These photos from the week of Aug. 24, 2018, feature airmen from around the globe involved in activities supporting expeditionary operations and defending America. This weekly feature showcases the men and women of the Air Force.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
2. Airman 1st Class Cassandra Herlache, 9th Operation Support Squadron radar, airfield and weather apprentice, executes a climb during a trial run at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Aug. 16, 2018. Airmen in the process of climbing must have three points of physical contact with the tower at all times.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Quail)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Xavier Lockley)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael S. Murphy)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Cameron Lewis)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne A. Clark)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Dennis Rogers)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)
(U.S. Air Force photo by Lt. Col. Ross Franquemont)
13. A U-2 Dragon Lady pilot assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Wing pilots the high-altitude reconnaissance platform at approximately 70,000 feet above an undisclosed location. The U-2 is a high-altitude, near space reconnaissance aircraft and delivers critical imagery which enables decision makers at all levels the visual capabilities to execute informed decisions in any phase of conflict.
A fire aboard the under-construction Russian icebreaker Viktor Chernomyrdin engulfed a significant portion of the ship and injured at least two people before it was extinguished on Tuesday, according to Russian media reports.
The fire-alarm call came in around 7 p.m. Moscow time, or around 11 a.m. EST. Within three hours, it had reportedly been put out.
“At [9:10 p.m.] Moscow time it was announced that the blaze was contained and all open fire sources were put out at an area of 300 square meters,” a spokesperson for the Russian emergencies ministry told state-media outlet Tass. “At [10:15 p.m.] Moscow time, the fire was completely extinguished.”
Construction on the Chernomyrdin began in December 2012. The diesel-electric-powered vessel was expected to be the most powerful nonnuclear icebreaker in the world, according to Tass, and was supposed to operate on the Northern Sea Route, which traverses the Arctic.
The Chernomyrdin has five decks, and the fire consumed parts of the third and fourth. The blaze affected a 300-square-meter area of the ship, out of a total of 1,200 square meters. According to Tass, “electrical wiring, equipment, and wall panels in technical areas” were damaged by the fire.
One of the people injured was hospitalized. The other was treated by doctors on-site, Tass reported, adding that 110 people and 24 pieces of equipment were involved in fighting the fire.
As noted by The Drive, which first spotted reports of the fire, the Chernomyrdin has been waylaid by budget and schedule problems.
The ship was supposed to be delivered 2015. In April 2016, an official from Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation said it would be delivered that year. In 2017, the ship was moved to Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, which is known for building warships, with the goal of speeding up construction.
Reports in January said delivery was expected by autumn 2018 — a date likely to be pushed back. The extent and impact of the damage are not yet clear, but fires can cripple ships.
In 2013, the US Navy decided to scrap a nuclear-powered attack submarine that had been severely damaged in a fire set by an arsonist, rather than spend 0 million to repair it.
The Chernomyrdin fire is only Russia’s latest shipyard accident.
A power-supply disruption on the PD-50 dry dock caused the massive 80,000-ton structure to sink at the 82nd Repair Shipyard near Severodvinsk in northwest Russia.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was aboard the dry dock at the time. The collapse of the dry dock brought down with it a crane, which tore a 200-square-foot hole in the side of the ship above the waterline.
The Kuznetsov was undergoing an overhaul expected to be completed in 2021, but Russian officials have admitted there is no viable replacement for the PD-50, which could take six months to a year to fix.
The absence of a suitable dry dock for the Kuznetsov leaves the Russian navy flagship’s future in doubt.
The Chernomyrdin is also not the first fire-related accident at a Russian shipyard this year. In January, video emerged of thick, black smoke spewing from the water near several docked Kilo-class submarines at Vladivostok, home of Russia’s Pacific fleet.
Russian officials said at the time that the fire was part of “damage control exercises,” which many saw as a dubious explanation considering the intensity of the blaze.
A month later, a fire sent smoke gushing from the deck of the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov while it was in port at Vladivostok. Despite a considerable amount of smoke, a shipyard representative said there was no significant damage.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, as World War II veterans gathered to attend a ceremony on their behalf at the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC, the veteran campaign Got Your 6 rallied 125 veterans, family members, and civilian supporter volunteers to work with the National Park Service beautifying the grounds — painting benches, clearing brush, and mulching flower beds.
