Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.
About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.
“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.
“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”
Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.
The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.
These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.
The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.
Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.
Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.
The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.
Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.
The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.
Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.
“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.
The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.
Calling in air support just got faster, easier, and more precise. DARPA’s new Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld system, otherwise known as KILSWITCH, enables troops to call in air strikes from an off-the-shelf Android tablet. The system could also be used with small UAVs to provide ground troops with greater situational awareness of friendly forces and enemy locations. KILSWITCH is part of the Persistent Close Air Support program, designed to bring fires on target within six minutes of an observer requesting them.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea on July 6, 2018, his third trip to the region, as part of an effort to solidify agreements on denuclearization.
Pompeo’s trip comes less than a month after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participated in a joint summit in Singapore.
But the US’s top diplomat also planned to give Kim a gift: an Elton John CD featuring the song “Rocket Man.” Trump’s inspiration for the gift reportedly stemmed from a conversation he had with Kim during the summit, sources told the conservative South Korean news outlet, Chosun Ilbo.
“Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no,” one diplomatic source reportedly said. Trump was said to have written a message on the CD and signed it, according to Chosun Ilbo.
At one of the lowest points in US-North Korean relations since Trump took office, the US president frequently called Kim “little rocket man” in Trump’s speeches and tweets in 2017.
“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said at the rally in Huntsville, Alabama. “This shouldn’t be handled now, but I’m gonna handle it because we have to handle it. ‘Little Rocket Man.'”
Kim and Trump shaking hands at the red carpet during the DPRK–USA Singapore Summit.
But while it appeared Trump was mocking Kim at the time, he reportedly told people at a Republican fundraiser in September 2017 that his nickname for Kim was intended to be a compliment.
On July 5, 2018, Trump also mentioned Elton John during a campaign rally for Republican state auditor Matt Rosendale in Montana. Trump referenced the size of the crowds at his rallies and said he had “broken more Elton John records.”
Pompeo’s trip comes amid reports that various facilities at a North Korean nuclear complex are operating as usual, and a scathing US intelligence assessment that found the regime intended to “deceive” the US.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites. The officials said they believe Kim may be trying to conceal the secret facilities.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
U.S. troops and their playing cards have a long history. A large chunk of deployment is spent killing time until the action starts – and card games have long been the weapon of choice for that mission.
After more than a century, the U.S. Playing Card Company, manufacturer of playing card brands like Bee, Aviator, and Hoyle, is still the world’s leading card company. In that time, the company has been very good to U.S. troops. Its original brands were decks of Army and Navy cards, later merged to one “Army Navy” brand, featuring military imagery.
The USPCC even made a cheap deck so soldiers in World War I could easily purchase one for the battlefields.
It was the company’s signature brand, Bicycle, that did the most for troops in the field. During World War II, Bicycle teamed up with British and American intelligence agencies to create a deck of cards that peeled apart when wet. The cards then revealed secret escape maps so downed pilots and captured soldiers could navigate their way back to Allied lines.
Once the map pieces were revealed, all it took was to assemble the cards in the right order to get the full map layout.
The decks were given to POWs in Europe through the Red Cross’ special Christmas parcels, which contained (among other things) a deck of playing cards. Cards were a common occurrence among troops, so they aroused no suspicion from the Nazi camp guards.
Decks of these cards are said to have helped at least 32 people escape from Colditz Castle and prompted some 316 escape attempts. No one knows for sure how many decks were produced, but the only two known surviving decks are in the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
The mysterious death of Maj. Gen. (Promotable) John G. Rossi on July 31, shortly before he was to be promoted to lieutenant general and take command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, has now been ruled a suicide.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Rossi is the highest-ranking officer and first Army general officer to kill himself while on active duty since statistics were kept in 2000. In an obituary posted online, Rossi left behind a wife, three children (one an Army officer), his father and a sister.
During his career, Rossi had received the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, among other decorations. He had served a tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While Rossi’s suicide is the Army’s first active duty general officer who took his own life since the Department of Defense started to keep statistics in 2000, high-ranking officials committing suicide is not an unknown phenomenon.
One of the most notable incidents involved Adm. Jeremy Boorda who was the Chief of Naval Operations when he shot himself in May, 1996. Another incident involved James Forrestal, who had recently resigned as Secretary of Defense when he was hospitalized for treatment of “overwork” (he was actually suffering from serious depression). In May of 1949, he jumped out of a window at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Even legendary military leaders contemplated suicide. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general who was most famous for capturing Atlanta and his March to the Sea, had a mental breakdown in late 1861 during which he considered taking his own life.
