For most Americans, Kazakhstan evokes images of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, driving across America, uttering timeless quotes about his wife, his neighbor Ursultan, or those a**holes in Uzbekistan. Those interested in military history might want to look beyond Borat’s neon green bikini – it was a Kazakh who hoisted the Soviet flag over the Reichstag during World War II after all and until it was absorbed into the Soviet Union, Kazakh tribes remained largely undefeated in military history.
In 1969, a burial mound was discovered near Issyk in what was then the Kazakh SSR of the Soviet Union. The mound contained an ancient skeleton along with warrior’s gear and funeral treasures belonging to a long-dead Scythian soldier, estimated to be buried around the 5th Century BCE. Based on the funerary treasures, the skeleton was considered to be that of a noble, a prince or princess. Among those treasures was what has come to be called the “Golden Man” amongst Kazakhs – a suit of ornate armor made of more than 4,000 pieces of gold.
The suit is so ornate and valuable, the Kazakh government will only show replicas of the Golden Man in museums. The original is said to be housed in the main vault of the National Bank of Kazakhstan in Almaty.
The Prince is from a tribe of ancient Scythian warriors called the “Saka” who lived in the lands north of what is today Iran. While the ancient historians called all tribes living in the Asian steppe Scythian, the ancient Persians referred to those Scythian tribes at their northern border as the Saka. These nomadic peoples likely fought against Alexander the Great as his forces moved west. They also engaged Cyrus the Great’s Persian forces, killing him in battle around 530 BCE.
The Scythian tribes of this time were not dominated by men, and like their modern-day Soviet Kazakh armies, women would fight alongside their men. It was their Empress Tomyris who led the army that killed Cyrus. Descendants of these same tribes would resist incursions from early Russian, Chinese, and Roman armies.
So while it’s very possible the “Golden Man” wasn’t a man at all, the ancient, cataphract-style armor – armor used by nomadic-style cavalry units – is a beautiful historical work of art. The gold works depict snow leopards, deer, goats, horses, and majestic birds. These are all depicted on the likely ceremonial armor and form a clear basis for the modern style of tribal jewelry-making in the Central Asian country.
As for the bones of the ancient warrior, they were reinterred using the customs of the Scythian warriors of the time. The people of this area are still so very close to their tribal origins that they all know from which of the three tribes of Kazakhstan they descend.
Military spouses have enough on their plates. They do not need your unsolicited, unfavorable, unmannered, advice. There are so many ways you can help end the falsified image of helplessness military spouses have been forced to live with, within our culture. We are educated, physically strong and well-rounded people. We don’t need a pity party.
What we do need is support for our working military spouses, efficiently running daycare facilities, and units that truly understand that we too are important to the readiness of our service members.
Do you want to strengthen our military communities? If so, here’s how you can help end the negative stigma of the military spouse.
Do Not Contribute to the degradation of our community.
If you hear a rumor don’t repeat it. If you see a hurtful meme, don’t share it. Oftentimes, bullying is concealed and bred this way. Eventually, it spreads into a full-fledged attack on military spouses. Further dividing our community. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Every second of every day, a military spouse is left as their service member goes off to training, temporary duty, or war. They may be a new spouse, or maybe not. Either way, when they post about missing their loved one, be compassionate, or be invisible. You don’t have to contribute to every post. Just scroll on by.
Volunteer within the military community.
Volunteering is a great way to learn about the needs of a community. This can help you get to know the struggles military spouses face and how you can be a source of strength and compassion for them. If you have time, go volunteer at the local USO. If you don’t have time, but would like to donate resources, the USO is always in need of items such as; candy, coffee, greeting cards, and other basic care essentials. Reach out to your local USO and find out how you can help.
Be an advocate.
Speaking up about the struggles affecting military families helps start the much-needed conversation about the services or lack thereof within our community. Many services and programs specifically for military spouses aren’t well supported throughout the military for various reasons. We don’t need our hands held but we would like those in high places to advocate the need for the funding of enrichment programs.
Hear our stories.
