This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle - We Are The Mighty
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This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

The battle for Shal Mountain, named Operation Rugged Sarak, went from October 8-15, 2011. Shal Mountain sat above Shal Valley and controlled two important supply routes, one vital to coalition forces for resupply and one critical to insurgent smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


The insurgents controlled the mountain for years, but the men of Bastard Company, 2-27th Infantry Regiment, decided to finally take it from them after the insurgents used it to attack two convoys, killing one Bravo soldier in each of the attacks. The battle for the summit would rage for eight days.

Spc. Jeffrey A. Conn was the medic that responded to the second convoy attack as well as the medic on top of Shal Mountain during the fight for the summit. On the mountaintop, he would earn a Silver Star for saving the lives of at least nine U.S. and Afghan soldiers while also taking the lives of many insurgents — at least 12 in a single attack.

October 11

Conn began the climb up the mountain on Oct. 8 with the rest of first platoon. While a dozen men ran up the mountain carrying minimal gear to begin constructing an outpost that morning, Conn and the bulk of the American platoon arrived on Oct. 11 after fighting up the mountain with the platoon’s heavy weapons and special equipment. Americans on the mountaintop still only numbered 23.

The enemy had made multiple attempts to take the summit before the rest of the platoon arrived, but on the night of Oct. 11 they attacked hard to try and keep the new arrivals from digging in. Using the terrain to sneak up in the dark, insurgents closed to within five meters of the perimeter and began an attack that opened with 12 machine guns firing into the small base. RPGs and recoilless rifle rounds pelted the defenders as they took cover and attempted to return fire.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn climbed a Hesco barrier on the southern flank and began throwing grenades at enemy positions before initiating claymores positioned around the base. The platoon was ordered to collapse the perimeter. As Conn fell back, he saw RPGs striking the platoon’s Mk-19 fighting position, so he rushed to it and looked for wounded before moving to cover. Conn’s actions are credited with preventing the southern flank from collapsing and saving the lives of 30 Afghan and American defenders.

October 12

Enemy fire throughout the day had harassed the American forces, but the main effort to push the Americans from the mountaintop began in the late evening. Conn was nearly taken out in the opening salvo as RPGs and machine gun fire impacted within inches of him, according to his Silver Star citation. Conn moved first to the command and control position when he saw that the platoon’s radio was unmanned. He sent reports to the headquarters so they could coordinate the battle until he saw enemy fighters maneuvering their way into the outpost. Conn moved to a nearby 60mm mortar tube, put it in direct fire mode, and began engaging the fighters. He killed 12 of them.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A 101st Airborne Division medic scans his sector in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

On this day, another U.S. soldier struck two insurgents with a TOW missile, killing both of them. One was an Afghan commander whose death would become a rallying cry for the insurgents.

October 13

The following afternoon, the enemy launched its strongest attack of the battle after a funeral for the dead commander. Enemy elements managed to stage a base 100 meters from the OP, hiding in dips in the terrain. Enemy mortar and machine gun fire rained down onto the base. Two 82mm mortar rounds struck a fighting position on the northern flank, severely wounding five U.S. and three Afghan soldiers.

Conn rushed to the position from the opposite side of the OP, exposed to fire the entire way. He quickly stabilized the worst Afghan casualty. As the enemy focused on the new weak point in the flank and sniper fire pelted the ground near him, Conn engaged the assaulting forces with grenades before throwing smoke and pulling the casualties back to the casualty collection point. The casualty collection point gave little cover to the medic, but he stabilized his nine patients, the eight from the northern flank and another from elsewhere on the OP. All nine patients survived and Conn’s actions were again credited with preventing the collapse of a flank, saving the OP.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A 101st Airborne Division medic escorts a casualty off of a hilltop in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Late that evening, amid accurate sniper fire from a nearby mountain, an air ambulance tried to evacuate some of the wounded. The flight medic, Staff Sgt. Robert B. Cowdrey, approached the helicopter from the front while bringing the casualties to the bird and was struck by a rotor blade. Conn arrived on site first, stabilizing the other medic and recovering the five other wounded on the flight line. The helicopter had left the landing zone amid enemy fire, and Conn kept the injured soldier alive for thirty minutes while waiting for another Medevac. Staff Sgt. Cowdrey later died of his wounds.

