Here's how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

The battle against explosives and stemming civilian casualties in Afghanistan remains a top priority for U.S. forces there.


“For more than 40 years, Afghanistan has been bombed, shelled and mined,” according to the Alun Hill video below. “Old Soviet mines and shells still litter the countryside.”

Insurgents use these dangerous relics, innocuous household items and other explosive materials smuggled in from Pakistan to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which they use against American forces. Explosives that are undetonated can remain dormant for years before being uncovered by unsuspecting civilians. Most of the casualties now in Afghanistan come from these items, said Conventional Weapons Destruction (CWD) Manager Hukum Khan Rasooly.

Watch how these dangerous weapons are made and destroyed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo7XsFwOaCY

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pilot shot down by Pakistan returns to India

An Indian pilot captured by Pakistani forces on Feb. 27, 2019, after his warplane was shot down in the disputed region of Kashmir has returned to India after being freed by Islamabad in a “peace gesture.”

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crossed into India at the Wagah crossing point on March 1, 2019, hours later than expected and sporting a black eye.

Varthaman’s release came a day after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan made the announcement in a speech to Pakistan’s parliament on Feb. 28, 2019.


Pakistan’s military said its air force shot down two India Air Force jets in its airspace and captured a pilot on the ground in Pakistan-administered Kashmir on Feb. 27, 2019.

Pakistan returns captured Indian pilot

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India confirmed the loss of one of its MiG-21s and the capture of its pilot. It said it also foiled an attack by Pakistan warplanes over Kashmir and shot down one Pakistani plane.

Islamabad denies any of its aircraft were shot down.

The aerial confrontation came a day after India on Feb. 26, 2019, struck what it said was a militant camp in northeastern Pakistan in retaliation for a suicide bombing that killed at least 41 Indian troops in the India-controlled part of Kashmir

A Pakistan-based group, the Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM), claimed responsibility for the Feb. 14, 2019 attack — the deadliest to take place during a three-decade insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir.

India has accused Pakistan of having a “direct hand” in the attack and providing sanctuary to the militants.

Islamabad denies involvement.

India’s air strikes in Pakistani territory on Feb. 26, 2019, were the first since the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is where you can read the newly released JFK documents


  • The National Archives is releasing approximately 3,100 classified documents relating to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
  • The documents are likely to both clear up and inflame conspiracy theories, which have swirled for decades, surrounding the assassination.

The US National Archives on Thursday is releasing thousands of previously classified documents related to President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.

You can read the documents on the National Archives site.

Sure to be fodder for conspiracy theorists, the files all relate to Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Following his murder, more than 30,000 government documents — totaling millions of pages — have been incrementally released to the public, although many of them have been redacted or only partially released.

Also read: Here is the story behind John F. Kennedy’s Purple Heart

Much of the public stayed in the dark about the presence of these files until Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK,” in which a closing statement told the public about the secret documents. Movie-goers quickly turned into letter-writers, as concerned citizens began demanding that Washington make the full set of files available.

Congress accelerated the choice to declassify them, and then-President George H.W. Bush signed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act a year later in 1992. The Act created a review board known as the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) that oversaw the documents’ release.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that he would not block the planned release of the files, many of which have been classified since the 1960s.

The October 26 release date was not determined by the Trump administration, but instead by the 25-year-old Records Collection Act.

Trump sparked controversy when, during the 2016 presidential primary, he suggested that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in Kennedy’s assassination and had contacts with Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who pulled the trigger. Trump hasn’t yet apologized for the claim.

Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, just over two years into his presidency. Conspiracy theories about his murder have swirled ever since.

Of the tens of thousands of documents already partially released, approximately 3,100 still remain classified. No one knows exactly what information is contained in the files; the only guide is an index that vaguely lists the contents of the secret documents.

The index does, however, present eyebrow-raising file names that seem to implicate a connection between the Assassination Records Review Board and the CIA. One such batch of files is listed with the subject line “CIA CORRESPONDENCE RE ARRB,” Politico reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the Marine exercise in Syria to deter Russian attacks

Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.


Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.

Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.

“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.

Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.

Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.

The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.

The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.

The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.

Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds

Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.

During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Congress approves 2.1 percent military pay raise

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
A soldier deposits funds into a safe in a finance office, Nov. 4, 2013, at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, Afghanistan.


“You get a raise, and you get a raise, and you get a raise. You all get a raise!” That’s what Oprah Congress is telling its military and civilian Department of Defense counterparts this month, according to military.com.

The summary for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 throws a bit of shade toward President Obama, stating:

Unlike the President’s request, the NDAA:

  • Provides the full 2.1% pay raise for our Troops, as required by law
  • Stops the drawdown and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces
  • Increases ground and aviation training to address shortfalls that have contributed to accidents across the Services
  • Provides Operation and Maintenance support for a larger force, including increased depot maintenance, facilities sustainment and modernization, and ship maintenance
  • Replenishes depleted munitions inventories
  • Begins a turnaround in ship procurement with advanced funding for submarines and amphibious ships.

Effective January 1, 2017, members of the military and Department of Defense employees will see a slightly more than 2 percent pay hike. Additionally, threats to bachelors allowance for housing, (or BAH, were thwarted and the current BAH rates will stay put.

The NDAA provides funding for Israel’s missile defenses, plans to “deter” Russian “aggression in Europe,” prevents women from being required to enroll in the selective service, orders the Pentagon to reform commissaries and healthcare, and requires changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
With the 2.1 percent increase in base pay, this is what your new pay will look like beginning January 1, 2017

Articles

The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what a military parade could cost the US

President Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Feb. 14, 2018 that proposed plans for a military parade would cost from $10 million to $30 million.


“I’ve seen various different cost estimates,” Mulvaney said, during a hearing in front of the House Budget Committee. “Between $10 million and $30 million depending on the size of the parade, the scope of it, the length, those types of things.”

“Obviously, an hour parade is different than a five-hour parade in terms of cost,” he said.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
President Donald Trump, parade enthusiast.

Mulvaney was responding to a question from California Representative Barbara Lee, who asked how much the planned parade would cost and where the money would come from. Mulvaney said that the money for a parade would have to be appropriated and that it is not accounted for in the FY19 budget.

Also read: The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

The Trump administration has said a military parade would help show appreciation and support for those serving in the military. Though the idea is still in its early stages of planning, it has been heavily criticized, with much of the pushback focusing on cost.

America’s last military parade in Washington DC was in 1991, and celebrated the victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces and the liberation of Kuwait. That parade cost around $12 million, less than half of which was paid by the government and the rest coming from private donations.

Mulvaney also admitted that if he were still a Congressman, he would not vote for the budget he proposed.

Related: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

Edward King, president and founder of the conservative think tank Defense Priorities, told CNBC shortly after the announcement for a parade that “given budget realities, the opportunity cost of a parade is too high to justify,”

“Math still applies to superpowers, so our $20 trillion of debt poses a serious threat to our national security.”

Articles

NASA astronauts train with Air Force survival school instructors

Four NASA astronauts trained with U.S. Air Force Survival School instructors in water survival and recovery at the fitness center pool [at Fairchild AFB, Washington].


Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey)

Four NASA astronauts sit in with a class of survival school students being briefed on life raft procedures at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., Feb. 10, 2017. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey

The astronauts underwent the training in preparation for anticipated test flights of the new commercially made American rockets, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Dragon.

Also read: This is what it’s like to feel zero G aboard NASA’s ‘Vomit Comet’

“It’s a different space program now,” said astronaut Sunita Williams. “We’re flying in capsules instead of shuttles, and they can land anywhere. You never know when an emergency situation may happen, so we’re grateful to get this training.”

The astronauts were put through the paces of bailing out from a simulated crash landing in water. They learned to deploy and secure a life raft, rescue endangered crew members, avoid hostile forces and experience being hoisted into a rescue vehicle.

