The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
SURABAYA, Indonesia (Aug. 5, 2015) U.S. Navy Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3 and Indonesian Kopaska naval special forces members practice patrol formations during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2015.
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 4, 2015) Sailors prepare for flight operations on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3).
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class I. J. Fleming helps stretch out the emergency crash barricade during drills on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).
Marines and Navy Corpsmen, assigned to various units in the 1st Marine Division, conduct tactical combat casualty care training during the Combat Trauma Management Course, taught by instructors with the 1st Marine Division Navy Education and Training Office, at the Strategic Operations facility, California.
An M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank crew with Company A, 4th Tank Battalion, fires its 120 mm main gun during the company’s pre-qualification tank gunnery at Range 500, Aug. 4, 2015. The live-fire exercise tests tank crews on their ability to work together on target acquisition and accuracy.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Martin, a maritime enforcement specialist at Coast Guard Port Security Unit 313 in Everett, Wash., along with other security division members, set up security zones on the pier alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake, while conducting an exercise at Naval Station Everett.
Petty Officer 2nd Class David Burns, a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aviation survival technician, walks across the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley during practice hoist operations while at sea.
A security forces Airman plunges into the combat water survival test at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
Lt. Col. Todd Houchins, the 53rd Test Support Squadron commander, signals before the final takeoff of the last QF-4 Aerial Target on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Members of the 23rd Component Maintenance Squadron Propulsion Flight perform maintenance on a TF-34 engine July 27, 2015, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The 23rd CMS supplies the 74th and 75th Fighter Squadrons with TF-34s in support of Moody AFB’s A-10C Thunderbolt IIs.
paratroopers, assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, rig their rucksacks during a Basic Airborne Refresher course at the United States Army Advanced Airborne School, Fort Bragg, N.C.
An Army pilot, assigned to the 185th Theater Aviation Brigade, watches a MV-22 Osprey land during a personnel recovery training exercise in Southwest Asia.
Tank Marines and other leathernecks in specialties that won’t play a role in the service’s future will get the option of transferring to another branch or military occupational specialty, the Corps’ top general said this week.
Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke to reporters Wednesday about the long-awaited force-redesign plans. One of the biggest changes to the future Marine Corps of 2030 will be its size. The total number of personnel will drop by 16,000 over the next 10 years to a 170,000-person force.
That includes ditching its tank battalions, law-enforcement units and bridging companies. The Marine Corps will also drop its total number of infantry battalions and cut several aviation squadrons as it shifts its focus toward countering China in the Asia-Pacific region.
Marines won’t face the same hardships some endured during the post-war drawdown though, when thousands were cut from the ranks. This change, Berger said, “is intentionally drawn out over time so we can make the right decisions.”
“No one’s getting a pink slip saying time to go home,” the commandant said. “… We’re not forcing anybody out.”
The Marine Corps will rely on attrition to shed personnel from the ranks, Berger added.
“In other words, people [will be] out as they normally would,” he said. “We might recruit less … but there’s no intent at this point to issue a whole bunch of go-home cards for Marines.”
The Marine Corps got rid of about 20,000 people over four years starting in 2012. It involved putting sometimes-painful involuntary separation plans in place that cut short some people’s hopes of making the Marine Corps their career.
Berger said Marines affected by the changes in the force redesign will “have some choice” in what happens next. That will depend on where they are in their careers though, he said.
“They can choose another military specialty to go into; they can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service,” Berger said.
Some may be eligible to move into career fields that don’t exist yet.
“We are fielding new capabilities that we don’t have right now, so we will need Marines in specialties that we either don’t have at all or we don’t have nearly in the numbers that we’re going to need,” the commandant said.
The Marine Corps plans to spend money it will save on having fewer personnel and ditching some aging equipment on new capabilities. The service will invest in equipment for long-range precision fires, new air-defense systems and unmanned aircraft, among other things.
When it comes to tanks, the Marine Corps found “sufficient evidence to conclude that this capability, despite its long and honorable history in the wars of the past, is operationally unsuitable for our highest-priority challenge,” the report adds.
“Heavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army.”
The first casualty of a U.S. troop’s military service is usually his wisdom teeth. It’s as if the U.S. military secretly runs on some kind of wisdom tooth-based fuel.
