USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight - We Are The Mighty
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USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.


Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Timothy Williams, assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, operates a jackhammer on a runway during repair operations at Qayyarah, West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The same day that Iraqi forces captured the airfield in July, bloggers and journalists immediately predicted the role the base would play in the coming fight against ISIS.

There was just one major problem. According to a story by Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lemmons, ISIS had systematically destroyed the runways at Qayyarah West with explosives and heavy machinery for two years.

The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.

So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules waits to unload logistical supplies in support of the fight for Mosul at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. This is the second aircraft to land there following completion of repairs to the runway after Da’esh damaged it. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.

“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”

Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.

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China celebrates 70 years of Communist rule with a military flex

In 1949, Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong finally managed to chase the Chinese Nationalists off the mainland and to Taiwan, where they remain to this day. After 70 years of communism and varying degrees of personal and economic freedom for the Chinese people, the Chinese are finally able to call Chinese Communism something of a success – and China doubled down on the formula, celebrating its platinum jubilee with a military parade, unlike anything it threw before.


Communists love a parade. Dictators do too. Few events are more associated with Communist dictatorships than a good ol’ fashioned parade of ground troops, tanks, and maybe some nuclear missiles. This trait was on full display in China on Oct. 1, 2019, as Chinese President Xi Jinping watched the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China goose step their way into the world headlines on China’s 70th birthday.

The Chinese President was dressed for the occasion, wearing the distinctive “Mao Suit,” popularized by the Chairman and founder of the PRC, a simple button-down tunic with baggy pants. The suit is a functional form of dress, encouraged by Mao for citizens of all social strata to wear. It soon became a symbol of Chinese communism. He spent part of the parade in a limousine, shouting encouragement at Chinese soldiers, who shouted catchphrases back at the leader.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

A float featuring China’s national emblem travels past Tian’anmen Gate during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China Oct. 1, 2019.

(China Daily)

The parade itself was a showcase of Chinese capabilities, engineered to remind the world just what China’s capabilities are. Along with the standard presence of Chinese-built tanks, missiles, and even drones, the parade included China’s homebuilt DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, a first for any Chinese parade. The ICBM is the world’s longest-range nuclear missile, capable of reaching the United States in 30 minutes with six to ten warheads per missile.

Also on display for the first time was China’s JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which is not capable of reaching the United States from Chinese waters, but provides China with its own complete nuclear triad. The two missiles are the most powerful weapons in the PRC’s arsenal. Also marching in the parade were 15,000 Chinese communist troops and 70 floats describing the history of China and the different cultural parts of the country.

Notably missing from the parade were any of the billion-plus average Chinese citizens who were shut out of the parade. Despite the celebrations, China isn’t the unified bastion of communism it appears to be, as it faces opposition in areas nominally under its control, including the Muslim Xinjiang Province, as well as Tibet and Hong Kong, where the Communist leadership is facing a mountain of protests to Beijing’s rule.

Taiwan, which China claims as an inseparable part of China, condemned the parade and the Chinese “dictatorship.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Microsoft doubles-down on promising AI support to military

Microsoft President and chief lawyer Brad Smith doubled down on his promise to always supply the US military with “our best technology” as “we see artificial intelligence entering the world of militaries around the world.”

Smith made his comments in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network on Dec. 5, 2018.

Generally speaking, tech companies have never questioned whether to supply the US military with their best technology — at least until 2018, when Google employees rose in protest against Project Maven, a pilot program with the Pentagon to supply AI-powered image recognition technology for drones.


Googlers didn’t want the AI technology they are developing to be used for weapons. After an employee uprising, Google essentially agreed to their wishes, all but taking itself out of the enormously lucrative defense market.

Microsoft and Amazon have been quick to raise their hands and say, “we’ll take your business.” The largest US tech makers, like Microsoft, already earn big bucks selling tech to the US federal government and military agencies. How big? Just one contract to supply the CIA with Microsoft cloud services signed earlier this year will generate hundreds of millions, according to Bloomberg.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The Pentagon is also on the verge of awarding a billion contract to one cloud provider — probably Amazon— unless fellow competitors like Microsoft and Oracle can convince it to divvy the deal up among multiple clouds. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has publicly taken a similar stance to Microsoft in support of the US military. Notably, Google withdrew from consideration for this same deal, saying that it could conflict with its values.

