Hawks and falcons are an essential part of the ecosystem and are one of nature’s instinctive predators. Although these natural aviators are beneficial to the environment, they can pose a threat to the safety of Airmen, aircraft and vulnerable wildlife.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program, expanded with the addition of the Predatory Bird Relocation Program.
After seeing the risks predatory birds, or raptors, have when they live near or on airfields, Adam Kohler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services wildlife biologist at Altus Air Force Base, created the Predatory Bird Relocation Program, which safely removes birds that have the potential to injure themselves or aircrew.
“I work for the USDA Wildlife Services which acts kind of like the government’s wildlife damage management program,” Kohler said. “One of the big areas we work in are airfields. We use the BASH program to help keep the public and aircraft safe from accidents that may happen with wildlife.”
The Predatory Bird Relocation Program is an important aspect in forwarding the mission of the 97th AMW. Each year, the Air Force spends approximately 0 million repairing damage to aircraft from birds and other wildlife. Since Kohler founded the program in the fall of 2018, more than 20 raptors have been safely captured and relocated away from the airfield saving Altus AFB time, lives and money.
“While hawks and falcons are less abundant than other birds found in this area, they are one of the species with the highest risk of getting hit,” Kohler said. “Although there is less of them out there, they get struck by aircraft more often, and because of their size they inflict more damage when they are hit. That is why we created the program specific to relocate the raptors.”
When a raptor is within a close enough range of the airfield to become a hazard, Kohler sets out harmless, simple traps to capture the bird. Once the raptor is caught, Kohler places a tracking band on its foot and relocates it to a safer environment.
“By us going out there and banding the raptors, it helps out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and any agencies that are studying wildlife,” Kohler said. “It’s a great cooperative effort between us and every other wildlife research agency towards gaining knowledge from and understanding different species.”
Each tracking band has a specific number on it to help identify the bird in the future. This is a very important part of the relocation process because it can help identify which birds return to the airfield once they have been relocated. If a banded bird does return, it is relocated to a different environment, hopefully to keep the raptor satisfied at its new location.
“Banding the birds is an essential part, nationwide, to the agencies research of the effectiveness in relocating raptors,” Kohler said. “Throughout our research we have found that more than 90 percent of the relocated birds have stayed in their new location, away from the airfield. It’s good because this data helps us show that catching and relocating these birds actually keeps them away and safe, and not returning.”
Although predatory birds are necessary in local environments, flying too close to an airfield is a threat to the raptors’ own lives and the safety of Airmen. By relocating these raptors to a safer location, Kohler and the USDA Wildlife Services team help keep the 97th AMW safe and mission ready.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For the Bright-eyed Hope Machine in your squadron:
~ a bag from the brand that’s turning military surplus into vet success ~
Emily and Betsy Nuñez — sisters and co-founders of Sword Plough — represent the kind of entrepreneurial venn diagram that a truly bipartisan American government would engineer in a lab to ensure a Better Tomorrow.
Growing up at West Point with their father, a 30-year Army veteran, Emily and Betsy were inculcated from an early age with the military life. Emily was one of only three students at Middlebury College in ROTC and would go on to serve on active duty as an intelligence officer with 10th Special Forces Group.
She would also be one of the first women to attend Ranger School.
At the same time, she and Betsy were laying the groundwork for a classic millennial start-up, a sustainable bags and accessories company dedicated to repurposing materials and people for the betterment of all. Since 2013, they’ve been operating at the energetic epicenter of 21st century feminism, social entrepreneurship, sustainable business modelling and post-9/11 veteran affairs.
But if there’s one anecdote from the early days of Sword Plough that, above all others, may have foretold the relentless success the company has enjoyed since its founding, it’s this one, from Emily:
Well, just before launching on Kickstarter, we did another business plan competition…at the Harvard Business School, their Pitch for Change Competition. And I got leave from the Army to attend the contest. It was just an amazing experience. We pitched to the audience and the judges and we won first place and the Audience Choice Award, which was just incredible. [But] we almost actually didn’t even have the chance to do the pitch because there was a blizzard that weekend [in Boston] and we were having a really hard time finding a cab…so we ended up hitching a ride with a snow plow…
Uh…hold please. I grew up in New England. Snow plows stop for no one. How did you pull that off?
