It can sometimes be hard for commanders to get a full picture of the battlefield, whether that’s on the ground in Syria or in the forests of Colorado. The “Space Cowboys” of the Colorado Army National Guard‘s 117th Space Battalion aim to solve that problem.
Just the Facts
The 117th Space Battalion is the only unit of its kind in the National Guard.
Its 12 space support teams work with commercial and classified space-based assets to support command requirements.
The 117th has the highest concentration of space support teams anywhere in the Army.
Army Space Support Teams are made up of six soldiers — two officers and four enlisted — each with unique skills. The teams deploy around the world to enhance intelligence and operations planning abilities.
U.S. Army Sgt. Rick D. Peevy, a crew chief from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, Colorado Army National Guard, surveys the scene while wildfires burn the training range at Fort Carson, Colo., June 12, 2008.
“The [space] support team allows the warfighter to see and overcome enemy forces using the most appropriate amount of lethality available to them,” said Army Sgt. Maj. Fred Korb, the 117th’s senior enlisted leader. “For example, this allows the maximum effectiveness for targeting enemy forces while limiting danger to the coalition warfighter and noncombatants.”
More than 55 percent of soldiers in the unit have advanced degrees.
“Support can include producing imagery products, deconflicting GPS issues, missile warning, missile defense, satellite communications, and space as well as terrestrial weather effects on operations,” said Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Fauskee, the noncommissioned officer in charge of one of the battalion’s space support teams.
The 117th’s soldiers also produce the imagery needed to support wildfire fighting efforts in their home state. This year, some of its soldiers responded to the Spring Creek fire, the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history.
Speaking during a QA at the SXSW film festival and tech conference in Austin, Texas, on March 11, 2018, Musk said the two things that stress him most in life right now are production difficulties with the Tesla Model 3 electric car and the dangers of AI.
“I’m really quite close, very close to the cutting edge in AI. It scares the hell out of me,” Musk said. “It’s capable of vastly more than almost anyone on Earth, and the rate of improvement is exponential.”
Musk cited Google’s AlphaGo, a software powered by AI that can play the ancient Chinese board game Go, as evidence of the rise of the machine. In early 2017, AlphaGo clinched a decisive win over the number-one player of Go, the world’s most demanding strategy game.
Musk also predicted that advances in AI will let self-driving cars handle “all modes of driving” by the end of 2019. He said he thinks Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 will be “at least 100 to 200%” safer than human drivers within two years. Musk imagines drivers can sleep at the wheel someday.
The rate of improvement excites and worries Musk. He expressed a need for regulating AI development to ensure the safety of humanity, but he didn’t say who should regulate it.
“I think the danger of AI is much bigger than the danger of nuclear warheads by a lot,” Musk said. “Nobody would suggest we allow the world to just build nuclear warheads if they want, that would be insane. And mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”
Musk wants to create a Plan B society on Mars
Musk has a backup plan in case nuclear war — or AI — wipes out the human race.
The SpaceX founder wants to put 1 million people on Mars as a sort of Plan B society. He told the crowd at SXSW that it would be ideal to get the base operational before a World War III-type event happens.
In the event of nuclear devastation, Musk said, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base.”
Musk has yet to detail exactly how hypothetical Mars colonists will survive for months or years on end.
The Air Force is upgrading facilities at bases that house nuclear bombers.
But the Air Force and Strategic Command both say there are no plans to put those bombers on 24-hour alert.
Officials from the US Air Force and US Strategic Command have said there are no immediate plans to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert.
Questions about plans for US bombers came after a Defense One report that facility upgrades at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana were part of an effort to prepare for an order to go to 24-hour ready alert with US nuclear bombers.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One, though he and other officials stressed that no such order had been given.
Among the upgrades planned at Barksdale are the renovation of quarters for crews who could man bombers stationed there and the construction of storage facilities for a nuclear cruise missile that is being developed. The B-52 and the B-2 are the only Air Force bombers capable of carrying out a nuclear attack.
