tour will get as much as $25,000 a year if they sign an agreement to stay in the Navy for five years.

For signing a three-year agreement, officers will get up to $15,000 per year. Active-duty officers who successfully screen for a CO tour will get $25,000 a year for three years. Reserve officers who screen successfully for an XO tour will get $20,000 a year for signing a five-year contract and $10,000 a year for a three-year deal.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
A Navy special warfare specialist (SEAL) assigned to Seal Team 17, a unit comprised of both active and reserve component members based in Coronado, Calif., climbs into the turret gunner position during a mobility training exercise through a simulated city. Seal Team 17 is conducting a pre-deployment work-up cycle. Navy SEALs are the maritime component of U.S. Special Operations Forces and are trained to conduct a variety of operations from the sea, air, and land. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eddie Harrison)

The reason for this was outlined by Lt. Cdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, who told WATM, “Top talent is tough to draw in and even tougher to keep.  We are seeing some fraying around the edges in terms of SEAL Officer retention, as our control grade officers (O4/O5) in the Navy SEAL community are currently undermanned.”

“This program seeks to retain more Naval Special Warfare Officers with vital military skills that cannot be easily or quickly replaced,” Christensen added. “These officers are highly trained leaders and their unique skill sets are in high demand within military and civilian sectors. We believe this helps reduces this potential loss of that talent and experience.”

Ward Carroll, the President of Military One Click and a former Naval Flight Officer who served as a radar intercept officer on F-14 Tomcats, noted that this is not an unusual approach, saying, “Bonuses like this have been around for years.” Carroll added that similar bonuses were paid out to Naval Aviators and NFOs back in the late 1980s.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen

Echoing this when asked for comment was Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who now serves as a Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, who noted, “Our special operations people are great patriots and the best of our fighters but they are also human.”

“Those I know suffer from deployment fatigue and especially the baggage like broken families,” Maginnis said. “This comes to a head at the 10 to 12-year point.”

“I’d argue a Special Operations CD-R or XO is perhaps one of the most valuable personnel in the entire armed forces,” he added. “They are skilled, experienced and have the respect of likeminded warriors.”

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Columbia Pictures’ hyper-realistic new action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness blamed the White House for the shortage, saying that Navy Sec. Ray Mabus focused too much on social change within the service rather than helping sailors who are fighting worldwide every day.

“I would add, however, that the Navy has not improved the situation by relentlessly pursuing social agendas that will make SEAL life more difficult and dangerous,” she said, adding the Navy ignored surveys expressing opposition to women serving in special operations assignments and empirical data that she felt warranted a request for an exemption.

“$25,000 retention bonuses may help to retain SEAL warriors, but breakdowns in vertical cohesion, meaning trust between commanders and the troops they lead, may be even more costly,” Donnelly concluded.

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That time the British tried to assassinate Erwin Rommel

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Erwin Rommel with the 15th panzer Division. | YouTube


British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was never one to shy away from thinking big. When he saw the plans for General Claude Auchinlek’s offensive, Operation Crusader, he looked beyond its stated goals of lifting the siege of Tobruk and eliminating the Axis threat to Egypt—way beyond. He envisioned it as being a potential victory to rank with Blenheim and Waterloo; one in which the British Eighth Army would destroy the Axis forces threatening Egypt, relieve Tobruk, continue west and eject the Axis from North Africa. Then the British Army of the Nile would march east and north through the Levant to the Iranian border. But Auchinlek was grounded enough to know that if he were to have any sort of shot at victory, he had to eliminate the general who had so brilliantly led the Axis troops to the Egyptian border, Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel.

If Rommel could be assassinated, the resultant chaos in the Axis command would give the Eighth Army its best chance of success. To that end Auchinlek authorized Operation Flipper.

Operation Flipper

Operation Flipper originally had four goals:

  • Kill Rommel at his headquarters in Sidi Rafa
  • destroy the nearby Italian headquarters and its communications network
  • sabotage the Italian Intelligence Office in Appolonia and the communications network between Faidia and Lamdula
  • conduct general sabotage actions elsewhere in the Axis forces’ rear.

