On Monday December 14, 2020, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers surprised an unsuspecting Army family.
Staff Sergeant Ulisses Bautista and his wife, Marla, were having a quiet afternoon when their doorbell rang and they heard loud banging. Ulisses went to the door first to see what was going on, naturally concerned. But there was no need – he was met with a smiling team member from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who asked him to get his entire family outside as quickly as possible for a surprise.
“There were about 10 people including two Tampa baby Buccaneers Cheerleaders in our driveway, cheering, clapping and congratulating us,” Marla said. It was then that they realized they had been selected as the General H Norman Schwarzkopf Army Family of the Year. “I was speechless! I think I said ‘Oh my gosh’ 50 times while they were outside my home. We were blown away!”
The Central Florida USO along with the Buccaneers were proud to recognize and honor this Army family. Each year, one family from every branch of service is recognized for their contribution to the military community. They are chosen based on their integrity, courage, commitment and service before self. The awardees selected for 2020 were extraordinary. Stories of life-saving missions, launching non-profit organizations to support the homeless and military family mentorship were just a few of the reasons this year’s families were chosen.
Normally the celebration is held as a large event but with COVID-19, adjustments had to be made. This year it was coordinated through socially-distanced home visits with the Buccaneers Street Team RV, cheerleaders and the mascot to make the presentation. While outside the family received a special message from the co-owner of the Buccaneers and the wife and daughter of the late General H Norman Schwarzkopf.
The family runs The Bautista Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving homeless veterans and displaced youth. The work they do is personal for both of them. “I’m a soldier and servicing my country is something I’ve done for 17 years,” Ulisses explained. “Traveling around the world, I’ve been exposed to different ways of life and unfortunately, different views of poverty. First and foremost, I do what I do because I enjoy doing it but also, I believe what we do will give people in need a sense of self-worth.”
‘When I heard we were selected as the General H Norman Schwarzkopf Army Family of the year I was in shock. I mean there are so many amazing Army families doing great things. However, my family is truly honored to receive this distinguished recognition,” Ulisses said. The award also includes a fun two-night stay for each military family at Tradewinds Island Grand Resort and gift cards courtesy of Lowe’s and PDQ.
Marla herself was homeless as a teenager and it’s an experience that’s never left her. “I promised myself If I were to ever overcome homelessness, I too would give just as those who came before me. I have kept my promise and will continue to work toward ending homelessness in America. It is an achievable goal,” she said.
On their family receiving this award, Marla shared, “This award means we are doing something right. It means we are inspiring communities to do great work and to us, that’s the goal. Each one of us plays a part in making the world a better place and together we can do just that.”
The internet has been aflutter with memes about a million-person strong raiding party headed for the U.S. government’s top secret military installation commonly referred to as Area 51 for weeks now. Sure, the whole thing started as a joke, and some portions of the media lack the cultural fluency to appreciate that… but the internet hasn’t, and if there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s running with a joke that confuses and befuddles the older generation.
It seems like a sure thing that some poor fools that clicked “attend” on the Facebook page devoted to the Area 51 raid will actually make their way out to the extremely remote Rachel, Nevada (the closest town to Area 51) in September. It’s just about certain that the media will be present as well, eager to capture shots of the turnout (or lack thereof). Whether or not anybody actually tries to make a break for the remote airstrip is yet to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that no one that does will actually make it anywhere near the isolated structures. Instead, they’ll likely find themselves in jail.
The reality of this fad, then, may be a bit of a bummer — but we’re still months away from the gloomy truth killing off lonesome teenager’s dreams of alien girlfriends just waiting to be liberated from Uncle Sam’s clutches. So let’s just appreciate the memes in the meantime.
The timestamp checks out.
I’ll be honest, this one wouldn’t have been a contender if it weren’t for the generic “College Student” account name associated with this meme. This whole Area 51 Raid fad started somewhere in the internet’s nether regions (most of us call it Reddit), and this meme perfectly represents the demographic that brought this concept to the forefront of America’s attention.
Put simply, this meme perfectly represents the entire subject… a bunch of college students that would much rather plan a hypothetical raid on a secret military installation than study for whatever their next exam is. Maybe this is telling about us writers too… a bunch of internet journalists that would rather write about college students planning a raid on Area 51 than focus on ongoing conflicts in the… eh, never mind.
Just don’t cheat and look at my screen.
