A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.
Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.
High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.
“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”
The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.
During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.
The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.
A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.
Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.
“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”
Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.
Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.
Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have “no value” and be a “humiliation.”
Trump said on July 30, 2018, he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions,” “anytime,” even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31, 2018, that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.
“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.
“How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?” he added.
Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations.
The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was “no value in Trump’s proposal” given Iran’s “bad experiences in negotiations with America” and “U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments.”
Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States “is not trustworthy.”
“How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” he asked.
The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.
“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”
Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want,” adding that it would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”
Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.
Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31, 2018, that “respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal” would pave the way for talks.
Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that “negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now.”
“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari added.
Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.
“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” Trump said in July 2018.
Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.
“The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.”
“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course,” Marquis said.
In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the “pain” from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.
The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30, 2018.
The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran in June 2018.
The Islamic State group released a recording Sept. 28 of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.
In his first alleged message in nearly a year, and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the “media centres” of countries fighting his group.
“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realized that the path to… victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances,” the speaker said.
It was not clear when the message, released by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.
In it, he lashed out at “infidel nations headed by America, Russia, and Iran” who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against IS in Syria and Iraq.
“We will remain, we will resist and be patient… We will not give in,” he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated IS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
The apparent IS leader called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to pursue their “jihad,” or holy war, and attacks.
He urged his followers to “target the media centers of the infidels,” without providing further details.
A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.
“We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it,” the source said in a statement.
“While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”
The Sept. 28 audio message is the first said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.
That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.
In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.
With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.
Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi’s health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.
One of the most intimidating standard-issue weapon fielded to troops is, without a doubt, the flamethrower. Yes, bullets are intimidating, but nothing shocks and terrifies the primitive side of our human brains like a wave of fire surging toward you.
In contemporary warfare, the use of flamethrowers has tapered off in favor of more accurate weapons. Contrary to popular belief, they are not outlawed by the Geneva Convention — they just can’t be used anywhere near civilians. The most notable modern example of a flamethrower being used against another person was in 2014, when it was used as an execution tool by North Korea against its Deputy Minister of Public Safety.
The flamethrower, as we know it, was first created by Germany in 1901 and was known as the flammenwerfer. The flamethrower would find immense popularity among troops in the trenches of WWI, the all-out war of WWII, and the forests and jungles of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
However, the ancestor of what we call the “flamethrower” today got its start early in history with the Byzantine Empire. In 672, Crusader navies would spew a napalm-like substance, called “Greek Fire,” on their enemies. The actual composition of Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret that is now lost to time, but scholars generally agree that pine resin was used to make it sticky.
As technology evolved, Greek Fire was then launched out through a hand siphon that a troop could carry into battle. This was called a “cheirosiphon.” Crusaders would station a hand siphon atop a ladder or wall and spray the Greek Fire down, raining chaos onto their enemy.
In the East, China invented their own version in 919, during a time known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. The Pen Huo Qi worked nearly identically to the Crusaders’ flamethower, but it was more elaborate and was made to resemble metal dragons breathing fire.
Outside of the Crusaders, Vikings may have also created their own version of Greek Fire in 1041 (albeit with a different name) after they laid siege on Constantinople. The Saga of Yngvar the Traveler tells the story of a man (Ingvar) as he learns the art of flame-throwing — because apparently regular vikings weren’t terrifying enough.
When guns and gunpowder became the dominant weapon on the battlefield, the comparatively short range of flamethrowers made it less appealing — but it wasn’t ever forgotten. Threats of using Greek Fire even persisted through the American Civil War.
Ion Cristodulo, the political prisoner in charge of the casino restoration in the early 1950s, returning to the casino in Constanta in 1988.
BUCHAREST — When she was growing up in a small town in southern Romania, Laura Voicila was stigmatized by her father’s past.
In 1949, as the communists tightened their grip on the Eastern European country, Nicolaie Voicila, 17, was arrested and later sentenced to four years of hard labor for “plotting against the social order.”
His crime was joining a literary club at which members discussed the relatively new communist regime led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and hoped it would disappear.
The high school student was one of the thousands the communists incarcerated in prisons and labor camps after World War II, often simply because they had fallen afoul of the communist regime.
There are no universally accepted figures, but a 2006 presidential commission established to study the communist dictatorship said more than 600,000 Romanians were sentenced for political crimes between 1945 and 1989. Thousands died from beatings, illness, exhaustion, cold, or lack of food or medicine.
The secret note with political prisoners’ names written in charcoal that was found inside the casino wall.
Early Days Of Communism
Andrei Muraru, a historian and adviser to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, told RFE/RL that in the early 1950s some 100,000 prisoners were sentenced to hard labor on a project called the Black Sea Canal, a 70-kilometer waterway connecting the Danube to the Black Sea. It was also known as the “Canal of Death.”
Voicila toiled there, transporting heavy loads of rock before he was sent to work restoring a casino, an architectural monument to art nouveau in the nearby port of Constanta that had been bombed by the Germans during the war.
He didn’t talk much about those experiences after his release — actually being forbidden from talking about his imprisonment — and his fear of discussing those hard times lingered even after communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ousted and executed during the 1989 Romanian Revolution.
But he did tell family members that political prisoners had scribbled notes and buried them in the walls of the casino.
“When I was growing up, Dad told us: When they renovate the casino, go there and find the documents,” Laura Voicila told RFE/RL.
