An A-10 pilot describes what it's like to protect troops under fire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

An A-10 pilot describes what it’s like to protect troops under fire

As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.


There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB

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Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.

He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.

But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.

Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)

And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.

While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.

Articles

Sailor killed in Mosul was attached to SEAL team

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan. | U.S. Navy photo


An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. “JJ” Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.

Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.

A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.

SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.

In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.

“JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed,” the commanding officer wrote. “He answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful.”

The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.

“Meanwhile, we will remain resolute,” he said. “Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation’s work with the utmost dedication and professionalism … this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ.”

Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces’ assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.

A 13-year sailor, Finan was a master explosive ordnance disposal technician who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had also served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan early in his career.

He had twice been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and had a number of awards honoring exemplary service, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor Device.

In just one day, a GoFundMe page created to support Finan’s family has raised more than $21,000.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was central to the honor code among Civil War soldiers

There were a number of unwritten rules among the men who fought the American Civil War. Confederate soldiers were known to execute white officers who led black men in combat. While that certainly is terrible, Confederate troops also refused to use landmines, believing them “ungentlemanly.” Meanwhile, the Union Army practiced “total war” against the South, destroying the property and livelihoods of soldier and civilian alike while at the same time adhering to the Lieber Code, an early law that governed warfare much the way the Geneva Convention later would.


There was one thing, however, the soldiers on either side of Civil War battlefields would not do – they would not shoot a man relieving himself. And for a good reason.

There’s a good chance they’ve all had dysentery.

The biggest killer of Civil War soldiers was not the bullet, sword, or cannonball, it was disease. For every American troop who died at the hands of the enemy, two more would die of disease. The most likely culprits were typhoid and dysentery. The clear winner was dysentery, and it wasn’t even close. Dysentery and the diarrhea that came along with it ravaged both Armies for the entire war. It was this disease and its signature symptom that claimed more lives than all the battles of the war, combined.

It wasn’t the doctor’s fault, they actually had no idea what caused such diseases at this time in American history. The necessity of sanitation and hygiene among such large groups of people was not fully understood at the time. Doctors didn’t actually know about germ theory or how disease actually started. Camps were littered with refuse and whatnot in various states of decomposition. Soldiers lived close to their latrines, along with the manure from the army’s animals. An estimated 99.5 percent of all troops caught dysentery at some point.

With how much the disease affected both sides of the war, another rule to the war’s unwritten code of conduct emerged. No soldier would ever take a shot at a man relieving himself of the primary burden of the disease – or in the words of one Civil War soldier’s letter home, “attending to the imperative calls of nature.” when they rejoined their unit, of course, they were fair game.

Doctors did what they could to treat the illness, but given that they didn’t know bacteria existed, let alone the dozens or more that could cause gastrointestinal distress, it hardly did the job. Usually, troops were treated with opium. Not a terrible way to get back to duty but also not quite a cure, either.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Why certain workouts can stop you from losing weight

When service members hit the gym, they burn calories, build muscle, and slim down. Pair that exercise with a healthy diet and we quickly shed unwanted pounds.

After a while, our bodies begin to adapt to these workouts and, suddenly, those pounds of fat aren’t disappearing as quickly as they once were — but why?

The answer is pretty interesting. Our bodies are well-engineered pieces of equipment, designed to protect us — even from ourselves. Service members are known for running mile after mile in a tight formation a few times per week. Running is a great, high-impact exercise that burns a sh*t-ton of calories, but, after a while, our bodies adjust.

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We reach what many call a “physical plateau.” Those incredible results you saw in the first few months of working out slowly start to taper off. This is because your metabolism automatically adjusts itself to protect the body from losing mass.

It’s a fantastic defense mechanism, but it’s also a pain in the ass.

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When it comes to dropping weight, many runners out there are making yet another mistake: failing to intake enough calories. When your body is running low on energy, its defenses will kick in yet again, slowing metabolism to maintain weight.

So, in short, to stop your metabolism from lowering, it’s important to listen to your body and eat enough. It may sound strange, but you need to take in calories to burn them. If you’re into intermittent fasting, make sure to take in all the necessary calories within the structured six-to-eight hour eating window.

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If you’re doing mostly cardio to lose weight, it’s also highly recommended that you introduce a bit of weight training. Maintain a dynamic exercise routine and keep your body guessing — you’ll plateau much less often and see results more constantly.

Like they say, “lift heavy and lift often.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban keeps blocking NATO peacemaking efforts

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Taliban bases in Pakistan pose a “big challenge” to efforts aimed at bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.


