Earlier this month, A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support planes went on a 16-day deployment to Estonia — a country that along with Latvia and Lithuania, achieved independence in 1991 as the Cold War ended.
The Baltic countries joined NATO on March 29, 2004.
The A-10s, all from the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Maryland Air National Guard, were not the only troops on the scene. Air Force Combat Controllers with the 321st Special Tactics Squadron also took part – a natural team, since there have been many times where special ops teams have been bailed out by the Hogs. So, enjoy these six photos by Air Force photographer Senior Airman Ryan Conroy.
Air Force combat controllers wave to the first A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot from Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017.
An Air Force combat controller takes wind speed measurements before an A-10 Thunderbolt II lands in Jägala, Estonia. The combat controller is assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
An Air Force combat controller looks through binoculars at an A-10 Thunderbolt II that is preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron ascends towards the runway in Jägala, Estonia.
An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the Maryland Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron taxis in Jägala, Estonia.
Two Air Force combat controllers observe an A-10 Thunderbolt II preparing to land in Jägala, Estonia, Aug. 10, 2017. The combat controllers are assigned to the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
Election anxiety is real. More than two-thirds of Americans surveyed said that the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd is a source of significant stress. This is no surprise, as this election season has, for numerous reasons, been the most polarizing and contentious in recent history. Add this to the COVID-related stress we’re all feeling and it’s a lot to handle.
With Election Day quickly approaching, it’s very understandable to find yourself more anxious, more on edge. It’s also easy for those feelings to manifest as shortness or anger aimed at the people we love. Of course, that is the last thing our families need or that we want to provide them. So how do you keep yourself healthy and present? Take some deep breaths and follow the suggestions laid out below. Because, as with everything in 2020, the election will drag on for a lot longer than we anticipate.
1. Maintain the Foundational Four
In times of high stress and anxiety, the fundamentals are more important than ever. According to Vaile Wright, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Care Innovation with the American Psychological Association, it’s critical, then, to focus on the “Foundational Four”: getting sufficient sleep, eating healthy, staying active, and keeping connected socially. Interrogate yourself: Am I sleeping enough hours? Am I reaching out to friends? Is my diet helping me feel energized? Wright adds that, on top of these, you should also add activities and routines that fill you back up when you’re feeling burnt out. You know yourself better than anyone else. Now’s the time to really make sure you’re giving yourself what you need.
2. Identify What’s in Your Control — and What’s Not
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of uncertainties in the world today. But uncertainty is always a constant and we must all learn to focus on only what we can actually control. So ask yourself: What do I have control over? What don’t I? Write them down as you do so. “Make two lists on a piece of paper,” says Wright. “On the left, write down the things that are out of your control. On the right, write out what things you can control — including the things that can distract you from what’s stressing you and can engage you, like listening to music or watching a movie.” This list can form the basis of your self-care toolkit. “In a moment of anxiety, you don’t have to think about what you need to do to feel better,” Wright says. “Pick something from your list.”
3. Do the Things that Are in Your Control — Like Voting
When you made your lists, did you include “Vote” in the right-hand column? “Voting is you exerting your agency and control over something you do have control over — your vote,” says Wright. “After you vote, you’ll feel less stressed. You’ll have permission to take a step back so there won’t be that pressure to be so connected.” You’re not going to ignore what’s happening, of course, but doing your part can help you moderate how much attention you’re giving the election.
4. Understand How You Cope
Do you know how you cope? It’s smart to really think about the things that help you destress and be your best self. Coping skills, per Wright, fall into three buckets: cognitive, physical, and sense-based.
Cognitive: Puzzles. Reading. Card and board games “These all require you to use your noggin,” Wright says. “A family activity like a scavenger hunt with clues to figure out combines mental and physical.”
Physical: These are activities that get your heart pumping. Yep. General exercise falls into this area. But don’t box yourself in if that’s not your style. “My favorite physical stress-buster is impromptu dance parties in the kitchen when we’re cooking,” Wright says. “Find opportunities to try something new.”
Sense-based: These are activities that have you focusing on touch, taste, smell, and sound. Think: taking a hot shower. Lighting a scented candle. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea. Squeezing a stress ball. “For some people having a rubber band around their wrist and snapping it is a way to distract themselves as they focus on their body,” Wright says.