While Goldfein is responsible for the Air Force and making sure its forces — including bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles — are trained and equipped for any scenario, Strategic Command makes operational decisions about US nuclear-weapons systems.
US Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. John Hyten said through a spokesman that he was not currently considering putting bombers on alert.
“There are no discussions or plans for US Strategic Command to place bombers on alert. Any decisions related to the posture of nuclear forces would come from, or through, US Strategic Command,” the spokesman told Breaking Defense. “We constantly train, prepare and equip our personnel to ensure we have a combat-ready force that underwrites strategic deterrence in the 21st century.”
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek acknowledged that base-infrastructure upgrades, exercises, and equipment modernization were all happening but said they were needed to “maintain a baseline level of readiness.”
“We do this routinely as part of our organize, train and equip mission so our forces are ready to respond when called upon,” she told Defense News, noting that a return to alert status was not imminent.
Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas also told reporters on Monday that that he had spoken with Strategic Command and Air Force Global Strike Command, which are both responsible for nuclear-bomber missions, and said a 24-hour ready alert was not being considered.
“There’s not any discussions or plans to bring bombers on a 24-hour nuclear alert right now,” Thomas said, according to Military.com.
But, when asked if the facilities being upgraded could support a 24-hour ready alert in the future, Thomas said, “Absolutely they could be,” because they are built for nuclear command, control, and communications crews. (Air Force Global Strike Command set up a new entity at Barksdale to oversee Air Force NC3 operations in April.)
Thomas added that the Air Force routinely upgraded its facilities but didn’t say if similar renovations were taking place at other facilities where nuclear bombers are stationed. He added that the Air Force would be ready to discuss going to ready-alert status, though he stressed that Strategic Command would be responsible for such a decision.
“Right now those discussions are not happening. Could they or would we be ready for them? Absolutely,” Thomas said. “Could we be doing the mission? We could stand that up very quickly. I just don’t want to overplay something.”
The alert facility at Barksdale has been undergoing work since August 2016, and Strategic Command provided some money for the renovations. While the facility could house nuclear-bomber crews, it is more likely to house crews manning the E4-B National Airborne Operations Center planes that are used by the defense secretary and other senior officials during times of emergency.
US has not had its nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert since 1991, and the 2010 New Start Treaty signed by the US and Russia prohibited putting heavy bombers on alert during peacetime.
The US military spokesman for the coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria acknowledged on Wednesday that American military advisors have been knee deep in the offensive to retake the city of Mosul.
“They have been in the city at different times, yes,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters, according to ABC News. Though, he said, “they’ve advised Iraqi Security Forces as they’ve moved forward. They remain behind the forward line of troops.”
The battle to retake Mosul began in October, and Iraqi forces have encountered fierce resistance and significant casualties. For example, Iraq’s elite “Golden Brigade” of special operations troops have suffered upwards of “50 percent casualties” in the fight, which could eventually make them combat ineffective, according to a Pentagon officer who spoke with Politico.
Casualties have also hit US forces as well. Since October, the number of Americans wounded in combat has nearly doubled since OIR kicked off in August 2014.
That’s likely due to US forces working more closely with their Iraqi counterparts. Though US officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region as merely training, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces, the latest situation report from the Institute for the Study of War says that US and coalition forces have “embedded their advisors at lower-levels in the [Iraqi Security Forces].”
In other words, US special operations forces are often not remaining behind the front lines — especially considering a “front line” in the anti-ISIS fight is murky at best — but instead, are right in the thick of it with Iraqi troops.
The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.
In case you haven’t heard, David Spade has a new show called Light’s Out with David Spade. And one of the bits on that show is “Secret Stand-up” where he feeds jokes to another person who performs on stage. And he got Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims the bin Laden kill, onto the stage at the world-famous Comedy Store.
The Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden Makes His Stand-Up Debut – Lights Out with David Spade
The video is available above, and Spade and Whitney Cummings give him some seriously edgy jokes to say, going from his sex life to the raid on Abbottabad to 9/11 with barely a beat. (And children probably shouldn’t watch the clip, but we don’t actually have the power to stop you. If you do watch it and don’t understand a joke, avoid image search when looking for the explanation.)
And you can tell that O’Neill really enjoys some of the jokes, because he hears them through an earpiece right before he has to deliver the line. He sometimes has to fight through his own laughter to deliver the punch line that he’s just heard from the real comedians.
O’Neill has 11 awards for valor and served on SEAL Teams Two and Four before being selected for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as SEAL Team Six). He left the Navy in 2012 after 16 years of service and having shot bin Laden. Everyone wants to end their career on that kind of high note.
Now, O’Neill is a media personality and public speaker, usually appearing on Fox News where he provides military expertise.
David Spade is returning to TV. For anyone young enough to not remember him, you probably shouldn’t watch the clip. It includes a lot of adult language. But Spade is probably best known for his roles in Joe Dirt, Tommy Boy, and Saturday Night Live. He’s performed in dozens of other movies and shows including The Hotel Transylvania and Grown Ups series.
As the U.S. maps out plans to protect American military bases susceptible to climate change, its partner nations are growing increasingly concerned that global warming may lead to weapons and technology proliferation as now-frozen waterways open.
Norwegian officials worry that melting Arctic ice will lead players such as Russia, China, and the U.S. to increase use of undersea and aerial unmanned weapons as well as intelligence gathering platforms in the newly opened areas.
The drones could be programmed to “follow strategic assets,” including Norwegian or ally submarines, a top Norwegian Ministry of Defense official said in early May 2019.
He added that the presence of such drones may increase the potential for collisions.
“I don’t think all these unmanned things work perfectly at all times,” he said.
Military.com spoke with officials here as part of a fact-finding trip organized by the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, through a partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. The group traveled to Oslo, Bergen, and Stavanger to speak with organizations and government operations officials May 6-10, 2019. Some officials provided remarks on background in order to speak freely on various subjects.
The Norwegian ULA class submarine Utstein.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The official’s concern is not unfounded. Norway’s military has reportedly spotted unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) surfing alongside Russian submarines in the Barents Sea. Russia is also funding research into aerial UAVs that can operate longer in the cold climate, according to a recent report from TASS.
And during the U.S.-led exercise Trident Juncture in 2018 — the largest iteration of the drill since 1991 — troops observed multiple drones flying nearby, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Roughly 50,000 U.S. and NATO forces participated in the three-week exercise. It spanned central and eastern Norway, as well parts of the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden, NATO said at the time.
Officials could not confidently say the observing drones belonged to Russia, but noted the increased risk posed by the flights.
While Russia and Norway’s coast guards deconflict on a near daily basis, Norway’s MoD has not held top-level talks with its Russian counterparts since 2013, officials said. Norwegian military officials instead call up their Russian peers on a Skype line they keep open, checking in weekly.
Russian Coast Guard.
(United States Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley)
Russia has been clear about its push for additional drone operations in the Arctic circle.
“There has to be some sort of deconfliction in order to avoid collisions,” said Svein Efjestad, policy director for security and policy operations at Norway’s Ministry of Defense. “If you use UAVs also to inspect exercises and weapons testing and so on, it could become very sensitive.”
Commercial drones also compound the congestion issue. For example, Equinor, Norway’s largest energy company, is partnering with Oceaneering International to create drones able to dock at any of the company’s offshore oil drilling facilities to conduct maintenance. The smart sea robot will be controlled from a central hub at Equinor’s home facilities, a company official told Military.com.
Another MoD official highlighted further risk, worrying that “smart drones” could be manipulated in favor of an adversary.
“What if [the drone] can collect data, but [put that data out there] out of context?” the official said, citing spoofing concerns. “The risk is getting higher.”
Norwegian officials plan to pursue regulatory changes to help avoid “nasty reactions” due to the growing congestion of drone operators in the region.
