As if you needed another reason to avoid what is widely considered the DC-area’s worst option in terms of airports, a CNN investigation revealed that one of Dulles International Airport’s security guards is a Somali man wanted for war crimes.
Yusuf Abdi Ali has lived in the area of Alexandria, Virginia for the past 20 years. He has been employed by the airport, one of an estimated 1,000 war criminals living and working in the United States.
Everyone employed by Master Security, Dulles’ security contractor, undergoes “the full, federally mandated vetting process in order to be approved for an airport badge,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told ABC News. The process includes a background check by the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration. Master Security employees working at Dulles must also be licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state in which Dulles is located.
“We have verified that all of these processes were followed and approved in this instance,” MWAA said in a statement.
Ali is the subject of a lawsuit from The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) on behalf of his alleged victims. He is accused of torturing people, burning villages, and conducting mass executions during The Somali Civil War from 1986 – 1991. Ali denies all accusations listed in the CJA lawsuit.
Yusuf Abdi Ali in a Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about his a
Ali was a military commander under the regime of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. He fled Somalia after the fall of the regime, eventually ending up in the United States in 1996.
The suit was dismissed by a circuit court which found the case lacked jurisdictional authority. A higher ruling allowed the suit to proceed and it is now waiting for review by the Supreme Court to determine if foreigners living in the U.S. can be held accountable for crimes committed abroad.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials estimate at least 360 arrests of human rights violators in the U.S. in the past 12 years. ICE has also deported more than 780 such cases. According to CNN, they currently have 125 active investigations. Ali’s airport credentials have been revoked and he is on administrative leave pending an ongoing investigation.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul T. “PJ” Johnson is right up there with the best pilots to have ever flown the A-10. While serving as a captain during Operation Desert Storm, he was decorated with the Air Force Cross for leading the rescue mission of a downed Navy F-14 Tomcat pilot deep behind enemy lines.
Capt. Johnson was en route from another mission when he received the call to search for the F-14 crew that had been shot down the night before. During the next six hours, he lead the search through three aerial refuelings, one attack on a possible SCUD missile site, and three hours of going deeper into enemy territory than any A-10 had ever flown. When he finally spotted the survivor, an enemy vehicle was heading in his direction, which Johnson proceeded to destroy, thus securing the target.
The mission was successful and a first for the A-10. A few days later, Johnson’s skills were on full display when he was hit by an enemy missile while trying to take out a radar site. The explosion left a gaping hole on his right wing, which disabled one of the hydraulic systems. Still, he managed to fly back to safety.
This video shows how Johnson pulled through his “high pucker factor” experience, which he credits to a “wing and a prayer.”
Gen. Johnson received his commission in 1985 from Officer Training School, Lackland Air Force Base. He’s a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours on the A-10 and served as commander of the 75th Fighter Squadron, Pope AFB, N.C.; the 354th Operations Group, Eielson AFB, Alaska; the 355th Fighter Wing, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. He’s retiring on July 01, 2016, according to his Air Force profile.
Troops in contact with the enemy have a few awesome weapons that they like to hear firing in support. Any weapon firing on the enemy is a good weapon, but these 9 have become hallowed in military culture.
1. M2 .50 cal machine gun
Quite possible the favorite weapon of troops from World War II to today, the .50 Cal is largely unchanged after over 90 years of service. It fires half-inch rounds at up to 550 rounds per minute, taking down low-flying aircraft, hostile infantry, and light vehicles.
One of the world’s premier attack helicopters, the AH-64 Apache can fly at over 173 mph, climb at 2,000 feet per minute, and carries Hellfire missiles, 30mm grenades, and 70mm rockets. Designed for an anti-tank role, Apaches are also great at covering and supporting infantry on the ground.
3. TOW Missile
Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided or wireless-guided missiles are great against armored and fortified targets at a range of nearly three miles. There are portable launchers that can be carried by infantry, and the missiles can also be mounted on helicopters and vehicles.
