The US will reportedly hold back aircraft carriers from joint military drills with South Korea as North Korea’s stance softens and its leader Kim Jong Un seeks talks with both the US and South Korean president.
“While US aircraft carriers have taken part in joint South Korea-US exercises in the past, it has been decided that none will be coming for the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises,” a US military official told Korea’s Hankyoreh website on March 8, 2018.
“There is a possibility no nuclear submarines will be coming either,” the source added.
In 2017, the US raised eyebrows by deploying three aircraft carriers and two nuclear submarines to Korea for different exercises. Both aircraft carriers and submarines have been viewed as high-end platforms the US would deploy in the event of an actual war.
The carrier deployments also may have spooked North Korea, as it released a propaganda video if its missiles destroying a carrier and other key US weapons systems.
But Hankyoreh’s source said the upcoming drills’ lack of carriers had been planned long in advance, and didn’t coincide with the recent thaw in North Korea relations.
Potentially, the lack of big, headline-making naval assets to the Korean Peninsula during the US and South Korea’s regularly scheduled military drills could ease tensions as the sides move towards Kim’s first-ever meetings with heads of state.
A Pentagon spokesperson decline to confirm what military assets would take part in the drills, but US officials have said that the US will continue its strategy of flexing its military muscle towards North Korea until Kim shows he’s serious about giving up his nuclear ambitions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.
In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.
Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.
“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.
Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.
The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.
Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.
For some animals, such as salamanders, regrowing a missing limb is a common healing process. But what if people could do the same? Could the future of treating amputations include warfighters regrowing their own muscle, bone, and nerve tissues?
“We’re not quite there yet,” said Army Lt. Col. David Saunders, extremity repair product manager for the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity, Fort Detrick, Maryland. “What we’re trying to do is develop a toolkit for our trauma and reconstructive surgeons out of various regenerative medicine products as they emerge to improve long-term outcomes in function and form of injured extremities.”
Saunders was part of a session focusing on the research being done on extremity regeneration, part of a larger theme of regenerative medicine at the Military Health System Research Symposium. Saunders said while there’s been amazing progress in the areas of using synthetic grafts to start the regrowth of muscle, nerve, vascular, and connective tissues, it’s still not the same as the real thing. “We would like it to be as restorative as possible, resist infection … and be durable,” he said. “This is going to be implanted in young people who may go on to live another 60 to 70 years.”
One researcher is using fillers to bridge the gap in damaged bones, hoping to figuratively bridge the gap between current regenerative techniques and the ideal: people regrowing lost limbs. Stephanie Shiels with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, talked about her research to develop a synthetic bone gap filler that heals bones and reduces infection by infusing those grafts with a variety of anti-microbials.
“We know that it reduces infection,” said Shiels. “Other things to consider include adding a bulking agent … to help regenerate bone.”
Other research focuses on regrowing muscle lost in traumatic injuries, as well as recovering nerves, or at least preserving them, for future use. But besides treating those deep tissue wounds, there’s something a bit more on the surface that can impact warfighters: skin. The skin is known for its regenerative properties. Research is being conducted to help it do that job better and recover scar tissue.
Jason Brant with the University of Florida has turned to a mouse to help the military reduce scarring of injured warfighters. He said the African spiny mouse has evolved a capability to lose large parts of its skin when a predator tries to grab it, allowing the mouse to escape and live to recover. The mouse is able to recover scar-free in a relatively short amount of time, which is remarkable considering the amount and depth of tissue lost. Brant wants to know how the mouse is able to do that.
“Warfighters and civilians alike suffer large surface [cuts] and burns, and these result in medically and cosmetically problematic scars,” said Brant. “The impacts of these scars … are really staggering. The ability to develop effective therapies will have an enormous impact not only on the health care system but on the individuals as well.”
He believes a certain protein in the mouse could be the key, but he’s still trying to figure out how it could apply to humans.
Another way to reduce scarring involves the initial treating of wounds. Army Maj. Samuel Tahk, a research fellow with the Uniformed Services Health Consortium, passed around to attendees samples of biocompatible sponges he’s investigating for their ability to promote skin healing, and thus, reduce scarring.
“It provides a scaffold to start regenerative growth,” said Tahk. “This could simplify patient care and also reduce costs.”
While the field of regenerating body parts is still new, Saunders believes it will be the future of wounded warrior care.
“Extremity wounds are increasingly survivable due to the implementation of body armor and damage control surgeries,” he said. “[There are] many wonderful things emerging in the field of regenerative medicine to restore form and function to our wounded warfighters.”
While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.
As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.
Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.
His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.
In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.
“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”
The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.
“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”
He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.
Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.
“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”
In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.
Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.
“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”
The Trump administration has been seeking closer ties with India and trying to further isolate Iran, but the desire to do the former may be complicated by efforts to do the latter.
The US’s latest move to increase pressure on Iran has been to ask some of the country’s biggest oil customers to cut their purchases of Tehran’s crude — including India, one of the largest importers of Iranian oil.
“Sanctions are coming (on Iran), and we’re going forward on that, and with India and the US building strong relationships we hoped that they would lessen their dependence on Iran,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 27, 2018.
“Prime Minister Modi very much understands where we are with Iran. He didn’t question it. He didn’t criticize it,” Haley said. “He understood it, and he also understands that (India’s) relationship with the US is strong and important and needs to stay that way.”
(U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers)
The request comes after President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the US, Iran, and five other major world powers in 2015.
Trump said the US would reimpose the sanctions on Iran that were suspended under that deal, and while India has said it adheres to UN sanctions rather than unilateral US sanctions, the oil ministry in New Delhi has reportedly asked refiners to prepare for a “drastic reduction or zero” imports of Iranian oil starting in November 2018.
But Haley also said the US would not try to quash India’s deal with Iran to develop the port at Chabahar, Iran’s only oceanic port and a vital point of access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
“We know the port has to happen and the US is going to work with India to do that,” Haley said. “We know that [India’s] being a great partner with us in Afghanistan and really trying to assist the US and trying to do more. The port’s vital in trying to do that.”
“We realize we’re threading a needle when we do that,” Haley said of the effort to balance between isolating Iran and developing Chabahar.
Chabahar is strategically important for India. The port allows Indian goods to reach Afghanistan without going through Pakistan. The port also gives Afghanistan more direct access to India, opening a path for trade that could help stabilize the war-torn country and diminish the appeal of the illicit drug trade. Both India and Afghanistan have had contentious relations with Pakistan, which currently allows overland trade between the two countries to cross its territory.
Rail and road routes would allow Indian goods to travel from Chabahar further north to Central Asian markets.
The port-development project was officially launched in 2016 but has faced numerous delays. Iran agreed to lease operational control to India for 18 months in February 2018, and India hopes to have the port fully operational by 2019, but there has been little major traffic there aside from wheat donated by India. The first shipments of dried fruit from Afghanistan to India are expected in July 2018.
In the weeks since Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal, more uncertainty has piled up for the port and the countries hoping to do business there.
Haley said the impact of Iran-related sanctions on Indian companies would be discussed when the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers met in Washington. That meeting was scheduled for July 2018 but has been delayed, likely until later in the year.
US officials have said the US is unlikely to grant waivers for foreign companies doing business with Iran, complicating matters for Indian firms. And in the wake of Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal in May, contracts to build facilities at Chabahar were delayed as bankers sought more details from Washington.
Afghan workers and businesses hoping to do work at and through the port were also left hanging. Afghan government officials have asked for the port to exempt from looming anti-Iran sanctions.
“President Trump’s decision has brought us back to the drawing board and we will have to renegotiate terms and conditions on using Chabahar,” a senior Indian diplomat told Reuters in late May 2018. “It is a route that can change the way India-Iran-Afghanistan do business, but for now everything is in a state of uncertainty.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.
Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.
The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.
Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.
ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.
Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.
Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.
“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.
Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.
That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.
The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.
Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.
“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.
ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.
Veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars gathered at the White House May 8, honored for their selfless service and the freedoms that endure to this day because of their brave actions.
The veterans at the White House ceremony were part of an Honor Flight from northern Colorado. Honor Flights are conducted at no cost to the veterans and enable them to see the national memorials of the wars in which they fought.
The men and women who have served and fought for freedom are the nation’s most cherished citizens, and are owed a debt of gratitude that will never be fully repaid, Vice President Mike Pence said.
“Today it is my great honor, on behalf of the first family, here on National Military Appreciation Month, to welcome so many heroes to this special place,” he said.
The veterans are “patriots of the highest order” who stepped forward and served with courage to “protect our nation and the values that we hold dear,” Pence said.
The vice president said it is especially humbling to welcome the veterans since he had not served in the military himself.
Pence noted the event comes on the 72nd anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
“It’s an honor and privilege more than I can say to be here with so many who fought in the greatest conflict of the 20th century, and who won freedom in World War II,” he said.
Debt of Honor and Gratitude
The Honor Flight trips to Washington are deeply meaningful, Pence explained.
“All the people that make these honor flights possible know that this is just about paying a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude that our nation will never be able to fully repay to all of you,” Pence said. “But we hope this experience fills your hearts with the absolute assurance that we’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”
Because of the service and sacrifice of those in the room, freedom endures to this day, the vice president said. They fought on the front lines of freedom.
