Recently, a video of Secretary of Defense James Mattis surfaced as the retired, decorated Marine met with a group of deployed service members. As the former general started to speak, a school circle quickly formed around him as his words began to motivate those who listened.
Mattis is widely-known for his impeccable military service and leadership skills, earning him the respect by both enlisted personnel and officers.
Mattis broke the ice with the deployed service members by humorously introducing himself and thanking them in his special way — an epic impromptu speech.
“Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one other,” Mattis said. “We’re so doggone lucky to be Americans.”
On April 13, the US military dropped the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan.
Nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs” (but officially called the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb), the 30-foot-long munition allegedly crushed a network of caves, tunnels, and bunkers dug into a remote mountainside.
At the same time, the SS Mont Blanc was bound to return to France carrying a host of highly explosive materials: 2,367 tons of picric acid, 62 tons of guncotton, 250 tons of TNT, and 246 tons of benzol in barrels below decks.
To exit the Bedford Basin, where the ships were docked, they had to pass through a slim channel. The Imo — behind schedule and on the wrong side of the channel — refused to give way and crashed into the Mont Blanc.
Although the collision occurred at low speed, the benzol spilled and sparks ignited the entire stockpile of fuel. The Mont Blanc exploded with the force of 2,989 tons of TNT — about 270 times more powerful than a “Mother of All Bombs” blast.
The shockwave from the blast covered 325 acres of ground and leveled the neighborhood of Richmond. The temperature of the explosion exceeded 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit, vaporizing water around the Mont Blanc — and pushing a 52-foot-tall tidal wave three blocks into town.
The force of the explosion lifted the Imo out of the water and threw it onto the shore. The Mont Blanc was ripped apart and completely destroyed. Almost no part of the ship survived the explosion.
Only two parts of the Mont Blanc have ever been located: a 1,140-lb piece of its anchor, found buried more than 2 miles away, and a barrel from one of the ship’s guns, which flew 2.35 miles from the blast site.
Coleman’s final action was sending a telegraph warning up the tracks: “Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”
The world knows little of the Islamic State terror group’s brutal leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but a new article from counterterrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts yet of his background.
McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, wrote an upcoming book on the Islamic State — aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh — and researched Baghdadi’s life to explain his rise to become one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
Since Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014, he has only appeared in public once, at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. He was rumored to have died in an air strike earlier this year, but ISIS subsequently released a statement from him along with proof that he was still alive.
Even with new information about his life tricking out in the press, Baghdadi — aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri — remains a mysterious and reclusive figure.
Here’s what we know now about his background, as laid out by McCants in his Brookings essay:
Baghdadi was raised in a lower-middle-class family in Iraq. His relatives claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
His father taught at a mosque. When Baghdadi was a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Quran recitations.
Baghdadi’s family had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Two of his uncles were involved with Saddam’s security services, and two of his brothers served in the military under Saddam. One died during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Members of Baghdadi’s family were also thought to be Salafis, who follow a strict form of Islam that has been associated with ISIS’ extreme interpretation.
Baghdadi was thought of as a quiet type, but when he read the Quran, his “quiet voice would come to life” and he would pronounce “the letters in firm, reverberating tones,” according to McCants.
He was also known for having a temper. Once, when he saw women and men dancing together at a wedding, he got upset and forced them to stop.
Even in his youth, Baghdadi developed a reputation for being pious and following a strict interpretation of Islam. His nickname was “The Believer,” and one of his brothers told McCants that Baghdadi “was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.”
Baghdadi wasn’t a strong student in high school, but he went on to earn a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. He reportedly wanted to study law for his undergraduate degree, but his grades weren’t good enough, so he studied the Quran instead.
He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to establish Islamic states across the Middle East, but his views were more extreme than those of many of the others in the group. Baghdadi was reportedly drawn to the extremists, including his older brother, who wanted to overthrow un-Islamic rulers.
Outside his religious studies, Baghdadi was fond of soccer. He was the star of a soccer club at a mosque at which he taught, and people compared him to the famous Argentinian player Lionel Messi. (This fits with an interview published earlier this year with a man who said he knew Baghdadi before he became ISIS’ “caliph.”)