“There’s not a better generation of veterans who have led a resurgence of community than World War II vets,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6. “Seventy-two years ago today the United States lost more troops storming the beaches of Normandy than we have in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over 14 years. No generation has given more to their country, and we want to honor their legacy. That’s why we picked the World War II Memorial, but we had so many badass vets show up that we pushed them over to the Vietnam War Memorial as well.”
Marine Corps vet Matt Stiner, the White House’s associate director of Veterans and Military Affairs, kicked off the event by reading a proclamation from President Obama:
I send greetings to all those joining Got Your 6 in honoring our nation’s veterans. America endures because of the great patriots who bear the incredible burden of defending our freedom. Our veterans have been tested in ways that the rest of us may never fully understand. As you come together with a common purpose know that I am grateful for your efforts. God bless the members of our armed forces and their families, and God bless the United States of America.
The volunteers were given their beautification assignments by Park Ranger James Pierce, an Army veteran who was wounded by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan. Pierce got his job through a program called Operation Guardian that places wounded vets into roles with the National Park Service.
“I just changed uniforms,” Pierce explained. “My mission is still important. A lot of people are depending on me. It gets me out of bed in the morning.”
In the 1970s, the United States faced a problem. Many of the World War II-era destroyers of the Gearing and Allen M. Sumner classes were finally showing their age. Not only were these ships entering the tail-ends of their primes, they were also very numerous — the U.S. had built 98 Gearing-class ships and 58 Sumner-class vessels. In fact, if World War II hadn’t ended when it did, we’d likely had even more of these hulls!
Many of these ships were passed on to American allies, where they went on to enjoy long careers. But selling ships off doesn’t eliminate the need for a new destroyer. The Navy was hard at work building a lot of guided-missile destroyers for anti-air action (the Coontz and Charles F. Adams classes), but the Soviets had a lot of subs, and the U.S. needed a vessel highly capable of protecting aircraft carriers and merchant ships from this burgeoning, sub-surface threat.
Six Spruance-class destroyers in the process of fitting out. All 31 vessels of the Spruance-class entered service between 1975 and 1983.
The answer was the Spruance-class destroyer. These ships were fast, notching a top speed of 32.5 knots, and packed two five-inch guns, an eight-cell Mk 29 launcher for the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and an eight-cell Mk 16 launcher for the RUR-5 Anti-Submarine Rocket. The ships also carried two triple-mounted 324mm Mk 32 torpedo tubes, two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile, a pair of Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In-Weapon Systems, and two anti-submarine helicopters.
The United States built 31 of these ships — but passed on creating a variant capable of carrying four helicopters. Two dozen of these ships were later upgraded with a 61-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system that later replaced the ASROC launcher.
USS Hayler, showing the upgrades to the Spruance design – including a Mk 41 vertical launch system.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Amy DelaTorres)
The ship proved so capable that the hull design was later reused for another 31 ships with advanced anti-air capability. Four Kidd-class guided-missile destroyers and 27 Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers were built using the hull design of the Spruance.
Watch the introduction of the Spruance in the video below!
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.
Young Amy Forsythe was champing at the bit to get into the military and continue her family’s tradition of military service. Her grandfather had been a Marine and her grandmother had been an Army nurse, and the two of them met while serving in on the Pacific island of Saipan during World War II.
To please her parents, Forsythe attended junior college for a few years, but she couldn’t suppress her desire to serve. She enlisted in the Marines in 1993 as a combat correspondent and spent her first year as a radio broadcaster stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I ended up serving about eight years on active duty in the Marine Corps and then I went into the reserves before 9/11,” she explained. “After the attacks, it was inevitable that I would be mobilized.”
She deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a public affairs chief with an Army Civil Affairs Task Force in 2002 and 2003, the period when insurgent IED attacks were just starting to heat up. In 2006, she deployed with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Al Anbar province, Iraq.
During the 2006 deployment in Fallujah, things started to really heat up,” Forsythe remembers. “We had a lot of close calls — rocket attacks, mortars — we were moving this huge satellite dish around Ramadi and Fallujah trying to avoid heavy engagements. My boss was also a female Marine, Major Megan McClung, and she was killed in Ramadi, which gives you the sense of what was happening.”
Forsythe saw a lot of women serving in combat zones and fighting alongside their male counterparts, regardless of billet or MOS.
