Where Are They Now? An update on the "Taliban 5" exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl - We Are The Mighty
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Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.


The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.

Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.

Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.

Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.

Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.

In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.

He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.

Yet.

The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.

According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.

NOW: 17 Laws every Taliban militant needs to follow

OR: 4 of the most famous deserters in U.S. military history

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Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

airaslt (powers w elders) A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.

“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.

It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.

Also Read: This Powerful Film Tells How Marines Fought ‘One Day Of Hell’ In Fallujah 

I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.

Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.

As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.

This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.

Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.

Take Jerry for example.

Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.

Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.

“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.

Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”

Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.

I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.

His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.

Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.

“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”

I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.

Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.

They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.

NOW: The Mighty Taps: 9 Famous Veterans Who Died In 2014

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Mighty Moments

NFL Falcon is sending military widow and son to the Super Bowl

Atlanta Falcon offensive lineman Ben Garland knows the meaning of service, but he took the NFL’s Salute to Service program to the next level.


Each year for Veteran’s Day, the NFL pays tribute to our nation’s servicemembers in a number of ways, but one of the most meaningful is during November’s Salute to Service. Players wear the initials of the fallen on their uniforms, the NFL donates money to non-profit organizations like the Pat Tillman Foundation or TAPS, and military families are invited to meet their favorite teams and experience some VIP fun.

3 year-old Cooper Dean with his new BFF, Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

A captain in the Colorado Air National Guard, the Veteran’s Day events are particularly meaningful to Garland. In 2017, he wore the initials of Air Force veteran Robert Dean, who took his own life in June 2016. At the game, Garland met Dean’s wife, Katie, and their 3 year-old son, Cooper, and the meeting left a lasting impression on him.

Related: Here’s how the Atlanta Falcons honored fallen heroes

On Dec. 11, Garland was honored for his community service with his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and he decided to invite Katie and Cooper as his guests — what they didn’t know was that he had a big surprise in store for them.

Ben Garland surprises military widow Katie Dean and her son, Cooper, with Super Bowl tickets. (Image via TAPS)

When accepting his award, Garland invited them onstage and presented them with tickets to the 2018 Super Bowl.

“No matter what I’m doing, I give my full effort to that,” said Garland in an interview with CNN.

3 year-old Cooper Dean wears a helmet with his father’s initials, borrowed from Atlanta Falcon Ben Garland. (Image via TAPS)

Whether in the military, on the field, or helping others, it’s clear Garland lives by the Air Force Core Value of “Service Before Self.” From visiting cancer patients in hospitals, to fighting human trafficking with SōDE Solution, to helping families like the Deans, Garland proves how impactful service after service can be.

“This incredible connection with Ben Garland and the Dean family is just extraordinary and means so much to Katie and Cooper,” said Diana Hosford, vice president of sports and entertainment at TAPS. “Ben being in the Air Force just like their fallen hero and also being so kind, caring and thoughtful just like the man they loved and lost, makes this bond even stronger.”
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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.

F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”

(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Air Force wants new, cheap, lightweight planes

The US Air Force started the second phase of its Light Attack Experiment on May 7, 2018, putting the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine aircraft through more testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Air Force officials have touted light-attack aircraft as a cheap option to address low-end threats, like ISIS or other militant groups, and free up advanced platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, to take on more complex operations.


Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein has described the light-attack aircraft as part of a networked battlefield, connecting and sharing information with partner forces in the air and on the ground.

“We’re looking at light attack through the lens of allies and partners,” Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A big part of the Light Attack Experiment is a common architecture and an intelligence-sharing network, so that those who would join us would be part of the campaign against violent extremism.”

Phase 2 of the experiment

A Beechcraft AT-6 experimental aircraft during ground operations is prepared for takeoff from Holloman AFB. The AT-6 is participating in the US Air Force Light Attack Experiment (OA-X), a series of trials to determine the feasibility of using light aircraft in attack roles.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)

The latest phase of the Light Attack Experiment will be a three-month, live-fly experiment intended to gather more information about each aircraft’s capabilities, networking ability, and potential interoperability with partner forces, the Air Force said in a release.

The first phase of the experiment took place at Holloman in August 2017, with four aircraft. In February 2018, the Air Force announced that it had narrowed the field to the two current aircraft.

The second phase at Holloman comes in lieu of a combat demonstration, which Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said in February 2018, the service would forgo.

“This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in the release.

