Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was due in court Sept. 27 for his final pre-trial hearing before he faces court-martial on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan in 2009.
A military judge at Fort Bragg in North Carolina will hear arguments on several motions including a defense effort to get more information about discussions between a prosecutor and the Trump administration.
Lawyers are also expected to give the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, updates on preparations for the Oct. 23 trial. Several previous trial dates were delayed by the exchange of classified evidence.
The pretrial hearing, which could extend into Sept. 28, is the last one scheduled before the trial.
In late August, the defense filed several motions including arguments that charges against Bergdahl are unfairly duplicative and that his enlistment was improperly extended by more than a decade so he could be prosecuted. The motions seek to dismiss some or all charges, but legal scholars have said defense attorneys face an uphill battle with them.
The defense is also seeking more information about a meeting between one of the prosecutors and the Trump administration. They asked the court for unredacted copies of emails related to the meeting as well as the ability to interview the prosecutor about it.
Defense lawyers previously argued that Bergdahl couldn’t get a fair trial because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. But Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.
The government has acknowledged that a prosecutor had discussions with a lawyer for the National Security Council about the defense efforts to derail the case over Trump’s comments. But they said the White House has given no instructions to prosecutors about how to conduct the case.
Prosecutors also argued that further information about the conversations is irrelevant to the case, especially since the judge has already rejected Trump-related arguments by the defense.
Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
He was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.
Bergdahl, who is from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his legal case.
An MQ-4C Triton experienced a technical failure that forced it to perform a gear up landing at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) at Point Mugu on Sept. 12, 2018, the U.S. Navy confirmed
“The Navy says as a precautionary measure, the pilots shut down the engine and tried to make a landing at Point Mugu but the aircraft’s landing gear failed to deploy and the aircraft landed on the runway with its gear up, causing some $2 million damage to the plane,” KVTA reported.
No further details about the unit have been disclosed so far, however, it’s worth noticing that two MQ-4C UAVs – #168460and #168461 – have started operations with VUP-19 DET Point Mugu from NBVC on Jun. 27, 2018.
Here’s what we have written about that first flight back then:
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C “Triton” Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) is an ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) platform that will complement the P-8A Poseidon within the Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force family of systems: for instance, testing has already proved the MQ-4C’s ability to pass FMV (Full Motion Video) to a Poseidon MPA (Maritime Patrol Aircraft). An advanced version than the first generation Global Hawk Block 10, the drone it is believed to be a sort of Block 20 and Block 30 Global Hawk hybrid, carrying Navy payload including an AN/ZPY-3 multi-function active-sensor (MFAS) radar system, that gives the Triton the ability to cover more than 2.7 million square miles in a single mission that can last as long as 24 hours at a time, at altitudes higher than 10 miles, with an operational range of 8,200 nautical miles.
The U.S. Navy plans to procure 68 aircraft and 2 prototypes. VUP-19 DET PM has recently achieved an Early Operational Capability (EOC) and prepares for overseas operations: as alreadt reported, Point Mugu’s MQ-4Cs are expected to deploy to Guam later in 2018, with an early set of capabilities, including basic ESM (Electronic Support Measures) to pick up ships radar signals, for maritime Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance mission.
The Triton is expected to reach an IOC (Initial Operational Capability) in 2021, when two additional MQ-4Cs will allow a 24/7/365 orbit out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Featured image: file photo of an MQ-4C of VUP-19 Det PM during its first flight (U.S. Navy)
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
As in so many American conflicts, Coast Guard units and personnel in Operation Iraqi Freedom or OIF, performed several missions; including escort duty, force protection, maritime interdiction operations or MIO, and aids-to-navigation, or ATON, work. From the very outset of Middle East operations, the Coast Guard’s training and experience in these and other maritime activities played a vital role in OIF.
Late in 2002, Coast Guard headquarters alerted various units in the service’s Pacific Area and Atlantic Area about possible deployment to the Middle East. From November 2002 through January 2003, these units began activation, training and planning activities for an expected deployment in early 2003. In January, Pacific Area’s first major units deployed to the Arabian Gulf, including the high-endurance cutter Boutwell and ocean-going buoy tender Walnut. Both of these vessels had to cross the Pacific and Indian oceans to arrive at the Arabian Gulf and begin operations. Their responsibilities would include MIO and Walnut, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard’s National Strike Force, would lead potential oil spill containment operations.