There are many supposed reasons for the mass extraction of otherwise normal wisdom teeth, but we can all be glad they don’t get sold into, say, dentures or something.
But travel back in time a couple hundred years and they certainly could have.
By 1815, the British Empire’s acquisition of a steady source of sugar coming from its Caribbean colonies created an embarrassing source of tooth decay – and a huge market for dentures.
Both were only for the wealthy.
In the earliest days of oral care on the British Isles, “everyone dabbled in dentistry,” according to a BBC interview with the British Dental Association. And replacement teeth were made from a variety of material, including ivory and porcelain — each with its own set of pros and cons.
The best dentures, however, used real extracted teeth. As the demand for dentures grew, so did the demand for ones made with real teeth. To get a full set of real teeth, someone had to lose a full set of real teeth, and who would give up their teeth?
Someone who doesn’t need them anymore, of course.
Good thing the British just finished fighting a huge war with Napoleonic France. The recent Battle of Waterloo gave British dentists a huge source of teeth whose owners didn’t need them anymore.
And that’s just what happened.
Everyone, according to the British Dental Association Museum — from locals to other troops to scavengers — would have been pulling dead soldiers’ teeth out for sale back home. The demand was that great.
They wouldn’t take all of the teeth. Molars would be left in place because they were too hard to take out and difficult to turn onto dentures.
Once back in Britain, the “Waterloo Teeth” (as they came to be called) were sold at a price that couldn’t be beat, considering the demand for real teeth and the scarcity of them. It provided those battlefield scavengers with plenty of incentive to grab a pair of pliers and head out to Waterloo.
The recipients had no idea their new dentures came from the dead men on the battlefield of France. All they knew is that they could now eat all the boiled food the British Isles could muster. Which is a lot.
The U.S. Navy owns the oceans, ensuring freedom of navigation for allies and fighting fiercely when called upon.
But the Navy has a softer side too, filled with humanitarian relief and medical missions.The crown jewels of this effort are the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort — hospital ships with a thousand beds each.
1. The USNS Mercy and her sister ship were converted from massive supertankers. Each is 70,000 metric tons.
2. The Mercy is a mobile hospital, complete with 12 operating rooms as well as pediatric, trauma, and orthopedic areas.
3. While the Navy maintains hospital ships to provide mobile care to soldiers and Marines fighting ashore, the USNS Mercy has been primarily deployed on humanitarian missions in the Pacific.
4. Mercy is often deployed to Pacific areas where clinics, like the one below, provide basic care. Doctors can refer the patients to the USNS Mercy, which will then provide hospital-level services.
5. Patients are transported to the ship by helicopter or by “band-aid” boats.
6. When patients arrive, they are sent to the receiving area. Their medical needs will be diagnosed and they are then sent elsewhere on the ship for care.
7. When doctors need a better look at an injury, the use the onboard CT scanner.
8. For patients that require surgery, the 12 operating bays provide a modern, sterile environment for procedures.
9. Here, a doctor puts the final sutures in a patient after removing a six pound tumor from her.
10. The ship regularly trains for mass casualty events. This helps them support military operations where a lot of troops may be wounded and respond to humanitarian crises.
11. Children are welcome on the ship where onboard pediatricians treat them.
12. A pre-dental society sophomore student from the University of California-San Diego plays with a Timorese child during Pacific Partnership 2008.
13. A hospital corpsman gives a surgical screening to a child onboard the USNS Mercy in 2010.
14. Humans aren’t the only patients for the USNS Mercy. The ship deploys with U.S. Army veterinarians and veterinary assistants for treating livestock and pets as well.
15. Pets and nearby wildlife can be a vector for disease, so the services of the veterinary staff help protect the human population.
16. The Mercy maintains its own combat search and rescue helicopter and crew.
17. Sailors launch and recover the birds from the upper deck of the ship.
18. Even foreign military doctors help out aboard the USNS Mercy. In this photo, an Australian Navy dentist treats patients onboard.
19. A dentist with the South Korean Navy treats a patient onboard the Mercy.
20. The USNS Mercy crew also goes ashore to help partner nations. Here, an environmental health officer tests a water well that was just dug by Navy Seabees.
21. The Mercy has its own firefighters who ensure the safety of the other sailors and patients on the ship.
22. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the ship and its mission in the Pacific Partnership.