“Women in combat isn’t anything new,” she says. “In the Marines, every Marine is a rifleman at the basic level. During Desert Storm, people said Americans weren’t ready for women to come home in body bags, but every person in a forward deployed area is susceptible to injury or death. Women serve and take just as much risk as men. If women can meet the standards, then everyone else can adjust.”
In 2006, Forsythe and her teammate, then-Cpl. Lynn Murillo took a lot of risks shuttling a satellite dish around Anbar Province, connecting Iraqi military and civic leaders with the pan-Arab media for the first time during the Iraq War. Since much of the success of the American mission in Iraq depended on controlling information, it was a critical mission.
She and Murillo spent most of their time out with Marines on foot patrols covering the Iraqi army training and connecting service members with hometown news stations and national news outlets. After a year in Anbar, she redeployed but was right back there a year later, astonished at the changes in the area.
“I couldn’t believe how things changed in Haditah and Ramadi,” she recalls. “There were still attacks to the base and personnel, but it was amazing to see the improvements to the infrastructure, roads, schools, etc. In 2006, the insurgency was at its worst and out of control. By 2008, Anbar Province was seeing security improvements and new construction underway.”
Her 22-year career spans changes for the U.S. military and for the women who serve. “I’ve seen so many changes through the years, but the wars helped prove women are willing to shoulder the burden of serving in combat zones. After her two tours in Iraq, she returned to Afghanistan in 2012 and also served with U.S. Africa Command based in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2014.
Of all her assignments and risks, one the most harrowing events of her career occurred when she was on temporary duty assigned to the public affairs office at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013.
“It started like any other ordinary day, until the Navy Yard Shooter put us in lockdown mode,” Forsythe remembers. Our office was next to Building 174, the scene of a mass-shooting incident. “It was surreal, tragic and beyond belief. After surviving four combat tours, there we were in Washington, D.C., losing all those people.”
After her first three combat tours, Forsythe accomplished what she set out to do in the military. Serving about 18 years in the Marines on both active duty and in the reserves, Forsythe was looking forward to retiring from the reserves until the Marine colonel for whom she worked encouraged her to apply for the Navy’s Direct Commission Officer program.
“I didn’t know this program existed,” Forsythe says. “But accepting a commission with the Navy is a continuation of my desire to serve. When you go from enlisted to officer, you can look forward to a 35 or 40-year career and retire at age 60.”
Her education and experience as a military journalist allowed her land a job as a reporter and occasional anchor for a local television station. And these days, when not activated, she runs a media company in the San Diego area.
“I love seeing veterans transition out of the military and end up owning their own businesses,” says Forsythe. “It’s so encouraging to see vetreprenuers who have certain skill sets and want to own their own business. Putting a dollar price on your services isn’t easy. It’s hard to determine your own value because you don’t want to under-sell yourself.”
She doesn’t consider herself special, but makes it a point to inform anyone, especially female service members, that anything is possible if you are aware of your own potential.
“I would tell other female service members and veterans to be curious. Be creative. Be confident. In other words, keep learning and seeking knowledge, use creative problem-solving techniques and believe in yourself.”
Serving as enlisted and as an officer, on active duty and in the reserves, in both the Marines and the Navy, Forsythe encourages others to seek opportunities in the reserves.
“It’s been a struggle to balance a civilian career,” she says. “But it’s like having the best of both worlds. Cutting ties with the military too abruptly can cause regret for some service members. Plus, the extra monthly pay and camaraderie with other ‘weekend warriors’ is a great way to stay connected with others who have similar experiences.”
“I’m sure they’ll have to pry the uniform out of my hands when that retirement day comes,” says Forsythe. “But I will always advocate for veterans. The service has been such a part of my life, I will continue to serve in uniform for as long as I can.”
The woman who unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the ticket of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 may soon be in charge of the agency tasked with taking care of America’s veterans.
Several news reports indicate former Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin has been in discussions with the Donald Trump transition team in recent days to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
A Palin aide told ABC News that the conservative firebrand had told Trump her “megaphone … can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”
The reports on Palin don’t come out of left field, as the former governor has made veterans’ issues a major subject of her speeches across the country. In 2015, Palin addressed the massive Conservative Political Action Conference with a 30-minute speech devoted entirely to military and veterans issues.