We all come from different walks of life. We are derived from diverse cultures and have unique skill sets. Learn about who we are. Some of us are doctors, some scientists, engineers, and many have served within the military ranks. Allow spouses to speak at military town halls, and conferences about those things that are in our lane of expertise.
Let’s end the negative stigma of military spouses. Learn who we are, be encouraging, be an advocate, and most importantly, do not contribute to the spreading of rumors or the bullying of military spouses. We deserve to be treated with respect. As our service members fight the battles abroad, we shouldn’t have to fight ones at home. We too matter.
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.
The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.
Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.
(United States Marine Corps photo)
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.
“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.
Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
And just like that, all of America became homeschoolers.
As resources are furiously pinned to social media, it quickly becomes overwhelming to newbie parent-teachers trying to choose what tools to fill their children’s long days with. Rather quickly, most of you will hit walls. Walls that I too hit, full of rookie mistakes made trying to recreate the actual school day or classroom schedule within my home.
I’m here to tell you to throw that all away. To slowly and happily sip your morning coffee and read this.
Whatever you do, don’t try to recreate the school day at home.
As a former public school teacher turned travel schooling mom (google that in your spare time), the first mistake typically made is both the course load and daily schedule. Classrooms educate on average 20-30 children simultaneously at various levels of learning. At home, you have one student-yours. He or she will accomplish a school day’s worth of work in far less time.
The beauty of homeschool is that it is meant to be flexible, individual, and guided by learner’s passions. You will learn to “do school” at times when your child is the most focused. This may mean 1-2 lessons first thing in the morning, then creative passions, exploration, and fun until later in the evening when they finish up a few “core lessons.” At this very moment, homeschoolers are on thousands of varied schedules. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. So spend the first week or so tuning into your home and child’s rhythms before charging forcefully ahead into a schedule.
Pursuing interests is the best form of education
What’s the best modality for educating your children? Good conversation. I could start and end this article there.
Once you realize “core curriculum” takes up only a tiny fraction of time, something else will begin to fill the days…passion. The deep pursuit of self-interest is the beautiful gem of homeschooling. Now is the best time for your children to take up a love of art study, Claymation, geology, gardening, or marine biology via the unlimited library of content available online. Allow them to spark a new interest or immerse themselves completely in a passion for discovering a world they never knew existed.
The simplest, yet effective way to spark passion is to discover the world around you through intricate observation. On the way to the beach, my children noticed several tsunami hazard zone signs. A series of questions, answers, and google results led to over an hour of becoming mini experts at 4 and 8 years old. The subject was tangibly relevant to them; thus, they pursued the study fiercely. Experiences like this are worksheet free. Developing a love of learning is the ultimate goal of education.
Let them participate in what we are all going through
Knowledge is empowering. Your children are aware the world is changing around then, no matter how innocent they may be. Each new day we experience a global pandemic forcing the world into quarantine, shutting down schools, and infringing upon our way of life, which is a time worth documenting.
Allow your children to become historians and reporters. Generations all go through something, and this is something noteworthy. Invite your children to document what they see in the world around them and how they feel or what they understand is going on. Not only is this highly educational (spelling, grammar, creative writing, history, etc.), but it is also helpful to frame an otherwise scary situation for young minds. Together, each day you can go over their journals to help shape or clarify things for them. It is also an opportunity to solidify in their minds how you are doing all you can to keep your family safe.
This time is a gift. A gift to stop and reengage with your children all over again. To get to know them deeply as individuals in this season of life. To make the memories and connections necessary to sustain them into adulthood.
Take a breath, take it easy, and simply enjoy discovering each day together.
Thanks to new legislation signed into law Saturday, anyone distressed with thoughts of suicide will be able by next fall to dial 988 to reach a national crisis line similar to 911 for mental health emergencies.
President Donald Trump on Saturday signed two bills into law to help prevent veterans suicide — the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act and the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.
The latter establishes a new Department of Veterans Affairs grant program to promote collaboration with outside entities and enhance suicide prevention services for veterans and their families. It establishes new data requirements to better track potential causes of suicide and new hiring rules to bolster the VA’s mental health workforce.