Leading the mission was Colonel Robert Laycock. His second in command was Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Keyes, the son of Admiral Roger Keyes the first director of Combined Operations and who would be responsible for the attack on Rommel. On November 10, 1941, Laycock’s force of six officers and 53 men boarded the submarines Torbay and Talisman and left Alexandria harbor for Beda Littoria, Cyrenaica. They arrived at their landing site on the evening of November 14. Waiting for them on the beach was guide Captain Jock Haselden and his team who had been parachuted there earlier.

Keyes got himself and all his men ashore. But as Layton and his men prepared to disembark, a squall struck. Heavy seas drove Talisman aground and only Layton and seven men reached the beach.

With the force cut in half, the plan was drastically modified. Now it would be a two-part assault; Keyes attacking Rommel’s HQ and Lt. Roy Cooke leading the attack on the Italian headquarters. Layton and a small force would defend the force’s escape route. On the evening of November 15, Keyes, Cooke, and their men headed inland, dogged by constant rain. Despite the weather, the groups managed to reach their respective launch positions the evening of November 17.

At midnight, they attacked. Keyes, leading a three-man assault team, burst into the villa identified as Rommel’s headquarters. They surprised a German officer who was killed as he struggled with Keyes. The attackers then rushed down the hall and Keyes opened a room where ten Germans were arming themselves. One of the Germans shot Keyes, killing him.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Rommel with captured British officers in Cherbourg, France, June 1940. | Gregory J. W. Urwin Collection

Failure

The mission was a failure. Only three German supply colonels and a soldier were killed at the villa. And only a fuel supply depot was destroyed. After 37 days avoiding Axis patrols, Colonel Layton and Sergeant Jack Terry reached British lines. They were the only ones; everyone else was either captured or killed. As it turned out, Rommel was not at the villa; inclement weather delayed his arrival from Rome. Operation Crusader did not achieve Churchill’s lofty goals. Though the siege was lifted, Rommel managed to save the bulk of his forces.

Rommel ordered that Lt. Colonel Keyes be buried with full military honors; sending his personal chaplain, priest Rudolf Dalmrath, to officiate. He had cypress crosses and wreaths made for the British and German dead. Rommel also instructed that photographs be taken of the ceremony and of Keyes’ grave and sent to his parents, a chivalrous act that increased British respect for him.

Laycock and Terry arrived at Eighth Army headquarters on Christmas Day. A message dispatched to Minister of State in the Middle East Oliver Lyttleton stated, “Feel it would interest C-in-C and Minister to know that Laycock arrived today at 9:20 p.m. for his Christmas dinner.” Lyttleton responded, “Please state why Laycock was one hour 20 minutes late for his Christmas dinner.”

Layton would serve with distinction, rising to the rank of major general and, in October 1943, succeed Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten as Director of Combined Operations.

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Hitler’s last gasp against the Soviets turned into an 8-day butcher fest

The Battle of Kursk in World War II was Adolph Hitler’s last great attempt to take down the Soviet Union. With his army struggling around the world and slowly losing ground to the Russians, the Führer ordered his armies to hold the line at Kursk in the western Soviet Union. Additionally, they were to launch a massive offensive to reverse the tides and serve as a beacon to German forces around the world.


Operation Citadel, as it was named, called for two German Army groups with hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to use a pincer attack to cut off a large Russian salient, a 100-mile deep and 160-mile wide section of Soviet territory that jutted into the German lines. This would give the Germans control of important rail lines and hopefully destroy five Soviet Armies, about 30 divisions worth of soldiers.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
A German Tiger tank rolls forward in the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: German Army archives)

The leader of the operation, Field Marshal Erick von Manstein, wanted to launch the offensive as quickly as possible because he believed the Russians would see it coming. Hitler went to the battlefield to personally discuss the plans with Kluge and insisted that the operation be halted until more Tiger tanks were available.