Stoltenberg told reporters Nov. 7 at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels that he regularly raises the issue in meetings with Pakistani leaders and will continue to do so.

“We have to address the big challenge that [the] Taliban, the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times. It is extremely important that all countries in the region support efforts of the Afghan national unity government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists,” said the NATO chief.

Stoltenberg insisted if regional countries deny sanctuaries to insurgents the fight against the Taliban and terrorist groups in Afghanistan “will gain so much.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (Photo by Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org)

He spoke just hours after a top Pakistani Foreign Ministry official again rejected allegations terrorists are operating out of her country.

Pakistan denies presence of safe havens

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, while briefing a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, said Islamabad told Washington in recent high-level bilateral talks that all areas in Pakistan have been cleared of terrorists.

Related: Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Janjua reiterated Pakistani forces will take immediate action if the United States provides “actionable intelligence” regarding the presence of terrorists in the country. She went on to assert terrorists are operating not out of Pakistan, but from across the Afghan border.

“In Afghanistan, 45 percent of the country is not under government control, which is why the Haqqani network and other terror groups do not need a safe haven in Pakistan,” Janjua said.

Afghan National Police working in Kandahar Province’s Maruf district participate in training with members of Special Operations Task Force – South in Maruf, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2011.

NATO to boost support for Afghanistan

Stoltenberg reiterated NATO will continue and strengthen its financial and military training support to Afghanistan, saying the number of foreign troops in the country will be increased from currently around 13,000 to a new level of around 16,000 troops.

“We will not go back in combat operations, but we need to strengthen the train and assist and advise mission, the Resolute Support mission, to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to the Taliban, to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground,” asserted Stoltenberg.

The only way the Taliban can achieve anything, he noted, is by sitting down at the negotiating table and be part of a peaceful negotiated political solution to the Afghan war.

US, Czech, and Georgian soldiers receive a mission brief before conducting a security patrol led by Afghan soldiers in Parwan province, Afghanistan, May 8, 2015. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class David Wheeler)

The Islamist insurgency, however, has refused to engage in talks until all foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan. The Taliban has instead intensified its attacks against Afghan security forces, particularly since US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for breaking the military stalemate in Afghanistan.

Insurgent attacks on Afghan forces have killed hundreds of army and police personnel in recent weeks.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Sept. 1

Bravo Zulu to all of servicemen and women down in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. You guys are the light in this sh*tty moment. You deserve a beer.


Oh yeah… And there’s North Korea. There’s still the same douchebags screaming the same stupid rhetoric for the last 50 years.

#13: They also set up a canopy.

(Meme via Popsmoke)

#12: It’s all fun and games until Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club came in.

(Meme via Gruntworks)

#11: When and why did we stop using the phrase “BOHICA?”

(Meme by We Are The Mighty)

#10: What? Did you think your enlistment was just about saving drunk boaters and going to festivals?

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

#9: “You think you and your boys were ride or die? My bros proved it.”

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

#8: We get it, dude. Your “totally knocking out the drill if he got in your face” is the reason you didn’t enlist.

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

#7: “You know what would cheer the single, lower enlisted troops up? An FRG Meeting.” -Said every CO ever.

(Meme via Air Force AMN/NCO/SNCO)

#6: The alcohol makes up 75% of that sadness.

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#5: Remember – Scoring 181 or higher with at least 60 points in each event during the APFT is technically “exceeding the standard.”

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#4: Nothing works better than telling her that she’s better than a laptop in a 120° Porta-John.

(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-Enlisting)

#3: Maybe if we send her more troops, she’ll forget we were eyeing another conflict.

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

#2: If he completes his purpose, he’ll also cease to exist.

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

#1: You might be stacked, but do your medals go all the way to your pants?

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Things you should know about how ISIS lost Raqqa

After months of fighting, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have conquered Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate and its last major stronghold in the Middle East.


But the victory by no means indicates that ISIS is defeated, and enormous ethnic challenges still lie ahead for the embattled country.

Here’s how the Raqqa campaign was won, and what lies on the horizon for Syria:

Iraqi special forces are moving closer to the city center of Mosul to knock ISIS out of Iraq. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The campaign to retake Raqqa from ISIS (which seized the ancient Syrian city in early 2014) officially began in November 2016, several weeks after the campaign to retake Mosul, the group’s stronghold in Iraq, was announced.

Source: The Independent

SDF spokesman Talal Sello said the campaign would consist of “first liberating the countryside around Raqqa and isolating the city, and second taking control of the city.”