“Under communism, we discussed things very quietly and never in public,” she said. “Dad listened to Radio Free Europe and I would say ‘Dad, what are they saying in Germany (RFE was based in Munich from 1950-1995)? I even remember the jingle [that went with the news].”
Nicolaie Voicila in the 1960s after his release from prison.
At school in the town of Gorgota, Laura had top grades, but her father’s past meant she suffered discrimination.
“My teacher told me: ‘You should be the class leader, but we can’t make you one,” she said. “[My father] told me to study and to leave the country if I wanted a chance [in life].”
Laura kept the story about the hidden notes in the back of her mind, until one day in May this year.
Her mother called saying she had seen on the news that restorers had unearthed a scrap of paper hidden in a wall of the casino that was signed by political prisoners.
“When my mom heard a note had been found, she said ‘You have to go and see it.’ She was moved to tears. It was a moment of moral reparation for her [after nearly 70 years]. People saw [the note] was there and it was real,” she told RFE/RL.
In mid-May, after Romania lifted a state of emergency imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Laura went with Apollon Cristodulo — the son of Ion Cristodulo, an architect and political prisoner in charge of restoring the casino — to Constanta to see the note firsthand.
The note — a scrap of paper torn from a cement sack with the names of 17 political prisoners written in charcoal and dated December 31, 1951 — is not much in itself, were it not for the dire circumstances that it was created under and its historical importance.
“It was found rolled up in a ball by a stained-glass window restorer. He was looking for some old shards of glass in the wall and he came across the paper. He felt there was something [special] about it,” Apollon Cristodulo said on July 23.
“It was miraculous that this note was found,” he said. “I wrote about the [hidden note at the] casino many years ago, but nobody believed it; they thought it was just a story, a legend…. But now everything I’ve written has come true.”
Cristodulo’s father died in 1991 aged 66, his health damaged by the harsh years of detention.
“His heart, liver, and lungs were all shot. He died after his fourth heart attack,” Cristodulo told RFE/RL.
Laura Voicila and Apollon Cristodulo outside the casino in Constanta on May 19.
Romania’s Political Prisons
Muraru, the former director of the governmental Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, secured the first ever prosecutions of former prison commanders in Romania.
Alexandru Visinescu, who was in charge of the notorious Ramnicu Sarat prison, was sentenced in 2016 to 20 years in jail for the deaths of 12 prisoners at the institution. One year later, Ioan Ficior received the same term for crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of 103 prisoners at the Periprava labor camp. Both have since died serving their sentences.
Muraru said the fact that the detainees managed to write the note was remarkable.
“This is a rare piece of testimony because prisoners didn’t have access to paper or pencils, but…there was less supervision and the presence of ordinary workers and more humane figures who could provide them with something to write with, and that made it possible for this scrap of paper to be secreted away and put [in the wall],” he told RFE/RL.
“It took decades for the traumatic memory of communism to finally settle,” he added.
Alexandra Toader, the current director of the institute said: “After 70 years, we have material confirmation of what happened [at the casino].”
She said the Securitate communist secret police conducted excavations at the casino in 1986 and may have found other documents which were archived, something Cristodulo also thinks is likely.
“We have 26 kilometers of Securitate archives, a sea of documents; but I’m not sure whether they are digitized or documented,” Toader told RFE/RL.
The institute will hold an exhibition at the casino “dedicated exclusively to this episode,” she said. “Hopefully we can obtain objects they used, letters they wrote to their families, their tools.”
Researchers are investigating the estimated 100 prisoners who worked on the casino, tracking down biographical information to try to find out what happened to them.
“Most prisoners were there for the flimsiest of reasons and they were there for years on end regardless of their age,” Toader said. “It was a pretext to get rid of the so-called ‘enemies of the people.'”
Cristodulo told RFE/RL that the documents about the Black Sea Canal are still classified by the secret service.
“There were 100,000 people who carried out forced labor…the documents need to be declassified,” he said.
Architect Radu Cornescu, Apollon Cristodulo, and Laura Voicila (left to right) at the shell wall inside the casino where the secret political prisoner note was found.
Nicolaie Voicila, who died in 1999 at the age of 66, dreamed of becoming an architect but the communists wouldn’t let him complete his education. He managed to qualify as a sub-engineer and became the manager of a cement site, forever inspired by the work he had done with the architects on the casino.
But he was traumatized his entire life by his past as a prisoner.
“He wasn’t allowed to speak or write down what happened and he thought they’d come and get him, so he had a lack of trust,” Laura Voicila said. “He didn’t trust people. He thought maybe a neighbor would find out about his past and he’d be in trouble.”
He did tell us that when he worked on the canal, prisoners were beaten “and others [were forced] to eat feces,” she said.
“Prisoners had to transport rocks and they’d walk along a 30-40 centimeter piece of wood over the canal with a wheelbarrow full of rubble. And if a prisoner fell off, nobody bothered to rescue him,” Laura Voicila said.
“There are many human bones buried in that canal,” she said. Muraru added that it is known as “the Romanian Siberia.”
The collapse of communism failed to bring the changes that Nicolaie Voicila and many others had hoped for.
“He realized the old communists had come to power and he lost hope he’d ever see real democracy,” the 42-year-old Laura Voicila, who runs a family fruit and vegetable supply business, said.
“He saw miners attacking anti-government protesters in 1990 and he said: ‘You see? People are being beaten and killed. It’s still the same old people.'”
It’s a sentiment shared by Paul Andreescu, the head of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Constanta.