This one may just be a generational thing, but I can’t be the only guy that remembers playing Halo on the original Xbox in both the dorms as a college student and in barracks as a junior Marine. The Halo franchise is legendary for a number of reasons, including how much fun it used to be to stay up all night murdering your friends with weird weapons like the Needler shown here.
All I’m saying is… if I went through all the trouble to invade Area 51, I’d hope to get a plasma cannon or two out of the deal.
Didn’t we all, man.
No meme more accurately conveys the ironic humor of the entire Area 51 story than this one, starring Twitter comedian Rob Delaney in his super-ordinary looking Deadpool 2 garb. An unassuming and ordinary dude that chuckled under his breath as he came across a Facebook post about raiding Area 51 is really what this whole thing is all about… until the media came along and tried its best to turn this whole thing into a real news story.
This one is my absolute favorite, because, despite my allegiance to the internet’s tomfoolery (it is, after all, how I make a living), I’m still every bit the salty old platoon sergeant I once was, deep beneath my softening midsection. As I’ve seen this meme fad develop into a news story, and that story mobilize people into thinking an actual raid is possible, part of me sort of wants to see a mob of entitled young adults storming across the dry sands of Groom Lake.
Why? Not because they’d accomplish anything, but because half of them would go down from dehydration a half mile into the march and the rest would succumb to fear after an organized force of security officers began threatening them with non-lethal weapons.
Watching a few hundred millennials get a spanking in the desert? That’s worth the memes any day.
Hugh Hefner, the iconic founder, Editor-in-Chief, and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy — and one time U.S. Army veteran — is dead at 91.
His military service is a testament to the mentality of vets from the Greatest Generation. Despite an IQ 0f 152, he still opted to join the U.S. Army right out of high school in 1944, a time when victory in Europe wasn’t necessarily assured.
But Hef never made it to Europe. Instead, he was an infantry clerk stationed in Oregon and then Virginia. While he did learn the basics of using the M1 Garand and tossing grenades, he never had to do it on the battlefield. He spent the war drawing cartoons for Army-run newspapers.
He left the military in 1946, honorably discharged and destined for greater things — notably supplying reading material for U.S. troops (and everyone else) for every American war since 1953.
“I came out [of the Army] like a lot of other fellas believing that somehow we had, we had fought in a war, the last really moral war and that we would celebrate that in some form,” Hefner once said in an interview. “I expected something comparable [to the Jazz Age] after world war two and we didn’t get that, all we got was a lot of conformity and conservatism.”
Hefner left the Army to encounter the Cold War as a civilian and he didn’t like what it was doing to American society. He blamed things like Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee as a sign of repression in the U.S.
“When I was in college at the university of Illinois the skirt lengths dropped instead of going up as they had during the roaring twenties and I knew that was a very bad sign,” Hefner said. “It is symbolic and reflective of a very repressive time.”
In Hef’s mind, sexual repression and dictatorship went hand-in-hand, and he opted to do his part. His work helped fuel the sexual revolution of the 1960s — and fight an element of feminism he sees as a “puritan,” “prohibitionist,” and “anti-sexual.” Hefner funded challenges to state regulations that outlawed birth control and he sponsored the court case that would become Roe v. Wade.
“One of the great ironies in our society is that we celebrate freedom and then limit the parts of life where we should be most free,” he told Esquire in 2015.
In that same Esquire interview — at age 76 — he said of his death: “My house is pretty much in order. When it comes, it comes.” But he also said, “I wake up every day and go to bed every night knowing I’m the luckiest guy on the fucking planet.”
A French Holocaust survivor has donated $1 million for relief programs for U.S. veterans to thank American troops for saving his life during World War II.
Bernard Darty, 83, announced over the weekend that he would donate $1 million to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Services for Armed Forces program of the American Red Cross to help U.S. military veterans, especially those affected by the recent devastating hurricanes that hit areas of the United States.
Darty’s family moved from Poland to France in 1939 to escape the Nazis. In 1942 his father went into hiding, but his mother was arrested during a roundup of Jews and sent to Auschwitz, where she died. For the next two years, he was hidden by families living on the outskirts of Paris, as were his siblings and his future wife, Paulette.
