Russia has offered to keep pro-Iranian forces in Syria about 100 kilometers from the border with Israel as part of an agreement with the United States and Israel to help guarantee Israel’s security, media are reporting.
A Russian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the suggestion while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on July 23, 2018, Israeli television and western media reported, citing Israeli officials.
As he has in the past, Netanyahu demanded during the meeting that all Iranian fighters and their allies be removed from Syrian soil in the long term, media said. He also insisted that Iran should remove all long-range missiles and its air-defense system from the country, media said.
But Israeli media did not characterize Netanyahu’s response as a rejection of the Russian plan to keep Iranian military advisers and pro-Iranian fighters, including Lebanon’s Hizballah militia, at a substantial distance from Israel as Syrian troops reassert control in the border region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
However, Reuters cited an Israeli official as saying that, while Russia was “committed” to its offer, Netanyahu rejected it and told Lavrov: “We will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border” because Iran has long-range missiles that can reach Israel from Syria.
Reuters said Israel previously rejected a Russian proposal to keep Iranian forces about 80 kilometers from the frontier.
Russian officials did not immediately comment on Netanyahu’s meeting with Lavrov and the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, General Valery Gerasimov.
Before the meeting, Netanyahu thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump for their agreement at their summit in Helsinki in July 2018 to work together to safeguard the security of Israel.
“I appreciated the words that were spoken by President Putin together with President Trump regarding the security of Israel during the recent summit,” Netanyahu said.
But with regard to Iran, an avowed enemy of the Jewish state, Netanyahu said: “Israel will continue to act against any attempt by Iran and its proxies to entrench militarily in Syria.”
Netanyahu said the Russia delegation came to Israel on short notice at Putin’s request to discuss the situation in Syria, where the Syrian Army has been rapidly reasserting control over rebel-held areas of the southwest near Israel’s border under surrender agreements brokered by Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump
As a condition of accepting the return of the Syrian Army to the border region, Netanyahu said Israel was demanding strict adherence to a 1974 disengagement deal that created a buffer zone patrolled by UN forces between Syria and Israel.
Syria and Israel fought two wars over their shared border, in 1967 and 1973, leading to Israel’s seizure of the Golan Heights in what was Syria’s Quneitra province. The Israeli occupation has never been recognized internationally.
While Israel and the United States have been pressuring Russia to limit Iranian influence in Syria, Moscow contends that it has little influence on the tight relationship between Syria and Iran, and it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to fully withdraw from the country.
Russia and Iran have backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government throughout the war, which started with a crackdown on protests in 2011 and is estimated to have killed more than 400,000 people and displaced 11 million others.
Russia stepped up its military support in 2015, starting a campaign of air strikes and boosting its presence on the ground in a move that helped turn the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.
Iranian leaders have dismissed U.S. and Israeli calls to leave country, saying that will happen only when Assad asks Iran to go.
B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in Somalia, 1993 (U.S. Army photo)
On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”
“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.
Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.
Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”
“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.
“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.
Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.
“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.
With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”
As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”
Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.
After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.
Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)
Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.
Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.
Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.
Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)
From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!
A fight broke out during the first session of Afghanistan’s new parliament after disagreement on the election of a speaker.
Online video showed lawmakers fighting on May 19, 2019, over the seating of businessman Mir Rahman Rahmani as the speaker of the lower house of parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga. The body was meeting for the first time since controversial elections held last year.
Rahmani received 123 votes the previous day to defeat challenger Kamal Nasir Osuli, who had 55 votes, for the speaker’s post.
But Rahmani was one vote short of the simple majority of 124 votes in the 247-seat Wolesi Jirga that is needed to secure the speakership.
Rahmani’s supporters declared him the the new speaker and insisted he take the post.
“He has secured a majority of the votes and one vote is not an issue, so he is our new chairman,” said Nahid Farid, a lawmaker from the western city of Herat.
But opponents of Rahmani — the father of Ajmal Rahmani, a wealthy businessman known in the Afghan capital for selling bulletproof vehicles to Kabul’s elite — refused to let him sit in the speaker’s chair.
“We will never accept the new speaker and there must be a reelection with new candidates,” said Mariam Sama, a parliament deputy from Kabul.
Ramazan Bashardost, a deputy from Kabul, told Tolo News that the controversy over the new speaker could be resolved through legitimate means but lawmakers “are not willing to address the issue through legal channels.”