“You are among the rest of us, but make no mistake about it, you are the best of us,” he said. “On behalf of your commander in chief, I’m here to say thanks and to salute your service.”
Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.
“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”
No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.
“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”
Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.
“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”
Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.
“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.
“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”
Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.
“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”
Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.
A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.
“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”
Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”
As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.
While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.
“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”
The fight for Mosul has been expected for some time and the U.S. military has built up logistics and command and control capabilities at nearby bases to assist the Iraqis in their fight. Army Col. Brett G. Sylvia commands some of the soldiers operating in Northern Iraq. He sent a Facebook update to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE,” 101st Airborne Division’s families on Oct. 3 to prepare them for the Battle of Mosul:
The tireless work of STRIKE Soldiers has set the conditions for the final push against Daesh in Iraq. In the coming months, your Soldiers will advise and assist the Iraqi army from disparate locations, working together as one team towards the final objective: the liberation of Mosul, defeat of this cowardly enemy, and the establishment of a stable environment for the peace loving citizens of Iraq.
American, Iraqi, Kurdish, and other forces are expected to slowly push ISIS from the city in the coming weeks.
Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.
So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.
The viral WhatsApp message that claimed Queen Elizabeth II had died was started by a Royal Navy staff member who confused a practice drill for the real thing.
The false news spread across social media last Sunday, garnering thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and spawning several hashtags.
The cause of the false alarm was a misunderstanding by someone at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton, Portsmouth News reported.
Naval personnel were practicing “Operation London Bridge” — the codename for the procedure for when the Queen dies — when one person thought it was happening for real and passed the message onto those outside the base, the paper said.
The WhatsApp message that spread across social media on Sunday announcing the Queen’s death.
The sourcing attached to the initial viral WhatsApp message was “from a guards reg WhatsApp group,” referring to a regiment in the British Army’s Guards Division.
“Queens passed away this morning, heart attack, being announced 930 Am tomorrow, channel dash 0800 tomorrow in full numbers 1s,” it said, referring to the Navy’s ceremonial uniform by its colloquial name of “number 1s.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson debunked the news, speaking to British media on Monday, calling it “business as usual.”
The Queen welcomed NATO leaders at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night, looking sanguine and very much alive.
Queen Elizabeth hosts NATO world leaders at Buckingham Palace
Citing the Royal Navy, the Portsmouth News, said the incident was a “genuine mistake” and that “no malice” was intended.
The Royal Navy later said in a formal statement: “We can confirm an internal exercise took place at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in line with established contingency plans for recall of personnel.”
“These exercises are conducted on a regular basis and no significance should be drawn from the timing of the exercise.”
“While the exercise was conducted properly, we regret any misunderstanding this may have caused.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the last ISIS stronghold in Syria crumbles, it’s clear that the leadership of the terrorist organization had no intention of fighting to the death with their devoted fighters. The whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have been unknown for some time, and those in his inner circle have been just as absent, from either the battlefields or the media.
Until now, that is.
“Guys, we’re totally coming to help you. Just keep fighting. We’ll be there in, like, two days. Pinky swear.”
It’s been six months since the world last heard from Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the Islamic State’s official spokesperson. But on Mar. 18, 2019, the terrorist group released a 44-minute audio recording in the wake of the mosque shootings in New Zealand.
That shooting killed some 50 muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The perpetrator was a white nationalist extremist from Australia, who broadcast the event all over social media. ISIS is trying to rebrand it as part of the Islamic State’s global struggle against the West.
“Here is Baghuz in Syria, where Muslims are burned to death and are bombed by all known and unknown weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
We’re pretty sure he meant to say “There is Baghuz…” because he is definitely somewhere else.
ISIS Is implying that muslims are being killed indiscriminately in Syria because of their religion. The truth of the matter is Baghuz is under attack from the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to take the town because it’s full of only ISIS fighters and their families. Those same ISIS fighters attempted a genocide against several Iraqi minorities at the peak of their power.
Despite what ISIS would have anyone believe, the global community of muslims has little to do with ISIS or its worldview.
Imam Alabi Zirullah warned his worshippers before the gunman could open fire on the group.
Alabi Lateef Zirullah is an imam at the Linwood mosque. He saw the gunman enter the mosque and warned the crowd to take cover. Linwood was one of two Mosques targeted and where seven people died.
“The heroes are those people who passed away, not me,” Zirullah said. “But I thank God Almighty for using me to save the few lives that I could.” The imam also had words for the attacker who stormed the mosque – words very different from ISIS’ message.
“I don’t hate him. He may have gone through a lot of bad experiences in his life. But that is no excuse to kill. We must overcome what has happened and be strong for the families of those who died. Hate cannot be the victor.”