“I vividly remember the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of American troops who landed in Normandy to liberate us in June 1944. They were our saviors, doling out packets of sweets to half-starved, war-weary children who had almost given up hope for freedom,” Darty wrote in a personal essay published on the Fox News website announcing his donations. “The gratitude I feel to these men is beyond words. They freed our country and they saved our lives. Without American troops, my family and I simply would not have existed. I think of that every time I look at our family photos,” he also wrote.
He acknowledged that his gift comes a bit late, more than 70 years since he was rescued. “It”s not too late to give back. That’s a lesson I hope the next generation recognizes, because it”s all too easy to let procrastination give way to inaction. But action is what brings hope to those who need it,” he wrote. “I watched news stories this fall of hurricanes, flooding and wildfires striking America, inflicting suffering among civilians and veterans alike, I realized that I still had an important task left to complete in my life. I had not yet given back to the American soldiers who saved my life nearly three-quarters of a century ago.”
Darty is a retiree who lives in Paris but winters in Miami Beach, Florida. He is co-founder of Darty Group, an electrical retailer operating more than 340 stores in several European countries and in the United States.
A video has surfaced on several social media outlets including Reddit and Instagram showing a Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter releasing five air-to-ground weapons simultaneously with subsequent scenes where the weapons hit several targets precisely. The video sources go on to claim that at least one of the targets was “moving at almost 40 mph”.
The telemetry displayed in the video dates it on Nov. 28, 2018 (even though the close up on the moving target is dated Dec. 3, 2018), but the video surfaced on the internet in January 2019 (it was released by the RAF 17Sqn on Instagram). Defense expert and author Ian D’Costa told TheAviationist.com, “It’s an F-35 at NTTR (Nellis Test and Training Range), I could be wrong, but it [seems to be] dropping five Paveway IVs and hitting all five targets with GEOT (Good Effect on Target).”
There have been test drops of the Paveway IV precision guided bomb from both test F-35 aircraft and from U.S. Marine F-35Bs. However, only the British and the Saudi Arabians are currently reported to be using the Paveway IV 500-pound smart bomb operationally.
In the weapons carrying configuration shown in the new range video the F-35 is carrying the Paveway IVs in a “third day of war” configuration sometimes referred to as “beast mode” on the outside of the aircraft. The F-35 is equipped with an internal weapons bay capable of carrying munitions including air-to-air missiles and, in U.S. service, two 2,000-pound GBU-31 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) with Mk-84 warheads.
Load carrying capability of F-35 in both low-observable “stealth” and “beast mode” for more permissive air defense environment.
When the F-35 carries all of its weapons internally it maintains its low observability or “stealth” capability. This is a critical asset during the earliest phase of a conflict when combat aircraft are operating in a non-permissive environment with threats like surface-to-air missiles, automatic radar guided anti-aircraft guns and enemy aircraft. The F-35s low observability and internal weapons bay enable it to operate with greater autonomy in this high-threat environment. Once the surface-to-air and air-to-air threat is moderated the F-35 can begin to prosecute targets using externally carried precision strike munitions that will increase the aircraft’s radar signature but are employed at a time when enemy air defenses have been suppressed and are less of a threat to aircrews.
File photo of RAF F-35B with full external bomb load of Paveway IVs.
This video is significant since it continues the trend of showcasing the F-35’s emerging capabilities, at least in a testing role. Critics of the F-35 program have often claimed the aircraft is limited in its ability to effectively operate in a hostile environment. In 2018 however, both the Israeli Air Force and the U.S. Marines employed the F-35 in different variants in combat. In the case of the Israelis, there was a persistent surface-to-air and air-to-air threat in the region where the combat operations were conducted.
Earlier in 2018 an F-35 made headlines when it intercepted two drones, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA’s) simultaneously during a successful test using AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced, Medium Range, Air-to-Air Missiles). The two drones were simultaneously detected and killed using the F-35’s Electro Optical Targeting System or “EOTS”.
USAF Lt. Col. Tucker Hamilton, Director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force and Commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, California, told reporters last year, “Two AMRAAMs had multiple targets – to shoot two airborne targets simultaneously. It was a complex set up that happened over the Pacific. They were shooting at drones.”
While potentially valid criticisms of the F-35 program continue, many focused on cost and maintainability of the complex weapons system, the program has scored a consistent year-long run of developmental and operational victories with only one significant setback when a U.S. Marine F-35B crashed in late September 2018. The pilot escaped that accident.