The 1980s brought us some fantastic action movies like “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard,” which made movie-goers consider joining the police force.
When Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” landed in cinemas across the nation, it was an instant blockbuster, earning over $350 million worldwide according to box office mojo.
With all the adrenaline-packed scenes the film offers, “Top Gun” audience members of all ages wanted to be the next Maverick.
While it made a massive impact at the time, did you ever wonder what happened to the cool pilots from “Top Gun?”
Well, we looked into it, and here’s what we found.
FYI. This is strictly fan fiction.
Soon after Iceman made amends with Maverick, his naval career took a downward turn, and he ended up leaving the military. Like most veterans, he didn’t have a plan about what he wanted to do post service — so he dyed his hair brown and became a Jim Morrison impersonator.
He played a few music gigs and smoked a lot of drugs. But after the market for music impersonators dried up, Iceman reset his hair blonde and turned to a life of crime.
You may have even seen him on the news after being involved in a major shootout with police in downtown Los Angeles back the mid-90s.
The “Heat” was totally on.
Since then, Iceman has gone off the grid, but he resurfaces every once in a while.
Jester loved being a Top Gun instructor, but because he lost a dogfight to a student — his peers started to look down at his piloting skills. Jester put in for retirement and left the Navy. After months of being a civilian, Jester missed the action so much, he moved to Mars becoming a bounty hunter.
While on assignment, Jester lost his arms during a fight on an elevator. The Mars government patched him up and gave him a bionic arm.
Then wouldn’t you know it, a war broke out against some big ass bugs, and he joined the mobile infantry. He flew to a planet named “Klendathu” to eliminate the threat. Unfortunately, Jester met his doom there, and his body was ripped apart.
Jester could have just walked this off.
After being Iceman’s sidekick for so many years, Slider’s BUD/s package was approved, and he went on to become a Navy SEAL. He didn’t talk too much, but he learned to play a mean round of go-kart golf.
Life after the teams, Slider finished getting his medical degree and went to work for a ghetto hospital in Chicago. He began dating a hot nurse until an upcoming pediatrician stole her away.
Then, he kind of just vanished. Oh, wait! We just received reports that he spotted as a bicycle officer patrolling the Santa Monica Pier.
No one saw that career change coming.
As much crap as he raised as a fighter pilot, Maverick ended up getting recruited by a spy agency named “Mission Impossible Force.” The organization made him change his name from Pete Mitchell to Ethan Hunt — which is far better.
He went on several successful missions and took down some of the world’s most dangerous and well-connected terrorists.
In recent news, the all-star pilot will be returning for round 2, “Maverick” set to debut this fall.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals — just like any other day.
Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.
While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.
At first, Baxter didn’t know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Clinic.
A red flower sits atop of every bench to remember the fallen on Sept. 11, 2001, during the Pentagon Memorial Observance Ceremony in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2018.
(Defense Department photo by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.
Baxter’s team ran to the spot. They found Army veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.
John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week’s Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Army is starting formal production of a new Self-Propelled Howitzer variant engineered for faster movement, better structural protection, improved drive-train ability, new suspension, and advanced networking tech, service and industry developers said.
The new vehicle is built with a more capable, larger chassis, designed as an initial step toward building a next-generation cannon able to outgun existing Russian weapons..
As part of a longer-term plan to leverage the new larger chassis built into the Army’s new M109A7 variant, the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center is beginning work on a new cannon able to hit enemies out to 70 kilometers, senior Army developers said.
Senior Army weapons developers have explained that the current 80s-era 39 calibre Howitzer is outgunned by its Russian equivalent — a scenario the service plans to change.
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.
The M109 Paladin.
(US Army photo)
Furthermore, given the Pentagon’s emphasis upon cross-domain warfare, land weapons are increasingly being developed to attack things like enemy ships, aircraft, and ground-based air defenses; naturally, the idea is to pinpoint and destroy enemy targets while remaining at a safer, more protected distance.
Former Deputy Program Executive Officer for Missiles Space, Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch (Rasch is now the PEO) told Warrior in a previous interview that the service is making a decided push to upgrade and develop longer-range weapons as a way to address current threats and re-adjust following more than 15 years of counterinsurgency.