Andreescu was a political prisoner for five years because he joined a youth organization that wanted to “free Romania from the Russians and their demands, such as making Russian a mandatory language at school and learning the history of the Soviet Union,” he told RFE/RL.
“We are free, but far from what we dreamed of and what we had hoped for in 1989.”
As head of the Constanta branch, Andreescu said: “It’s very important we have this proof [of the note from the casino], even if there are just a few names. They show the ugly past of the Romanian people, when people had to perform forced labor under all kinds of conditions.”
He added: “They are witnesses, even if they are buried in a wall.”
Toader says it’s important that Romania knows its past.
“This subject is still largely unknown in schools and books, and detainees didn’t speak of their detention; even their memoirs are truncated out of fear or an attempt to forget,” she said.
“This is very relevant for the young generation, as some are nostalgic about communism,” she said in an interview at her Bucharest office.
“Extremes can’t be allowed, neither left nor right. The rule of law must prevail.”
Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, on Tuesday.
The Associated Press, citing senior Turkish officials, said that nearly 50 people have died.
The attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. local time and appeared to be coordinated, left at least 60 others injured, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
The “vast majority” of victims were Turkish nationals, Reuters reported, but foreigners were also among the casualties, the wire service said, citing an official on Wednesday.
The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest that ISIS is responsible for the attack.
“The assessments show that three suicide bombers carried out the attacks in three different spots at the airport,” Vasip Şahin, Istanbul Province’s governor, said.
The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.
It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, but ISIS and Kurdish groups have claimed multiple attacks in Turkey in the last year. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country’s southeast.
The Ataturk attack “fits the ISIS profile, not PKK,” a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn’t usually go after international targets.
Some flights to the airport have been diverted, an airport official told Reuters.
Ataturk is the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015. Many have noted that Turkey had assigned extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months.
Airport-security workers recorded the surveillance-camera footage of the moment the explosion ripped through the airport:
Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.
All scheduled flights in both directions between the US and Istanbul have been temporarily suspended, a senior US official told ABC. The airport will be closed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday local time.
The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” in a warning posted on the department’s website.
The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack’s victims, the State Department tweeted.
Many passengers are now stranded outside of the airport:
Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, a n ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.
Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that ISIS has a “lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement.”
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37. A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor’s office.
Dillon’s tweet is clearly in reference to the Pentagon’s claim that Russian airstrikes targeted the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led SDF in Deir Ezzor east of the Euphrates River.
“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisers,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “Several SDF fighters were wounded.”
No U.S. advisers embedded with SDF were hit, but a U.S. official told CNN that U.S. special operators were only a couple miles away from the location where the Russian airstrikes hit. The U.S. is still exploring the possibility that the strike was merely an error by the Russians, as opposed to a deliberate attack.
Russia shot back Sunday denying the Pentagon’s claim, stating instead that Russia only targets Islamic State fighters.
Both the SDF and Syrian Army have been in a race to take back Deir Ezzor from ISIS. While SDF was working on retaking Raqqa, Russian airstrikes backed the Syrian Army in breaking ISIS’ three-year-long siege on Deir Ezzor. Following Syrian Army advancements on Deir Ezzor, SDF quickly moved 86 miles south-east to the city from Raqqa, announcing Saturday it was launching a new offensive from the north and east, just as the Syrian Army is making major strides from the west.
The Navy is finalizing plans to build its fourth Ford-Class aircraft carrier in the mid-2020s as a substantial step in a long-term plan to extend surface warfare power projection for the next 100 years — all the way into the 2100s
This fourth carrier, called CVN 81, will continue the Navy’s ongoing process to acquire a new class of next-generation carriers designed to sustain its ability to launch air attacks from the ocean in increasingly more dangerous modern threat environments.
“Procurement of CVN 81 is currently being planned for inclusion in the 2023 budget,” William Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
While Couch emphasized that funding will require Congressional approval, he did specify key elements of the Navy’s Ford-Class strategy.
The first one, the USS Ford, is now complete and preparing for operational service. The second Ford-Class carrier, the USS Kennedy, is more than 80-percent built and the third Ford-class carrier will be called the USS Enterprise.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
The USS Kennedy will replace the USS Nimitz which is due to retire by 2027; the Ford-class carriers are slated to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-to-one basis in an incremental fashion over the next 50 or more years.
As a result, the Navy is making a specific effort to expedite the acquisition of its Ford-class carrier by exploring the possibility of buying the third and fourth Ford-class carriers at the same time.
“The Navy released a CVN 80/81 two-ship buy Request for Proposal to Huntington Ingalls Industries — to further define the cost savings achievable with a potential two-ship buy. The Navy received HII response May 1, 2018, and will consider it in its procurement planning for both ships,” Couch said.
Streamlining acquisition of the Ford-class also naturally brings the advantage of potentially speeding up construction and delivery of the new ships as well, something of significance to the Navy’s fast-tracked effort to reach a 355-ship fleet.
Part of this strategy is articulated in the Navy’s recent 2019 30-year shipbuilding plan, called the “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2019.”
The plan says the Navy is working on “setting the conditions for an enduring industrial base as the top priority, so that the Navy is postured to respond to more aggressive investment in any year.”
Efforts to control carrier costs has been a long-standing challenge for the Navy. Several years ago, the Navy received substantial criticism from lawmakers and government watchdog groups during the construction of the USS Ford for rising costs. Construction costs for the USS Ford wound up being several billion above early cost estimates. Cost overruns with the construction wound up leading Congress to impose a $12.9 billion cost-cap on the ship.