Because as the ice melts, the Arctic “will be an ocean like any other,” the MoD official said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In August 1941, a submarine crew that already had a series of crazy, Mediterranean adventures under its belt slid up to the coast of Crete, a sailor swam from the boat to the shore with a lifeline, and the submarine rescued 130 stranded soldiers, setting a record for people crammed into one submarine in the process.
An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.
(Australian War Memorial)
The Mediterranean and Middle East Theater of World War II get short shrift next to the much more famous European, Pacific, and even North African theaters. But the Mediterranean was home to some fierce fighting and amazing stories, like that of the submarine HMS Torbay. Originally launched in 1938, the submarine was commissioned in 1941 and sent to the central and eastern Mediterranean.
Once there, the crew proved itself to be straight P-I-M-P. It slaughtered the small, wooden ships from Greece that Germany had pressed into service for logistics, and it took down multiple tankers and other ships. At one point, it even attacked a convoy with both an Italian navy and air escort, narrowly escaping the depth charges dropped near it. They were ballsy.
But while the Torbay was killing Italian and German ships and escaping consequence-free, even when it’s by the skin of the crew’s teeth, other forces in the area weren’t faring so well. The New Zealanders, British, Australian, and Greek troops holding Greece were being beaten back by a German assault. The Balkans had oil that Germany desperately needed, and the sparse forces there simply could not hold the line.
German paratroopers land in Crete during the 1941 invasion.
Defenders fought a slow withdrawal south in April 1941, eventually falling back to the island of Crete. Forces there were brave, but doomed. There was almost no heavy equipment. Troops had to defend themselves with just their personal weapons while they could only entrench by digging with their helmets.
Glider- and airborne troops hit the island on May 20, quickly seizing an airfield and using it to reinforce their units. The defenders fought hard for a week and then began evacuating. Over 16,000 troops were successfully withdrawn, and another 6,500 surrendered to the Germans.
But, in secret, at least 200 troops were still on the island. During the night on July 26, these troops signaled the submarine HMS Thrasher by flashing a light in an SOS pattern. The Thrasher gathered 78 survivors, but was forced to leave more than 100 on the beach.
An Italian ship burns in the Mediterranean while under fire from an Allied vessel.
(Australian War Memorial)
Soon after, the Torbay was sent to patrol the Gulf of Sirte, and it survived a torpedo attack as well as a fight with an escorted convoy. It sank a sailing vessel with scuttling charges, and then got word of the men on the beach of Crete. The Torbay sailed there to help.
Between the two nights, the Torbay onloaded 130 men, setting a record for most people in a submarine at once. Obviously, with quarters that cramped, they couldn’t continue their wartime patrol, so they took the passengers to Alexandria, Egypt.
Participating in adaptive sports helped to get Major out of a serious depression he had fallen into after being severely wounded, he said. Adaptive sports are designed or modified for disabled athletes to compete against others with similar disabilities or injuries.
“Before I got injured I loved competition, sports, and getting into shape,” said Major, who represented the Baltimore Veterans Affairs at the Army Trials.
Participating in adaptive sports “changed my life,” he said.
“It made me more sociable with other veterans who have similar injuries and stories,” Major said.
Sports also helped him to have a more positive attitude about his injuries, he added.
During the Army Trials, Army athletes in wheelchairs, with prosthetic limbs, and some with injuries that weren’t apparent at first glance competed in a variety of events.
They came from more than a dozen installations and participated in track and field, cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, and seated volleyball.
Most had compelling stories, like Major, about how participating in sports got them out of a dark place and thrust them into a new chapter in their lives.
Lt. Col. Luis Fregoso was one of the organizers of the Army Trials with the Warrior Care and Transition Program in Arlington, Va. This Army organization oversees the most critical cases of wounded, injured, and ill soldiers and helps them transition back to active duty or to civilian life.
Sports can play a huge role in the healing process, said Fregoso, who is from Los Angeles.