“This is the first time we’ve gotten a complete environmental training experience — lots of wind, waves and rain,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “This is a great way to experience how bad it can get and how important it is to be prepared.”

Trained With Course’s Students

The astronauts opted to join in with more than 20 water survival course students, despite being given the option to train alone.

“They didn’t want to train on their own,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Chas Tacheny, the chief of NASA human space flight support in Houston. “They wanted to train with the group, because some of these people may one day be preforming search and rescue for them.”

Other NASA astronauts visited the survival school last year in an effort to research and test the viability of its training course and facilities. The astronauts liked what they experienced, and NASA has since developed its training partnership with the schoolhouse.

“The [survival, evasion, resistance and escape] instructors are advising us in water recovery,” Behnken said. “These experts are the most experienced I’ve ever seen. They are able to spot holes in our training and fill the gaps.”

NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston has a large water training facility built to simulate weightless conditions during space walks, but it’s not properly equipped to simulate water surface conditions for recovery training.

This training is vital for future mission recovery operations, Behnken said, noting that NASA officials are working with the experts here to replicate the survival school water survival training equipment at the Houston facility.

Impressive Facilities

“I’m impressed by the use of the facilities here,” Williams said. “It’s a small space, but they really manage to simulate all kinds of weather conditions and situations we might experience during a water landing.”

The survival school originally had a separate detachment at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, where it conducted water survival training in open ocean waters. The training was brought to Fairchild in August 2015 in an effort to save time and money by consolidating training at one location.

“It was a good decision for the Air Force to streamline our training efforts by moving all portions of water survival training here,” said Air Force Col. John Groves, the 336th Training Group commander. “However, the fitness center pool was designed for recreational use and isn’t suited to the ever-increasing demands placed on it by our training programs. Bottom line, we owe it to our airmen and mission partners such as NASA, who rely on our unique training capabilities, to have a purpose-built water survival training facility.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Jesse Iwuji — Navy to NASCAR

Sometimes, all it takes is a whiteboard and a marker to jump-start a dream into reality. This week’s Borne the Battle features guest Jesse Iwuji, whose creative and hardworking mindset led him to overcome great challenges and become a NASCAR driver.

Growing up, Iwuji excelled at both track and football. His high school accomplishments led him to the Naval Academy’s football team where he played safety. He graduated from the academy in 2010. After seven years active duty, Jesse transitioned to the Navy Reserve.


After his football career ended, Iwuji found competitiveness in racing. However, he was at a disadvantage compared to his peers who started racing at a very early age: Iwuji started in his mid 20s. He lacked sponsorship and he wasn’t born into a racing family. Despite this, his determination and led him to a variety of open doors. He funded the first part of his NASCAR KN racing career through a variety of ways to include starting his own business. Currently he is racing in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

Today, Iwuji represents sponsors from several different organizations, which many help veterans. He uses racing as a platform to advocate for veterans’ rights and he shares his passion in Veteran communities and schools. To Jesse, nothing is impossible if you have vision and hard work behind it.

Faces of the Fleet: Jesse Iwuji teaser #1

www.youtube.com

Child with cancer gets wish granted by NASCAR driver & US Navy LT Jesse Iwuji

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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This former Delta Force commander is fighting a new, more deadly battle

The men were calling in bomb after bomb — pinpointing al Qaeda positions in the hills and ridges of Tora Bora, miles from support and operating on their own for days.


In the end, the special operators from the Army’s elite Delta Force did all they could in the face of intense danger, feckless allies and brutal conditions to kill America’s public enemy number one. But to no avail.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Former Army Delta Force officer Maj. Tom Greer led the first teams into Afghanistan on the hunt for 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. (Photo from Kill bin Laden)

The man who led those elite teams of Delta Force soldiers in the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan later wrote a book under the pen name Dalton Fury. Titled “Kill bin Laden: A Delta Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” it told in granular detail the risks this highly trained counterterrorism unit took to infiltrate the jagged mountains where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding and stitch together an ever-fraying patchwork of Afghan allies to help block his escape.