The VA estimates that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and of those 20, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA, according to a statement by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Moran and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the Improvement Act, which they say will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six major ways:
Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one suicide prevention coordinator in every VA hospital.
Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy, and post-traumatic growth.
Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.
Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.
Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the department manages its suicide prevention resources.
Introduction ceremony for the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Photo from US Sen. Jon Tester’s official website.
“People in distress and in need of timely care should face the fewest obstacles possible to get help,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said after the bill was signed. “The bill President Trump signed today will soon make it easier for those at risk to be quickly connected to a trained responder and will help save lives.”
The legislation is named for Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who retired to Montana after 23 years of service and worked to help veterans find their own paths to recovery before he died by suicide Feb. 25, 2018.
“This is a very proud moment for my brother and our entire family,” said Kim Parrott, Hannon’s sister, on behalf of the Hannon family. “This law will provide veterans greater and earlier access to the mental health care they need by requiring the DOD and VA to work together to bridge the transition between military service and civilian life and conduct research in evidence-based treatments.”
Tester said the new law “combines the best ideas from veterans, veterans service organizations, the VA, and mental health care advocates to deliver innovative solutions that’ll help heal invisible wounds of war through increased access to care, alternate therapies and local treatment options.”
Senators also agreed to try and fast-track a package of nine House bills also related to veterans suicide. That package — dubbed the COMPACT Act — features a measure by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., to make VA mental health care services available to all veterans, regardless of their discharge status, according to Military Times. It also seeks to bolster support networks for at-risk veterans and requires VA officials to reach out to veterans every few years to ensure they are aware of benefits and health care options.
“It’s been a remarkable journey to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing the critical efforts laid out in this legislation to help our nation’s heroes get the right care at the right time for their mental health conditions,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana, in a statement.
Warner Brothers will showcase the courage and will of the comic book hero “Wonder Woman” this weekend in her big screen debut.
But it might be worth taking a look at the military exploits of Milunka Savic — a real-life Wonder Woman. Savic fought in both Balkan Wars and World War I to become the most-decorated woman of military history.
Savic took her brother’s place to fight for Serbia in 1912, cut her hair and took his name. She earned the rank of corporal and was shot in the chest at the Battle of Bregalnica. It was only during treatment that physicians discovered that she was a woman.
That per her commanding officer into a bit of a predicament — punish such a skilled soldier or risk this young woman’s life. They sent her to a nursing unit instead. She stood at attention requesting to return to her old infantry regiment. The commander said he would think about it and get back to her with an answer.
Savic simply stood at attention until they allowed her to serve in the Infantry.
Soon after, Austro-Hungarian troops invaded her homeland, beginning World War I.
Vastly outnumbered at the Battle of Kolubara, Savic entered no-man’s land throwing a bunch of grenades then jumped into an enemy trench and took 20 Austro-Hungarian soldiers prisoner — all by herself.
For her valor, she earned the highest honor of the Kingdom of Serbia — The Order of Karadorde’s Star with Swords. She did the same thing in later battles, capturing 23 Bulgarian troops.
Savic was wounded seven more times in various skirmishes. Few in numbers, her unit continued the fight under the French Army where she fought in Tunisia and Greece. In one instance, a French Officer refused to believe that a woman could be a capable fighter.
He placed a bottle of cognac 40 meters away. If she could hit it, another 19 bottles were for her. She proved him wrong with one shot.
Savic’s story lives on in Serbia as a true heroine. Her military honors include two Orders of Karadorde’s Star with Swords, two French Legions of Honor, Britain’s Order of St. Michael and St. George, and she is the only woman to be awarded the Croix de Guerre — The French Cross of War.
After 18 years of fighting, the Afghan war is at a deadly stalemate.
Afghanistan is divided among government forces backed by international troops, the Taliban and its militant allies, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and a collection of smaller foreign terrorist groups.
The United States and the Taliban signed a landmark agreement in February aimed at “bringing peace to Afghanistan.” That deal foresees a power-sharing arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and the full withdrawal of all foreign troops.