Port Security Unit 309’s port security boat underway.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Atlantic Area provided many units of its own, sending the high-endurance cutter Dallas to the Mediterranean to support and escort Military Sealift Command shipping and Coalition battle groups in that theater of operations. Atlantic Area sent four 110-foot patrol boats (WPBs) to Italy together with support personnel and termed their base of operations “Patrol Forces Mediterranean” or PATFORMED, and it sent four WPBs to the Arabian Gulf with a Bahrain-based command called “Patrol Forces Southwest Asia,” PATFORSWA.
The service also activated Port Security Units and law enforcement boarding teams, LEDETs, which had proven successful in the Gulf War in 1990. Atlantic Area sent PSU 309 from Port Clinton, Ohio, to Italy to support PATFORMED while Pacific Area sent PSU 311 from San Pedro, California, and PSU 313 from Tacoma, Washington, to Kuwait to protect the Kuwait Naval Base and the commercial port of Shuaiba, respectively. LEDET personnel initially served aboard the WPBs and then switched to Navy patrol craft to perform MIO operations.
Coast Guard Cutter Adak, a 110-foot patrol boat, interdicts a local dhow in the Northern Arabian Gulf.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
At 8 p.m. on March 19, Coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom. When hostilities commenced, all Coast Guard units were manned and ready. On March 20, personnel from PSU 311 and PSU 313 helped secure Iraq’s offshore oil terminals thereby preventing environmental damage and ensuring the flow of oil for a post-war Iraqi government. On March 21, littoral combat operations began and the WPB Adak served picket duty farther north than any other Coalition unit along the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Adak captured the first Iraqi maritime prisoners of the war whose patrol boat had been destroyed upstream by an AC-130 gunship. On that same day, Adak participated in the capture of two Iraqi tugs and a mine-laying barge that had been modified to plant its deadly cargo in the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf.
Once initial naval operations ceased, Coast Guard units began securing port facilities and waterways for the shipment of humanitarian aid to Iraq. On March 24, PSU 311 personnel deployed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and, four days later, the WPB Wrangell led the first humanitarian aid shipment to that port facility. In addition to their primary mission of boarding vessels in the Northern Arabian Gulf, Coast Guard LEDETs secured the Iraqi shoreline from caches of weapons and munitions. Buoy tender Walnut, whose original mission included environmental protection from sabotaged oil facilities, surveyed and completely restored aids to navigation for the shipping lane leading to Iraq’s ports.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Bruckenthal, a damage controlman, made the ultimate sacrifice during a boarding operation as member of a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment team.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
On May 1, President George Bush declared an end to combat operations in Iraq. However, in less than a year the Coast Guard suffered its first and only death associated with OIF. On April 24, 2004, terrorists navigated three small vessels armed with explosives toward Iraq’s oil terminals. During this attack, the Navy patrol craft Firebolt intercepted one of the watercraft and members of LEDET 403 and Navy crew members proceeded toward the vessel in a rigid-hull inflatable boat or RHIB. Terrorists aboard the small vessel detonated its explosive cargo as the RHIB approached, overturning the boat and killing LEDET member Nathan Bruckenthal and two Navy crew members. Serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq, Bruckenthal had already received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Combat Action Ribbon. He posthumously received the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal. He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in combat since the Vietnam War and was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.
In OIF, the Coast Guard demonstrated the importance of a naval force experienced in shallow-water operations, MIO, port security and ATON work. The PSUs performed their port security duties efficiently in spite of their units being divided between three separate port facilities and two oil terminals. The WPBs operated for countless hours without maintenance in waters too shallow for Navy assets and served as the Coalition fleet’s workhorses in boarding, escort and force protection duties. The personnel of PATFORMED and PSU 309 demonstrated that Coast Guard units could serve in areas, such as the Mediterranean, lacking any form of Coast Guard infrastructure. PATFORSWA performed its mission effectively even though it was the first support detachment established by the Coast Guard. Fortunately, Walnut never had to employ its oil spill capability, but proved indispensable for MIO operations and ATON work on the Khor Abd Allah Waterway. Cutters Dallas and Boutwell provided much-needed logistical support, force protection and MIO operations. OIF was just one of the many combat operations fought by the Coast Guard since 1790 and its heroes are among the many members of the long blue line.
Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.
She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:
“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”
Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.
ISIS remains a force in the Middle East
Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.
At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.
The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.
Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.
Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.
Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.
Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.
Soft on terror or Islamophobic
The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.
The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.
But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.
Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.
They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.
If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.
A number of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan towards the end of January 2018 were claimed by competing terrorist groups ISIS and the Taliban — putting the spotlight back on a country that has been at war for over a decade.
An attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on Jan. 20 that killed at least 40 people and an ambulance bombing in Kabul on Jan. 27 that killed 103 were claimed by the Taliban.
An attack on Save the Children’s Jalalabad office on Jan. 24 that killed six people and an attack on Kabul’s military academy on Jan. 29 that killed at least 11 Afghan soldiers were claimed by ISIS’ Afghan branch — known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province (ISIS-K).
Since its creation in 2015, ISIS has pushed to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. The recent attacks, and the fact that ISIS-K has proven to be stubbornly resilient, have made some in the West more worried about the group.
Seth G. Jones, an expert on Afghanistan and a senior adviser to the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that the Taliban and ISIS have been “at each other’s throats” since day one — but there is no question who the more threatening group is.
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Second Class Michael “Doc” McNeely with the Georgian Liaison Team – a joint Coalition Patrol Team – carries one of the children whose life he helped save after a Taliban suicide bombing attack Nov. 22, 2017. (DVIDS Image from Master Sgt. Sheryl Lawry)
“The Taliban is a much larger organization, controls roughly 10-12% of the population of Afghanistan, has conducted a lot more attacks, and has some support among Afghanistan’s conservative rural population,” Jones said.
“ISIS-K, on the other hand, is shrinking in size, controls virtually no territory, has conducted far fewer attacks, and has virtually no support among Afghanistan’s population.”
ISIS declares the ‘Khorasan Province’
ISIS first came to South Asia in 2014, using the group’s substantial funds and weak local governments to co-opt high-ranking members of the Pakistani Taliban and disaffected members of the Afghan Taliban.
But almost as soon as it was founded, ISIS-K began suffering losses, as they found themselves fighting the Pakistani and Afghani governments, the NATO Coalition, and the Taliban all at the same time.
Angry that ISIS had taken some of their members in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban hit back and essentially wiped out ISIS-K in Helmand and Farah provinces.
ISIS has also suffered major losses in its fight against the Afghan government in NATO. All three of its top leaders (called “emirs”) have been killed since the group was founded, and, according to Jones, their numbers have almost been halved since their founding.
ISIS-K is now more of a deadly nuisance than a strategic threat to Afghanistan.
“ISIS-K controls virtually nothing other than a small segment of territory. They’re not competing in any meaningful way,” Jones said. “It’s in a bad situation. It has got everybody against it.”
Jones said ISIS-K has been so surprisingly resilient because it mostly operates in parts of Nangarhar Province, particularly the Achin District, where neither the Taliban or the Afghan government have much control. Instead, the region is mostly controlled by local tribes and clans.
Jones believes, however, that ISIS-K will eventually become a transnational movement — forced to move into Pakistan or Bangladesh as operations against them continue.
“They’re down in numbers, it looks like they are down in recruitment, they’ve stuck around but it looks like under most accounts they are probably weakening,” he said.
Taliban remains the dominant jihadist force
All of this is in stark contrast to the Taliban, where “there is absolutely no comparison,” according to Jones.
Recent reports suggest that the Taliban has tripled in size since 2014 to up to 60,000. This is compared to ISIS-K’s 1,000-2,000.