4. Carl Gustav
The M3 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle can fire a number of different rounds to destroy tanks, bunkers, or infantry formations. Originally fielded in the U.S. by Special Operations Command, the Army bought it for conventional units because it had better range and firepower than the more common AT-4.
Seriously, troops love the Warthog. This flying tank-buster operated by the Air Force was built around a 30mm gatling gun, but it can also carry and precisely deliver bombs, mines, rockets, and missiles. The A-10 is so popular that airmen secretly made a video praising it to help save it from the Air Force chopping block.
When infantry soldiers are under attack, they don’t want to wait for close air support or artillery strikes. Mortars give infantry units the opportunity to drop 60mm and 81mm rounds directly on the enemy without calling for help. Army efforts to reduce mortar weight are making them even more popular.
7. Mk. 19
The Mk. 19 automatic grenade launcher fires 40mm grenades at targets nearly a mile away. Against infantry, each grenade kills targets within 5 meters of its impact and wounds people within 15 meters. It can even punch through some armored personnel carriers and many light vehicles.
8. M-134 minigun
Adopted during the Vietnam War, the M-134 fires between 2,000 and 6,000 7.62mm rounds per minute through six barrels. It was designed for helicopters to use in suppressing enemy troops, and it still chews through infantry formations today.
9. M1 Abrams
The M1 Abrams is the main battle tank of the U.S. Marines and U.S. Army. It carries a 120mm smoothbore main gun and can be fitted with machine guns from 5.56mm up to .50 cal. The almost 70-ton tank can race across the battlefield at over 40 miles per hour.
Pineland, Attica, Krasnovia… the names of these countries may not mean much to most people, but over the years, they have been invaded by the U.S. countless times. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of them until now, well, you kinda had to be there.
These are names Army planners give to fake enemies in simulated international situations. The idea is to prepare ground forces for incursions into unfamiliar territories filled with foreign populations who speak unknown languages. Everything from their name and external neighbors is made up, but might be loosely based on current relations… you decide.
U.S. troops deployed to help the Middle Eastern nation of Attica fight off an invasion from neighboring Ellisia. On top of bandits in the cities and countryside, the Army must be prepared to fight the radical Islamic Congress of Attica, the transnational Islamic Brotherhood for Jihad, and the malicious hackers of the Wolf Brigade.
The RIC wants to topple the government and install an Islamist government while the jihadis want to use Attica as a base for international terrorism. The Army must fight the Ellisians back to the border, while putting down the insurgency and supporting the Attican government. No big deal, right?
This fictional situation is part of the bi-annual Network Integration Evaluation, an exercise designed to train the Army to counter the many forms of hostile forces the Iranian government is prepared to use in combat, from its regular army to special operations Quds Forces, to the paramilitary group Hezbollah. This exercise takes place from Fort Bliss, Texas to New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Testing Range. It also incorporates almost 4,000 troops from the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
2. The Circle Trigonists
The Trigonists were not so much a country as a political party. In the late 1940s, U.S. troops needed to train against both a foreign enemy and a home grown ally. The Army came up with a detailed, elaborate backstory for the Trigonists, who were a political party whose support poured from Germany into Austria (sound familiar?) in the post-WWII years. The detail of the Trigonists was so thorough, they had their own military rank structure and alternate history of the U.S. invasion. From 1946-1949 Trigonist “Aggressor Campaigns” sprung up in Florida, Kentucky, California, Maine and North Carolina.
The anti-Communist exercises were so large, it engulfed entire civilian populations. In a 1952 exercise, the 82nd Airborne played the opposing forces, capturing and occupying an entire Texas county. The Army would fight the Trigonists until 1978, when they were replaced by the Krasnovians.
3. The Red Army of Kotmk
Kotmk was a fake country made up of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, and Kentucky. In September 1941, a battle raged between Kotmk and the Army of Almat, an equally fake country made up of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
The battle was for control of the Mississippi River. Almat’s commanding officer, the U.S. Army’s Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger, assembled a general staff to help him win. The Chief of Staff to Krueger’s advisors was one Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Young Ike had never seen combat but did an academic study of tank maneuvers in France during World War I. He applied his findings to the war against Kotmk, outmaneuvering the Red Army within three weeks. Eisenhower pinned on his first General’s star two months later.