All of which is to say, with his statements, Smith gets to pursue an enormous area of business, declare Microsoft’s patriotism and slide a not-so-subtle dig at his competitor Google, all at the same time.

Here’s the full text of what Smith told Bartiromo when she asked if technology companies should help the United States (emphasis ours):

“I think that’s right. This country has always relied on having access to the best technology, certainly the best technology that American companies make. We want this country and we especially want the people who serve this country to know that certainly we at Microsoft have their back. We will provide our best technology to the United States military and we have also said that we recognize the questions and at times concerns or issues that people are asking about the future.
As we see artificial intelligence entering the world of the militaries around the world, as people are asking about questions like autonomous weapons, we’ll be engaged but we’ll be engaged as a civic participant. We’ll use our voice. We’ll work with people. We’ll work with the military to address these issues in a way that I think will show the public that we live in a country where the U.S. military has always honored the importance of a strong code of ethics.”

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

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The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

The American Legion is calling on Congress to reconsider its position on marijuana, asking lawmakers to remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it as a drug with “potential medical value.”


USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
(American Legion Photo by Amy C. Elliott)

In a resolution passed at the 98th National Convention of the American Legion on Sept. 1, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Convention Committee unanimously recommended the delegates pass a resolution urging the DEA to “license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.”

Officials with the American Legion say there’s some evidence marijuana helps in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Research conducted by the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD found that the conditions cost the economy $60 billion.

“The response of the membership has been very positive,” says William Detweiler, the chairman of the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD. “Our veterans deserve the best medical care that we can offer. We believe that funding additional medical research in this field will provide another ‘tool’ in the physician’s toolbox for treatment.”

In 2011, the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to look into the issues surrounding the treatment of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress. The goal was to determine what treatments are being employed by VA and DoD currently and what other treatments and protocols that may be available that are not being currently used or approved.

Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act includes drugs like marijuana, heroin, and LSD while Schedule 2 includes oxycodone, morphine, and Ritalin.

Now that the national convention passed the resolution supporting medical marijuana research for veterans with certain conditions, the National Commander of the American Legion and the staff can urge Congress and the DEA to provide funds for research on medical cannabis.

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West said marijuana is still an illegal drug and soldiers using it will face discipline, but she sees some benefit to using chemicals within pot to treat PTSD and TBI.

“Using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects, it’s surprising that’s not brought out when they’re trying to legalize it. … It’s more dangerous that some of the carcinogens that are in tobacco,” West said during a media roundtable in Washington. “But if there’s some component of [marijuana] that can be useful to treat our service members, anyone who has post-traumatic stress disorder … I’m for that.”

The American Legion did not survey the 2.4 million veterans it represents to find their feelings on medical marijuana but has found their constituents to be generally receptive to the idea.

“Veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher from Arizona who spoke at the Legion’s National Convention. “It’s a big breakthrough. While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD – we are three years away from published data – we owe it to veterans to study this plant.”

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Exclusive excerpt from quadruple amputee Travis Mills’ new book ‘As Tough As They Come’

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight


The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:

We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.

We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.

“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.

Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.

I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.

Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.

I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.

Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.

I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”

Excerpted from TOUGH AS THEY COME by SSG Travis Mills with Marcus Brotherton; foreword by Gary Sinise. Copyright © 2015 by Travis Mills. Excerpted by permission of Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Editor’s note: Travis Mills will be speaking at the Veterans Institute Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago on November 3.

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This company helps military children cope when their parents deploy

One toddler helped inspire a company that now helps hundreds of military children deal with one of the most stressful times of their lives: seeing their parents leave for deployment.


“It doesn’t have to be sad,” said Bridget Platt, the founder and CEO of Daddy’s Deployed and wife of a Marine Corps aviator. “And that’s what I wanted to do. Create this story where [kids] are the star even if their family is separated at the time.”

Founded in 2012, Platt’s company creates custom-designed children’s books that explain where mom or dad are going, what they’ll be doing, and how they’ll stay in touch through tools like Skype. The first book she ever created was for her own daughter, with pictures of the family literally cut out and glued onto the pages.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo courtesy of Daddy’s Deployed

But her inspiration came three years before, while working with a two-year-old girl named Claire at the child development center on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.