The Taliban have complete control of some areas in Afghanistan’s countryside, have their own court systems and governmental structures in place, a military structure based in Pakistan, and, according to a recent BBC report, threaten 70% of the country.
They also, as Jones points out, have support from state actors; most notably Pakistan and possibly even Russia.
ISIS-K and the Taliban are likely to continue attacks like the ones that plagued Afghanistan in January 2018. Those high-profile attacks are important because even though neither ISIS or the Taliban control any urban territory, they gain international media attention and put them in the spotlight.
Jones said the attacks “may give an impression that groups like the Taliban are omnipresent,” even though they are not. “That’s really a psychological impact.”
The day started out with a close-air support mission and ended with the first Navy air-to-air “kill” since 1991.
Three months after an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the carrier George H.W. Bush shot down a Syrian Su-22 Fitter near Raqqa, Syria, on June 18, 2017 the four Navy pilots who participated in the mission offered a blow-by-blow account during a special panel at the Tailhook 2017 Symposium.
In a recording first uncovered by The Drive, the pilots describe an operating environment that had become more unpredictable and dynamic.
The George W. Bush, which had been launching daily airstrikes from the Persian Gulf, had moved into the Mediterranean in early June, just days before the mission.
“Everyone’s kind of heading to the same place that day, to Raqqa,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael “MOB” Tremel, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the “Golden Warriors,” who would ultimately execute the shoot-down that day.
“At that point in time, the [area of responsibility] was pretty hot in that general vicinity and a lot of guys were dropping bombs,” he said.
Walking to the jets, the mission of the day was close-air support, and that’s what the pilots on board the Bush were prepared for.
But there was time en route for a cup of coffee — both Tremel and his wingman, VFA-87 training officer Lt. Cmdr. Jeff “Jo Jo” Krueger, enjoyed some java at 22,000 feet inbound to Raqqa, Tremel said.
“Again, we briefed to CAS and that was going to be our mission that day, so we felt like it would be in our wheelhouse, what we were doing,” he said. “But we also trained to all the air-to-air contingencies we might have and we talked about that.”
Eventually, the aircraft arrive in the region and coordinated with two other Hornet pilots, all in a “stack” above the area of operation. All four were communicating about events playing out on the ground far below.
“We’re hearing that the situation’s getting more heated on the ground with some of the friendly forces getting closer to some of the Syrian forces so, based on that, we get Jo Jo and MOB on the radio,” said Lt. Cmdr. William “Vieter” Vuillet, a pilot with another squadron attached to the Bush, VFA-37 “Raging Bulls.”
As the pilots prepared to execute their CAS mission, someone spotted a Russian Flanker aircraft circling overhead, an occurrence the pilots said was not unusual in the region.
Throughout the deployment, the pilots said, their interactions with Russian fighters were professional.
But as a cautionary measure, Tremel, who previously had some minor technical issues with his aircraft, volunteered to follow the aircraft and monitor its actions.
Picking Up the Syrian Aircraft
“I’ll extend out in air-to-air master mode while these guys are in air-to-ground master mode to monitor the situation on the ground,” Tremel said. “That’s when I’ll pick up an unknown aircraft approaching from the south.”
Observers, including Air Force assets in the region, were sending conflicting information about the identity of the aircraft, but eventually a consensus emerged that it was a Syrian plane.
Tremel decided the best thing he could do is get a visual ID on the aircraft and its activities, so he decided to descend and get a better look.
Meanwhile, Krueger worked to streamline radio communications, shedding secondary tasks and focusing on keeping information flowing as the situation unfolded.
As Tremel neared the Syrian aircraft, he emphasized that he was ready to return to his primary job as soon as he could be sure it posed no danger to friendly forces.
“Our whole mission out there was to defeat ISIS, annihilate ISIS,” he said. “So as quickly as we can get back to that mission, that was our goal that day … At any point in time, if this had de-escalated, that would have been great. We would have gotten mission success and [gone] back to continue to drop bombs on ISIS.”
But that was not to happen. The Hornets began putting out radio warning calls to persuade the SU-22 Fitter to turn around, but it kept approaching friendly ground forces.
