Coast Guard cooks its way to the top - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

The United States Coast Guard Culinary Team beat 19 competitors to be named 2020 Joint Culinary Training Exercise Installation of the Year.

The competition included teams from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and international teams from France, Germany and Great Britain, with the Coast Guard earning 20 medals — five gold, six silver and nine bronze, according to a Facebook post. Chief Petty Officer Edward Fuchs, team manager, says training time helped the chefs prepare.

“One of the things that gave us a leg up this year that we’ve never had before is that we had 10 days of training time leading up to it,” Fuchs said. He added that time to run through everything with a team that had never worked together before, made all the difference. He credits Master Chief Matthew Simolon and his crew for opening up the USCG Yorktown, Virginia, galley for their team as one of the reasons they won.


Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

Chief Petty Officer Scott Jeffries, the Coast Guard Team Advisor, shared that many of the other military branch teams competing there had been working on their craft together for six months or longer to prepare for the competition.

“The reaction from them when they would learn about us (USCG team) only being together for nine days prior to the start of the competition was pretty awesome. They understand how hard this thing is and how much work goes into it,” Jeffries said. “The Yorktown galley made it all possible by getting us rations or running us to the store. Without them, this wouldn’t have been successful at all.”

The road to competing in this culinary competition isn’t easy. The hours are long, often stretching into 12-plus hour days. Fuchs shared there was one stretch where he was away from his hotel room for 30 hours. But that continuous hard work and unfailing dedication paid off.

Fuchs said the Coast Guard has always had to work a little harder because all of the rules and important communications come through the Department of Defense, which led to his team being behind on this year because the group was left out of those important emails. He also shared that throughout the 14 years since the Coast Guard first competed, there were years they weren’t funded to compete.

“For a while it was just us and our personal funds keeping it alive,” he said.

One year, as an example, they were sponsored by The Coast Guard Foundation. In years past, the chefs competing were mostly those located in Washington, D.C. and the Virginia areas that were close by to the Fort Lee competition because they just couldn’t afford to bring in chefs from units throughout the country. He continued saying that “we kept it on life support, waiting for that funding stream to come through.”

Coast Guard cooks its way to the top

Jeffries echoed Fuchs statement, saying for years it really was a few of them spending thousands of dollars each to maintain a Coast Guard team.

“The coverage was still there because that was our way of being able to showcase to the right avenues, ‘hey we are out here doing awesome stuff and representing the Coast Guard in a great light’ … let’s fund this thing so we can get other people out here,” he said.

They got their wish. The Coast Guard team has been funded for the last two years and this year they were able to bring in chefs from all over the fleet; something they have never been able to do before. And this year’s team was a vibrant representation of the force’s culinary rate and it made all the difference.

“We’ve done this for 14 years and every year you think you have a chance (for culinary team of the year) and then it’s not you. … It’s indescribable, that feeling that you feel when you train a team and they win it. I can’t even put into words the pride and the joy watching them go up on stage to receive the award for culinary team of the year,” Fuchs said.

“We were celebrating the night before because of how great of a job that everyone did in their own personal competitions. The Coast Guard medaled every competition and we already knew that our Coast Guard Chef of the Year had a shot at Armed Forces Chef of the Year, something that the Coast Guard had never won. There was just already so much to celebrate,” Jeffries said.

Both Fuchs and Jeffries describe an “intense” energy in the room after Team Coast Guard was announced as the winner. And so was the respect.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s another potential reason for North Korea’s nuclear provocations

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Monday said it was “fair to say” that North Korea, which has a history of sharing its nuclear capabilities, could be approached by potential customers, such as Iran, to sell secrets about its missile programs.


“The North Koreans have a long history of being proliferators and sharing their knowledge, their technology, their capacities around the world,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview on Monday.

“As North Korea continues to improve its ability to do longer-range missiles and to put nuclear weapons on those missiles, it is very unlikely, if they get that capability, that they wouldn’t share it with lots of folks, and Iran would certainly be someone who would be willing to pay them for it,” Pompeo said.

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U.S. Congresman Mike Pompeo speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. | Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore

Though the US believes it has solid information on North Korea’s capabilities, the reclusive nation’s ultimate intent in ramping up its weapons program remains an “incredibly difficult intelligence problem,” Pompeo added.

“We think we have an understanding,” Pompeo said. “We think Kim Jong Un wants these weapons for protecting his regime and then, ultimately, the reunification of the peninsula. But there’s still a lot that the intelligence community needs to learn.”