(U.S. Navy photo)
At the time, Navy officials pointed out that integrating new technologies brings challenges and that at least $3 billion of the Ford’s costs were due to what’s described as non-recurring engineering costs for a first-in-class ship such as this.
For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons, and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
HII ship developers have been making an aggressive effort to lower costs of the USS Kennedy. Officials have said that the cost of the USS Kennedy will be well over $1.5 billion less than the costs to build the first Ford-Class ship.
One of the construction techniques for Kennedy construction has included efforts to assemble compartments and parts of the ship together before moving them to the dock — this expedites construction by allowing builders to integrate larger parts of the ship more quickly.
This technique, referred to by Huntington Ingalls developers as “modular construction,” was also used when building the Ford; the process welds smaller sections of the ship together into larger structural “superlift” units before being lifted into the dry dock, HII statements explained.
Construction begins with the bottom of the ship and works up with inner-bottoms and side shells before moving to box units, he explained. The bottom third of the ship gets built first. Also, some of the design methods now used for the Kennedy include efforts to fabricate or forge some parts of the ship — instead of casting them because it makes the process less expensive, builders explained.
Also, Newport News Shipbuilding — a division of HII — was able to buy larger quantities of parts earlier in the construction process with the Kennedy because, unlike the circumstance during the building of the USS Ford, the Kennedy’s ship design was complete before construction begins.
As for the design, the Kennedy will be largely similar to the design of the USS Ford, with a few minor alterations. The Kennedy will receive a new radar and its aircraft elevators will use electric motors instead of a hydraulic system to lower costs.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots in Hawaii are some of the first to try out the service’s new integrated aircrew ensemble (IAE) flight suit and gear.
Active-duty and Air National Guard pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will sport brand-new, custom-fit gear on stealth fighter missions next year, according to a recent Air Force news release.
Representatives from the Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — home to Air Force Material Command — gave pilots the rundown on how to make the most of the upgraded and consolidated flight suits.
“It’s all strategically placed so items are not on top of each other, [and] it minimizes the occurrence of friction, hot spots or wear-down on the system,” Carl Medeiros, IAE program manager, said in the release.
Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen from the 154th and 15th Operations Support Squadrons conduct a trial-fitting of the integrated aircrew ensemble July 8, 2019 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Program managers from Write-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, introduced the gear to the Airmen, which offers a spectrum of improvements over the currently used equipment. F-22 Raptor pilots from JBPH-H have been selected to be the first aviators to bring the ensemble into an operational capacity.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
“The material is also moisture-wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, removing and reducing thermal burden, while increasing mobility and comfort levels,” he added. “When it all comes together, there’s a direct correlation and improvement to the physiological effects on the pilot.”
Typically, aircrew in bombers or fighters — or anything with an ejection seat — have layers of add-ons to their flight suits for a variety of contingencies. The Air Force is still offering options, but with a more streamlined and less bulky approach.
Depending on the mission, pilots can choose a combination of seven configuration items including a coverall, which provides heat and flame protection; survival vest; pressure vest; life preserver unit; a chemical, biological and radiological layer; thermal undergarment; and environmental protection layer, the Human Systems Program Office told Military.com.
IAE was tested and approved for all ejection seat aircraft, and the program is “currently in the production phase with the first scheduled roll-out to the F-22 fleet,” the office said in an email.
“Unlike the currently used legacy equipment, which had been piecemealed with additional support items over several decades, each component of the IAE has been designed to complement all other items,” according to the release. “Its material has been influenced by recent advancements in sports technology to aid aviators who endure harsh flight conditions.”
The upgrades have been long in the making. According to an earlier Air Force news release, B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews began experimenting with a version of IAE in 2013. In 2016, the Defense Department awarded TIAX LLC of Lexington, Massachusetts, a .7 million contract delivery order on a previously awarded contract for initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE) for IAE. The Pentagon at the time said that .6 million from fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) funds had also been allocated toward the effort.
In recent years, flight suits and better-fitting uniforms have become a priority for the service.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety. Teams of airmen began reviewing not only flight suits, but all the gear needed to fly for hours on end.
Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the Human Systems Program Office, recently told Military.com that she and her team had been working a number of initiatives — some tailored toward men, others to women — to get aviators better equipped before takeoff.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said during an interview in April. That includes flight vests; G-suits, which prevent the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and other gear, such as a bladder relief apparatus.
The service in April approved the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty as an option to the one-piece flight duty uniform.
Raptor pilots are scheduled to receive the IAE uniform during the first half of 2020, the release states.
The Human Systems Program Office team has also visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the team is scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, next month, officials said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
These are unprecedented times. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 felt very far away. Monday, we all woke up to a new reality. Schools and businesses: closed. Social gatherings: canceled. Ever-increasing travel restrictions. And the term “social distancing” is already feeling like the phrase of 2020.
This is uncharted territory for all of us and we have to be willing to lend each other a hand, albeit from at least six feet away.
I am honored to lead the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN), a national nonprofit that serves military families and advises on military family issues. Partly out of utility, MFAN is a 100% remote organization. All of our team members are military-connected, and that means we move around a lot. As a military spouse myself, it was important to me that we build an organization that could thrive regardless of where the military sent my family and other team members’ families. As a result, we have learned that an organization can be highly effective without brick and mortar, but many of those lessons were learned through trial and error. In the spirit of helping others, here’s what works for us:
MFAN has been able to achieve a feeling of closeness even though we work across multiple time zones, sometimes even from other continents. When new team members join our organization, they are often reluctant to pick up the phone to call someone and ask a question. Interpersonal relationships and team cohesion are essential, especially when we were dealing with a high-pressure situation. We have to be able to lean on each other without hesitation. A few strategies have helped us overcome reservations.