Baghdadi is thought to have two wives and six children. McCants reports that the caliph’s first wife, Asma, was the daughter of Baghdadi’s maternal uncle.
He was initially involved with al-Qaida, which sent him to Syria after he was released from his detainment at the US-run Camp Bucca in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, he was tasked with “ensuring that AQI’s online propaganda was in line with its brand of ultraconservative Islam,” according to McCants. Today, ISIS is known for its online propaganda that’s highly effective at recruiting young people to join the terror group.
After ISIS broke away from al-Qaida, he was put in charge of religious affairs in some areas of Iraq. He became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.
This telling of Baghdadi’s background suggests that his radicalization began long before he was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in the early 2000s. Although he was captured as a “civilian detainee” while he was visiting a friend who was wanted by American authorities, it’s clear Baghdadi had already begun forming his extremist ideology by this point.
These details water down the notion that Baghdadi was radicalized while in American detention.
And Baghdadi likely knew what he was doing.
“For the ten months he remained in custody, Baghdadi hid his militancy and devoted himself to religious instruction,” McCants wrote.
He was also able to meet and befriend ex-Baathists who would later join him in ISIS. The group’s leadership is now thought to be made up largely of former Saddam loyalists, but that doesn’t mean Baghdadi isn’t devout or that he’s just a religious figurehead for the organization.
McCants concluded: “The bare facts of Baghdadi’s biography show an unusually capable man. … Although the New York Times recently reported that he himself is making arrangements for a succession in the event of his demise by devolving many of his military powers to subordinates, his blend of religious scholarship and political cunning won’t be easily replaced.”
For most people, the Vietnam War is best represented by the grunts on the ground. Movies like Platoon, The Deer Hunter, or Full Metal Jacket dominate the public perception of the war and the films focus primarily on infantry. But the Vietnam War saw a lot of air power as well.
Although helicopters like UH-1 became an icon of the war, fixed-wing planes also saw a lot of action. Some, like the A-1 Skyraider, were legendary for providing close-air support. Others, like the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, and the McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom, went “downtown” to bomb Hanoi or kill MiGs. Then, there’re the B-52s that famously supported Operation Arc Light over Hanoi.
Uniquely, all of this was caught on film. It gets saved as historical record, but the cameras weren’t just recording for us to watch years later. Their purpose was to help intelligence personnel assess just how badly the strikes launched damaged a target, or if a MiG was destroyed in combat or just merely damaged. It helped to back up the observations of pilots, who were busy trying to get home.
So, what was it like seeing the war through pilots’ eyes? Well, we can see exactly what it was like, thanks to what they call Combat Camera. The Air Force, Navy, Army, and Marines all have combat cameramen. It’s not exactly a risk-free job. Stars and Stripes reported that three combat cameramen were killed during the War on Terror, and two others died in a 2015 crash during post-earthquake relief operations in Nepal.
Whether it was a strike on an enemy supply convoy or a dogfight with a MiG, much of it was caught on camera. In the video below, you can see what pilots saw during the Vietnam War. Of particular interest are the gun-camera shots showing enemy forces in what is their last few moments before the Air Force brought the firepower on top of them.
Chuck Aaron is a 63-year-old stunt helicopter pilot whose major trick is the ability to upend his bird.
According to a profile of the man in Popular Mechanics, a helicopter’s rotator blades would bend toward its skids when flying upside down. The blades would cut off the tail and the vehicle would return to Earth. Very quickly. And uncontrollably.
So how does Aaron do it?
He had assembled his own U.S. Army attack helicopter from spare parts when Red Bull came calling. They wanted to know if it were possible to configure a helo to fly upside down. His gut feeling was an instinct to stay alive and he gave them a firm no. But as he thought about it, he began to come up with modifications that just might work for that purpose.
It helps that Red Bull covered the tab. Aaron doesn’t discuss the exact modifications he made, but you can see the results speak for themselves.
Marines also got into the action with displays of their capabilities and equipment, some driving amphibious vehicles off ships and right into the reviewing areas.