I sprinted up to him. I was wearing high heels and a dress and I just told him…”We only have 20 minutes to get to Harvard Business School to pitch our idea to repurpose military surplus into bags and to work with veteran American manufacturers and donate part of our profits to veteran organizations!” [H]e waved us in and gave us a ride. It was a pretty lucky moment…
Was luck really the deciding factor? I doubt it. Faced with such a hyper-specific onslaught of enthusiasm, purpose, brains, and brass, what snow plow man — no matter how grizzled — could say no? Who among us would be so gripped with frozen-hearted pessimism that he’d turn such a pitch aside? It’s unimaginable.
The Nuñez sisters have created a recipe that is impossible to deny. Their products are excellent, unique, and sustainable. Their company is staffed by veterans at every level. Their profits are charitably apportioned. Their eyes are on the horizon and their mission is to serve.
As the Nord Stream II pipeline is beginning construction in the Baltic Sea, President Donald Trump warned that Germany has become “captive to Russia.” Representatives in Congress are also worried about European dependence on Russian energy. To ensure stable operation of critical sites, especially military assets abroad, backup power solutions should be an imperative.
In the first quarter of 2018, Russian pipelines supplied 41% of Europe’s gas. Russian natural gas is cheaper for much of Europe because it does not need to undergo the liquification process. Countries that ship gas long distances have to transform it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) by cooling it to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. This shrinks the gas’ volume, making it easier to store and ship. When LNG reaches its destination, it is changed back to a gas and piped to homes and businesses to generate electricity.
Many policymakers find European dependence on Russian gas concerning. In fact, a letter was recently sent to Secretary of Defense James Mattis from Senator Pat Toomey and other representatives highlighting the importance of lessening the dependence on Russian energy for the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe. Some consider American LNG to be more reliable and promote U.S. energy exports as a replacement for Nord Stream 2.
Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany is a large and strategic American defense transport facility with 56,000 American troops. The base serves as headquarters for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces Africa, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Allied Air Command. According to the Defense Logistics Agency, nearly 40% of oil used at military sites in Germany is from Russia.
Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by TSGT David D. Underwood, Jr.)
Thus, American defense installations in Europe are dependent on Russian energy to operate. If Russia were to hold its energy supply hostage, as it already has done to Ukraine in 2006 and 2008, not only would Germany’s power grid struggle to provide electricity to its citizens, but American installations and operations would also be compromised.
The Nord Stream II pipeline, in essence, boosts Moscow’s geopolitical strength and doubles the European Union’s reliance on Russian energy. Funds from selling gas also provide Russia with more resources to accomplish hostile goals, such as the recent annexation of Crimea and the cyber campaign on the U.S. electric grid. Increased energy dependence on Russia could also be used as leverage to extort the European Union and drive a wedge between NATO allies.
U.S. lawmakers in particular worry that Europe’s reliance on Russian energy could give Moscow more leverage. Congress attempted to pursue a safer energy supply in the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law directed the secretary of defense to provide measures for modern energy acquisition policy for overseas installations, reduce the military’s dependence on Russian energy and ensure the ability to sustain operations in the event of a supply disruption.
In the recent Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA passed in the House, Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska advanced a bipartisan amendment to direct an energy security policy for a new id=”listicle-2591231597″ billion Army medical complex and significantly reduce the need for natural gas.
To reduces reliance on Russian energy, microgrids could be deployed at American military assets. Microgrids are capable of operating on or off the main grid and ensure electricity is available to locations if an outage occurs. These power systems would serve as a great backup to avoid an external country from controlling the energy supply to military sites.
Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.
Some American utilities have built microgrids to ensure electricity is available to critical locations, such as power generating stations and airports. For instance, the SPIDERS Phase III microgrid project is deployed at Camp H.M. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps installation in Hawaii, and includes battery storage, demand response, renewables and diesel generation.
Nuclear power can also be used to fuel microgrids with onsite fuel for long periods of time. Companies such as BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) have the unique capability to support the design, testing and manufacturing of Gen IV advanced reactors that can be used for this purpose.