Building a higher-tech, more lethal Paladin
Following years of development and advanced engineering, the Army and BAE Systems are now formally entering full-rate production of the new M109A7 and accompanying M992A3 ammunition carrier vehicles. BAE officials said the new Howitzer, designed to replace the existing M109A6 Paladin, will have 600-volts of on-board power generation, high-voltage electric gun drives and projectile ramming systems.
Army developers say the A7 has a turret ring down revamp, including a new hull along with a new suspension and power-train. The new Howitzer will, among other things, greatly improve speed and mobility compared to the A6.
“In the past, the A6 Paladin was the slowest vehicle in the Army. It needs to leapfrog. We are restoring that mobility so it will be one of the faster vehicles. Howitzers can now outrun 113s,” a senior Army weapons developer said.
Also, as part of maintenance, life-cycle and service extension — all aimed to improve logistics — the new Howitzer is built with an engine and other parts common to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
Improved on-board power is, similar to other emerging higher-tech platforms, designed to enable the vehicle to quickly accommodate upgrades and new weapons technologies as they may evolve — such as lasers or advanced ammunition.
The advanced digital backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, a BAE Systems statement said.
One senior Army official told Warrior Maven that improved combat connectivity can enable multiple Howitzers to quickly share firing data, as part of a broader effort to expand battlefield networking and operate in more dispersed formations depending upon mission requirements.
Soldiers fire an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during Exercise Combined Resolve IX at the Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 21 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Hulett)
The Army has also been working with the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office to explore additional innovations for the Howitzer platform.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality, and range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
Firing from an Army Howitzer, the hypervelocity projectile can fire at high speeds toward enemy targets to include buildings, force concentrations, weapons systems, drones, aircraft, vehicle bunkers, and even incoming enemy missiles and artillery rounds.
“We can defend against an incoming salvo with a bullet,” a senior Pentagon weapons developer told reporters during prior testing of the HVP.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Anyone about to deploy to a war zone needs to prepare for a number of things. Combat is fraught with danger and a scenario can go to sh*t at a moment’s notice. You genuinely don’t know what lurks around any corner while out on patrol.
Unfortunately, combat is just one of the many problems that service members face when deployed. Thankfully, the following aren’t quite as dangerous as a firefight.
Receiving mail can be the life or death of a deployed troop. Not every package comes in perfect condition and, sometimes, what you get from back home can be upsetting.
No one wants to get a Dear John letter.
2. Language barriers
Typically, the countries we go to war with and work alongside don’t speak the best English. This creates conflict because American service members like to say curse words — and some of the foul language we use figuratively on a daily basis, they take literally. Take the term “motherf*cker,” for instance. When our Afghan counterparts hear those words, they think we’re referring to actually nailing their mothers.
As you can imagine, that message isn’t well received.
3. Local food
When someone invites you to eat with them, it’s only polite that you do so. If you’re in a foreign country and you someone extends this gracious offer, you’d better accept.
However, good luck digesting all the spices and foreign methods of food prep.
4. Cultural misunderstandings
Americans have a unique way of living and so does the rest of the world. Some of the cultures we work with don’t want us looking at, or even talking to their women, no matter how benign the intent — and we have to respect that.
Despite the best intentions, there have been some cases in which various nations’ troops don’t comply with social rules. That’s when unnecessary conflict pops up.
Allied troops get all kinds of vaccines to prevent local illnesses that may lurk. However, we don’t vaccinate for every type of viral infections and insect bite. No one wants to get sick while they’re back home, let alone while they’re deployed to a war zone.
This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.
Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.
It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.
It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.
The White House warned the Syrian regime and their allies Russia and Iran on Sept. 4, 2018, that the US would retaliate if the Regime used chemical weapons on the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province.
“Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Sanders added.
On Sept. 4, 2018, Russia began conducting airstrikes once again on Idlib, according to the Washington Post, raising fears that a full-on assault would soon begin.
Assad and Russia have had their sights set on Idlib for months, but an all-out attack has yet to be launched.
“The Turks are blocking the offensive,” Jennifer Cafarella, a senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, previously told Business Insider. “The Turks and Russians continue to frame their discussion from the lens of cooperation, but that’s not actually what’s happening.”