“She was perfectly behaved, would eat every meal, play outside, and she shared. She was potty-trained and would nap everyday,” Platt said. “And then her dad deployed and all of that changed. She started having accidents. She wouldn’t eat. She would literally cry out for him at naptime. And I remember thinking that somebody has to do something to help these kids but I was just too far from it at that point. We were newlyweds. We didn’t have any children so I couldn’t wrap my head around what that concept might be.”

Once she had her own children, and with the help of her brother — a Harvard Business School graduate — she put together a business plan, copyrighted a logo, and brought on a great illustrator to help with creating the book’s artwork.

Now, parents can go on the Daddy’s Deployed website (there’s a Mommy’s version as well) and order their books, after putting in their information such as their name and rank, branch of service, what kind of job they have, and their children’s names. In about three weeks, Platt and her team will send back a personalized book with the family drawn into their own story.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo courtesy of Daddy’s Deployed

“The whole point of it is that when the kids open page one they see their family in the story,” Platt said. “They see themselves in the story. They see their dog in the story. So that they know that it’s this happy, brightly colored vision of what their life could be or is going to be.”

Beyond the custom books relating to deployments, Platt told We Are The Mighty she has plans to expand her offerings. The company recently launched a book about military moves, and it is currently looking into selling eBooks and other interactive materials, such as audiobooks where the deployed parent can read the story to their loved ones.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo courtesy of Daddy’s Deployed

“My favorite thing is when people first look at the book that didn’t know about the company beforehand,” she said. “The most common thing that is said to me is, ‘why didn’t I think of this?’ And that shows me that there was a problem and we are answering it. And that is the best thing. My response is always the same: ‘I’m really glad you didn’t.’ But in my mind I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank you for saying that.'”

You can see more of Platt’s work on her company’s Facebook page or website.

NOW: These Striking Photos Show The True Nature Of America’s Veterans

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7 tips for getting away with fraternization

So, you’ve got a fever and the only cure is a consensual adult relationship that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice? It happens.


And by the way, it can happen among friends, but for this article, we’re going to talk about sexual or romantic relationships.

Related video:

 

Paraphrasing here from the
Manual for Courts Martial: Fraternization in the military is a personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member that violates the customary bounds of acceptable behavior and jeopardizes good order and discipline.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

That’s a mouthful, but it boils down to the intent of guidelines for any relationship among professionals: The appearance of favoritism hurts the group, and, with the military in particular, could actually get someone killed.

Also read: 13 Hilarious Meme Replies To Our Article About Dating On Navy Ships

But we’re only human, right? It’s natural to fall for someone you work with, so here are a couple of tips that can help keep you out of Leavenworth:

1. Don’t do it

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

Seriously. Cut it off when you first start to feel the butterflies-slash-burning-in-your-loins. Flirting is a rush and it’s fun and
NO.

Hit the gym. Take a break.
Swipe right on Tinder. Do whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.

2. Be discreet

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

Okay, fine, you’re going for it anyway. We’ve all been there (nervous laughter…).

People are more intuitive than you think. Don’t give them any reason to suspect you and your illicit goings-on. Be completely professional at work. Don’t flirt in the office. Don’t send sweet nothings over government e-mail (yes, it is being monitored).

3. Keep it off-base

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

Don’t be stupid, okay? Get away from the watchful eyes all the people around you who live and breathe military regulations.

4. Square away

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

The thing about military punishment is that you are usually judged by your commander first. If you do get caught, you want people to really regret the idea of punishing you.

Be amazing at your job — better yet, be the best at your job. Be irreplaceable. Be a leader and a team player and a bad ass. Set the example with your physical fitness and your marksmanship and your ability to destroy terrorism.

Be beloved by all and you just might get away with a slap on the wrist…

5. Plausible deniability

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

I would never tell you to lie because integrity and honor are all totes important and stuff, but…

If lawyers can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually engaged in criminal activity, you could be spared from a conviction.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that you both
happened to be volunteering at the same time. It was for the orphans…

How could you have known that you both like to spend Christmas in Hawaii?

