Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.

Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.


When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer


Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.

Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia announced it will test its ‘unstoppable’ Satan missile

A top Russian General announced on March 13, 2018, that Russia’s military will conduct a second test of its new, most powerful nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile amid rising tensions with NATO.


“The first launch of this missile took place at the end of December 2017. At the moment, preparations are in full swing at the Plesetsk cosmodrome for another pop-up test,” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told state-run media, referring to testing the missile’s systems used to eject from its silo as a “pop-up” test.

Also read: The 20 coolest artillery pieces in history

During Putin’s State of the Nation speech on March 1, 2018, he talked up the new system, called the RS-28, or the “Satan 2” by NATO members, while showing footage of its testing.

But like much of Russia’s military hardware, the actual footage only showed an ejection test, and then a computer animation took over to demonstrate the missiles flight path, which has not yet been tested.

When discussing the missile, both Putin and Gerasimov discussed how it could defeat missile defense systems, without mentioning that no one has yet built missile defense systems designed to counter a Russian ICBM attack.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The RS-28 can carry as many as 16 nuclear warheads, or fewer, heavier warheads and possibly decoys or countermeasures, The Diplomat’s Franz Gady reports.

Putin, during his speech, also mentioned that the missile can pair with a hypersonic glide vehicle that would further complicate any attempts at interception.

Putin’s talk of Russia’s new offensive nuclear weapons comes as he seeks re-election on March 18, 2018. Though nobody seriously expects Putin to lose the election where no meaningful opposition is running and he has controlled the media throughout, experts have told Business Insider he’s under pressure to deliver tangible results of his leadership.

Related: This is how Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ nuclear weapon works

Both the US and UK have called Putin’s talk of new nuclear systems “irresponsible,” while both countries stand ready to condemn Moscow if authorities can prove that a nerve agent attack carried out against a former spy in the UK can be traced back to the Kremlin.

The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the attack was Russian in origin, and that the UK would retaliate if it proved true.

Additionally, Gerasimov said in separate comments that he believes the US will try to blame a chemical weapon attack on civilians on Syria, and use that to launch an attack against the country, against which Russia would retaliate.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Stalin and Churchill drunkenly split up Europe

On Oct. 9, 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill walked into Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s study, got super blitzed on whiskey with the Soviet, and then proceeded to split up Eastern Europe with Stalin by writing a list of countries and percentages next to them. He would later call it his “Naughty Document,” and it’s going on display with other World War II and Cold War Era documents.


Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Soviet troops march in 1943.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0)

World War II brought together unlikely allies, and possibly none of the unions was weirder than Soviet Russia teaming up with Great Britain and the United States. The U.S., Britain, and Russia were members of the Allied Powers in World War I, but Russia withdrew as the Bolsheviks rose up against the tsar.

Britain and America—as well as Canada, France, and others—sent troops to back up the tsar, but the intervention failed. So, the Soviet Union began its existence with a grudge against the foreign troops that had tried to prevent the revolution.

Then, Russia’s first foray into World War II was signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler and then following Germany into Poland, capturing sections of that country. Russia didn’t join the Allied effort until after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

And, in 1944, Soviet forces began to take back Poland, and they were not supporting the Polish Home Army that was part of the Allied forces against Germany. This was a problem for Churchill since the U.K. had joined the war in 1939 largely in response to the invasions of Poland.

The Soviet relationship with the U.S. and Great Britain was fraught, is what we’re saying.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

The man in the middle represents Yugoslavia. This will not go well for him.

(W. Averell Harriman Papers)

But the Soviet Union benefited greatly from allying itself with the U.K. and America. Russian troops drove American vehicles, and the British and U.S. navies kept the sea lanes open for Russian ships, submarines, and supplies. And the invasions of Italy and Normandy had greatly reduced the pressure on Soviet troops in the east. And remember, the German invasion of the Soviet Union had made it deep into Russia before being turned back.

So, in October 1944, Allied-Soviet relations were healthy, but it wasn’t clear what would happen after Germany was defeated and peace returned. On the night of the 9th, Churchill and Stalin got blitzed and tried to figure out how they would avoid new conflict in the future.