Cafarella said that Turkey may allow a partial offensive in Idlib, but that Ankara can’t afford “to have another massive Syrian refugee flow towards the Turkish border.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Troops to Teachers, a Department of Defense funded program, has been working to help service members transition to careers in education since 1993. The program is part of the Defense-Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or “DANTES,” which assists service members in acquiring degrees or certifications (or both), during and after their obligated service.
Through DANTES, service members can apply for scholarships, grants, loans, and tuition assistance, as well as get help understanding their VA education benefits.
Eligible DANTES users who utilize the Troops to Teachers program may qualify for additional funding — up to a $5,000 stipend or a $10,000 bonus.
Stipends may be used to pay for certifications, classes, or teaching license fees. Bonuses are awarded to those who’ve already completed their education and received certification and licensure; they are designed to be an incentive for teaching in high need or certain eligible schools.
“High need schools”, according to TTT, are schools in areas where 50 percent of the elementary or middle school or 40 percent of the high school receives free or reduced lunch. “Eligible” schools will have at least 30 percent of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, have an Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 13 percent or more, or be a Bureau of Indian Affairs funded school.
Service members awarded stipends or bonuses must either agree to teach full time in an eligible or high need school for three years, or must commit an additional three years to the military.
The Troops to Teachers program has several goals:
Reduce veteran unemployment.
Improve American education by providing motivated, experienced, and dedicated personnel for the nation’s classrooms.
Increase the number of male and minority teachers in today’s classrooms.
Address teacher shortage issues in K-12 schools that serve low-income families and in the critical subjects – math, science, special education, foreign language, and career-technical education.
TTT actively recruits service members from its program to teach in Native American “school[s] residing on or near a designated reservation, nation, village, Rancheria, pueblo, or community with a high population of indigenous students.”
In addition to financial assistance and job placement, TTT offers support to its participants through counseling and mentorship programs.
To date, TTT has awarded over $325,000 in stipends, nearly $2.5 million in bonuses, and helped place over 20,000 veterans into jobs.
American special operators teamed with Arab fighters in Syria are poised to take a key town north of the Islamic State stronghold in Raqqah. If they succeed it would be an important blow to the Islamic insurgency and assist the government of Iraq in taking back its second largest city.
Since late June, jets from the United States, France, and Australia have been pounding ISIS positions in the city of Manbij, a key northern crossroads town north of the ISIS-held town of Raqqah in Syria. Kurdish and Syrian-Arab fighters who make up the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, are squeezing hundreds of ISIS fighters in the town, said to be a key transit point for bootleg oil and illicit arms for the terrorist group.
“I’ve been extraordinarily pleased with the performance of our partner forces, the Syrian-Arab coalition, in particular,” said Central Command chief Army Gen. Joseph Votel during a press conference at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
“This has been a very difficult fight. This is an area that the Islamic State is trying to hold onto,” he added.
Pentagon chief Ash Carter said the campaign in Manbij is part of an effort to squeeze ISIS into Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Defense officials have hinted that a full-on assault on Iraq’s second largest city is imminent, with regional leaders meeting July 20 at Andrews to flesh out a post-takeover plan.
“In play after play, town after town, from every direction and in every domain, our campaign has accelerated further, squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Raqqah and Mosul,” Carter said. “By isolating these two cities, we’re effectively setting the stage to collapse ISIL’s control over them.”
Al Jazeera reports that ISIS has lost nearly 500 fighters in Manbij as SDF fighters with American help have squeezed the terrorist enclave. The SDF has suffered less than 100 dead.
Carter said the anti-ISIS coalition, dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve, is looking into the allegations.
“We’re aware of reports of civilian casualties that may be related to recent coalition airstrikes near Manbij city in Syria,” Carter said. “We’ll investigate these reports and continue to do all we can to protect civilians from harm.”
Votel added that Kurdish and Syrian-Arab parters are working to keep the 70,000 civilians in Manbij out of harms way.
“What I’ve been most impressed with is the deliberateness and the discipline with which our partner forces have conducted themselves,” Votel said. “They are moving slowly, they are moving very deliberately, mostly because they’re concerned about the civilians that still remain in the city.”
“And I think that that speaks very highly of their values and it speaks very highly of what they’re about here. We’ve picked the right partners for this operation,” he said.