It’s not your fault Sgt. Hottie wanted to attend a concert in the same town where your parents live, right?

6. Talk it out

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

 

If you can’t have a mature conversation with this person about how to conduct yourselves in the workplace or how you’d each face the consequences of being discovered, you really shouldn’t be getting it on.

You are both risking your careers and livelihoods because of this relationship — don’t take it lightly.

And whatever you do, treat each other with honesty and respect — you’re all you have right now.

7. Don’t go to the danger zone

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

I know you know this, but here’s the thing: REALLY DON’T DO IT (PUN INTENDED) WHILE IN A COMBAT ZONE.

This is life and death. Remind yourself why you chose to serve your country. Pay attention to the men and women around you who trust you and rely on you to protect them.

LOCK IT UP. You’re a warrior and you have discipline.

Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know.

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8 amazing Medal of Honor recipient war stories recited by 1 man

In 2014, actor Steven Lang took a trip around the world to tell the stories of America’s bravest troops to their brothers in arms — a one-man road show that artfully recounted the stories of eight servicemembers from World War II, Korea and Vietnam who were bestowed with America’s highest honor for valor.


During the trip — which saw Lang perform in front of troops in Afghanistan, at bases in the U.S., and aboard ships at sea — Lang documented his time before the audience and tells that story in his new film Beyond Glory.

Combining the intimacy of stage with state-of-the-art computer graphics, Beyond Glory is a synthesis of cinema and theater, giving moviegoers the experience of watching a live performance from the best seat in the house.

Lang brings alive the heroism, bravery, and courage of past war heroes in a way few artists have been able to capture on stage.

Written by Steven Lang and produced by James Cameron, Jon Landau, Jim Carpenter and Ross Satterwhite, Beyond Glory is set for release October 4.

Watch the trailer:

Gravitas Ventures, YouTube
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6 ceremonial military units that are actually badass (when they aren’t wearing funny hats)

Honor guards are an important part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding official state events. Many guard units are mostly for show, serving only to drill perfectly and impress crowds.


But some honor guards are filled with active soldiers who continue to practice killing people when they aren’t all dressed up in tall hats and shiny breastplates. Here are 6 of them.

1. The Queen’s Guard (U.K.)

The Queen’s Guard is probably the most iconic ceremonial guard unit in the world, but the men outside Buckingham Palace aren’t just a tourist attraction.

They are real soldiers and are allowed to use violence to protect themselves, their post, and the Queen. Some tourists have learned this the unpleasant way.

2. The Swiss Guard (The Vatican)

Dating back to the 1400s, the Swiss Guard are the primary protective force for the Pope. When the guardsmen aren’t wearing their funny uniforms, they’re training to kill those who threaten the Holy Father. Skip to 2:13 in the video to see members of the Swiss Guard training with their assault rifles.

3. Old Guard (U.S.)

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo: US Army Sgt. Luisito Brooks

The 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army are the official honor guard of the President as well as the ceremonial guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All members are active duty infantry soldiers who also deploy to combat and train for fights in the national capital.

(Note: The 3rd Infantry Regiment is the official honor guard for the president, but the president is much more commonly seen with the Marine Sentries, four Marines assigned to guard his person in the West Wing of the White House.)

4. Republican Guard (France)

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo: Wikipedia/XtoF

Part of the French Gendarmerie, a military police force, the Republican Guard serves as the guard of honor for many official events and the French president, but it also guards key government installations in Paris, protects the French prime minister and president, and engages in military exercises.

5. Corazzieri Regiment (Italy)

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo: Wikipedia/Jollyroger

Commanded by a colonel in the Italian Army, the Carazzieri Regiment performs ceremonial duties as the honor guard of the Italian president, but they’re also an active police force. During times of war, they can be organized under the Defense Ministry.

6. Presidential Guard (Fiji)

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
Photo: Republic of Fiji Military Forces

The Presidential Guard of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is the honor guard of Fiji’s president. However, they are also in charge of the physical security of the president’s residence and nearby installations.

NOW: Here’s the intense training for Marines who guard American embassies

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Israel admits destroying Syrian reactor was a ‘message’

The Israeli military has formally acknowledged for the first time its destruction of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, saying the airstrike removed a major threat to Israel and was a “message” to others.