After the fierce attacks of that day, every member of the platoon showed signs of traumatic brain injury.

October 14

On Oct. 14, first platoon was finally being relieved of their duties on the mountain, but the enemy wasn’t ready to let them go. While the platoon sergeant was supervising the removal of equipment down the mountain, the insurgents sent ten suicide bombers under machine gun and sniper cover fire against the OP.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A 101st Airborne Division medic engages targets in the Shal Valley in 2010. Photo: US Army Army Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell

Conn took fire inside his firing position, but still further exposed himself by climbing out of it to check on other members of the platoon. After making a circuit to treat the wounded in their positions, he moved to the mortar pit and assisted in firing 60mm rounds against enemy positions while fully exposed to the continuing sniper fire. When the enemy came within range, he again threw fragmentation grenades into the advancing forces.

Combined with M4 fire from the platoon sergeant, this effort killed the suicide bombers before they could breach the OP. The enemy survivors soon began retreating into Pakistan.

In total during the Battle of Shal Mountain, 115 enemy fighters were confirmed killed and the U.S. lost two soldiers: the flight medic from the mountaintop and a wolfhound operator who was working near the middle of the mountain.

(h/t to Matt Millham of Stars and Stripes who wrote about this battle from the point of view of Staff Sgt. Anthony Fuentes, platoon sergeant for Spc. Conn. Staff Sgt. Fuentes also received the Silver Star for his leadership during the battle.)

NOW: 10 incredible Post-9/11 combat medics who risked their lives to save others

OR: 7 things you didn’t know about the First Battle of Fallujah

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army leaders ask us to ‘pay a little extra attention’ this month

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz leaders ask community members to pay a little extra attention to their friends, family members, coworkers, and battle buddies.

“In the military, we’re family. We have to take care of each other,” USAG RP Command Sgt. Maj. Brett Waterhouse said. “Everybody has a state of normal, so when people you know don’t seem quite right, check on them — it’s really important. Losing one soldier or family member to suicide is too many. Please think about what you can do to prevent suicide. Intervene.”

USAG RP Suicide Prevention Program Manager John Wrenchey said it’s important to pause once in a while and say, “What is my role or responsibility for suicide prevention?”


Wrenchey said one thing people can do is keep “ACE” in mind, which stands for Ask, Care and Escort. ACE encourages asking a coworker, family member or friend whether he or she is suicidal, caring for the person and escorting him or her to a source of professional help if needed.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

“The hard part about suicide prevention is that every person’s avenue of getting to the point of thinking about suicide is different — there’s no clear-cut ‘if you see this, they’re thinking about suicide’ indicator,” Wrenchey said. “That’s why it helps to know the person, because if something feels off in your gut — maybe something is different about your friend, or they’re saying or doing things that aren’t typical — you can reach out and ask what’s going on. It’s important to ask.”

According to unit risk inventories conducted by the garrison’s Army Substance Abuse Program, 7-8% of soldiers from units based in Kaiserslautern or Baumholder indicated on anonymous surveys that they have had some form of suicidal thoughts or behavior within the last year.

“If you think about that, that’s like going to the commissary and walking by 13 soldiers — statistically, one of them is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or has in the last year,” Wrenchey explained.

As far as the rest of the community — family members, Department of the Army civilians, retirees — it’s reasonable to expect the percentage to be as much or greater, Wrenchey said.

