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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

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.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
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

Articles

Watch this Army colonel take the ACFT in space

Since its introduction, the Army Combat Fitness Test has attracted a lot of attention in the ranks. Designed to replace the APFT with a gender-neutral fitness test with performance requirements based on MOS, the ACFT has seen many changes over the past few years. With the Army now in the ACFT 3.0 data collection period, updated guidance for the new test is expected in 2022. In the meantime, all soldiers will be taking the ACFT. This includes astronauts.

Dr. Andrew “Drew” Morgan is an Army Colonel and NASA astronaut. A 1998 West Point graduate, Morgan earned his Doctorate in Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland in 2002. He served extensively in Joint Special Operations Command. During his time on a JSOC medical team, Morgan also worked as a part-time physician for the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights.” He went on to become the Battalion Surgeon for 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) where he served three years on flight, combat dive and Airborne status. In addition to his dive and parachute training, Morgan has also earned the coveted Ranger tab.

In 2013, Morgan was selected as one of eight members of NASA’s 21st astronaut class. His spaceflight experience includes Expedition 60, 61 and 62. NASA reports that Morgan has conducted seven spacewalks totaling 45 hours and 48 minutes, an American record for a single spaceflight. Continuing to lead from the front, Morgan took the ACFT in space, with some modifications to adjust for the lack of gravity. Check out the U.S. Army video by Staff Sgt. Dennis DePrisco, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Rognstad and Master Sgt. Robert Segin.

(U.S. Army)

Featured image: US Army

Articles

The 7 scariest weapons Russia is developing right now

While Russia’s military is struggling in many ways, the Kremlin is working hard to fix it. With a new ballistic missiles, new submarines launching from shipyards, and the world’s newest tank, Russia looks to be modernizing as fast as it can. If the modernization program survives Russia’s economic woes, here are seven new weapon systems that will likely be completed.


1. New nuclear submarines

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
A current-generation Russian diesel submarine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

In addition to building more of their brand new, fourth-generation submarines, Russia is already planning a fifth-generation sub. Details on the fifth-generation are slowly being fleshed out, but Russia wants the subs to network with each other and underwater drones, use onboard robotics for certain tasks, and feature a new nuclear reactor.

2. Hypersonic missiles

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
A model of the BrahMos II, Russian-Indian hypersonic missile under joint development. Photo: Youtube.com

Russia’s hypersonic missile program has been plagued by failed tests, but it still has potential. The Yu-71 would be able to fly unpredictable patterns to its targets at speeds of 7,000 miles per hour, piercing air defenses. While the U.S. also has a hypersonic program, the U.S. missiles are designed for conventional warheads while Russia’s call for nuclear capabilities.

Russia is also jointly-developing the BrahMos II hypersonic cruise missile with India.

3. A stealthy, heavy-lift strategic bomber

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Russia’s new bomber will borrow technology from its new fighter, the Sukhoi T-50. Photo: Wikipedia/Alex Beltyukov

The PAK-DA is expected to be subsonic with a range of 7,500 miles and capable of carrying a payload of about 30 tons. It’s a huge step down from Russia’s original plans for a hypersonic bomber, but it may be stealthy enough to get cruise missiles into range against carriers and other targets.

4. An “off switch” for enemy communications and weapons guidance

An electronic warfare system in development supposedly allows Russia to shut off any approaching threats, everything from NATO ships to missiles to future hypersonic weapons. If successfully launched on planes and ships, it could also be used to shut down enemy defenses during a Russian attack.

5. New air defense missiles

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

While the S-300 is in the news right now, the S-500 would be two generations beyond it. The S-500 is expected to be capable of engaging five to ten ballistic missiles at once and even hitting low-orbit satellites. It will be able to move between engagements, avoiding counter attacks.

6. Lasers

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
The USS Ponce’s laser weapon. Photo: YouTube

Russia claims its laser program is on the same level as the U.S., but the system is fully classified. If accurate, it would mean that Russia’s lasers are capable or nearly capable of taking out enemy vehicles, drones, and boats, all weapons systems America relies on.