As a Taliban delegation arrived in Kabul for talks on prisoner releases and the Afghan government and the Taliban prepare to launch direct peace talks, most of the country is fiercely contested and ravaged by violence, with warring factions pursuing a “fight-and-talk” strategy.
WATCH: Some 900 Taliban members were freed from Afghanistan’s largest prison outside Kabul as part of a prisoner swap under a cease-fire deal on May 26.
The Afghan government controls the capital, Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centers, and most district centers, according to Resolute Support, the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Around 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts are in government hands, the Taliban commands some 20 percent, and the rest of the country is contested, according to Long War Journal (LWJ), a project run by the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
The LWJ’s “living map,” based mostly on media reports, is the only publicly available source that tracks district control in Afghanistan, after Resolute Support stopped assessing territorial control and enemy-initiated attacks over the past two years.
Afghan security forces have been on the defensive since NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, losing much-needed assistance with logistics, air support, and intelligence.
Resolute Support is training, advising, and assisting the 273,000-strong Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Additionally, the Afghan government employs around 20,000 militiamen who are part of the Afghan Local Police.
Meanwhile, a separate U.S. counterterrorism force is combating foreign terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the IS group and also elements of the Taliban. The United States also funds and supports special Afghan paramilitary units.
The Afghan forces have a large numerical advantage: There are an estimated 60,000 full-time Taliban militants and some 90,000 seasonal fighters.
But government forces are suffering from record casualties, high attrition, and low morale. That is widely blamed on a resurgent Taliban, ineffective leadership in the armed forces, and chronic corruption.
President Ashraf Ghani said in January 2019 that about 45,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen had been killed since he took office in September 2014 — or a staggering 849 per month. In 2018, the government stopped publicizing fatalities.
“The internationally recognized and elected government doesn’t have a monopoly on the use of force nor control over the majority of the country,” says Jonathan Schroden, a security expert with the U.S.-based nonprofit research and analysis organization CNA, who has provided assessments on the security situation in Afghanistan to the U.S. military and Congress.
The Taliban, which claims to be a government in exile, “has eroded much of the government’s control but cannot do so to the point of becoming the recognized government,” Schroden says.
The result, he says, is a “strategic stalemate.”
Government forces had been in an active defensive mode since a weeklong reduction-of-violence agreement preceding the U.S.-Taliban deal. But after two devastating terrorist attacks this month that the government blamed on the Taliban, Ghani ordered government forces to go on the offensive.
The political crisis over the disputed presidential election in September also affected the government’s military posture. There were fears of civil war after Ghani’s leading challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to form a parallel government and proclaimed himself the president, a scenario that threatened the cohesion of the security forces.
The standoff was resolved after Ghani and Abdullah signed a power-sharing deal — their second after consecutive elections — on May 17.
“The government faced serious challenges for months,” says Obaid Ali, an expert on the insurgency at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. “The government didn’t have a military strategy because the leadership was focused on the internal crisis after the presidential election’s outcome and the U.S.-Taliban talks.”
Ali says the months-long political feud sank morale and complicated logistics within the security forces.
The Taliban controls more territory than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the fundamentalist group from power.
The fundamentalist militant group’s leadership fled to neighboring Pakistan, where it allegedly received sanctuary, training, and arms, an accusation Islamabad has denied. From its safe havens in Pakistan, the Taliban has waged a deadly insurgency against Afghan and international troops.
The Taliban has been following what security experts call an “outside-in” strategy that was effectively employed by other insurgencies in Afghanistan, including the mujahedin who fought Soviet and Afghan government forces in the 1980s.
From its sanctuaries in Pakistan, the Taliban captured rural areas of Afghanistan and consolidated control over larger swaths of the countryside while generating recruits and resources. In recent years, the Taliban has encroached on more populated areas with the aim of isolating and then seizing them.
The militants have twice briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz, the country’s fifth-most populous.
“The Taliban has so far been successful in seizing and contesting ever larger swaths of rural territory, to the point where they have now almost encircled six to eight of the country’s major cities and are able to routinely sever connections via major roads,” Schroden says.