Schedule video conference calls.
Seeing each other can make a big difference. Set an expectation about attire for these. For MFAN, when it is an internal conversation, we are casual. When we are meeting with partners via video, we do business casual. Setting these clear expectations can help you avoid cringe-worthy moments later on.
Create a virtual water cooler.
Schedule video calls when you aren’t talking about a work agenda. MFAN has been known to host team happy hours at the end of a busy time. This allows us to connect on a personal level. During these happy hours, we talk about life, family, weekend plans, wherever the conversation brings us.
Many of our team members have children and are juggling demands outside of work. It has always been important to us that we acknowledge and accommodate that. Before the schools were closed, the 20 minutes twice per day when I was doing drop off and pick up at my daughter’s school were on the work calendar I shared with our team. When you are working in an office and you aren’t at your desk, your team members can see you. But when you’re working remotely, no one has any idea if you’re at your desk or not, so it’s important to be transparent and let others know your schedule.
Whether you realize it or not, when you’re working in an office, you take intermittent mental breaks. Maybe you stop by a colleague’s desk, refill your coffee mug, grab water, or even just walk from your desk to a conference room. You need those mental breaks when you’re working from home, too. Without them, it’s easy to become burnt out and mentally exhausted. To be honest, this is something I constantly struggle with. I regularly have days when I realize at 2 p.m. that I haven’t eaten. Don’t do what I do! Take breaks, practice self-care. Eat lunch!
Dedicate a space.
This one is especially challenging with schools and childcare facilities closed. Whenever possible, create a space in your home where you will work, and try to keep it consistent. This will allow you to set expectations for yourself and others around you that when you are in that location, you are working. Also, try to practice ergonomics.
Don’t neglect hygiene.
Yes, a perk of working from home is that you don’t necessarily have to get dressed up like you would if you were leaving the house. Having said that, practicing simple hygiene (as if you were leaving the house) can get you in the mindset for work. Shower, change your clothes, brush your teeth. This sounds ridiculous, but those of us who have been on maternity/paternity leave at some point know these habits can be the first to go. Get yourself into as much of a routine as possible — this will help you get closer to achieving normalcy in a completely abnormal time.
This is new for everyone. Be patient with yourself and others. Try to take a step back and look at the big picture. This isn’t permanent; we will come out of this. And, I am confident we will do so having learned quite a bit about ourselves, our colleagues and how we work along the way.
Sitting in the White House reading the citation for the Medal of Honor doesn’t give the real flavor of why retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski is receiving the award.
The nicely air conditioned room with comfortable chairs, impeccable floors, historic artwork and gilt on many surfaces isn’t right, somehow.
The dispassionate words on the award talk of Slabinski’s heroism in assaulting bunkers, rallying his men, and going back into the center of the firefight.
The White House is literally half a world away from a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002, where Slabinski — and America — lost seven good men.
When the master chief talks of the action, you realize he is reliving his time atop Takur Ghar — a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, on March 4, 2002. He is remembering his decisions. He is remembering what he felt. And he is remembering his brothers who were killed.
He speaks in present tense, because in his mind’s eye. It is still happening.
‘I Was Just Doing My Job’
He believes he did nothing special. “I was just doing my job that day,” Slabinski said during an interview.
Slabinski — then a senior chief petty officer — and his men were just supposed to set up an overwatch position on the mountain to support the conventional forces in the valley below. “Now the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “We plan, we train, we rehearse and we rehearse some more for every possible contingency, but sometimes the fog and friction of war is just out of your control and a leader has to adapt.”
The team was aboard an Army MH-47 helicopter and as it was landing, well dug-in al-Qaida fighters opened up. “When we land, the ramp goes down,” he said. “I’m standing on the very back of the helicopter … and almost immediately take an RPG rocket to the side of the aircraft. It goes off, fills the aircraft full of smoke and we are getting shot up right away. There’s bullets flying through the aircraft the size of your finger [from] 12.7 machine guns that were up there.”
The pilot was able to take off, but the bird was wounded and experienced what Slabinski called “the worst turbulence you could imagine.”
Those gyrations caused Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to fall off the ramp. The crew chief grabbed Roberts’ pack, and the weight of the SEAL pulled him off the ramp, too. But the crew chief was tethered into the aircraft and was able to get back in. Roberts fell 10 feet into the meter-deep snow.
“It happens that fast,” Slabinski said as he snapped his fingers.
He told the pilot that he had lost a man, but with the chopper’s hydraulics shot out, there was no way the bird could circle and retrieve him. “[The pilot] was flying a brick,” Slabinski said. “It was basically a controlled crash into the enemy-held valley.”
The master chief assessed the situation. “Now my mission originally was to support the overwatch, then my teammate Neil fell out, and now I have a downed helicopter I have to deal with,” he said.
Calling For Support
The first problem he dealt with was the helicopter, and he called in a second aircraft to take the crew and team to a safe place. Once there, Slabinski was able to focus his attention on Neil.
The information he received was Roberts was alive. “I knew there was a superior enemy force up there and they had heavier weapons than I had,” he said.