7. Aircraft carriers

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl
The current Russian carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. Photo: Mil.ru

Russia’s carrier prospects are dicey, but if the ship makes it to the sea it will be much better than their current carrier. Roughly the same size as a U.S. Nimitz carrier, it would have 4 launching positions and an air wing of 80-90 aircraft.

NOW: A Russian company is selling shipping containers packed with cruise missiles

Articles

This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
Articles

The last Germans to give up in World War II surrendered to Norwegian seal hunters

In September 1944, one might think that the Germans would have had better priorities than setting up a weather monitoring station in some remote Norwegian island. They did have more important things to do, but they set up a meteorological station in the Svalbard area anyway.

As the Allies were fighting their way through the Hurtgen, German troops were setting up their weather stations in Norway. They would be the last Germans to surrender after the end of World War II. 

World War II didn’t go well for Norway. The Germans invaded in 1940 and with the assistance of one of history’s most infamous collaborators, fell quickly. During the war, Norway was one of the most fortified countries in Europe. 

Life in the Svalbard archipelago, though, remained largely unchanged at first. It was occupied and recaptured at times, just to be occupied again. But the Germans managed to create a number of weather stations and reporting stations on the islands. Most subsequently captured or chased away. 

Occupation of the archipelago started almost immediately. The Free Norwegian government in cooperation with the Soviet Union willingly destroyed their coal mines to deny their use to the Axis. After British forces destroyed German weather stations in Greenland, the German Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine set their sights on Svalbard to replace it. 

Almost as fast as they could set up the station, Allied forces sailed from Scotland to dismantle it. That convoy was bombed by the Luftwaffe, but the invaders managed to eject the weather system anyway. Germany sent another weather monitoring party but the British reinforced its position and destroyed that one too. 

More Norwegian troops soon landed, backed by an American cruiser. All Allied movements were monitored by the Luftwaffe, but there was little that could be done at times. The islands were occupied by both parties at times. 

The final attempt at a weather station came with Operation Broadsword in 1944. The crew was landed by the submarine U-307 on Sept. 10, 1944. This time, the station was there to stay, largely because the war ended just a few months after it was established. 

The German occupants of the islands knew they’d just lost the war. They were contacted by their leadership in Norway on May 8, 1945, the day Germany surrendered to the Allies. They had to stay on the island for nearly four months after the war ended. Getting a ship to the Arctic Circle to retrieve a handful of troops just wasn’t that high on the Allies end of war to-do list. 

In the end, the Germans manning the weather station had to surrender to a Norwegian seal hunting ship and its crew, which arrived on Sept. 6, 1945. They were the last Germans to surrender to Allied forces after the war ended. 

They weren’t the only Axis holdouts at the end of the war. Although Japan surrendered in August 1945, some Japanese troops fought on for months or even years after the war had officially ended, believing they should fight on in the absence of orders from the Imperial Japanese military. 

One Japanese soldier, Hiroo Onoda, fought on until 1974. He hid out in the jungles of the Philippines for some 29 years after the surrender was signed because he couldn’t believe Japan actually surrendered. It’s unlikely the Germans on Svalbard felt the same way, knowing how the war had progressed since 1944. 

Featured photo: A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Mystery ‘Rocket Man’ reported near LAX, 2020 keeps getting weirder

Look! Up in the sky!

It’s a bird!

It’s a plane!

It’s… a guy in a jetpack?


Pilots flying into Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday evening reported seeing a man in a jetpack flying at an altitude of around 3,000 feet and about 10 miles from the airport. The first pilot to see the mysterious aviator said he was only about 300 yards away from the plane.

You can hear the exchange of the actual transmission here.

“Tower, American 1997 — we just passed a guy in a jetpack”.

A second pilot also reported seeing a flying apparition in the sky in the same area.