The results of the Oct. 20, 2018 parliamentary elections were officially finalized this month after months of technical and organizational problems.
Ukrainian lawmakers are to decide whether to introduce martial law after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.
The Verkhova Rada is to vote on Nov. 26, 2018, on a presidential decree that would impose martial law until Jan. 25, 2019, the first time Kyiv has taken such a step since Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Before submitting the decree, President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia immediately release the ships and sailors, who he said had been “brutally detained in violation of international law.”
He also urged Moscow to “ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step” and to ease tension more broadly.
European Council President Donald Tusk condemned the “Russian use of force” and tweeted that “Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels refrain from further provocations,” adding: “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine.”
European Council President Donald Tusk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Ukrainian sailors would be held responsible under Russian law for violating the border, but did not specify what that meant.
Poroshenko earlier said he supported the imposition of martial law, which could give the government the power to restrict public demonstrations, regulate the media, and postpone a presidential election slated to be held in late March 2019, among other things.
Yuriy Byryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, said on Facebook that his administration does not plan to postpone the election or restrict the freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of violating international norms with “dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area.”
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called for later in the day, and NATO ambassadors were meeting their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels to discuss the situation.
In a sharp escalation of tension between the two countries, Russian forces on Nov. 25, 2018, fired on two warships, wounding six crew members, before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.
Kyiv said it had not been in contact with 23 sailors who it said were taken captive.
The three Ukrainian vessels were being held at the Crimean port of Kerch, the Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying on Nov. 26, 2018. The witness said people in naval-style uniforms could be seen around the ships.
The announcement of the hostilities on Nov. 25, 2018, came on a day of heightened tension after Russia blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.
The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Nov. 26, 2018, to discuss the matter.
The AFP news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying the meeting was requested by both Ukraine and Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukrainian authorities of using “gangster tactics” — first a provocation, then pressure, and finally accusations of aggression.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border-guard service, said its forces fired at the Ukrainian Navy ships to get them to stop after they had illegally entered Russian territorial waters.
“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” the FSB said. It also confirmed that three Ukrainian Navy ships were “boarded and searched.”
But the Ukrainian Navy said its vessels — including two small artillery boats — were attacked by Russian coast-guard ships as they were leaving the Kerch Strait and moving back into the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s “aggressive actions” violated international law and should be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response.”
Demonstrators protested outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv late on Nov. 25, 2018.
Earlier on Nov. 25, 2018, Kyiv said a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian Navy tugboat in the same area as three Ukrainian ships approached the Kerch Strait in an attempt to reach the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted a video of the ramming on his Facebook page.
Mariupol is the closest government-controlled port to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
It has been targeted by the anti-Kyiv forces at times during the war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it erupted shortly after Russia seized Crimea.
In a reference to Russia, the Ukrainian Navy said the collision occurred because “the invaders’ dispatcher service refuses to ensure the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Ukrainian Navy said in a statement. “All illegal actions are recorded by the crews of the ships and the command of Ukraine’s Navy and will be handed over to the respective international bodies.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Navy said in a statement.
After that incident, Russian authorities closed passage by civilian ships through the Kerch Strait on grounds of heightened security concerns.
Russian news agencies quote a local port authority as saying that the strait was reopened for shipping early on Nov. 26, 2018.
In Brussels, the European Union late on Nov. 25, 2018, called upon Russia “to restore freedom of passage”‘ in the Kerch Strait.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO was “closely monitoring developments” in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and was “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, adding: “We call for restraint and deescalation.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he supports a move to introduce martial law.
“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”
The spokeswoman stressed that at a summit in July 2018, NATO “made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Azov Sea pose further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.”
Russia claimed it did nothing wrong. The FSB accused the Ukrainian Navy ships of illegally entering its territorial waters and deliberately provoking a conflict.
The Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea waters off Crimea have been areas of heightened tension since March 2014,when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading toward Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, such as Mariupol and Berdyansk.
The Ukrainian Navy said it was a Russian border-guard ship, the Don, that “rammed into our tugboat.” It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat’s engine, outer hull, and guardrail.
Russia’s ships “carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian naval ships,” the statement said, adding that the Ukrainian ships were continuing on their way “despite Russia’s counteraction.”