“The major thing holding the Taliban back at this point is the government’s supremacy of the air and its superior strike forces in the form of the commandos and special police units. But those units are being worn down and the Afghan Army has been slowly failing as an institution for the past five years.”
The Taliban insurgency has been a unifying cause for some smaller foreign militant groups.
Around 20 foreign militant groups are active in Afghanistan, including Pakistani extremist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, Lashkar-e Taiba, Jaish-e Muhammad, and Central Asian militant groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Jihad Union, and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group fighting for Uyghur independence in China.
Ali says the Taliban has ties to some of these foreign militant groups. “Some of these groups operate under the Taliban umbrella,” he says. “They can’t operate in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s permission. Each of these groups has a unique relationship with the Taliban — operationally, ideologically, or economically.”
Al-Qaeda is a largely diminished force, with only several hundred fighters in Afghanistan. But it remains a crucial part of the Taliban insurgency. The two groups have been longtime partners and are co-dependent, according to experts.
According to the U.S. State Department, the “implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement will require extensive long-term monitoring to ensure Taliban compliance, as the group’s leadership has been reluctant to publicly break with Al-Qaeda.”
Under that deal, the Taliban committed to “preventing any group or individual, including Al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
A January report from the UN’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that ties between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “continue to be close and mutually beneficial, with Al-Qaeda supplying resources and training in exchange for protection.”
Afghan security forces said on May 11 that they had captured the IS group’s regional leader for South Asia, Abu Omar Khorasani, in an operation in Kabul.
This was the latest in a string of recent setbacks for the group.
In April, Afghan security forces in the southern city of Kandahar captured the leader of the IS branch in Afghanistan, Abdullah Orakzai, along with several other militants.
According to the United Nations, since October 2019, over 1,400 IS fighters and affiliates have surrendered to Afghan or U.S. forces.
The U.S. military said the IS group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Nangarhar was “dismantled” in November 2019 due to U.S. air strikes, operations by Afghan forces, and fighting between the Taliban and IS militants.
The U.S. military said around 300 IS fighters and 1,000 of their family members surrendered.
The fighters and family members who did not surrender have relocated to Pakistan or the neighboring province of Kunar, a remote, mountainous region along the border with Pakistan, it added.
The U.S. military estimates that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 IS fighters active in Afghanistan.
Ali says that the IS group has bases in a few districts of Kunar Province, and they are also likely present in parts of neighboring Nuristan Province, another remote, mountainous province. But he says recent reports that IS militants were active in northern Afghanistan are “unreliable.”
“The group has lost most of the territory it held in eastern Afghanistan,” Ali says. “The recent operations against IS have severely weakened them and most have gone underground.”
But he says the recent arrests of IS fighters and leaders in major urban areas shows that there are still IS “sleeper cells” in the country.
Most IS fighters are thought to be former members of Pakistani militant groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.
“There are a smaller number of Afghans, Central Asians, and even fewer from other regional countries,” Ali adds.
By the summer of 1953, the Korean War had raged on for three years. The back and forth maneuvers up and down the peninsula had given way to a stalemate known as the Battle of the Outposts.
All along the 38th Parallel, the belligerents attacked one another’s outposts in the hopes of affecting a breakthrough. Blocking the Communist forces from driving straight on Seoul through the Cheorwon Valley, in an area known as the “Iron Triangle,” were three lonely outposts: Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Outpost Harry was situated on a hilltop in front of the Main Line of Resistance and opposite a Chinese position known as Star Hill. Being so far out in front meant that resupply was difficult and always under enemy observation. Harry’s 1,280-foot elevation did nothing to help matters.
On the night of June 10, 1953, as negotiations to end the war took place just over 50 miles away, elements of the Chinese 74th Division attacked in force. The task of defending the outpost that night fell on K Company, 15th Infantry Regiment. Having spent the previous days improving their defenses and sighting in weapons, they were given the order to hold at all costs.