In a statement released after the announcement of Rossi’s cause of death his family said, “For our family, this has been an incredibly painful time, and we ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately.”
Considering the neighborhood Iran is in, the country has experienced relatively few terror attacks. In fact, much of Iran’s military strategy seems centered around keeping terrorism and external aggression outside of Iran itself, even if the attacks target Iranian forces.
All that is changing in recent days as Iran reels from another attack on its Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This one killed more than a dozen of the highly-trained members of the powerful Iranian military force.
The remnants of an IRGC bus after an explosives-laden car rammed it on Feb. 13.
A car filled with explosives was rammed into a bus carrying dozens of IRGC personnel on Feb. 13, 2019, in Iran’s Sistan-and-Baluchestan Province, near the border with Pakistan. Some 27 members of the IRGC were killed, and 13 others were wounded in the attack. An al-Qaeda-linked Sunni Muslim group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) took responsibility for the attack.
Iran is an Islamic Republic made up of predominantly Shia Muslims. External Sunni groups say the Sunni minority inside Iran is discriminated against by the Shia majority government. Sistan-and-Baluchestan is filled with members of the ethnically Baluchi people, who practice the Sunni form of Islam. Jaish al-Adl has been committing acts of terror inside Iran since 2012 to fight the systematic oppression of Sunni Muslims.
Balochi people outside of Iran have protested Iran’s government of the province for decades.
In January 2019, Jaish al-Adl set off two bombs that wounded three police officers in Baluchi city of Zahedan. In October 2018, the group kidnapped 10 at a border post in Mirjaveh. A month prior to that, the group killed 24 at a military parade in Ahvaz. That’s just from one group. On Dec. 6, 2018, a suicide car bomb carried out by the Salafi terror group Ansar al-Furqan killed two and wounded 48 more in Chabahar, in the same province. In 2017, ISIS-linked terrorists carried out a series of bombings across the capital city of Tehran, killing 17.
Between 2010 and 2017, Iran had no terror attacks within its borders. Prior to that, it saw only a handful of scattered attacks and bombings. The latest attack was one of the deadliest experienced by the Islamic Republic in years.
Iran’s special forces are currently deployed in Syria.
Iran currently projects power from Afghanistan in the East to Lebanon in the West, including its presence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic supports the Asad Regime in Syria, as well as the anti-Israel terror groups Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the past, anti-Shia terror groups have been funded and armed by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, whom Iran blames for the latest attack on Iranian soil.
The rhetoric between Iran and Pakistan has risen so high in the days following the attack, Iranian officials are meeting with Pakistan’s forever-rival India to discuss anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.
Sheik Abdul Hasib is a stout Pakistani who chose to fight under the flag of ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. The area he chose as his redoubt is the border with Pakistan, not too far from where Osama bin Laden and the Arab-speaking jihadis chose to build caves and fight the Soviets in the ’80s. Now seeking to tax poppy growers in the Nangahar province and establish ISIS Khurahsan, the long-haired Pakistani Orakzai tribal fighters have been streaming over four mountain passes from the Khyber and Orakzai regions in Parchinar since 2015. Since then, they’ve terrorized the locals, beheading children and elders alike, and launched a number of violent attacks in Afghanistan.
The Afghan anti-terrorist force began in Kabul and expanded to other major urban areas. Unlike the military, they’re trained by the world’s most elite counter-terrorism units to work in intense scenarios in which hundreds of civilians may be at risk. Photo from Recoilweb.com
ISIS established a foothold in the Pakistan tribal areas in mid-2014 with the fracturing of the “little T” Taliban that was made up of former Pakistan-based Taliban fighters. Leaderless, they flowed northward into Afghanistan in 2015 when around 70 ISIS trainers travelled from Syria to school them in tactics, public relations, and ambushes. Led by Abdul Rauf Khadem, a former bin Laden confidant, ISIS began paying three times the Afghan government salary, and twice that of the Taliban. They launched their new sub brand, ISIS-Khurasan, with brutal videos of hapless villagers being blown up and other filmed executions. Islamic religion tradition insists that horse-mounted jihadis carrying the Black Flags of Khurasan will signal the retaking of the Holy Land and the end of Christianity. Not surprisingly, ISIS PR cameramen filmed chubby Pakistanis jogging and jerking along on Afghan nags carrying black flags in their videos.