Understand which category — or combination of categories — helps you the most and carve out time to make them a part of your day.
4. Limit Your Media Consumption
News, news everywhere. But not a moment to think. Doomscrolling, or the act of constantly scrolling through one soul withering news story after another, contributes to anxiety. Now is the time to be very aware of your social media and news viewing habits. Reduce your stress by limiting how much time you’re spending on social media and news sites. “Stay informed, especially at the local level, but be mindful of your time online,” Wright says. “That means being mindful of when, how much, and what type of information you’re consuming.”
For starters, turn off your phone’s push notifications. “Most of us don’t need to know late-breaking news,” Wright says. “You don’t realize how often you’re getting distracted all day long.” Instead, set aside time to get caught up on the news — like lunch.
Another good tactic: Use your phone’s settings to set limits that cut you off when you’ve reached your fill of social media or news sites.
And, while this is easier said than done, avoid what you know stresses you out. “If pundits on TV get your blood boiling, try reading your news online instead of watching it,” Wright says. “With the 24-hour news cycle, you’re exposed to negative images and hear the same things over and over — most of it conjecture. Go with what works best for you.”
Remember the Foundational Four? That’s why it’s smart to avoid scrolling before bed. “You need at least an hour away from your phone before going to sleep,” Wright says.
5. Step Away From Your Phone
Disabling push notifications is one thing. But it’s crucial to schedule phone-free. As hard as it may be to go offline, you’ll feel better if you do so. Do what it takes to disconnect for stretches of time. “Don’t rely on willpower,” Wright says. “Leave your phone in another room.”
“If you prioritize quality time for you and your family, being on the phone is not quality time,” Wright says. “Set some rules for device use as a family. And if you don’t let your kids use theirs at dinnertime, you shouldn’t use yours, either.”
6. Set Your Expectations for Election Night
With this particular election, we might not have results for days or even weeks after November 3rd. Your mindset should account for this likelihood.
“Go in with the expectation of not knowing who the president will be the day after the election,” Wright says. “With that established, it’ll be easier to weather the period of time when we’re waiting and things are uncertain.”
“It comes back to focusing on the basics: taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, using your coping skills, and focusing on the things that are in your control,’ Wright says. “There’s not much we can do about it if it goes to the courts. Maintain your stability.”
7. Model Self-Care for Your Kids
Kids are intuitive — they’ll notice if you’re stressed — so when you are taking measures for your own self care, tell your kids what you’re doing and why. “Explain why you’re turning off the news, why you’re sitting down to do a puzzle together, how taking care of yourself is important,” Wright says. “You’re going to get stressed in life. If you’re overwhelmed, tag out and have your partner take over. Demonstrate emotional well-being and ask for help when you need it.”
The US and Soviets were dangerously close to going to war in November 1983, the bombshell report found, and the Cold War-era US national-security apparatus missed many warning signs.
That 1983 “war scare” was spurred by a large-scale US military exercise in Eastern Europe called Able Archer that the Soviets apparently believed was part of allied preparation for a real war.
The Soviet military mobilized in response.
US-Soviet relations had definitely plunged in the early 1980s, but since then experts have debated how close the US and Soviets had come to the abyss during Able Archer.
Had the Soviets really believed Able Archer was preparation for a preemptive strike? Was the intensifying rhetoric of high-ranking Soviet leaders in the run-up to Able Archer meant for domestic consumption, or was it a reflection of actual fears? Was the 1983 Soviet military mobilization intended as internal and external political messaging, or as sincere preparation for war?
Most important, would the Soviets ever have struck first — and were their conditions for a first strike close to being satisfied during Able Archer?
Its conclusions are chilling, even 32 years later.
It turns out the Soviets believed the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. The US fell victim to the inverse error and didn’t think the Soviets were serious about preparing for war, partly because they didn’t think the Soviets thought the US wanted to launch a nuclear first strike. As a result, US military and intelligence decision-makers didn’t believe that anything out of the ordinary was happening during Able Archer.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. Following are the main findings in the report.