Fighter, attack, and special-operations pilots will take part in this phase of the experiment, working with test pilots and flight engineers from the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. They will carry out day and night missions doing air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search and rescue.

Addressing the Air Force’s pilot shortage

Adding light-attack aircraft to the fleet would mean more airframes on which pilots could train in order to maintain their qualifications and prepare to transition to more advanced aircraft — helping address a pilot shortage caused in part by bottlenecks in the training pipeline.

Two Afghan A-29 Super Tucanos flies over Afghanistan during a training mission before the beginning of the 2017 fighting season, March 22, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for,” Bunch said in the release.

The Air Force has not committed to pursuing a contract for a light-attack aircraft after the experiment, however. Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for requirements, told Flight Global that the Air Force hasn’t made a final decision, though he said service has reserved more than $2 billion over the next six years should it go forward with production.

Critics have said operating such aircraft, even in permissive environments, will expose pilots to more risk.

“The last time the US did this in Vietnam, oh boy, it really wasn’t pleasant,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace-consulting firm Teal Group, told Air Force Times in February 2018. “They took a lot of casualties, for predictable reasons. It’s low, it’s slow and vulnerable, and the air defense environment has become a lot more sophisticated.”

The A-29 Super Tucano is already in service with the Afghan air force, and Wilson said in 2017 that none of those aircraft had been shot down in 18 months of operations.

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

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Everything the US has learned in Afghanistan the Brits learned in the 1800s

In 1839, the forces of Great Britain and the British East India Company invaded Afghanistan in the first major conflict of the “Great Game” – the struggle between Great Britain and Russia for control of Asia. The British quickly defeated the opposing forces of Dost Mohammad and garrisoned the capital Kabul, as well as the major cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad. However, by mid-1841 the situation in Kabul was deteriorating. The British forces made camp in an indefensible position just outside the capital. Meanwhile, two senior British officials were murdered with no reprisal from the British forces, further emboldening the Afghans.


Unfortunately for the soldiers of the garrison, a confluence of events meant trouble for them. First, the appointment of the incompetent General Elphinstone to command the British forces in Kabul. The second was a new government in London calling for increased cost-savings from the ongoing campaign. The combination of these two events led to the fateful decision for the garrison in Kabul, along with their camp followers, to conduct a retreat to Jalalabad and then back to India to escape the rising unrest in the capital. After the first unit to travel to Jalalabad in November has been harassed and sniped throughout their journey, General Elphinstone trusted the assurances of an Afghan warlord that his column would be granted safe passage.

On 6 January 1842, Elphinstone’s column of the British 44th Regiment of Foot, three regiments of Bengal Native Infantry, British and Indian cavalry, the Bengal Horse Artillery – about 700 British and 3800 Indian soldiers – as well as 12,000 camp followers – set off on their march through the treacherous Afghan winter towards Jalalabad. Almost immediately, they began receiving harassing fire from the Ghilzai tribesmen and were ambushed and attacked repeatedly over the next several days. The weather also took a toll on the Indian soldiers and camp followers who had been recruited from the more tropical climate in India. On 9 January, after losing over 3,000 casualties and having only covered twenty five miles, General Elphinstone, along with the wives and children of the officers accepted the offer of a warlord to be taken into his custody for safety, and immediately became his hostages instead. The remainder of the force trudged on, hoping to clear the snow-choked passes and reach the safety of the garrison at Jalalabad.

By 12 January, the column had been reduced to around one hundred men, mostly infantrymen of the 44th Regiment of Foot, as well as a few remaining officers on horseback. As they tried to clear a barrier erected on the valley floor many were killed while the survivors gathered on a hillock outside the village of Gandamak to make their last stand. When offered a surrender by the Ghilzai tribesmen surrounding them a British sergeant reportedly yelled back “not bloodly likely!” and thus sealing their fate. In the ensuing chaos the British infantry fired their remaining ammunition before fighting on with bayonets. Only a handful of men survived to be taken captive.. Though some officers on horses managed to escape they were hunted down and killed as well; all except for one.