Israel’s announcement on March 21, 2018, about Operation Out of the Box was widely seen as a veiled warning to archenemy Iran as it builds up its military presence in Syria.

Also read: Israeli and US troops will train to defend Israel from a massive attack

Israel has warned against the establishment of a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, particularly in areas close to Israel, and in February 2018, it shot down an Iranian drone that it said entered its airspace.

“The message from the attack on the nuclear reactor in 2007 is that the state of Israel will not allow the establishment of capabilities that threaten Israel’s existence,” Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Gadi Eizencot, said.

“This was our message in 2007, this remains our message today, and will continue to be our message in the near and distant future,” he said.

Israel’s decision to go public and justify the decade-old strike against Syria comes after repeated calls in recent months by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and the international community to take tougher action against Iran, which is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest ally.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon — “not now, not in 10 years, not ever” — or to build missile factories in Syria that could threaten Israel, or provide advanced weapons for Hizballah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite group in Lebanon.

Throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war, Israel has carried out well over 100 air strikes, most believed to have been aimed at suspected weapons shipments destined for Hizballah forces operating alongside Assad’s forces in Syria.

Iran did not immediately respond to Israel’s warning and disclosure about its previous strike against the Syrian facility.

Related: Israelis shoot down an Iranian drone to find a cheap US ripoff

The Israeli military’s announcement was accompanied by the release of newly declassified materials, including photographs and cockpit video said to show the moment that an airstrike destroyed the Al-Kubar facility in the desert near Deir al-Zor, an area that was later overrun by the Islamic State extremist group.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said it was “very likely” that the site “was a nuclear reactor that should have been declared.”

Syria, a signatory of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has always denied that the site was a reactor or that Damascus engaged in nuclear cooperation with North Korea, which is believed to have supplied the reactor.

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That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

How much could a Marine Corps fighter cost? That was probably one of the questions running through 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Howard Foote’s mind as the enlisted flight mechanic climbed into an unarmed A4M Skyhawk in the middle of a July night.


USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
An A4M Skyhawk taking off in 1989. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

In case you were wondering, the cost is roughly $18 million. Rather, that was the cost back in 1984, when Foote stole one of them from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. Today, that would be the equivalent of $41 million, adjusted for inflation.

Sentries tried to stop Foote as he taxied the aircraft for takeoff, but they just couldn’t get his attention.

“Foote joined the Marines to go the Corps’ Enlisted Commissioning Program, hoping to attend flight school,” Lt. Tim Hoyle, an El Toro public affairs officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “However, while flying at 42,500 feet in a glider he suffered an aerial embolism similar to the bends suffered by divers.”

The bends is the divers’ term for decompression sickness, where gasses in the body (like nitrogen in the compressed oxygen tanks used by divers) come out of the blood in bubbles because the body doesn’t have time to adjust to the pressure around it.

Flight school was not going to happen. Foote became a mechanic instead. Still, he had to realize his dream of going up at the helm of a fighter.

“I had worked my entire life for this flight,” Foote told the LA Times, four years later. “There was nothing else.”

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
An LA Times Clipping of the incident. (Tactical Air Network)

The young Marine drove up to the plane in a vehicle used to take pilots to their aircraft. He even wore a flight suit to dress the part.

He flew the fighter for 50 miles, roughly a half hour, doing loops and barrel rolls over the Pacific Ocean. He then landed it after making five passes of the runway.

No one tracked the plane. They didn’t send any other fighters to intercept it. Foote brought it back all on his own.

That’s integrity.

Foote was sent to the stockade at Camp Pendleton. He served four and a half months of confinement and was served an other-than-honorable discharge.

He tried to fly for Israel and for Honduras after his discharge. Foote later qualified as a test pilot in more than 20 different military and civilian aircraft, and became a contractor to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He holds patents in aviation design and engineering technology.

MIGHTY TRENDING

India is beefing up its navy to counter China’s massive fleet

India has watched warily as China’s navy has ventured into the Indian Ocean, and now New Delhi plans to expand its navy to keep its edge in the ocean with which it shares a name.