The air traffic controller acknowledged the message and quipped, “Only in LA”.

He then sent a warning to other pilots to use caution when approaching LAX.

While one might think the pilots were seeing things or tired, aviation experts doubt that. Pilots are highly trained and have a great sense of vision and perception. For two pilots on two separate flights to notice the same man in a jetpack gives credibility to the story.

That begs the question. Who was this Rocketeer?

The FAA reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate it, but after a flyover of the area, the LAPD did not see any flying men.

Jetpack technology has been around for awhile. Anyone old enough to remember will recall the wonder of seeing one at the Opening Ceremonies of the 1984 Olympics. But the technology of jetpacks is limited by two things: altitude and fuel efficiency. Jetpacks can’t get too high off the ground and they can only be in the air for moments at a time. That is what makes this case so perplexing.

Was it actually a jetpack? Was it actually a man?

Maybe it was a drone, balloon or something else?

Was it David Blaine practicing his balloon stunt?

Was it a new military device? Did SpaceX create a new jetpack for their Mars mission? Is there a new tech company that is testing a new device?

Well, if there is one way to find out it’s the Feds. The FBI is now looking into the mystery and is hoping to find answers soon.

While there is some type of levity to the story (not the craziest thing to happen in 2020), there is concern of someone or something drifting into the path of an approaching plane. Pilots already must deal with birds and natural objects, but lately also have to keep an eye for drones, balloons and now…. Jetpacks.

Articles

Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first leak is coming full circle.

Last month a US appeals court ruled the NSA’s post-9/11 dragnet of millions of Americans’ phone-call records is illegal, noting that a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order “leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden” and published by The Guardian served as the catalyst for the decision.

The FISC order directed Verizon to produce to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The US government had justified the program by saying it was covered under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but the court ruled that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by § 215.”

On Monday, Section 215 and two other provisions of the Patriot Act expired — at least temporarily.

So for the first time since 9/11, partly thanks to Snowden, 31, the phone records of US citizens are not being scooped en masse under a law ruled illegal.

But the order comes from just one of as many as 1.77 million NSA documents Snowden allegedly stole while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013. And he gave only an estimated 200,000 documents to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

On June 9, 2013, four days after The Guardian published the Verizon order, Snowden revealed himself in a video before going underground to seek asylum.

Snowden’s epic heist and search for asylum spans more than 10,000 miles, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in after Snowden decided to expose NSA spying.

Now that Snowden’s first leak is vindicated, here’s a look at three of the outstanding questions about his journey:

Whom did Snowden contact when he arrived in Hong Kong?

Snowden says he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone” — at least until Hong Kong.

“When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here,” The New York Times reported on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers, told The Times the person was a well-connected Hong Kong resident and became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.”

Snowden told The Guardian that after the “very carefully planned and orchestrated” theft of NSA information, he didn’t cover his traces in Hong Kong.

“I only tried to avoid being detected in advance of travel … on the other side I wanted them to know where I was at,” Snowden said. “I wanted them to know.”

In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden “arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name.”

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Where did Snowden spend the first 11 days?

Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn’t check into the Mira Hotel until June 1, a couple of days before he met Poitras and Greenwald.

“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been ‘holed up’ in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1,” Epstein reported.

“I confirmed that date with the hotel’s employees,” Epstein wrote.” A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card.”

Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that “US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts” between May 20 and June 1.

What exactly happened to the documents Snowden didn’t give to journalists?

After checking out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, Ho said, Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of his carer’s friends.

On June 12, Snowden showed The South China Morning Post (SCMP) an unknown number of documents revealing “operational details of specific [NSA] attacks on [Chinese] computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks, and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.”

Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP that he possessed more NSA intel.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”

Eleven days later, Snowden got on a plane to Moscow.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

In October 2013, James Risen of The Times reported that Snowden told him over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told me that the report was inaccurate.)

Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.

“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”

More to come

Snowden, who appears via video conference semi-frequently, has not explained these discrepancies yet.