In the social media space the buzz about the F-35 took a turn last week when smartphone video of the USAF’s new F-35A Demo Team practicing at Luke AFB surfaced. Online observers expressed surprise and excitement over the maneuvers displayed in the video with one comments on social media remarking, “With this (new video) and the maneuvering GIF I’m beginning to think the F-35 might be more capable than the naysayers have been complaining about.”
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Multiple sources tell We Are The Mighty that the grounding was prompted by protests by Navy instructor pilots who were concerned over the effects of the malfunctioning oxygen system in the Goshawk. One source tells WATM that more than 100 instructors “I am safed” themselves — essentially telling the Navy they felt unsafe to fly — en masse at three air bases to force the service into coming up with a solution.
According to the Navy statement, on March 31, 94 flights were cancelled between Naval Air Stations Kingsville, Meridian and Pensacola due to operational risk management concerns raised by T-45C instructor pilots. Their concerns are over recent physiological episodes experienced in the cockpit that were caused by contamination of the aircraft’s Onboard Oxygen Generation System. Chief of Naval Air Training immediately requested the engineering experts at NAVAIR conduct in-person briefs with the pilots.
The briefs were conducted in Kingsville Monday, then Meridian and Pensacola April 4, the Navy said.
The T-45C Goshawk is a two-seat, single-engine, carrier-capable jet trainer aircraft used by the Navy and Marine Corps for intermediate and advanced jet training. The T-45 is a derivative of the British Aerospace Hawk and has been in service since 1991. The Navy currently has 197 T-45s in its inventory.
“This issue is my number one safety priority and our team of NAVAIR program managers, engineers and maintenance experts in conjunction with Type Commanders, medical and physiological experts continue to be immersed in this effort working with a sense of urgency to determine all the root causes of [physiological episodes] along multiple lines of effort,” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces.
The Navy says it expects to resume flight operations for the Goshawks April 10.
Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.
The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.
The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).
Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).
Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.
Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).
The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.
Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”
The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.
Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.
At least 84 people, including at least 10 children, were killed in the southern French city of Nice when a man drove a truck into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday late Thursday night.
Authorities are now trying to determine how the attacker — who has been identified as a 31-year-old Tunisian national residing in Nice — evaded French counterterrorism efforts, as France grapples with its third major terrorist attack in the past 18 months.
The country’s counterterror measures were ramped up after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January 2015 and heightened even further after November’s Paris attacks.
A question that has emerged in the immediate aftermath of these attacks is whether anything more could have been done to detect and preempt them — or whether so-called lone-wolf attacks such as that of Nice, Dallas, and Orlando, Florida, have long since exceeded the capabilities of current counterterrorism tactics.
“We have moved into a new era,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement. “And France will have to live with terrorism.”
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel echoed Valls’ sentiment from Brussels, which was attacked by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State in March.
“Zero risk does not exist,” he said. “We are now faced with a different modus operandi.”
“Current counterterrorism capabilities are not designed to prevent attacks like these,” The Soufan Group, a strategic security firm, wrote in its daily briefing on Friday. “Absent tell-tale communications or travel — or alerting behavior beyond the merely ‘suspicious’ — there is little authorities can do to detect and deter attacks of this nature.”
It continued: “Such attacks can be considered intentionally spontaneous, in that they take some forethought, but little to no planning or training. The results are mass-casualty terrorist attacks.”
Antiterror prosecutors have taken over the investigation into the attack, which occurred at about 10:30 p.m. local time Thursday as pedestrians were dispersing after watching Nice’s Bastille Day fireworks.
“What can you do against this?” Andre Jacob, a former head of counterterrorism at Belgium’s State Security service, told Reuters. “It’s impossible to prevent. Even if there were clues.”
The French “can add more counterterrorism resources — the numbers of people actually tasked with monitoring those on the terrorist watch list,” geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of the geopolitical risk firm Eurasia Group, told Business Insider on Friday.
“Short of that, near term, you’re talking about measures that would truly change the nature of a liberal and open democracy — the sorts of automatic detentions being discussed by the Front Nationale,” he added, referring to France’s far-right, nationalist party known for its anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, and eurosceptic policies.
“Long term the only real fix is true integration … or a move to a selective police/surveillance state. There’s little appetite for either at present.”
‘The weaponization of everyday life’
France has become a target for Islamic State sympathizers and militants for many reasons, including the war France declared on the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh, in Iraq and Syria last year.
