Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

After 33 days stranded on a deserted island, three Cuban nationals were rescued by the United States Coast Guard. 

After losing their boat when it capsized, the two men and a woman swam to a nearby island. Far from any kind of civilization, they became stranded on the remote island for 33 days. The Coast Guard pilot flying a HH-144 Ocean Sentry plane from Air Station Miami saw them waving makeshift flags down below as they were patrolling the area.

Lieutenant Riley Beecher was first on scene. He shared that it was a normal patrol and he was flying at around 500 feet, until he saw something flickering in the distance. Beecher quickly told the crew he wanted to turn back around to get a better look. “We dropped down to about 200 feet and low and behold, there was a flag waving. As we got closer, two people came out waving their hands trying to get our attention showing that they were in distress,” he explained. 

The crew signaled that they saw the people and then radioed back to their command center. They were directed to drop a radio, water and food. “We didn’t have any Spanish speakers unfortunately but in my broken Spanish I was able to ask where they were from, how many people were there, how long they’d been there and if there were any medical concerns. They were pretty relieved,” Beecher said. 

He was due back to Miami and was unable to do much else. But Beecher was quickly replaced by Lieutenant Justin Dougherty, flying in with another crew who had two Spanish speaking Coasties on board. “The plan for us was to get on scene and establish communications with them. We were really concerned about their medical state,” Dougherty said, adding that it was essentially a miracle that Beecher had found them at all. “It was tough to see even though we knew exactly what we were looking for. It was unbelievable.”

Unfortunately, they were unable to immediately rescue the stranded Cuban nationals. “Being a fixed wing aircraft, we can’t do a water landing. We also can’t hover so the most we could do was drop them supplies,” Dougherty shared. The island was also just out of range for their helicopters in Miami. But more help was on the way. 

The command at Miami began communicating with Air Station Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter William Trump out of Key West was headed their way in the meantime. “We dropped them another radio…bottled water and some MREs,” Dougherty said. They also gave them signaling devices and life vests. “We let them know someone would be there to pick them up whether it was a Coast Guard boat in the morning or a helicopter sometime in the evening.” 

When Coast Guard Pilot and Lieutenant Mikel “Mike” Allert arrived on scene, there were piles of shells were clearly visible next to the makeshift flags. Although the national news media reported that the Cuban nationals had been surviving on coconuts, that wasn’t true. It was confirmed that they were sustained on conchs and rats, according to Allert. “They also had a makeshift cross that they had made with driftwood,” he shared. With no where safe for them to land near them due to the narrowness of the island, they made the decision to hover and launch a rescue swimmer.

“He assessed them medically because he is a qualified EMT and his assessment showed that they needed to go to a hospital. They were showing obvious signs of fatigue, dehydration and they were relatively gaunt for being out there for that extensive period of time,” Allert explained.

All three pilots expressed their awe in the survivors. “The fact that they had been there for 33 days on the sheer willpower to live is impressive,” Beecher said.

“Thanks to our aircrews diligently conducting routine patrols, we were able to spot people in distress and intervene,” said Sean Connett, Command Duty Officer at Coast Guard Seventh District said in a press release. “This was a very complex operation involving asset and crews from different units, but thanks to good communication and coordination between command centers and pilots, we were able to safely get everyone to a medical facility before the situation could worsen.”

“As Coast Guard operations go, it just goes to show the coordination involved in utilizing these assets all across the state,” Allert said. “We were fortunate to find them and blessed to be able to go pick them up.” Although this case definitely got a lot of media attention, much of what occurred is just a normal day in the life of a Coast Guardsman, always ready for any and everything.

Articles

Iran plans post-2020 naval expansion

Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.


According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
SS-N-26 at at MAKS Airshow in Zhukovskiy, 1997. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.

Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.

The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).

The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines hold rifle and pistol competition on Okinawa

The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.

“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”


The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.

The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”

The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.

Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.

(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)

“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”

The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.

“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”

The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.

The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy takes out a drone in new weapons test

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.

The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.

A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.


The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.

Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)

“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”

At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.

That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.

The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.

The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.

The problems have even left some members of Congress reluctant to bless future multi-carrier purchases, a process that some say saves the service billions.