The attack began with a bombardment by mortars, rockets, and artillery. Suddenly the outpost was illuminated by enemy flares. Bugles and whistles sounded and over 3,600 Chinese soldiers rushed toward the outpost. The Americans rained fire down on the advancing Chinese. They exploded 55 gallon drums of Napalm in the midst of the attackers and blasted them with artillery. They were able to repulse two determined waves before the Chinese made it to the trenches and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The Chinese were overrunning the outpost.
Lt. Sam Buck, Forward Observer from the 39th Artillery Battalion, was in the Command Post on Harry when it was overrun by the Chinese. As Chinese grenades exploded in the bunker and his comrades were wounded, he continued to resist, dropping any Chinese that came through the door with a burst from his carbine. Eventually wounded and unable to continue firing, he played dead while the Chinese occupied the bunker. The fighting was so intense, one of his last actions before being evacuated later that night was to put the Company Commander’s eyeball back in its socket.
With the defense of the outpost in peril the defenders were rallied by Sgt. Ola Mize. Throughout the attack Mize moved about the outpost tending to wounded, resupplying ammunition, and killing numerous enemies. Three times he was knocked down by explosions and three times he continued his mission. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Eventually artillery strikes called right on top of the outpost, along with reinforcements from C and E Companies, drove the Chinese out of the trenches. A diversionary attack by F Company, 65th Infantry Regiment also helped in clearing the area. The next morning only a handful of the original defenders were still in fighting shape. K Company was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their gallantry at the outpost.
B Company, 15th Infantry Regiment relieved K Company and took up the defense of Harry on June 11. Again darkness fell, and the Chinese began bombarding the American positions. Advancing through their own artillery barrage, the Chinese were able to gain the trenches once again. The defenders threw back several attacks before being reinforced by B Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team. Together the two companies defeated a second Chinese regiment in as many nights. B Company, 15th Infantry was awarded the regiment’s second Presidential Unit Citation.
The next night it was A Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team’s turn on the outpost, and once again the Chinese sent a reinforced regiment against the American position. As before, the Chinese advanced through both their own artillery and the Americans’ before entering the trenches where bitter hand-to-hand combat took place. The 15th Infantry Regiment sent L Company to reinforce and drive out the Chinese while another unit of tanks and infantry assaulted through the valley in a diversionary attack. For their actions in the defense, A Company, 5th RCT was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
The following night, June 13, was relatively quiet. The main action was against a Chinese screening force that attempted to recover their dead from the area around the outpost.
On the night of June 14, a small Chinese force was able to close in on the trenches through their own artillery barrage and attack G Company, 15th Infantry from the rear of the outpost. Reinforcements from E Company, 15th Infantry and a diversionary attack by elements of the 65th Infantry drove the Chinese from the outpost once again.
The next two nights were quiet on the outpost and allowed for some much needed repairs. Men from the Sparta Battalion of the Greek Expeditionary Force were also brought into the area to reinforce the depleted and beleaguered defenders. The Chinese used this time to cobble together what was left of the 74th Division for one more attack on the outpost.
That attack came on the night of June 17. The Chinese threw everything they had left in one last desperate attempt to dislodge the defenders of Outpost Harry. That night the men of P Company, Sparta Battalion, bore the brunt of the Chinese attack. Friendly artillery pounded the slopes around the trenches while the Greeks threw back wave after wave of communist attackers. N Company, Sparta Battalion reinforced their brothers and drove off the Chinese. The 74th Division retreated from the area, combat ineffective after the battle with U.N. Forces. P Company was awarded the American Presidential Unit Citation for holding Outpost Harry the final night.
In total there were five Presidential Unit Citations given for action at Outpost Harry, as well as one Medal of Honor and numerous other personal awards for valor. Just over a month later the armistice was signed, and the defense of Outpost Harry was crucial in ensuring a favorable agreement.
When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.
Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.
The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.
Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.
(U.S. Army photo)
The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.
When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.
The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.
Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.
(U.S. Army photo)
The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.