But the Kyiv-based UNIAN news agency reported later that the two small-sized armored artillery boats and the tugboat did not manage to enter the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Navy spokesman Oleh Chalyk told Ukraine’s Kanal 5 TV that the tugboat “established contact with a coast-guard outpost” operated by the FSB Border Service and “communicated its intention to sail through the Kerch Strait.”
“The information was received [by Russian authorities] but no response was given,” Chalylk said.
But the FSB said the Ukrainian ships “illegally entered a temporarily closed area of Russian territorial waters” without authorization. In a statement, it did not mention the ramming of the Ukrainian tugboat.
A few hours before Russian forces fired on Ukrainian Navy ships, the FSB said two other Ukrainian ships — two armored Gyurza-class gunboats — had left Ukraine’s Sea of Azov port at Berdyansk and were sailing south toward the Kerch Strait at top speed.
Russian officials said after the reported shooting incident in the Black Sea that those Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov turned back to Berdyansk before reaching the Kerch Strait.
The FSB also warned Kyiv against “reckless decisions,” saying that Russia was taking “all necessary measures to curb this provocation,” Interfax reported.
2018 was a pretty good year for military innovation, but 2019 is shaping up to be even better. The Pentagon and DARPA are experimenting with virtual and augmented reality, developing new aircraft and vehicles, and expanding their robotics and hypersonic offerings.
Get the skinny on what will likely break next year in the six entries below:
Gen. Robert B. Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, uses a HoloLens to manipulate virtual objects April 4 at the Marine Corps Installations Pacific Innovation Lab aboard Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
The Army and other branches have researched augmented reality before, so there’s plenty of groundwork already done. Once the HoloLens is incorporated, infantry could just glance around and see where their fire support is, how far it is to their objective, and where their squad support robot is. Speaking of which…
DARPA’s Squad X competition aims to better incorporate robots into infantry squads.
Robots joining human squads
Yeah, one of the other additions to infantry squads and other maneuver units could be robots to carry gear, sensors, and electronic warfare modules. It’s all part of DARPA Squad X Experimentation Program. The idea is to nest robots into Army and Marine units, especially infantry squads.
DARPA wants new materials to make hypersonic missiles more stable and reliable.
U.S. hypersonic missiles get faster, more operable
Hypersonic missiles are the ultimate first-strike weapon. They fly at five times the speed of sound or faster, making it nearly impossible for ballistic missile interceptors to catch them. And reporting in the open seems to indicate that Russia and China are further along than the U.S.
The S-97 Raider is the basis of Sikorsky’s SB-1 Defiant, the company’s proposed aircraft for the Army’s Future Vertical Lift helicopter.
The SB-1 Defiant and V-280 Valor will show their stripes
The Army wants a whole new family of vertical-lift aircraft, starting with a bird to replace Black Hawks. The two top prototypes are going through trials now, and each has some exciting milestones scheduled for 2019. The biggest and earliest is the imminent first flight of the SB-1 Defiant, a compound helicopter that is thought capable of almost 290 mph in flight.
One of the leading contenders for the Army’s new light tank is the AJAX armoured fighting vehicle from Britain, but with a beefed up gun to destroy enemy gun emplacements. The resulting vehicle would be known as the Griffin.
It’ll be sweet to see the first prototypes in 2019, but it’ll be even greater at the end of 2019 or start of 2020 when the Army starts actually putting them through their paces. No matter which design is chosen, it’ll be a big capability upgrade for the infantry.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The ALIAS program is currently limited to a Sikorsky demonstrator, but if it reaches full production, any and all Army helicopters could be controlled via some commands typed into a tablet. They can even pick their own landing zones and fly at near ground lever, usually better than human pilots.
As it would in nearly every war in U.S. history, the U.S. Coast Guard served an important role in the Civil War. During this conflict, the Coast Guard’s ancestor agency of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service performed a variety of naval combat operations.
By 1860, the Revenue Cutter Service’s fleet was spread across the nation, with cutters stationed in every major American seaport. After the presidential election of Abraham Lincoln, the nation began splitting apart. During these months, men in the service like their counterparts in the Navy and the Army had to choose between serving the federal government or with the seceding Southern states, so the service lost most of its cutters in the South. For example, the captain of the Mobile-based cutter Lewis Cass turned over his vessel to state authorities, forcing his officers and crew to travel overland through Secessionist territory to reach the North.
Regarding the Southern-leaning captain of cutter Robert McClelland, stationed in New Orleans, Treasury Secretary John Dix telegraphed the executive officer in January of 1861, that “If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.” The phrase later became the basis for a song popular in the North as shown in this newspaper clipping.
The commanding officer of the New Orleans-based cutter McClelland refused a direct order from Treasury Secretary John Dix to sail his vessel into Northern waters. Dix next ordered the executive officer to arrest the captain, assume command of the cutter and sail the vessel into Northern waters, indicating that the captain should be considered a mutineer if he interfered with the transfer of command. Dix ended his message by writing, “If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot,” a quote that would become famous as a rallying message for Northerners. Unfortunately for Dix, the second-in-command of the McClelland was also a Southern sympathizer and the cutter was turned over to local authorities. In addition to five cutters turned over to Southern authorities, Union forces had to destroy a cutter at the Norfolk Navy Yard before Confederate forces overran the facility.
The war required a major increase in the size of the cutter fleet not only to replace lost cutters, but also to support increased marine safety and law enforcement operations. Six cutters sailed from the Great Lakes for East Coast bases and nine former cutters in the U.S. Coast Survey were transferred back to the Revenue Cutter Service for wartime duty. The service also purchased the steamers Cuyahoga, Miami, Reliance, Northerner and William Seward and built six more steam cutters, which joined the fleet by 1864. These new cutters interdicted rampant smuggling brought on by the war, supplied guardships to Northern ports, and helped enforce the wartime blockade.
Revenue cutters taken by Confederate forces were mainly used in naval operations. Union revenue cutters served in a variety of combat missions. For example, the Harriett Lane, considered the most advanced revenue cutter at the start of the war, fired the Civil War’s first naval shot in April 1861 while attempting to relieve federal forces at Fort Sumter. During the ensuing months, Harriett Lane received orders for escort duty, blockade operations and shore bombardment. In August 1861, the cutter served a central role in the capture of forts at Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, and was transferred to the Navy to serve as a command ship for Adm. David Dixon Porter in the Union naval campaign against New Orleans.
(Illustration by Coast Guard artist Howard Koslow)
The cutter Miami also served as a kind of command ship during the war. In late April 1862, Lincoln, War Secretary Edwin Stanton and Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase cruised from Washington, D.C., to Fort Monroe in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Soon thereafter, Lincoln ordered the bombardment of Sewell’s Point, near Norfolk, in preparation for an assault on that city. On May 9, Lincoln ordered a reconnaissance party from the cutter to examine the shore near Norfolk in preparation for landing troops. The next day, Miami covered the landing of six Union regiments, which quickly captured Norfolk after Confederate forces evacuated the city and the Norfolk Navy Yard.
The gunboat Naugatuck proved unique cutter in the service’s history. Given to the Revenue Cutter Service by New Jersey inventor Edwin Stevens, the gunboat served with the James River Flotilla. In May 1861, Naugatuck assisted in an effort to draw the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia into a battle in the open waters of Hampton Roads. After the capture of its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia’s crew destroyed their trapped ironclad and Naugatuck steamed up the James River with the USS Monitor and other shallow draft warships to threaten Richmond. Naugatuck’s main armament, 100-pound Parrott gun, burst during the subsequent attack on the earthen fort at Drewry’s Bluff and the cutter withdrew to Hampton Roads with the rest of the Union warships. Naugatuck served the remainder of the war as a guardship in New York Harbor.
As with all wars, the Civil War had a transformative effect on the military services. The war transformed the Revenue Cutter Service from a collection of obsolete sailing vessels to a primarily steam-driven fleet of cutters. The important operations supported by cutters also cemented the role of the service in such missions as convoy duty, blockade operations, port security, coastal patrol and brown-water combat operations. These missions remained core competencies of the Coast Guard in future combat operations. The Civil War operations of the service also reinforced the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service’s reputation as a legitimate branch of the U.S. military.
In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.
But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.
The day after the revolution.
As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.
But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders
The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.
That sealed his fate.
The palace on the day of the coup.
It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.
By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.
The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.
The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.
Hopeful NCOs at leadership schools or promotion boards are asked a two-part question: The first part is, “how many trucks are there on the military installation?” The answer is, ‘one.’