In the meantime, as the effects of Snowden’s leaks reverberate in the US and the world, the saga continues.

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Proposal over Amazon facial recognition software fails to pass

Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.

The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.

The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.


But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.

But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.

Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”

The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what the Coast Guard is cutting back on during the shutdown

While the Coast Guard is not slowing down in its most important national security operations as the U.S. enters its fifth week of a government shutdown, some activities have been halted or curtailed, and many newly minted Coasties find themselves stuck at recruit training, without funding to head to their first duty stations.

Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a Coast Guard spokesman, told Military.com that recruits whose new units are not well suited to support them during the shutdown or lack the means to return home in the interim “will remain attached to the Training Center [in Cape May, New Jersey] for the duration of the lapse.”


“There have been no immediate operational impacts related to recruit training; however, it is difficult to project the impact that the lapse in appropriations will have on mission readiness months or years from now,” he said Jan. 23, 2019.

There are currently 395 recruits in training. Seventy-six new Coasties graduated Jan. 18, 2019, he said.

Those who have the option to return home may receive a stipend from the government even as the shutdown continues.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

“While the partial government shutdown prevents our ability to provide advance payment of reimbursable transfer expenses, it does not prevent us from issuing plane tickets for recruits to travel directly to units with the capacity to support them during the shutdown,” McBride said.

Often, recruits have the opportunity to return home for leave before reporting to their first assigned unit.

“In these cases, we have been able to coordinate temporary hometown recruiting assignments that allow graduates to make their desired trip home for leave, assist the workforce recruiting effort and temporarily defer execution of their permanent transfer and associated costs,” McBride said. “For those who choose this option, there may be out-of-pocket costs, if the cost of a ticket home exceeds the cost allowance of government transportation to their new unit.”

The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the situation but said that it does not plan on letting recruits leave Cape May without an approved transfer plan with appropriately allocated resources.

Elsewhere in the Coast Guard, the shutdown is also taking a toll on operations.

Boardings for safety checks, the issuance or renewals of merchant documentation and licensing, fisheries enforcement patrols and routine maintenance of aids to navigation have been delayed or downsized, McBride said.

Other modified operations include administrative functions, training, and maintenance for surface and aviation fleets, he said in an email.

“The Coast Guard will continue operations required by law that provide for national security or that protect life and property,” he said, including monitoring coast lines, ports, harbors and inland waterways, as well as maritime intercept and environmental defense operations.

But for the men and women conducting these high-stress operations or deploying, the pressure is mounting as they go without paychecks, not knowing how they can provide for their families back home, said Steven Cantrell, who served as the 12th master chief petty officer for the service.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck upon the cutter’s after a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

“They still have to go out and do their job and focus on the mission when sometimes it’s a very unforgiving environment,” he said in an interview with Military.com on Jan. 23, 2019. He retired from the position in 2018.

“I wouldn’t presume to think that anybody wouldn’t give it 100 percent,” Cantrell said, adding that the current situation does “weigh on people.”

Members of the Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, missed their first paychecks Jan. 15, 2019. If the shutdown continues, they will miss their second at the end of the month.

While shutdowns have occurred before, support services for members and families “will have to expand if it goes any longer,” Cantrell said.

Coasties have been relying on donations, loans and even food pantries to sustain their families as they take on necessary duties such as search-and-rescue operations.

“It’s one thing to sit back and go, ‘Wow, why would I want to do that?’ Because they don’t have the option to say, ‘Well, I’m just going to go home.’ They’ve been deemed essential,” Cantrell said, adding that morale is “probably low” in places around the country.

Where Are They Now? An update on the “Taliban 5” exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons)

Cantrell said he is hopeful the next generation of service members’ desire to serve will outweigh the current problems.

“People know it’s not the Coast Guard that’s doing this. And I’m 100 percent sure [leaders] have prepped the battlespace for those recruits to know what’s going on in the service. And they do a really good job… at the Training Center … [to get them] excited about the Coast Guard,” he said.