During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:
“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”
An in-depth report by Guy Norris in Aviation Week presents new evidence that a secretive, stealthy reconnaissance drone is now in operation with the US Air Force — and has been flying since 2010.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), thought to be called the RQ-180, is a large stealth craft used for reconnaissance missions, filling the role left open by the retirement of the SR-71 in 1999. There are no publicly available images of the UAV and an Air Force spokesperson said they were not aware of the drone. It is thought to be modeled after Northrop-Grumman’s X-47B, Foreign Policy reported in 2013, and to have a relatively large wingspan and a trailing edge, similar to the B-21 Raider.
The RQ-180 likely began flying at the Groom Lake testing facility at Area 51, where the government’s secretive U-2 testing was carried out in the 1950s. Aviation Week points to Aug. 3, 2010, as the first flight date for the aircraft.
The B-21 Raider, from which the RQ-180 reconnaissance drone is thought to have borrowed its trailing edge design.
(US Air Force photo)
In 2014, testing appears to have been moved to Edwards Air Force Base in California, with a long-range test flight — possibly to the North Pole — reportedly taking place in early 2017. Insider reached out to Edwards Air Force Base regarding the test flight, but did not receive a response by press time.
At Beale Air Force Base, also in California, the 427th Reconnaissance Squadron was recently re-commissioned and is now overseeing the operation of the drones, Aviation Week reports. A spokesperson from Beale AFB told Insider that they were not aware of the squadron. However, a press release from April on Beale AFB’s web site celebrates the presence of the 427th Squadron at the ribbon cutting of Beale’s new Common Mission Control Center, which will help provide ISR data in “highly contested areas.”
An SR-71B trainer over the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in 1994.
(US Air Force photo by Judson Brohmer)
According to Aviation Week, there are now at least seven of these UAVs currently in operation, performing a penetrating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role. “R” is the designation for a reconnaissance aircraft and “Q” means it is remotely piloted.
The US Air Force declined to comment to Aviation Week. Insider was told by the Air Force press officer on duty that the press desk was not aware of the program.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Department of Defense report released on May 2, 2019, paints a troubling picture of sexual violence in the US military, with an almost 38 percent rise between 2016 and 2018, according to a Pentagon survey reviewed by INSIDER.
The report, which surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, reported that around 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in the past year — a significant leap from around 14,900 members in 2016, when a similar survey was conducted.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the prevalence of sexual assault in the military “unacceptable” in a memorandum sent across the Department of Defense, and reviewed by INSIDER.
“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Shanahan wrote. “We must improve our culture to treat each other with dignity and respect and hold ourselves, and each other, more accountable.”
U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.
The Pentagon has grappled with preventing sexual assault in the ranks for decades, and the latest survey shows their policies have failed to stem the problem as more troops report sexual abuse, nearly 90 percent of which was reportedly perpetrated by another member of the military.
Women in the military, and particularly young women between the ages of 17 to 24, are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault, the report found. Sexual assault rates for women were highest in the Marines, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The rates among men remained similar to the 2016 report.
“The results are disturbing and a clear indicator the Marine Corps must reexamine its sexual assault prevention efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement in response to the findings.
The survey also found increases in sexual harassment and gender discrimination compared to 2016, behavior that could ultimately lead to sexual assault.
The memo described a list of steps that the Department of Defense plans to implement in response to sexual assault, such as launching a Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program so members can confidentially report offenders, bolstering recruitment efforts, and better preparing enlisted leaders and first-line supervisors to properly respond to sexual misconduct reports.
The Pentagon also established a sexual assault accountability task force last month, at the urging of Arizona Sen. Martha Mc Sally, the GOP lawmaker and 26-year military veteran who revealed in March that she had been raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.
Martha McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“As a result of this year’s report, the Department is reevaluating existing processes used to address sexual assault and taking a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, which include taking preventative measures, providing additional support and care for victims, and ensuring a robust and comprehensive military justice process,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told INSIDER.
Lack of confidence
Thursday’s report hints at a culture in which members may be hesitant to come forward about their assaults, especially as the majority of alleged perpetrators are also in uniform.
In total, 89 percent of alleged offenders were service members, the report found, and 62 percent of assailants had been friends or acquaintances with the victim. Alcohol was involved in 62 percent of sexual assault situations.