4. North Brownland
In one of the more unfortunately named OPFORs, it took the Army 90,000 troops and 56 days to secure a nuclear weapons stockpile of an allied country’s failed state neighbor. “Unified Quest” took place in 2013, where the Army faced the problem of the “collapse of a nuclear-armed, xenophobic, criminal family regime that had lorded over a closed society.”
The point of the exercise was to establish a command and control network and create a staging area in the territory of a friendly neighbor while performing the humanitarian assistance required to remove nuclear devices from civilian-populated areas. That’s a lot of effort and manpower to handle the downfall of the North Korean regime.
Hollywood does its best to try and capture the essence of what it means to be in the military and transcribes it for a civilian audience in ninety-minute chunks. Sometimes, they fall flat on their face. But, on occasion, there are outstanding moments when they knock it out of the park.
Most big-budget military films often put the focus on the Army or the Marines, leaving the Navy on the sidelines. When sailors do get an opportunity to shine on the silver screen, the glory often goes to the SEALs — or it’s Top Gun. But everyone’s already seen Top Gun and most sailors would roll their eyes if we mentioned it in this list.
In no particular order, here are six awesome films about sailors that you should put on your must-watch list:
As was the case with many of the great war films set in the 1990s after the collapse of Soviet Union, Crimson Tide showcases the “what-if” of the Russian Federation squaring off against the United States in another Bay of Pigs incident.
Denzel Washington stars as the mild-tempered XO to Gene Hackman’s temperamental Captain. The two are at odds with one another on how to prevent World War Three. Fun Fact: Though uncredited, Quentin Tarantino wrote much of the pop-culturey dialogue.
Annapolis is an indie drama that follows Jake Huard (played by James Franco) as he attends the Naval Academy. It’s the story of a poor nobody trying to make it as one of the elite. It kind of toes the line between being a Marine film and a Navy film because it’s never made clear which route he’ll take, but it’s still steeped in Navy traditions.
It tanked at the box office, but eventually found its footing with a home release. The fact that it shows pledges getting hazed upset the Department of the Navy so bad that they called for its boycott. It’s still a great film, in my opinion.
This 1945 musical came out right before the Japanese signed the surrender and put an end to the Second World War. The film follows Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as two sailors on liberty in golden-age Hollywood. In this musical comedy, the sailors come across a lost, innocent kid who wants to one day join the Navy himself. Then, the sailors proceed to hit on his aunt.
It’s nice to see that nothing’s changed in the way sailors think since then.
‘Master and Commander’
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this film is heavily focused on what it means to complete the mission and the importance of safeguarding the welfare of the troops underneath. Russell Crowe’s crew aboard the HMS Surprise are locked in seemingly eternal combat with French privateers.
It was nominated for ten Academy Awards the year it came out, including Best Picture and Best Director, but would lose all but two (Cinematography and Sound Editing) to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Still one of the best military comedies is Down Periscope. It stars Kelsey Grammer, who plays one of the worst commanders in the Navy and who’s given an even worse crew of submariners who all manage to fail upwards.
It’s packed full of 90s comedians in their prime. It also stars William H. Macy, Rob Schneider, and even a young Patton Oswald.
‘The Hunt for Red October’
What else can be said about The Hunt for Red October? It’s a cinematic masterpiece. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you should honestly clear your evening schedule and watch it today.
Set during the conclusion of the Cold War, Sean Connery plays a Soviet submarine captain and Alec Baldwin is a CIA analyst. Both struggle to find peace while their respective forces do everything in their powers to avoid it. Technically, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, and Shadow Recruit are all sequels to this masterpiece, but none come close.
If you can think of any that we missed (and there are a lot), feel free to let us know! We’d love to hear it.
Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. That is the sum total of what happened during a week of discussion on the issue of weapons and vehicles operated by artificial intelligence in Geneva.