‘Truck’ is the term for the finial — or ball — on top of the base headquarters’ flagpole. It’s kind of a trick question because every other ‘truck’ is either a military or privately-owned vehicle. The second part of the question is, “What’s inside the truck?”
The answer the Sergeant Major and First Sergeants are looking for is, “a razor, a match, and a bullet.” Occasionally, it’s also said to contain a grain of rice or penny — it depends who’s asking. The actual answer, and one they probably won’t accept, is “absolutely nothing.”
The items that are supposedly inside the truck are to be used in the case of an enemy invasion. If the enemy overwhelms the base, it’s up to the last survivor to climb the 50-to-75-foot pole, unscrew the truck, strip the flag with the razor, give it a proper retirement with the match, eat the grain of rice for strength, and blind the enemy with the penny. The survivor then digs up the pistol buried six paces away from the base of the pole.
What the survivor is supposed to do then is up for speculation. If you don’t use the gunpowder for kindling, the most universally accepted use of it is for the survivor to turn the pistol on themselves in a last-ditch, you’ll-never-take-me-alive act.
Here’s the thing, though. The military is very particular about the order of precedence when it comes to the Stars and Stripes. No flag can fly higher than the American flag. There are two exceptions to this rule: “Death’s flag,” or the flag that is raised, in spirit, above the actual flag when it’s at half mast (but is actually nothing) and a chaplain’s pennant (which is a pennant, not a flag).
Placing a chaplain’s pennant higher than the American flag is to say that the only thing higher than country is God. The fact that some claim we’d put a bullet in the finial above even the chaplain’s pennant is a dead giveaway that this myth is BS.
The final nail in the coffin on this myth is the fact that there’s no regulation set by the Department of Defense, by any branch, or by any military installation. As widespread as this belief may be, there simply isn’t any written record of it in any official capacity.
Oh. Also, nicer trucks, like the ones used to decorate a military installation’s flag that is saluted twice a day, are usually made of solid metal.
In 1980, Walter Banks Beacham enlisted in the United States Navy. He was excited for the signing bonus of $4,000, a cool $12,000 when adjusted for inflation in 2018. In 1984, Mark Richard Gerardi joined the U.S. Army Reserve. In 1986, Cedrick L. Houston joined the Navy. The next year, Chris Villanueva joined the Army. Zachary Pitt joined the Navy in 1989. And, finally, in 1992, George Perez joined the Army.
The trouble was that these were all the same person.
Beacham assumed the identities of six different individuals he came across through his life in coastal California. The Oakland native even somehow managed to enlist as himself, social security number and all, twice. The Los Angeles Times reported that Beacham was able to do this because he looked like he could be any of a number of ethnicities and he was able to procure fake drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and other identifying paperwork to support his claims.
Keep in mind, this was during the height of the Cold War and military recruiters have quotas to make. They relied a lot on personal integrity to make sure they put good — and real — people into the U.S. military. And there was a time when young Walter Beacham really did want to serve his country, but he failed to adapt to military life when it counted, and the rest is history.
*Note: Beacham is not in any of the photos below. I used photos that give an idea of how much time passes.
1. Walter Banks Beacham
The first time he enlisted, Beacham was drawn in by the guaranteed signing bonus and he really wanted to defend his country. When the recruiter came to his home, he saw Beacham and a few of his friends sitting, smoking, and drinking. He was able to recruit them all.
But the Navy wasn’t really for him. After six weeks and a few AWOL incidents at boot camp near San Diego, he was done.
“I put away my uniform, I got my money, I took a cab out of the front gate and then a Greyhound to L.A.,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
What graduating from Army basic training looked like in 1980.
2. Walter Banks Beacham, Jr.
Maybe it wasn’t the military that was the problem — maybe he just wasn’t cut out for the Navy. Six months after leaving the Navy, he was on a bus, headed for Army basic training. This time, he simply threw a “Jr.” on the end of his name. When the Army asked if he’d ever served before, he said no, and that was that.
For about six months.
The Army eventually realized his Social Security Number matched that used during his previous, Navy life and he was promptly discharged from the U.S. Army.
What graduating from the Navy’s boot camp looked like in 1980.
3. Walter Banks Beacham
When he got back to his native Oakland, it was only three months before he decided to give the life of a sailor another chance. He dreamed of foreign lands and exotic ports and was ready to forego the sign-on bonus (if necessary). He again used his real name and was shipped back to San Diego. He made it through five weeks this time.