“This bureaucracy is killing our vets,” Palin said of the VA in her CPAC speech. “They wait for months, they wait for years to get treatment at the VA, and they’re losing hope. The VA’s mistakes and coverups have cost the lives of over 500 vets in the last four years — and that doesn’t account for those who took their own lives.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest U.S. government agencies, with over 300,000 employees and a 2017 budget of $187 million.
Palin’s oldest son Track served in the Army with a combat tour to Iraq and her daughter Bristol is married to Medal of Honor recipient and former Marine Dakota Meyer
Both vessels have roughly the same capabilities. They both provide area air-defense while also being able to attack surface ships and submarines.
The Ticonderoga-class cruiser’s main battery consists of two 61-cell Mk 41 vertical-launch systems. These can hold a wide variety of missiles, including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and the BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile. These cruisers also have two five-inch guns, two triple Mk 32 launchers for 12.75-inch torpedoes, two Mk141 quad launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon, and two Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon Systems.
The Slava-class cruisers have 16 SS-N-12 “Sandbox” anti-ship missiles, 64 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, two SA-N-4 “Gecko” launchers (each with 20 missiles), a twin 130mm gun, two quintuple 21-inch torpedo tube mounts, and six AK-630 30mm Gatling guns. This is a fearsome arsenl, but it leaves the Slava somewhat short on land-attack capability.
So, what happens when you pit these two powerhouses against each other? Of course, it depends in large part on who sees the other first. The Slava can operate one Ka-27 Helix helicopter compared to two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks on a Ticonderoga. This gives the Ticonderoga an edge, since the two Seahawks could, through triangulation of the Slava’s radar, give a good enough fix for the Ticonderoga to fire its Harpoons.
The key part of this hypothetical battle is the exchange of anti-ship missiles. The Slava has twice as many missiles as the Ticonderoga — each with a range of 344 miles — and a conventional warhead of roughly one ton that could tear a Ticonderoga apart, but these missiles fly at high altitude and, despite going more than twice the speed of sound, are easy pickings for the Aegis system onboard the Ticonderoga. Here, the Ticonderoga’s Harpoons may be more likely to get a hit or two in, despite the Slava’s missile armament. The SA-N-6 may have a long range, but the Harpoons come in at very low altitude. At least one or two Harpoons will likely hit the Slava. The Ticonderoga’s MH-60R Seahawks, if equipped with AGM-119 Penguin anti-ship missiles, could provide a second volley. At least one of the Penguins would likely hit as well.
After this exchange, the Slava will likely need to deal with fires, flooding, and disabled combat systems. From here, the Ticonderoga is left with two options: fire five-inch guns equipped with the Vulcano round or take the risk of closing to finish the job. Getting too close, however, would put the Ticonderoga within range of the Slava’s torpedo tubes, which could seriously damage — if not sink — the American cruiser.
So in a fight between a Russian missile cruiser and an American missile cruiser, who would win? At the end of the day, we’d put our money, as we always do, on the American Ticonderoga-class cruiser.
Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”
The data-crunching personal finance site took data points from all 50 states, using what it calls “13 key indicators of patriotism.” The indicators include military-related markers, like average number of enlistees, veteran population, active-duty population and reservists. Those make up the “military engagement” part of the calculation
The site also included other forms of patriotism, like voting, volunteering, civic participation and the emphasis schools put on civic education. These factors (and others) make up the “civic engagement” part of WalletHub’s calculation.
Without further ado, here are America’s most and least patriotic states.
The Most Patriotic
1. New Hampshire
We talked about this. The granite state is as hard-core patriotic as they come. True to the foundations of the United States, New Hampshire once threatened to secede from the Union in protest of what it saw as the federal government’s overreach in taxation and personal freedoms. In 2016.
U.S. Army artillerymen conduct a sling-load operation during Operation Granite Viper at the Udairi Range Complex in Kuwait, Sept. 9, 2015. The artillerymen are assigned to the New Hampshire National Guard. (U.S. Army/1st Lt. Benjamin Moreau)
If it seems like the least populous states tend to be at the top of the “most patriotic” list, you aren’t wrong. As of January 2020, Wyoming was No. 50 in terms of population in America, but still produced the ninth most troops as a percentage of population — and the fifth most veterans.
The 39th most populous state is the third most patriotic, according to WalletHub. No small potatoes.
The home of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, along with dozens of separate units from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard, Alaska boasts thousands of military personnel. It also boasts the most military veterans per capita and the second most number of military enlistees. The Great North also invites veterans to come get a share of oil profits.