India’s navy currently has 140 warships and 220 aircraft, and navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba said Dec. 3, 2018, that there are 32 ships and submarines under construction in Indian shipyards.


Delhi has also approved the construction of another 56 warships and six submarines, part of a 10-year plan. “By 2050, we will also have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and be a world-class navy,” Lanba said.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

India’s first-in-class Kalvari submarine during floating at Naval Dockyard in Mumbai in October 2015.

(Indian navy photo)

One of those six submarines will be from Project-75I, a billion initiative to acquire advanced subs equipped with air-independent-propulsion systems that allow nonnuclear subs to operate without atmospheric oxygen, replacing or augmenting diesel-electric systems.

Lanba also said that the second of India’s Scorpene-class diesel-electric subs had been through the needed trials and would be commissioned soon. The first of the class was inducted in December 2017.

India said in November 2018 that is first domestically built nuclear-powered missile sub, INS Arihant, had completed its first deterrence patrol, giving the country the ability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air, and sea.

The Arihant was a message to rivals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the time: “Don’t try any misadventure against India.”

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a speech to sailors marking the first deterrence patrol by the ballistic-missile sub INS Arihant, Nov. 5, 2018.

(Narendra Modi / Twitter)

Lanba also said on Dec. 3, 2018, that plans to produce India’s second domestically built aircraft carrier had “received the necessary impetus,” according to The Economic Times. The Indian Express reported that the government is wary of the cost of a third carrier but that Lanba had said “the cost is justified in the Combat Battle Group.”

India’s first carrier, INS Vikramaditya, is a modified Kiev-class carrier purchased from Russia. The first domestically built aircraft carrier, the second overall, is under construction and is expected to undergo sea trials in three years, Lanba said.

The third carrier will take seven to 10 years to build, Lanba said, but it would allow India to operate two carriers at all times, complementing India’s submarine force.

“A submarine is for ‘sea denial,’ while the a carrier battle group is for sea control,” Lanba said. “Carrier battle groups will enhance the navy’s role in the” Indian Ocean Region.

Delhi’s efforts to enhance its position in the Indian Ocean are not limited to ships.

A naval air station in the northern Andaman and Nicobar Islands boosts connectivity in the region and improves surveillance in the area. The islands are west of the Malacca Strait, through which much of the shipping between the Indian and Pacific oceans passes — including Chinese subs.

India has already deployed its variant of the advanced US P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to the islands.

Negotiations are underway to build a naval base in the Seychelles, at the opposite end of the Indian Ocean. In addition to exercises with partners in the region, the navy is conducting patrols with the Maldives, where India appears to have come out ahead in a geopolitical struggle with China.

“In Maldives, there is a government which is favourable to India. We are providing [exclusive economic zone] patrols with Maldives. We continue to do so … we will move forward in all discussions, not only in maritime,” Lanba said Dec. 3, 2018.

Delhi has been tracking Chinese subs entering the Indian Ocean since 2013. Lanba’s comments come as China’s warships grow increasingly active there.

At any time, Lanba said Dec. 3, 2018, there are six to eight Chinese navy ships in the region: a three-ship anti-piracy force in the Gulf of Aden and three to four survey vessels. “In October 2018, a Chinese submarine was deployed and spent a month in the Indian Ocean,” he added. “All this was in 2018.”

India’s Eastern Fleet commander Rear Adm. D.K. Tripathi said Dec. 5, 2018, that India’s navy had over the past year moved to mission-based deployments to maximize their time at sea.

“We are monitoring all that is happening in the Indian Ocean,” he said when asked about the presence of other navies.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

An India MiG-29K prepares to catch the arresting wire while landing on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya in 2014.

(Indian Navy photo)

India has a long history of tension with its northern neighbor, including several wars over a disputed boundary in the Himalayas.

For now, the land border remains the Indian military’s primary focus, as the army is the dominant wing of the armed forces, Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia expert at the geopolitical-analysis firm Stratfor, told Business Insider in October 2018.

But Chinese naval activity, as well as diplomatic overtures through Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, have worried Delhi.