Navy and Raytheon officials are planning to conduct more live-fire events this year as they continue putting the Ford’s integrated combat system to the test.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

Articles

7 startling facts about the US military after 20 years of war

With the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan either drawing down or seeing the United States take a non-combat role, many are looking back to see how the Armed Forces have changed since the days following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. 

The most revealing data visualization so far has come from USA Today, who created a stunning set of graphs and visuals using 20 years of data from places like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Costs of War Project, the Watson Institute, Brown University and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

What it shows is the unbelievable growth of the U.S. military’s global reach and an incredible amount of military spending. Here are just a few revelations. 

1. The U.S. might have 800 military bases around the world

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton)

The main visual on USA Today’s in-depth chart shows the growth of the United States’ military bases worldwide, and shows the order in which they opened since the end of the Cold War. In 85 of those countries, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism operations.

What’s more stunning is that combing through endless Pentagon documents, researchers were able to list an astonishing 800 current U.S. military bases overseas, says American University’s David Vine. 

2. In 2021, U.S. troops saw combat in eight countries

It’s not unusual to see stories and reports from the front lines of fighting in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but USA Today reports that in February 2021, American combat forces were in action in eight total countries that month, far more than the media often report. 

It may come as a surprise to many that US troops were also actively engaged in combat in Mali, NIgeria, Somalia, Kenya and Yemen. The United States was also conducting drone or air strikes in Libya and Pakistan while conducting counterterrorism operations with unknown details across Africa, South America and Central and Southeast Asia.

3. Our main geopolitical rival has only one overseas base

The Pentagon says China is building up bases in Pakistan and the Pacific Rim region, which should come as no surprise, given its controversial territorial claims in the South China Sea, but it only has one confirmed foreign military installation – in Djibouti, where the U.S. also operates a military base. 

United States forces are not only also in Djibouti, they are also stationed at bases in the eight countries surrounding Djibouti, which may help check the expansion of Chinese influence in Africa – or not. 

4. The human cost of decades of war is high

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
U.S. Army

In the 20 years following the September 11 attacks and the resulting Global War On Terrorism, civilians in the affected countries have borne the brunt of the death toll. More than 335,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting. 

If we’re keeping score by body count between the belligerents, the terrorists and other extremists have fared the second worst, with more than 259,000 killed. National militaries like those of Iraq and Afghanistan came in third with 177,073 while U.S. Allies have lost 12,468. The United States has seen 7,950 American contractors and 7,104 troops killed in action. 

5. The Global War on Terror cost more than $6 trillion

Wars are expensive and the Global War on Terrorism is no different (it’s not over, by the way). The Department of Defense alone has spent some $1.9 trillion to fight it. The Department of Homeland Security has spent at least $1 trillion, the DoD budget has grown by $803 billion in the past 20 years and the cost of taking care of American veterans is running $437 billion.

What’s really staggering is that the second largest expenditure is the estimated interest spent on borrowing the money to pay for the war, which is currently costing the U.S. taxpayer $925 billion.

6. Global warfare is changing

Despite the advances in battlefield technology and American supremacy due to fighting the war on terror, everything we’ve learned may all be for naught. The newest battlegrounds are not in physical locations, they’re in cyberspace, and the U.S. is taking the brunt of those attacks. 

Since 2005, China has targeted American government networks, public networks, and private companies 67 times. Russian and Iran have attacked the US 28 times each and North Korea has targeted U.S. networks 12 times. When extremists attack the United States, the Department of Homeland Security says the source of those attacks are domestic terrorists.

7. The U.S. outspends everyone on defense – by a lot

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes)

The budget allotted to the Department of Defense is $731.8 billion, which far outpaces the next 10 countries’ defense budgets. In fact they would all have to band together to spend an equivalent amount to rival U.S. defense spending. 

China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil together spend as much as the Pentagon every year, just for regular planned operations and development. This spending doesn’t always even account for extra spending allotted by Congress for other, related programs, the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Feature image: U.S. Army

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this rendition of the West Point alma mater made to honor a lost classmate

Every military branch, office, and unit has its own unique traditions. Military culture develops within us from the very beginning of our service. The plebes at the United State Military Academy are no different in that regard. Every class has a unique motto and crest while each cadet company has a unique mascot. But no matter what class or company, they all come together for the West Point Alma Mater.