Maryland, home of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is the fifth most patriotic state on the list. Unlike some of the other states at the top of the list, Maryland is full of people, the 19th most populous state in the Union. It also produces the fifth most Peace Corps volunteers.
The Least Patriotic
To name the states that are “least patriotic” isn’t to say that they aren’t patriotic at all or that the people who live there don’t love their country. It simply means that they aren’t as active in the 13 areas WalletHub measured as a barometer of patriotism.
46. West Virginia
West Virginia sits atop the bell curve when it comes to military engagement but is close to the very bottom when it comes to voting in presidential elections. Maybe the mountains have something to do with it!
Don’t @ me, Texas. I didn’t come up with this study or its metrics. But while Texas sits at No. 11 for its military engagement (because of course it does, it’s Texas), its weighted civic engagement rating is all the way down at No. 49. If Troy Aikman told you to go vote, would you do it?
Despite being home to the U.S. Navy’s base in San Diego, the Marine Corps‘ base at Camp Pendleton, and a slew of other military bases, the sheer number of people in California makes it difficult for the state to rise to the top of the list of veterans per capita. The Golden State also has one of lowest numbers of volunteers per capita.
Maybe if we put a drug legalization referendum on the ballot, California’s voter participation will skyrocket.
49. New York
The Empire State has the fewest veterans per capita, which is hardly surprising, given how many people are in New York — and New York City, especially. The state also ranks below California on the volunteerism spectrum. It seems unfair to the rest of New York State, to be weighed down by the City, but the home of the 10th Mountain Division sits solidly at No. 49.
Statues aren’t part of the ranking. (The White House)
50. New Jersey
The state that saw George Washington cross the Delaware to MDK German mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas is now one of the states with the fewest veterans per capita, as the 11th most populous state. It’s also sitting at the bottom of the “military engagement” spectrum and somewhere near the bottom of the “civic engagement” spectrum.
Find out where your home state sits on the list of most patriotic states by visiting WalletHub and learning how it came up with the rankings. Once more, before I hand out my email address and Twitter handle, I’m not calling your home state “unpatriotic.” I’m just the messenger, reminding you to go vote.
The Taliban says it has appointed five militants who spent more than a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to be members of its political office in Qatar, where they will take part in any future Afghanistan peace talks.
The five former Taliban commanders — Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noorullah Noori — were settled in Qatar following their release from the U.S. detention center in Cuba in 2014, but until now had not been directly involved in political activities, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Oct. 31, 2018.
The men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in return for former Taliban captive, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
The Taliban announcement came amid gathering momentum for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
Qatar has emerged as a principal contact point between the Taliban and the U.S. government. In October 2018, Taliban officials met the recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.
Recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
They met there in 2018 with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.
Taliban officials said the five Taliban commanders were close to the militant group’s late founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and are also close to its current leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
One Taliban official told Reuters that as former Guantanamo prisoners, they had been subject to restrictions on their movements, but they are now free to travel and attend peace negotiations.
The appointments follow the release by Pakistan in October 2018 of senior Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
A Taliban official told AFP the group had requested the release of Baradar and several others at the meeting with Khalilzad.
A new 12-page handbook released by the Navy today describes in detail when and how a sailor can complete a gender transition, down to how transgender sailors can participate in urinalysis tests and when it is appropriate to wear clothing of a preferred gender during visits to foreign ports.The guidance also contains a caution for sailors hoping to transition: they will be expected to pass the physical fitness requirements of their preferred gender immediately on transition, and are expected to take the initiative to train to those standards in advance.
As of Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to begin the process to change their official gender designation in personnel systems in accordance with a Pentagon mandate. Beginning in November, the Navy will dispatch mobile training teams to all major commands to explain the new policies and what they mean for the fleet. By July of next year, the Navy and all the other armed services will be accepting transgender applicants into ranks.
But the new guidance from the Navy makes clear that readiness will remain a top priority, even as sailors transition.
“There are no separate or distinct standards for transgender Service members,” the Navy administrative message containing the new guidances reads. “Service members and [military medical providers] must carefully consider the time required to adjust to new PRT standards as part of the medical treatment and transition planning process.”
The Navy’s physical readiness test, or PRT, has different requirements for men and women at every age group. For example, male sailors between the ages of 20 and 24 max out the PRT with 87 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 8 minutes, 30 seconds or less, and a 500-yard swim in six minutes, 30 seconds. Women in the same age group need to complete only 48 push-ups, a 1.5-mile run in 9 minutes, 47 seconds, and a 500-yard swim in seven minutes, 15 seconds to max out.
Meanwhile, height and weight standards also differ for male and female sailors. A male sailor who is within standards at 5′ 3″, 155 pounds and plans to transition to female must then meet standards for female sailors, which set the maximum weight for that height at 152 pounds.
Only a military medical provider can determine if a medical waiver is justified for sailors who are out of standards as they transition, the guidance states.
When and how to transition
In order to complete a gender transition while in uniform, sailors must receive an official diagnosis from a military doctor indicating that gender transition is medically necessary, according to the guidance. That diagnosis, along with a medical treatment plan, then must be reported to the appropriate unit commanding officer to for approval of the timing of medical treatment, taking into consideration when the sailor will rotate to another command, deployment and other operational schedules, and how the transition will affect career milestones. If a specific case requires immediate medical treatment, the guidance states it will be treated like any other medical emergency affecting a sailor. In these cases, the sailor may be transferred to limited duty status and “result in an unplanned loss to the command,” according to the Navadmin.
The commanding officer must respond to transition requests within 90 days, according to the new policy. The CO is allowed to take into account impact to the current mission, including “morale, welfare, and good order and discipline of the command,” when determining timeframe to respond to transition requests.
Gender transition treatment plans will differ from sailor to sailor and may include behavioral health counseling, hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience, the Navy’s term for for dressing and behaving in public as the preferred non-birth gender.
Sailors are allowed to begin participating in real-life experience before their gender transition is complete and their official gender has been changes in the personnel enrollment system, but must do so only in off-duty status, according to the guidance. All official unit functions, on-base or off, are considered to be on-duty status for sailors, making them off limit for real-life experience outings. And sailors deployed aboard ship face significant limitations: whether working or not, they are considered on-duty on ship at all times. While they can venture out in the clothing of their preferred gender during foreign port visits, these too are subject to restrictions and cultural sensitivities of the country in question.
“Commands need to be cognizant of host-nation laws and social norms when considering RLE in an off-duty status in foreign nations,” the guidance states. “Travel warnings, the State Department’s country-specific website, the DoD Foreign Clearance Guide, and any U.S. regional military commander directives should be reviewed and heeded.”
During transition, some missions may be off-limits for sailors. Transitioning sailors will be restricted from flying and diving ops during medical treatment and there may be limitations for sailors who have access to nuclear weapons, and chemical and biological weapons.
“The Navy’s bureau of Medicine is studying the effects of medical treatments associated with gender transition on members of the aviation and diving communities,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement.
Gender transition is only complete after a military doctor documents that the service member has completed required medical treatments and written permission from the commanding officer to change the official gender marker in the appropriate personnel administrative systems. While Defense Department guidance says no sailor may be kicked out of the service on the basis of being transgender, sailors are advised to consider the needs of the service when choosing how and when to transition. Transition should be completed during one tour of duty to avoid interrupting medical treatment and requiring additional coordination and a new transition plan, which may disrupt operational requirements at a new command. And transition during boot camp or service academy training is not advised.
“A service member is subject to separation in an entry-level status during the period of initial training … based on a medical condition that impairs the Service member’s ability to complete such training,” the guidance states.
Keeping the fleet comfortable
As a result of transgender sailors being permitted to serve openly, the entire fleet may get a little more modest.
Nudity in berthing and shower facilities is out, according to the guidance, and sailors must maintain a “minimum standard of coverage” walking through spaces, while sleeping, and while using bathrooms and washrooms, in order to show courtesy for others and maintain good order and discipline, according to the guidance.
Unit commanders are prohibited from creating exclusive berthing or bathroom facilities for transgender sailors, but are expected to use their discretion to enact appropriate policies to ensure the protection of privacy for individual sailors.
For urinalysis drug tests, which require that one sailor observe another procure the urine sample, the observer will be another of the same designated gender. But there may be adjustments to ensure the relative comfort level of the observer and the observed. These will be written into a future policy, the Navadmin states.
Though the details may be challenging, Navy officials said the service wants to make sure all qualified personnel find their place in the fleet.