The Air Force is working to redesign the gear used by female pilots across the force after facing challenges with current flight equipment.
“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and (one) can be in for hours on end,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, March 2018 in Washington, D.C.
The majority of the equipment currently worn by pilots was built off anthropometric data from the 1960s, a time when only men were in aviator roles.
The lack of variety and representation in the current designs have caused multiple issues for women, said Col. Samantha Weeks, the 14th Flying Training Wing commander, assigned to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.
Many of the uniform issues circulate around G-suits, flight suits, urinary devices and survival vests.
“The challenges other female aviators and I face are the fit and availability of our flight equipment,” said Capt. Lauren Ellis, 57th Adversary Tactics Group executive officer.
Limited sizes and accessibility often force aircrew to order the wrong size and have it extensively altered to fit properly, taking time and money away from the mission, Ellis said.
A participant of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop writes down issues women experience with current urinary devices at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
“All of the bladders on my G-suit need to be modified,” Ellis said. “It’s a lot of work for the Aircrew Flight Equipment, or AFE, Airmen. Even after they’re modified, the proportions don’t fit.”
G-suits are vital anti-gravity gear for aviators. The bladders in the suit fill with air and apply pressure to the pilot’s body to prevent a loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration. Not having a properly fitted G-suit could lead to hypoxia followed by unconsciousness.
Ellis said ill-fitting flight suits are a common problem for men and women. Aircrew who are significantly above or below average height have a hard time finding suits that fit their body type.
Even if a woman found a flight suit close to her size, the flight-suit zipper is designed for men—not women. Female aircrew struggle with relieving themselves during flights because the flight-suit zipper isn’t designed low enough for them to properly use their urinary devices.
“There are flight suits that were designed with longer zippers for women, but they’re almost never available,” Ellis said. “It’s common for females to have to wait months to receive the flight suit they’ve ordered which causes them to have to wear the male one.”
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop review various flight-suits designs at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
Along with the possibility of injury and discomfort associated with G-suits and flight suits, women struggle to get their life-saving gear to fit accordingly. The process of ejecting is so powerful, even pilots with well-fitting gear are at a serious risk of injury. It’s important for aviators to be heard and the modernization of equipment for everyone continues, Ellis said.
“In certain situations, having ill-fitting gear, such as harnesses and survival vests, can result in a loss of life,” Ellis said. “If an aircrew member ejects from the aircraft with equipment that doesn’t fit, they can be severely injured or lose their life.”
The Air Force and Air Combat Command are working to find a feasible solution for aircrew members.
Part of the strategy to correct the uniform problem was to take part in several collaborative Female Flight Equipment Workshops at AFWERX Vegas. Female Airmen stationed across the globe traveled to the innovation hub and attended the workshops to explore areas of opportunity and come up with proposed solutions.
“The purpose of the workshops is to bring together female aviators, Aircrew Flight Equipment, Human Systems Program Office personnel and subject matter experts to understand the current products, the acquisition process and the actual needs from the field,” Weeks said.
Throughout the workshops, aviators participated in briefings, as well as discussions and exercises with the agencies involved in the design and distribution of their gear.
“The Human Systems Program Office acquires and sustains all equipment for male and female Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant Human Systems Program Office deputy chief, assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “We are committed to hearing our consumers’ voices, and we will make the changes necessary to our current process to meet their needs.”
Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multiple- piece body armor at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)
The workshops established the communication needed between the consumer, designers and suppliers to reach a mutual goal of understanding and development.
“We now have some pretty clear actions coming out of the Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” Bryant said. “We’ve heard the feedback, and we want to make sure we have actionable things we’re accomplishing within specific time frames for our consumers.”
The Human Systems Program Office will strive to make progressive changes within their operations and better their acquisition process, explained Bryant.
“We will take the field up on their offers of coming out to the units and meeting the aircrew for whom we supply,” Bryant said. “We’ll ensure we maintain the lines of communication needed to better our program.”
Another major improvement for female aviators is the adoption of the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, a centrally managed equipment facility. BARS is capable of shipping needed resources directly to female aircrew. Using this system will allow women to acquire the proper fitting equipment they need within an acceptable timeline.
“BARS is a step in the right direction,” Ellis said. “Everyone deserves to have equipment that fits them. There are certain things we have to adapt to, but as long as we’re trying to improve and modernize our gear, we can be a more ready and lethal force.”
“The Air Force has evolved over the years and continues to evolve,” Weeks echoed. “Female aviators entering the Air Force now will not have the same issues I had over the last 21 years.”
Information from an ACC news feature was used in this story.