So the calendar crawled forward from February to July of 1943 with no offensive actions from the Germans. Meanwhile, the Soviets turned the lines into some of the most well-defended territories in the war. They planted over 2,200 anti-tank mines and 2,500 anti-personnel mines per mile of the front while citizens and soldiers dug 3,000 miles worth of trenches and positioned 20,000 artillery pieces. Soviet tanks arrived as well, bringing Soviet armor up to 5,000 or so.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Soviet soldiers man an anti-tank rifle in the chaos of the Battle of Kursk. (Photo: RIA Novosti archive)

On July 5, 1943, 38 German divisions with approximately 570,000 soldiers, 3,000 tanks, and thousands of planes finally headed east for the counteroffensive. Soviet planes with inexperienced pilots were on their way to attack German airfields and the two forces stumbled into each hour in the early morning. The Battle of Kursk was on.

Historians debate the exact numbers of troops and vehicles in the battle due to the fact that military leaders on each side exaggerated their numbers, but by almost every count Kursk was the largest tank battle ever fought.

The Germans had much to celebrate in the first four days. They quickly established air superiority and, despite the heavy defenses at Kursk, both the north and south advances in the pincer attack were moving forward slowly but steadily.

Josef Stalin himself was concerned about the air situation at Kursk and became agitated when he learned that the Germans still held the advantage. Both sides used dive bombers and other ground attack planes to hit enemy tanks on the ground as well as help direct artillery and conduct reconnaissance.

It was an air victory on July 9 that allowed the Soviets to first gain the initiative. The Soviets had been picking away at German pilots for the first few days and finally were able to force the Stukas to drop below 500 sorties, half of what they launched on the first day of fighting. Importantly, many of those killed were heroes of the Third Reich like Karl Fitzner and Bernhard Wutka, both Knight’s Cross holders.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Soviet soldiers advance behind a T-34 tank through thick smoke. (Photo: public domain)

On the ground, the fighting was truly hellish. Columns of oily smoke rose from burnt out wrecks as shells and bombs burst among the tanks on both sides. Russian infantrymen were known to launch near-suicidal attacks through the smoke, running up to German tanks with mines in their hands and hurling them under the enemy treads.

While the Soviets were losing more men and material than the Germans, the Germans were running out of fuel and men more quickly. When von Manstein asked for reinforcements, Hitler finally decided that they were losing too many men to reclaim too little territory.

He ordered the Panzer units to withdraw on July 13 and the Soviets resumed their own march west towards Berlin. While the German tanks that survived the battle were able to delay Soviet advances, they were never able to regain the initiative. The Allies invaded Italy the next month, and by the next summer, they were knocking down the doors of Fortress Europe.

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Norway wants the US Marines to stay another year in their country

Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide announced June 21 that U.S. Marines will continue rotational training and exercises in Norway through 2018, U.S. European Command said in a news release.


“Our Marines in Norway are demonstrating a high level of cooperation with our allies,” said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Niel E. Nelson, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. “The more we train together alongside one another the stronger our Alliance becomes.”

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
U.S. Marines and sailors with Marine Rotational Force 17.1 and soldiers with Norwegian Home Guard 12 prepare to enter a building during a room-clearing exercise near Stjordal, Norway, May 24, 2017. This exercise compared the standard operating procedures for Marines and Norwegian forces in the event of an active shooter or hostage negotiation. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Emily Dorumsgaard)

Nelson said the decision to extend the presence of the Marine rotational force in Norway is a clear sign of the U.S. and Norwegian commitment to NATO and the strong partnership between the two countries on defense and security.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
John Waters (right), USNS 1st LT Baldomero Lopez master, discusses maritime operations with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Helen G. Pratt, 4th Marine Logistics Group commanding general, and Norwegian Commodore Rune Fromreide Sommer, Norwegian Defense Logistics Organization, during offload operations at Hammersodden, Norway, June 6. USNS Lopez, a Military Sealift Command prepositioning vessel, was supporting the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, known as MCPP-N, with the delivery of supplies and equipment. MCPP-N enables the rapid deployment of a large, credible, and balanced force to support its NATO allies and partners. (Photo by Daniel Burton, MSCEURAF operations specialist)

Norway is an exceptional ally, one that is increasing its defense budget and is committed to acquiring critical capabilities. Both the U.S. and Norway are focused on strengthening the development of joint leaders and teams who understand the synergy of air, sea, and land power as a potent asymmetric advantage in the battlefield.