Russia first established a formal navy under Tsar Peter the Great in 1696. In the over 300 years since then, it has undergone a number of changes from the Imperial Navy to the Soviet Navy to today’s Russian Federation Navy.
Despite the navy’s prestige in Russia, the military branch faces a lot of problems.
Its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is outdated and in ill repair. It often needs an oceangoing tug to accompany it on long trips in case it breaks down. Its plumbing is also bad, leading to uncomfortable conditions for the crew.
On June 5th, seven veterans of the Battle of Midway joined about 1,000 people aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier to mark the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Ocean theater.
Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes, blocked by clouds, thundered above the USS Midway, a Navy carrier that was commissioned in 1945 to commemorate the battle. The carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and has been in a military museum in downtown San Diego since 2004.
Well-wishers lined up to shake hands with 102-year-old Andy Mills and other wheelchair-bound Midway veterans after a 90-minute ceremony that recounted how the landmark battle unfolded. One Midway veteran came from hospice care.
The 1942 battle occurred six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor after Navy code breakers broke complex Japanese code to reveal a plan to ambush US forces. The Japanese planned to occupy Midway, a strategic U.S.-held atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, and destroy what was left of the Pacific fleet.
When Japanese planes began bombing Midway, American torpedo planes and bombers counter-attacked in waves, bombing and sinking four Japanese carriers on June 4. The fighting continued for another three days before the United States proved to be victorious.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations, told the audience that a string of “effective but decisive” actions led to a victory with razor-thin room for error.
“In hindsight, when you review the Battle of Midway, you can see like a series of strokes of amazing luck. And when you put those strokes together, it’s like a miracle occurred at Midway. It trends towards the miraculous,” he said.
Anthony J. Principi, who served as secretary of veterans affairs from 2001 to 2005, wrote in the Military Times that that Navy commanders made “coordinated, split-second, life-and-death decisions.”
“We won because luck was on our side, because the Japanese made mistakes and because our officers and men acted with great courage amidst the chaos of battle,” he wrote.
The Midway, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, has hosted college basketball games, parties during the Comic-Con pop culture extravaganza, and TV tapings for shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
Objective Zero is a mission-driven tech start-up that leads the pack in the fight against veteran suicide, connecting every veteran in America to suicide prevention support and resources. Their arsenal just got a powerful, new weapon.
The Objective Zero Foundation just launched a new mobile app that offers tools and resources to reduce the number of suicides within the military and veteran community. Research shows that social connectedness and access to resources are important factors in preventing suicide, both of which users can find within the Objective Zero app.
The nonprofit organization is comprised entirely of unpaid volunteers and leverages the latest technology and a crowd-sourced model to deliver services on a massive scale at a fraction of the cost. Roughly 92 cents of every dollar is put toward the Program Fund, used to sustain and improve the Objective Zero mobile app and train peer supporters.
The app connects veterans, current military members, their families, and caregivers to a nationwide support network of trained listeners via voice, video, and text message at the touch of a button.
(Blake Bassett | YouTube)The mobile app also connects its users to military and veteran-centric resources, as well as yoga provided by Comeback Yoga and meditation content through Headspace, to enhance user wellness.
“The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I thought putting that round in the chamber was going to wake my wife up,” says co-founder Justin Miller on his struggle with suicidal ideations. “I’m living proof that Objective Zero is going to work. When I was suicidal, a brother contacted me, and that conversation saved my life. With the Objective Zero app, we’ve built a platform where veterans can hit one button and be anonymously connected to other veterans who have lived and breathed the same things.”
Since then, the organization built a staff of veterans and an advisory board of clinical psychologists and counselors to launch their tech-driven strategy to help their community with what is arguably its biggest problem.
Objective Zero is built to save lives and empower veterans by connecting them and building camaraderie and solidarity.
You can sign up for the app as a user with an anonymous username or as an Ambassador. OZ Ambassadors receive calls, texts, and video chats from veterans and are there to be their pillar of support. You don’t need to be a veteran or behavioral health specialist to become an Ambassador.