In addition, reliable bulk energy storage could provide backup power in the event the energy supply is compromised. Batteries in electric vehicles on military bases could also be used to supply power during an outage, especially considering these cars are popular in Europe. For instance, Nissan unveiled a system that allows the Leaf electric car to connect with a home and provide electricity for about two days.
As Russia provides more gas to Europe with the development of the new pipeline, it is critical for backup power to be available at American military sites abroad. Congress should consider equipping military sites with microgrids, storage, and even electric vehicles to ensure power is available in the event the energy supply is ever compromised.
The U.S. Air Force is searching for a new company to rebuild wings on the A-10 ground-attack plane after ending an arrangement with Boeing Co., officials said.
The service plans to launch a new competition for the re-winging work and award a contract sometime after Congress appropriates full-year funding for fiscal 2018, which began Oct. 1, they said. (The government is currently running on a short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution, which lasts through Feb. 8.)
During a speech in Washington, D.C., Gen. Mike Holmes, the head of Air Combat Command, touched on the contract with Boeing and the planned future deal.
“The previous contract that we had was with Boeing, and it kind of came to the end of its life for cost and for other reasons,” he said. “It was a contract that was no longer cost-effective for Boeing to produce wings under, and there were options there that we weren’t sure where we were going to go, and so now we’re working through the process of getting another contract.”
When contacted by Military.com for additional details, Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force at the Pentagon, confirmed the planned contract will be “a new and open competition.”
Boeing has been upgrading A-10 wings for the Air Force since June 2007, according to Cassaundra Bantly, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based company. The contract calls for replacing up to 242 sets of wings, and the company has so far received orders to replace 173, she said.
“Boeing stands ready with a demonstrated understanding of the technical data package, tooling, supply chain, and manufacturing techniques to offer the lowest risk option and quickest timeline for additional wings for the A-10 Warthog,” Bantly said in an email.
She added, “The ordering period on the current contract has expired, so the U.S. Air Force is working on an acquisition strategy for more wings. Boeing would welcome a follow-on effort for additional A-10 wings.
“We’re currently in the process of delivering the remaining wings on our contract,” Bantly said.
During a briefing at the Brookings Institution, Holmes said the Air Force requested funding in the fiscal 2018 budget to continue rebuilding wings on the A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known as the Warthog. The aircraft, popular among ground troops though a budget target for previous leaders, recently returned to Afghanistan to conduct close air support missions.
Stefanek recently told Military.com the Air Force plans to use $103 million authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending limits for the fiscal year, to award a contract for the A-10 work, establish a new wing production line and produce four additional wings.
That work “is all that money funds,” she told Military.com last week.
Once the Air Force receives the funding, the competition can be announced. Whichever defense contractor wins the contract will pay for the startup to include four sets of new wings.
However, because the wings will be considered a “new start” program, the work can’t begin under a continuing resolution — the program is dependent on the fiscal 2018 and succeeding 2019 appropriations.
“In the [FY]19 program that we’re working, we also buy more wings,” Holmes said.
With a new contract, like “all new contracts” the first set of wings will be expensive as engineers work through the design phase, Holmes said, referring to working through the production line kinks that come at the start of programs.
How many more A-10s will get new wings still remains in limbo.
Air Force officials have said the service can commit to maintaining wings for six of its nine A-10 combat squadrons through roughly 2030.
“As far as exactly how many of the 280 or so A-10s that we have that we’ll maintain forever, I’m not sure, that’ll depend on a Department of Defense decision and our work with Congress,” Holmes said.
On the exact squadron number, he clarified, “It’s not a decision that we have to make right away. It’ll depend on what we have, what we need and what’s useful on the battlefield year-to-year as we go through it.”
Of the 281 A-10s currently in the inventory, 173 have already been outfitted or are in the process of being outfitted with new wings (though one of the newly re-winged planes was destroyed in a crash), Stefanek said. That leaves 109 aircraft remaining in the inventory still slated to receive the upgrades, she said.
The service has struggled with its message on how it plans to keep the fleet flying since the aircraft’s retirement was delayed until at least 2022.