“A lot of soldiers, when they have this life-changing event happen to them, they will get into a dark place,” Fregoso said. “The common theme is they just don’t feel their normal self and start spiraling into a bad area, especially in their mind.”
Sports help them to adapt to their “new normal” and can give them the confidence to tackle other areas in their lives, Fregoso added.
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg still has the look of a soldier out on a mission. But he suffers from post-traumatic stress, a traumatic brain injury, and a slew of other injuries up and down his body.
Competing in sports helps to “tie you back to the military,” said Vosburg, who is originally from Colorado Springs, Colo., but now calls El Paso home. He represented Fort Bliss during the recent competition.
“You do so much time in the military, and you lose that when you retire,” Vosburg said. “But (adaptive sports) introduces you to new people whom you consider friends and family, and that family is growing.”
Vosburg credits sports for saving his life and he wants to return the favor to his fellow veterans.
He is working on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at El Paso and wants to help “bring more soldiers out of the dark, like I came out of,” he said.
Within the military, being airborne comes with a special brand of badassery that you won’t find within any non-airborne unit, or, as we call them, “legs.” Even more badass are the troops that have proven themselves by jumping directly into combat — like the paratroopers over D-Day or the 75th Rangers at Objective Rhino in Afghanistan.
But jumping into certain danger with nothing but your gear and a parachute isn’t something exclusive to the military. There exists a certain breed of firefighters who are so fearless that they are always on-call to jump into newly-formed wildfires.
Meet the Smokejumpers.
The relationship between the smokejumpers and Army paratroopers really does run deep.
(U.S. Forest Service photo by E.L. Perry)
Born of a need to quickly get firefighters into middle-of-nowhere locations, the first smokejump was made on July 12th, 1940, into Nez Perce National Forest by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley. They dropped allegedly on a dare, equipped with just enough gear to establish a fire line and hold off the flames until more help could arrive.
That first jump was so successful that smokejumping was quickly adopted throughout many major Forest Services located in rural areas susceptible to wildfires. Then-Major William C. Lee of the U.S. Army saw the smokejumpers training and adapted their methods into the Army’s newly formed airborne school at Ft. Benning — and later into the 101st Airborne Division.
The U.S. Army assigned the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the only all-black airborne unit in U.S. military history, as smokejumpers as a precaution against potential fire balloon bombs that Japan supposedly had at the ready, poised to burn down American forests. The Japanese “Operation Firefly” never came to fruition, but the men of the 555th helped fight natural wildfires, thus further proving the need for smokejumpers
There are countless hoops a firefighter must go through before becoming a smokejumper today. Typically, they’re only selected from firefighters who’ve proven themselves capable as part of both a conventional firefighting unit and a hotshot crew, a small, elite team made up of 20 of the country’s best wildland firefighters who go into the heart of the flames. Then, they must go through a rigorous training schedule, which includes pararescue jumping — regardless of whether they’re an airborne-qualified veteran or not.
Despite the many dangers that smokejumpers face, fatalities within the ranks are infrequent because of the insane amount of planning that goes into each jump. They’ll only jump into a location that is a safe distance away from the flame itself — as the updraft from the flames could catch and incinerate any firefighter — and into areas area clear of slopes or trees. This could require the smokejumper to ruck miles out of the way while carrying up to 150lbs of gear.
When they finally arrive at the fire, they must then determine the likely route the flames with travel and keep clear the way for reinforcements.
For a more in-depth look at how smokejumpers conduct a wildfire mission, check out the video below.
When Michael Oulavong came home from the Marine Corps, he wasn’t able to make the same transition as some of his peers. Initially, he found success training as an EMT and firefighter, but ran into troubles when old Marine Corps injuries derailed his plans.
He sank further into his mental funk and started experiencing more symptoms of his PTSD. He needed a change and he needed a friend. That’s when he met Zoe.
Marine veteran Michael Oulavong deployed.