The cash and the PR campaign worked. In September 2015, the UN estimated ISIS penetrated 25 out of the 34 provinces.
The Crisis Response Unit is legendary in Afghanistan. They’re never seen in public and stay on their base until a crisis occurs, and then they deploy in minutes directly into a hostage situation. Photo from Recoilweb.com
When I met with Resolute Support commander General “Mick” Nicholson in December, he made it clear that although the NATO side of the war was treading water, the counter-terrorism fight wasn’t hindered by a lack of funding or increasing intensity. While the USA waited patiently for the election to end, General Nicholson made his move.
On April 13, 2017, the sky lit up above Achin and the ground shook through eastern Afghanistan as US special operations forces dropped a 12,000-pound MOAB munition that detonated above the exact area ISIS selected as their headquarters.
Nicholson’s air strike had maximum effect. The USA turned the ISIS fighter’s concealment and isolation into their damnation. About 90 fighters were killed instantly by the pressure wave and collapsing buildings.
Although the rank and file of ISIS K were decimated, the work of actually finishing the job was left to US ground operators and Afghans. Ten days later, at 10:30 p.m., 50 US Army Rangers and 40 Afghan commandos went in on the location of Sheik Hasib, gunning him down about a mile away from where the bomb went off in Mohmand Valley. As in all special operation ground missions, drones, AC 130s, F16s, and Apaches provided constant top cover and ISR support. Down below, air controllers coordinated the troops moving forward, calling out targets and hostiles for Afghan commandos. ISIS in the east was snuffed out like a candle.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The top leadership and 35 members of ISIS were finally removed because they had crossed the line. They had carried out a devastating March 2017 attack on a 400-bed military hospital in Kabul in which ISIS personnel disguised as medical staff killed scores of people. Enough was enough.
Although MOAB was a global headline grabber and there’s every indication that America is getting back into the fight, much of the dirty work of killing terrorists face to face has been left to the Afghans. It’s for this reason that I visited a little-known counter-terrorism unit high above the hills of Kabul.
It’s Friday, the day off in Afghanistan, but Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Raqib Mubariz, the head of Afghanistan’s elite’s counter-terrorism team, has invited me over. He’s clean-shaven, tall, and eager to meet me. He runs the Afghan Crisis Response Unit 222, or CRU 222 for short. He’s unapologetic about his team. His and his men’s job is to kill terrorists in Kabul. Fast.
It’s a brutally simple idea taught to them originally by the SAS and carried forward in their training by American, and now Norwegian, commandos. When suicide bombers try to take hostages en masse, the unit’s mission is to get in and kill them without restraint. In their brutal experience, the faster they kill terrorists the lower the casualties.
Their spotless base sits on the old site of Camp Gibson, overlooking the outskirts of Kabul.
Kabul is the fifth fastest growing city in the world. Under the Taliban in 2001 the population was barely 1.5 million; today almost 4 million people call Kabul home. Photo from Recoilweb.com
Mubariz walks me around the camp and explains the unit has three groups, one active, one in training, and one in reserve. On operations they have a 60-man protection unit and three operations groups. They work 15 days on and 15 days off, and they’re set up to respond to a crisis quickly; their goal is to be out the door within five minutes of a call.
He expresses pride that his men can “assess a situation, form a plan, and have all the belligerents dead within minutes. Instead of the hours it used to take, now we can be ready in three minutes.”
To underline the seriousness and intensity of their task, he estimates that last year 97 of his 7,000-person, nationwide staff were killed. The high-casualty rate doesn’t faze his enthusiasm for the task.
The training for the anti-terrorist squad lasts four months with a dropout rate of 10 to 15 percent of the class. “We get better training than the commandos, but we work together,” Raqib tells me, talking about another Afghan special mission unit that operates in the rural areas of the country. “We recruit from all over the country.”
I want to understand how this unit ended the March 2017 hospital attack, the most brutal terrorist act after the recent bomb attack at Camp Shahin. He offers to have his men perform a demonstration.
The men roll up to a practice building in armored Humvees, dismount, and take a knee; they lay out a protective circle and deploy snipers. They set up a command and control center, gather intel, and agree on an entry plan. Then, the teams deploy and breach, clearing each room until they reach the top.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The men are fast, aggressive, and their actions appear well rehearsed. But this is an empty building with a journalist sticking a camera in their faces, not a burning building with martyrs killing their way to a 72-virgin afterlife.