“I would have made it through but, five weeks into it, they found drugs in my urine and one of the company commanders was still there from the time before and he saw my name on a list,” Beacham said. “I went AWOL.”
A U.S. Army Korean DMZ patrol in 1984.
4. Mark Richard Gerardi
In 1984, he joined the Army again, this time using an alias of his high-school friend. Beacham borrowed his friend’s diploma and birth certificate and was off to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for basic training — which he completed.
He was sent back to California, attached to a unit in San Francisco, and eventually sent over to Korea for three weeks. It was all for naught when he got a girl pregnant and then left her. She threatened to turn him in to the Army. Beacham tried to play it cool, but eventually bolted. He never heard from them again.
“I guess they just cut you loose after awhile. I don’t know,” Beacham told the Los Angeles Times.
Navy boot camp graduates in San Diego, 1986.
5. Cedrick L. Houston
In 1986, Beacham used the name of someone he met in Hollywood who was trying to be a dancer. He told the aspiring dancer he would get him work if he could use his identification papers… to join the Navy.
He actually finished Navy basic training this time around and was sent to learn to be a submariner on the East Coast of the United States. Of course, it didn’t last. He used a racial slur during the course of his duties and the Navy ended up booting him out for it.
“I was selling doughnuts on the base there until classes started and I called this sailor a silly-ass cracker,” Beacham said. “And they put me out of the Navy for that.”
6. Chris Villanueva
Back in California in 1987 and using the name Walter Banks Beacham again, he went down to Glendale, outside of Los Angeles, to join the Army as a truck driver, which is where he got his new name, Chris Villanueva. The real Villanueva was an unemployed truck driver Beacham ran into in the Valley one day. The born-again Villanueva (Beacham) was sent to basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. and was sent to Germany right after.
He survived another boot camp only to come under suspicion for some cocaine found in soldier’s duffel bags while in Germany. He was afraid he would get arrested for it, so he went AWOL again and headed for home.
7. Zachary Pitt
Beacham doesn’t even remember the real Zachary Pitt, but the new Zachary Pitt made it through Navy training in San Diego in 1989 and was inducted into the Navy as a Mess Management Specialist — better known as “a cook.” When his ship was set to leave for Japan, Zachary Pitt just walked out and disappeared.
“I met him in the Bay Area. I don’t even remember if he was white or Mexican,” Beacham said of the real Zachary Pitt.
Army basic training graduates in 1992.
8. George Perez
In his last enlistment in 1992, he left before he even received his signing bonus. Now George Perez, Beacham completed Army basic training at Fort Bliss in Texas and was back at Fort Sill for AIT, where he became an artillery unit’s forward observer. This time, he just couldn’t do it.
“Something happened,” he recalled later. “I couldn’t stick around. Time was choking up on me. I was in trouble for staying out late, and I was afraid I’d be busted right then.”
Eventually, he was caught by civilian police officers and turned over to the U.S. military, who court-martialed him on multiple counts of wrongful enlistment, AWOL charges, and desertion. At age 34, he pled guilty to all of them. The old U.S. military would have executed this guy. Luckily for Beacham, there was no war on and he spent just under eight months in an Army prison and was released with a dishonorable discharge.
The recent grounding incident involving the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) in Tokyo Bay is not the first time a Navy vessel has run aground. But some have been more…notorious than others.
Grounding a ship is not exactly career-enhancing in this day and age (never mind that the Antietam spilled 1,100 gallons of oil in one of Godzilla’s favorite hangout spots). In fact, it usually means the end of one’s advancement in the Navy.
Here are a few notorious groundings over the years to remind the soon-to-be-relieved personnel that it could be worse.
1. USS Guardian (MCM 5)
The mine counter-measures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) is the first U.S. Navy ship to be lost since USS Scorpion (SSN 589) in 1968. The vessel ran aground on Jan. 17, 2013 on a reef, and was very thoroughly stuck. So much so that a 2013 Navy release indicated she had to be dismantled on the spot. A sad end to a 23-year career.