For service members who did come forward to report sexual assault, 64 percent described a perceived negative experience or retaliation for speaking out. Maxwell, the spokesperson, told INSIDER that there were 187 allegations of retaliation against victims who reported sexual assault in the past year.
“No one in the Department of Defense should have to fear retaliatory behavior associated with a sexual assault report,” she said, adding that measures are being taken by the department to better respond to retaliation.
While sexual assaults in the military had been on the decline since 2006, when more than 34,000 members had reported misconduct, a 35 percent increase in assaults between 2010 and 2012 led military leaders in 2013 to declare “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the ranks. While the percentage of sexual assaults did decline in 2016, that trend reversed course in 2018.
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote in his memo. “Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission, and will not be tolerated.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has set aside millions for light attack aircraft, but this time not solely for the U.S. Air Force.
In its version of the fiscal 2019 budget markup, the committee announced in May 2018, it wants to give $100 million to the Marine Corps to procure light attack aircraft such as the AT-6 Wolverine to boost lower-cost aviation support. The version passed the committee with a vote of 25-2. It heads for a full Senate vote in coming weeks.
Is the Marine Corps ready for it? It’s unclear.
“The Marine Corps continues to monitor the Air Force-led Light Attack Experiment to procure a cost-effective, observation and attack (OA-X) air platform for employment in permissive environments, with the intent to employ such an asset as a joint force capability,” said Capt Christopher Harrison of the Office of Marine Corps Communication at the Pentagon.
“The SASC’s decision to authorize $100 million for a light attack platform is only reflected in a policy bill,” Harrison said in an email on June 1, 2018.
“Nothing has been appropriated to this program yet,” he said.
But some experts say investing in light attack, though not the stealthiest or best equipped aircraft category, is not an entirely improbable idea.
“I think there’s a strong case for the Marines, or the Air Force, or both, having a few dozen light attack planes, if only for joint training and even combat missions with allied militaries in much poorer nations,” Aboulafia told Military.com on May 30, 2018.
Lawmakers and a few Pentagon officials have made the case for light attack — especially in the context of the Air Force’s ongoing experiment with light attack platforms — saying the smaller planes could come in handy to offset the cost to taxpayers to put a few fifth-generation fighters in the air, sometimes in support of missions for which the advanced jets are far overqualified.
For example, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson reiterated it is silly to use a stealth fighter like the F-22 Raptor to take on Taliban drug labs. In November, the Raptor made its combat debut in Afghanistan, targeting suspected narcotics facilities in the country with small-diameter bombs.”We should not be using an F-22 to destroy a narcotics factory,” Wilson said, echoing previous statements she has made on the topic.
Light attack aircraft in that role would be more sensible, she said.
For the correct mission set, light attack makes sense for any service, Aboulafia argued. But purchasing an entire fleet, he said, would be unjustifiable, since the aircraft’s warfighting capabilities are significantly limited, and best suited to low-risk missions and training with allies and partners.
“What kind of scenario would call for that? It postulates a giant failed state, or series of failed states, where the U.S. is compelled to intervene, and yet there’s absolutely no air-to-air and only a minimal ground-to-air threat,” Aboulafia said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura)
He added, “If there’s either of those, this type of plane is a great way to kill pilots. And if this giant, under-armed failed-state intervention doesn’t materialize, the military is stuck with hundreds of planes that have zero relevance to any other kind of strategic contingency.”
While it seems the Marine Corps has time before it makes a decision on how it can or will proceed, the Air Force is currently in the middle of choosing a future light attack platform.
The Air Force selected two aircraft — Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer A-29 Super Tucano — to undergo more demonstration fly-offs, among other exercises, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The demonstrations began May 7, 2018, and will run through July 2018, with the secretary herself expected to fly either or both aircraft at Holloman.The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal 2019 proposal, added $350 million to procure a future light attack aircraft.
His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.
Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.
Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.
Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.
“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”
Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.
“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.
The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)
It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.
“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”
An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.
What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.
Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.
“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”
The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.
Once A Marine Always A Marine
Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.
His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.