While frustrations remain, Cantrell said he thinks it’s unlikely there will be a significant or long-term national security impact, given the service has seen fluctuating or dwindling budgets before and was still able to press on.

But “it’s a bitter pill to swallow even as a retiree, and I just can’t imagine the young folks out there worrying about things that they shouldn’t have to worry about,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military stop-movement orders to be lifted immediately at some bases

The stop-movement order in effect for military families on permanent change-of-station moves, originally set to run through June 30, will be lifted in stages, with some installations to begin accepting transfers immediately, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

At select installations stateside that have met White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on preventing COVID-19, commanders will be able to “go green immediately” on PCS moves, said Matt Donovan, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.


The installations approved for immediate lifting of restrictions and travel and permanent changes of station would be listed in a classified document Tuesday night and named publicly as early as Wednesday, Donovan said.

He and Lisa Hershman, the Pentagon’s chief management officer, said that, overall, the lifting of the stop-movement restrictions would depend on local conditions, both stateside and overseas.

Donovan cited the example of the Army‘s Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border, saying the installation commander would have to gauge whether local conditions in both states have been met.

Esper issued the stop-movement order on travel in March and on April 20 extended it to June 30, but thousands of exceptions have been approved for individual cases.

Earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Command said about 30,000 military families had received conditional permission to move before June 30.

“So those are the families who have been approved or authorized to move, if conditions allow,” Rick Marsh, director of the Defense Personal Property Program for U.S. Transportation Command, said at a May 6 Pentagon briefing.

The overall travel restrictions will be lifted in five phases, mostly dependent on local conditions stateside and overseas and on bases themselves, said Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman.

Both Hershman and Donovan said that there was no timeframe for going through the five phases on lifting restrictions — it was all dependent on local conditions and the decisions of installation commanders stateside and Combatant Commanders overseas.

Donovan said there were “two overarching [sets of] factors” to be considered in easing the travel and permanent change of station restrictions: first, state and local criteria on protection against COVID-19, and White House guidance on “reopening America.”

A second set of factors included conditions on the installations themselves, testing capabilities and the availability of essential services such as schools and hospitals, Donovan said.

“It’s not date-related, we’re looking at the conditions,” Hershman said.

The Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation have remained open, but entrances have been restricted and those reporting to work have been required to wear face masks and observe social distancing.

Hershman said that the move by Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ease the conditions for opening facilities will also apply to the Pentagon building itself and other facilities on the Pentagon reservation.

She said that the basic requirement for reopening moves at the Pentagon will be Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia showing a downward trend in coronavirus cases that continues for at least 14 days.

About two-thirds of the Pentagon’s workforce of more than 20,000 has been teleworking during the pandemic. Hershman said the Pentagon was looking to set conditions that would “enable their return in a controlled and steady manner,” but there was no timeframe.

She also said many in the Pentagon’s workforce could be allowed to continue teleworking.

“That’s something we’re considering. We’re encouraging the leadership to do what makes sense.”

Service members who move themselves instead of relying on a government-contracted moving company will also be paid more, effective immediately, as part of a temporary incentive, according to new guidance released by TRANSCOM Tuesday.

Typically, troops who move themselves as part of a Personally Procured Move (PPM), also known as a DITY, are reimbursed 95% of what the government would pay a contracted moving company. The new authority increases that reimbursement by 5%, putting it on par with what the moving company would be paid.

“This item revises Joint Travel Regulations … to temporarily authorize a monetary allowance that is equal to 100% of the Government’s ‘Best Value’ for personally procured moves due to COVID-19,” the guidance states.

The increase will be available for moves May 26 through December 31. The proposal, first floated by Army officials in late April, aims to clear out a backlog of PCS moves created by the Defense Department’s global stop-movement order.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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Here’s why Air Force fighter pilots might soon be seeing ghosts

This fall, Air Force fighter pilots taking to the skies to train might find themselves going up against a ghost.