The ASAP utilizes unit risk inventories to look at what factors often go along with thoughts of suicide. Commonly correlated with suicidal thoughts or behaviors are anger issues, loneliness issues, lack of trust in leadership, legal issues and abuse, Wrenchey said.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Based on the unit risk inventories, the SPP is able to put together Ready and Resilient ‘Be There’ workshops tailored to specific issues a unit is facing — thereby addressing stressors in people’s lives that could potentially lead to suicidal ideation.

Another way the SPP works to prevent suicide is by training members of the community in suicide intervention skills. The two-day ASIST workshop gives participants knowledge about suicide, skills to reach out and confidence to help save a life. A list of upcoming ASIST workshops may be found on the garrison website at home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/asap.

Wrenchey reiterated that simply checking on others is the most important thing to do.

“People do care, they just get caught up in their own lives and get busy. But if they knew that somebody was truly thinking about suicide, they would be there for them. It’s just a matter of getting to that point of awareness,” he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact your chain of command, a chaplain, or call the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 (00800-1273-8255 – or DSN 118 – in Europe).

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

The F-35A cockpit is like something out of a movie

The Air Force’s new F-35A multi-role, stealth Joint Strike Fighter brings an unprecedented ability to destroy targets in the air, attack moving enemies on the ground and beam battlefield images across the force in real time, an Air Force pilot told Scout Warrior in a special interview.


The stealth fighter makes it much easier for pilots to locate, track, and destroy enemy targets across a wide range of combat circumstances  including attacks from farther ranges than existing fighters can operate, the F-35A pilot said.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
An F-35A Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off from Nellis AFB, Nev., Feb. 2, 2017, during Red Flag 17-01. This is the first F-35A deployment to Red Flag since the Air Force declared the jet combat ready in August 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Speaking to Scout Warrior as part of a special “Inside the Cockpit” feature on the F-35A, Air Force Col. Todd Canterbury, a former F-35 pilot and instructor, said the new fighter brings a wide range of new technologies including advanced sensors, radar, weapons for attack and next-generation computers.

Although he serves now as Chief, Operations Division of the F-35 Integration Office at the Pentagon, Canterbury previously trained F-35 pilots at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Canterbury is uniquely positioned to know the F-35’s margins of difference because he has spent thousands of hours flying legacy aircraft such as the service’s F-15 and F-16 fighters.

“The F-35 is a dream to fly. It is the easiest airplane to fly. I can now focus on employment and winning the battle at hand as opposed to looking at disparate information and trying to handle the airplane,” Canterbury told Scout Warrior.

Canterbury was referring to an often-discussed technological advance with the F-35 called “sensor fusion,” a system which places radar, targeting, navigation and altitude information on a single integrated screen for pilots to view.

As a result, pilots can rely upon computer algorithms to see a “fused” picture of their battlespace and no longer need to look at different screens for targeting coordinates, air speed, mapping and terrain information, sensor feeds or incoming data from a radar warning receiver.

The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots — allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

“I can turn my head and look left or right. There is an aiming cross on my helmet, an aiming symbology that tells me how to get there. The system will swivel over to the point on the ground I have designated,” Canterbury described.

The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.

“I can look through the airplane and see the ground below me. I can look directly below me without having to obscure my vision,” Canterbury said.

The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.

The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.

Also read: This is why Trump’s announcement about 90 F-35s was a big deal

The F-35’s software packages are being developed in increments; the Marine Corps declared their Short-Take-off-and-Vertical-Landing F-35B with software increment or “drop” 2B.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B enables the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), JSF program officials have said.

The next increment, Blocks 3i will increase the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

The Air Force plans to reach operational status with software Block 3i this year. Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
F-35A smiling for the camera. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Canterbury also talked about how Air Force engineers and experts were making progress building a computer library in the aircraft called the Mission Data Files.

“Experts are working feverishly to catalogue all of the threats we might face,” he said.

Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, he explained.

Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a data base of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts the world. The files are being worked on at reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials have said.

The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.

The mission data files are being engineered to accommodate new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system might one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.