Krueger then advised that the U.S. aircraft should execute “head-butts,” close overhead passes on the Syrian aircraft with warning flares, Tremel said.
They ultimately did three such passes, with no effect on the Syrian plane.
Su-22 Releases Ordnance
“After that third one, he [proceeded] to execute a dive and release ordnance in proximity of friendly forces,” Tremel said.
As the Syrian aircraft climbed after dropping ordnance, Tremel would respond, firing an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. For reasons he didn’t explain, the sidewinder missed the Fitter.
“I lose the smoke trail and I have no idea what happened to the missile at that point in time,” he said.
Losing little time, Tremel let another missile fly — an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM. This time, it had the desired effect.
“The aircraft will pitch right and down and pilot will jump out and left in his ejection seat,” he said.
Wanting to stay clear of the debris field, Tremel executed a quick turn to the left, he said, allowing the ejection seat to pass to the right of his canopy.
The pilots described the events in understated terms, but acknowledged adrenaline was high as they returned to operations.
Vieter, who descended to get a visual following the air-to-air engagement, said he and the pilot flying with him, Lt. Stephen “Scotty P” Gasecki, could not resist getting on a secure communication channel to tell the tanker crew what happened when they went to refuel.
Vieter and Gasecki opted to continue with their mission, while Tremel and Krueger soon decided to return to the ship.
‘No Small Feat’
Krueger said it was “no small feat” for Tremel to take the initiative to arm his aircraft and fire ordnance at an armed aircraft for the first time in two-and-a-half decades.
“Looking at the wreckage down below us, It was a different feeling,” Krueger said. “… We had to make some decisions pretty quickly, and I thought that the training and commander’s guidance that we got at that point was a big deal.”
Upon return to the ship, the fanfare was underwhelming; the sentiment was merely that “the show goes on,” Tremel said.
He shook a few hands on the flight deck, then was ushered away, the ordnance remaining on his aircraft quickly reloaded onto other fighters that would launch within the hour.
He even completed his scheduled safety officer duties once back aboard the ship, he said.
As he addressed the Navy’s annual convention of fighter pilots, though, the atmosphere was different.
“It’s extremely surreal to be sitting here in this environment,” Tremel said. “I couldn’t have done it without the guy sitting next to me, Jo Jo, and the other guys that were airborne. It was an absolute team effort, to include all the coordination that went on with the Air Force the entire time we were in the AOR.”
When Mykola Reshetnuk first heard the blasts at just after 3 in the morning, he just buried himself deeper in his blankets and stayed in bed. But with the deafening reports seeming to get closer and closer, the 57-year-old Ukrainian got worried and left. And with good reason.
Seconds later, a shell tore through his house.
Reshetnuk, a pensioner, doesn’t live in a war zone. Instead, he is one of around 12,000 residents forced out of their homes after ammunition stored at a military depot near the town of Ichnya, about 135 kilometers northeast of Kyiv, began exploding early on Oct. 9, 2018, sparking a huge blaze that the Defense Ministry suggested was the result of “military sabotage.”
After the deployment of repurposed tanks and aircraft to the scene, officials said on Oct. 11, 2018, that the depot fire had finally been “extinguished completely.”
“I rushed out. I was hiding over there, in a ditch,” he told RFE/RL one day earlier, motioning to the side of a nearby road spotted with rubble and debris. “Everything was blasting, exploding around me.”
Off in the distance, explosions periodically punctuated his words.
As the smoke clears from the blaze, Reshetnuk and others may be forgiven for feeling like they live in a combat zone.
Rows of houses for kilometers around the Chernihiv region depot bear the scars of incoming armaments that were launched by the heat of the blaze.
Charred frames of homes that were occupied just days ago continued to smolder as people returned to survey the damage.
A couple walked their bikes down one of the town’s narrow roads, careful to avoid the potholes from the hundreds of shells that rained down and now lay littered about the town.
“Did you get everything?” shouted one Emergency Services employee as crews armed with metal detectors and shovels scanned nearby yards after reports that some unexploded devices were still embedded in the ground.