The 222 benefits from the knowledge passed on by foreign military advisors. Norwegians from the Marinejegerkommandoen were also on hand supervising and offering training guidance. The Norwegians declined to be officially interviewed, but 222’s opinion of them is effusive. “We love it when they taught us how to shoot off the back of motorcycles in the dark,” one commando laughs.
To understand 222’s tactical response to the Kabul hospital attack, I met with the officer (unnamed at his request) that led the hospital attack.
The soft-spoken colonel describes the siege. “It was Wednesday, March 8, 8:45 in the morning. The first car bomb went off at 9 a.m. at the rear of the hospital. By 9:45 a.m. we were stuck in all kinds of traffic. We travel in armored Humvees, five men to a vehicle. We had to hit cars to get out them out the way. We were waved around to a different entrance from the normal entrance when the second car bomb went off.”
The remnants of a vehicle bomb during the March 8, 2017, ISIS attack on the Sardar Daud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The eight-story pink Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital is in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul and is the largest military hospital in Afghanistan. Named after the last prime minister before the Soviets landed, the staff provides medical care to members of the Afghan military and their families. There are also two floors filled with wounded Taliban fighters along with a VIP wing; in addition, there are soldiers housed here who are wounded so seriously they can’t be sent home.
“It was complicated when we arrived on scene because we had more than 1,000 doctors, patients, and visitors.” The colonel says there were 400 beds in an eight-floor building and an unknown number of terrorists wearing suicide vests with grenades, knives, and rifles inside. “I was just thinking how we can protect civilians before we can kill the terrorists.”
The men ISIS sent to cause mayhem weren’t just suicide bombers, but fourth-generation suicide fighters called inghimasis, or “those who plunge” into battle. The four attackers were let into the hospital by an employee, the colonel tells us. They put on white lab coats and began to shoot indiscriminately, using knives to kill bedridden victims to conserve ammunition.
“Once the Afghan Army commandos arrived, I stopped everyone and explained how we can work together. We have British SAS tactics; the Afghan Special Forces uses American [tactics]. We have different training and tactics, and we could kill each other.”
The units deconflicted by leap-frogging each other as they cleared the buildings seven floors, floor by floor.
“We are clearing each room, but ultimately we run to the shooting,” says the colonel. “The problem was most of the victims were being stabbed with knives and [the attackers] were dressed in lab coats like many of the hostages. On the second floor we killed the third man; we shot him, and he blew up. Again we ran to the shooting. In various rooms, there were people hiding. The gunman had killed one or two people in each room.”
The responders killed another shooter on the fourth floor as he was hiding behind a bed. “We found another terrorist on the fifth floor. We shot him, and he blew up.”
Like many Afghans, and out of respect for the dead, he won’t describe the specifics of the dozens of victims. Most of the people had been killed with knives. Later I find out from one of the men who was there that a pregnant women, the wife of a military officer, screamed, “You can’t kill me!” He looks down and describes the brutality, “They cut out her child and then killed her.”
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Finally, there were 65 hostages on the top floor being held by the last gunman.
“I had heard shooting from the rooftop, and I requested an air drop,” says the Colonel. “The Mi-17 will carry 15 troops and can land on the roof where people were fleeing. Some were on the window ledges outside. [Our] snipers were using the windows, but there weren’t clear shots in the confusion. There is a green house on the top floor, and we went up and found the hostages.”
“We were using CS grenades and wearing gas masks,” he says. “It’s hard to see through the mask when you’re running and the smoke. So I aimed for his center of his vest and he exploded, killing some of the hostages.” When I ask him why he didn’t take a head a shot he looks up and just gives me a pained look.
“I think we were done by 14:00. We then had to coordinate the removal of the dead and wounded, and order ambulances since all the staff had fled.”
At the end, over 60 people were dead and roughly as many were wounded.
The attackers were trained in Pakistan and were reportedly told to kill as many people as possible before detonating their suicide vests. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
UNDERSTANDING THE ENEMY
Colonel Mir Ebaidullah Mirzada from Kapisa province explains how ISIS recruits and trains for these attacks. “I was in military school in high school, then I joined CID police. I spent 31 years in the intelligence service,” he says. His job now is to make sense of these attacks and understand the enemy. That enemy, he says, is increasingly more foreign.
The history of the CRU also coincides with violent attacks launched from Pakistan.