The first operational F-35A fighters have already been delivered to Hill Air Force Base in Utah, and Air Force leaders say the service has launched some small mini-deployments within the US to prepare the platform for deployment.

Apart from its individual technologies, weapons, sensors and systems, the F-35 is perhaps best appreciated for its multi-role capabilities, meaning it can perform a wide range of different missions from close-air support and air-to-ground attack to air-to-air engagements and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR.

Related: Here’s how the F-35 slaughtered the competition in its latest test

The aircraft’s sensor technologies allow the platform to perform a much greater ISR function than previous aircraft can, giving it a “drone-like” ability to gather and disseminate surveillance information.  As part of this, the F-35 can also use a specially engineered data-link to communicate in real-time with other F-35s and other aircraft and fighter jets.

“With the data-link’s network interoperability, we can talk to each other and talk to fourth-generation aircraft as well,” Canterbury explained.

The F-35A can function as a reconnaissance aircraft, air-to-air fighter, air-to-ground fighter or stealth aircraft engineered to evade enemy air defenses, Canterbury explained.

“While stealth is important in the early phases of warfare to knock out integrated air defenses and allow fourth-generation fighters to fly in, we don’t need stealth all the time,” Canterbury said. “I can use my stealth and electronic attack to see an adversary well before he sees me.”

For instance, the F-35A is well-suited to loiter over an area and provide fire support to units on the ground in a close-in fight.  In order to execute these kinds of missions, the F-35 will have a 25mm Gatling Gun mounted on top of the aircraft operational by 2017.

The F-35 has 11 weapons stations, which includes seven external weapons stations for bombs or fuel.

“If we don’t need stealth, I can load this up with weapons and be a bomb truck,” Canterbury explained.

Eventually, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As.

MIGHTY SPORTS

US Army offers world-class fitness services for soldiers

Are you struggling to meet Army weight standards or need to improve your run time to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test or Army Combat Fitness Test? Maybe you just signed up for the Army Ten-Miler and would like to improve your performance.

Did you know there is a world-class team of experts at an Army Wellness Center near you with access to cutting-edge technology just waiting to help? No need to hire a personal trainer, your AWC offers free services and programs to help you meet your fitness goals.

Last year, AWCs served 60,000 clients and achieved a 97 percent client satisfaction rating, according to the Army Public Health Center’s 2018 Health of the Force report. Program evaluations of AWC effectiveness have shown that individuals who participate in at least one follow-up AWC assessment experience improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness, body fat percentage, body mass index, blood pressure and perceived stress.


Making improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness and body mass index are particularly important because increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased levels of body mass index are associated with decreased musculoskeletal injury risk.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Megan Amadeo, Army Wellness Center Project Officer, Army Public Health Center, assists U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, with putting on the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten Miler in October 2019.

(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)

“The types of assessments provided at an AWC are world class,” said Todd Hoover, division chief for Army Wellness Center Operations, Army Public Health Center. “If a client is interested in losing weight, AWCs provide an assessment called indirect calorimetry or simply metabolic testing. The test involves a client breathing into a mask for 15 minutes. After the test we can measure, with an extremely high accuracy, the total number of calories an individual needs to lose, gain or maintain weight. The information provided from this test is often the difference between someone reaching their goals or not.”

There are currently 35 AWCs located at Army installations around the globe offering programs and services to soldiers, family members, retirees and Department of Army civilians, said Hoover. AWCs are known for being innovative in the use of testing technology for health, wellness and physical performance.

Hoover said the best client for an AWC is a soldier who is not meeting APFT/ACFT performance standards. Those with low or high body mass index plus poor run times are the highest risk populations. These individuals are the majority at risk for musculoskeletal injury, which account for more than 69 percent of all cause injuries in the Army.

One of the AWC’s newest pieces of gear is a portable metabolic analyzer called the Cosmed K5. This system measures how well muscles use oxygen during any type of strenuous activity. From this measurement, AWC experts can determine how efficient the body is at using oxygen to produce energy and identify the exact threshold or intensity level an individual should train at to improve performance.