They doubled back on his command, fearing the damage one overlooked hole in the ground could wreak on an unsuspecting victim. No casualties have been reported from the fire, and officials are hoping to keep it that way.
“From 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., we were hiding in the cellar. It was impossible to get out,” said Reshtnuk’s neighbor, Serhiy Ishchenko.
“We returned and the neighbor’s house and fence were in flames. All we could do was try to contain it so that the blaze wouldn’t spread to other buildings.”
Pointing to how the explosions appeared to go off at intervals in different parts of the depot, Ukrainian authorities blamed saboteurs.
There have been other major explosions and fires at Ukrainian arms depots in recent years, amid fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists who hold parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a few hundred kilometers southeast of the depot site.
The war has killed more than 10,300 people since it began after Russia seized Crimea in 2014 and fomented separatism following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled after months of pro-European unrest in Kyiv.
Cease-fire deals signed in Minsk in September 2014 and February 2015 have failed to end the bloodshed despite near-constant dialogue among European, Russian, and U.S. officials over ways to resolve the four-year crisis.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
In March 2017, a massive firestorm at a munitions depot near the eastern city of Kharkiv prompted the evacuation of about 20,000 residents within a 20-kilometer radius of the site.
And in September 2017, more than 30,000 people were forced from their homes after artillery warehouses on a military installation exploded in the Vinnytsya region, southwest of Kyiv.
Authorities have frequently blamed the blasts on sabotage, and the government has allocated 100 million hryvnyas (.6 million) for the protection of the country’s ammunition-storage facilities.
But that does little for Reshetnuk as he surveys the damage to his home.
“The furnace is the only thing left here. Where will I keep myself warm now? What will I do in winter? How will I rebuild my house? My monthly pension is just 1,400 hryvnyas,” he says, spreading his hands to the sky to show how his house no longer has a roof.
After thousands of Army retirees responded to a voluntary recall request for those in health care fields to help the service fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials quietly issued another call-out — this one to recently separated troops in the Individual Ready Reserve.
On March 29, the Army’s Human Resources Command sent messages to nearly 10,000 soldiers in the IRR asking for volunteers to put the uniform back on, Lt. Col. Emanuel OrtizCruz, an Army spokesman, confirmed to Military.com. The messages went out to those who had served in military occupational specialties including family nurse practitioner; critical care nursing; emergency nursing; nurse anesthetists; generalist nurse; and respiratory specialist, he said.
The newest voluntary recall request was issued just days after President Donald Trump issued an executive order authorizing the military services to recall members of the Selected Reserve and the IRR to active duty in light of the strain the global pandemic is placing on the force.
While each service has slightly different IRR parameters and requirements, troops typically join the IRR for a period of four or five years following the conclusion of their active-duty service. A service member may have a contract that stipulates four years on active duty, but a total mandatory service obligation of eight years; the balance of that service is completed in the IRR. Troops in the IRR receive no pay and don’t need to drill, but may participate in periodic muster events — and they must remain ready for the possibility of involuntary recall by presidential order.
The Army, however, is beginning by soliciting as many volunteers as it can to meet medical provider gaps created as a result of deploying mobile field hospitals to urban regions in the U.S. hardest hit by the virus.
“The U.S. Army is reaching out to gauge the interest of IRR Soldiers who would be willing to assist with COVID-19 pandemic response efforts should their skills and expertise be required,” OrtizCruz said.
It’s not clear how many soldiers the Army needs to fill its staffing gaps and whether it will be able to meet the need with a voluntary recall alone. To date, the service has ordered the deployment of three mobile field hospitals — each staffed with about 330 soldiers — to New York City and Seattle.
Human Resources Command, he said, is still processing and validating requests, and sorting them by specialty. It’s not immediately clear how long it will be before the first volunteers can re-don their uniforms. Lt. Gen. Raymond Scott Dingle, the surgeon general of the Army, told reporters last week that the first step for the service would be to ensure that all volunteer qualifications and certifications are valid and up to date.
“Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission,” he said.