“There was a series of attacks in Kabul in 2005. At that time there was no special unit. They sent police, members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security and the Army, and there were a lot of civilian casualties. It was then they decided to create the CRU. National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar established a division of special police when he was interior minister.”
The work of CRU 222 is not without sacrifice. In 2016, 97 members of the Afghan national anti-terrorism group were killed. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
The first unit was 222. They started with 100 members; now they have around 7,000. Ebedullah was one of the originals. “We started with Hungarian and Bulgarian AKs, Russian PiKas (PKM), and Iranian RPGs. We swapped to Russian AKs [after] seven years with a gift of 20,000 AKs, and now, thanks to the US Embassy, we’re using M4s.
The men of the 222 still have to tape their flashlights to the barrel and make do with Chinese knockoff gear. They favor the bright green laundry bag camo pattern sprayed on their gear. It used to take three hours for the unit to jock up, and now it takes them less than five minutes to get out of their compound. Still, a Colonel gets by on $600 a month, and some of the men aren’t fully kitted. But they don’t complain. He pulls out the dossier on the attack on the hospital attack.
More than 70 percent of Kabul’s population lives in illegal settlements like these hillside homes built without permits or proper sanitation. These migrants include thousands of former jihadis returning from Pakistan. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“The attackers were from Pakistan, two from Tajikistan, and two were Afghan. The people know that Pakistan is behind this.” He takes pains to read the next sentence carefully.
“They trained for four months by Major Ahmad from ISI Punjab, in Mansehra near the military base at Rawalpindi. This information comes from the ‘other side,'” he noted with a smile. Manserhra is only 13 miles north of where bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.
Recruiting is done from the madrasas, free religious schools sponsored by Sunni donors from the Gulf area.
(Photo from Recoilweb.com)
Mirzada lays out the training process. “They pass three steps to come. The first step is for ISI people who operated under the guise of being scholars who train young people. They identify those who respond to extreme ideology.”
Despite the steady stream of violent attacks, the people of Kabul go on with their daily lives. In 16 years the country has experienced dramatic growth and education. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
“In the madrasa they’re separated, and when they say, ‘I want to be a martyr,’ they’re ready. Then the preparation work stops. They blindfold them and take them to a military base. There they’re trained about three months on weapons, explosives, and what destiny awaits them in paradise. Before the plan [takes] place they set up companies to provide fake IDs, transportation, and lodging. They transport them to Kabul without weapons.”
Typically, he says, they’re between 14 and 25 years old, mostly from poor families. Their family gets paid 400,000 Pakistani rupees, just under $4,000 US, after they’ve reached the end of their path to martyrdom.
“The handlers train them again to get used to the area where they speak Pashto,” Mirzada says. “There are also people who know Farsi. Once they learn the area, then they ship in the weapons. There are also people who are responsible to make the film. Even when they rush and fight, they’re always filming. Before they attack they film a speech and they get injections to make them brave.”
The elite reputation of CRU 222 attracts hundreds of young Afghan recruits; 15 percent will drop out during training. (Photo from Recoilweb.com)
One witness in the media insists he heard one of the men talking to “Mullah Sahib,” which sounds like Mullah Hasib, the head of the ISIS cell in Nangahar. The man gunned down after the MOAB was dropped by US forces. Mirzada closes the file.
When and if another hostage situation occurs, CRU 222 sits waiting for the call, stopwatch at the ready.
Russia is disturbing the peace, and NATO countries must combat its hybrid strategy, the alliance’s supreme allied commander for Europe said on Sept. 29, 2018.
Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also commands U.S. European Command, spoke to reporters covering the NATO Military Committee meeting, alongside Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Scaparrotti said Russia already is a competitor that operates in domains “particularly below the level of war,” the general said, but in an aggressive way, noting that the Russians use cyber activity, social media, disinformation campaigns, and troop exercises to threaten and bully other countries. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its actions Eastern Ukraine show their determination to continue to intimidate neighboring countries.
Undermining Western values, governments
“[They are] operating in many countries of Europe in that way, with basically the common theme of undermining Western values and the credibility of Western governments, in my view,” Scaparrotti said.
Short of conflict, Russia sends money to organizations in Europe at both ends of the ideological spectrum, the general said. “Really, their view is — I call it a destabilization campaign. That’s their strategy,” he added. “If they can destabilize these governments, if they can create enough questions, then that is to their benefit.”