Pilots chasing “enemy” jets in air-to-air dog-fighting exercises or avoiding them during training targeting runs will see the familiar sign of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force is converting older-generation, retired F-16 fighters that were wrapped and stored at the military’s aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert into the latest unmanned drone called the “QF-16.”

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A QF-16 full scale aerial target from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron takes off on its first unmanned flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Sept. 19, 2013. The 82nd ATRS operates the Department of Defense’s only full-scale aerial target program. The QF-16 will provide a fourth generation fighter representation of real world threats . (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Javier Cruz)

The QF-16 is a “full scale aerial target” and for all intents and purposes it looks like the sleek, single-engine jet that was built by General Dynamics (now part of Lockheed Martin) and first flown during the height of the Cold War — with the same body, same size, same profile, same maneuverability as the manned Fighting Falcon. The target drone is converted so it has similar radar signatures and capabilities as potential adversary aircraft – including the latest generation of the multi-role F-16 flying today – that U.S. pilots might encounter in the not-so-friendly skies.

The Air Force’s F-16 drone program became fully operational in September when the Air Combat Command declared it had reached initial operational capability.

“This leap forward in airframe capabilities, combined with advanced electronic pods, will allow us to properly test and evaluate our 5th generation aircraft and weapons,” Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, who commands the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, said in a Sept. 26 news release. The squadron belongs to the 53th Wing, which serves as the Air Force’s only operational test unit.

The orange-tipped jet drones can break the sound barrier in supersonic flight, sans pilot – and even reach 9Gs. That’s as tough as the latest high-tech jets out there — U.S.-built or otherwise. The “pilot,” though, is on the ground, controlling the drone just as other unmanned aircraft .

Various onboard sensors and instruments in the drone jet collect data and information that can be used by whoever’s got the finger on a missile (or other ordnance and weaponry) directed at it from the ground control station. During a 2014 ground missile test fired at the drone that registered a “kill” hit, an engineer described its role as a target to help in weapons training.

“The QF-16’s mission is really to act as a target and validate weapons systems. So, we do have a scoring system on the airplane and its job is to tell us basically how close the missile came and its trajectory,” Paul Cejas, a chief engineer, said in a Boeing news release.

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Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base. The QF-16 will replace the QF-4 as the next generation aerial target. (Courtesy photo)

St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space Security got the first contract in 2010 to create as many as 126 of the drones. It flew the first unmanned flight – with an empty cockpit – over Tyndall AFB in Florida’s Panhandle in 2013.

As of March, Boeing had delivered 11 QF-16s to the Air Force, and the most-recent contract called for the conversion of another 30 target drones, according to the company. Several dozen retired jets are undergoing conversion. The F-16s are pulled from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where several hundred of the mothballed jets are parked in the sun outside of Tucson, Arizona. Crews with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group help prepare for the trek to Florida, where the bulk of the conversion work is done.

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The first QF-16 arrives at Tyndall escorted by a QF-4 Nov. 19. The QF-16 will undergo developmental testing by Boeing and eventually become part of the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. The QF-16 is a supersonic reusable full-scale aerial target drone modified from an F-16 Fighting Falcon. At this time, the group uses QF-4s, made from 1960s F-4 Phantom, to conduct their full-scale aerial target missions. The targets allow the Air Force and allied nations to have a realistic understanding of what they could face on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Chris Cokeing)

The QF-16 isn’t the first unmanned fighter-like drone. But it is the latest generation, replacing the QF-4, an aerial target created from the previous generation of F-4 Phantom jets, which saw their glory during the Vietnam War.

There’s simply not enough of them left, and time has aged them toward obsolescence. The Air Force flew its final QF-4 mission on Aug. 17 at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and the service plans to officially retire it in December.