Facing financial pressure, the Air Force — driven by spending caps known as sequestration — made multiple attempts in recent years to retire the Warthog to save an estimated $4 billion over five years and to free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the stealthy fifth-generation fighter jet designed to replace the A-10 and legacy fighters.
Holmes added that as more F-35 amass themselves across U.S. bases, “I won’t be able to just add those on top of the [fighter] squadrons that I have.”
The service is looking to grow its fighter fleet to stay competitive against near-peer threats such as Russia and China. To do so, it believes it needs to increase its number of fighter squadrons from 55 to 60.
But that means it needs a variety of aircraft to sustain the fight, not just a regurgitation of old planes. Whether this means the Air Force is still weighing retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s is unclear. Holmes did not speak to specific aircraft fleets when addressing fighter requirements.
“We’ll have to make some decisions” of what kind of aircraft to move or divest, he said. Preferred basing for F-35 bases is old F-16 Fighting Falcon bases, he said. The Air Force has been moving Vipers around various bases or into new training units since the F-35 has come online.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
In the fourth quarter of the 1963 Army-Navy game, Army’s “Rollie” Stichweh faked a handoff and ran in the endzone for Army’s final touchdown against Navy for that contest. The touchdown didn’t change the outcome of a 21-15 loss for Army. What was special about it was the broadcast for the viewers at home.
CBS play-by-play commentator Lindsey Nelson had to tell people watching that Army didn’t score twice – they were watching the future of sports television.
In the days before the Super Bowl was the game that brought America together for TV Sports’ biggest day, the game that brought everyone to their televisions was the Army-Navy Game. In December 1963, the Army-Navy Game was airing just days after the assassination of President Kennedy shocked Americans to the core. And CBS Director Tony Verna brought a 1,300-pound behemoth of a machine to use for his broadcast.
Millions were watching, and this monster was either going to make or break the young director’s career. Nelson was worried that the new technology might confuse people. So was Verna.
“There was the uncertainty about this game,” says Jack Ford, a correspondent for CBS News. “How is it gonna be played? How are fans going to react to this?”
In those days, replay technology still took up to 15 minutes to get ready, far too long to rehash an individual football play. Verna’s machine would be able to do it in 15 seconds when and if it worked. What happened during the game play was not as Verna had hoped. The machine mostly saw static, and when it did replay plays, there was a double exposure from what the crew had taped over, which was an old episode of I Love Lucy. As a result, Lucille Ball’s face could be seen on the field during the replays.
But when it came down to it, Verna’s machine did work, just in time to catch Army’s last touchdown of the game. It was the only time fans saw the instant replay during that game, but it was revolutionary. One of the Dallas Cowboys’ big executives, Tex Schramm, called Verna to congratulate him.
“He told me the significance of it, that I hadn’t confused anybody, which Lindsay and I were worried about, certainly me,” Verna told NPR later in life. “And he said, ‘You didn’t confuse anybody. It has great possibilities.’ “
President Donald J. Trump on Aug. 13, 2018, signed the $717 billion Fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act at a ceremony at Fort Drum, New York.
The act – named for Arizona Sen. John S. McCain – authorizes a 2.6 percent military pay raise and increases the active duty forces by 15,600 service members.
“With this new authorization, we will increase the size and strength of our military by adding thousands of new recruits to active duty, Reserve and National Guard units, including 4,000 new active duty soldiers,” Trump told members of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and their families. “And we will replace aging tanks, aging planes and ships with the most advanced and lethal technology ever developed. And hopefully, we’ll be so strong, we’ll never have to use it, but if we ever did, nobody has a chance.”
Lt. Col. Christopher S. Vanek takes the 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment on a run at Fort Drum.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Queen)
Services’ end strength set
The act sets active duty end strength for the Army at 487,500 in fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018. The Navy’s end strength is set at 335,400, the Marine Corps’ at 186,100 and the Air Force’s at 329,100.
On the acquisition side, the act funds 77 F-35 joint strike fighters at .6 billion. It also funds F-35 spares, modifications and depot repair capability. The budget also fully funds development of the B-21 bomber.