“You will see, not a soul will reach here from Kabul except one man, who will come to tell us the rest are destroyed.”
– Colonel Dennie, British Army of the Indus, Nov. 1841

At Jalalabad on 13 January, Colonel Dennie was manning the fortifications awaiting the arrival of the column from Kabul when he spotted a lone man on horseback approaching the city. Upon seeing the man he is said to have remarked “Did I not say so? Here comes the messenger.” The lone survivor of the column was Dr. William Brydon, an assistant surgeon, who straggled in exhausted and severely wounded on a horse that was also severely wounded. Dr. Brydon had survived a sword strike to the head, which had cleaved off a small portion of his skull, thanks to a copy of a magazine he had stuffed into his hat for extra warmth. His horse apparently cleared the gates of the city and promptly laid down, never to rise again. Brydon was the sole survivor of some 16,000 who started the trek a week earlier to arrive at Jalalabad.

Brydon would survive his wounds and later survive another harrowing incident when we was severely wounded during the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. General Elphinstone died in captivity. Shortly after the news of the massacre reached British officials, the decision was made to withdraw all British forces from Afghanistan, but not before retribution was sought. By the summer of 1842 the Army of Retribution had been raised and marched through Afghanistan, releasing many of the prisoners taken during the retreat from Kabul as well as exacting their vengeance before finally withdrawing on 12 October 1842.

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

34th Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. George Watkins flies a combat-coded F-35A Lightning II aircraft past the control tower at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Sept. 17.

Photo byAlex R. Lloyd/USAF

Pope Francis prepares to board his plane at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 24, 2015. Pope Francis will visit New York City and Philadelphia during his U.S. trip before returning to Rome Sept. 27.

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/USAF

MARINE CORPS:

An M1 Abrams main battle tank provides security during the Combined Arms Company field exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Sept. 16, 2015. The CAC is a newly formed armor element supporting the Black Sea Rotational Force.

Photo by Cpl. Justin T. Updegraff/UCMC

Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, practiced employing hunter-killer techniques with multiple weapons platforms during sustainment training on Aug. 21, 2015.

Photo by Sgt. Paris Capers/USMC

Recon Marines with 1st Marine Division, jump from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during high altitude, high opening parachute insertion training over Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Sept. 17, 2015.

Photo by Pfc. Devan Gowans/USMC

NAVY:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 22, 2015) The aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) leads a formation during a passing exercise with Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces ships. George Washington is preparing to deploy around South America as a part of Southern Seas 2015.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Archer/USN

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Sept. 17, 2015) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), right, receives fuel from the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE 6) during an underway replenishment.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey T. Jones/USN

WATERS OFF THE COAST OF JAPAN (Sept. 18, 2015) Sailors aboard the Arleigh-Burke guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) stack Mark 45 5-inch rounds during an ammunition on-load.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christian Senyk/USN

ARMY:

A Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, fires an M-240B machine gun during an exercise at Fort Pickett, Va., Sept. 21, 2015.

3rd Special Forces Group Combat Camera/US Army

A paratrooper, assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fires a M136 AT4 during a combined arms live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., Sept. 17, 2015.

Photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt/US Army

COAST GUARD:

After a boat caught fire recently, a good Samaritan contacted the Coast Guard and rescued four people near Galveston.

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Oliver R. Tallyn

Seized: 7.5 tons of cocaine. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf worked alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection to seize 7.5 tons of cocaine from the Eastern Pacific earlier this month.

Photo by USCG

NOW: More awesome military photos

OR: The 13 funniest military memes of the week

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These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

The rulers of the Islamic world in the 1200s were not born into aristocracy or priesthood, as was the custom in Europe. They were an army of former slaves. Trained in combat and Sunni Islam from a young age, these “Mamluks” (from the Arabic for “property”) soon grew so vast in number that they wrested control of the Empire from the Abbasid Caliphs — one of very few times in history.


During the Crusades, it was Mamluks who met the Crusaders as they attempted to retake the Holy Land for Christendom. But the most important imprint the Mamluks have on history is a single battle that took place in modern-day Israel that meant the difference between centuries of rule and utter annihilation.

In the 13th Century, a wave of destruction flowed across Asia and into Europe. The Mongols, an amalgamation of far-east tribes and clans from the Mongolian Plateau, united their people, reorganized their armies, and began to expand their controlled territory.

The Mongols began to expand under Genghis Khan, and that expansion continued long after his death. For over 100 years, the Mongol armies swept South and West, demanding immediate surrender and destroying and slaughtering those who didn’t submit.

They didn’t suffer a real defeat until more than 60 years into the conquest at the Battle of Ain Jalut, near the Sea of Galilee — at the hands of the Mamluks.

I don’t know what that weapon is but I want one.