As per Sello’s description, the SDF advanced south from their territory in northern Syria, capturing ISIS-held villages east and west of Raqqa all while buoyed by American airstrikes. In addition, a key target was the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, which the SDF also seized in May.

Although the Syrian Democratic Front is dominated by Syrian Kurds, the units deployed to fight in the Raqqa campaign were 70% Arab, according to the SDF. This was done to foster ethnic solidarity between soldiers and the majority-Arab city and environs of Raqqa.

The Syrian Democratic Forces that led the Raqqa campaign is a coalition of various militias, however it has always been led by the Kurds.

The undisputed leaders of the SDF are the Popular Defense Units, or the YPG, a Kurdish militia with ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, along with their all-female companion force, the YPJ. The YPG first gained US support during the Battle of Kobane in 2014, when the group handed ISIS its first battlefield defeat while defending the Kurdish town on the border between Syria and Turkey.

YPG fighters near Raqqa. (WATM file photo)

The SDF was created in order to bring non-Kurdish groups that live in northern Syria, including Assyrian Christians and especially Sunni Arabs, into cooperation with the Kurds to create a single, moderate coalition to defeat ISIS. Yet inter-ethnic problems remain.

Source: Channel News Asia, the YPG and the Washington Post

Despite SDF’s secular, democratic nature and US backing, the group has been accused of war crimes. Although the YPG has denied such allegations, The Nation has reported that the group has expelled Arabs from conquered villages at gunpoint. The United Nations also disputes these claims, saying that these expulsions were for civilians’ safety and did not constitute ethnic cleansing.

In addition, clashes have occurred between the YPG and Assyrians in Kurdish-held territories.

In July, the SDF began the most arduous part of the Raqqa campaign — conquering the city itself. A combined ground and air assault began on Raqqa, and with it came vicious urban warfare and hundreds of civilian casualties.

Because Raqqa is an ancient city, fighting ISIS amidst its small, winding streets proved difficult for both the SDF and their American air support. ISIS used urban guerilla tactics as it had in other places like Mosul, Iraq, making the SDF’s campaign to clear the city from fighters a long, frustrating task.

The presence of civilians made airstrikes and troop movements even more difficult — despite precautions, Amnesty International has reported that “hundreds” of civilians had been killed by US airstrikes in Raqqa, which had begun before SDF ground troops were able to move in. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 789 people have been killed by US bombardment in Raqqa between June and August alone. Two hundred of them were children.

Worst of all, however, not only was ISIS using civilians as human shields and moving through underground tunnels, but they also murdered anyone in the city trying to escape through sniper fire and mortar bombardments.

SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from Voice Of America.

After months of brutal urban warfare and heavy resistance from ISIS fighters, the SDF declared victory in Raqqa on October 17 after seizing the national hospital and the city stadium, where the last ISIS fighters were stationed.

Amid the celebrations, though, the SDF is still in the process of clearing landmines and other explosives from the area, and although it warns that there may still be 100 ISIS militants hiding amid the city’s rubble, nearly 6,000 fighters surrendered as the group’s resistance was in its final hours.

Nevertheless, Arabs in Raqqa were the main celebrants after ISIS’s defeat.

“Raqqa is free, free! Daesh go out,” said a man named Abdullah, according to The Daily Beast. “We kicked them out.”

The SDF’s victory in Raqqa diminishes ISIS’s presence in Iraq and Syria to only a few border territories in the desert. The Islamist group no longer has access to the large cities they conquered when they rose to international prominence in 2014.

This map from approximately April, 2015, shows who controlled what areas in Syria. ISIS is show in black. (Image Wikipedia)

This undated map shows a massive decrease in the territory controlled by ISIS. (Image Wikipedia)

However, there remains much work to be done in Raqqa. With a large displaced population and reconstruction costs mounting, the SDF is now faced with the task of dealing with the Raqqa campaign’s fallout.

From the prelude to the battle of Raqqa in June to its conclusion this week, a group of Syrian activist journalists known as Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes, 1,873 civilian deaths, and 450,000 displaced people in the city.

In addition, RBSS estimates that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting.

Reuters reports that the SDF has set up the Raqqa Civil Council in order to oversee security and reconstruction efforts in the city, however funding from the US and other sources has so far been insufficient.

Sources: Reuters

“We gave our city as a sacrifice for the sake of defeating terrorism,” Ibrahim Hassan, who heads reconstruction for the RCC, told Reuters. “It’s the world’s duty to help us.”

In addition to logistical concerns about the future of Raqqa, socio-political ones remain as well.