West Point alum, Army officer, and filmmaker Austin Lachance is known among plebes and old grads alike for his skills in producing high-quality, West Point-centric films. In 2017, he produced a music video of the U.S. Military Academy’s glee club singing a rendition of the 1911-era West Point Alma Mater that will give you chills.

In 2018, Lachance remastered the piece in stunning 4K video in order to honor 1st Lt. Stephen C. Prasnicki, an Army football player from the West Point class of 2010 who was killed in action two years later.

Called “Sing Second,” the video references the tradition of the end of the annual Army-Navy Game, where each side sings the other’s alma mater. The losing team sings theirs first and the winning team sings second. But the rendition is more than an Army-Navy Game spirit video, like 2017’s “Lead From the Front” — it’s a tribute.

Lachance, now an Army officer on active duty, remastered the moving video to honor fellow West Pointer Stephen Chase Prasnicki, who was killed by an enemy improvised explosive device in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on Jun. 27, 2012.

Upon graduating from high school, Prasnicki was a highly-recruited prospect for college football. As a quarterback in a highly competitive area of Virginia high school football, he might have chosen to play at Virginia Tech under legendary coach Frank Beamer. He could have played in bowl games and for national championships. Instead, he chose West Point.

Chase was a leader in every aspect of his life,” Prasnicki’s surviving spouse, Emily Gann, told CBS Sports. “People wanted to follow him onto the football field, and they wanted to follow him into battle.”

The former Army Black Knights backup quarterback and defensive safety was a platoon leader assigned to the 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. He was only in Afghanistan for five days before sustaining his wounds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Truman strike group depart for the Middle East

The US dispatched the USS Harry S. Truman, a massive Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to a tour of Middle East on April 11, 2018, as tensions between the US, Russia, and Syria reach a boiling point over a pending US strike.

“The strike group, including aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, USS Normandy (CG-60), several destroyers of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28 and German frigate FGS Hessen (F 221), is scheduled to conduct operations in the U.S. Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility,” a US Navy statement read.


Though the specifics of the deployment haven’t been revealed, the presence of an aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s 5th and 6th fleets will pose a massive challenge to Russia and Syria.

Rear Adm. Eugene Black said at the ship’s departure, “We’re ready for any mission, anywhere, any time … The president can send us wherever he wants, with whatever mission he’s got, and we’re ready to go.”

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
USS Harry S. Truman
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristina Young)

The US previously used navy destroyers when it struck Syria in April 2017. This time, experts expect the strike to be bigger. Russia has threatened to shoot down US missiles and the ships that fire them, but the US has a massive advantage over Russia’s forces, should they try to fight back.

Once the Truman carrier strike group arrives, “the US will be able to clean up the eastern Mediterranean in a conventional fight any day,” Ryan Bohl, a Middle East analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, previously told Business Insider.

Russia, for its part, has not left its navy dormant, and mobilized 11 ships for fear for its safety as the threat of Trump’s strike looms.

The Truman’s strike group should arrive in the region by early May 2018.

In the video below see how the US Navy sailors in Norfolk, Virginia set off the Truman:


Articles

This quadruple amputee is opening retreat to help other wounded warriors

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.


“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”

Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.

The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
Staff Sgt. Travis Mills discusses his foundation’s resort on a Maine television program. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”

The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.

The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.

As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.

“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.

When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.

“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
(TravisMills.org)

His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm, and constant jokes.

“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.

These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”

The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.

Coast Guard rescues Cubans on deserted island
Walter Reed General Hospital. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley.

This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.

They’ll kayak, go tubing, and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.

Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.

Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you need to know about 1st SFAB’s uniform update

The military and veteran community made their voices heard when it was announced in November that the newly established 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade would be wearing olive green berets similar to the rifle green of the Special Forces. To reaffirm what was said when it was proposed, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the Army Times that it is his responsibility, saying,


If anyone’s angry, take their anger out on me, not [the 1st SFAB].

While the 1st SFAB and Special Forces’ missions would overlap on tasks like Foreign Internal Defense and Security Force Assistance, changes have been made to the beret, the flash, and the unit insignia. The beret is now a “muddy brown” in reference to the moniker given to leaders who “get their boots muddy” with their troops.