The Mongols’ loss at Ain Jalut shattered the image of Mongol invincibility and slowed their advance so much they actually had to retreat from the Levant. The Mamluk victory kept the Mongols from taking Cairo and sweeping into Africa.

The Mamluks continued to rule the Islamic world for centuries, where they were subsumed by the emerging Ottoman Empire — though they remained influential in the Empire for centuries afterward, even fighting both Napoleon and U.S. Marines (but losing to both).

Watch more Elite Forces:

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These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army Special Forces soldiers practice fighting behind enemy lines

“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.

The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.

The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.


A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.

To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.

A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.

This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.

Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.

Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.

“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”

Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).

This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.

US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)

The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.

“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.

Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.

US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.

(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.

“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”

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

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Russian special operator stops ISIS by ordering airstrike on his own position

This weekend, Syrian government troops aided by Russian airstrikes and special forces recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS.


One Russian special operator was pinned down by jihadi fighters while conducting a reconnaissance mission that included calling in airstrikes. His position was overrun by the enemy, so he called for close air support assets to attack where he was so that classified information wouldn’t fall into ISIS hands.

Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

“He was carrying out a combat task in Palmyra area for a week, identifying crucial IS targets and passing exact coordinates for strikes with Russian planes,” a Russian military spokesperson told the UK’s Mirror. “The officer died as a hero, he drew fire onto himself after being located and surrounded by terrorists.”

ISIS published photos from their mobile phones in mid-March, depicting five bodies they said were Russian special forces. The Russian Defense Ministry denied that report, saying the advance on Palmyra was being conducted by the Syrian Army (the one supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Asad).

While Russia has admitted to five combat deaths in the conflict so far, including a pilot of a fighter shot down by Turkish forces and a Marine who died trying to rescue that pilot. Russian special forces have been on the ground since the beginning of Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War, in September of 2015.

The city has art and architecture dating from 100 AD, including Greco-Roman ruins, over 1,000 columns, an ancient Roman aqueduct and 500 tombs on site. In 2015, ISIS captured the 2,000-year-old city and dynamiting ancient monuments, temples, and shrines it deemed blasphemous and executed people on the stage of the Roman amphitheater.

Syrian government troops entered the city on March 24, 2016. In the last five days, the Russians claim they carried out 146 airstrikes supporting the operation. Syrian troops recaptured the city on Sunday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A bird beat up a Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighter

A bird reportedly managed to bang up an F-35 stealth fighter to the tune of at least $2 million.

A Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter was recently forced to abort take-off after a surprise bird strike, Maj. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, told Marine Corps Times. The fighter never took flight and “safely taxied off the runway,” but it didn’t escape the situation unscathed.

An initial assessment of the incident identified this as a Class A mishap, meaning that the $115 million aircraft suffered more than $2 million in damages. A safety investigation, as well as a more comprehensive damage assessment, are currently underway. Birds sucked into an engine’s intake can destroy an engine, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.


It’s unclear what exactly happened to the bird, but odds are the end result wasn’t pleasant.

Birds like Canada Geese, which graze on grass at the edges of air fields, are a constant problem for military aircraft. Four years ago, a US military helicopter crashed in the UK, killing all four crewmembers after the aircraft collided with a flock of geese.

An HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

Between 1985 and 2016, bird strikes killed 36 American airmen, destroyed 27 US Air Force aircraft and cost the service almost a billion dollars, according to the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Between 2011 and 2017, the USAF experienced 418 wildlife-related mishaps, resulting in 2 million in damages, according to Military Times.

Federal Aviation Administration data, according to USA Today, revealed that in 2018 alone there were 14,661 reported bird strikes involving civilian aircraft in the US.

Ellsworth Air Force Base, home to a collection of B-1 bombers, has deployed bird cannons to keep its 0 million bombers safe from birds.

Last month, a hawk went head-to-head with an Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon during a routine landing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Task and Purpose reported. In that case, the hawk definitely lost.

The lastest incident is the third major mishap for an F-35B following last September’s crash and a fire back a few years back, according to Military.com.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Navy SEALs’ ‘4 laws of combat’ are reshaping business

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin have proven that the leadership principles they learned as Navy SEALs are just as effective in the business world.

Willink was the head of US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser, the most highly decorated US special operations unit of the Iraq War, and Babin was one of the two platoon leaders who reported to him. After their service, Willink and Babin founded Echelon Front in 2010 as a way to bring what they learned in the military to the business world.