The act authorizes .1 billion for shipbuilding to fully fund 13 new battle force ships and accelerate funding for several future ships. This includes three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines. There is also id=”listicle-2595820937″.6 billion for three littoral combat ships.
In addition, the act authorizes 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets, 10 P-8A Poseidons, two KC-130J Hercules, 25 AH-1Z Cobras, seven MV-22/CMV-22B Ospreys and three MQ-4 Tritons.
There is .2 billion in the budget for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, and another 0 million to train and equip Iraqi security forces to counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists.
The budget accelerates research on hyperspace technology and defense against hyperspace missiles. It also funds development of artificial intelligence capabilities.
“In order to maintain America’s military supremacy, we must always be on the cutting edge,” the president said. “That is why we are also proudly reasserting America’s legacy of leadership in space. Our foreign competitors and adversaries have already begun weaponizing space.”
The president said adversaries seek to negate America’s advantage in space, and they have made progress. “We’ll be catching them very shortly,” he added. “They want to jam transmissions, which threaten our battlefield operations and so many other things. We will be so far ahead of them in a very short period of time, your head will spin.”
He said the Chinese military has launched a new military division to oversee its warfighting programs in space. “Just like the air, the land, the sea, space has become a warfighting domain,” Trump said. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space; we must have American dominance in space, and that is why just a few days ago, the vice president outlined my administration’s plan to create a sixth branch of the United States military called the United States Space Force.”
The 2019 Authorization Act does not fund the military. Rather, it authorizes the policies under which funding will be set by the appropriations committees and then voted on by Congress. That bill is still under consideration.
South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.
The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.
Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”
North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.
Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.
But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?
From their outpost on Iraq’s westernmost edge, U.S. 1st Lt. Kyle Hagerty and his troops watched civilians trickle into the area after American and Iraqi forces drove out the Islamic State group. They were, he believed, families returning to liberated homes, a hopeful sign of increasing stability.
But when he interviewed them on a recent reconnaissance patrol, he discovered he was wrong. They were families looking for shelter after being driven from their homes in a nearby town. Those who pushed them out were forces from among their “liberators” — Shiite militiamen who seized control of the area after defeating the IS militants.
It was a bitter sign of the mixed legacy from the United States’ intervention in Iraq to help defeat the militants. American-backed military firepower brought down the IS “caliphate,” but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists’ rise remain unresolved.
The U.S.-led coalition, which launched its fight against IS in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the exact size of the drawdown has not yet been decided.
U.S. and Iraqi commanders here in western Iraq warn that victories over IS could be undercut easily by a large-scale withdrawal. Iraq’s regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq’s minority communities view the U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.
That has left an uncomfortable limbo in this area that was the last battlefield against the extremists. Coalition commanders still work with Iraqi forces to develop long-term plans for stability even as a drawdown goes ahead with no one certain of its eventual extent.
Hearts and minds — again
“Let’s go win us some hearts and minds,” Sgt. Jonathan Cary, 23, joked as he and Hagerty and the patrol convoy set off from a base outside the town of Qaim, evoking a phrase used in American policy goals for Iraq ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
U.S. Army military police provide crowd control while Iraqi citizens line up for food and water being distributed to citizens in need in April 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.)
After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.
“Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?” Hagerty said later, back at the base. “But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves.”
After victories against IS, the PMF has built up a presence in many parts of Sunni-majority provinces, including western Anbar. It formally falls under the command of the prime minister, but some Iraqi commanders accuse the PMF of being a rival to government power.
PMF flags line highways crisscrossing Anbar. At a PMF checkpoint outside al-Asad airbase — a sprawling complex used by both Iraqi and coalition forces — U.S. convoys are regularly stopped for hours while busloads of PMF fighters are waved through.
U.S. Marine Col. Seth Folsom works closely with the branches of Iraq’s security forces — Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army — who are increasingly concerned about the rise in power of the PMF. Iran has given no indication of dialing back its support after the defeat of IS extremists.
“The biggest question I get now is, ‘how long can we count on you being here?'” Folsom said of his conversations with Iraqi commanders and local politicians.
That decision ultimately rests with Iraq’s political leadership, he said.
“I guess some people could see that as a cop-out, but at the same time it’s not my place as a lowly colonel to define how long the U.S. presence is going to be.”
‘Forward line of freedom’
For the senior officers leading the current fight against IS, decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq has defined their careers.
The top U.S. general in Iraq — Lt. Gen. Paul Funk — served in Iraq four times: in the Gulf war in 1991; in the 2003 invasion; in the surge when some 170,000 American troops were serving in Iraq in 2007; and most recently in the fight against IS.
“It will definitely be positive,” Funk said of the legacy of the U.S. role against IS in Iraq. “People see their young men and women out here defeating evil. That’s a positive thing.”
On a recent flight from Baghdad to a small U.S. outpost in northern Syria near Manbij — a trip that traversed the heart of the battlefield with IS for the past 3½ years — Funk described the future of the fight as ideological and open-ended.
“The problem is people believe it’s already over, and it’s not,” he said. “Beating the ideology, destroying the myth, that’s going to take time.”
Touching down outside an orchard on the perimeter of the Manbij base, Funk exclaimed: “Welcome to the front line of freedom!”
Funk predicts the ideological fight could take years and easily require U.S. troop deployments elsewhere. He said that is one reason he believes it’s so important to visit U.S. troops on the current front lines — to show them “the American people believe in their purpose.”
“We have got to recruit the next generation,” he said.
Many of the young U.S. troops interviewed by The Associated Press said they didn’t know anything about the Islamic State group when they enlisted.
Rayden Simeona, a 21-year-old corporal in the Marines, enlisted in 2014, when all he knew about the U.S. military was from movies and video games.
“I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, I had no idea what IS was. I just knew I wanted to go to war,” he said. Once deployed, he said talk rarely broached the big questions of “What we are doing here?” or “Why?”
“But I do wonder all the time: Why are we spending all this money in Iraq?” he said. “There’s probably some greater plan or reason that someone much higher up than me knows.”
Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Along Iraq’s border with Syria, the two Iraqi forces charged with holding a key stretch of territory lack direct communication. Because one force falls under the Defense Ministry and the other under the Interior Ministry, their radios are incompatible.
Instead, the troops use Nokia cellphones in a part of the country where network coverage is spotty to nonexistent.
At the nearby coalition outpost near Qaim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Payne spends much of his time filling communications gaps by relaying messages between different branches of Iraq’s military.
“The coordination is not where we hoped it would be,” Payne said. “But they do talk to each other, and we see that as a sign of progress.”
Tactical shortcomings within Iraq’s military are partially what fueled the expansion of the coalition’s footprint in Iraq in the past three years. As Iraqi ground forces demonstrated an inability to communicate and coordinate attacks across multiple fronts, U.S. forces moved closer to the fighting and sped up the pace of territorial gains.
Despite the caliphate’s collapse, those weaknesses have persisted. Iraqi forces remain dependent on coalition intelligence, reconnaissance, artillery fire, and airstrikes to hold territory and fight IS insurgent cells.
Payne regularly shuttles between his base, Qaim and the Syrian border, meeting with different members of Iraqi forces to coordinate security and repel IS attacks from the Syrian side.
“I would say we are still needed,” Payne said. “We are getting great results with this model, but you see how much goes into it.”
The base, once a small, dusty outpost, now houses a few hundred coalition troops and is a maze of barracks, gyms, a dining facility, laundry services and a chapel.
“At some point, someone much higher up than me is going to decide the juice is just not worth the squeeze,” Payne said, referring to the cost of such a large outpost in a remote corner of the country.
Iraqi army Lt. Col. Akram Salah Hadi, who works closely with Payne’s soldiers at the Qaim outpost, said coalition training and intelligence sharing have improved the performance of his unit. But overall, the U.S. effort in Iraq gives him little hope for the future.
Corruption in the military, Hadi said, remains as bad as it was in 2014, when it was seen as a major reason why entire Iraqi divisions simply dissolved in the assault on Mosul by a few hundred IS fighters.
Young Iraqi soldiers with ambition and talent can’t rise through the ranks without political connections. Top ranks are bloated with officers who have bought their promotions. Within his division alone, Hadi said he can think of 40 officers with no military background who attained their rank because of their membership in a political party.
“With leadership like this, the rest will always be rotten,” he said.
Coalition programs that have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have largely focused on the infantry, not the junior officers needed to lead units and instill a culture of service that will make a professional force.
Folsom, the U.S. Marine colonel, said military power will not root out corruption or heal Iraq’s longstanding divisions.
“I have a saying out here,” he added, “‘You can’t want it more than them.'”
An unraveling marriage is not unlike a sinking ship. Everyone is scrambling, trying to salvage whatever they can while, in the wheelhouse, everyone is pointing fingers and figuring out who’s to blame. And, just like on a sinking ship, there are always a few people who set aside their scruples in favor of saving their own skins. This usually means hiding money in hopes that, when the dust settles, they’ll have a little nest egg for themselves.
Ask any divorce lawyer and they’ll tell you that hiding money is never, ever, the right move. “It is always a bad idea to hide money or assets,” says Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers, who says that, in California, where his practice is located, ” if you are caught committing fraud in failing to disclose an asset, the court has the ability to award 100 percent of the asset to the other party as a sanction.”
Consequences aside, it’s also just a really shady thing to do. Nevertheless, people still try and keep their assets under wraps in all sorts of ways, ranging from the mundane to the totally outrageous.
Christina Previte, a divorce lawyer and the CEO of NJ Divorce Solutions has seen quite a lot of money-hiding schemes in her 15 years of experience. Some of the more pedestrian ones include making regular ATM withdrawals that aren’t large enough to draw attention but frequent enough that the cash is likely being pocketed rather than spent, or earning cash from a cash-heavy business and then neglecting to report or deposit the funds.
(Photo by CafeCredit)
Previte also said that she’s encountered those who’ve planned out their cash-stashing well in advance and taken withdrawals from various assets either holding them as cash or putting the withdrawals in someone else’s name. This way, when the discovery process begins, she explains, the withdrawals don’t show up as being recent transactions.
“One egregious but very clever one I heard from an accountant once,” she says, “was overpaying on the credit card accounts so that the bank issues a refund in the form of a check, which the spouse then cashes and pockets.”
Another shocker Previte also recalled was one partner forming a limited liability corporation and then funneling all of her earnings through the LLC. “That was particularly egregious and required a tremendous amount of trust in the other party holding the LLC,” she says.
Then there are the really crazy stories, the ones that sound like they were penned by a script writer.
“The craziest one I’ve had was an opposing party who hid diamonds in his father’s prosthetic leg,” says Valencia. “He then sent his father to Israel to sell them so wife could not track them. His father was detained at the airport when the diamonds were detected and we found out.” The wife, Valencia says, was awarded all of the diamonds as a sanction against the husband for his fraudulent conduct.
(Photo by www.tradingacademy.com)
Valencia also recounted a story in which a husband hid a $350,000 recreational vehicle in a hangar in Arizona.
“We only knew it was in Arizona because we saw an invoice for a gas purchase in Arizona accidentally produced in discovery,” he says. “At trial he was ordered to disclose where the RV was hidden and refused. The judge charged him with 150 percent of the value (there was money owed on it) as a sanction against his interest in the family residence.”
Previte, too, has seen more than her share of oddball schemes. One guy, she says, siphoned off millions of dollars over a five-year period from various assets. “He gave them to his foreign escort who was apparently part of a drug cartel and absconded with the money.”
As long as there is divorce, there are going to be people thinking that they can put one over on either the spouse, the courts or both. However, both Valencia and Previte advise strongly against it. “I hope you are not planning on using these in your own divorce,” Previte cautions. For one, it’s a morally objectionable — and illegal practice. For another, she says, you’ll almost never get away with them.
“These are almost all discoverable in some way if you have a clever attorney.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
On his fantastic new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson uses life at sea to inspire songs about separation from family and a longing for home. Simpson himself grew up in Kentucky and claims he joined the Navy on a whim when driving past a recruiting station.
After three years which included service in Japan and Southeast Asia, he left the service. “I wasn’t very good at taking orders,” he told Garden and Gun in 2014.
After he came home and started a music career, it turned out he wasn’t very good at taking orders from Nashville, either. Simpson wasn’t cut out for the kind of trucks-and-beer pop country that’s dominated the charts over the last decade and made his name on independently-released albums. He had a breakthrough with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, produced by Dave Cobb (who’s made a name for himself producing fellow Nashville rebels Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell).
Atlantic Records signed Simpson and gave him total freedom to make Sailor’s Guide, which he produced himself. What he made is a compact album (39 minutes, just like the old days!) that combines ’70s Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with Stax Records-style horns, Al Green keyboard grooves and a Elvis in Memphis vibe.
On the track “Sea Stories,” he talks about joining the Navy:
Basically it’s just like papaw says:
“Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”
Just another enlisted egg
In the bowl for Uncle Sam’s beater
When you get to Dam Neck
Hear a voice in your head
Saying, “my life’s no longer mine”
He also includes a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where he adds a new lyric. After the line “You don’t know what it means” (where there’s a howling guitar squall on the original version), Simpson sings “to love someone,” a line he says he imagined was there for years after he first heard the Nirvana version. Fans of the BeeGees (and the innumerable soul covers of the song) will appreciate the “To Love Someone” reference.
There’s zero Autotune on the vocals, so this kind of gritty, soulful music may sound a bit weird to fans of Little Big Town or Florida-Georgia Line. None of the songs sound like truck commercials, so you’re probably not going to hear this music on commercial country radio. If Chris Stapleton got your attention last year, though, Simpson’s album is a logical next step into the world of traditional country.
The album’s for sale in all the digital music stores, CDs are really cheap at Amazon and you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music before you buy. Check out the first two videos from the album below.
Sturgill’s daring cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”The album’s first single is “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”
The US Navy’s new supercarrier continues to face major problems that will delay its delivery to the fleet by at least three months as the service bets big on the troubled ship, Navy officials said March 26, 2019.
Following testing and evaluation with the fleet, the USS Gerald R. Ford last July began maintenance and upgrades at Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with the expectation that the aircraft carrier would return summer 2019.
The Ford is now set to spend at least another three months in dry dock because of unforeseen problems with its nuclear power plant, weapons elevators, and other areas, USNI News first reported on March 26, 2019, citing testimony by Navy officials before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee.
The US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time.
“October right now is our best estimate,” James Geurts, the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition, told the committee, according to USNI News.
The weapons elevators, of which the Ford has only two of the necessary 11, have long been an issue, but the propulsion problem is reportedly less understood.
Problems with the ship’s main turbine generators, which use steam from the two onboard nuclear reactors to generate electricity for its four propeller shafts, appear more serious than initially indicated at sea trials, the report said.
Citing sources familiar with the extent of the repairs, USNI News said two of the main turbine generators “needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls.”
The issue appeared May 2018, when the ship was forced to return to port early.
“The ship experienced a propulsion system issue associated with a recent design change, requiring a return to homeport for adjustments before resuming at sea testing,” the service told Navy Times at the time.
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The War Zone said that while the billion Ford has experienced numerous problems with things from the arresting gear and catapults to the radar systems, the Navy is pushing ahead with purchases of this new class of carrier while proposing early retirement for an operational Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
In its fiscal 2020 budget proposal, the Navy said it planned to retire the USS Harry S. Truman two decades early rather than refuel the ship’s nuclear cores to power it for another quarter century. The move is reportedly designed to free up billions for a block buy of two Ford-class carriers and investment in untested unmanned systems the service has determined necessary for future combat.
As the Ford faces developmental challenges, the service is moving forward with future Ford-class carriers: the USS John F. Kennedy, the USS Enterprise, and a carrier now identified only as CVN-81, the War Zone report said.
The embattled flagships are expected to play a crucial role in power projection, but setbacks have raised questions about when exactly it will be ready to do that.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.
Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.
“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.
Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.
“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”
Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.
Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.
“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.
“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.
Griest and Haver are following the same path.
Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.
“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.
Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.
“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”
Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.
“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”