“For India, the concern now is that although it maintained this kind of regional hegemony by default, that status is beginning to erode, and that extends to the Indian Ocean,” Pervaiz said. “India wants to maintain [its status as] the dominant maritime power in the Indian Ocean, but … as China’s expanding its own presence in the Indian Ocean, this is again becoming another challenge.

On Dec. 3, 2018, when asked to compare to the Indian navy to those of China and Pakistan, Lanba said Delhi was still on top where it mattered.

“As far as the Indian Navy is concerned, we have only one front. And that is the Indian Ocean. We have overwhelming superiority over Pakistan navy in all fields and domains. In the Indian Ocean region, the balance of power rests in our favor compared to China.”

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

Articles

How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

By WATM guest Christian Bussler


“You are there for your brothers, and that’s all that really matters.”

It was that one line from the trailer of the upcoming movie “Last Flag Flying” that caught my attention and transported me back to another place and another time — Al Anbar province, September 2005.

At the time, I was a Marine staff sergeant on my third combat tour in three years. I had just returned to Iraq after being wounded by an IED the year prior.

On this deployment, I was to be the top NCO for all Mortuary Affairs operations in and around Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq. My job was to recover our fallen warriors from the battlefields and return them home with honor.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
(USMC photo)

As unassuming as that movie quote may be for anyone else, for me, those words ignited a spark. They instantly connected me to how my Marines and I felt about the fallen who were in our care back then. We would stop at nothing to return them home — because they were one of us, they were our brothers, and in the end, that was all that really mattered.

“Last Flag Flying,” which will be released in select theaters Nov. 3 and hit theaters nationwide on Nov. 22, stars Steve Carell who takes a departure from his normal funny-man roles by portraying former Navy Corpsman Larry “Doc” Shepherd who tracks down two of his Marine buddies he hasn’t seen in 30 years (played by Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston). Shepherd reveals he had been notified two days prior that his son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq.

He asks his friends for their help to lay his son to rest.

A story like this automatically kicks me square in the feels. In the short two minute trailer, I immediately recognized the two sides to this parable. One is a story of old warriors coming together to honor a son killed at war. The other is rarely depicted in movies in a time of strife. It is the human cost of warfare, the cost beyond the obvious war dead. It is the sacrifices made by their families and communities.

This is a truth that has replayed across our country close to 7,000 times over the last 16 years. The movie takes a look at this cost that has spared few communities in some way or fashion by our recent conflicts.

During my time in Iraq, my Marines and I would go to vast extremes to recover our fallen warriors. The thoughts of those families pushed us to work harder — no matter what it took or how difficult it was, we were going to get them home to their families.

Through helo crash scenes we crawled on our hands and knees, combing through the desert sands in search of remains and personal effects. We spent countless hours swinging sledge hammers to break apart the solidified parts of melted vehicles to recover the minutest fragments of DNA.

Repeatedly we put ourselves directly into harm’s way to gather our fallen brothers from the battlefields to get them home. We believed we actually worked for the families of the fallen. They would want us to go that extra mile to ensure that their loved ones were taken care of the best way we could, and we did exactly that, no matter the cost.

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight
(USMC photo)

The connection between “The Last Flag Flying” and my experiences extends to how today we honor our fallen warriors with flags. In Iraq, my Marines and I changed the way we flagged the transfer cases of our fallen to pay them a deeper honor.

Before our tour in 2005, flags were merely taken out of a cardboard box, placed upon the transfer case, and tied down with a white cord. It just was how things were done going all the way back to whenever they first started flagging caskets. Realizing these flags were eventually given to the families, I knew we could do better. Instead we ironed and starched every flag so that they were crisp and sharp.

We also implemented a new technique so there was zero chance of the flag touching the ground. These procedures were eventually adopted by the military.

The common thread between my experience and “The Last Flag Flying” is that in our own ways, the director and I were trying to reveal the same narrative.

Quietly and largely unseen, brothers go to great lengths to care for their fallen brothers. And the story of sacrifice doesn’t just end on battlefields, it continues into the homes of our Gold Star families. It is felt on the everyday streets of our communities, and it is remembered in the resting places of our honored fallen.

WATM contributor Christian Bussler is a former Mortuary Affairs Marine and is the author of “No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor- A memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine,” available through Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, Kindle and soon at your local bookstores.

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