2. The Honda Point Disaster
Aerial view of the disaster area, showing all seven destroyers that ran aground on Honda Point during the night of 8 September 1923. Photographed from a plane assigned to USS Aroostook (CM-3). Ships are: USS Nicholas (DD-311), in the upper left; USS S.P. Lee (DD-310), astern of Nicholas; USS Delphy (DD-261), capsized in the left center; USS Young (DD-312), capsized in the center of the view; USS Chauncey (DD-296), upright ahead of Young; USS Woodbury (DD-309) on the rocks in the center; and USS Fuller (DD-297), in the lower center. The Southern Pacific Railway’s Honda Station is in the upper left. (U.S. Navy photo)
Imagine losing seven warships in a day during peacetime. Yes, that actually happened to the United States Navy. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command website, during the evening of Sept. 8, 1923, a navigational error lead seven destroyers to slam into rocks at Honda Point, California, at a speed of 20 knots. Twenty-three sailors were lost, as were seven Clemson-class destroyers that were about five years old.
3. USS Decatur (DD 5)
This one is notable not for any loss of life but for the career it could have derailed. Accoridng to a 2004 article in Military Review, on July 7, 1908, the destroyer USS Decatur (DD 5) ran aground on a mudbank in the Philippines. It was pulled off the next day. The commanding officer was relieved of command, court-martialed, and found guilty of “neglect of duty.”
However, his career didn’t end. That was a good thing for America because that commanding officer was Chester W. Nimitz, who would command the Pacific Fleet in World War II.
4. USS Port Royal (CG 73)
Now some groundings are just embarrassing. This is one of them. The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) had been on sea trials after about $18 million in repairs. According to a Navy release in 2009, the ship ran aground about a half mile from one of the runways at Honolulu International Airport, providing arriving and departing tourists with an interesting view for a few days.
5. USS Hartford (SSN 768)
On Oct. 25, 2003, the attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) ran aground off the island of Sardinia. According to a 2004 Navy release, fixing the damage required assets from Louisiana to Bahrain. It took 213 dives to repair the vessel enough that she could return to Norfolk at half speed. Six years later, the Hartford would collide with the amphibious transport US New Orleans (LPD 18).
North Korea plans to destroy a nuclear test site in front of a handful of foreign journalists on May 22, 2018 — a move that lets it shape a narrative of cooperating with the US without actually removing its nuclear capabilities.
Foreign journalists from the US, China, and Russia arrived in North Korea on May 22, 2018, to report on the destruction of an underground site that Pyongyang has repeatedly rocked with nuclear detonation tests.
At the same time, President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are meeting behind the scenes to discuss what to make of Kim Jong Un’s new, aggressive tone.
The planned destruction of the test site, in Wonsan, represents denuclearization North Korea’s way, meaning it isn’t permanent, verifiable, irreversible, or complete.
North Korea intends to make a big show of dismantling its test site by collapsing access tunnels, but it can always build more tunnels, dig the tunnels back out again, or test somewhere else.
Additionally, if North Korea truly has completed its nuclear program, as it says it has, then it no longer needs an active test site anyway. The US has maintained nuclear weapons without testing them for decades.
While the world watches North Korea’s staged show of denuclearization, Trump and Moon will meet at the White House to discuss Trump’s coming summit with Kim as well as North Korea’s recent harsh words.
In the days of antiquity, being in the cavalry was a privilege specifically reserved for those who ranked higher in the social order than the common people. Those who were too young, too inexperienced, or too poor to have a horse, usually ended up in a type of combat unit specifically named for them: the infantry.
From the early days of warfare on up through the Middle Ages and beyond, war was a socially stratified activity, just like anything else. The leaders of a country needed able-bodied men to fight the wars, and they needed those men to already have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. The problem is that most of those men definitely did not have the skills and experience necessary to fight wars. If a country didn’t have a standing professional army and used mostly the rabble picked from its towns and cities, chances are good, it was filled with infantry.
The word “infantry” is just as its root word suggests. Derived from the latin word infans, the word literally means infancy. Later versions of the word became common usage in French, Old Italian, and Spanish, meaning “foot soldiers too low in rank to be cavalry.
The last thing you see when you’re too poor to own a horse and no one thought to bring pointy sticks.
As if walking to the war and being the first to die from the other side’s cavalry charges wasn’t bad enough, your own cavalry referred to you as babies or children. Another possible Latin origin of the phrase would also describe infantry just as well. The word infantia means “unable to speak” or perhaps more colloquially, “not able to have an opinion.” The latter word might describe any infantry throughout history. As a conscript, you were forced into the service of a lord for his lands and allies, not given a choice in the matter.
