First the good news: Despite Internet memes about Putin having Turkey for dinner last week, the chances are low that Armageddon will be on the menu any time soon.
In other words, the chances that World War III will erupt this holiday season are mighty slim because a Turkish F-16 fighter shot down a Russian Federation Su-24 Fencer M bomber last Tuesday after it apparently violated Turkey’s airspace.
But does that mean Russia will forgive and forget? Hardly. Comments by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin indicate he is not only infuriated by events, he’s also willing to escalate Russian military presence in Syria as well defend Russian national pride.
Here are three reasons why things could still get out of hand very quickly in one of the world’s most volatile places:
1. In Putin’s world, nobody shoots down a Russian plane and gets away with it
Russian aircraft routinely test the limits of different nation’s sovereign airspace – including the U.S. and Britain. Those missions are absolutely designed and principally intended to appeal to Russian pride and national identity, as well as show the world that Russia military power is a force worthy of respect.
But even though we scramble fighters to intercept the bombers, the U.S. and other NATO nations don’t shoot them down. Turkey did, principally because in recent weeks Russian warplanes bombed Syrian rebels who are also Turkmen, an ethnic group considered kinsmen of the Turkish people.
What’s more, the rebels killed one of the Russian plane’s crew members as well as a Russian Marine who was part of the search-and-rescue operation.
To put it bluntly, Putin is pissed off by the shoot-down and what he considers a war crime committed against Russian fighting men. In addition, he describes what happened a provocative act on the part of Turkey, hence his “stab in the back” comment.
As far as the Russian government is concerned, their men are heroes. Lt. Col. Oleg Peshkov, the dead Fencer pilot, posthumously received the Hero of the Russian Federation award “for heroism, courage and valor in the performance of military duty,” the Kremlin announced today. Both Alexander Pozynich, the Russian Marine killed during SAR operations, and the surviving Fencer co-pilot Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin both received the Order of Courage, the Kremlin said.
Yes, Lavrov says there will be no war between Russia and Turkey. However, the Russian president is also well-known for practicing the old maxim about revenge being a dish best served cold – and Putin has already amply proved he has no concern about civilian casualties when Russians fight their wars.
True, the protest could have been a good old-fashioned exercise in agitprop – as far back as the Soviet era Kremlin employees were often organized into groups for “spontaneous protest.”
But Russian social media is white-hot with comments like “f**k the Turks” and calls for revenge. There is even a parody of the Eiffel Tower peace symbol that went viral after the Paris attacks by Daesh – except the Russian version has the silhouette of a Su-24 with its fuselage and wings where the lines of the peace symbol should be, superimposed on the Russian flag.
So, Russians fury toward Turkey is also linked to fierce Russian nationalism. Consequently, the shoot-down is an incident that will not just blow over with the Russian people – and Putin knows that.
3. Syria is getting pretty damned crowded with belligerents
The area is rapidly filling up with the aircraft and missile systems of many nations. Turkey, Russia, France, Canada, Australia, and the United States all have planes in the air either over Syria or near Syrian airspace.
In response to the shoot-down, Russia is deploying its S-400 “Triumf” air defense missile systems (NATO name: “Growler”) to its Hmeymim air base near Latakia, Syria. Using three different missiles with varying ranges and an upgraded radar system, it can strike airborne targets up to 400 miles away.
All this hardware and manpower milling around in a very small place could cause things to get out of hand very, very quickly. The result could be old-fashioned nation-on-nation warfare. All it could take would be one more downed warplane.
One other thing to note: Past is not always prologue, but it’s interesting to consider that Russia and Turkey (in the guise of the Ottoman Empire) fought one of the longest conflicts in European history.
The Russo-Turkish Wars from the 16th century until the early 20th century included none other than Ivan the Terrible sending the so-called Astrakhan Expedition in 1569 to pound on 70,000 Turkish and Tatar soldiers, Peter the Great and his army capturing Azov in 1696, and Tsar Alexander II sending Russian troops into Ottoman territory in 1877 to protect Christians from Muslim subjugation.