The Russians’ doctrine looks to achieve their ends without conflict, Scaparrotti said. “They have the idea that ‘I don’t have to put a soldier there or fire a shot, but if I can undermine the government, then I’ve achieved my ends,'” he explained. “That is particularly true of the countries that are in the Eastern part of the alliance that are on their border.”
U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti.
The Soviet Union subjugated those countries after World War II, and Russia sees those countries as areas where it should still have privileged influence, he said. “They want to keep those governments in the position that they could influence them, and this is a tactic for doing that.”
The environment surrounding it has changed, he noted. “They were ahead of us in terms of changing their posture with respect to NATO,” he said, and the Russians have maintained a purposeful military modernization program that they have maintained even as their economy strains.
“It took us some time in NATO to recognize that [Russia] is not our friend, not our partner right now, and we have to pay attention to what’s happening in our environment and how they are acting,” he said. “Of course 2014 was a real wake-up. Russia violated international law and norms, which I will tell you they continue to do in other ways.”
Scaparrotti said he has no doubt that Russia would repeat its actions in Crimea and Ukraine “if they saw the opportunity and they thought the benefits exceeded the costs.”
This strategy is called a hybrid war, he said, and NATO is coming to grips with the concept. “One of the things about hybrid war is defining it. What is it?” he added. “It’s a lot of things, and most of it is not in the military realm.”
Planners need to determine what the military can do as part of a counter-strategy and what other agencies, branches efforts can contribute, he said. “And then [you must decide] how should you work with them, because we can’t just work on this on our own,” he said. “This really does talk about the whole-of-government approach and bringing others into it and deciding what needs to be done.”
In each NATO nation that approach has got to be different, Scaparrotti said, because the nations themselves have different strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. They also must factor in what Russia’s interest or activity is.
“We are working in this realm with military capacity as well,” the general said. “We have special operations forces, and this is their business. They understand it. To the extent that they can identify hybrid activity, they can help our nations build their ability to identify and counter it.”
A Meeting of the NATO Foreign Minsiters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 27, 2018.
NATO can, for example, reinforce each nation’s capacity for understanding disinformation and how to counter it, he said, noting that these issues are among the Military Committee meeting’s topics..
The bottom line is that Russian leaders need to understand that a conflict with NATO is not what they want, Scaparrotti said. “We are 29 nations. We’re strong. I am confident of our ability to secure the sovereignty of our nations in NATO,” he said.
Readiness critical to deterrence
NATO readiness is crucial to the deterrent success of the alliance, and Scaparrotti now has the tools to work on this aspect. Readiness in NATO means the commander gets a specific capability, and that capability is available on a timeline that’s useful given the environment, he explained.
“Then, of course, [readiness] is a mindset, which is perhaps the most important thing that has changed,” he said. “It is changing now.”
The NATO summit held in Brussels in July 2018 gave Scaparrotti the authority and directive to deal with alliance readiness.
“We are back to establishing force where I, as the commander, now have the authority to require readiness of units on a specific timeline and the ability to check them to ensure they can actually do it,” he said. “This all comes together with our ability to move at speed to meet the environment to do what we need to do.”
But these are not the first Americans to have been held hostage. A 2017 list from USA Today before Warmbier’s release noted some other incidents dating from 2009 to the present. These cases have involved civilians. However, prior to 1996, when Evan Hunziker swam across the Yalu River, there had been some incidents where American troops were held hostage.
The environmental research ship USS Pueblo (AGER 2) was attacked and captured by North Korean Forces. One American was killed in the initial attack, while 82 others were held for 11 months. The vessel is still in North Korean hands.
2. July 14, 1977
A CH-47 Chinook was shot down by North Korean forces, killing three of the crew. The surviving crewman was briefly held by the North Koreans until he was released, along with the bodies of the deceased.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.
“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.
Women war heroes prove that bravery and endurance are not reserved for male military personnel. Many women have served on the front lines, in the resistance, behind the wheel of convoys, in the cockpits of outdated planes, and in hospitals patching up the injured with little more than a standard first aid kit. Women and the war effort have always – and will always – go hand-in-hand.
The Night Witches of the Soviet Union took old clunker crop dusters and confounded the German air force. Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester found herself in the middle of an orchestrated attack in Iraq and turned the firepower back on the insurgents. The White Rose of Stalingrad took down numerous enemy aircraft and flew into legendary status.
Female war heroes also include the Dahomey Amazons, wives of the king who shocked their enemies with fierceness and audacity. Or the Vietnamese warriors of legend like the Trung Sisters and Lady Trieu, who thwarted the Chinese army.