Ambassadors spend time training to help veterans in need and they continue their learning after achieving the title. It requires dedication to the community but is a very rewarding process. Imagine fighting veteran suicide every day, just by using your phone to communicate as you would with a good friend or relative.
The Objective Zero app is now available to download for free in the United States on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
Please visit www.objectivezero.org for more information about the Objective Zero Foundation, the Objective Zero App, and the mission of preventing suicide within the military community.
Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.
The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.
Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.
The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.
The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.
Ensuring the Best Enter Military
With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.
“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”
About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.
The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.
Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.
Watch out, Wolfpack! Kim Jong Un has decided that he wants to join that wild “Hangover” bunch of partiers portrayed by Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha and Zach Galifianakis.
Or maybe the North Korean dictator is trying to get a cameo in “Hangover IV.”
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the North Korean dictator once got blackout drunk while meeting with top military leaders. During that meeting, he went on a rant about their failure to produce a successful “military satellite” – a phrase often taken to mean an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Not being able to develop one military satellite is the same as committing treason,” the Korea Times reported Kim ranted during an all-night ragefest directed at his military leaders — just before ordering them to write letters of apology and self-criticism.
At some point after giving those orders, the dictator went to bed, feeling the effects of a reported overindulgence of “spirits.”
The next morning, when he awoke after having slept it off, he was stunned to see the military chiefs at his villa. He’d drunk enough to black out and forget his tirade of the previous night – much as the protagonists of the “Hangover” trilogy had.
“Why are you gathered here?” the North Korean dictator asked according to the FoxNews.com, adding: “Be careful about your health because you are all old.”
The greeting prompted the assembled generals to sob with relief, leading Kim to think he had touched them with his kindness.
An anonymous North Korean source told the Tokyo Shimbun, “They were relieved because they thought they were going to be purged.”
The Tokyo Shimbun’s source added, “Everyone is showing loyalty out of fear of being executed and no one dares speak against Kim.”
The North Korean dictator was portrayed in the 2014 comedy movie “The Interview,” which starred James Franco and Seth Rogen.
In 2004, Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was a featured character in “Team America: World Police,” a marionette movie done by the producers of the hit TV series “South Park.”
In April 1990, the FBI was called to Teddy Roosevelt’s house. No one would dare steal from TR while he was alive, but since he had been dead for 70-plus years and his house was long ago turned into a museum, the thief was able to rob the place and make off with an important piece of Americana: Teddy Roosevelt’s piece. They stole the pistol he used at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
To this day, no one knows who took it, and only the FBI knows who turned it in, but now it’s back where it belongs. Its history is America’s history, and the history of Teddy Roosevelt’s sidearm matches the legacy of the man who wielded it. It started with a sinking ship.
In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana harbor, a port owned by Spain at the time. Since anti-Spanish sentiment and pro-Cuban Independence was at a fever pitch among Americans at the time, the incident was blamed on a Spanish mine. Even an official Navy inquiry supported the mine theory. With more than 250 American sailors dead, the United States had to respond, and they did so by declaring war on Spain.
Teddy Roosevelt was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time. Incensed by the Spanish provocation, it wasn’t enough for TR to just dispatch American warships to distant Spanish colonies. The man felt he had to go kill some Spaniards personally – and he did. He helped raise the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry and deployed to Spain with an insane, ragtag group of cowboys, journalists, and athletes, the likes of which the world will never see again.
Roosevelt earned a Medal of Honor for leading what was supposed to be an overmatched support column on a daring charge up the hill that totally routed the defending Spanish, and he did it wielding a Colt Model 1892 Army and Navy double-action, six-shot revolver, one special to Roosevelt for many reasons.
The weapon is valued at over $250,000 and has an inscription above the grips: “From the sunken battle ship Maine” and “July 1st, 1898. San Juan. Carried and used by Col. Theodore Roosevelt.”
The April 1990 theft was actually the second time the pistol had been taken from Sagamore Hill. The first time was in 1936 when it was removed from the case, but the thief panicked and threw the weapon into the woods nearby. Roosevelt’s sidearm and 1st Volunteers uniform are considered the most priceless artifacts on display at the museum.
The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.
In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.
“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.
IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.
It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.