It is unclear how the Syrian government, which is also conducting campaigns against ISIS in northeastern Syria, will react to the SDF’s vast zone of control. The group, along with the Kurdish-dominated Federation of Northern Syria, hopes to establish its own country in the area, a move that would surely be met with hostility from Damascus.

Kurdish moves toward independence in neighboring Iraq after the fall of ISIS there were met with exactly this kind of aggressive resistance from the government in Baghdad.

Now that ISIS’s territorial control has been shattered, Syrians in Raqqa say it is critical that the resumption of basic services, reconstruction, and social integration are pursued quickly so as to prevent a local insurgency from taking shape as it did in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.

As the dust settles in the battle against ISIS in Syria, the next phase of the conflict will undoubtedly be about who will control what as zones of power begin to be established for a post-war Syria.

Articles

USS Mahan fires warning shots at Iranian vessels

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at a group of Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 8. The incident comes less than two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.


According to Reuters, the shots were fired after the Iranian vessels ignored requests by radio to slow down as they approached the American warship and came within 900 yards.

Similar harassment took place this past summer, with Iranian speedboats making close passes to USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Squall (PC 7), which also fired warning shots.

Iran also threatened U.S. Navy aircraft in September. In November, Iranian speedboats pointed weapons at a U.S. Navy helicopter.

The Flight II Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72). (U.S. Navy photo)

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired on U.S. Navy vessels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles this past October. The destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) defeated three attacks in the space of a week, and USS Nitze carried out a retaliatory strike on radar sites. This past September, while campaigning for the White House, Trump vowed that Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Navy forces would be “shot out of the water.”

The Iranian vessels were described in the Reuters report as “fast attack vessels.” These vessels, sometimes called “Boghammers,” are speedboats with a variety of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.

According to “Combat Fleets of the World,” Iran has over 180 of these vessels. During the Iran-Iraq War, they were used to attack oil tankers.

A July, 1988 skirmish between those speedboats and the cruiser USS Vincennes and the frigates USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery lead to the downing of an Airbus passenger jet.

Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

The USS Mahan is the first of seven Flight II Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These ships have a five-inch gun, a 29-cell Mk 41 VLS forward, a 61-cell Mk 41 VLS aft, Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A top Russian officer wanted to duel opposition leader

Legal jockeying is continuing between a top Russian opposition leader and the chief of the country’s national guard, disappointing everyone who was hoping they would settle their differences in martial combat after the head of the National Guard really, actually, apparently sincerely challenged the opposition politician to an old-fashioned duel.


Alexei Navalny, the head of the Russia of the Future Party and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, received a duel challenge from the head of the country’s national guard. The general in command said he was going to beat this beautiful face into mincemeat.

(MItya Aleshkovskiy, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Post-Soviet Russia, military defends itself (and, allegedly, its tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains).

If you haven’t heard about the quarrel, it all started when Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, noticed that the head of the Russian National Guard seemed to be living well beyond his apparent means while the government was paying exorbitant prices for supplies for the armed services.

Navalny thought there was a chance that the general, Viktor Zolotov, who happens to be a former bodyguard of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was taking kickbacks or bribes from contract bidders. Navalny got his nonprofit Anti-Corruption Foundation to look into Zolotov’s actions in August 2018. The foundation later alleged that at least million was stolen from the National Guard.

Navalny tends to get arrested anytime he accuses someone too senior of corruption — arrests which the European Human Rights Court view as politically motivated in every case they’ve reviewed about Navalny — and he was subsequently arrested soon after making the accusations against Zolotov.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SINCU48hEFM
Putin’s ex bodyguard says he can make mincemeat out of Alexei Navalny

youtu.be

(It’s important to note that, even assuming that the August 2018 arrest was political, it could’ve been for other political reasons than the accusations against Zolotov. Navalny is always angering Putin by pointing out corrupt practices, and there are usually four or five political reasons for the Kremlin to jail him at any time.)

In September, while Navalny was in prison, Zolotov challenged his accuser to a duel at any place. While our sources say that trial by combat isn’t a thing anymore, even in Russia, admit that you would pay to watch a possibly-corrupt general fight his political opponent. Zolotov reportedly said that he would beat Navalny into mincemeat within minutes.

Fortunately for pedants and unfortunately for blood-seekers, Navalny accepted but specified that the weapons would be words.

Yeah, he answered a challenge of a duel by accepting it as a debate. Dangit, Navalny, you may be a social-media savvy anti-corruption activist, but you have no idea how to entertain the crowd at a coliseum. We want blood.