“Today, France is clearly the most threatened country,” the head of France’s General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSI) said on Friday. “The question about the threat is not to know ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘where’.”
On Friday, French President Francois Hollande said France would “reinforce” its actions in Iraq and Syria in response to the violence.
“We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil,” he said.
France declared a state of emergency after November’s Paris attacks, which were carried out by ISIS militants who had trained with the jihadist group in Syria. The mandate was still in place — set to expire on July 26 — when the Nice attacker carried out Thursday night’s rampage. It will now be extended for another three months, Hollande said.
The Soufan Group said the “heavy-handed” policies that inevitably accompany a nationwide state of emergency are necessary but damaging — and probably futile — in the long run.
“Persistent states of emergency are unhealthy for democratic societies, yet the nature of the threat yields a slippery slope of well-intended but heavy-handed policies,” the group wrote. “The uncomfortable reality is that few counterterrorism laws or measures can address the weaponization of everyday life due to the unrelenting call to terror .”
Andre Jacob of Belgium’s state security service echoed that sentiment, saying “you can’t turn everywhere into a ‘fan-zone,’ behind barriers and police checkpoints.”
“This seems like the act of an isolated individual where it’s impossible to prevent anything in the sense that terrorists will adapt to their targets,” Jacob told Reuters.
Alan Mendoza, executive director of the conservative think tank The Henry Jackson Society, put it even more bluntly.
Mendoza said: “France has been on high terror alert for months with troops on the street yet still could not prevent this atrocity.”
‘Operate within France’
US officials told The Daily Beast that ISIS is a top suspect in the latest attack. As Business Insider’s Pamela Engel has noted, both ISIS and Al Qaeda have publicly called for supporters to use vehicles as weapons.
“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said in a statement in September 2014. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
“If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France,” a French ISIS member said in a video released in 2014. “Operate within France.”
As Bremmer of Eurasia Group said on Twitter, “1,700 French citizens have gone to fight in Iraq and Syria. 250 have returned.”
Last year, the French department of Alpes-Maritimes, which contains Nice, began training “teachers, social workers, doctors, policemen, prison officers and others to watch for signs of radicalisation and sound the alert,” according to The Economist. The program was called Entr’Autres.
“The objective is to bring someone back from the edge from the point at which the radicalised mind turns to terrorism,” Patrick Amoyel, a psychoanalyst and co-founder of Entr’Autres, told The Economist.
Still, Bremmer noted, ” France is already arresting as many Islamist terrorist suspects as the rest of the EU combined.”
Amedy Coulibaly, one of the gunmen behind the worst militant attacks in France for decades, declares his allegiance.
Amedy Coulibaly, for example — an ISIS militant who attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015 — met Chérif Kouachi, one of the two Charlie Hebdo shooters, in a French prison in 2006.
To respond to and combat this trend, France enacted a compulsory re-education program in four prisons earlier this year, the Economist reported.
Bouhlel, the suspect in the Nice attack, has not yet been linked to a terrorist group and was alone in the refrigerated truck that was used to carry out the attack. He was, however, on law enforcement’s radar, having been previously accused of assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats, and robbery, according to reports.
Dozens of bodies covered in blue sheets still lined the pavement next to the Promenade des Anglais on Friday morning as the police continued to investigate the scene of yet another attack in their country.
Ask any vet — music and combat go hand in hand. Whether pounding the drums of war, blaring the bugle calls, or recording songs after combat, music has underscored the good, the bad, and the ugly of warfare throughout human history.
“Live From Iraq” is a Rap album actually made by combat veterans in a theater of war.
It was produced and conceived by U.S. Army Sergeant Neal Saunders, an M1 Abrams tank crewman of the 1st Cav’s 112 Task Force, along with several of his buddies.
They were fighting around Baghdad and Sadr City in 2005. When not out on missions, Big Neal and his crew would record songs in a makeshift studio, using their paychecks to order equipment from a Sam Ash music store in Philadelphia.
It was the only Sam Ash that would ship to their APO address.
“Live From Iraq” takes the listener on a harrowing, poignant journey of a year-long deployment. There’s no boasting of riches, hot girls, or glorified violence — just words of truth with socially relevant lyrics:
“This is up armor kits and bulletproof windows/ We sleep with body armor blankets and Kevlar pillows,” are some lyrics from the title track, “Live From Iraq.”