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From one veteran to another, and you’re entitled to your own opinions, but don’t hate the troops that were assigned to the 1st SFAB. Gen. Milley can handle the backlash — the troops were just assigned to the unit. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The flash and unit insignia are in reference to the Military Assistance Command — Vietnam and the Military Assistance Advisory Group, predecessors to the 1st SFAB. One complaint surrounding the brigade’s uniform is the ‘Advisor’ tab. Clarification has been made that it is simply a unit tab and not a skill tab.

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Comparison of the 1st SFAB unit insignia with the MAC-V and MAAG-V.

On Feb. 8, 2018, the 1st SFAB held it’s activation ceremony at the National Infantry Museum and the heraldry has been made official. The SFAB’s mission is to stand ready to deploy in support of national security objective and to train, assist, advise, and accompany our allies. Their first deployment is already set for the coming spring to advise Afghan National Security Forces and the unique uniforms are meant to easily distinguish them from other American troops in the eyes of foreign troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the US decides when and where to drop bombs on ISIS

US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria hit record levels in August, dropping 5,075 bombs during close-air-support, escort, or interdiction operations.


That was the highest monthly total recorded during Operation Inherent Resolve, the three-year campaign against ISIS.

The amount of bombs dropped in each of the first eight months of 2017 exceeded the total of any other month during the campaign.

The 32,801 weapons deployed by coalition aircraft through August 2017 is more than the 30,743 dropped all last year, which was the previous annual high for Operation Inherent Resolve.

The sustained uptick in bombing during the first months of President Donald Trump’s administration seems to fulfill his campaign promise to “bomb the s— out of” ISIS. But the increase in bombings is also likely driven by intense operations in Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS’ last major urban strongholds in Iraq and Syria, respectively.

Close-quarters fighting against determined ISIS militants in reinforced positions often necessitates close air support from Iraqi and coalition aircraft. (Not all aircraft active over Iraq and Syria are under US control, so the total number of weapons used is likely higher.)

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USAF photo by Senior Airman Steve Czyz

Calls for airstrikes “would come from forces on the ground that an enemy’s been identified, say, in this house,” US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Robert Sofge, director of the Combined Joint Operations Center in Baghdad, told Business Insider earlier this month. CJOC, as it’s called, liaises with Iraqi security forces and government officials and is one of two strike cells in Iraq that manage such engagements, Sofge said.

“The enemy’s been in a house, and that enemy’s firing from this structure,” Sofge said, describing a potential strike scenario. “So the first thing we do in a strike like that, we become aware of it, and we know where it is with great precision, 10-digit grids, down to the meter.”

Coalition personnel and their local partners have a database of “category-one structures” that they will avoid targeting because they have infrastructural or historic value, including religious centers or hospitals. ISIS fighters are known to make use of those structures for that reason, Sofge said.

“If it’s not that, it’s still a [category two] structure that we would have to go through a rigorous process to say, ‘Hey, this structure can be removed from its inherent protected status because of what’s going there on now. There’s fighters in there shooting at the Iraqi security forces.’ So first we establish that we can go engage with this thing,” Sofge told Business Insider.

“Then we apply a some fairly strict criteria of positive identification: How do we know who that is and what they’re doing, and we have multiple intelligence requirements — it can’t just be one thing; we have multiple indications that that is in fact what’s going on from that place,” he said, adding:

“And then we have a legal review that says that engaging this target comports with the laws of armed conflict and that engaging in these circumstances is permissible according to those laws, and once we’ve established all of those things we go to the government of Iraq and ask them for permission to strike that building, and they’ll say yes or no, and they do say both, depending on the structure. They do a pretty thorough review themselves.”

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U.S. Army and Air Force personnel assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, return fire at insurgent positions in the Korengal valley’s steep hillside in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Aug. 13. The 20 minute gun battle ended with 500 pound bombs, dropped by U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets, destroying insurgent positions in the surrounding hills., no civilians were injured during the battle. International Security Assistance Forces across Afghanistan have increased operations in recent months, in order to ensure safety and security during Afghanistan’s second national election, scheduled for the end of August.

Sofge said coalition personnel will then, “within the bounds of proportionality,” do engineering analysis to see what will be damaged in a strike and what effect it would have on nearby structures. That’s followed by the weapon-selection process.

“We have an array of weapons available in support of the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “We’ll choose from among those and then use them in order to make sure that we do enough damage to kill the target and kill what it is that’s attracted the Iraqi Security Forces’ attention.”