They’ve spent the past eight years working with more than 400 businesses and putting on conferences.


The “laws of combat” that they developed in the military and passed on to other SEALs are straightforward, but also need to be implemented carefully, Willink and Babin told Business Insider in an interview about their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”

Below, Willink introduces a concept and, in keeping with the theme of their book, Babin explains how each principle could be taken too far.

1. Cover and move

“You’ve got to look out for other people on your team and you’ve got to look out for other teams within your unit,” Willink said. It’s about not getting so focused on your own responsibilities that you forget that you are part of a team depending on you, or that your team is one of many in an organization that gives these teams a shared mission.

Taken too far: Babin added that “you could spend so much time trying to help someone else on the team that you’re stepping on their toes and they get defensive. And you’re actually creating a worse relationship with them as a result.” Mutual respect, therefore, is crucial.

2. Keep things simple

As the leader of Task Unit Bruiser, Willink learned that a plan that may look impressive to his superiors, with its detail and complexity, would be meaningless if not every member of his team could follow along. A plan must be communicated to the team so that every member knows their responsibilities.

Taken too far: That said, Babin explained, keeping things simple does not mean omitting explanations. Leaders must recognize that the “why” behind a plan is as important as the “how.”

3. Prioritize and execute

“You’re going to have multiple problems and all those problems are going to occur at the same time,” Willink said. “And when that happens, instead of trying to handle all those problems at the same time, what you have to do is pick the biggest problem that you have and focus your efforts, your personnel, and your resources on that.”

Jocko Willink.

Taken too far: Setting clear priorities is critical, Babin said, “yet you can get target fixated, and you get so focused on the highest priority task, that you’re not able to see when a new priority emerges and you have to re-adjust.” Therefore, leaders are in charge of determining what is most important but do not become so attached to the initial plan that they cannot adjust.

4. Decentralize command

Willink and Babin said that they found some readers of their first book, “Extreme Ownership,” misinterpreted the thesis as meaning that they must micromanage their team in addition to accepting responsibility for everything good and bad that happens under their watch.

“As a leader on a team, you want everyone on your team to lead,” Willink said. “And in order to make that happen, you’ve got to release some of that authority down to the lower ranks, so that they can make quick, decisive decisions out on the battlefield.”

Taken too far: With that in mind, Babin said, there are situations “where the leader doesn’t understand what’s going on in the front lines. And they’re too detached, they’re too far back, they’re not able to lead their team, and that results in failure.”

Leaders must set the pace for their team and fully own that role, but still learn to trust each of their team members to make their own decisions when the situation calls for it.

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

Articles

Chinese drone engineer is restricting ISIS’ ability to fly

Chinese drone maker DJI is working on a software that can define no-fly zones for their aircraft in order to avoid use by terrorist groups like the Islamic State (EI) in areas of conflict such as Iraq and Syria.


The drone maker has increased areas where its devices cannot fly to avoid attacks in Iraq and Syria, but it does not rule out terrorists being able to hack the software or create their own drones.

Terrorists in the Middle East have [been increasingly using drones in combat], equipping them with homemade explosives. But the leading global manufacturer of drones has decided to react.

A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Militiamen use drones equipped with explosives, thus making them flying bombs or a means to release explosives over a given target.

This year, the terrorist organization even announced that it had established a unit to handle this type of device, and claims they killed or injured 39 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.

Now, Chinese drone maker DJI has decided to counter-attack using the company’s drone software that can define no-fly zones in which the aircraft is barred from entering, MIT Technology Review said.

Normally this capacity is used to prevent consumers from flying their aircraft over restricted areas, such as airports and military bases. But now DJI seems to have added a number of locations in Syria and Iraq to the list, including the city of Mosul (Iraq), USA Today reported.

Also read: US military explores more anti-drone technology

So far it is unknown whether the measure will be fully effective, since the software can be modified to avoid the no-fly zones and because not all the drones used by the EI are commercial products.

It is also possible that the terrorist organization has developed its own aircraft from scratch from pieces of rudimentary components and cores.

Established in 2006 by Frank Wang, DJI has its headquarters in Shenzhen, the epicenter of factories, brands, and technology development in China.

The company currently employs 3 thousand people and has offices in the United States (Los Angeles), South Korea, Germany (Frankfurt), the Netherlands, and Japan (Tokyo), with two additional centers in China, located in Beijing and Hong Kong.