The album samples a troops-in-contact moment on the song, “Lace Your Boots,” with the lyrics: “But it’s too late to switch/ After this full metal jacket grabs ’em/ Look we told ’em this was war/ And we told ’em we get at ’em/ This is war…”
“Reality Check” over a poignant piano riff calls out those who like to play soldier in style and attitude, but have never walked the walk: “Wanna be soldiers
Follow me I’ll take you to see some Marines in Fallujah/ And I hope you make it/ Or come visit my theater/ Shit I’ll show you some places/ But I really don’t think/ That y’all wanna go where I’ll take you…”
Big Neal has said that this album is the blood of soldiers and all that they have seen and done. One could argue that “Live From Iraq” is the original Battle Mix, one that still resonates today with many of our soldiers deployed.
In what should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the current state of Washington, the three service secretaries complained Oct. 24 about how hard it was to get anything done because of the cumbersome Pentagon bureaucracy and Congress’ inability to approve a spending budget on time.
In a forum sponsored by the Center for a New American Security in D.C., Air Force Sec. Deborah Lee James said she had been surprised by “how difficult it is to get anything done in Washington, how difficult it is to move your agenda.”
James specifically mentioned the political stalemate in the Congress and “the need to get back to compromise.”
Navy Sec. Ray Mabus said his biggest surprise and frustration was “how slowly the bureaucracy moves, particularly DoD-wide.” If you want to do something, he said, the response is “we have to study this, or you have to do it DoD-wide” instead of letting the individual services act.
Army Sec. Eric Fanning said he was surprised by “how much time that would be spent on the budget every year,” because “we don’t have any stability” in the congressional budget process.
All three of the secretaries said they were trying to take steps within their service to bypass the ponderous procurement process, with James and Fanning citing the rapid capabilities offices their services have established to get gear fielded quicker — even if it wasn’t “a 100 percent solution.”
The procurement system is set up to seek the ultimate solution, which is a problem because the adversary moves quicker, Fanning said.
Mabus endorsed that view and said the Navy has “been doing pilot programs,” to move prospective systems out to the fleet instead of following the lengthy process for a program of record. The idea, he said, “is to get something out faster,” and possibly to “fail faster.”
He cited the Navy’s deployment of an experimental laser defensive weapon system on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf, which is influencing decisions on follow-on weapons.
James said the advice she would offer her successor in the next administration would be to spend less time on review and oversight on smaller programs so the acquisition specialists could have more time for the biggest programs.
The three secretaries, who would be expected to leave office when a new president and defense secretary take over next year, said they are involved in a detailed process run by Defense Sec. Ash Carter’s office to prepare briefing papers on programs, budget and personnel issues for their successors.
The secretaries were introduced by Michele Flournoy, CEO of CNAS, who is widely rumored to be the next defense secretary if Hillary Clinton becomes president.
The three officials insisted that their services were ready to fight the current battles against violent extremists, such as ISIL, but said they were concerned about their ability to prepare those forces for a future fight against a high-end adversary due to the uncertain and constrained defense budgets, the intense pace of operations and reductions in their force levels.
Among the emerging threats they were trying to prepare for, the secretaries cited cyber attacks from high-end rivals such as Russia, and armed unmanned aerial vehicles, which already are showing up in Iraq.
James noted the explosive loaded UAV that killed three Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in Iraq recently. And she said the Air Force detected an “unmanned system in the vicinity” of its deployed forces and “was able to bring it down with electronic means” rather than shooting it down. She declined to say how that was done.
Asked if they would be able to conduct a “no-fly zone” over rebel-held areas of Syria, which some have advocated, James said, “we know how to do this,” but it would require money, people and resources that would have to come from other commitments.
But because the Air Force would be supported by the Navy and perhaps coalition partners, “I have to believe we would figure out how to do it,” she said
It’s likely that whoever US troops fight in the next war, these enemies will be armed with drones. That’s why Army researchers have invented a smart and cost-effective way to bring them down.
The US Army has invented a new grenade in the 40 mm configuration that is packed with a net and specifically designed to take out enemy drones.
The weapon, which was developed by Army engineers at the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) in New Jersey, can be launched from the standard grenade launchers regularly used by the US military and law enforcement.
The Army’s simple yet effective invention has purportedly outperformed existing net-centric counter-drone techniques, such as drone-operated drag nets, where a pilot must outmaneuver an enemy aerial drone. That tactic would likely be ineffective against a swarm of drones, which a sophisticated adversary like Russia would be capable of wielding.