Russian forces overwhelmingly prevailed over the Ottoman Turks during those wars.
Becoming a veteran is one of the most rewarding statuses you can achieve. Serving your country and being the best person you can be is highly respectable. It’s a feeling like no other.
However, when time in the military comes to an end, many veterans are left scratching their heads, wondering what to do next. Fortunately, the intelligence, discipline, and mindset that you develop, train, and perfect while in service makes going to university a very favorable option.
No matter what civilian career path you want to take up next, be it cooking, engineering, or anything in between, attending an online university can help you get there — it’s just a matter of deciding which one is best for you.
To give you a helping hand, here are four of the best online university programs you can join today that have been designed with military-experienced people, such as yourself, in mind.
One great program, made possible thanks to the efforts of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, is the Onward to Opportunity program. Also referred to as the O2O-VCTP, this is a skills-based program that provides military veterans with all kinds of career training, as well as certifications and qualifications, to help you secure the job that you want.
The program offers job placement support for both veterans and their spouses, giving you everything you need to make the best start in this new chapter of your life. The program is available online as well as in a variety of physical locations and includes over 30 recognized career paths, career coaching opportunities, and interview preparation services.
Marketed as one of the best and highest nationally-ranked military universities, Arizona State University provides comprehensive services that give you everything you need to succeed. In fact, this program was voted as one of the 2017 Best for Vets Colleges by Military Times.
The program has served and catered to over 1,300 service men and women and is renowned for being one of the most committed courses in the United States.
This ASU service offers tuition assistance, multiple and exclusive offers and benefits, transfer services, an easy-to-use online application, and even services where your spouse or partner can enroll and progress their own career.
Penn State is one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, and the Military courses are no exception. The university staff knows what veterans have gone through during their time in the military and strives to proactively express gratitude for service in return.
Once enrolled in the online course, you’ll be able to choose a degree to work toward through the famous World Campus platform. Here, you’ll be able to earn a degree from universally recognized facility. In addition to comprehensive courses, you’ll have full and unrestricted access to a dedicated Academic Military Support Team, a full collection of grants and scholarships, as well as any transfer credits you may be entitled to.
It’s also worth noting that the university is GI Bill- and Yellow Ribbon Program-approved and is ranked number one when it comes to after-course corporate recruiters, meaning you’ll have the finest support when securing a well-paid and highly rewarding job with your newfound education.
USC prides itself on transforming your military experience into the foundation of your new career. USC Online offers a comprehensive course that could be everything you’ve been looking for.
The course offers a full range of courses to choose from, including cyber security, GIS, military social work, a master of business program, and many more. The course is renowned for being one of the best in the United States, and you’ll also have access to all the exclusive benefits, such as Spouse education, funding, and admission support.
Mary Walton is an editor at BigAssignments, an Australian writing service. Also, she proofreads content for OXEssays, a British writing service. You can read reviews of such services at Revieweal.
Keep those kids busy! Busy waiting for the mail … and enthralled with whatever was shipped in them. Luckily, there are a number of subscription boxes to choose from, allowing you to help keep kids busy while stuck at home. Whether you have babies at home, or are juggling homeschool assignments of teenagers, there are crate options to keep your learners happily entertained every single month.
Try these 8 subscription boxes for kids:
Kiwi Co Facebook
Kiwi & Co.
This monthly box can be adjusted for your child’s age (0-11) or interests — four categories for ages 9 to 104. Boxes start at .95 (including shipping), but come with regular discount codes for added savings. Stock up on everything from age appropriate toys, crafts and science projects to promote learning and fun.
Geared for ages 3-12, Monthly Passports is a box full of imaginative travel at .95 per box. Kids can learn about different countries through games, travel gear, maps, activities and more. Educational content can also be accessed online.
Get your kids in the kitchen with Raddish. Each month a meal theme is delivered with recipes and experiment/crafts, kid-friendly utensils and access to Spotify playlists. Cooking is recommended for kids aged 4-14; boxes start at per month.