The Soviet leadership and intelligence agencies thought the US was planning to fight and win a nuclear war. In the early 1980s, in response to a US nuclear-modernization drive, “Soviet analysts calculated that the US intended [new generations of ballistic missiles] as a means for developing a first-strike force.” The Soviets may also have “calculated that NATO’s decision to field 600 Pershing IIs and cruise missiles was not to counter their SS-20 [intermediate-range missile] force, but yet another step towards a first-strike capability.”
The report documents how this fear of an American first-strike morphed into a kind of corrosive conventional wisdom. In 1981, the KGB formally sent out instructions to monitor possible NATO war preparations, noting that it is “of special importance to discover the adversaries’ concrete plans and measures linked with his preparation for a surprise nuclear-missile attack on the USSR and other Soviet countries.”
The report flatly states that “KGB bosses seemed already convinced that US war plans were real.”
“KGB officers in [Moscow] agreed that the United States might initiate a nuclear strike if it achieved a level of overall strength markedly greater than that of the Soviet Union. And many agreed that events were leading in that direction,” the report added.
In reality, the US was never contemplating a first-strike. One of the more worrying aspects for the Able Archer incident, in the report’s view, is that “Soviet leaders, despite our open society, might be capable of a fundamental misunderstanding of US strategic motives.”
The Soviets realized they were becoming weaker and thought they’d probably lose the nuclear war they believed the US might be planning. Once the Soviets started thinking in terms of a possible nuclear war, they began to realize they didn’t stand much of a chance of winning it.
As the report states, “There was common concern that the Soviet domestic situation, as well as Moscow’s hold on Eastern Europe, was deteriorating, further weakening Soviet capacity to compete strategically with the US.”
Moscow was in a seemingly weak position for a number of reasons, including an economic slowdown, political unrest in Soviet-dominated Poland, the deployment of the Pershings to Eastern Europe, and the diplomatic fallout from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Intriguingly, the report describes a Soviet computer system that analyzed thousands of strategic variables to determine the Soviet Union’s strength relative to the US. The Soviet leadership would reportedly consider a preemptive nuclear strike if the computer ever found that Soviet power had fallen to 40% or below of US power. It reached 45% at points during the run-up to Able Archer.
The Soviets also determined that growing US missile strength would decimate the Soviet nuclear capabilities in a first strike to the point that a second strike would soon become ineffectual or even impossible. As this chart from the report demonstrates, the adversaries’ nuclear strike capabilities were drifting ever further apart:
The Soviets responded by moving to cut the launch preparation time of second strike nuclear platforms like submarines and battleships from several hours to just 20 or 30 minutes. After a point, second-strike nuclear missions became the primary focus of Soviet bomber-crew training, according to the report. In the conventional realm, the Soviets began calling up reservists, sending Spetsnaz paramilitaries to the Eastern European front line, deploying nuclear-capable artillery pieces in Eastern Europe, and even converting tractor factories for tank production.
In the psychological realm, Soviet leaders grew paranoid, realizing the balance of power that had defined their country’s entire strategic outlook would soon be a thing of the past.
It was in this context that the US’s Able Archer exercise began in November 1983.
There were some odd things about Able Archer, and the Soviets’ response to it.The Soviets’ concern about Able Archer is understandable, at least in the context of their lager paranoia. Able Archer included the airlift of tens of thousands of US troops to Central European front-line areas. The operation had a notable nuclear component to it as well.
“We are told that some US aircraft practiced the nuclear warhead handling procedures, including taxiing out of hangars carrying realistic-looking dummy warheads,” the report states.
The Soviets responded as if war was imminent. As the National Security Archive summary of the document puts it, “Warsaw Pact military reactions to Able Archer 83 were … ‘unparalleled in scale’ and included ‘transporting nuclear weapons from storage sites to delivery units by helicopter,’ suspension of all flight operations except intelligence collection flights from 4 to 10 November, ‘probably to have available as many aircraft as possible for combat.'”
In the US, everybody missed everything. The Soviets were serious about preparing for a possible impending nuclear war, and the US didn’t even know it.
Soviet activities around the “war scare” didn’t make a single presidential daily briefing. The US military realized the Soviets were at a higher state of alert but didn’t change their defense posture in response. Two later intelligence community reports on the incident also misinterpreted Soviet actions.
Indeed, one of the heroes of the war scare is Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, the US Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Europe during Able Archer. Perroots did nothing to change the US military’s alert status or readiness even as the Soviets were acting on a deep-seated fear of a possible US first strike. This, of course, was because Perroots wasn’t receiving any intelligence suggesting this fear was underlying Soviet mobilizations. The US had missed just about every clue.
The report calls Perroots’ inertia “fortuitous, if ill-informed.” Had the US military changed its operating procedure in Eastern Europe, it would only have escalated tensions and enhanced the chances of an accidental war.
The phrase “fortuitous, if ill-informed” sums up the entire 1983 war scare. The two sides misunderstood the other’s intentions, actions — indeed, their entire worldview — so badly that war nearly broke out.
The superpowers created a situation where simply doing nothing was an unwitting and perhaps civilization-rescuing act of courage.
On Saturday, December 12, the 121st Army-Navy football game will be played. The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in all of our lives and it’s no different for this rivalry. This will be the first time since 1943 that the game is held at West Point. While the football may not be the best, the trash talk of the week is top-notch. Soldiers, sailors and Marines united for their country and divided for one football game. Check out these top Army-Navy game tweets. We don’t know who will win on the field but there appears to be a winner in pregame shenanigans.
1. Duffel Bag Drag
Have to give it to Navy, the uniform is like a duffel bag with a number.
2. Nice Decor
They could pass for either bathroom decor or counter tops.
3. Top Tier?
I believe the Navy folks would say the same thing about Army.
4. You Had One Job
An epic failure that will never be forgotten.
The long-term health effects are real.
6. A Higher Power
I wonder if the church was on a Navy base.
That seems appropriate in 2020 with Navy’s losing record.
Looks like a tough final exam.
I see how it can get mixed up.
10. Power Move
A big time play to get two carriers lined up for this photo.
This must pain them dearly.
12. Big Baby
At least baby elephants are cute.
13. Look Closely
Have to give a round of applause on getting to the Superintendent’s house.
I’m hopeful for a high scoring game with a lot of touchdowns.
15. Tropic Lightning
It’s a taro leaf for the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
16. Top Gun
I heard a rumor that Pete Mitchell will be promoted in the new Top Gun movie.
17. Who Cares?
Something a lot of non-veterans don’t understand.
18. What Game?
Whether you are diehard Go Navy, Beat Army or forever Go Army, Beat Navy, it’s going to be a great weekend.
An old sailor’s myth claims that any ship which fails to break a bottle of champagne during its christening ceremony is cursed forever.
This seemed to be exactly the case with the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-19, later nicknamed “Hiroshima” by its crew after an accident in 1961 which almost resulted in a nuclear accident which would have rivaled the size and effect of Chernobyl, years later.
If it was any consolation to the horrified sailors who witnessed the champagne bottle bounce intact off the K-19’s stern during its induction ceremony, the sub was already thought to be cursed thanks to the deaths of a number of shipyard workers involved in its construction. Upon its acceptance to the Soviet Navy, its 35-year old captain, Nikolai Zateyev called the ship unfit for service, noting that the USSR’s rush to catch up to American submarine advances had caused the country to cut corners in designing its new vessels.
Regardless, the K-19 entered into active service and set sail on its maiden voyage in 1961, operating in the North Atlantic below the shipping lanes that crisscrossed the Atlantic. On the 4th of July — while millions of families made their way to parks to barbecue and watch fireworks in the United States — the K-19’s powerplant experienced a leak in its cooling system while the vessel was submerged southeast of Greenland.
If something wasn’t done to solve the cooling issue immediately, a nuclear meltdown would have followed, causing untold amounts of radiation to spew over the North Atlantic, and almost certainly travel over into Western Europe or even parts of Canada and the United States.
Zateyev ordered his crew to devise a “jury-rigged” cooling system, using scrounged-up parts and components of the submarine to re-route water into tubes around the reactors. In the meanwhile, members of the crew volunteered to go into the reactor spaces to attempt to fix the system, receiving fatal doses of radiation almost instantaneously.
None of the ship’s engineering crew would survive, and many more died from radiation poisoning in the years after the near-meltdown. Many of these sailors were later buried in lead coffins, quietly and away from the public eye.
According to David Miller in his book “Submarine Disasters,” a distress signal emitted from the K-19 was soon picked up by nearby American warships, whose crew offered to assist the stricken sub and her complement. However, Zateyev, worried about losing his ship to the United States — then the enemy during the height of the Cold War — decided instead to sail towards a nearby Soviet diesel submarine. That linkup allowed the K-19’s crew to offload safely.
In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe, the Soviet Navy sought to downplay the nature of the incident, forcing the crew of the K-19’s 1961 cruise to swear an oath of secrecy; violations would result in a lengthy stay at a gulag.
Nevertheless, a number were still decorated for bravery and their role in preventing what could have been an unmitigated disaster. Zateyev went on to serve in the Soviet Navy for another 25 years, passing away eventually from lung disease. The official report on the condition of the sick sailors stated that they were suffering from a form of mental illness.
That, however, wasn’t the end of K-19’s story. Now widely known throughout the Soviet Navy as “Hiroshima,” the ship was repaired and reentered into active duty.
In 1969, a collision with an American submarine disfigured Hiroshima, ending its patrol prematurely. In the 1970s, the submarine suffered a series of fires that killed 30 sailors and wounded scores more. The K-19 was clearly, by this point, living up to its curse.
The oath inflicted upon the 1961 cruise sailors was lifted after the fall of the Soviet Union, and what was once a closely-guarded secret was told to the world. In 2006, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made public the courageousness of the crew in a letter to the Nobel Prize committee, nominating the survivors for a Nobel Peace Prize.
K-19 was finally retired from service in 1991 having been active for nearly 30 years, and accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles transiting through the world’s oceans. Instead of preserving the ship as a monument to the men who served aboard her, and had a hand in saving millions from nuclear poisoning, the Russian government elected to dismantle and dispose of the vessel, finally ridding its navy of the cursed ship.
It’s ironic that the Coast Guard’s derogatory nickname is “puddle pirates” since it’s one of the few agencies in the U.S. that actually gets called on to fight modern pirates.
Anti-piracy, along with anti-narcotics missions, are often handled by the Coast Guard’s Law Enforcement Detachments, or LEDETS, and Tactical Law Enforcement Teams, or TACLETs.
These Guardians are deployed on Coast Guard cutters as well as U.S. or allied Navy ships. From there, they are sent to board and search vessels where the crew are suspected of committing a crime, generally piracy or the smuggling or drugs, humans, or money.
Here’s how the Coast Guard catches the bad guys on the high seas:
1. Once Navy or Coast Guard intelligence has identified and approached a suspect vessel, LEDET or TACLETs move in.
2. The law enforcement teams are vulnerable while bunched up on their craft, so they have to approach quickly and carefully.
3. The team members control the suspect crew while they search for evidence of illegal activity. If nothing is found, the crew is released.
4. In this case, the crew was arrested on piracy charges and their craft was destroyed. Ships can also be towed to port when necessary.
5. Larger vessels can pose a greater danger since the teams are forced to scale the side of a potentially hostile craft.
6. The Coast Guard practices with partner law enforcement agencies and other military forces to make the boarding as quick and safe as possible.
7. If the crew fights the boarding, the Coast Guard TACLET or LEDET members are prepared to defend themselves and force their way in.
8. Larger vessels allow more room to hide illegal activity, but the Coast Guard has learned to search thoroughly.
9. They’ve had a lot of experience, after all.
10. Particularly enterprising smugglers have created special vessels, like “Go-fast boats” or submarines to smuggle illicit goods.
11. The Coast Guard maintains mobile labs that can be used to test suspect substances. (Like powdered substances hidden in garbage bags crammed into secret compartments are ever flour.)
12. Any evidence collected is moved off the vessel to facilitate prosecution later.
13. When the Coast Guard cutters return from long tours, the total evidence collected can be literal tons of drugs.
October 2019, US President Donald Trump made the abrupt decision to pull the remaining US troops out of Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.
The move sent the fragmented country into a spiral, disrupting one of its few areas of stability. By withdrawing support from Kurdish forces in the area — which had helped the US combat ISIS — Trump opened them up to an oncoming offensive by Turkey.
Justifying the decision. Trump argued that US forces in the region had already “defeated” ISIS, and that therefore there was no need for them to stay in Syria.
This was, at best, only partly true.
While US-allied forces this year deprived ISIS of the territory it once controlled, the group still has as many as 18,000 fighters quietly stationed across Iraq and Syria, according to The New York Times.
Additionally, Kurdish-led fighters, known as The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had maintained control of tens of thousands of former ISIS members and their families, including about 70,000 women and children in a compound in the Syrian city of al-Hol, according to the Atlantic. Of those detainees, 11,000 of them are foreign nationals, according to the BBC.
The SDF has said it is holding more than 12,000 men suspected of being ISIS fighters across seven prisons it operates, estimating that more than 4,000 of those prisoners are foreign nationals, the BBC said.
The fate of those prisoners remains uncertain, particularly in the wake of the US pullout.
Turkey has taken over parts of Syria, and with it, ISIS prisoners
On Oct. 22, 2019, Russia and Turkey took advantage of the power vacuum that had been created and signed an agreement to expand their control in Syria and minimize Kurdish territory.
As part of the deal, Russian military police and Syrian border guards entered the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, pushing Kurdish forces back to 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border.
Turkey says it will use the reclaimed area to create a “buffer zone” along its border and will use the land to resettle more than 1 million Syrian refugees displaced by the war.
But as Turkey gains land in Syria, it has also taken on the task of figuring out what to do with former Islamic State detainees, many of whom are now under its control. Turkey has faced criticism in the past for its porous border, which allowed foreign fighters to enter Syria and join the Islamic State to begin with.
But Turkey doesn’t want to deal with them, and neither does the rest of the world
According to a 2016 report by the World Bank, foreign ISIS fighters have been recruited from “all continents across the globe,” though it named Russia, France, and Germany as the top Western suppliers of ISIS’ foreign workforce.
Data from the Institute for the Study of War also indicated that significant portions of foreign fighters also came from European countries like the UK, Belgium, and France between December 2015 and March 2016.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign ISIS fighters were in Turkish prisons, and warned that Turkey would not become “a hotel” for militants.
On Nov. 11, 2019, Turkey began deporting foreign nationals said to be linked to ISIS back to their home countries.
One of those foreign nationals was from the US, a spokesperson for Turkey’s interior minister said, though according to the BBC the man remained stranded at the Greek border after choosing not to return to the US. On Thursday morning, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said that the man would be brought to the US.
Turkey’s interior minister added the country was planning to deport “several more terrorists back to Germany” this week, and that legal proceedings against two Irish nationals and 11 French citizens captured in Syria were underway. A spokesperson for Germany’s foreign ministry confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that three men, five women and two children were being returned to Germany this week.
But many of those countries have not put a concrete policy in place for what to do with ISIS foreign fighters or their families that remain in displacement camps in Syria, or have refused to allow them to return.
Trump said in his statement in October 2019 that he discussed the issue of repatriating foreign fighters with France, Germany, and other European nations but they “did not want them and refused.”
Foreign nationals abroad are traditionally entitled to consular services abroad, though many European nations have been cautious about offering help to citizens who joined ISIS on national security grounds. Under international law, it is illegal to strip people of their citizenship if it will leave them stateless.
There are concerns that ISIS may take advantage of the uncertainty to regroup
But the UN has stood firm on pushing countries to take responsibility for their citizens.
“It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes — whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime — should face investigation and prosecution, with due process guarantees,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in June 2019.
“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she added.
The UK is currently debating what to do about those who left the country to join ISIS. In February 2019, it stripped British-born Shamima Begum, who traveled to Syria to become an ISIS bride at the age of 15, of her citizenship, citing national security risks. Begum has appealed the decision, and the UK government is said to be considering options for repatriating British members of ISIS held in prison camps in Syria.
As the West works through the complicated process of absorbing foreign fighters, Islamic State militants in Syria appear to be taking advantage of the chaos.
Last month, the SDF said ISIS fighters committed three suicide bombings on its positions in Raqqa as Kurdish fighters moved from their posts to respond to Turkish assault. And SDF General Mazloum Kobani has warned on Nov. 13, 2019 that the West should “expect” major attacks from Islamic State fighters who may be looking to capitalize on the chaos in order to regroup.
“The danger of the resurgence of ISIS is very big. And it’s a serious danger,” he told Sky News.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army robotics officials got their first look Aug. 30, 2018, at an innovative new technology for launching and recovering unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from a moving combat vehicle.
“Think of a drive-through Venus flytrap,” Don Sando, deputy to the commanding general of the Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told defense reporters Aug. 30, 2018, following a robotics and autonomous systems industry day.
Hosted by the Capabilities and Integration Directorate, the event drew 200 participants representing 100 defense industry firms.
“Ten percent of them were first-time participants with the Department of Defense and Department of the Army as we look at expanding our collaboration beyond traditional big defense companies to some of the smaller companies that may have some creativity and innovation that we are just not aware of yet,” Sando said.
One of the small firms that stood out was Target Arm LLC, which is developing the Talon UAS launch and recovery system.
Talon is a very “simple design, applicable to any vehicle, wheeled or tracked. That’s very innovative in my judgment,” said Sando, who was impressed with a YouTube video he saw Aug. 30, 2018.
“I was like, ‘Hey, that is simple, yet elegant,’ ” he said. “The ability to launch and recover aircraft from a moving platform really helps our ground formations on a battlefield, where we know they have to move quickly. Anytime you stop, you become a target.”
While there were no demonstrations at the event, many of the companies brought white papers to showcase new technologies that might meet the needs of the service’s new Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Initial Capabilities Document, said Col. Thomas Nelson, director of Robotics Requirements at Benning.
The document was approved at Army level in July 2018 and “essentially approved by the Joint Staff in August 2018,” Sando said, adding that it will help the service focus its goals for how new RAS technology will communicate with soldiers and other Army systems.
Many of the industry day attendees will take part in experiments scheduled for November and December 2018 in the United Kingdom, said Lt. Col. Nick Serle, commanding officer of the U.K. Infantry Trials and Development Unit.
“That really ties into the great partnership that we have between [Benning’s] Maneuver Battle Lab over here and the work that we do back in the U.K.,” he said. “We will be learning together.”
For now, there isn’t an Army requirement for the Talon system, but the technology could be submitted to the Robotic Enhancement Program (REP), Nelson said, adding that the company could submit a proposal “and potentially, there may be Army funding to explore that potential innovative solution further and test it by letting soldiers get hands on.”
Currently, combat vehicles are limited to line-of-sight targeting and surveillance systems, Sando said. “But what if it had its own [UASs] that it could dispatch kilometers and miles in advance just to help me see, help me target beyond line of sight?
“So the next thing is how I start to describe and quantify that combat advantage to being able to do that. … Put it in the hands of soldiers and say, ‘OK, how would you use this? Does it really make you better as opposed to stopping and launching a system and then recovering?’ Or ‘Hey, I don’t have to stop at all; I can maintain my momentum. I don’t have to hazard my soldiers by taking them out of a protective combat vehicle.'”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.
Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.
By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.
Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”
“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”
Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.
But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.
“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”
Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.
One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.
To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.
“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”
He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.
“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”
A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.
The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.
The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.
Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.
Creating a sense of community may look different for each of us. While some Americans enjoy the close proximity of city life, those who live in rural areas welcome the less crowded towns and wide open spaces as signs of home.
Although many rural residents enjoy these perks, the very nature of life in rural communities may unintentionally isolate them from others. Rural Veterans often report lower quality of life related to mental health than their urban counterparts, a challenge exacerbated by a lack of qualified specialists or nearby medical facilities.
Mental Health Month is observed each May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses, mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. Many risk factors disproportionately affect Veterans, especially those in rural communities with shortages of mental health providers.
As the lead advocate for rural Veterans, VA’s Office of Rural Health implements multiple support programs to help improve the health and well-being of rural Veterans. In 2019, ORH focused on eight critical mental health and suicide prevention programs, including:
Rural Suicide Prevention connects Veterans to comprehensive suicide prevention services and resources through enhanced education, public awareness campaigns, community training, crisis support, firearm safety, and care management for high risk individuals.
Vets Prevail Web Based Behavioral Support provides Veterans suffering from depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder with tools to overcome these challenges. The program focuses on Veterans returning from recent conflicts, like Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Military Sexual Trauma Web-Based Therapy uses telehealth to deliver specialized mental health care directly to the homes of Veterans who have experienced military sexual trauma.
Clinical Resource Hubs – Telemental Health connects specialists with rural Veterans to ensure access to mental health care services in rural areas.
To find out if these programs and others like them are available in your area, please contact your local VA medical center.
If you are a Veteran in crisis — or you’re concerned about one — free, confidential support is available 24/7. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 838255, or chat online.
The U.S. Marines are about to start receiving real robotic exoskeletons for testing, but these exo-suits aren’t headed into combat any time soon. Instead, they’ll be supporting logistical operations like loading and unloading pallets of gear and ammunition in the field.
While that might not sound like the sort of high-speed missions you imagined for the first widely-used military robotic exoskeletons, it’s really the most logical (and feasible) use for this burgeoning technology. America’s Special Operations Command spent years working to develop the TALOS robotic exoskeleton for specialized combat applications, but found the various systems they employed were too finicky for serious combat ops. While exoskeletons can significantly augment a person’s strength, they also consume a huge amount of power, often requiring that they stay tethered to a power cable.
Mock up of a TALOS suit. (U.S. Army photo by Anthony Taylor, 85th Support Command Public Affairs Office)
TALOS was ultimately canceled last year, but a number of different technologies developed for the forward-thinking system continue to live on in various weapon development programs that fall under SOCOM’s purview. Sarcos Defense’ new suit isn’t derived from the TALOS program, but offers some of the same significant advantages, including the ability to increase the strength and endurance of whoever’s strapped in. Despite the TALOS program’s progress in a number of areas, it was ultimately deemed infeasible for combat.
However, just because robotic exoskeleton technology isn’t quite advanced to the point where it can be used outside the wire quite yet, it could be an extremely useful solution to problems service members still have inside forward operating bases. Unloading literal tons of equipment, ammunition, and supplies that arrive on pallets is one such challenge.
By utilizing the Sarcos Defense Guardian XO Alpha robotic exoskeleton, a single Marine can do the offloading work that would normally require an entire dedicated fire team.
“As the U.S. Marine Corps focuses on logistics and sustainment modernization as one of their key priorities and looks to reduce the manpower required to conduct expeditionary operations, the Guardian XO is well-suited to fulfill a wide variety of logistics applications to address their needs and requirements.” –Sarcos Defense
As America’s premier expeditionary force, The Marines have placed a renewed emphasis on Expeditionary Advanced Basing Operations (EABO) in recent years. Put simply, EABO is all about increasing the operational capabilities of Marines working in austere environments that may not be near large military installations. The intent behind incorporating new technology like the Guardian XO Alpha is to bring big installation capabilities to forward operating areas. Whereas large military installations can utilize forklifts to rapidly load or unload supplies, smaller FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have to rely on manpower to unload supplies when they arrive.
“Instead of a team of four Marines, maybe you only need a Marine with this capability to offload pallets or move or load munitions,” Jim Miller, Sarcos Robotics’ vice president of defense solutions, explained last year.
Sarcos Guardian® XO® Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton: Alpha Unit Preview
In the short term, Marines will be assessing this new robotic exoskeleton to see just how useful it might be in a variety of operations, including some the team at Sarcos might not have thought of yet. Of course, another important part of the testing process will be figuring out what this exo-suit can’t do, and that’s where the Marines may really shine. After all, if you want to find out just how hard you can run a piece of gear before it dies, there are few organizations more qualified for such a torture test than the United States Marine Corps.
The Guardian XO robot, an exoskeleton suit to help reduce the risk of injuries by improving human strength and endurance, is on display at the 2019 Modern Day Marine Expo on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yuritzy Gomez)
“The Sarcos Defense team is very pleased that the U.S. Marine Corps will be testing use cases for our Guardian XO Alpha version this year,” said Ben Wolff, CEO, Sarcos Defense.
“Our military branches need to regularly address changing personnel issues and reduce the risk of injury from performing heavy-lifting tasks. We believe that our full-body, powered exoskeletons will be a huge benefit to the Marines as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and USSOCOM, who we are also working with on our exoskeleton technology.”