“According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said. “Certainly, there are precedents of reaching international agreements that establish a preventive ban on prospective types of weapons. However, this can hardly be considered as an argument for taking preventive prohibitive or restrictive measures against LAWS being a by far more complex and wide class of weapons of which the current understanding of humankind is rather approximate.”
The Russians also claimed that there was a risk of harming civilian artificial intelligence capabilities, saying, “It is hardly acceptable for the work on LAWS to restrict the freedom to enjoy the benefits of autonomous technologies being the future of humankind.”
The Russian hard line comes as questions percolate about Russian compliance with other arms control treaties. Russia has already been accused of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, prompting the United States to begin development of a new ground-launched cruise missile. A report from RealClearDefense.com noted that Russia’s force of Tu-22M3 Backfire bombers may have been modified in a manner that fits the definition of strategic bombers under the New START Treaty.
In the past, some arms control treaties have not prevented bad guys from using banned weapons. The Chemical Weapons Convention did not prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from using mustard agent against American troops in 2016.
War is hell — but for Russian tank crews, it’s about to get a bit more comfortable.
The designer of a new battle tank that is under development says the latest plans for the armored vehicle include a built-in toilet for its three-person crew.
Ilya Baranov, an official at the Ural Design Bureau of Transport Machine-Building in Yekaterinburg, announced the unusual feature of the T-14 Armata tank on March 7, 2019, during an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency.
Baranov said the toilet system is meant to help Russian tank crews during long missions with few stops or none at all.
A prototype of the T-14 Armata tank was unveiled publicly at a military parade in Moscow in 2015, but development has continued since then.
During rehearsals for that parade, there were three malfunctions of the prototype — including one that occurred on Moscow’s Red Square:
Танк «Армата» заглох во время репетиции парада Победы в Москве
In the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate Army was in full retreat, forced to abandon all of its dead and most of its wounded. The Union Army and citizens of Gettysburg had an ugly cleanup task ahead of them. Along with the numerous corpses littered about the battlefield, at least 27,574 rifles (I’ve also seen 37,574 listed) were recovered. Of the recovered weapons, a staggering 24,000 were found to be loaded, either 87% or 63%, depending on which number you accept for the total number of rifles. Of the loaded rifles, 12,000 were loaded more than once and half of these (6,000 total) had been loaded between three and ten times. One poor guy had reloaded his weapon twenty-three times without firing a single shot. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.
One could draw any number of conclusions from this data. But an obvious one might be that for some reason, large numbers of soldiers were not discharging their weapons during the battle but continued to reload anyway, perhaps to give off the appearance that they were participating in volleys. The thick smoke, mass confusion, and thunderous sounds of musket and cannon fire would probably prevent a neighbor on your line from definitively observing that you weren’t actually firing your weapon. You could even mimic the rifle’s kickback as you pretended to fire. In his book on the psychological impact of killing in war, On Killing, Dave Grossman argues this very point, coming to the conclusion that the discarded but loaded weapons recovered after Gettysburg mostly represent soldiers who were psychologically unable or unwilling to fire at the enemy.
Paddy Griffin highlights a few other possibilities in her well regarded book, Battle Tactics of the Civil War. For one, Griffin argues that the high rate of misfire in Civil War era rifles combined with the inability of many soldiers to reload properly under hectic battle conditions would render a large number of rifles unusable in a short period of time. Loading a civil war rifle, such as the Springfield 1861, was a complex and time consuming process. In the heat of battle, it is to be expected that some number of soldiers will panic, lose focus, or act in fear, leading them to misload and thus misfire their weapon, rendering them useless.
The rifles of the era were prone to overheating and often malfunctioned on their own and the rate of misfire only increased with each successful shot. Inserting the percussion cap, the final step before firing, was easy to bungle or forget, potentially leading a soldier to think that he had discharged his weapon when he hadn’t. There is also the chance that a soldier accidentally fires his ramrod (essential for reloading), then begins to reload his weapon only to find he cannot complete the job. These weapons would likely be abandoned. A new weapon would be claimed but it too could be a discard. The soldier would reload the newly acquired weapon only to find that it cannot fire, and then immediately drop it. Now the rifle is double loaded. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some instances the misfire rate could be as high as 25% during combat. We might believe then that many of the loaded rifles were discarded on the battlefield precisely because they couldn’t fire. Functioning rifles might be desirable enough to be claimed from the battlefield long before an official tally of leftover weapons was made.