About 330 Marines have been stationed in Vaernes, Norway, on a rotational basis since January. They will now continue to rotate beyond 2017, with two rotations per year.

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Failed Turkish coups raises concerns about tactical nukes at US base there

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Turkish F-16 taxis for takeoff at Incirlik Air Base. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


The failed coup in Turkey has thrown that country into a very high state of tension. What makes the stakes even higher is that according to the Federation of American Scientists, the United States military has about 50 “special stores” stored at Incirlik Air Base, bout 25% of the total stockpile in Europe. Those “special stores” are B61 gravity bombs.

The B61 is America’s primary tactical nuclear weapon that can be carried by just about all of the U.S. military’s attack aircraft, from Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers to the Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bombers. NATO aircraft like the Tornado flown by the Royal Air Force, Luftwaffe, and Italian Air Force can also carry it.

The bomb first entered service 50 years ago, and weighs about 700 pounds – slightly smaller than the M117 bomb often used by the B-52 Stratofortress for “grid square removal.” It features a “dial-a-yield” capability – setting the weapons to deliver as much as 340 kilotons (depending on the version), about 20 times the power of the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. The United States produced over 1300 of these weapons. The B61 can be set with a variety of fuse options, but the most common delivery is a lob-toss method, using a parachute to delay its fall.

Since its introduction into service, the B61’s received upgrades to keep up with the times. The proposed B61 Mod 12 would give it a tail-guidance kit similar to that of the Joint Direct Attack Munition. The B61 Mod 12 has a yield of up to 50 kilotons, about one-seventh of earlier versions. Then again, when GPS guidance puts a nuke within 20 feet of its aiming point, 50 kilotons will be more than enough to deal with most targets. So far, plans are for about 500 B61s to be upgraded to the Mod 12 standard.

The B61 became the basis for a number of other warheads in American service. The B83,a strategic nuclear weapon with a yield of up to 1.2 megatons, is one derivative. The AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile’s W69 warhead was also based on the B61. So were the W80 warheads used on the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile, and the AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile. The W84 warhead used on the Ground-Launched Cruise Missile was also a variant of the B61 by way of the W80. The W85 used on the MGM-31C Pershing II was another derivative of the B61, and after the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed, the W85s were recycled into B61 Mod 10 gravity bomb.

The B61 Mod 12 will have a design life of nearly 20 years – meaning this bomb will likely serve until 2035, around the time the B-52 will be ready to retire.

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Did you know that US troops can take a 3-year break from their service?

In a little-known personnel policy, members of the armed forces can take a so-called “intermission” from their service contract if they feel that the military is holding back their personal development.


The Air Force is launching its third iteration of the “Career Intermission Program,” or CIP, which allows airmen to take a sabbatical from their Air Force career while they pursue what Air Force Times calls “personal goals.”

“Some women leave the Air Force because they want to start a family,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox told the Times in 2014. “So why don’t we have a program that allows them, in some cases, to be able to separate from the Air Force for a short period, get their family started and then come back in?”

The Air Force does not consider the reasons for wanting to take time off when deciding who to admit into the new program, which has been in development for a few years. While starting a family was one of the primary ideas for implementing the pilot program, higher education quickly became the primary motivation.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Capt. Tamiko Gheen carries her son, Gavin, while hiking. Gheen is taking three years away from the Air Force through the service’s Career Intermission Program. She’s expecting her second child and hopes to get a master’s degree while spending more time with her family during the break.