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North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

In August, The Washington Post reported that North Korea unexpectedly broke through a major hurdle in its nuclear-missile program after it was able to marry a miniaturized nuclear warhead with a missile. The report led to an increasingly bellicose verbal exchange between President Donald Trump and North Korea, with the hermit kingdom threatening the US territory of Guam.

On September 3, North Korea continued to rattle its global neighbors, conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. Following the test, the UN Security Council unanimously increased sanctions on North Korea — albeit a watered-down version to appease China and Russia — by imposing a cap on crude-oil imports and banning exports of textiles, according to Reuters.

“Look, I worry first and foremost about the threat from North Korea, in the sense that we have a place that is now in the cusp of having the capacity we’d hope they’d never have,” Pompeo continued, “with a leader who makes decisions, at the very least, in a very, very tight circle, in which we have limited access.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Image shows pair of black holes stuck in a collision between galaxies

It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.

But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.

The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.


Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.

This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.

But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.

The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.

The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).

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NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).

(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)

That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.

‘A chaotic stream of gas’

Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.

“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”

Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.

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The black holes are less massive than researchers expected

The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.

Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.

The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.

“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”

Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.

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

Articles

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Declaring the group’s destruction its top Middle East priority, the Trump administration on March 22 urged coalition partners to contribute more to forces who are retaking Iraq’s second largest city and readying an assault on the extremists’ self-declared Syrian capital. There was no apparent announcement of a new overall strategy, however.


Addressing top diplomats of the 68-nation coalition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for new ideas to expand the against IS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and accelerate the campaign to chase from Raqqa, Syria, while preparing for the complex humanitarian and political consequences of both efforts.

Yet Tillerson did not propose, at least in his public remarks, a new approach, beyond noting the increased U.S. role in each country. As the officials were meeting at the State Department in Washington, the Pentagon announced that it provided an airlift for Syrian taking part in an west of Raqqa, in an escalation of U.S. involvement. At least one country participating in the meeting, France, voiced frustration that Tillerson and other U.S. officials had not offered specifics.

“I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating is the United States number one goal in the region,” Tillerson said. “As we’ve said before, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi said victory was finally within reach.

“We are at the stage of completely decimating ,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Nothing Tillerson outlined departed significantly from the Obama administration’s strategy, which focused on using local forces to retake territory along with efforts to disrupt IS recruitment and financing, and the blueprint of the multilateral effort seemed unchanged.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was disappointed the U.S. hasn’t outlined a more detailed plan, particularly for Raqqa’s future. He said he understood Trump’s administration was still formulating policy, explaining that he will be more concerned if decisions aren’t made before the end of April.

“We are expecting some further clarity from the U.S.,” he told reporters, citing France’s desire for the city to be run by moderate opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and not the country’s Russian-backed government. He also wants to hear what America seeks from U.N.-led talks on a broader political settlement to the six-year civil between Assad’s and various groups.

Tactics for the are complicated in Syria, where a partnership with Kurdish has prompted difficult discussions with Turkey, which sees them as a national security threat. The Pentagon made clear that in Wednesday’s near Raqqa, U.S. forces were still in a support role.

Tillerson said the United States would play its part and pay its fair share of the overall operation. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced IS or IS-inspired , must contribute more militarily or financially.

He said increased intelligence and information sharing could overcome traditional rivalries between different agencies and governments, and advocated an enhanced online effort to halt the spread of extremist views, especially as the group loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

Although Tillerson alluded to the intensified campaign, he said the Trump administration was still refining its strategy. As a candidate, Trump spoke broadly about radical changes to the approach adopted by then-President Barack Obama. As a president, Trump has moved more cautiously.

“A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together,” Tillerson said. “But I can say that the United States will increase our pressure on and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through , to allow refugees to return home.”

The reference to “zones of stability” appeared to stop short of “safe zones,” which the U.S. has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungary’s foreign minister said he liked what he heard.

“We are enthusiastic about the new U.S. strategy,” Peter Szijjarto said, adding that he saw Trump’s administration determined “not only to against , but totally eliminate .” He said his country would send 50 more to Iraq, taking its contribution to 200.

As the become more encircled, the mission will change. Officials expect in the coming months to see the dissipation of surviving into underground cells that could plan and mount throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe, South America and the United States. Washington has been trying to get NATO, coalition and other partners to take actions to adapt to changing threats.

“As we stabilize areas encompassing ‘s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” Tillerson said. “We must ensure cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world. We must online as aggressively as we would on the ground. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one.”

Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report. 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Report: Ukrainian snipers find themselves outgunned, outmatched by enemy

Russian snipers and separatist marksmen trained in Russian military camps outmatch their Ukrainian counterparts in the Donbas conflict with better rifles, equipment, and ammunition, an analysis by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation says.


Given that the conflict in eastern Ukraine has entered a positional phase of trench warfare, the role of snipers and the advantages Russia-backed forces have in this area is more acute, the think tank said on February 25.

In these conditions, snipers are “an effective multiplier on the battlefield, able to precisely strike long-range enemy targets, conduct indispensable reconnaissance of enemy movements and positions, as well as demoralize enemy troops,” the analysis said.

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When the war broke out in April 2014, Ukraine was using Soviet-era Dragunov (SVD) rifles, while their better-funded and technologically more advanced adversary was using the same rifles but with new barrels, scopes, and high-quality rounds.

“Russian professional snipers at the middle and rear lines” were using bolt-action rifles that “fire three times farther than the SVD rifles.”

Lack of funding made it challenging to buy Ukrainian shooters night-vision devices, camouflage, rangefinders, ammunition, thermal sights, and silencers, something the Russia-backed forces are in no shortage of, it said.

Therefore, Jamestown Foundation wrote, Kyiv is still playing catch-up.

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26th MEU sniper platoon trains during Eager Lion

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Ukraine has started a sniper program with foreign instructors. More effective, lighter-weight rifles were procured from abroad and from the homegrown Zbroyar company.

Now, Ukrainian sniper teams are attached to each battalion, not just special forces.

Still, “poor funding, army bureaucracy, and ammunition shortages preclude Ukrainian snipers from reaching their potential today,” the think tank wrote.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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This monster aircraft was the helicopter version of the AC-130 gunship

With two 20mm cannons, a 40mm automatic grenade launcher, five .50-cal. machine guns, and two weapon pods that could carry either 70mm rocket launchers or 7.62mm miniguns, the armored ACH-47A Chinook could fly into the teeth of enemy resistance and fly back out as the only survivor.


The aircraft boasted overlapping fields of fire and 360 degree coverage.

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Operating under the call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go,” these behemoths were part of an experimental program during Vietnam to create heavy aerial gunships to support ground troops. Four CH-47s were turned into ACH-47As by adding 2,681 pounds of armor and improved engines to each bird.

The first three birds arrived in Vietnam in 1966 where they engaged in six months of operational testing. They were tasked with supporting the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division as well as a Royal Australian Task Force.

The Army Pictorial Service covered an early mission flown in support of the Australians where the attack Chinooks were sent to destroy known enemy positions.

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Though the gunships performed well in combat, the Army was hesitant to expand the program because of high maintenance costs. Also, conventional CH-47s were proving extremely valuable as troop transports and for moving cargo.

Of the four ACH-47s created, three were lost in Vietnam. The first collided with a standard CH-47 while taxiing on an airfield. Another had a retention pin shake loose on a 20mm cannon and was brought down when its own gun fired through the forward rotor blades. The third was grounded by enemy fire and then destroyed by an enemy mortar attack after the crew escaped.

Since the gunships were designed to work in pairs, one providing security while the other attacked, the Army ordered the fourth and final helicopter back to the states. It was used as a maintenance trainer by the Army until 1997, when it was restored. It is now on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

The call sign “Guns-A-Go-Go” was recently passed off to Company A of the Army’s new 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy dares China to fight in their disputed territory

Last week, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed within 12 nautical miles of a small island in the South China Sea claimed by Communist China. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Other ships, like the Hopper’s sister ship, USS John S. McCain, have made similar runs.


So, you might ask yourself, “why continue running these kinds of routes when they piss off China?” After all, the Hopper was warned off by a Chinese Communist missile frigate and Scarborough Shoal, the island in question, isn’t even inhabited — what’s the point?

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) and the Military Sealift Command dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) conduct an underway replenishment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo)

Well, part of the reason is to contest China’s claim over pretty much all of the South China Sea. This is a claim that was rejected by an international tribunal in the summer of 2016, although China pulled a Lannister-esque gambit and boycotted the proceedings. China has since built some island bases in the disputed region and uses them to not only support aircraft operations but also houses surface-to-air missiles as well.

So, in addition to disputing the claims of the Chinese in the South China Sea, these near-passes provide an opportunity to get a good look at the electronic emissions and other military capabilities on island bases.