“My plan literally just fell apart and, being a Marine, I need to prepare for everything,” he said. “I have everything planned out… …I didn’t plan for this injury and for this doctor to be like, ‘You shouldn’t be a firefighter.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Well, crap. I’m in this black hole right now. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what to do.’ …I was in a rut. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts. I was lonely.”
Oulavong knew that he needed a change, and he heard about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s program to pair rescue dogs with veterans and teach the veteran to train the animal to be a service dog. It meant that Oulavong could get a service dog to help with his symptoms nearly for free.
And that’s a huge deal. Service dogs can change the trajectory of a veteran’s life, but costs can also top ,000 for a single animal.
Oulavong signed up and was surprised by how quickly he was paired with Zoe, a mixed-breed dog that clearly has a lot of German Shepherd blood.
“… the day that I first met her, it was, to be honest, it was just kind of like meeting a stranger,” he said “It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s a dog. Shoot, I guess this is my dog.’ It was kind of overwhelming when I initially met her because it was like, ‘Okay, now I have another living thing to take care of.'”
Michael Oulavong and service dog, Zoe, at the pet store.
Zoe and Oulavong met just two weeks after he signed up for the program, but he quickly became worried about the financial obligations of owning a dog. Even though he had received Zoe for free, he knew that taking care of animals can get expensive. That’s when Purina Dog Chow, which partners with the Animal Rescue Fondation to help cover some of the costs of the program and of the individual animals, stepped in.
“I was like, ‘I can’t afford this type of thing, but thank you,'” he said. “Thanks to Merritt [Rollins, ARF Veterans program manager] and to ARF and Purina, everything, they calmed those nerves down pretty quickly. You get free food for the rest of your dog’s life. They take me to Pet Food Express, and the program paid for everything the dog needed, from their poop bags to its crate to her food to everything else.”
And so Zoe and Oulavong started training. Luckily for him, Zoe stood out during training for her calm and for ability to learn quickly.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe on the day of their graduation from Basic Manners I.
“It was easy to train her,” Oulavong said. “It took work. I spent every day doing it, but compared to the other dogs in the program — not trying to talk bad about them — Zoe really made them look, seriously, she made them look like kids, but she was the adult.”
Some of the training is basic obedience work, but dogs and veterans who stick with the program will graduate to full-on service dog status, with the dogs properly trained to identify and interrupt panic attacks and other episodes in their nascent stages.
“When I do have those instances of having a panic attack or feeling very anxious and everything, I have certain tells in my body,” Oulavong explained. “So, that’s what the program has been training us to do. Say it was shaking my leg, or punching my fist, or grinding my teeth, or what not, she’ll sense that and she’ll come up and dig her head under me, or lick me, or kiss me.”
With Zoe around, Oulavong has someone protecting him from descending into a dark spiral, and someone to take care of, giving him a purpose that he compares to his time as a Marine. Between those two factors, he’s been able to better transition into the civilian world, getting a job at a Japanese restaurant as a bartender and server.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe
“…everyday I PT with Zoe every morning,” Oulavong explained. “We go for about anywhere between a mile and three mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning. She helps me keep active. I go for a walk with her every day. I just spend time with her. Five times a day, I do at least five to ten minutes simple, basic training with her, just to keep her refreshed.”
Right now, Purina is holding a fundraiser it calls the “Service Dog Salute.” As part of the fundraiser, for every bag of specially marked Dog Chow sold, including bags that feature Michael and Zoe, Purina will donate the Animal Rescue Foundation, giving up to 0,000. They’ll be giving up to another 0,000 based on how many people share the Buzzfeed video above.
Mark Hamill has just seemingly confirmed what every person who has ever seen a Star Wars movie or accidentally heard about Star Wars would have already assumed by just thinking about it for a second. Still, because figuring out the plots to Star Wars movies before they come out is more fun — and easier to do — than forecasting political elections, the following piece of information has to come with a massive warning. What Mark Hamill has said could be viewed as a spoiler that will ruin your enjoyment of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which isn’t really even out for a half-a-year anyway. So, you’ve been warned, if you want to keep reading, this article contains some stuff that Mark Hamill said about how he’s appearing in The Rise of Skywalker. (But if you’ve ever read any kind of book or seen a movie, of any kind, you will have seen this coming by virtue of the fact that you are a person in the world.)