Tweens and teens can get their fill of YA books with OwlCrate. New-release books are sent every month, along with keepsakes and personable collectables, like hand-written notes from the author.
OwlCrate Jr. is also available for kids aged 8-12. Subscriptions start at .99 per month.
For the littlest of kids, there’s a box of engaging, high-quality toys. Lovevery comes monthly for kids from birth to age 2 for and up, per box. Each shipment comes full of STEM-approved toys and age appropriate activities, including books and game ideas for parents.
Upgrade your kids’ shoes in style. Nike Adventure Club sends sneakers throughout the year (Nike or Converse) and a string of activities made just for new kicks. Choose from two subscription options: 4 pairs per year ( per month) or 12 pairs per year ( per month).
Whether dealing with an upcoming deployment, or just stuck at home, Green Kid Crafts sends three projects per month. Instructions are geared toward nature and outdoor play through fun creation. Boxes start at per month plus shipping.
In the days leading up to the latest NATO summit, President Donald Trump was harshly critical of the contributions made by other NATO members, especially in comparison to the United States. But when called on to start a new mission in post-ISIS Iraq focused on civil-military planning, vehicle maintenance, and explosives disposal, NATO stood up.
Whether this development comes because of meetings among North American and European leaders at recent G7 and NATO summits is unclear. Coming away from June 2018’s G7 summit, President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as both “dishonest” and “weak.” At the most recent NATO meeting, Trump claimed Germany was a Russian client state due, primarily, to energy partnerships with Russian gas providers.
The 2018 NATO summit was focused primarily on how the alliance would foot the bills for its actions everywhere in the world. The United States demands the members of the alliance increase their contributions to an agreed-upon two percent of GDP, while the U.S. maintains its 3.5-percent contribution.
“Because of me, they’ve raised billion over the last year, so I think the Secretary General [of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg,] likes Trump,” the President of the United States said after the summit. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”
Another result of the summit was a British pledge to double the number of UK troops in Afghanistan. Canada will also contribute helicopters to the NATO mission in Iraq.
Kandahar, Afghanistan. 12 February, 2002. For the first time since the end of the Korean War, Canadians relieve Americans in a combat zone.
(Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera)
“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada currently spends 1.23 percent of its output on the alliance, but its commitment requires it to move up to two percent by 2024, an agreement signed by Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper. Canada’s special forces are also training and assisting Kurdish fighters still battling the Islamic State.
Seventy lawmakers asked House appropriators to fund 11 additional F-35 Lightning IIs in a letter on October 4 as “events around the globe continue to demonstrate the urgent need for” the Joint Strike Fighter.
The letter, penned by the House Joint Strike Fighter Caucus, argues that at this “critical juncture” in the F-35 program Congress should fund more of the planes to keep down production costs and address current and future threats around the world.
The caucus asked to fund five Air Force F-35As, four carrier-based F-35Cs for the Navy, and two F-35Bs that can take off vertically for the Marine Corps.
“Increasing the production rate is the single most important factor in reducing future aircraft unit costs,” the letter read.
“Additionally, significantly increasing production is critical to fielding F-35s in the numbers needed to meet the expected threats in the mid-2020s.”
The letter implores Congress “to provide the funding necessary to continue increasing F-35 production at a rate sufficient to meet future threats and to reach full rate production of at least 120 US aircraft per year as quickly as possible.”
This effort mirrors a Senate push to add $100 million to the budget to increase the Air Force’s advanced procurement, the Washington Examiner notes.
Topeka, Kansas is home to PAFRA where they host the World Championship Rodeo. The organization has eight circuits across North America and Europe. This non-profit organization sees participants travel from all over the world, to compete in events to include: Bareback Bronc Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Ladies Breakaway Roping, Tie-Down Roping, Chute Dogging, Steer Wrestling, Ladies Barrel Racing, Cowboy Mounted Shooting and Bull Riding. There is also team heeling and heading roping events.