Zolotov went back on his challenge, presumably because he had been hoping to use spears or claymore swords or maybe even claymore mines. (I’d pay double to watch a claymore-mine duel.) And now the fight is playing out in court. The initial case was thrown out December 17 on a series of technicalities. It turns out, Zolotov’s lawyer wasn’t particularly good with words, because the lawsuit had “discrepancies contradicting Russia’s Civic Procedural Code.”

Zolotov has until January 9 to re-file his lawsuit. We’ll update this story if it turns to duels again. No promises if it remains a legal battle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are the top conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy assassination

Just under 54 years ago, two years into his presidency, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on a visit to Dallas, Texas.


An investigation by the Warren Commission determined a former US Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a nearby book depository, but the murky facts of the case have led to a number of alternate theories.

Also read: 2 million declassified documents reveal new details of JFK assassination

They include a CIA conspiracy, a mafia hit job, a covert operation by Lyndon B. Johnson, and more.

In anticipation of the National Archives releasing 3,100 documents related to the assassination on Oct. 26, here are the top theories that have swirled ever since.

The CIA theory

People who believe the CIA was behind Kennedy’s assassination speculate the agency strongly opposed a number of the president’s stances on Cuba and Communism.

The theory posits that Kennedy’s refusal to offer air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, a CIA-sponsored mission to overthrow Fidel Castro, triggered the CIA to eliminate Kennedy from the picture altogether.

Theorists tend to believe the CIA set Oswald up as its scapegoat.

The Mafia theory

A related theory suggests the CIA worked with the Mafia to have Kennedy killed. At the time, the two organizations had a shared interest in overthrowing Castro, as the Mafia held a number of investments in Cuban casinos at-risk of being shut down.

Government documents show the CIA did work with the Mafia to take down Castro; some conspiracy theorists claim the two also worked together, along with anti-Castro Cubans, to assassinate Kennedy.

The Cuban exile theory

Members of the Cuban invasion force meet President and Mrs. Kennedy in 1962. Photo: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

Some believe the effort was far less sophisticated than a federal conspiracy, but carried out by a group of rogue Cuban exiles who saw the failed Bay of Pigs invasion as sufficient evidence that Kennedy was unfit as president.

Between 1959, when the Cuban Revolution brought Castro to power, and Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his popularity among exiles had eroded considerably. In October of 1963, anti-Castro Cubans met with right-wing Americans to discuss frustrations with Kennedy.

Theorists speculate the meeting may have been a tipping point for the assassination a month later.

The Lyndon B. Johnson theory

One theory speculates that LBJ feared getting dropped from the Democratic ticket in the 1964 election so intensely that he plotted to have Kennedy assassinated.

According to a 1968 memoir written by Kennedy’s personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, it is true that Kennedy planned to replace Johnson as vice president. Kennedy told Lincoln as much on Nov. 19, 1963 — three days before he was killed.

Conspiracy theorists point to the timeline as partial evidence that Johnson might have had a hand in orchestrating the murder.

The KGB theory

President Kennedy meets with Chairman Khrushchev at the U. S. Embassy residence, Vienna. U. S. Dept. of State photograph in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston. 03 June 1961

Some theorists believe a band of Soviet officers carried out Kennedy’s assassination, directed by Premier Nikita Krushchev.

Toward the end of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Krushchev was ultimately forced to remove the intercontinental ballistic missiles he’d deployed in Cuba due to US militaristic threats against the Soviet Union.

Conspiracy theorists claim the move motivated Krushchev to have Kennedy killed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops are laying miles of razor wire on the border

By the end of the day on Oct. 5, 2018, there were more than 5,000 active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border, where they are laying razor wire in preparation for the arrival of migrant caravans consisting of potentially thousands of people from across Latin America.

There are roughly 2,700 active-duty troops in Texas, 1,200 in Arizona and 1,100 in California, the Department of Defense revealed Oct. 5, 2018. These figures are in addition to the more than 2,000 National Guard troops that were deployed to the border in April 2018.


(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

As many as 8,000 troops, if not more depending on operational demands, could eventually be deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot

Source: The Wall Street Journal

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

“Barbed wire looks like it’s going to be very effective, too, with soldiers standing in front of it,” Trump, who considers the approaching caravans an “invasion” said at a rally in Cleveland on Oct. 5, 2018.

Source: ABC News

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

(US Air Force photo by Airman First Class Daniel A. Hernandez)

“There is no plan for US military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry to the United States,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters Oct. 5, 2018, “There is no plan for the soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or to reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capability.”

Source: CNN

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.