Sofge, who stressed coalition forces’ efforts to avoid civilian casualties, said the actual process likely takes less time to complete than it does to describe, in part because of the experience they have doing it and because parts of it happen concurrently.

The US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS has attracted intense scrutiny for the number of civilian casualties it is believed to have caused.

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According to Airwars, a UK-based independent monitoring group, between Trump’s inauguration and mid-July, more than 2,200 civilians appeared to have been killed in coalition airstrikes — almost as many as the 2,300 likely killed by coalition strikes under Obama.

That works out to 80 civilian casualties a month under Obama and 360 a month during the Trump administration.

Civilian deaths under Trump peaked in March, with nearly 700 confirmed or likely casualties. They have declined since June and July, when fighting in Mosul wrapped up.

Concerns about the air campaign were also piqued by reports the coalition had loosened its rules of engagement, allowing US and other coalition personnel on the ground to move closer to the front line and call in strikes and artillery fire directly, rather than going “through a whole bureaucracy and through Baghdad,” one embedded US adviser told the Associated Press at the time.

A coalition spokesman told the AP the rules of engagement had been “adjusted” in December, “empowering” more coalition forces “to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell.”

The Pentagon contested that report, saying in March that overarching guidelines about such strikes had not changed, even as US personnel were being embedded at lower levels within Iraqi Security Forces units and appeared to be closer to direct combat.

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A member of the Iraqi Security Forces establishes a security perimeter around an HH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. Photo by Capt. Stephen James.

Asked if the process to carry out strikes had changed during the fighting in Mosul, Sofge said “not appreciably,” adding that the process did see “refinements” regarding Iraqi permission for airstrikes.

“Some of the processes tend to be centralized, and in effort to decentralize them while still retaining the integrity of an Iraqi permission [it] was tweaked by the Iraqi government, not by the strike cells, as to who’s the Iraqi giving you the thumbs-up that the government has given permission,” Sofge told Business Insider.

“I know in some cases [it] was lowered a level in an effort to streamline the process so it was more effective to the fighters on the ground,” he added, “but there was no change from a coalition perspective in the process — only who was the person saying ‘yes’ to the strike on the Iraqi side.”

Such an adjustment may have given Iraqi commanders on the front line more say in when and where strikes took place.

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The Iraqi government declared the liberation of Mosul in early July, though cleaning up munitions left there by the fighting could take a decade or more.

ISIS fighters remain in some pockets of Iraq, mostly in the north-central part of the country and in the far western desert.

Iraqi forces, backed by the coalition, have launched assaults on those positions in recent days.

In Syria, the months-long fight in Raqqa has gained ground, according to US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman.

More than 75% of the city is now cleared of ISIS fighters, he said on Thursday, adding that Syrian Democratic Forces, a mainly Kurdish force partnering with the coalition, “have made clear progress and we are seeing ISIS begin to lose its grip on their self-declared capital in Raqqa.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are some of the best non-food freebies this Veterans Day

Companies grateful for the military’s service show their appreciation each year with free or discounted meals. Every Nov. 11, troops and vets map out an itinerary to maximize the best day ever.


The festivities can begin a week in advance and many troops stick with their tried and true classics. Cracker Barrel for breakfast, Red Robin for lunch, Hooter’s for Dinner, Old Chicago for beer and pizza with buddies.

If you really want to maximize your day, throw in a few things to do between meals. Be sure to grab your military or veteran ID and said buddies to share the Saturday of freebies with!

Free Haircuts

You can’t go out looking like a slob and expect civilians to take you seriously. After breakfast, why not grab a free haircut?

There are countless local and chain barbershops this year — too many to name. Everyone from Great Clips and Super Cuts to that place you like down the road (probably) are giving free hair cuts.

Give them a call in advance to verify.

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It also helps to book a time slot. (Image via Defense.mil)

Free Oil Change

If that light has been on for a bit too long on your dashboard, now is the time to get it checked out. You’ll need your car working in the best shape if you plan on driving all over for more deals.

Car care centers are also giving free oil changes including Meineke, Jiffy Lube, and many other local auto shops. Give them a call in advance to make sure.

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They’re like the motor pool for your personal ride. (Image via Trucker)

Free Car Wash

Speaking of car care things people have been pushing off for too long, it’s time to get your car cleaned if you plan on showing up in style.