The rodeo has participants from active duty, veterans, retirees and dependents representing every branch of service. PAFRA hosts one World Championship Rodeo every year in October, and because of the unique nature of hosting a rodeo involving active-duty participants (who deploy, PCS, etc.) PAFRA doesn’t require a point system to qualify for the World Championship, only that participants be a member in good standing. This year the World Championship Rodeo will be Oct. 15-17, 2020 at the Landon Arena Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka.
PAFRA is managed and produced in full by an all-volunteer force of members and community supporters. Their participation has been vital to the success and professionalism of the rodeo events. Because of all the volunteers that are essential to the rodeo’s operations, the organization has prioritized community service in their own right. “We are ultimately there to rodeo, but we also want to expand that servant leadership, that giving back to the communities that are hosting us,” said Steve Milton, PR and Marketing Director for the Rodeo. That community involvement ranges from hosting a kids’ rodeo to visiting veterans at the Topeka VA Medical Center, to even making a special appearance at the Stormont Vail Hospital Pediatric Unit. “We were able to bring horses out to the hospital, let the kids come pet the horses and interact with the rodeo clowns and cowboys; that was really special for us as an organization,” Milton added.
PAFRA looks to continue to build upon their participation, support and partnership, and bids for the PAFRA 2020 20th Annual World Championship Rodeo are now open. If you are interested in learning more, partnering, volunteering or competing you can visit www.rodeopafra.com.
The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.
The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.
The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”
The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”
In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.
Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.
“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.
“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.
“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.
The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.
Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.
The government’s main auditor wants each of armed service branches to prove how military bands accomplish the stated objectives of inspiring patriotism and raising morale.
Military bands have declined over recent years during funding drawdowns and some attacks from fiscal hawks, but a few of the services have actually increased spending on bands while band rosters shrink, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“The military services have not developed objectives and measures to assess how their bands are addressing the bands’ missions, such as inspiring patriotism and enhancing the morale of troops,” the GAO wrote in a report released August 10.
Military bands have a long and distinct tradition in the US that the GAO admits is difficult to quantify. They are part of the military’s outreach to communities, playing in parades and for patriotic holidays and events. Several recruiters reported an increase in queries about joining the military after a band played for a school.
Bands have a civic function in performing at presidential events, and a diplomatic function in playing for foreign leaders, both in the US and abroad. The Navy told the GAO that bands can also be “an initial step towards improving relationships with foreign nations.”
All those approaches to proving the value and effectiveness of military bands “do not include measurable objectives nor exhibit several of the important attributes performance measures should include,” the GAO said.
The services the GAO contacted for its report stressed the difficulty of creating metrics to measure increased patriotism and troop morale from military bands, but the GAO says that through surveys and focus groups, the military could quantify how military bands achieve their mission.
All that would take resources, the band leaders told the GAO, which is part of why military bands are under fire in the first place.
The Pentagon spends about $437 million a year on the 137 bands throughout the five military branches. Even though that’s a fraction of the military’s $1.11 trillion budget, some in Congress think that money would be better spent elsewhere.
Most of a bands operating cost goes to travel, and the remainder goes to buying top quality instruments. The Air Force found a $75,000 Gagliano cello last fall that it determined was the only acceptable instrument for musical missions.
“After playing over 50 similar instruments, this is the only one that meets the rigorous demands required by USAF band,” the Air Force said in the contract solicitation. “This world-class instrument is an ideal choice for members of The USAF Band and the demanding standards required for our daily mission preparation and execution.”
Military bands have declined in size in every service since 2012, which has mostly led to reduced cost. Overall, the Air Force and the Navy, however, spent more on bands in 2016 than in previous years.
“The Navy and Air Force reported that their total operating costs for bands over this period increased by $4.1 million and $1.6 million” respectively, the GAO reported. Band costs for the Marine Corps, Army, and National Guard decreased during the same period by less than a million for each service.