The role of women in wars hasn’t always been clear or easy. Cathay Williams changed her appearance and fought in the Union Army as a man until her gender was discovered. But for a while, she fought in the Civil War along with other freed slaves. Then there’s the Polish spy who may have inspired two of Ian Fleming’sBond girls.
As we look at women in military history, there are myriad ways they serve. Women at home were working in factories making products for the war effort, but there were brave women who saw war up close. Some were able to share their experiences and become historians, teachers, instructors, colonels, and generals. Others faced poverty and lack of recognition for their war efforts.
There are millions who have served. This list of women war heroes sheds a little light on a few.
I held on to my son until it was time for him to go. My heart felt empty as he walked through the departure gates on his way to Army Basic Combat Training (BCT.)
Although I was happy for him as he left to live his lifelong dream of serving our great nation, I felt lost with an emptiness that filled my heart. Despite the tears that streamed down my face, I was proud to see my son started his journey with strength and determination.
It’s far from easy to watch as your child embarks on a journey aimed at transforming them from civilian to soldier; where you won’t hear from them and don’t know what they’re doing.
As your child goes on this journey, you go on a journey too.
You may not have planned for this or even wanted it, and yet here you are, transitioning to becoming the parent of a soldier.
Parenting changes in unexpected ways when your child joins the army. Instead of feeling stranded in a place of sadness, let your child’s hard work, dedication, and patriotism, inspire you to be your best. Here are some ways that parenting changes when your child joins the army.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart/Released
1. You’re no longer in control.
Parenting never stops, but when your child joins the army a new set of challenges emerges. After spending 18+ years preparing them for life and protecting them, a parental shift happens.
One day they’re home with you, the next day they’re thousands of miles away with little communication.
The casual calls, endless chore reminders, and days spent together are sweet memories of another season of life.
Take a step back and realize how your role is different now. Instead of taking the wheel for them, your role may be to just be there for them, to support their decision to join the Army or to help keep them moving forward.
You may not hear from your Soldier as often as you like but that’s part of your new normal.
Instead of resisting it, lean into it. It can be truly wonderful if you let it. Just think: you raised a child with the passion, courage, and grit to do one of the most important jobs in our nation. Make sure your child knows that you have confidence in them as a soldier and defender of freedom.
Transition takes great effort and doesn’t happen overnight. Know how you are changing as a parent. Put your feelings to paper where you can look back in a few months or a year and see how far you’ve come on this incredible military parenting journey.
Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret
2. You learn resilience.
Awful thoughts will undoubtedly run rampant through your mind. At some point, your Soldier will transition from BCT to Advanced Individual Training (AIT) or may deploy somewhere in the world.
I wasn’t as excited as my son when he deployed; he thought of it all as a big adventure while I cringed at the thought of him flying high in his helicopter over the Afghanistan Mountains.
Holding on to his enthusiasm through my range of emotions, and looking at this as an adventure was my first step to building resilience.
Embracing change and learning to adapt as a parent of a Soldier is one way to build resilience and manage your emotions. Resilience gives you the ability to cope with stressful situations (there will be some) and carry on with your life. You can’t change the fact that your child is now a Soldier, one of the few who chose to defend our country. Nor can you change where they go next. But you can learn resilience, become more confident in your ability to deal with tough emotions, and find joy in your journey.
Photo courtesy of 2nd Cavalry Regiment
3. You find new ways to enjoy the holidays.
Christmas brings with it sweet memories, family gatherings, and lots of food. It’s always a happy occasion, except for that first year my son joined the Army. He would be celebrating at his first duty station in Germany, while we all missed him terribly at home.
In subsequent years, we found new ways to celebrate. We’ve had Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas tree, gifts, and holiday decorations in the middle of November or birthdays celebrated a month before or after the event.
Don’t forget technology, which creates new ways to enjoy your Soldier. You can engage with your loved one, whether it’s a text message, phone call, or video and open up communications in a positive way.
Is it the day that is more important or the gathering of loved ones to celebrate events? Learning to enjoy celebrations on days other than the event is a unique way to celebrate. After all, any time you can gather with your Soldier is time for celebration!
4. Oh, the places you’ll go.
That first 9 weeks of basic training seemed like forever. With over 2,000 miles between us, how would I ever see my son? As the years passed, the miles expanded as his duty stations took him to Germany, South Korea, and far-flung states.