“Leave the Artillerymen alone, they are an obstinate lot.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
Imagine shooting artillery from Berlin and hitting Moscow? Shooting from Dubai and hitting Tehran? Shooting from Taiwan and hitting Beijing and Pyongyang with the same barrage?
What was just an impossible thought might be a reality by 2023.
The Army is working on a cannon that can fire over extremely long ranges with precision accuracy. The Strategic Long Range Cannon (SLRC) is on its way to providing the United States military such capabilities. A couple of days ago, it seems as if a prototype for the cannon was inadvertently leaked.
Pictures showed up showing an astoundingly big gun being towed by an eight-wheeled vehicle. Along with the picture was models and illustrations explaining the basic parameters of the superweapon.
It looks as though this will be crewed by eight artillerymen and can be moved by a six-wheeled vehicle if need be. It can be transported by air or sea. Four guns will make up a battery, and the cannon will be able to penetrate enemy defenses from up to 1,000 miles.
When you see the mockup, there is a particular country that seems to be the motivation for developing this weapon.
There is a reference about the cannon’s ability to penetrate A2/AD defenses. What is A2/AD?
It stands for anti-access and area denial. It is a strategy the Chinese are working on that will allow them to block U.S. forces, planes, ships and drones out of a wide area using artillery, radar, defensive systems and air power. The Chinese are using it to keep enemies away from its coast. If they ever decide to invade Taiwan or any other Pacific neighbor, a properly implemented A2/AD defense could keep the U.S. at bay while they carry out operations.
The long-range cannon would be an effective (and potentially inexpensive) way to counteract the Chinese strategy. In theory, the Chinese would be able to intercept planes, drones, and cruise missiles using A2AD, but a barrage of artillery from 1,000 miles away could take out key military targets.
And since the artillery is far away, it would be safe from any counter-battery actions the Chinese would take (unless, of course, they develop a long-range cannon of their own).
Right now, the Army is trying to figure out two things: How to get a projectile to go that far, and how to make it cheap.
As you may remember, the Navy flirted with a long-range gun that could hit targets fired from a ship to land from over 100 miles. The problem was the projectile cost 0,000 EACH. So, the Navy ended up with big guns they can’t shoot.
The Army is determined to find a way around this. It is also determined to look at the past so it can prepare for the future. As many of you know, the history of artillery evolved to the point where the Germans were using whole trains to transport super cannons around Europe. But they hit a limit on how far they could go, and with the advent of nuclear weapons, artillery pieces became smaller and more mobile. Bigger bombs (like nuclear weapons) meant development in bombers, ICBMs, submarines and drones.
But with the Chinese developing A2/AD, these assets are potentially ineffective.
How will the Army get around cost and range issues? The answer is ramjets.
Ramjets are engines that turn air intake into energy. A high-velocity projectile, like an artillery round can use the incoming air to propel it further (in theory)
While the leaked picture is a mockup and might not even be close to the final product, it does look like the Army is investing in revolutionizing warfare by taking what was old and making it new again.
Growing tensions with Russia have led NATO and its members to make a number of changes to their military posture on the ground in Europe, and now the US is reactivating its Second Fleet to oversee the northern Atlantic Ocean and US East Coast.
The Second Fleet was deactivated in September 2011 after 65 years of service as part of a cost-saving and organizational-restructuring effort; many of its personnel and responsibilities were folded into US Fleet Forces Command. The announcement of its reactivation came during the change-of-command ceremony for US Fleet Forces Command, to which the Second Fleet commander will now report.
Second Fleet’s return is part of a shift by the US toward preparing for potential great-power conflict — and to counter Russia in particular.
“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US Naval Operations, said on April 4, 2018.
“Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” Richardson said. It will also plan and conduct maritime, joint, and combined operations and train, certify, and provide maritime forces in response events around the world.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)
The fleet will be activated on July 1, 2018, and initially be staffed by 11 officers and four enlisted personnel, eventually growing to 85 officers, 164 enlisted personnel, and seven civilians, according to a memo announcing the change obtained by US Naval Institute News.
Issues such as the rank of the commander and relationship with joint commandant commands remain to be decided.
Also unclear is the future of Fourth Fleet, which is the naval branch of US Southern Command set up in 2008, largely to host Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments. Prior to 2008, the Second Fleet was responsible for operations in Central and South American waters.
The ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’
Prior to the 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine by Russian forces, Navy forces on the US side of the Atlantic Ocean were mainly focused on humanitarian and disaster relief missions as well as drug interdiction.
But Russian naval activity has increased considerably in recent years, with several NATO officials describing it as being at the highest levels since the Cold War. (Though Cold War-era intelligence reports indicate that activity is still far short of Cold War peaks.)
Russia’s navy is also smaller than it was during the Cold War, but Moscow has pursued ambitious modernization efforts, focusing primarily on the Black Sea and Northern fleets. The latter force, based in and around the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic, represents a significant military force a short distance from NATO territory in Norway and contains Russia’s sea-based nuclear forces.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael C. Barton)
In 2016, US Navy Adm. James Foggo III, who is now chief of Naval Forces Europe, described tensions between Russia and the US as the “fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following the surface and submarine battles of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us,” he said. “Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”
The US Navy has increased its patrols in the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic. US Navy ships have also been more active in the Black Sea to “desensitize Russia” to a US military presence there. US and Russian ships have also operated in close quarters in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian forces are assisting the Bashar Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
The Navy is also renovating hangers in Iceland to house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft there to monitor the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a choke point for ships moving between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans — though that doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
NATO is making changes to its command structure in response to increased tension with Russia and to prepare for potential military operations on and around the continent.
In March 2018, Germany announced that the proposed NATO logistics command — which would work to streamline the movement of personnel and material around Europe — would be based in the southern city of Ulm.
The other new command the alliance wants to establish would oversee and protect the North Atlantic. In the event of conflict with Russia, it be responsible for keeping sea lanes open for US reinforcements heading to Europe.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.
Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.
Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.
“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”
Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.
“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”
On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.
One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.
“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”
As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.
“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”
The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.
“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”
As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.
“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”
When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.
“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”
Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.
Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.
“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
Nope. In fact, during the Vietnam War, the Army was proving a semi-auto could be a very lethal sniper rifle. They took a number of M14 rifles — which were being phased out in favor of the M16 rifle — and added a scope.
I hope you like gun-speak — there are some sweet (technical) nothings coming your way…
The M14 had a lot going for it. It fired the 7.62x51mm NATO round — the same one as the M60 machine gun and the M40 sniper rifle the Marines used. But there were two huge differences between them that made the M21 a much more lethal rifle.
The M40 is a bolt-action rifle that carries five rounds in an internal magazine. The M14/M21 rifle is a semi-auto that has a 20-round detachable box magazine. The baseline M14 was deadly enough — Chuck Mawhinney is said to have used an M14 rifle to take out 16 of the enemy in one incident during the Vietnam War.
Once a Redfield scope (the three-to-nine power Adjustable Ranging Telescope) was added to the rifle and match-grade ammo was added to the M14, Army snipers had a real weapon.
The tweet is not much of a surprise. Aviation Week and Space Technology, sometimes referred to as “Aviation Leak,” noted during the Air Force One controversy that Trump had been critical of the F-35’s costs during his successful presidential campaign.
Last week, after Trump tweeted about the rising costs of the planned replacement for the VC-25, CNN reported that the CEO of Boeing contacted Trump to assure the president-elect that he would work to keep costs down.
The program — which has been so delayed that the Marines had to pull legacy F/A-18 Hornets out of the “boneyard” at Davis Monthan Air Force Base to have enough planes to do its mission — has seen costs climb to roughly $100 million per aircraft. The plane is slated to replace F-16 Fighting Falcons, legacy F/A-18 Hornets, A-10 Thunderbolts, and the AV-8B Harriers in U.S. military service.
The state of the Marine Corps F/A-18 inventory may preclude a complete cancellation of the F-35 buy, however. Since Oct. 1, four Marine F/A-18 Hornets have crashed. In the most recent crash, the pilot was killed despite ejecting from his plane.
Trump’s tweet comes as news emerged of the Pentagon concealing a report of $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.