The Navy attributed the $4.1 million increase to inadequate band funding between 2012 and 2014, and one-time costs like a $749,000 renovation on the band offices in 2016. The Air Force said that local commands are now responsible for their funding, “so bands may have had unique circumstances that led to increases in costs over time.”
Military bands will face more scrutiny for years to come. The defense spending budget for the remaining 2017 fiscal year asked the secretary of defense to “ensure that only the critical functions of military bands are supported while minimizing impacts on funding for essential readiness, military personnel, modernization, and research and development activities,” Military Times reports.
The GAO noted that as it conducted the review, Pentagon officials met with military bands and officials to “establish standard metrics to collect on events performed by bands.”
Nearly four decades ago, America’s fledgling counter-terrorism force launched a daring operation to a remote desert outpost to rescue Americans held hostage. The mission failed, but its repercussions were felt for years, and the flames and death of that day forged the special operations force that was able to successfully execute even more daring — and successful — missions in the decades to come.
On Nov. 4, 1979, approximately 3,000 Iranian militants took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, holding 63 Americans hostage. An additional three U.S. members were seized at the Iranian Foreign Ministry for a total of 66.
This was in response to President Jimmy Carter allowing Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the recently deposed Iranian ruler, into the U.S. for cancer treatment. New leadership in Iran wanted the shah back as well as the end of Western influence in their country.
After a few weeks, 13 hostages, all women or African Americans, were released but the remaining 53 would wait out five months of failed negotiations.
President Carter, originally wanting to end the hostage crisis diplomatically and without force, turned to alternative solutions as he felt the political pressure to resolve the problem. On April 16, 1980, he approved Operation Eagle Claw, a military rescue operation involving all four branches of the U.S. armed forces.
The two-day rescue mission consisted of eight Navy RH-53D helicopters and multiple variations of C-130 aircraft. All aircraft were to gather together at Desert One, a salt flat about 200 miles outside of Tehran. There, the helicopters would refuel through the C-130’s and then transport assault units into a mountain location near Tehran where the rescue mission would begin. Unfortunately, the mission never made it that far.
On April 24, 1980, Operation Eagle Claw began. All aircraft proceeded to Desert One but a strong dust storm complicated traveling. Two of the eight helicopters were unable to complete the mission and had to turn around. Another helicopter broke down at Desert One, leaving a total of five working helicopters. Mission commanders and leadership needed a minimum of six to complete the mission. The decision was made to abort the operation and return home.
During departure from Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a C-130, killing eight U.S. service members. The remaining members all left in the additional C-130 leaving behind numerous helicopters, a C-130 and the eight dead Americans. The failed mission, in addition with loss of life, was a humiliating blow for the U.S. However, this tragedy put a magnifying glass over the inadequacies of joint operations, forever changing the future of the U.S. military and special operations.
The need for enhanced capabilities between more than one military service was the prediction for the future of the Armed Forces. Significant military reforms, such as the Goldwater-Nichols Act and Joint Doctrine, addressed the readiness and capability issues demonstrated in Operation Eagle Claw. It pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations.
Today, the different branches training alongside each other is common practice. Planning for missions consist of specific details with back up plans to the back up plans. Ultimately, the lives lost as Desert One weren’t in vain. The lessons learned from that mission made special operations into what we know them as today.
Russia has vowed to retaliate against a plan by Norway to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country.
The Russian Embassy in Oslo issued the warning on June 14, 2018, two days after Norway announced it will ask the United States, its NATO ally, to send 700 Marines starting 2019.
The move came amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
The Russian Embassy said that Norway’s plan, if realized, would make Norway “less predictable and could cause growing tensions, triggering an arms race, and destabilizing the situation in northern Europe.”
“We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence,” it said in a statement.
Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the additional U.S. troops would be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.
Soereide also said that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.
The initial decision to welcome the Marines irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo.
A team of Fort Bragg soldiers set their sights on one of the top officials within warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army late last year.
The soldiers, working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, tracked down the family of the official — communications chief Michael Omona.