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Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

The United States Navy calls these close passes “freedom of navigation” exercises. The term sounds innocent enough, but similar exercises resulted in brief battles with Libya in 1981, 1986, and 1989, which included the sinking of two Libyan naval vessels and the downing of Su-22 “Fitter” and MiG-23 “Flogger” combat jets by F-14 Tomcats. In one instance in the 1980s, a pair of Soviet frigates bumped the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Yorktown and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Caron.

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The Soviet Krivak I class guided missile frigate BEZZAVETNY (FFG 811) impacts the guided missile cruiser USS YORKTOWN (CG 48) as the American ship exercises the right of free passage through the Soviet-claimed 12-mile territorial waters. (U.S. Navy photo)

Currently, the freedom of navigation exercises have not drawn hostile fire from Chinese Communist forces. However, it has not been unusual for American planes to be buzzed by ChiCom jets, as happened on multiple occasions in 2017, one of which mirrored a secne in the 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun. In 2001, a ChiCom J-8 “Finback” collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance aircraft, which, as a result, had to make an emergency landing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

2020 class of Dole Caregiver Fellows named

The Elizabeth Dole Foundation named its newest class of fellows who will represent caregivers at a time plagued by the coronavirus.

Thirty military and veteran caregivers representing 23 states join 225 past and present Dole Caregiver Fellows in bringing attention to the plight of 5.5 million “hidden heroes” that provide more than $14 billion in voluntary care for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans every year, according to a foundation press release.


“Our eighth class of Dole Caregiver Fellows is bringing a new set of unique voices to our mission, but all share similar stories of strength, resilience, and hope in caring for their wounded warriors,” said Steve Schwab, CEO of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “As they care for their veterans, we are grateful for their passion, wisdom, and willingness to come together and advocate for their fellow hidden heroes. They are the heart and soul of our work.”

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Steve Scwab speaks at the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s “Hidden Heroes Among Us” event in 2019. (Military Families)

Through the program, caregivers receive support, training and a platform to address the most pressing issues facing the community. They also share their stories directly with national leaders in the White House, Congress, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and other government agencies, as well as decision makers in the business, entertainment, faith, and nonprofit sectors.

Mari Linfoot, a 2020 Dole Caregiver Fellow, is a full-time caregiver for her husband, Gary, who was paralyzed during a mechanical helicopter failure in 2008. She says there’s a whole phase of just trying to figure out how to be a caregiver.

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Mari Linfoot and her husband Gary. (Military Families)

“It takes a long time. I kind of wish someone would have sat me down and said, ‘Don’t be hard on yourself because for the next year-to-three-years you’re going to be trying to figure life out, and that’s OK,'” she said. “You just want to fix everything and you just can’t fix some things.”

At the time of the accident, Mari had a successful real estate company. Due the demands for Gary’s care, she has now taken on a round-the-clock role as his caregiver.

“Gary went through a really dark emotional time. He was so good about putting a happy face on and he didn’t complain, but inside he was just dying. He started engaging in speaking at schools and businesses and it helped bring him out of it,” she said.

The pair travels for Gary’s speaking engagements where they discuss patriotism and technology that helps him get around, including an IBOT wheelchair that raises him to eye level and climbs stairs, and an exoskeleton that he used to walk their daughter down the aisle.

Regular travel challenges include rental cars or hotel rooms that are not accessible for Gary, despite multiple confirmations.

“Life is good. I can’t say life isn’t good. It’s just a lot. Everything is so much more detailed. It requires much more work and thought,” she said. “You have to count on other people doing what they’re supposed to do. You have less chance to take things into your own hands.”

In addition to speaking engagements, the couple founded the American Mobility Project to provide equipment and adaptive products after seeing a need within the civilian population. They also help connect veterans and military members with resources.

Anne Way, an Army Reserve spouse, was named to the Dole Fellowship community for her endurance and involvement.

In 2002, her husband, Pete, took shrapnel to the knee. Through multiple episodes of sepsis and flesh-eating bacteria, his knee was found to contain Middle Eastern strains causing infections. After years of complications and dozens of surgeries, Pete, a nurse practitioner, decided to amputate his leg.

“I trusted his opinion. We felt almost a relief. I was worried I was going to lose him multiple times, so I thought if we can just get rid of the leg, we can keep this from happening again,” Anne said.

In years since, he underwent innovative surgery to help his prosthetic, for which he’s still receiving treatment.

“It wasn’t the instant fix we were hoping for, but we’re working on it.”

Anne, who lives in Georgia, retired from her teaching career and now works as a full-time caregiver.

“I’m probably not as nurturing as some wives,” she laughed. “I encourage him to get up and go.”

“The biggest thing is being that support to him and understanding his physical needs.”

To promote healthy movement, even through amputation, the Ways have started a nonprofit biking community. Vets Fight On works with the VA and Forces United to provide hand and recumbent bikes. She said not only is the exercise aspect helpful, but it allows military members to connect socially.

“I’m looking forward to bringing support and awareness to others. I didn’t look for it and that would have been extremely rewarding to have that encouragement,” she said. “Let’s focus on the positive going forward and unite.”

Visit http://hiddenheroes.org for more information on Dole Foundation programs for caregivers.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Special tactics airmen get Tyndall running for hurricane operations

Air Force special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron assessed, opened, and controlled air traffic at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, Oct. 11, 2018.

The special tactics airmen cleared and established a runway at Oct. 11, 2018, at 7 p.m., and received the first aircraft at 7:06 p.m.


Special tactics airmen have the ability to assess, open and control major airfields to clandestine dirt strips in any environment, including those that have been impacted by a natural disaster.

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Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron unload an all-terrain vehicle from a CV-22 Osprey assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

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Special tactics airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron access an airfield on Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Special tactics airmen are in control of the airfield and are prepared to support airfield operations until further notice, which will allow support to facilitate humanitarian assistance to Tyndall AFB.

Tyndall AFB received extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

For any questions regarding special tactics airmen, contact Jackie Pienkowski at 850-884-3902 or 413-237-4466, or jaclyn.pienkowski@us.af.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Vietnam may see an American aircraft carrier again – this time on a friendly visit

The United States Navy will be sending an aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in 2018, part of a series of steps to promote “regional and global security” in Asia. This will mark the first time an aircraft carrier has visited the Southeast Asian country in more than 50 years.


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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon for Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2017. (DoD photo)

According to a Defense Department readout of a meeting between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, the carrier visit is part of a series of steps to “deepen defense cooperation,” which included the transfer of a decommissioned Hamilton-class Coast Guard high-endurance cutter to the Vietnamese Navy.

The South China Sea has been a longstanding maritime flashpoint between China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

The Bangkok Post reported that President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had discussed having a carrier visit Vietnam when the two met in May during a visit from Phuc to the U.S. The Thai media outlet also reported that Vietnam has been taking a hard line among the Association of South East Asian Nations regarding China’ construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

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Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

China has long claimed dominion over the entire South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “nine-dash line.” The claims have been disputed and were rejected by an international tribunal in 2016. China, though, boycotted the process.

The U.S. has conducted a number of freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. American and Chinese units have also had a number of close encounters in the maritime flash point, and in other regions where China has made territorial claims.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US establishes positions to block ISIS escape

U.S. forces are establishing observation posts in Northeast Syria to further deny escape routes to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve told Pentagon reporters today.

The spokesman said the observation posts will be set up to deter ISIS fighters that try to flee the middle Euphrates River valley into Turkey to the north.

Army Col. Sean Ryan, speaking via teleconference from Baghdad, updated reporters on ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS.


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Defense Secretary James N. Mattis speaks.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“These observation posts will provide additional transparency and will better enable Turkey’s protection from ISIS elements,” Ryan said.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis announced the observation posts last week in a press briefing with Pentagon reporters.

The move follows close consultation and collaboration with Turkey, both at the military and State Department levels, according to a DOD News report.

U.S. to keep military presence in Syria

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ISIS Operative Arrested

Also in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces arrested a senior ISIS official accused of involvement in the assassination of Sheikh Bashir Faysal al-Huwaidi, an Arab chieftain in Raqqa, Ryan said.

“This targeted operation undermines the enemy’s ability to operate in the shadows, and allows the SDF to ultimately eliminate sleeper cells that continue to threaten civilians and prolong their demise,” the spokesman added.

The U.S.-led coalition and its partners will continue to fight the terrorists and degrade their capabilities, he said.

“It’s important to take the fight to the enemy [and] we must continue to consolidate our considerable gains,” Ryan said.

Near Manbij, the alliance between Turkish and U.S. forces in the Combined Joint Patrols allows forces to continue to deny terrorists access to the area, he added, and noted that over time, it has become a community that is thriving.

“This stability is the direct result of the focus of our NATO ally Turkey and through cooperation with local officials from Manbij,” the spokesman said.

ISIS remnants are fortifying their positions and digging in for a protracted campaign, Ryan said.

“We should remain patient [because] fighting will continue to be intense as we continue to pressure the enemy into smaller and smaller spaces,” he said. “This is the last real physical terrain held by enemy forces, and they will continue to wage a resistance as they steadily lose relevance.”

This Militia is Threatening American Troops in Syria | NYT – Visual Investigations

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Iraq Border Security

Along the Syria-Iraq border, the 8th Iraqi Army Division continues to reinforce border security by engaging and repelling ISIS militants as they try to flee the offensive in the middle Euphrates River valley, Ryan said.

“Iraqi units continue to conduct coordinated strikes even as ISIS elements probe border positions with vehicle-borne [improvised explosive devices], motorcycles, small-arms fire and mortars,” he added.

The Iraqi air force on Nov. 20 launched two airstrikes targeting an ISIS weapons facility and a building that housed 30 ISIS fighters, Ryan said, adding, “This operation also signifies the ability of the Iraqi security forces to protect its border and uproot cells.”

In Mosul, Iraqi forces, backed by coalition air support carried out a security operation in Menkar village that resulted in five enemy fighters killed.

“[This] operation demonstrated ISF are strengthening their intelligence gathering to disrupt enemy operations and protect the Iraqi citizens from bombings and kidnappings,” the spokesman said.

Another successful ISF operation resulted in the death of an ISIS senior leader, code-named Katkut, Ryan said, adding that the operative was known to have planned and conducted attacks in Hadr, southwest of Mosul. He was killed in Saladin province after fleeing from the scene of an attack earlier in the week.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDOD)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is buying more of these ‘Fullback’ fighter jets — and they’re pretty impressive

The Russian Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that its air force has received a new batch of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-34 bombers.


While the Russian Ministry of Defense did not say how many planes were delivered, it did say that it was slated to get a total of 16 in 2017.

The Su-34, dubbed “Fullback” by NATO, is one of Russia’s most capable aircraft — able to engage targets on the ground and in the air — and has been used extensively in Syria.

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Russia’s Sukhoi SU-34 Bomber. (Image Spunky Warriors Youtube grab)

Here’s what it can do.

  • The Su-34 Fullback, which made its maiden flight in 1990, was built to replace the Su-24.
  • It was also modeled off the Su-27 Flanker, as were the Su-30, Su-33, and Su-35.
  • It’s normal takeoff weight is 39 tons, and its maximum takeoff weight is 44.4 tons.
  • It runs on two Saturn AL-31F turbofan engines, each capable of about 27,500 pounds of thrust.
  • It has a maximum speed of about 1,181 mph and a maximum range of about 2,485 miles. It can also reach an altitude of about 10.5 miles.
  • Its two-person cockpit has a nearly 0.7-inch thick armored covering.
  • The Su-34 cockpit displays show flight parameters, tactical data, and operational status.
  • The cockpit even has a urinal, as well as a small kitchen.
  • It carries a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It is believed to be able to hit air targets 75 miles away and ground targets 60 miles away.

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    Russia’s Sukhoi SU-34 Bomber. (Image Spunky Warriors Youtube grab)

  • It carries short-range R-73 and long-range radar-guided R-77 air-to-air missiles. It also carries Kh-59ME, Kh-31A, Kh-31P, Kh-29T, Kh-29L, and S-25LD air-to-ground missiles.
  • The Fullback can also be armed with rockets as well as guided and unguided bombs, like the RBK-500 and SPBE-D cluster bombs.
  • The video below shows the Flanker dropping KAB-500 bombs in Syria in 2015.
  • The graphic gives a very thorough breakdown of the Flanker’s capabilities, including which ordnance it carries and where it hangs on the wings.
  • Russia first deployed four Su-34s to Syria in September 2015, and Moscow is now believed to have six in the war-torn country.
  • While Russia likes to tout how many terrorists it kills in air strikes, their figures are often exaggerated and fail to mention civilian casualties.
  • By March 2016, after just six months of military operations in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Russian airstrikes had killed about 5,800 civilians.
  • Russia has used Syria to test and showcase its weaponry but has sold the Fullback to only one country, Algeria.
  • Russia plans to maintain a fleet of 92 Fullbacks until 2020.
Articles

This is why the US-led coalition called Amnesty report on Mosul ‘irresponsible’

The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”


The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.

War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.

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Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.

In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”

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U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.

US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.