In the first year of the CIP program, 70 percent of airmen opted to go back to school with the remainder leaving to start families or take care of ailing relatives.

All branches of the military were authorized for such programs in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), at the Navy’s request.

The Marine Corps started its program in 2013 with the Army following suit in 2014. The Navy program offered retention of full health and dental coverage, continued commissary and base shopping privileges and a payment of a small reserve stipend. Other branches used that as a guide for their own programs.

Career Intermission puts participants into the Individual Ready Reserve with limited benefits before they are returned to active duty at the end of their program. They are also required to maintain all service branches’ health and fitness standards and periodically check in to their respective services. The catch is that any military member in their service’s CIP is required to serve an additional two months of Active Duty for every month on the CIP.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Leiby took the time to start a family.

In 2015, 59 airmen — 22 officers and 37 enlisted — applied to the Air Force program. The application window for the second round closed at the end of August 2015, and a panel convened at the end of September to choose who will begin those sabbaticals. The program is limited to 20 enlisted and 20 officers per service.

Congress may potentially extend the program to 400, again, at the Navy’s request. Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey thinks the caps in place are there for a reason.

“You don’t want to punish people for doing it, but you don’t necessarily want to sell it, either, because not everybody can do it,” Dailey told the Army Times. “There’s always going to be a limit to those things.”

Troops in critical functions or accepting critical skills retention bonuses are not considered for the CIP, although exceptions can be made for hardship situations. It’s also important to check the service-specific guidelines for application. The Army’s CIP is limited to NCOs. Acceptance and benefits to the program are at the discretion of the individual service secretaries.

 

The window to apply for the third iteration of the Air Force CIP is now open.

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This is what it’s like to be a secret service sniper

With a distinguished history dating back to the end of American Civil War, the men and women of the elite Secret Service take on one of the world’s toughest tasks — protecting the U.S. president and other government officials from assassination attempts.


Related: The top 10 deadliest snipers of all time

Originally designated to control the issue of combating US currency counterfeiting, it wasn’t until after the assassination of former President William McKinley when the Service Secret was assigned to protect the POTUS in 1901.

The Secret Service’s mission is to prevent life-threatening incidents well before they occur. They scope out meeting locations days before their clients show up and map out vantage points and escape routes if the situation goes pear shaped.

In the sniper world, the mission is the same. Highly-trained sharpshooters are always on the alert, completely focused and ready to strike at all times.

Working in teams of two, you can usually spot them posted on the White House’s rooftop examining your every move.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
A Secret Service sniper team sets in position keeping a close eye out on the nearby tourists. (Source: zerohedge)

Usually armed with high-powered rifles, each team is equipped with a shooter and a spotter. These snipers go through intense training learning how to react to any situation that they may face.

Remarkably, no sniper team has ever had to fire a shot since the unit was formed in 1971.

Also Read: The 5 most legendary snipers of all time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fE2jY1rBU7U
(Pig Mine 5, YouTube)
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Army relaxes standards on beards, turbans and dreadlocks

Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.


Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.

Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.

“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”

Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.

“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”

The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”

All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Spc. Harpal Singh, with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, watches as his fellow Soldiers go through the Slide to Victory obstacle at the Fort Jackson Confidence Course. (Photo Credit: Robert Timmons)

The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.

The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.

In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.

“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.

“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.

Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.

That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”

Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.

If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.

Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
A Marine makes sure his gas mask has a proper seal to keep contaminants away from his face. Beards can inhibit a proper seal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”

Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.

If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.

Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.

For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.

Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.

“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”

Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.

“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”

Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.

 

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North Korea says new missile can carry heavy nuke

North Korea has boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.


Outsiders also see a significant technological jump, with Sunday’s test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile.

Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.

North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness, but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

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This is why you don’t pretend to be blind to collect benefits

He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.


Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.

In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.

US soldiers just killed al Qaeda militants in Yemen
Justice may be blind, but Billy J. Alumbaugh is not. Photo from public domain.

His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.

Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.

After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.

She was sentenced to a year of probation.

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