The organization Grace For Vets is working with over 3,215 car wash locations across the world to offer free car washes for veterans.

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You may be paying 26% interest rate on it, but you’ve got to keep it looking good! (Image via Agency360)

Free Bowling

And to round the night out before the bars start opening up, have everyone meet up at the bowling ally for a game on the house. If you live near a Main Event bowling center, you even get a free entrée and $10 FUNcard to use at that location.

Many locations also offer free bowling Saturday, as with all the other fun deals, be sure to call in advance so you don’t end up being “that guy” who makes a scene about not getting a free round of bowling.

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And who doesn’t want to enjoy one of the only professional sports that allows you to drink? (Image via Military.com)

Free Wedding Dress

If you’ve got that one perfect date set in mind, now is the time to check one more thing off that list if you, or your fiancé, are military or a first responder.

Hands down the most impressive freebie this year is a free wedding dress. Granted, there are many stipulations on this one including: wedding in the next 18 months, you or your fiancé deployed in the last 5 years or about to deploy, and only certain deployed locations count. But submarine, Navy, and Special Ops orders all count. You can also qualify if you’ve had a civil ceremony in the past and are now planning a formal wedding.

To register through Brides Across America, click on this link here.

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Saber arch not included (Image via af.mil)

Free Beer

There’s no way to finish a perfect day of freebies than by having a beer on the house.

Places like Mockery Brewing in Denver and Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas is offering up your first beer free while the First Division Museum is giving two “tastings.” Orlando Brewing in Orlando, FL; 38 State Brewing Co in Littleton, CO; and Blackfinn Ameripub in Vienna, VA all have variations on a “buy a vet a beer” program.

Many more exist out there. It all depends on how your local bar is handling it. Chances are, if you’re a regular and they know you’re a vet, the bartender will probably just slide you one on the house.

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And at the end of the day, isn’t a nice cold beer the best way to celebrate?

Articles

NATO is ponying up more troops to help with the fight in Afghanistan

Two years after winding down its military operation in Afghanistan, NATO has agreed to send more troops to help train and work alongside Afghan security forces.


The move comes in response to a request from NATO commanders who say they need as many as 3,000 additional troops from the allies. That number does not include an expected contribution of roughly 4,000 American forces. They would be divided between the NATO training and advising the mission in Afghanistan, and America’s counterterrorism operations against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State militants.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on June 29 that 15 countries “have already pledged additional contributions.” He expected more commitments to come.

Britain has said that it would contribute just under 100 troops in a noncombat role.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USAF Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“We’re in it for the long haul. It’s a democracy. It’s asked for our help and it’s important that Europe responds,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters. “Transnational terror groups operate in Afghanistan, are a threat to us in Western Europe.”

European nations and Canada have been waiting to hear what US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will offer or seek from them. US leaders have so far refused to publicly discuss troop numbers before completing a broader, updated war strategy.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Afghanistan this week, meeting with commanders to gather details on what specific military capabilities they need to end what American officials say is a stalemate against the resurgent Taliban.

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Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

The expected deployment of more Americans is intended to bolster Afghan forces so they eventually can assume greater control of security.

Stoltenberg said the NATO increase does not mean the alliance will once again engage in combat operations against the Taliban and extremist groups. NATO wants “to help the Afghans fight” and take “full responsibility” for safeguarding the country.

He did acknowledge “there are many problems, and many challenges and many difficulties, and still uncertainty and violence in Afghanistan.”

Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, welcomed NATO’s decision and said Afghan troops were in need of “expert” training, heavy artillery, and a quality air force.

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(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Ortiz)

“We are on the front line in the fight against terrorism,” Radmanish said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

But Afghan lawmaker Mohammad Zekria Sawda was skeptical. He said the offer of an additional 3,000 NATO troops was a “show,” and that NATO and the US were unable to bring peace to Afghanistan when they had more than 120,000 soldiers deployed against Taliban insurgents.

“Every day we are feeling more worry,” he said, “If they were really determined to bring peace they could do it,” Sawda said.

As the war drags on, Afghans have become increasingly disillusioned and even former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has questioned the international commitment to bringing peace.

Many Afghans, including Karzai, are convinced that the United States and NATO have the military ability to defeat the Taliban. But with the war raging 16 years after the Taliban were ousted, they accuse the West of seemingly wanting chaos over peace.

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