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Here’s how this Marine learned to cope with traumatic brain injury

“I learned about the Semper Fi Fund through a class I was in at Camp Pendleton, California, to learn more about traumatic brain injuries and how they affect you,” says Sergeant Nora Mund, who was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2010. “After being in that group for over a month, the Fund gave us iPads to help us organize our medical appointments and daily activities, and also to have apps to help improve memory.”


Nora, a Colorado native, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 – “mainly because I wanted to explore the world and knew that I needed more discipline in my life.” She deployed in March 2010 to Afghanistan, where she remained until October of that year.

Also read: Rob Riggle doubled-down on his USMC service while clearing rubble at Ground Zero

“I was a squad and team leader in the Female Engagement Team (FET) assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines,” she explains. “The FET team was designed specifically to interact with the local populace of Afghanistan and to assist the area commander on missions and community outreach.”

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Her job also put her in a position to witness firsthand the types of combat realities that can lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and, in her specific case, TBI (traumatic brain injury).

“I remember walking alongside a road heading to our destination,” she recalls, “and the next thing I know an explosion happens to my left and the dust that surrounded me is so thick I couldn’t see more than a foot ahead of me.

“It wasn’t until about six or seven months after my return home that I had a medical appointment and they told me I have a traumatic brain injury,” Nora continues.”They also discovered that I had herniated disks in my neck that causes a lot of pain in my back and numbness in my left arm. I had occupational therapy for almost a year working on my memory, plus physical therapy for my back and neck.”

Today, Nora is a full-time student at the University of Colorado, where she is working to get her Bachelor’s degree in psychology. “I’m also a research assistant for the Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors (C-PAWW) initiative, where we study the interaction between humans and their animals,”she says. “We hope to influence policy makers with hard science showing how service and companion animals help veterans and other vulnerable populations.”

On May 21, 2014, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter recognized Nora on the floor of the House of Representatives, saying (in part): “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize and honor Sergeant Nora Mund for her service to our country. She was the first female assigned to serve as the senior armor / small arms repair technician for the Marine Corps Infantry Officer’s Course, Quantico, Virginia. Sergeant Mund volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan with Operation Enduring Freedom and was selected to serve on the Marine Corps’ first Female Engagement Team. Through her courageous service, Sergeant Mund charted the path for future generations of women to serve in the military. I extend my deepest appreciation to Sergeant Nora Mund for her dedication, integrity and outstanding service to the United States of America.”

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“I’m excited to take life on,” says Nora. “When you’re injured, you have a tendency to view the oncoming days in such a negative light, so when you learn that there are good days in your future, you have energy and excitement for the future.”

“I think it’s important to let this generation of veterans know that they may not know it now, but they have great futures ahead of them–if they only just believe in it.”

We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.

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How the US military could kill Superman

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Hollywood’s latest take on the decades-old rivalry between Batman and Superman may be a dud, but it does raise an important question. How could humanity take down a seemingly invulnerable demi-god?

I reached out to a noted U.S. military scientist and weapons-designer who once helped us devise a strategy to kill Godzilla. I asked how the American armed forces could deal with a rogue Last Son of Krypton.

“Superman’s powers are formidable,” the scientist told me on condition of anonymity. “He is described as virtually invulnerable.”

But Superman does have weaknesses — and the military could exploit them. The scientist explained his plan. Frankly, it sounded a like a more-practical version of the various methods Batman has tried over his many years of kicking Kal El’s ass.

This story includes some minor spoilers for Batman v Superman.

Batman rarely faces Superman alone. In Frank Miller’s comic The Dark Knight Returns, he enlists Green Arrow. And in Miller’s sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the combined forces of the Green Arrow, Flash and Atom make quick work of Superman.

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Our weapons-designer said he approves of Batman’s team philosophy. “The clever use of combined arms will be crucial,” the scientist said. “Sophisticated complementary employment of information operations and the most lethal weapons-effects will be needed to outwit and outgun [Superman].”