Finally we must consider the high attrition rate of artillery fire, which could engage the enemy at much longer ranges than musket volleys. During Pickett’s Charge, the confederate army marched slowly towards the union lines and only began anything resembling a spirited jog once they had closed to a few hundred yards. Throughout the war, both sides were reluctant to fire until they had their intended target within their sights. By the time they reached volley range, cannon fire would have already decimated whole sections of the line, leaving behind dead or dying men clutching fully loaded rifles.
These factors probably all contributed. It’s certainly believable in light of other studies that some percentage of soldiers intentionally fired over the head of the enemy, or perhaps double, triple, or quadruple loaded their rifles to avoid firing them at all. But 90 or even 60%? That seems ludicrous. The number of casualties at the battle alone (33,000 between the two sides), not all of which could have been caused by artillery, attests otherwise. Those who misloaded or misfired their weapons were among the lucky ones. Plenty were killed before they could fire off a single pre-loaded shot.
The reason comes down to an attacker’s motivation. Authorities have yet to name a motive for the Las Vegas attack, but officials quickly began identifying clues on Oct. 31 after what would be the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.
“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said at a news conference just two hours after the truck attack.
“He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the truck’s driver, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who had lived in Tampa, Florida. The attack ended when Saipov was shot by the police; he was then hospitalized.
“And if you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on,” O’Neill added. “So, that, along with the statement, that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.”
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the Oct. 31 carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
So even though authorities think Saipov acted alone, the attack is still being investigated as terrorism because of his apparent political motivation.
“While definitions for terrorism differ, the overwhelming majority of them distinguish terrorism from other crimes of violence by the purpose of the actor, not the severity of the harm caused,” Robert Eatinger, the former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, told The Cipher Brief in October.
Saipov, however, hails from Uzbekistan, a country never listed in Trump’s proposed travel bans. Saipov used no firearms that legislation could restrict access to. And some of those who knew Saipov, who spent the months before the attack driving for Uber in New Jersey, have said he did not display any warning signs.
By choosing the already-fielded Heckler Koch M27 as the new service rifle for Marine Corps infantry squads, the service saved up to $24 million and avoided years of delay, top leaders told a congressional committee early March 2018.
In a hearing on readiness before a panel of the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2018, Marine Corps brass defended the service’s decision to publish a request for proposal for more than 15,000 of the M27, which is already serving as the Corps’ infantry automatic rifle.
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the HASC subcommittee on readiness, expressed concern for the U.S. industrial base as the Corps prepares to make the large purchase from German company HK.
“Do you believe the U.S. defense industrial base could support such a request and … do you believe that issuing a sole-source contract for such a large number of rifles from an internationally based company poses any logistical readiness challenge in meeting the demand for not only rifles but supplementary parts?” Wilson asked the three general officers testifying.
Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy commandant for Plans, Policies, and Operations, said the Marine Corps had held an open competition before the M27 was originally fielded in more limited quantities in 2008.
“It would cost probably … I’ve seen a figure as high as $24 million, to go through a recompetition for that weapon,” he said. “There’s no additional requirements, it’s to purchase as-is, and it’s simply an increase in a quantity of a weapon.”
Beaudreault said the Government Accountability Office had also completed a report looking at the Corps’ request and found it “within legal parameters” to pursue the sole-source contract the service wants. He added that the Marine Corps is now in the final stages of setting a price with HK for the lot of M27s.
“Do I think the industrial base could support those types of quantities? Absolutely,” Beaudreault said. “But what we would experience by reopening a competition would be, perhaps not being able to recover the additional money that would go into the [competition] … and probably a two-year delay in fielding that weapon to the rest of the infantry.”
Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed to Military.com in December 2017 that the Corps had committed to purchase the M27 for all members of infantry squads to replace the M4 carbines they currently carry. Weapons experts say the M27 is more accurate and has a longer effective range than the M4, and would place greater combat power and lethality in the hands of infantrymen.
What hasn’t been clear until now is how many of the high-end rifles the Marine Corps planned to purchase. In February 2017, the service published a request for information for 11,000 infantry automatic rifles; then in August 2017, it published a pre-solicitation for up to 50,000 M27s.
Beaudreault told Wilson the request send to industry was for 15,000 rifles, enough to equip squads, with some left over for others as well.
Neller told Military.com he was considering giving the weapon to other ground combat Marines, including artillery forward observers, fire support teams, and even engineers.
A U.S. Marine with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, fires aanM27 infantry automatic rifle at simulated enemies during an Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Danny Gonzalez)
“I’m going to wait and see,” he said in December 2017. “It’s not that much [money].”
The Marine Corps does expect to get a good deal on the rifles this time around. At SHOT Show in Las Vegas in January 2018, HK executive Robert Reidsma told Military.com that global demand for the M27 was driving down cost. The larger order the Corps is making will help too.
“Obviously, they want a bigger quantity and the economies of scale have changed,” he said then. “I think it’s one of the most affordable prices I’ve seen for the capability they’re getting.”
On March 6, 2018, Beaudreault emphasized that going with the M27 isn’t just the cheap and fast choice for the Corps. It’s also the best option, he said.
“The Marine Corps looked at some other options, and the M27 outperformed some of the other weapons that we’re also considering,” he said. “So it’s a great weapon, gets great reviews from Marines, and we were very eager to try to get it fielded as rapidly as we could.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis shared the thinking behind the new National Defense Strategy during a discussion at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington on Oct. 30, 2018.
The strategy, released in January 2018, sees Russia and China as the greatest threats with Iran and North Korea as regional threats. Violent extremism rounds out the threat matrix.
The strategy is based on a return to great power competition among the United States, Russia and China.
Power, urgency, will
Mattis told Stephen Hadley, the moderator of the event and former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, that in setting up the strategy, officials looked at threats from three different angles: Power, urgency and will.
“In terms of raw power right now, I look at Russia and the nuclear arsenal they have,” he said. “I look at their activities over the last 10 years from Georgia and Crimea to the Donetsk Basin to Syria and I can go on and on and on. In terms of just power, I think it is Russia that we have to look at and address.”
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
There are two threats that are most urgent right now: North Korea and the continuing fight against violent extremism. North Korea’s nuclear and missile program — in clear violation of United Nations sanctions — remains a problem, and the current fight against violent extremists from the Islamic State to al-Qaida to Boko Haram to other transnational terror groups must be fought.
“In terms of will, clearly it is China,” he said.
China is different than Russia. “Russia wants security around its periphery by causing insecurity among other nations,” he said. “They want a veto authority over the economic, the diplomatic and the security decisions of the nations around them.
“China seems to want some sort of tribute states around them,” he continued. “We are looking for how do we work with China. I think 15 years from now we will be remembered most for how … we set the conditions for a positive relationship with China.”
The United States is looking for ways to cooperate with China and that has been beneficial to both countries, Mattis said. He pointed to China’s vote against the North Korean nuclear program in the United Nations Security Council as an example. The United States will also confront China when it must as he pointed to the United States continuing freedom of navigation operations in international waters and airspace.
“I have met with my counterpart in Beijing and in Singapore 10 days ago, and he will be here 10 days from now to continue that dialogue as we sort it out,” Mattis said.
Also part of the strategy are U.S. strengths, and foremost among them is the country’s network of alliances and friends around the world. This network requires constant tending, the secretary said. He noted that just in the last month he has attended NATO meetings, consulted with Central and South American allies and journeyed to Manama, Bahrain, to meet with Middle Eastern allies and friends.
All of these were part and parcel of forming the National Defense Strategy.