He played a key role in the Ugandan warlord’s cultish militant group, which was built on the backs of former child soldiers abducted from their homes in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Fort Bragg soldiers – part of a regional psychological operations team deployed to Africa – weren’t targeting Omona with firepower. Instead, it was a campaign fueled by facts and meant to counter the misinformation Kony spread across his force.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Col. Bethany Aragon, the commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group at Fort Bragg, described what happened next.
“If you can envision yourself walking through this dense jungle,” she said. “… As he’s walking through the jungle, he hears his mother’s voice begging him to come home.”
The voice came from a U.S. Army loudspeaker team, piping voices into the countryside.
A little while later, leaflets dropped from the sky. On them, images of Omona’s uncle, who raised him as a father, and his daughter; both pleading for Omona to turn himself in to authorities.
“We targeted him,” Aragon said. “And in January 2017… he walked for two weeks to defect.”
Omona’s defection gave authorities key information in the search for Kony and the LRA. He provided access to codes used by the group and inside information on the higher workings of the LRA.
It was one of the highest profile defections in the long-running effort to dismantle the LRA. And Aragon used the example to show the value psychological operations soldiers played in those efforts.
“For over two decades, they abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced two million people and then really destabilized a region the size of California,” she said of the LRA.
Today, Aragon said the LRA has been rendered irrelevant. And a generation of stolen Uganda children have been returned to their homes as the LRA has dwindled from an army of thousands to less than 100 members.
At AUSA, Aragon and other special operations leaders presented case studies on the value of their forces during a panel led by Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Often working with foreign partners, conventional forces and other government agencies, Tovo said the Army’s special operations forces provide a set of unique capabilities that can’t be easily reproduced.
They are complementary skills, Tovo said, that when mixed with other capabilities and forces form a “symbiotic whole” to fuel national objectives.
“To quasi-quote Tom Cruse in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” he said. “We complete each other.”
Tovo said there are about 4,300 special operations soldiers deployed around the world in 78 countries. That includes Special Forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, Army Rangers and other special operations troops.
While the more violent aspects of special operations tend to make the most headlines, Tovo’s panel largely focused on the more unheralded aspects of the force – what he called an “indigenous approach” to operations around the world.
Members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Soldiers deployed to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa stand for a class photo after the UPDF graduated from the third of a four-phase psychological operations training held at the Uganda Junior Command and Staff College, Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2017. The training was part of the U.S. mission of strengthening partner nation defense forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)
“We live among, train with, advise and fight alongside people of foreign cultures,” Tovo said. “We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option.”
Joining Tovo on the panel were Aragon; the former ambassador to Ukraine and current ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt; Brig. Gen. David Komar, director of the requirements integration directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center; 75th Ranger Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier; and Lt. Col. Tom Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Tegtmeier discussed how the Rangers are working with Afghan partners. And Craig, who left Northern Syria about a week ago, discussed the task force comprised of Special Forces A-teams, special operations and conventional troops working to train and support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State.
“The indigenous approach is absolutely working,” he said, explaining how special operations forces are uniquely suited to the ongoing fight against ISIS.
Craig said his Special Forces soldiers have language skills and cultural understanding built up over multiple deployments that allow them to have influence on the nation’s Syrian partners.
“In Syria, it’s important to note,” he said. “We are advising a partner who is in the lead.”
He said the relatively light footprint of U.S. forces in Syria allow them to be agile and flexible, while also providing important support.
Craig said troops are training, equipping, advising and providing air support and intelligence to their partnered forces.
Pyatt said that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most challenges to American national security will happen in so-called “gray areas” between diplomacy and hard power.
Those are the areas in which special operations forces thrive, officials said.
Pyatt said the relationships between SOF and diplomats were critical.
“There’s a very, very high return on investments,” he said. “They don’t cost a lot of money, but they get a lot done.”
Komar said the conventional force was beginning to model some of its reforms after the SOF community, specifically with the creation of security force advise and assist brigades.
At the same time, he said the days of deconflicting between SOF and conventional forces were largely over. Instead, the Army has embraced and integration between the two types of units.