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Batman’s command of information is the main reason he almost always wins in his various battles with Superman. Bruce Wayne is smarter than Kal El is — and he always plans way ahead. Superman, so accustomed to being the strongest guy in the room, always rushes headlong into Batman’s traps.

Our military scientist said he thinks an evil Clark Kent would be doubly weak. “An evil Superman will, by nature, suffer one more vulnerability — hubris. This arrogance can be exploited by military’s deception and psychological operations.”

The scientist proposed a plot to draw Supes into the desert by gathering all his enemies in one spot — and calling him out.

I can do one better. Just copy the plan Batman and Lex Luthor employ when they want to draw Superman to a particular location — kidnap Lois Lane.

Once the Last Son of Krypton is in position, the military would spring its trap. “The weapon must overcome the best of Superman’s protections — his accelerated healing capabilities, his speed and agility,” the scientist explained.

“Light-scale speed and overwhelming penetrability of destructive effects will be key,” he continued. “Lethal radiation [is] promising, so Superman’s demise probably demands the crafty application of nuclear weapons.”

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Superman almost dying after getting nuked in the animated The Dark Knight Returns. | Warner Bros.

Superman’s survived nukes before, but more on that later. For the weapons to have an effect on Kal El, the military would have to weaken him first — and that means kryptonite. That’s something Batman knows, too. In pretty much all of his fights with Superman, Batman wields the glowing green rock that saps Supes’ strength.

“But those harmful rays are traditionally delivered as a chronic dose over time,” the scientist explained. Batman often lures Clark close to the radioactive rock, but never uses it to kill him. Bats always holds back. Even the aerosol version he packs in Batman v Superman — and in The Dark Knight Returns — is carefully formulated to weaken, not to kill.

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But our goal isn’t to weaken Superman. We want him dead. The weapons-designer told me an aerosol kryptonite would be the best Superman-killer. But we’d want to totally blanket the battlefield in the radioactive green fog.

“An acute dose delivered instantaneously will be critical for assured mission-accomplishment,” the scientist said. With the Man of Steel reeling from the kryptonite cloud, it’d be time to hit him with mankind’s deadliest weapon. A nuclear bomb. Actually, several of them.

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“Nuclear weapons offer a smorgasbord of lethal and acute radiations,” the scientist explained. “These include neutrons (fast and thermal), x-rays, gamma rays, fission fragments, alpha particles and high energy freed electrons (beta radiation).”

“The most penetrative of these are fast-neutron and gamma radiations, both prodigiously produced in fusion reactions. A redundant array of small, concealable, fusion-boosted fission bomb detonations should do.”

How many nukes constitute a “redundant array” when dealing with the Man of Steel? Superman has taken a nuke to the chest before and lived. In both The Dark Knight Returns and Batman v Superman, he survives an ICBM.

Sure, Supes almost dies both times, but almost doesn’t count when you’re trying to fell a living god. So let’s be safe and hit Kal El with a dozen strategic nukes. Six megatons in all. Enough to kill millions of people.

The weapons-designer said the military should bury the nukes just below the surface, deep enough to hide the devices from Supes’ initial glance. The scientists said he wants to put his trap on top of the atomic land mine. I want to use Lois Lane.

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Warner Bros.

Yeah, we’re probably going to lose the intrepid reporter in the resulting blast, but what’s one life compared to the harm an evil Superman might inflict?

Superman possesses x-ray vision, so it would be possible for Kal El to seethe subsurface nuke trap, but the scientist said he has a plan for that, too. “X-ray-sensitive detectors would cause the networked array to detonate as one.”

“At close range, invulnerability will prove to be a myth,” he said. “High-energy neutrons, gamma radiation and hard x-rays will overcome any conceivable [defense]. Superman’s legendary cellular make-up will disintegrate into a plasma gas. His legendary speed [won’t] permit him to outrun nuclear death approaching him at light-comparable speed.”

“The battle would culminate instantaneously, and decisively. The arrogance of [Superman] would evaporate in a mushroom cloud, never to reappear. Not even in a sequel.”

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