“Essentially the devices provide the most accurate measurement of aerobic performance,” said Hoover. “From the testing, we can precisely advise a soldier or family member the exact training intensity for them. What this means is there is no guessing. This is an exact physiological representation of the individual’s needs for a particular activity. It doesn’t get better than this.”

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

U.S. Army Capt. Zachary Schroeder, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, Army Public Health Center, runs with the new K5 metabolic testing unit May 9, 2019, as part of his training to compete in the Army Ten-Miler in October 2019.

(Photo by Graham Snodgrass)

AWCs are built on a foundation of scientific evidence, best practice recommendations and standards by leading health organizations to include the American College of Sports Medicine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, said Hoover. As a result, clients of AWCs receive highly individualized health and wellness services to improve overall health-related factors as well as enhanced performance through effective coaching strategies.

An article summarizing the effectiveness of the AWC program was recently submitted to the American Journal of Health Promotion, which recognized their success by selecting the article as a 2018 Editor’s Pick.

“The staff academic and credentialing requirements surpass industry standards,” said Hoover. “This means that each AWC health educator has completed advanced education plus achieved national board certification in related fields for delivering health promotion programs.”

AWC health educators also undergo more than 320 hours of intensive core competency training prior to seeing their first client, said Hoover. Basic health coaching requires an additional 80 hours of training.

The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

America’s top strategic bomber once had devastating tail guns

The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.


The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.

But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.

The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
This is what a B-52’s tail looks like now, with the M61 Vulcan removed. A sad sight. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.

Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.

The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A F-4G Wild Weasel, the plane involved in the friendly fire incident that prompted the removal of the tail guns and tail gunners from the B-52. (USAF photo)

An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.

Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.

So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the nerve agent used on a former Russian spy

Sergei Skripal, the former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia are fighting for their lives in a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to nerve agent.


While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.

Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.

Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.

What are nerve agents?

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Molecular illustration of the nerve agent, Sarin.

Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.

Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.

Also read: North Korea accuses White House of assassination plot

It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.

A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”

Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”

What was used on the Skripals?

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (ITV News)

The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.

A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.

The source also said the substance used was not VX, which was used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2017.

The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.

How easy is it to make nerve agents?

The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.

Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”

Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.

“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”

Does this point to Russia?

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Vladimir Putin.

Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.

Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”

He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]

Related: These 9 weapons are banned from modern warfare

“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”

Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.

“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”

Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”

The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The joint Russian-Pakistani military exercises in Pakistan

Around 200 Russian and Pakistani troops have kicked off annual joint exercises in the mountainous Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in northwestern Pakistan.

A contingent of more than 70 mountain troops from a motorized rifle brigade based in the North Caucasus republic of Karachai-Cherkessia is participating in the Druzhba-2018 exercises, Russia’s Southern Military District said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.

The military exercises are set to run through Nov. 4, 2018.


The Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills have been held annually since 2016. In 2017, more than 200 troops took part in the exercises held in mountainous Karachai-Cherkessia.

The purpose of the war games is to strengthen cooperation between the two countries’ militaries and exchange professional experience, particularly in counterterrorism.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

The 2017 Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills.

There are Islamist militants in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the North Caucasus.

Pakistan and Russia signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014 that provides for cooperation on promoting international security.

The accord calls for the intensification of counterterrorism efforts and arms control activities as well as strengthening military cooperation and sharing experiences in counterterrorism operations.

Warm ties between Moscow and Pakistan’s regional rival India go back to the Soviet era, but Russia has also sought to improve relations with Pakistan in recent years.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops on the border practice nonlethal riot control

Active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are increasingly bracing for confrontations rather than just running razor wire to deter their entry in the US, images published by the US military show.

In November 2018, US troops have been conducting non-lethal riot control training at bases in Arizona and California, and tactical training is expected to continue.