Ready? After Luke Skywalker faded away and joined the Force in The Last Jedi, he will reappear in The Rise of Skywalker as…a Force ghost! On June 20, 2019, the Associated Press posted a brief interview with Hamill in which he said he “hopes” that The Rise of Skywalker is his last Star Wars movie and detailed exactly how Luke will return in the film.
“The fact that I’m involved in any capacity is only because of that peculiar aspect of the Star Wars mythology where if you’re a Jedi, you get to come back and make a curtain call as a Force ghost.”
That’s right, Luke is doing exactly what everyone expected him to do, show up with a little blue aura around his body, and vaguely explain what he can’t and can’t do as a creepy spirit. Then again, who knows? Yoda was a ghost in The Last Jedi and that motherfucker was able to conjure a lightning bolt from the sky and burn down a tree, mostly just to pull a prank and make a complicated diss about Luke not being able to finish reading like six books that had been sitting on the planet for who knows how long.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene [1080p HD]
So, will Luke be the kind of ghost who says ghostly things from the sidelines or the kind of ghost who takes Kylo Ren on a Dickensian adventure to show him the error of his ways? Either way, at this moment, we know Mark Hamill’s Luke isn’t the only ghost haunting the next Star Wars film; the long-dead Emperor Palpatine is back, too!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The US military’s growing reliance on special-operations units from its service branches may be straining those forces to a breaking point.
The US currently has around 200,000 troops deployed abroad. Roughly 8,600 of them — about 4% — are special-forces operators. They are deployed on missions ranging from training and advising to assaults and raids against enemy positions.
As of the beginning of 2017, US operators were deployed to 70% of the worlds countries, according to US Special Operations Command, or SOCOM.
The large number of deployments have officials in the Pentagon and Congress worried that members of the special-forces community may lose their edge on the battlefield.
Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees voiced their concerns at the Special Operations Policy Forum November 15th in Washington, DC.
“I do worry about overuse of SOF,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, referring to special-operations forces. “They are increasingly an organization of choice because SOF is very effective.”
“How many missions can you send them on? How many times can they do this? I think that’s what we don’t know,” added Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.
“The operational tempo is so incredible,” said Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The idea that you would have within six years, multiple deployments, some people every six months to deploy, that in and of itself causes lots of consequences,” he added. “And we haven’t seen a break in those deployments.”
Lawmakers have proposed a number of solutions. Among them are providing operators with more resources to deal with potential physical and mental-health issues; giving the train, advise, assist roles to more conventional units; and trying to delegate some of the diplomatic aspects of special-operations missions to diplomatic professionals, like those in the State Department.
The most obvious fix — increasing the amount of operators in the military — faces two problems. First, the US military is having difficulty bringing in new recruits, and second, simply adding more soldiers into the ranks of elite units may require lowering standards, which that could decrease their lethality.
“We cannot sacrifice quality for quantity,” said Reed. Nonetheless, lawmakers from both parties agree that increasing operator numbers is a good first step.
Some branches of the military are looking for ways to bring in more personnel as well. Last month, the Army announced it would be increasing bonuses for soldiers, and the force is likely to maintain some flexibility in its recruiting standards. (A report earlier this month cited an Army memo saying the force would offer waivers for some mental-health conditions; the Army disputed the report, saying the change was only administrative, and rescinded the memo.)
SOCOM is also reportedly investigating the possibility of using nutritional supplements, and perhaps even performance-enhancing drugs, to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits.
SOCOM leaders have emphasized that their units are still capable of conducting current operations and handling threats around the world. However, the fear of wear and tear is increasing, and most officials seem to agree that it is never to early to address the issue.
A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.
Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.
“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”
“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.
It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”
Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.
“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”
Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.
“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”
As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.