“We went into a hellish land that was considered impregnable and controlled by al Qaeda leaders who had helped defeat the Soviet Union,” Fury wrote. “We killed them by the dozen. Many more surrendered. … And we heard the demoralized — bin Laden speak on the radio, pleading for women and children to fight for him.”

“Then he abandoned them all and ran from the battlefield,” Fury added with some satisfaction. “Yes. He ran away.”

Fury was savaged by many in his former Delta and Special Forces community when the 2008 book was released, with many arguing he’d broken a code of silence on the secretive unit’s operations. His former colleagues outed his real name, Maj. Tom Greer, but he kept using Dalton Fury as his nomme de plume for a later series of popular fiction books about door kickers and contractors who hunted the world’s worst.

With the passage of time, the special ops community has settled down and Fury became Greer again. But despite his success in the world of fiction and his survival of many dangerous missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, among others, Greer is now fighting a battle he may not win.

According to friends and other sources, Greer recently has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. His supporters have established a Facebook page in hopes of helping his family in their time of need.

Greer is a true warrior and decorated combat veteran of the world’s most deadly counterterrorism unit, doubtless he’ll fight this battle with the same grit and tenacity he did against America’s most dangerous enemies.

Intel

The Smartest and Most Hilarious Army-Navy Video Shot This Year

Like any genre or series, over the years the Army-Navy game “Spirit Spot” videos have run the gamut in terms of production values, imagination, and humor. This one gets the WATM vote for best one produced this year:


Watch the 2014 Army-Navy game live from MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on CBS at 3 PM EST.

NOW: Watch Leonard Nimoy In A Marine Corps Instructional Video From 1954

OR WATCH: From US Marine To Successful Photographer

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan president admits ‘horrific’ losses, but says Taliban is losing

The latest reports on the war in Afghanistan seem to contradict the government assurances that victory is within reach, painting a picture of a bloody conflict with no end in sight.

In November 2018, 242 Afghan security force members were killed in brutal engagements with Taliban insurgents, The New York Times reported Nov. 15, 2018. Militants almost wiped out an elite company of Afghan special forces in an area considered the country’s “safest district,” and officials told Voice of America Nov. 15, 2018, that more than 40 government troops were recently killed in Taliban attacks near the border.


Over the past three years, more than 28,000 Afghan soldiers and police have been killed, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed in a rare admission.

“Since 2015, still much regrettable, but the entire loss of American forces in Afghanistan is 58 Americans. In the same period, 28,529 of our security forces have lost their lives,” the president said, according to the Times. For Afghanistan, this figure works out to roughly 25 police officers and soldiers dying each day.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“Are the losses horrific? Yes,” he added, saying that this does not mean the Taliban are winning.

But there are real questions about whether the scale of these losses is sustainable.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis highlighted just how devastating the war has been for the Afghan security forces in an October 2018 speech. “The Afghan lads are doing the fighting, just look at the casualties,” he explained. “Over 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September.”

The Afghan government controls or influences only 55.5 percent of the country, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) introduced in its most recent quarterly report to Congress, noting that this is the lowest level of control in three years. In November 2015, the government controlled or influenced 72 percent of the country.

Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president, told the Associated Press that the blame for these losses rests on the shoulders of the US.

“The United States either changed course or simply neglected the views of the Afghan people,” Karzai told the AP. His views reflect what has been reported as a growing aversion for the NATO mission.

Signs that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating come as the US and its coalition partners ramp up their air campaign against Taliban forces. Coalition bombing in Afghanistan is at a 5-year high, according to the latest airpower report from US Air Forces Central Command, and the year isn’t out.

US Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top US commander in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped an assassination that left two senior Afghan officials dead and a US general wounded, recently told NBC that the war in Afghanistan “is not going to be won militarily. He added that the “the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” a view that may not be shared by Taliban commanders.

Caitlin Foster contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine turned from scout sniper to singer songwriter

You know the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover”?  That’s precisely what you should remember when you meet singer-songwriter, Brandon Mills.