Soldiers and Marines were also apparently present on Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, a busy port of entry where border agents clashed with migrants, using tear gas against those who rushed the border.

Watch US troops engage in tactical training in preparation for violence:​

This is how US troops are training for confrontations at the border.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, finish non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Marines attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7 join Customs and Border Protection at San Ysidro Point of Entry, California, Nov. 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jesse Untalan)

Active-duty military personnel with riot shields were present at the San Ysidro port of entry Nov. 25, 2018, when CBP agents used tear gas and tactics to drive back migrants who rushed the border, some of whom threw rocks at US agents. Some critics have called the CBP response an overreaction.

US troops are authorized to provide force protection for border agents, but are barred by law from law enforcement in the US.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, take cover to conduct non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Soldiers from the 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, conduct non-lethal riot control training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

300 active-duty troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona were shifted to California.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This is why ‘Hue 1968’ is ‘Black Hawk Down’ for the Vietnam War

Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.


“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.

His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Mark Bowden signs books while visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.

American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.

Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.

It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.

Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was the architect of early Vietnam War strategy.

“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.

The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.

Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.

If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.

The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.

The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.

Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.

The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.

The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.

Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.

Articles

This could be the Air Force’s next jet trainer (and aggressor aircraft too)

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Lockheed Martin


The Northrop T-38 Talon is one of the oldest aircraft still serving in the United States Air Force, functioning as an advanced jet trainer for future fighter pilots who’ll eventually make their way to the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, or F-22 Raptor. The Talon gives trainee pilots a feel for what it’s like to fly and fight in a supersonic aircraft that can mimic the handling characteristics of current 4th generation fighters to a fair degree. But with the impending advent of the Air Force’s brand new F-35A Lightning II, and the upcoming F-X Next Generation Tactical Air fighter, which will supersede the F-22 and F-15, it’s time for a new lead-in trainer. One that’s better suited to adapting future fighter pilots to the ultra-modern cockpits of the next level of fighter aviation.

Well, that, and the Talon is just plain old. Having taken to the skies for the first time in early 1959, and with full-rate production ceasing in 1972, the T-38 is due to be retired and replaced in the coming years with an aircraft that’ll be able to serve the needs of the Air Force going into 2020 and beyond. Though the formal program to replace the aging T-38 hasn’t yet started, Lockheed Martin has already taken the initiative to showcase its proposal for a prospective T-X trainer.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Lockheed Martin

Working closely with Korea Aerospace Industries to redevelop their FA-50 Golden Eagle (which Lockheed Martin helped fund back in the 1990s), they came up with the T-50A. The Golden Eagle was actually built from the ground up as a supersonic light fighter, similar to the T-38’s fighter variant, the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger II. Modifications that’ll meet T-X specifications include a new dorsal refueling receptacle, designed to mate with the typical boom/probe setup used by Air Force fighters, and a state-of-the-art glass cockpit similar to the one found in the F-35 Lightning II, featuring a large area display (LAD). The T-50A will also be equipped with the FA-50’s integrated EW (electronic warfare) suite, but will likely lack the 20mm .

The aircraft that eventually wins the T-X contract could also very well be used for the Air Force’s unique F-22 Raptor air combat training program as adversary “Red Air” fighters.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle
Korea Airspace Industries

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force revokes bomb contract linked to Russian oligarch

The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.

The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.

Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.


However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.

By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Viktor Vekselberg.

Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)

Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.

Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”

“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.

In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.

This Army medic killed over a dozen insurgents with grenades and mortars during an 8-day battle

Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.

(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.

US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.

Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.

That provision has worried US partners in countries like India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, who still use Russian weaponry and need to make future purchases to maintain their arsenals. India’s looming purchase of Russia’s advanced S-400 air-defense system has been a particular sticking point.

The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Harvard needs disabled veterans for expert research — and soon

Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.


Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:

• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation

• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)

• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent

• Under the age of 45

The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.

Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.

Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.

To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at indproject@hbs.edu.