South Asia Strategy
The secretary also spoke about the South Asia Strategy announced in August 2017 and how that is proceeding. Officials continue to follow the strategy and it is making progress, but it is slow. It entails far more than just the military and far more than just the United States, he said.
The strategy is a regional approach to the problem. It also reinforced the commitment to the area and realigned those reinforcements with Afghan forces. This was needed because the Afghans had an Army that wasn’t ready to have the training wheels taken off the bike, Mattis said. “Only the Afghan special forces had mentors from NATO nations with them,” he said. “And every time they went against the enemy, the Taliban, they won.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis speaks at the United States Institute of Peace, in a discussion moderated by the chair of the institute’s board of directors, Stephen J. Hadley, Washington, D.C., Oct. 30, 2018.
(DOD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)
But the rest of the Afghan forces were spread out around the country with no mentorship and no air support. The strategy changed that. The air support is crucial in giving Afghan forces the high ground in the mountainous country, “and that changes the tactical situation,” the secretary said.
Afghan forces are carrying the burden. They took more than 1,000 dead and wounded in August and September 2018, the secretary said, and they stayed in the field fighting. “And the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold district and provincial centers, also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” he said.
But the most important aspect of the strategy is reconciliation. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad agreed to serve as a special envoy in Afghanistan specifically aimed at reconciliation between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. “He is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” Mattis said. “So this is the approach we’re trying to sustain right now. It is working from our perspective, but what is heartbreakingly difficult to accept is the progress and violence can be going on at the same time.”
This week, nearly 10 years after he was killed in combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces brought home the remains of F-16 pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died saving the lives of U.S. service members and coalition allies.
On Nov. 27, 2006, Gilbert and his wingman were flying back to base when they got the call that an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter had been shot down. Enemy insurgents had the crew, along with the coalition forces called in to support, outnumbered and pinned down.
With little fuel left, the two F-16 pilots changed course and headed to the hotly contested warzone just outside of Taji, Iraq. Due to fuel limitations, the pilots were forced to take turns refueling and providing air support to the troops under fire. By the time Gilbert was able to make his first approach, the calls for support had grown more urgent. Insurgents attacked with truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars.
Gilbert, a friendly Texas Tech graduate dubbed “Trojan” by his fellow aviators, acted quickly and aggressively. To avoid causing civilian casualties by dropping the bombs he carried under his wings, he opted for low-altitude strafing passes using his 20-milimeter Gatling gun. Gilbert made his first pass, destroying one truck and dispersing the others which were almost upon the friendly forces 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Keeping his eye on the enemy targets moving at high speed, he conducted a second pass from an even lower altitude.
He continued firing on the enemy forces during a dynamic and difficult flight profile, impacting the ground at high speed on the second pass. Reports say the crash killed him instantly. However, Al Qaeda insurgents took Gilbert’s body before U.S. forces were able to get to the scene, leading to 10 long years of a family waiting for their husband, father, son and brother to come home.
He was survived by his wife Ginger Gilbert Ravella, sons Boston and Greyson, and daughters Isabella, Aspen and Annalise.
In a letter to Gilbert’s wife from the Army element commander whose troops the F-16 pilot was supporting that day, the commander wrote that Gilbert saved his unit from “almost certain disaster” as insurgents prepared to attack their position with mortars.
“With no ability to protect ourselves on the desert floor, we most certainly would have sustained heavy casualties,” he wrote. “Troy, however, stopped that from happening. His amazing display of bravery and tenacity immediately broke up the enemy formation and caused them to flee in panic. My men and I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice your husband made for me and my men on Nov. 27th, and we will always be in his debt.”
“Major Gilbert’s motivation to succeed saved the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces,” then-president of the accident investigation board and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in his safety report.Goldfein saluted as Gilbert’s remains were solemnly carried from the C-17 that brought him home this week.
Also on hand was Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. Rand regarded Gilbert as a friend, first meeting him when he was an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and eventually crossing paths again when Gilbert became his executive officer at Luke. The relationship continued when Gilbert served under Rand’s command in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2006.