The enemy, the cold, the altitude — “Everything that could be stacked against us, was stacked against us going back, and I had the feeling that this was a one-way trip,” he said. “I knew though, that if I go now, there’s a chance I could rescue Neil. I knew if I tried to develop a battle plan more on my terms, it would certainly be better, but I knew Neil didn’t have that time.”
The weight was on Slabinski’s shoulders. “I remember sitting in the helicopter,” he said. “The [rotors are] turning, it’s cold, trying to sort through the tactical piece of it … and this thought keeps coming back to me: If I go now what’s the cost going to be versus the cost if I wait. If you are the leader and you have peoples’ lives that you are responsible for, the decisions don’t come easy.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken)
This was Slabinski’s loneliest moment. He was sitting in the chopper with a headset on and people are talking to him. He was thinking of all the tactical problems and the lives. “And this thought kept coming back to me, and it’s the first line of the Boy Scout Oath … ‘On my honor, I will do my best,'” said Slabinski, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout at his hometown troop in Northampton, Massachusetts “The only thing that is in the back of my mind is, ‘On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best.’
“That’s when I said, ‘I’m gonna go do this.'”
The master chief assigned his men jobs, and the pilot of the first aircraft, Army Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, went up to Slabinski and told him he would be flying them back in the new MH-47, even though he had just survived a harrowing experience with the first helicopter.
There was no other place to land, so the team had to go right back to the place the first bird took the fire. As the chopper took off, it got quiet for Slabinski and he thought of his son, who was 6 years old at the time. “I remember saying, ‘I love you. Sorry for what’s to come. Be great,'” he said. “Then I put it in another room in my brain and went on with my duties.”
This Chinook also took fire coming in to the landing area, and as soon as the ramp went down, the team went off the back of the ramp. Two men went to the right, two to the left and the master chief and Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went out together.
Slabinski and Chapman were hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. “The burst hit John and he went down,” Slabinski said. “The bullets from the same burst went through my clothes on each side, and I jumped behind a rock.”
The belt-fed weapon kept firing at them. “I looked for John and he is lying in a very odd position, and I look to my other guys and they are engaged with another dug-in position and the two to my left are engaged there. There are enemy muzzle flashes on three sides.”
There is no cover, and Slabinski tosses two grenades at the bunker, but the position is too well dug in. He looks to his men and sees Chapman still in the same odd position and the others engaging the enemy. His M60 gunner is next to me. “I have a 40mm grenade launcher … and I have six grenades,” he said. “I’m too close to the big bunker because they won’t go off. They have to spin to arm.”
He fired at the farther bunkers and silenced those, but the big bunker remains a deadly problem. He has the M60-gunner fire on the bunker and he wants to charge to the bunker to clear it under the cover of that automatic fire. Before he could do that, a grenade flies out of the bunker and explodes right in front of the barrel of the M60, wounding the gunner.
Slabinski again assesses the situation. “The gunner is down. John hasn’t moved and my other two guys are still engaged in contact,” he said. “The plan in my head isn’t working so I have to do something different.”
(Painting by Keith Rocco)
He decided to get his small band out of direct fire. As he is doing that another SEAL was hit in the leg from the same machine gun Slabinski was trying to take out. “I sent the wounded over first and I crawled over to John, looking for some sign of life from John and didn’t get anything,” he said.
The place he chose to seek shelter from the fire was just about 30 feet away over the side of the mountain.
Slabinski called for support from an AC-130 gunship to hit the bunkers. At the same time as the aircraft was hitting the mountain he noticed shell fragments were landing around the team. Slabinski thinks at first it is the AC-130, but it is from an enemy mortar that is ranging his position.
He moves again to a more protected area and now the U.S. Army Ranger quick reaction force is coming in. The first chopper is hit and crashes on the top of the mountain. Slabinski contacted the second bird and it lands on another spit of land and the Rangers work their way to the SEAL position and attack up the mountain to secure the top.
The master chief can’t move his wounded to the top of the mountain, so he moved to a place he could secure and await medevac, which came that night.
Estimates of the number of al-Qaida fighters on the top of that mountain range between 40 and 100. They had heavy weapons galore with automatic machine guns, mortars, RPGs and recoilless rifles. It was the headquarters for al-Qaida operating against U.S. forces engaged in Operation Anaconda. The SEAL team went in to try to rescue Roberts with six men.
Footage taken by a remotely piloted vehicle and examined later showed that Chapman was not dead. The technical sergeant regained consciousness and engaged the enemy killing two of them — one in hand-to-hand combat. “I was 100 percent convinced that John was dead,” Slabinski said. “I never lost track of John.”
He never would have left the airman on that mountain, he said, if he thought for an instant that Chapman was alive.
For his actions that day, Slabinski received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. As part of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive to the services to re-examine all of the valor awards beginning in 2001, the Navy recommended upgrading that award to the Medal of Honor. The master chief — who retired from the Navy in 2014 — received a call from President Donald J. Trump in March telling him of the decision.
The master chief is conflicted about the award. He believes he was just doing his job and still feels the loss of the seven men — Navy, Army and Air Force — he served with that day. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them,” he said. “If I could give up this medal to have them back, I would.”
Inscribed on the CIA’s original headquarters in Langley is a passage from the Gospel of St. John: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This unofficial Agency motto alludes to the truth and clarity that intelligence provides to decision-makers, similar to the “knowledge is power” mantra.