In addition to ongoing operations and recent case studies, the panelists discussed ways the special operations community was preparing for future fights.
Tovo said each special operations specialty has different skillsets, but complement one another.
Whether serving as a crisis response force or working alongside State Department personnel, special operations forces are able to provide unique perspectives and insight.
“When bad things happen in any part of the world and we’ve got SOF there,” he said. “… We provide the nation a suite of tools applicable across the full range of military operations.”
Aragon said the campaign against the LRA was the most effective psychological operations campaign in Africa to date.
She said the groundwork was laid in 2011, when a team of just four psyops soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the continent.
Aragon said Omona and other members of the LRA lived in dense jungle and worked for an unhinged leader. Most, like Omona himself, were former child soldiers abducted from their homes years ago.
“He’s susceptible,” she said. And so were others within the LRA.
The goal was to use radio, leaflets and area loudspeakers to reach disaffected members of the group.
Key to those efforts were buy-in from the Ugandan government, which offered amnesty for defectors, she said.
Early successes gave the psyops team additional weaponry – the voices and stories of former LRA members who could speak to the fair treatment they received.
The first mass defection came in 2013, Aragon said, when 19 combatants defected.
Omona’s name came up in latter conversations, identified through a nonprofit group dedicated to the reintegration of former child soldiers in Africa called Pathways to Peace.
Omona had been kidnapped by the LRA when he was 12. Twenty-three years later, he was personally in charge of Kony’s communications.
Aragon said soldiers enlisted the aid of Omona’s family. His defection helped the soldiers end their mission against the LRA earlier this year.
But for the next fight, potentially against a more advanced enemy force, Aragon said officials must begin their efforts now.
“We cannot wait until the deployment to find the next Michael Omona,” she said. “We have to be doing that persistently if we are to be ready and relevant.”
A recent poll from the Pew Research Center shows some pretty surprising statistics when it comes to how countries see the threats around them.
Pew says that most of the world thinks terrorism from the ISIS is the biggest threat to security, followed closely by climate change.
But when researchers dug deeper and asked major countries — including longtime U.S. allies — how they saw the influence of the United States, China and Russia, the results were a major bummer for Uncle Sam.
The country most fearful of the United States is Turkey, with 72 percent of those surveyed seeing the U.S. as a major threat.
By a large margin, NATO ally Greece sees the U.S. as a “major threat” to their country, with 44 percent of those surveyed worried about too much U.S. influence as opposed to 22 percent who see the U.S. as a minor threat. And that’s 5 percentage points lower than a similar survey three years ago.
In a true head scratcher, 59 percent of Spaniards see the U.S. as a major threat — a 42 percent swing over the 2013 survey. Are there some plans lurking around to lure Lionel Messi to the U.S. we don’t know about?
“The proportion of the public that views American power as a major threat to their country grew in 21 of the 30 nations between 2013 and 2017,” Pew says.
But hey, at least we got Poland and India who each swung 8 percentage points more in favor of the U.S. than three years ago — with 15 and 19 percent seeing the U.S. as a major threat respectively.
Shockingly, fewer Russians see the U.S. as a major threat than do Canadians, with 39 percent of our northern brothers seeing the U.S. as a major threat as opposed to 37 percent of Russians.
“Just in the past year, perceptions of the U.S. as a major threat have increased by at least 8 percentage points among several long-standing American allies, including Australia (13 points) and the UK (11 points),” Pew said. “Concern about U.S. power is up 10 points in Canada, Germany and Sweden, and 8 points in France and the Netherlands.”
Japan? Don’t get us started on Japan. The Pew survey finds about the same amount of Japanese think the U.S. is a major threat at 62 percent as they see China as a major threat, with 64 percent saying Beijing worries the heck out of them.
But, hey, we’ve always got Israel, right? Just 17 percent of Israelis see the U.S. as a major threat with neighbor Jordan coming in at 24 percent. So at least we got that going for us.