Let the adventure begin! With passport in hand, I visited my Soldier son in every country and state he lived in. We traveled through Europe and had a grand time experiencing new places and cultures.
Keep an open mind about the places you can visit and explore with your Soldier. The best part is your child can be your tour guide as you trek off together with enthusiasm and curiosity, creating new grown-up memories.
Photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart
5. You see your child in a different light.
When my son left for basic training, I clung to our past relationship where I was the mom and protector. Clearly that wasn’t going to work.
As time progressed, it dawned on me one day that my son is a Soldier. He spoke to me about his passion for defending our freedoms and how much it meant to him. As I slowly began to understand him as a grown man and Soldier, I began to see, appreciate, and respect this side of him.
You may not realize it but your Army Soldier is a skilled and highly-trained warrior, ready to defend our nation on a moment’s notice. That’s a lot to take in but it’s true.
No matter how much you want your child to be five years old again, they’re not. They left their childhood behind and went out into the world armed with all the loving ingredients you instilled in them. When you look at them as grown-up, you give way for a new relationship to blossom—one that includes the sweet memories of yesteryear and new adventures of today.
Throughout a successful 15-year Army career, my son’s story isn’t finished and neither is mine. Every “see ya later” hug at an airport is another building block towards mental toughness and staying ready for the changes ahead (and there will be many.)
When your child joins the Army, your parent-child relationship adapts and grows as both your lives change over the years. I wouldn’t change a thing about being the mom of my Soldier son. From the people I’ve met, to the things I’ve learned, and the places I’ve been, this army mom life has been amazing.
You control your journey or your journey controls you. Enjoy the adventure!
North Korea is squaring off with a superpower, and propaganda has offered insight into the targets the North might aim for in the event of a conflict.
North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons technology is advancing rapidly. The North successfully tested a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile Sunday that some observers suspect may be the foundation for a future intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the key to threatening the U.S. mainland.
“The objective is to preserve the regime, right?” Vipin Narang, a MIT professor with a deep knowledge of nuclear strategy, told The Washington Post. “You really have to stop the invasion. If you think you need nuclear weapons to do that, how do you deal with the fact that the U.S. is going to make you a smoldering, radioactive hole at the end of that? Well, if you can hold American homeland targets at risk, that might induce caution.”
The North is still developing the technology to strike the U.S. with an ICBM, despite their aggressive threats. Nonetheless, North Korean propaganda offers insight into the targets they might shoot for if they had one.
A North Korean photo from 2013 reveals a map, which some analysts call the “Map of Death,” identifying U.S. targets for potential nuclear strikes.
Open source intelligence analysts suspect that the four targets identified on the map are Hawaii, San Diego, Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. The U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet is headquartered in Hawaii, and its home base is in San Diego. Barksdale is the headquarters for Air Force Global Strike Command, which is essential for U.S. nuclear deterrence and global strikes. The Department of Defense and other national security agencies are located in D.C.
Other analysts add Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where U.S. Strategic Command is located, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers, according to WaPo. The North could also potentially threaten Seattle or San Francisco. North Korea revealed a propaganda video featuring a simulated nuclear strike on the latter during a state concert celebrating the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung last month.
An ICBM test is expected this year, according to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
While it cannot yet strike the U.S. mainland, North Korea has the weapons technology to hold Northeast Asia hostage.
Eager to stave off a U.S. invasion, the North, according to the rhetoric in their state media reports, would likely focus on U.S. military bases and high-profile strategic assets, like the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system being installed in South Korea.
North Korea launched a salvo of extended-range Scud missiles early March into the East Sea/Sea of Japan, with North Korean state media claiming the Korean People’s Army was rehearsing for strikes on U.S. bases in Japan. Open source intelligence reports revealed the North was aiming for Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, where a squadron of forward-deployed F-35s were stationed. When the USS Ohio made a port call to Busan last year, the North fired a missile into the sea. Open source intelligence, coupled with media reports at the time, revealed that the North was practicing bombing Busan.
The North’s newest missile, the Hwasong-12, has a range that puts Guam, specifically Anderson Air Force Base, within striking distance. The U.S. has a number of strategic bombers stationed in Guam, several of which have flown past the DMZ in a show of force.
“If the US goes reckless, misjudging the trend of the times and the strategic position of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], all the US military bases in the operational theater in the Pacific, including Guam, will face ruin in the face of an all-out and substantial attack mounted by the army of the DPRK,” a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in August last year.
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