In the modern terminology for infantry, this is probably just as true, except you volunteered to not have an opinion. At least now, you get healthcare and not cholera.
It is the definition of asymmetrical warfare: a fast-moving, lightly armed insurgency fueled by a radical doctrine uses simple weapons to attack a larger, seemingly more capable occupying force.
Taking inspiration from the doctrines of T.E. Lawrence, Sun Tzu, Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, extremists in Syria have increased pressure on Russian forces in the region with another simple, innovative attack that heavily damaged at least one Russian aircraft and likely more. Previous similar attacks in the region around Jan. 4 were reported to have killed 2 Russian servicemen.
Recent photos surfacing on social media attributed to Russian military journalist Roman Saponkov show the tail of what appears to be a Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft damaged by an attack earlier this month.
A report that surfaced on Jan. 6, 2018 from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that was shared in several media outlets, including the BBC, says that Russian forces shot down several “unmanned aircraft” near Hmeimim base near the north-western city of Latakia Jan. 6 in what appears to be the latest attack attempt by insurgents. In this week’s latest attack, the Russians claim there was no damage to aircraft or personnel and their air defense systems were successful in intercepting the small, store-bought quadcopter drones, usually used for cameras.
There has been a recent increase in attacks by improvised air-delivered weapons from remotely piloted aircraft on Russian installations in Syria. Additional insurgent attacks have been attributed to mortars. Some of the remotely piloted aircraft, in some instances commercial-style, quad-copter drones, have been modified to carry mortar rounds or grenades. Some grenade-bombs even used badminton shuttlecocks for improvised tail fin stabilizers. While this is not new, the frequency of the incidents and adaptability of the insurgents does seem to have increased.
This increase in insurgent attacks comes just after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of the bulk of Russian assets from Syria during a surprise visit to Hmeimim air base on Dec. 11, 2017. Hmeimim air base is the primary launch facility for Russian tactical air operations in Syria’s Latakia province. The political move by Putin is reminiscent of the May 1, 2003 political gaff by then-U.S. President George W. Bush. President Bush made a media event out of landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and speaking in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished,” acknowledging the progress of the U.S. in the Global War on Terror in Iraq. Although Bush never said the mission was accomplished in his remarks on the USS America, the event is historically regarded as premature to meaningful change in the ongoing Iraq conflict. Putin may face similar criticism if a meaningful victory in Syria does not happen soon.
The Russian success in intercepting improvised camera drones being adapted to carry weapons is at least partially attributable to what may be their most sophisticated air defense system, the Pantsir S-2 integrated missile and gun vehicle.
The Pantsir S-2, an advancement from the earlier Pantsir S-1, uses a combination of a high rate of fire anti-aircraft gun and surface to air missiles combined with advanced targeting radar to both detect aerial threats and target both the guns and the missiles on the Pantsir S-2.
Pantsir S-2 is armed with two 2A38M, 30mm automatic anti-aircraft guns derived from the GSh-30 twin-barrel 30mm aircraft-mounted cannon. The cannon system on the Pantsir S-2 has a very high rate of fire from 1,950 to 2,500 rounds per minute depending on the length of the burst. The 2A38M cannon can engage targets up to 2,000 meters, over 6,000 feet, altitude. More importantly in the context of the improvised insurgent threats, the 2A38M can engage targets down to zero altitude effectively, a problem older Soviet-era Russian anti-aircraft systems like the ZSU-34-4 faced since the guns could not depress below a certain elevation making it impossible to hit very low altitude targets in close proximity.
The Pantsir S-2 also carries the new highly capable 57E6-E guided surface to air missile. The missile uses a bi-caliber body in tandem, one stage in front of the next, with a separate booster stage then in-flight stage. The newest versions of the 57E6-E are reported to have range of up to 20-30 kilometers with and reported engagement ceiling of 10,000 meters (approx. 33,000 feet).
While the new Pantsir S-2 provides significant protection from what appears to be the entire threat envelope from enemy fixed-wing aircraft to improvised quad-copter bombs the hallmark of the insurgent adversary is adaptability. While Russia appears to be emerging in the lead of the conflict in Syria as Putin announces their withdrawal, one has to wonder what shift in insurgent tactics will follow their drone attack campaign.