And so Churchill started writing on a scrap of paper. He wrote a list of countries that would be between the Western and Soviet spheres of influence. Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Bulgaria made the list.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

(Photo by Vints, public domain. Original document by Winston Churchill)

Next to these countries, Churchill listed how much “influence” Russia and Britain should have in the countries after the war. Romania would go 90 percent to Russia, 10 percent to Britain. Greece would go 90 percent to the U.S. and U.K. and 10 percent to Russia. Yugoslavia would get an equal split. And Churchill thought Bulgaria should go 75 percent Russian and 25 percent to the other Allies, but Stalin scratched that out and made it a 90-10 split.

And then Stalin put a big blue check mark on it, and the two men looked at it. Churchill proposed burning it, worried about how posterity would look at that casual splitting up of Europe. Stalin told him to keep the document instead.

The next day, the foreign ministers of the two countries tried to shift the percentages a bit and nail down what “influence” meant, but Churchill wouldn’t be pinned down on the details, and so his “naughty document,” as he referred to it, was essentially abandoned.

For what it’s worth, Churchill credited this late night visit and seemingly cavalier negotiation with protecting Greece from a communist takeover. There was evidence discovered after the war that Stalin had already decided to back off of Greece, but Churchill hadn’t known that at the time.

Indeed, there was plenty of conjecture after the “Percentages Document” came to light in the 1990s that the British prime minister was trying to navigate the upcoming peace that would be unforgiving for Britain. The British Empire was clearly in decline, the Soviet Union was on the rise, and America had announced its plans to leave Europe as soon as possible after the war.

So, for Churchill to secure room for democracy after the war, he would have to do it by negotiating with the Soviet Union, at least in part. And if that sucked for Yugoslavia, well, that sucks for them.

Articles

This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an admiral started a dairy in Antarctica

Domestic animals are rarely associated with Antarctica. However, before non-native species (bar humans) were excluded from the continent in the 1990s, many travelled to the far south. These animals included not only the obvious sledge dogs, but also ponies, sheep, pigs, hamsters, hedgehogs, and a goat. Perhaps the most curious case occurred in 1933, when US Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition took with it three Guernsey cows.

The cows, named Klondike Gay Nira, Deerfoot Guernsey Maid and Foremost Southern Girl, plus a bull calf born en route, spent over a year in a working dairy on the Ross Ice Shelf. They returned home to the US in 1935 to considerable celebrity.


Keeping the animals healthy in Antarctica took a lot of doing — not least, hauling the materials for a barn, a huge amount of feed and a milking machine across the ocean and then the ice. What could have possessed Byrd to take cows to the icy south?

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Klondike the Guernsey cow waits on the dock in Norfolk, Virginia, alongside the alfafa, beet pulp and dairy feed that would keep them alive in the far south

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-127998, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The answer we suggest in our recently published paper is multi-layered and ultimately points to Antarctica’s complex geopolitical history.

Solving the “milk problem”

The cows’ ostensible purpose was to solve the expedition’s so-called “milk problem”. By the 1930s, fresh milk had become such an icon of health and vigour that it was easy to claim it was needed for the expeditioners’ well-being. Just as important, however, were the symbolic associations of fresh milk with purity, wholesomeness and US national identity.

Powdered or malted milk could have achieved the same nutritional results. Previous expeditions, including those of Ernest Shackleton and Roald Amundsen, had survived just fine with such products. What’s more, William Horlick of Horlick’s Malted Milk sponsored Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition; the seaplane Byrd used was named for this benefactor.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Crates of Horlick’s Malted Milk destined for Byrd’s second expedition. With its carefully placed sledge, husky and sign, the shot seems posed for publicity purposes.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society, WHS-23703, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

So if fresh milk was not actually a health requirement, and other forms were readily available, why go to the trouble of lugging three cows and their accoutrements across the ice?

Maximising publicity

The cows represented a first, and Byrd well knew that “firsts” in the polar regions translated into media coverage. The expedition was privately funded, and Byrd was adept at attracting media attention and hence sponsorship. His backers expected a return, whether in the form of photographs of their product on the ice or mentions in the regular radio updates by the expedition.

The novelty value that the cows brought to the expedition was a valuable asset in its own right, but Byrd hedged his bets by including a pregnant cow — Klondike was due to give birth just as the expedition ship sailed across the Antarctic Circle. The calf, named “Iceberg”, was a media darling and became better known than the expeditioners themselves.

The celebrity attached to the cows helped the expedition remain in the headlines throughout its time in Antarctica, and they received an enthusiastic welcome upon its return. Although the unfortunate Klondike, suffering from frostbite, had to be put down mid-expedition, her companions made it home in good condition. They were feted on their return, meeting politicians in Washington, enjoying “hay cocktails” at fancy hotels, and making the front page of The New York Times.

It would be easy, then, to conclude that the real reason Byrd took cows south was for the publicity he knew they would generate, but his interest in the animals may also have had a more politically motivated layer.

Eyeing a territorial claim

A third reason for taking cows to Antarctica relates to the geopolitics of the period and the resonances the cows had with colonial settlement. By the 1930s several nations had claimed sectors of Antarctica. Byrd wanted the US to make its own claim, but this was not as straightforward as just planting a flag on the ice.

According to the Hughes Doctrine, a claim had to be based on settlement, not just discovery. But how do you show settlement of a continent covered in ice? In this context, symbolic gestures such as running a post office — or farming livestock — are useful.

Domestic animals have long been used as colonial agents, and cattle in particular were a key component of settler colonialism in frontier America. The image of the explorer-hero Byrd, descended from one of the First Families of Virginia, bringing cows to a new land and successfully farming them evoked this history.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Richard Byrd with Deerfoot in a publicity shot taken before departure.

(With permission of Wisconsin Historical Society WHS-130655, contact for re-use, CC BY-ND)

The cows’ presence in Antarctica helped symbolically to turn the expedition base — not coincidentally named “Little America” — into a frontier town. While the US did not end up making a claim to any sector of Antarctica, the polar dairy represented a novel way of demonstrating national interest in the frozen continent.

The Antarctic cows are not just a quirky story from the depths of history. As well as producing milk, they had promotional and geopolitical functions. On an ice continent, settlement is performed rather than enacted, and even Guernsey cows can be more than they first seem.

This article originally appeared on TheConversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Colonel set to transfer to Space Force — while in orbit

When NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins arrives at the International Space Station this week, he plans on making one small change to his professional title, which will mark one giant leap for America’s newest military branch.

An Air Force colonel and commander of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, which launched into orbit Sunday, Hopkins, 51, is scheduled to transfer to the Space Force in a ceremony aboard the International Space Station. In so doing, Hopkins will become the Space Force’s first astronaut. The in-orbit, interservice transfer is meant to highlight more than 60 years of cooperation between NASA and the Department of Defense, officials say.

“If all goes well, we’re looking to swear [Hopkins] into the Space Force from the International Space Station,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations of the US Space Force, told Space News on Oct. 28.

Aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Resilience, Sunday’s launch was the first step of a 27-hour trip to the International Space Station for Hopkins and his three fellow crew members. It also marked the second manned flight for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which NASA officially certified on Nov. 10 for manned spaceflight missions. After a successful test mission over the summer, Sunday’s launch signals the beginning of regular manned flights aboard the groundbreaking spacecraft, which was developed and built by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Corp., the company better known as SpaceX.

The other three crew members on Sunday’s launch were two NASA astronauts, Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover and civilian physicist Shannon Walker, as well as Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Sunday’s launch marks “the beginning of a new era in human space flight,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said during a press conference, adding that the commercial spaceflight company plans on launching seven Dragon capsules over the next 15 months, including three cargo missions.

A Missouri native, Hopkins was selected by NASA as an astronaut in 2009. He has spent 28 years in the Air Force and was reportedly nominated in June to transfer to the Space Force. Hopkins previously flew to the International Space Station in 2013 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, spending 166 days in space.

On May 30, NASA astronauts and US military veterans Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken launched into space aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was propelled into orbit by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Known as the Demo-2 test flight, the mission was essentially an in-orbit shakedown of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to fully certify it for operational, manned spaceflights. May’s launch was the first-ever launch of a space crew aboard a commercial spacecraft, and it marked America’s return to active spaceflight operations after a nine-year hiatus following the last space shuttle flight in 2011.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Air Force colonel and NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins takes a photo with a child at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, Jan. 8, 2018. The child was upset she was unable to ask Hopkins a question during his presentation, so Hopkins took time after to speak with the little girl about being an astronaut. Photo by Senior Airman Luke W. Nowakowski/US Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

The Space Force, which is the US military’s first new branch in more than 70 years, falls under the purview of the Department of the Air Force — a relationship roughly analogous to that of the Marine Corps’ falling under the Department of the Navy.

When the Space Force was officially created on Dec. 20, 2019, some 16,000 military and civilian personnel from Air Force Space Command were put under the new branch’s authority. However, those personnel officially remained members of the Air Force. The Space Force’s ranks swelled from two to 88 in April when 86 Air Force Academy cadets graduated to become second lieutenants in the upstart military branch. In September, more than 2,400 Air Force personnel were scheduled to begin shifting over to the Space Force.

The force now numbers more than 2,000 men and women. Recently, the first Space Force recruits began basic military training. At full strength the Space Force is expected to have about 16,000 people in its ranks. The Space Force’s personnel are currently spread out among some 175 different facilities worldwide, officials say.

The recent creation of the Space Force reflects a new era of warfare. With America’s adversaries, such as China and Russia, developing their own novel military capacities in space, US military leaders say it’s important to field a military branch solely devoted to waging war in this contested domain.

“Increasingly, free and open access to space is under threat. Though the United States will not be the aggressor in space, we will, we must, build a Space Force to defend our space interests,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said Oct. 28 during a virtual address at Space Symposium 365.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines return to battle in ‘old stomping grounds’

Iraqi forces “swiftly and thoroughly” ejected ISIS fighters from Al Qaim — a city at the western edge of Iraq’s Anbar province and the terrorist group’s last stronghold on the Iraq-Syria border — in early November.


ISIS has lost most of the land it once held and has largely disappeared as an organized fighting force. All that’s left of the group’s so-called caliphate, which once stretched from northwest Syria to the edges of Baghdad, is chunks of territory along the Euphrates River in Iraq and Syria.

For the close to 1,000 US Marines assisting Iraqi forces in the area, the campaign has led them back to familiar terrain to continue the fight against an enemy that appears set to evolve into a different kind of threat.

“Marines, in particular, understand western Iraq,” Marine Corps. Brig Gen. Robert Sofge told Marine Corps Times this month — an area Sofge called “old stomping grounds” for US Marines.

“We spent most folks’ career there and there are relationships there that endure,” Sofge said. “Even while priorities may shift in and around [US Central Command], that doesn’t make what’s going in Anbar [province] less important.”

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
U.S. Marines, assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Marine Division, confirm map details about Fallujah, Iraq, before continuing patrols during Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Nov. 12, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan C. Knauth, U.S. Marine Corps.)

ISIS fighters have mostly withdrawn from Iraqi cities, Sofge said, but a Marine Corps task force is still in the area assisting Iraqi forces around Al Qaim with airstrikes and artillery support, as well as with intelligence and surveillance. But the expanse of empty desert in Anbar presents its own challenges in a new phase of the anti-ISIS effort.

Clearing and holding territory recaptured in Anbar will be “much more challenging,” said Marine Corps Col. Seth Folsom, commander Task Force Lion, which oversaw fighting in Al Qaim.

Folsom told the Associated Press that it was easy to motivate troops to fight to regain their country. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints,” he said.

Read More: This is why Fallujah is one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battles

Added to that challenge is the potential for a shift to irregular warfare.

“We believe that the enemy is in the deserts and also fading into the civilian population,” Sofge told Marine Corps Times. “There’s still a great deal of work to be done, even if it’s not against traditional formations in the cities.”

Sofge said the remnants of ISIS in the area have yet to adopt insurgent tactics that Al Qaeda, the group’s predecessor in Iraq, used against US personnel and Iraqis in the mid- and late-2000s. Marines on the ground there are not advising Iraqi forces on counterinsurgency tactics because such operations are not being conducted.

‘It’s quiet before the storm’

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
U.S. Marines huddle behind walls as they receive instructions about their next move after a M1A1 tank eliminates the Iraqi insurgents in a house the Marines were receiving fire from in Fallujah, Iraq, in support of Operation al Fajr (New Dawn) on Dec. 10, 2004. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. James J. Vooris, U.S. Marine Corps.)

Resources in Anbar are stretched increasingly thin among a growing number of coalition troops stationed in the area.

Marines in Al Qaim ration water, according to the AP, while water-shortage notices adorn bathrooms and showers at Al Asad, the coalition’s main base in the province. Weather conditions and a lack of Iraqi escorts often delay supply convoys dispatched to outposts in Anbar.

Unlike coalition forces in northern Iraq, forces in western Iraq now also face the “tyranny of distance” as a complicating factor for their operations, Folsom told the AP.

Also Read: This Marine Singlehandedly Cleared A Rooftop After His Squad Was Pinned Down In Fallujah

A Marine staff sergeant who was in Anbar in 2007 told the AP that while mood among US personnel after ISIS’ ouster was one of accomplishment but not of finality. He said that while he initially didn’t think he’d be back, he now expects US forces to be there for generations.

“When my son joins the Marines, he’ll probably be deployed to Iraq,” he said with a laugh.

Some Iraqis in the area are anxious about things to come.

In Fallujah, a city in eastern Anbar that became a flashpoint for sectarian tensions and insurgent fighting during the US occupation in the 2000s, the mood remains tense, as Sunni-Shiite tension simmer.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Anti-government insurgents in Fallujah, 2004

While ISIS’ ouster has brought Iraq together in some ways, the success of the campaign has allowed old divisions to resurface in some parts of the country. At an military outpost in Fallujah, Iraqi Col. Muhammad Abdulla said the local population, largely Sunni in a Shiite-majority country, remained wary of the central government, which has been dominated by Shiite officials in the post-Saddam era.

Some in the area were still sympathetic to extremists, while others doubt US or Iraqi forces can protect them, leading most to not cooperate, Abdulla said.

“We say it’s quiet before the storm,” Sheikh Talib Hasnawi Aiffan, head of the Fallujah District Council, told Ben Kesling, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was stationed in Fallujah as a Marine lieutenant in 2007.

“We are scared,” Aiffan told Kesling. “We have experienced it before.”

Articles

Military officials confirm US special operators are fighting in Raqqa

US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.


The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.

“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”

The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. Photo from VOA.

Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.

“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.

The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.

Additionally, Marines are operating an artillery battery to help in the Raqqa offensive.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. Photo from USMC.

The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.

The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.

More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
USMC photo by Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff.

Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.

“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”

One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.

In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
SDF in Tabqa. Photo from VOA.

The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.

A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.

July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.

Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”

Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.

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This presidential candidate hatched a successful rescue mission in Iran

In a little-known operation during the opening days of the Iranian Islamic revolution, a Texas billionaire — who would later run for president twice as an Independent — put together a daring rescue mission for two employees imprisoned by revolutionaries.


Through cunning, guile, persistence — and a little luck — the Americans were secreted out of the country in the midst of a violent revolution that would see 52 other Americans held for 444 days and a failed rescue attempt that ended in the deaths of eight U.S. troops and a deeply wounded presidency.

Related: This deadly failure in the Iranian desert lives in hostage rescue mission infamy

A full year before the American embassy in Iran was seized by revolutionaries, militants resisting supreme leader Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi captured two employees of a Texas computer company who were in the country helping put together information systems for the government. Their boss, a Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, was determined to get them out — by skill or by force.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Perot is best remembered for his two third-party campaigns for the U.S. presidency. The now 86-year-old CEO was the last third-party candidate to poll neck-in-neck with the two major party candidates.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Perot founded IT equipment company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. Within six years, Perot became what Forbes called “the fastest, richest Texan.” He would sell EDS to General Motors for $2.4 billion in 1984 — but in 1978, he was still the man in charge. He made a deal with the Shah to install EDS social security computer systems in Iran and sent Paul J. Chiapparone and William Gaylord to fulfill the contract.

In December 1978, Chiapparone and Gaylord were denied their passports to leave the country. When the two Americans went to negotiate their exit from Iran, they were thrown in jail by Islamic revolutionaries.

With bail set at $12.7 million, it was a good thing Ross Perot was their boss.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Perot was appointed by Secretary of the Navy John Warner to report on the conditions of Americans in Vietnamese and Laotian POW camps for four years until the prisoners were released in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam War.

The very next month the Shah abdicated his throne and fled the country, leaving a power vacuum that would eventually be filled by Islamic revolutionaries led by the cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Americans all over Iran would be persecuted and some held prisoner, including 52 U.S. embassy personnel held for 444 days. But Perot refused to let his men suffer the same fate. And though he was willing to pay the ransom, there was concern that the captors might not receive the funds.

So Perot launched Operation HOTFOOT (Help Our Two Friends Out Of Tehran). He recruited a team of mercenaries with combat experience in Vietnam, including retired Army Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons, to lead the rescue.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

The original plan called for Simons’ team of former Green Berets to storm the Ministry of Justice building and walk out with the two employees. But the rescuers later learned Chiapparone and Gaylord were moved to Qasr Prison just outside Tehran.

Perot snuck into Iran on January 13 via a series of courier jets that moved news footage in and out of the country to try a negotiated release of his men. Coming up empty on a peaceful resolution, Perot lost patience.

With the two men in Qasr Prison, a commando raid became too dangerous. So instead they hatched a plan for an Iranian EDS employee named Rashid to start a riot and lead a crowd of angry, pro-Khomeini revolutionaries to storm the prison and free thousands of political prisoners held inside.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
The prison is now a museum and memorial to the Shah’s prisoners.

Simons and his team picked up the prisoners and moved them to Tehran, where they began the 500-mile journey to an EDS rescue team waiting in Turkey. Despite being arrested in almost every town they fled through, Rashid kept them from the executioner and guided their escape from Iran.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Courtroom sketch of the rescue by Ida Libby Dengrove (University of Virginia archives)

On February 17 — after 46 days in Iran — all of Perot’s EDS employees and every member of his rescue team — including Rashid — arrived at his hotel room in Istanbul, and the next day were home safe in the United States.

Perot’s men made it out of Iran in two Land Rovers in two days. By November 1979, almost a full year after the EDS employees were captured, 52 American Embassy workers would be held hostage while the world’s most powerful military held its breath.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The SEAL who shot bin Laden rained on Trump’s military parade

Robert O’Neill, the former U.S. Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s idea to have a military parade — and he’s not happy.


“A military parade is third world bulls—,” O’Neill tweeted. “We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation.”

Trump has instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans for a parade, but the content, location, and timing of such an event have not been announced.

O’Neill joins a chorus of U.S. military veterans expressing opposition to the idea of a parade, and of U.S. pundits who have pointed to Trump’s desire for a parade in likening him to a dictator.

Also read: How a US military parade will compare to China’s or Russia’s

In later tweets, O’Neill acknowledged that the U.S. has previously held military parades. And in a reply to another Twitter user, he asserted that Russia and France — which regularly hold them — were third-world countries because unlike the U.S., they couldn’t take over the world.

Historically, “Third World” refers to countries that aligned with neither the West nor the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The term has since taken on a broader meaning to describe economically developing nations.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Blue countries are First World, or aligned with the U.S. and NATO. Red countries are Second World, or Soviet Union-aligned. Green countries are Third World, aligned with neither. (Vorziblix via Wikimedia Commons)

In another tweet, O’Neill made clear his idea of a military parade befitting the U.S.: the so-called Thunder Run, the U.S. military’s 2003 attack on Baghdad that quickly took the city.

Further reading: These are the responses to Trump’s DC military parade

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia plans hypersonic missile, F-35 killer for top fighter

Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.

The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.


With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.

While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.

The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer

Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.

China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”

The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.

The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.

There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.

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

Articles

DARPA’s parasails make submarine hunters more lethal

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Photo: YouTube/DARPA


The Defense Advanced Research Projects agency’s drone submarine hunter — more properly known as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel or ACTUV — just successfully tested a new piece of equipment that dramatically increases the range of its sensors and communications gear.

The ACTUV is designed to patrol the oceans without a human crew, searching for potentially hostile submarines and then following them. But the small vessels have a limited sensor range since all of their antennas are relatively close to the water’s surface. Getting these antennas and sensors higher would give the ship a larger detection radius.

The TALONS — Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems — is basically a parachute towed behind a vessel like what would carry a tourist on a parasailing trip. But instead of flying your drunk Uncle Greg, the TALONS sports a sensor and antenna payload of up to 150 pounds. This raises those sensors to altitudes between 500 and 1,000 feet above sea level.

A DARPA press release detailed the gains in sensor range:

While aloft, TALONS demonstrated significant improvements to the range of the sensors and radios it carried compared to mounting them directly on a surface vessel. For example, TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent—six times—compared to its range at sea level. Its electro-optical/infrared scanner doubled its observed discrimination range. The TALONS team plugged in a commercial handheld omnidirectional radio; that radio’s range more than tripled.

Ships besides the ACTUV could use the TALONS to extend their sensor ranges as well. Even carrier islands sit just a few hundred feet above the waterline, meaning that carriers could get greater range for their sensors by towing the lighter ones on the TALONS — provided that engineers could find a setup that wouldn’t interfere with aircraft traffic.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China is weaponizing capital all over the world

China’s move to boost defense spending has sparked dismay among US officials in recent days, but it is Beijing’s efforts to gain influence that are more worrisome, the secretary of the US Navy said on March 7, 2018.


China’s finance ministry said this weekend that the country’s defense budget will rise 6% to 1.1 trillion yuan or $173 billion. It is the biggest increase in three years and makes China’s defense budget the world’s second-largest — behind only the US.

Chinese state media defended the new budget as proportionate and low. “If calculated in per capita terms, China’s military lags well behind other major countries,” official English-language newspaper China Daily said.

More: China increases military spending by $175 billion

On March 6, 2018, US Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the head of US Pacific Fleet, said the military budget lacked transparency and that China’s “intent is not clearly understood.”

On March 7, 2018, US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer — asked about Russian and Chinese activity in relation to the newest US National Security Strategy— echoed those concerns but pointed to a different kind of spending.

“When it comes to China, the bottom line there is the checkbook, to be very frank with you,” Spencer told members of the House Appropriations Committee. “Not only in the dollar and cents that they are writing to support their military expansion and their technological [research and development] work, but what they’re doing around the globe that I know you all are aware of, which is weaponizing capital, to be very frank with you.”

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. (Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.)

Spencer pointed to a summer 2017 deal China signed with Sri Lanka, the island nation just south of India, where Beijing agreed to a 99-year lease to operate the strategically located deep-water port of Hambantota, which is located near important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.

“Going into Sri Lanka, redoing the port, putting an interest rate — not as aid, but as a total secured loan with a pretty hefty coupon — [the] debtor fails on that, and the asset owner comes and reclaims it and says, ‘These are now ours,'” Spencer told the committee of the deal. “They’re doing that around the globe. So their open checkbook keeps me up at night.”

Also read: China is sick of people stealing its supercomputer technology

Many Sri Lankans were themselves dismayed with the agreement, taking to the streets to protest what they saw as growing Chinese influence in their country. India, which has eyed Chinese infrastructure deals and military activity in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region warily, also objected.

“This is going to be a standing example for the other countries to watch, because China is not Father Christmas, handing out dollar bills. They want return on the money, and they want the money to come within a certain, certified period,” K.C. Singh, former secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in July 2017.

“Is it a model then for future extension of the Chinese strategic footprint?” Singh added. “When … countries can’t return the money, then you grab territory?”

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridors in black. (Map by Lommes)

The port deal was a part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a project to link scores of countries in Asia, Oceania, Africa, and Europe through Chinese-backed railways, shipping routes, and infrastructure projects.

As a part of that effort, China has funded development projects in poorer countries, which it leverages for more advantageous relations or for regional access. The trend has also been called “debt-trap diplomacy.”

Related: Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Hambantota is not the only port deal secured by the Chinese government or a Chinese state-owned company in recent years. Beijing has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to win over locals and develop a deep-water port in Gwadar, on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast.

The moves are a departure from China’s usual approach to such foreign projects, but the focus has concerned India and the US, which see Beijing’s investment in Gwadar as part of efforts to expand Chinese naval influence.

 

Borne the Battle: Chris Burke and Mitchell Shafer
Gwadar port of Pakistan. (Photo by Umargondal)

 

Chinese state firms are also growing their presence in Europe, buying up ports and cargo terminals on the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts — including Spain, Italy, Greece, and Belgium.

Chinese state-owned enterprises now control about one-tenth of all European port capacity.

European leaders have become concerned Beijing plans to leverage its financial interests into political clout. Greece, where Chinese influence has grown in recent years, has blocked recent EU efforts to condemn China over its human-rights record and other policies.

US Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, speaking alongside Spencer, voiced similar concerns about China.

“The Chinese are playing the long game. They are, as the secretary said, everywhere I go, they’re there,” Neller said. “They’re going and they’re buying airfields and ports to extend their reach … they want to win without fighting.”

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