The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.
The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.
After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.
In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.
After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.
In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.
And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.
For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.
“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
The three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris will be playing themselves in the upcoming film “The 15:17 to Paris,” directed by Clint Eastwood.
According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone will be acting alongside Jenna Fischer (The Office), Judy Greer, and Ray Croasini in the film. Eastwood, whose films Sully and American Sniper both garnered Academy Award nominations, is producing the film with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier. According to Variety.com, filming of the project began on Tuesday.
TheTrackingBoard.com had reported that Eastwood had initially wanted to cast Kyle Gallner, Jeremie Harris and Alexander Ludwig as the three heroes in the film, which is based on a book by Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone.
On August 21, 2015, Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guard soldier, Stone, an Airman assigned to the 65th Air Base Group, and Sadler, a high school classmate who was attending college, thwarted an attack being carried out by a “lone wolf” terrorist who had an AKM assault rifle. Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler tackled the gunman, whose rifle had jammed, then Stone, a medic, treated a passenger who had been shot in the neck by the jihadist, despite being wounded himself. Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day, while Stone received the Airman’s Medal and Purple Heart. Sadler was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor.
Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)
The casting of Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler is not the first time a military hero portrayed himself. In 1955, Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy portrayed himself in “To Hell and Back,” based on his 1949 memoirs. It should also be noted that in 2012, the movie Act of Valor starred Navy SEALs as themselves, but in a fictional scenario. The SEALs were not formally credited in the movie directed by Scott Waugh and “Mouse” McCoy.
A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.
The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
The Pentagon was more cautious, calling it a “probable” missile launch. Col. Rob Manning, a spokesman said, “We detected a probable missile launch from North Korea” at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST. He said the Pentagon is assessing the situation and has no further information to provide, including what kind of missile may have been launched.
It would be the first North Korean missile test since it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sept. 15 that flew over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
The White House says President Donald Trump has been briefed on North Korea’s apparent ballistic missile launch.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a tweet that Trump “was briefed, while missile was still in the air, on the situation in North Korea.”
At the time of the launch, Trump was in a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.
A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.
The Pentagon says it detected and tracked a single North Korean missile launch and believes it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said Nov. 28 that the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.
Manning says the Pentagon’s information is based on an initial assessment of the launch. He says a more detailed assessment was in the works.
Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says North Korea has fired a missile that might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.
Yoshihide Suga says the missile appears to have been fired from North Korea’s western coast and the government is gathering information and analyzing the launch data.
Suga says repeated provocation by the North is unacceptable and Tokyo has lodged a strong protest.
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho. (U.N. photo by Mark Garten)
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho says the government has told the North Koreans “that we criticize their behavior in the strongest terms possible” following a new missile launch.
He told reporters Nov. 28 at U.N. headquarters that “we are very concerned and we have condemned them publicly.”
U.N. Security Council President Sebastiano Cardi says he has been in contact with key U.N. members, but no request has been made yet for a meeting.
Cardi says he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Nov. 29.
Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says the missile might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.
Cardi says if it fell in that zone, it would be an “even greater” danger.
President Donald Trump says the United States will “take care of it” following North Korea’s latest missile launch.
Trump told reporters Nov. 28 that “it is a situation that we will handle.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.”
Mattis says a missile that North Korea launched early Nov. 29 local time flew higher than its previous projectiles. He says South Korea has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain that North Korea understands it can be “taken under fire” by the South.
He says North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace, and “certainly the United States.”
North Korea ended a 10-week pause in its weapons testing and threatened to heighten regional tensions by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.
Mattis spoke Nov. 28 during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and the top Republican congressional leaders.
The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch.
Italy chairs the council and its spokesman says the Nov. 29 afternoon meeting was requested by Japan, the U.S., and South Korea.
The Security Council has already imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government in response to its escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the U.S. and Japan are likely to seek even stronger measures.
The launch was possibly North Korea’s longest. It is certain to raise tensions in the U.N.’s most powerful body.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called North Korea’s latest missile test a “serious threat” to global peace and stressed the need for stronger sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to discourage its nuclear ambitions.
Moon said Nov. 29 at a National Security Council meeting that the South will not “sit and watch” North Korea’s provocations and will work with the United States to strengthen its security.
Moon says South Korea anticipated the latest North Korean launch and prepared for it.
South Korea’s military conducted its own missile drills that started just minutes after North Korea’s launch was detected.
President Donald Trump is speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after North Korea launched what the Pentagon said was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of Trump on Nov. 28 in his office. He says Trump was “speaking with @JPN_PMO @AbeShinzo, regarding North Korea’s launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan…”
Abe says Japan will not back down against any provocation and would maximize pressure on the North in its alliance with the U.S.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised concerns that North Korea’s perfection of an intercontinental ballistic missile would let regional security “spiral out of control” and make the United States consider a pre-emptive strike against the North.
Seoul’s presidential office said Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to prevent a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens the South with nuclear weapons or the U.S. considers a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the threat.
Moon has called for his military to take further steps to strengthen its capabilities following a recent agreement between Seoul and Washington to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean missiles.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told government officials to “closely review” whether the latest North Korean missile launch will affect South Korean efforts to successfully host next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Seoul’s presidential office reported Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to find ways to “stably manage” the situation.
South Korean preparations for the February games have been overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests this year. France has said its Olympic team won’t travel to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed.
South Korea has been hoping North Korea takes part in the games to ease concerns, but it’s unclear whether the North will.
North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months.
President Donald Trump has spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the countries’ response to North Korea’s latest missile launch.
The White House says both leaders “underscored the grave threat that North Korea’s latest provocation poses” not only to U.S. and South Korea, “but to the entire world.”
The two presidents also “reaffirmed their strong condemnation of North Korea’s reckless campaign to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, noting that these weapons only serve to undermine North Korea’s security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation.”
Trump and Moon spoke at length about the threat posed by North Korea during Trump’s trip to Asia earlier this month.
Every unit in the military has a nickname, but some are way cooler than others. We looked around for some of the best nicknames across the military. Here’s what we found:
1. Hell On Wheels
2nd Armored Division, US Army: The 2nd Armored Division was active from 1940 to 1995 and was once commanded by Gen. Patton. It played an important role during World War II and was deactivated shortly after the Gulf War. Gen. Patton gave the unit the nickname after witnessing its maneuvers in 1941.
2. Old Iron Sides
1st Armored Division, US Army: The “Old Ironsides” nickname was given by Maj. Gen. Bruce R. Magruder after Gen. Patton named his division “Hell on Wheels.” Feeling that his division should have an awesome nickname too, Magruder announced a contest to find a suitable name before settling on “Old Ironsides,” as an homage to the famous Navy warship.
3. Bloody Bucket
28th Infantry Division, US Army: Originally nicknamed “Keystone Division,” the unit acquired the nickname “Bloody Bucket” by German forces during World War II because the red keystone patch resembled a bucket.
4. Red Bull
34th Infantry Division, US Army: This National Guard unit participated in World War I and World War II and was deactivated in 1945. It was once again activated in 1991 and since 2001 its soldiers have served in Afghanistan, Iraq and homeland security operations.
5. Yellow Jackets
Electronic Attack Squadron 138 (VAQ-138), US Navy: This EA-18G Growler squadron based out of Whidbey Island, WA has a fitting name for what it does. It buzzes adversaries with electronic attacks rendering them useless.
Strike Fighter Squadron 105 (VFA-105), US Navy: This squadron was originally commissioned in 1952 as the “Mad Dogs” and was decommissioned in 1959. It was recommissioned as the “Gunslingers” in 1969 to participate in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin and has remained active ever since.
Strike Fighter Squadron 102 (VFA-102), US Navy: Based out of NAF Atsugi, Japan, the Diamondbacks are attached to Carrier Air Wing 5 and deploys aboard the USS George Washington (CVN-73).
8. Bounty Hunters
Strike Fighter Squadron 2 (VFA-2), US Navy: Based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, CA, this F/A-18F Super Hornet Squadron is attached to Carrier Air Wing 2 and deploys aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
9. The Professionals
2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion consists of about 1000 Marines and sailors.
10. Betio Bastards
3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this infantry battalion has about 800 Marines and sailors.
2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, US Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Lejeune, NC, this battalion’s primary weapon is the 8-wheeled LAV-25.
12. Magnificent Bastards
2nd Battalion, 4the Marines, U.S. Marine Corps: Based out of Camp Pendleton, CA, this infantry battalion has about 1,100 Marines and sailors.
13. Kickin’ Ass
148 Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Tucson Air National Guard Base, AZ, this F-16A/B Fighting Falcon squadron’s main role is to train foreign military pilots.
80th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Kunsan Air Force Base, South Korea, this F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron has served in operations in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
336th Fighter Squadron, US Air Force: Based out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, NC, the “Rocketeers played key roles during Operation Desert Storm dropping more than six million pounds of ordnance on scud missile sites, bridges and airfields.
On July 15, 2021, 17 sailors of Crewman Qualification Training Class 115 completed the assessment and selection to become Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. Included in the class is NSW’s first female operator.
SWCC is a special operations force under Naval Special Warfare Command that operates small watercraft to conduct special operations missions. Their exploits were highlighted in the 2012 film Act of Valor which featured active duty U.S. Navy SEALs and SWCC operators.
SEALs and SWCC go through similar but separate specialized training programs at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. SWCC operators train extensively on watercraft and weapons tactics to facilitate infiltration and exfiltration of other special operators under any condition. Historically, only 35% of candidates complete the course to become operators. The SWCC motto is “On Time, On Target, Never Quit,” and they live up to every word.
The graduation of the first female sailor from the SWCC course is a historic milestone for the Navy. “Becoming the first woman to graduate from a Naval Special Warfare training pipeline is an extraordinary accomplishment, and we are incredibly proud of our teammate,” said Rear Adm. H. W. Howard, commander, U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. “Like her fellow operators, she demonstrated the character, cognitive and leadership attributes required to join our force.”
Following graduation, the sailors will either report to a Special Boat Team or further specialized training. In addition to their watercraft and weapon skills, SWCC operators are required to possess a plethora of special operations skills like parachuting, medical treatment, navigation, and engineering.
Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan. Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.
But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.
Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.
Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.
An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.
Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”
Pantelleria and Lampedusa, two islands located about 50 miles off the Tunisian coast, were strategically located in the middle of the intended path of the Allied fleet for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. Pantelleria was garrisoned by an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Axis troops, mostly Italian, and was home to radar stations that tracked Allied ship and air traffic. Its defenses included 15 battalions of coastal guns, pillboxes, and other defensive works.
Allied Supreme Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had long been an advocate of seizing the two islands, stating that if “left in the enemy hands, they would be a serious menace; secure in our hands they would be a most valuable asset.” The “asset” was Pantelleria’s airfield, the only one close enough and large enough to accommodate the five squadrons of short-range Allied fighters needed for close air support for the invasion.
Eisenhower initially encountered resistance from his British senior subordinate commanders, who felt that defenses on Pantelleria were so strong that assaulting forces ran a serious risk of failure. But Eisenhower insisted, assigning Lt. Gen. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, commander of Northwest African Air Forces, “with the mission to reduce the island’s defenses to such a point that a landing would be uncontested,” making Pantelleria “a sort of laboratory to determine the effect of concentrated heavy bombing on a defended coastline.”
Codenamed “Operation Corkscrew,” the air offensive kicked off on May 18, 1943. From then until the invasion date of June 11, the island came under constant air attack from heavy and medium bombers and fighter-bombers.
One of the squadrons flying missions to Pantelleria was the 99th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the son of the nation’s first African-American general, the first squadron of African-American pilots of the “Tuskegee Experiment” program to see action in the war. The squadron arrived in Morocco on May 1, 1943.
As this was a time of Jim Crow in the United States, the pilots and ground crew encountered the indignities and slights of segregation and racism they had experienced back home. But one pleasant surprise was Col. Philip “Flip” Cochran, the inspiration for cartoonist Milton Caniff’s hero Flip Corkin in the syndicated newspaper strip Terry and the Pirates and later co-commander of the 1st Air Commando Group, who enthusiastically went out of his way to give the pilots combat training.
Lt. Spann Watson remembered Cochran as “a great guy” and said, “Cochran helped the 99th learn how to fight.” Davis added his praise, noting, “We all caught [Cochran’s] remarkable fighting spirit and learned a great deal from him about the fine points of aerial combat.”
Pantelleria would be the 99th’s baptism of fire. The squadron averaged two missions a day. In addition to escorting bombers, the pilots also conducted dive-bombing and strafing missions. Though the pilots did not shoot down any enemy planes, they did damage several and were successful in driving away air attacks on the bombers – which suffered minimal or no losses, a foretaste of defensive tactics that would define the Tuskegee Airmen’s reputation in the war.
In the three-week air campaign, 6,400 tons of bombs were dropped on targets on Pantelleria. On June 11, assault craft carrying troops from the British 1st Division headed toward Pantelleria’s beaches. But, contrary to British predictions of beaches bathed in blood, before the troops could land, the Italian governor capitulated. The garrison on Lampedusa surrendered the next day. The only casualty was a soldier bitten by a mule.
The swift fall of the islands went straight to the heads of some senior strategic air commanders, who now believed airpower alone could change the course of the war. Spaatz went so far as to claim “the application of air [power] available to us can reduce to the point of surrender any first-class nation now in existence, within six months from the time that pressure is applied.”
For the 99th, Corkin’s training assistance had a payoff beyond the battlefield. Following the surrender of Pantelleria, Davis received a message from area commander Col. J. R. Watkins: “I wish to extend to you and the members of the squadron my heartiest congratulations for the splendid part you played in the Pantelleria show. You have met the challenge of the enemy and have come out of your initial christening into battle stronger qualified than ever. Your people have borne up well under battle conditions and there is every reason to believe that with more experience you will take your place in the battle line along with the best of them.”
Davis would have a long and distinguished career in the Air Force, retiring in 1970 with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1998, he was advanced to the rank of general (retired list). He died in 2002.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
In late November, a missile fired by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen came streaking through the sky toward the airport in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh.
The Saudis spotted the incoming fire and shot off five missile interceptors from a US-supplied missile defense system to stop the threat, they say.
“Our system knocked the missile out of the air,” U.S. President Donald Trump later said of the incident. “That’s how good we are. Nobody makes what we make, and now we’re selling it all over the world.”
Essentially, the analysis says that the parts of the Houthi-fired missile that crashed in Saudi Arabia indicate that the interceptors, fired from a Patriot Advanced Capability 3 system, did not hit the warhead as they were supposed to.
Instead, an interceptor probably hit a part of the missile tube that had detached from the warhead, The Times found. The warhead most likely continued to travel, unimpeded, to where it blew up outside the airport. Witnesses reported hearing the explosion, and satellite imagery uncovered by The Times suggests that emergency vehicles responded to the blast.
The missile, an old Scud variant, can be expected to miss by about a kilometer. The Scuds are old and error-prone, and the older ones used by the Houthis are relatively cheap.
But the missile defense system developed by the US costs a few million dollars and has been touted by defense officials as one of the most advanced in the world.
In South Korea, the same missile defense systems and technologies are designed to defend US troops and thousands of civilians from a North Korean missile strike.
“You shoot five times at this missile and they all miss? That’s shocking,” Laura Grego, a missile expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Times. “That’s shocking because this system is supposed to work.”
Houthis in Yemen have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia before, and over the weekend they said they fired a cruise missile at a nuclear-energy site in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — something the UAE has denied.
Cruise missile launched by the Houthis in Yemen, allegedly towards Abu Dhabi nuclear reactor. Similarity to Iranian Soumar cruise missile (their Kh-55 clone) is evident. pic.twitter.com/q0qmabUISF
Footage purportedly of the cruise missile shows that it closely resembles Iranian missiles, suggesting Tehran supplied it. Iran has also been accused of providing the missile fired at the Riyadh airport.
A failure of the missile defenses against even a short-range missile like the one the Houthis fired at the airport may sow doubt about whether the US systems can be trusted to deter conflict in the Middle East, where military tensions have escalated.
While more soldiers died of disease than from battle injuries during the Civil War, a three-page document written by P.J. Horwitz, the surgeon general of the Union’s Navy, proves that many members of the medical corps had little idea of how to treat a gunshot wound at the war’s start. Part of the online exhibition “Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War,” put together by the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, Slate shared a transcript of Horowitz’s “rudimentary advice” in regards to handling injuries caused by bullets on the battlefield.
If the wound is produced by a musket ball, the patient will generally first feel a slight tingling in the part, and on looking at the seat of injury perceive a hole smaller than the projected ball, generally smooth lined, inverted and the part more or less swelled, and on examining further, if the ball has made its exit there would be found another opening, which unlike the other will have its margin everted and ragged.
Should the patient present radical symptoms of injury, one of the first things to be done is to stop the hemorrhage, if there be any, and then carefully examine the wound to see that no foreign body is lodged there in, and then after bathing the flesh in cold water, apply to the wound a piece of lint on which may be spread a little cerate, and attach it to the parts by adhesive or if the surgeon prefers it he can dip a little lint in the patient’s blood and in the same manner apply it to the part, and then put the part at rest, and treat the local and general symptoms as they arrive.