But what happens when the craft of intelligence is disrupted or diluted by the politics (read: politicians, journalists, sensationalists, etc.) and policymakers it is designed to inform? What happens when it is dismissed, falls upon deaf ears, or is blatantly ignored?
Below is a quick list of the top four issues with intelligence I have encountered as an intelligence professional, along with completely hypothetical examples of how these issues materialize. Armed with this knowledge, you will have four keys to help you better understand the craft of intelligence.
Disclaimer: The concepts here are all 100-percent true — it is the specific examples and stories that have been altered for their sensitive and ongoing nature. And no, this list is not comprehensive.
1. Intelligence is an extension of politics, which suck.
As SOFREP has previously discussed, the purpose of intelligence is to inform decision-making, plain and simple. People or technology gather the information. That information is then processed and analyzed, disseminated to the consumers, and decision-making is informed. For more on how that works, see the Intelligence Cycle.
Roughly paraphrasing Clausewitz here, “War is politics by other means.” Well if war is politics and intelligence is an extension of politics, then intelligence is total political war — or something like that. Point being, the practice of managing intelligence (or information writ large) can oftentimes be a bit of a monstrosity.
I have observed that the problem with intelligence is not that you do not have it — although that oftentimes is the issue. Rather, what is critical is intelligence’s proper management: who to share it with, how to share it, when to share it, etc. These considerations are what I would consider appropriate “coordination” of the information. Not only managing it but providing the necessary context for the information (as an analyst, this is paramount) and emphasizing what must be emphasized. Some do this well, others not at all — even when they should.
You are an intelligence professional working to counter various extremist threats to U.S. interests in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s not a nice place, so there’s plenty of nefarious activity and you’re gainfully employed. You receive information that a local Hezbollah cell has imminent plans to conduct a suicide attack at a popular south Beirut café that’s frequented by American citizens, other Westerners, and even a few foreign dignitaries. You’ve got a timeline, a method of attack, and maybe even some perpetrator names if you’re lucky. Because you’re a professional, you’ve done your homework and know that what you see is legitimate. It’s now your duty to get the machine in gear. You’ve got credible threat information that must be rapidly disseminated so the proper warnings can be issued, the appropriate authorities can be notified, and the would-be attackers thwarted.
But hold on there. One simply cannot hit “Forward All” and pass this information to 100 of your closest friends and neighborhood-friendly consumers. Forget the mass dissemination technique, however strong. How about just sending it to a handful of people? Better, but still not ideal.
Try this on for size: Send it to one or two overworked and undermanned bureaucrats who demand complete control over the information (i.e. no further sharing or exchanges until they’ve “worked the issue”). They then sit on it for an excruciating period of time, hold an extensive meeting about it with their closest friends at their (not-quite-earliest) convenience, and finally reluctantly pass it out to a limited audience with various caveats that downplay the significance of what you assessed to be time-sensitive and credible information. Never mind that you are intimately familiar with the threat and the environment and confident in your analytical abilities.
As stated above, there is always a time and place for appropriate coordination and processes for managing the information received. However, the caveat is that such management should not be completely sidetracked by politics. Give the information to those who need it, and inform the decision-making of those who have the power to alter the environment and ultimately save lives. It does not take a comms blackout, a strongly worded email, a committee, hours of deliberation, and lackluster dilution downplaying the credibility of the threat to share the information.
2. Information-sharing in the intelligence business is key.
Most people are familiar with the “need to know” principle, wherein if you do not have a legitimate requirement in your mission to know the information, you do not need to know it or even have access to it in the first place. But what about the need to share?
“The need to share” principle stems from the aftermath of 9/11 when the U.S. intelligence community decided it needed to do a better job of ensuring communication amongst the entities responsible for our national security. It spurred the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others, whose sole purpose in life is to facilitate interagency analysis and operations.
This example is less clear, but hopefully still gets the message across. You are back in Beirut. A certain Lebanese government official has decided to get in bed with an ISIL-affiliated extremist group planning to target the restaurant of a ritzy hotel frequented by French expats in Beirut, as some kind of follow-up to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. This government official has worked extensively to pass information regarding French activity at the restaurant to his extremist contact. He has had access to the information as a Lebanese government official and resident of northern Lebanon, an area where ISIL maintains an active presence. The attack is only in the conceptual stages at this time, but the one fact remains: the government official is in bed with the wrong crowd and must be stopped.
The ever-vigilant professional, you learn of this government official’s treachery and seek to notify those working at the U.S. embassy of his ongoing activity so that they may appropriately handle the issue through diplomatic channels. You have a legitimate need to share this information with appropriate contacts and eagerly share it with your supervisor so that it may gain higher-level visibility. After doing so, you are instructed not to share your findings with anyone else.
“Why?” you ask. Well, for one, it is being handled at higher levels, or so it is claimed. This is a downward-directed order to let the issue die. Second, further disclosure of any such information — through appropriate channels or not –regarding the government official could negatively impact U.S. relations with the Lebanese government, something the politicians are not willing nor ready to manage at this time. So you let the issue slide and do not ask questions because you trust it is being handled at the appropriate level.
You later learn that not only was the issue not handled, but that widespread orders were issued to not discuss, mention, or allude to the treachery of the Lebanese government official once it became “public” knowledge in high-level leadership circles. Lower-level U.S. and Lebanese officials continue to maintain interaction with this official, completely unaware of his treachery. Relationships continue to develop, all the while ignoring the fact of his true allegiances.