“Our goal is to ensure that the mission is carried out by the most qualified and capable service members,” officials with Naval Personnel Command said in a statement. “If an individual can meet the Navy’s standards, they should be afforded the opportunity to serve.”
Last March, the White House announced plans to levy new sanctions against Russia for a list of digital transgressions that included their efforts to meddle with the 2016 presidential election.
This apparent admission from a Trump administration official drew headlines all over the nation, but another facet of that round of sanctions that failed to draw the same level of attention could actually pose a far greater threat to America’s security: the revelation that the Russian military had managed to infiltrate critical portions of America’s commercial power grid.
Power lines are like the nation’s veins and arteries.
“We were able to identify where they were located within those business systems and remove them from those business systems,” one officialsaid of the infiltration, speaking on condition of anonymity.
America does not have a single power grid, but rather has multiple interlinked systems dedicated to supplying the electrical lifeblood to the nation — and if calling it “lifeblood” seems like a bit of poetic license, consider that the U.S. Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack predicted a whopping 90% casualty rate among American citizens in the event of a prolonged nationwide power failure. Money may make the world go ’round, but without electricity, nobody would be alive to notice.
It’s not just civilians that would find their way of life crippled following a blackout. More than a decade ago, areport filed by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board warned that, “military installations are almost completely dependent on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid, placing critical military and homeland defense missions at unacceptable risk of extended outage.”
With no power in people’s homes, they would rely on other forms of fuel until they ran out as well.
(Dave Hale via Flickr)
One would hope that Uncle Sam took that warning to heart and made an effort to insulate America’s defensive infrastructure against such an attack, but the truth is, very little has been done. In fact, one law passed by the State of California in 2015 actually bars military installations from using renewable energy sources to become independent of the state’s commercial power suppliers.
This means a cyber attack that managed to infiltrate and take down large swaths of America’s power grid would not only throw the general public into turmoil, it could shut down America’s military and law enforcement responses before they were even mounted.
Today, fighting wars is still largely a question of beans, bullets, and Band-Aids, but in the very near future (perhaps already) it will be time to add buttons to that list. Cell phones don’t work without power to towers, and without access to telephone lines or the internet, communications over distances any further than that of handheld walkie-talkies would suddenly become impossible.
Without refrigeration or ready access to fuel, cities would rapidly be left without food and people would grow desperate.
Coordinating a large scale response to civil unrest (or an invasion force) would be far more problematic in such an environment than it would be with our lights on and communications up. But then, if previous government assessments are correct, an enemy nation wouldn’t even need to invade. They could just cut the power and wait for us to kill one another.
Today, we still tend to think of weapons of mass destruction as bombs and bacteria, but in the large scale conflicts of the 21st century, a great deal can be accomplished with little more than keystrokes. Destabilizing a nation’s economy and unplugging the power can ruin an entire nation. Not even one of Russia’s massive new nuclear ICBMs can do that.
The United States isn’t alone in this vulnerability. In fact, similar methodologies have already been employed in conflict-ridden places like Eastern Ukraine. As cyber attacks become more prevalent, it’s not just likely, it’s all but inevitable that cyber warriors will become the true tip of the spear for the warfare of tomorrow.
“Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia,” he said during a briefing in Washington, DC on March 5, 2018, according to Times of Israel.
Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has banned any flights to the country from using its airspace for more than 70 years. If Netanyahu’s claims are correct, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia has allowed commercial flights to Israel to use its airspace and would signal a significant shift in strategic policy in the region.
But an Air India spokesman denied the Prime Minister’s comments several hours later, stressing they had not received any confirmation and had only submitted a request for a flight along that route.
“We have yet to receive anything from authorities,” Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told The Times of Israel.
Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.
In Feb. 2018, Air India confirmed it had begun plans for three faster weekly flights between Israel and India, although Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority was quick to deny reports that its airspace would be used.
At the time, Israel’s Airports Authority told Reuters the service was set to begin in early March 2018.
Currently, Israel’s national airline El Al is the only airline offering direct flights from Israel to India. The route avoids flying into neighboring Saudi Arabia’s airspace by diverting to the Red Sea and around the Arabian peninsula, adding two hours to the overall trip.
If Saudi Arabia were to ease its airspace regulations it could be seen as concrete evidence of warming relations with Israel and a broader re-configuring of regional alliances.