“Troy fought like a tiger in battle that day,” Rand said. “No doubt, his actions on Nov. 27, 2006 illustrate greatness, but those actions that day aren’t what made him great. What made him great was his commitment to adhere in every facet of his life to our three treasured core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”
Rand recalled how Gilbert spent much of his off-duty time at Balad volunteering in the base hospital or supporting the unit chapel. He said base medics were so overcome by Gilbert’s death that they came to see him, asking if they could name a wing of the hospital after him, and enlisted groups petitioned to have the Balad Air Base chapel annex renamed “Troy’s Place.”
Following the accident, U.S. forces recovered DNA which provided enough information to positively identify Gilbert. His funeral, with full military honors, followed Dec. 11, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 2012, some additional, but very limited, remains were recovered and interred during a second service Dec. 11, 2013.
Then, on Aug. 28, an Iraqi tribal leader approached a U.S. military advisor near al Taqaddam, Iraq, and produced what he claimed to be evidence of the remains of a U.S. military pilot who had crashed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraqi said he was a representative of his tribe, which had the remains and the flight gear the pilot was wearing when he went down.
The tribal leader turned over the evidence to the U.S. advisor who immediately provided it to U.S. experts for testing at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. AFMES confirmed the evidence Sept. 7 through DNA testing.
With this verification, U.S. military advisors in Iraq reengaged the tribal leader who subsequently turned over the remains, including a U.S. flight suit, flight jacket and parachute harness.
Gilbert’s remains, promptly prepared for return to the U.S. for testing, arrived Oct. 3 at Dover AFB. Airmen at Dover conducted a dignified transfer upon arrival at the base, which was attended by Gilbert’s family, base officials and senior Air Force leaders, to include the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Goldfein, Rand, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
AFMES confirmed Oct. 4 through dental examination and DNA testing that all remains received were those of Maj. Gilbert. His lost remains had been recovered and fully repatriated.
“First and foremost I want say God is forever faithful,” Gilbert Ravella said. “He was good whether this recovery ever happened or not. But we praise Him, in His infinite mercies, for granting us this miracle after almost 10 years of waiting, hoping and praying.
“Second, I want to thank not only the brave Special Operations Forces that ultimately found Troy’s body but also each and every single Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine who searched or supported the recovery mission during these last 10 years,” she said. “As each of them put on the uniform and gave their best efforts, not fully knowing if they made a difference, I can assure them that they laid the stepping stones which led to this final victory. Justice was served.
James also praised the unwavering commitment of those who endeavored to bring the fallen fighter pilot back to U.S. soil.
“We are grateful to all those within the U.S. military, the U.S. government and beyond who never gave up and worked so hard to help return this American hero home to his final resting place,” James said. “As an Air Force, we are absolutely committed to leaving no Airman behind and to honoring the memory of warriors like Maj. Gilbert who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”
Goldfein echoed James’ sentiments saying Gilbert represented the best ideals of America’s Airmen.
“As an Air Force officer, husband and father, Troy Gilbert truly represented what being an Airman is all about,” Goldfein said. “He was committed to serving his country, his team and his family in everything he did. On the day he died, he characteristically put service before self when he answered the short-notice call to support coalition ground forces who had come under attack. He put his own safety aside and saved many lives that day.”
Now, finally, a decade later, Gilbert has returned to the country he so valiantly served. At the request of his family, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming months along with the remains originally recovered in 2006 and 2012.
“The memory of my five children watching their father’s flag-draped transfer case being unloaded from the cargo hold and carried by his brothers-in-arms back to American soil renews my hope for all mankind,” said Gilbert Ravella. “Attending the dignified transfer at Dover Monday night was the closest we have been to Troy in 10 years. That was bittersweet.
“However, the memory of his sacrificial selflessness, his passionate love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to his family and to his beloved country echoed in their footsteps long after the transport vehicle drove him away,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart I want everyone to know how grateful the kids and I have been for your years of prayers. There is no doubt they reached the very ears of God.”
“As our military promised, no one was left behind on the field of battle,” Gilbert Ravella said. “Troy is home.”