Furthermore, the new net-packed grenade is a lot cheaper than surface-to-air weapons, such as surface to air missiles, to take out an adversary’s drones. A US ally once used a million Patriot missile to shoot down a quadcopter drone that probably cost no more than 0, US Army Gen. David Perkins last year, calling attention to the need for affordable counter-drone capabilities.
Ground units equipped with the M320 grenade launchers could carry dozens of these grenades to eliminate enemy drones from hundreds of yards away, TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary for technology transfer ,explained, adding that units equipped with the Mk-19 launchers could down enemy drones from even farther away.
The Army wants to eventually expand this concept to disable boats and trucks and much more.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia grappled with a tragedy on Sept. 18, 2018, after Syria, its ally, mistakenly shot down one of its planes flying above the Mediterranean, and it shows how Russian President Vladimir Putin is strangely powerless to protect his own people.
Syria’s missile defenses, unable to get a fix on the Israeli fighters, had instead spotted a large, slower-moving Russian spy plane flying overhead, locked on, and fired, killing 15 Russians with a Russian-made missile.
“With so much congestion in the Syrian air, it’s not surprising at all,” Anna Borshchevskaya, a Russia expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider. “This is not the first time when Putin looked like he couldn’t protect his people.”
After Russian generals blamed Israel and promised “countermeasures” in response, Putin called it a tragic accident, attributed no blame, and did not promise retaliation.
The skies above Syria remain combative and congested. Russian planes continue their routes. Syrian air-defense officers remain jumpy on the trigger, and there’s no indication this won’t happen again.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Paper tiger Putin
Russia entered the Syrian conflict with a roar in September 2015. Russian air power saved Syrian President Bashar Assad from a backsliding civil war that had promised to crush him.
But three years have passed, and though Assad remains in power, Russians are still dying in Syria, and the country has become isolated and weak. Russia has lost nine fixed-wing aircraft and an untold number of helicopters in Syria. In early 2018 the US devastated a column of Russian mercenaries who approached its position in Syria, killing as many as 300 with superior air power.
Recently, when the US threatened Syria with further punishment for what it says are chemical-weapons attacks, Russia threatened to hit US forces in Syria. The US responded with live-fire exercises, and Russia soon backed down.
After US strikes on Syria in both April 2017 and April 2018, Russia threatened retaliation or cutting communication with the US. And both times, nothing happened.
Putin has time and time again asserted himself as a powerful figure exploiting the void left by the US’s refusal to engage with Syria’s civil war. But time and time again, Putin has failed to protect his own people.
“Putin filled a vacuum in Syria, but he didn’t need to be super powerful to do that,” Borshchevskaya said. “Presence is often relevance, and that’s what happened in Syria.”
While Russia has openly taunted the US to intervene in Syria, Putin has merely correctly estimated the US’s complacence, rather than legitimately scared off a determined foe. Putin masterfully played off a lack of US political will in order to convince many European US allies that the US was scared.
“So many people in the West were so worried of risking a war with Russia over Syria,” Borshchevskaya said. “That was never going to happen. They don’t want to fight a war with us. They know they can’t win it.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russia’s strong and weak at the same time
While Russia projects strength with a raggedy aircraft carrier in Syria and a three-year military campaign that has managed to secure a status quo without definitively beating pockets of unsophisticated rebels, its own people felt the hurt.
Putin’s aggressiveness in dealing with Syria and Ukraine and his links to international instances of Kremlin critics being poisoned have led to sanctions and isolation for Russia, harming its economy.
In August 2018, Putin broke his 2005 promise not to raise the retirement age, reminding many Russians that, because of lower national life expectancies, they could die before seeing a dime of their pensions but had lived to see that money spent in Syria and Ukraine. Mass demonstrations broke out across Russia.
Russia has done well to achieve its limited objective of keeping Assad in power in Syria. But when it comes to protecting Russian lives, the loss of the Il-20 points to a “hugely embarrassing” trend of Putin failing his people, Borshchevskaya said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?
For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.
More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Remembering the Bandit legacy
In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.
The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.
Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”
Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.
“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”
Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.
“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”
When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.
“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”
Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.
Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)
Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.
Why I serve
Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.
In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.
“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”
The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.
“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”
For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.
“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”