The six-foot-tall dirty blonde haired blue-eyed Mills isn’t just another pretty face; behind those blue eyes, there is a bad ass who was once known as Sergeant Brandon Lanham, Marine Corps reconnaissance scout sniper.

He goes by Mills because, as he puts it, “Mills is my middle name, all my favorite singer songwriter’s names are 3 syllables, not sure why but I think there is a method to their madness.”

Mills joined the Marine Corps with his brother and they attended boot camp together and were later reunited in the Recon community.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills.

Mills served his first tour in Afghanistan with Golf Co. 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines out of Hawaii. After some continued motivation from his brother, he took the leap, passed the requirements and indoctrination process, and got to 1st Recon Battalion, with whom he would deploy to his second tour in Iraq.

Also read: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

All along the way, Mills was writing lyrics and honing his craft as a musician.

“I just wanted to travel and play music for everyone,” Mills said about his desire to perform.

“My youngest memory of recorded music is a Beach Boys greatest hits tape that I spent my lawn mowing money on,” reflects Mills as he explains his earliest passion for music that has stuck with him since playing the saxophone in school.

The love of music and the desire to create it has been a lifelong aspiration for Mills even before he joined, so it would make sense that he leave the Marine Corps and become a musician. Right?

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Even after all his success and accolades in the Corps, Mills was not ready to aimlessly jump straight into the music scene when he left the Marines. He admits he was nervous — even scared — to chase the dream without a safety net, so he did what many Veterans do: he became a contractor.

Eventually, the bug bit harder and he found it impossible to not take the risk and pursue his true first love.

Now managing his own gigs, website, and social media, Mills has made his transition from Marine to musician rather successfully.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

He has played shows all over the country, supporting non-profits like Intersections International, Force Blue, and Society of Artistic Veterans. He has recorded several tracks and even shot a few music videos of himself performing.

Recently Mills finished a residency at Umami burger in Brooklyn and Manhattan, “That was just me hustling, literally going from business to business asking, do you guys do live music? If not, why? If you do, how do I get involved?”

That’s the work ethic and resolve all warriors take to their tasks.

(Brandon Mills | YouTube)It might go without saying that the persistence, determination, and even stubbornness are strong character traits in most, if not all, of our elite warriors.

You don’t make it into our military’s special units without being resilient, steadfast, and dedicated — Mills without a doubt carries those same values and characteristics into his music career.

I asked Mills if the transition was hard, going from stone cold warrior to writing and performing love songs. I wondered if there was any identity crisis there and how he dealt with it.

Also read: 8 songs that are essential to any successful military convoy

He explained that it was difficult dealing with other ideas of masculinity and letting that warrior machismo block his flow, but he has learned to temper those instincts and allow himself to feel the positive vibes and let his creativity through, not worrying about what others think and only focusing on great storytelling through song.

I don’t think Brandon would mind the comparison of his sound being somewhere between John Mayer in his vocal delivery and Jack Johnson in his light-hearted muted acoustic.  Mills’ vocals have that bluesy, gravely register that urges the listener to lean in and feel the lyrics, while his guitar style is playful and rhythmic like a campfire sing-a-long.

Here’s how explosives experts destroy IEDs in Afghanistan
(Photo courtesy of Brandon Mills)

Mills isn’t commercially successful yet, or famous for that matter; however, he understands that it’s a long road in the music industry, requiring a ton of work — but he feels he has all that in him.

He wants to help veterans tell their stories through music and let them know that it’s okay to express themselves through art, using himself as an example. Brandon’s music is all about spreading positivity, uplifting spirits, and connecting people with passion.

“I hope that I can give some people what they need,” Mills said, when discussing his forthcoming album. “I’m so critical of myself, I know what I want — if it’s not good enough I will do it again.”

It’s relentless drive and focus like this that will push Mills into the spotlight, eventually.

The strength, tenacity, and perseverance saturated in his warrior spirit will undoubtedly meld with his passion and creativity to help Brandon Mills become a renowned singer-songwriter for years to come.

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