Given the issue was deemed too sensitive to address nation-to-nation, it has now become an unspoken afterthought, one that is known by various parties on both sides, but not to those to whom it matters most. The issue remains unaddressed and unknown second- and third-order implications develop as time passes.
If something must be said, and there are indisputable facts to support it, say it. Do not hide behind careerism, fear of reprisal, or — again — politics. The truth, however uncomfortable, is best digested as soon as the information is available to be shared (and under the right and appropriate circumstances).
3. Sometimes people go “native.”
The term going “native” is applied to a situation where individuals take on some or all of the cultural traits of those around them. The term is most often mentioned in relation to people visiting or residing in foreign countries. Think Colonel Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now” or the character Kurtz from the “Heart of Darkness,” only less insidious and without the rivers. In intelligence, someone goes native when they blatantly ignore or otherwise disregard the body of information that refutes that which they have been provided by a source. I use the term “native” very loosely here, but it best transmits the concept.
You have a friend who is employed by the U.S. embassy in a position of some importance, a position that requires him to frequently travel to liaise with Lebanese security forces operating in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Given your friend’s consistent contact with Lebanese forces in a turbulent region, you receive frequent updates from him on the situation in the Valley. These updates are fairly accurate given your friend’s access to the Lebanese forces, but clearly possess some bias given the single source of his information and its limited perspective.
One day, you learn of an incident that transpired when a female American aid worker narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt while working at a children’s school for refugees near the Syrian border. Having seen the information the aid worker had provided to various U.S. embassy personnel, who debriefed her when she reported the kidnapping attempt, you are aware of every minute detail the professional debriefers were able to obtain from her and associated witnesses.
When inquiring as to the details of this kidnapping attempt with your friend, the information he provides greatly conflicts with that of the debrief and witness statements. Your friend dutifully informs you the information you possess is incorrect and proceeds to identify all the reasons why. Citing his sources in the Lebanese security forces, your friend directly refutes, point by point, the official and agreed-upon information provided firsthand to the embassy personnel. Try as you might, your friend completely discounts this information and places his faith in his Lebanese contacts, contacts that were not there, and did not even possess secondhand access to the information or associated incident. Your friend has gone native.
While your friend clearly has the access to obtain and provide relatively accurate information regarding the security situation in the Bekaa Valley, his information only comes from the one source to which he has access. Your friend runs the risk of going “native,” and becoming too reliant on that one source. While it is undoubtedly a valuable one, his reference and adherence to the single source of the Lebanese security forces is one that must be taken into account.
This holds true especially if it conflicts with information provided firsthand by members involved in the incident, and obtained by qualified professionals who have gathered such information previously in their lengthy careers. Use all sources: do not refute that which comes from a better source, even when it conflicts with your prized single source. Do not go native.
4. People flat-out ignore the truth.
The final problem I have witnessed is when credible intelligence is completely disregarded by various persons — and ones in leadership positions, especially. Never mind that the information was deemed credible by multiple entities, or that said entities had already implemented various changes in response to the information. This disregard can happen even if there have been multiple warnings, both verbally and in writing, (thus invalidating any claims of ignorance) regarding the intelligence’s importance.
While intelligence can appear alarmist at times, if not presented accurately or appropriately (and with the right amount of emphasis and context), it is designed to properly inform decision-making. Intelligence removes the veil of doubt and the unknown and provides you with the truth. So listen to it and the recommendation that comes with it.
You are back in south Beirut. The threat you have been tracking, regarding imminent plans by a local Hezbollah cell to conduct a suicide attack at a south Beirut café, must be actioned upon. The proper notifications are made. The U.S. embassy is made cognizant of the information and it releases a security notice to all American citizens in Lebanon to avoid the target in question, and travel to various south Beirut neighborhoods is restricted. The threat information has been passed to the appropriate decision-makers and the right people are now aware that they should avoid the café. As a professional, you have done your due diligence and can hope the Lebanese authorities will move quickly to disrupt the plot. You can rest easy, having fulfilled your duty.
But then you learn that one of the decision-makers, one who was informed numerous times of this specific threat information, has allowed various personnel under his office to travel through various south Beirut neighborhoods. Not only that, but two groups of his personnel have even visited — on two separate occasions — the very same café that is being actively targeted. You want to provide the benefit of the doubt: perhaps the decision-maker was simply unaware of the ongoing attack plans or was not notified of the travel restrictions. Unfortunately for him, plausible deniability does not work in this scenario. When questioned as to why his personnel made these visits, the decision-maker claimed he was unaware that the threat notification or travel restrictions were permanent measures, and thought that they only lasted for the day they were issued.
When a decision-maker provides a weak and transparent excuse as to why he knowingly authorized the travel of his personnel to a specific location that is being actively targeted by terrorists (something he was aware of), he knowingly places the lives of his personnel at risk. He completely disregards all of the hard work that was performed in order to provide the intelligence to him in a timely and accurate manner to boot.
Intelligence is not contrived. It is a dynamic product and continuous effort. Listen to what intelligence is saying. Do not disregard it or claim ignorance of it after it has been provided to you. Use it as the tool it is designed to be.
We Are The Mighty has teamed up with Grunt Style to launch a new online merch store. Grunt Style is a veteran-owned and operated clothing brand founded by Army veteran and drill sergeant Dan Alarik.
Started as a small custom t-shirt operation at Fort Benning, Grunt Style has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that employs nearly 70 veterans and embraces military themes and values in its company culture.
Here’s what happened when Grunt Style visited the WATM offices: