Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Through September 2018, Colombia’s navy had captured 14 “narco subs” on the country’s Pacific coast — more than triple the four it captured in 2017 and another sign of drug traffickers’ ingenuity.

Colombia is not alone. The US Coast Guard reported in September 2017 that it had seen a “resurgence” of low-profile vessels, the most common kind of “narco sub,” capturing seven of them since June 2017.


“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 during an interview aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sitkinak in New York harbor.

“They’re very stealthy in terms of our ability to see them from the air [and] to detect them by radar,” Schultz added.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

US Coast Guardsmen sit on a narco sub in the Pacific Ocean in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘Era of experimentation’

Low-profile vessels were the earliest kind of narco sub, a category that includes self-propelled semi-submersibles, which use ballast to run below the surface, and true submarines, which are the most rare.

They emerged in the early 1990s, as traffickers who had made a fortune moving drugs into the US — like George Jung and members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel — encountered more obstacles.

“In the ’80s, the drug traffickers … were using go-fast boats, they were using twin-engine aircraft, and those were very easily detected by radar systems that we had,” particularly in the Caribbean and the southeastern US, said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

“So they started to counter those efforts by building submarines or semi-submersibles, because they were much more difficult to detect,” Vigil added. “They were made out of … wood, fiberglass, and then sometimes they had a lead lining that would reduce their infrared signature.”

The early 1990s was “the era of experimentation,” for Colombian narco subs, according to Vigil, who was stationed on the country’s Caribbean coast at the time and recalls encounters with them on the Magdelena River, which stretches nearly 1,000 miles from southwest Colombia to the Caribbean.

“They were not full-fledged submarines. They would float … just slightly underneath the water, but you could still see the tower, and they were not sophisticated at all,” he said. “Their navigational systems were poor; communications systems were poor.”

There are varying figures for how many narco subs have been caught over the years.

The first such vessel seen at sea by US law enforcement was intercepted in 2006, carrying 3 tons of cocaine about 100 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. The first one encountered in the Caribbean was stopped in summer 2011 — despite efforts to scuttle it, US authorities were able to recover 14,000 pounds of cocaine.

Criminal groups in Colombia continue to churn out homemade narco subs — 100 a year, according to Vigil — building them in the interior and using the country’s extensive river network, where law enforcement is scarce, to get them to sea.

The technology has advanced, and criminal groups, flush with profits from Colombia’s booming cocaine production, have been able deploy more sophisticated vessels for covert runs to Central America and Mexico, where cargos then move overland to the US. The routes have also grown more circuitous, likely to avoid detection at sea.

Better technology “has upped the chess game” between criminals and the military and law enforcement, Vigil said.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Suspected drug-smuggling routes in the eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016.

(US Southern Command)

‘A drop in the bucket’

The recent increase in low-profile vessels intercepted by authorities indicates traffickers will adjust their tactics.

“There was certainly an uptick where the semi-submersibles were being utilized quite frequently, and then we had a lot of success against them,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during an interview aboard the Sitkanik.

“The drug-trafficking organizations are very agile and adept organizations, so they try to shift back,” Brennan said. “For one reason or another, they thought [low-profile vessels] might be a better option because of the success we’ve had against the [self-propelled semi-submersibles], so we have seen an increase in them.”

“This thing called the low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz said. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes.” The increase “reflects the adaptability, the malleability” of traffickers, he added.

Schultz and Brennan both emphasized that the Coast Guard is having success capturing narco subs. And Colombian officials have said that intercepting those vessels at sea — along with arresting traffickers on land — lands a serious blow to criminal organizations.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

A abandoned low-profile vessel found by the Guatemalan coast guard on April 22, 2017.

(Guatemalan army / US Southern Command)

Vigil was skeptical of the true impact, saying the DEA estimated at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on narco subs, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of those vessels.

“They may be capturing more but, again, that’s because there’s a hell of a lot more being using to smuggle drugs,” Vigil said. (Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray has said the service faces “a capacity challenge” in trying to patrol trafficking routes through the eastern Pacific, an area the size of the continental US.)

Vigil also noted that the costs seemed to favor the traffickers.

“The submarines cost id=”listicle-2611789516″ million or million … depending on the communications systems, the engine, the materials used in them, the navigational systems,” Vigil said. Even though many are likely only used once, he added, “they have absolutely no economic impact on the cartels.”

Each kilogram of cocaine is worth only a few thousand dollars in Colombia. But the multiton cargos narco subs can carry are worth hundreds of millions of dollars once they’re broken up and sold in the US or Europe.

The cost to build a narco sub is “a drop in the bucket compared to the payload that they carry,” Vigil said. “So a million, million is nothing to them.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Army aircrews save the lives of desperate hikers

In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.

The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.

It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.


The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.

With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.

After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.

“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.

For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.

The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.

Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.

At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.

While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.

“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.

After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.

“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”

Risky missions

Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.

Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.

In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.

“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”

The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.

Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.

“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”

And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.

Hoist ops

Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.

“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.

(Photo by Tyler McCready)

As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.

In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.

Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.

“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.

While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.

(US Army photo)

“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”

The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.

The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.

“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force uses AI to improve every facet of the service

Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.


The AI Advantage

vimeo.com

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL

Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”

This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.

“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”

In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.

TACE: Can We Trust A.I.?

www.youtube.com

The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.

“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why grunts should read books

So, you joined the grunts. From this day forward, everyone will make fun of you because some of your friends eat crayons and the others eat rocks. You, however, have never tasted the sweet nectar of Tide Pods and you’re out to break the mold. You’re on a mission to change the common perception that grunts’ brains are about as meaningful as Certificates of Appreciation.

So, how can you do it? How can a grunt convince another person that they’re actually intelligent and informed on the philosophies of the war-fighting profession? Easy: Read books.

We know, we know — you’d rather be getting drunk, but what are you going to do when you’re sitting in a burning-hot, metal tube for ITX? Or when you’re stuck on ship? We’re not tell you to take a book to the armory line with you, but you know damn-well there’s plenty of downtime to fill. These are the major reasons you should be reading, grunt.


Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Being good at your job is imperative.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

1. To get better at your job

Reading a good book, especially one from the Commandant’s Reading List, can help you learn new concepts and ideas that are relevant to your job in one way or another. Even if it’s not The Art of War, reading military-themed novels can help put you in the right mindset to perform at a higher level.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

You can learn quite a bit from the mistakes of the past.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. To learn from history

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So, why not read up on past failures and get a sense of things you can do differently?

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

He probably read a new book every week.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Cpl. Zachary Dyer)

3. To learn leadership skills

All the greatest military leaders read books. If you think that our Lord and savior, General Mattis (blessed be his name), spent his whole career playing Battlefield and drinking Natty Lights, you’re sadly mistaken. No doubt he read plenty of books.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

If you sound like Adam Sandler in Waterboy, your life will be difficult.

(U.S. Army)

4. To get better at articulating thoughts

When you eventually find yourself in a position where you have to write a five paragraph order (you know, a battle plan), being able to communicate your thoughts clearly in writing is of utmost importance. Reading the greats will help expand your threshold of written expression.

Plus, if you decide to push far and beyond the first four years, you don’t want to become that Staff NCO who can’t make it through the first paragraph of a promotion warrant or award certificate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time Rangers stole a bulldozer for an assault vehicle

In 1983, Rangers were on the point of the spear during a mission to protect American citizens in Grenada in 1983, attacking a key airfield that was being expanded by Cuban engineers. When the Rangers began to fight the engineers, the Rangers hotwired bulldozers and then used them as assault vehicles.


The fighting was part of Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. invasion of Grenada after a coup threatened the lives and security of U.S. citizens in the country who were there to study medicine. Reagan ordered 2,000 troops to the island, and U.S. Army Rangers were sent to seize the airfield at Point Salines.

But the mission quickly ran into problems. A lack of aircraft forced some Rangers to stay at the airfield, unable to take part in the assault and cutting the combat power of those who would make the jump. Then, plans for the assault changed in the air.

See, while Rangers and paratroopers often want to conduct combat jumps, earning uniform swag and bragging rights for life, the safer and tactically superior option to airborne operations is “air-land” operations. In air-land, the commander cancels the jump and the planes land instead. Paratroopers or Rangers, without their chutes, rush off the back. That way, they’re already concentrated for the fight and don’t have to struggle out of their gear.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs
Three U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters prepare to touch down next to the Point Salines airport runway during “Operation Urgent Fury” on Oct. 25, 1983. (U.S. Army Spc. Douglas Ide)

 

As the Rangers were flying to their target on Oct. 24, intel said that the runways were clear of debris, and that air-land was an option. The commander ordered the Rangers out of their parachutes. Then, only 20 minutes from the target, they learned that enemy defenses were ready to go, so the Rangers were rushed back into their chutes and then had to jump without being able to have Army jumpmasters or parachute riggers inspect their harnesses.

When the Rangers reached their target, they jumped in waves at only 500 feet above the ground. That low jump allowed them to fly under the worst of the enemy defenses, but meant they would fall for only 17 seconds and have no chance to pull a reserve chute if anything went wrong in the air. Luckily, the jump went well, and the Rangers went right into combat mode.

In addition to the expected Grenadian troops, though, the Rangers ran into 500 Cuban engineers who were there to help the Grenadians expand the airfield. The Cuban engineers put up an impressive base of fire against the Rangers. They would later learn that Fidel Castro had sent advisors to the country the day before to plan and improve the defenses ahead of the American invasion.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs
An M561 Gama Goat truck loaded with supplies prepares to pull away from a C-141B Starlifter aircraft parked on the flight line at Point Salines Airport during Operation Urgent Fury after the airfield was captured by Rangers. (Spc. Douglas Ide)

 

Now, the 1st and 2nd battalions, 75th Ranger Regiment, were on the ground and fighting. It’s not really a question whether or not they could’ve defeated the engineers and other defenders. But the Rangers don’t risk casualties when they don’t have to.

They had spotted several abandoned bulldozers on the airstrip, and some of them knew how to hotwire the simple machines, so they did so. Ranger fire teams advanced using the bulldozers for cover, firing on the defenders as they found them.

Over 100 Cuban soldiers and 150 other defenders surrendered to the Rangers, and the entire airfield was taken in just one day. An evening counterattack against the Rangers failed. Point Salines belonged to the U.S. forces.

But the airfield seizure didn’t come without cost. Five Rangers were killed in the assault, and another six were wounded. Additional troops, including Rangers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, were lost assaulting a nearby prison where political prisoners were being held.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How US soldiers keep Black Hawk helicopters flying

Across the US military last year, there were 18 known crashes involving UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. That makes routine maintenance and inspection a vital part of ensuring the safety and security of our military’s soldiers and equipment.

Soldiers from Delta Company, 1-171st Aviation Regiment, the maintenance company for Task Force Aviation on Camp Bondsteel, began a phase maintenance inspection for one of their UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters on Nov. 18, 2019, in the aviation motor pool.

According to Army Techniques Publication 3-4.7, a phase maintenance inspection is a thorough and searching examination of the aircraft and associated equipment. The maintenance should be conducted every 320 flight hours in a UH-60’s lifespan. More recently updated literature has changed the requirement to 480 flight hours.


Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

US soldiers clean a partially deconstructed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“Every 480 hours we take a helicopter completely down and apart for safety inspections,” US Army Capt. Paul Strella, commander of Delta Company, TF AVN said.

“We’re inspecting each individual component to make sure it’s still air-worthy and meets the DoD standard. Then we put everything back on it and do a test flight, ensuring that the aircraft is safe for flight and release back to the unit to put back in service.”

Strella said that it is becoming rare for an Army unit to have a phase team to do the type of maintenance they are conducting, because those jobs are being outsourced to contractors.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

US soldiers from remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

“It’s a great opportunity for Delta Company, during the KFOR 26 rotation, to be able to get hands-on experience,” Strella said.

“A lot of research went into the training and classes to be able to perform this efficiently and safely. Most importantly it’s good training for the soldiers, to build their experience up for the continuity of the unit and to increase the soldiers’ skill level.”

The inspection should take 23 days by DoD standard, but Delta Company is extending the timeline to 10 weeks in order to move carefully through each step of the inspection.

Strella said this will allow meticulous execution of the processes and provide time for detailed training opportunities.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

US Army Sgt. Daniel Beanland and Spc. Marshall Cox, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairers, remove a UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

US Army Spc. Daniel Strickland, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, removes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engine during a phase maintenance inspection, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, Oct. 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Spc. Lynnwood Thomas)

US Army Spc. Jared Turner, UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter repairer, TF AVN, said that it’s his job to make sure that the aircraft are in the proper condition to successfully complete missions, whether it’s carrying troops, sling-loading for air assault missions, or medical evacuations.

He said his favorite part is seeing the results of his unit’s labor.

“Out on the flight line you get to see them take off and fly all the time, and when you recognize an aircraft that you’ve worked on, it’s just a good feeling,” Turner said. “That’s one of the best parts of the job. You watch it fly away and you’re like — I put my hands on that.”

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

Articles

Special Forces soldier killed in Afghanistan — Updated

UPDATE: The Pentagon has identified the Special Forces soldier killed in a shootout April 8 in Afghanistan as Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, 37, of Edgewood, Maryland. De Alencar was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.


A U.S. soldier was killed Saturday in Afghanistan while carrying out operations against the Islamic State group, a U.S. official said.

U.S. Navy Captain Bill Salvin, a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said the soldier was killed late April 8 during an operation against ISIS-Khorasan in Nangarhar province. ISIS-Khorasan is a branch of Islamic State active in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other parts of South Asia.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs
Soldiers from The Old Guard fold the American flag over the casket of a fallen soldier. (U.S. Army photos by Staff Sgt. Luisito Brooks)

Reuters reported that the soldier was a member of the Special Forces.

Nangahar is a stronghold of militant activity in Afghanistan. American forces have conducted a number of airstrikes on the area. That activity, combined with the efforts of Afghan ground forces, has pushed the militants out of some of their previous territory.

The militants also oppose the Taliban, who have long struggled to regain control of parts of Afghanistan.

The area was once a big producer of opium poppies, but since their cultivation was nearly wiped out in the mid-2000s, the area’s farmers have faced deep poverty and debt.

This was the first U.S. military combat death in Afghanistan in 2017. The number of U.S. combat deaths has dropped sharply since U.S. troops stopped leading combat operations in 2014.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans experience hope and healing through partnerships

It’s possible for Veterans speaking about their experiences — and working toward self-forgiveness — to heal their emotional wounds.

A Veteran’s Health Administration initiative is facilitating this process. The Atlanta VA Health Care System Veteran Community Partnership (VCP) collaborates with VITAS Healthcare, a palliative care and hospice services company, to offer healing and hope for Veterans with other than honorable (OTH) discharges.

This collaboration is an effort of We Honor Veterans. The program, part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, is in collaboration with VA. We Honor Veterans helps care for Veterans at the end of life.

VITAS, part of We Honor Veterans, is a partner agency within the Atlanta VCP.


VCPs are coalitions that bring community entities together to foster Veterans’ access to care and supportive services at VA and beyond. Each VCP in the United States is part of the national VCP initiative. There are 41 VCPs as of December 2019.

The VCP initiative is a joint project of VHA’s Offices of Community Engagement (OCE), Geriatrics and Extended Care, Rural Health and Caregiver Support.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Veteran Service Organizations can help.

Requesting a change in OTH discharge

A Veteran with an OTH military discharge is ineligible for most VA benefits. This can cause significant obstacles as they approach the end of life.

Larry Robert is a chaplain who provides supportive counseling to Veterans in this position. He also is the bereavement services manager and Veteran liaison for VITAS. VITAS helps Veterans talk through their reasons for OTH military discharges. It helps them file a request for a change in their discharge status with the Department of Defense (DoD).

Robert also helps Veterans understand their benefit options. The most important part of this process, he said, is encouraging Veterans to tell their stories. An OTH discharge may be a result of a Veteran not having the proper support for a mental health issue, for example.

“They are trying to forgive themselves and they’re making peace with something that brought them a lot of pain.”

Veteran Service Organizations can help

Veterans — even those not in hospice care — and caregivers or loved ones of Veterans should be aware of the process of requesting a change to their discharge status, as well as the palliative care services of We Honor Veterans.

Veterans should apply for a change in their discharge status and enroll for benefits when they’re well. They should have a Veteran service officer work with them on this process. A representative from one of the Veteran Service Organizations listed at the link above could also help fill out paperwork for a correction of their military record

Even if their status and record is not changed, Robert explained, the process of this work is transformative for many Veterans.

“It adds a voice to their pain. It makes it real. They’re able to then see their pain and discuss it. In becoming real, it becomes something than can be overcome.”

OCE supports the VCP initiative and partnerships throughout VHA. For more information on OCE’s work, visit: https://www.va.gov/healthpartnerships/.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A B-52 found a lost canoe on a rare search and rescue mission


A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress crew from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are being hailed as heroes. The B-52H located the lost crew of an open ocean Polynesian-style canoe after they were missing at sea for six days.

The traditional Pacific Island-style canoe carrying six paddlers had become lost after sailing from nearby Piagailoe Atoll on June 19, 2018. The journey from the atoll to Guam was only supposed to take one day — meaning the paddlers, who had minimal supplies had been missing at sea for nearly a week.



Following the location of the canoers from the USAF B-52H, the six-member crew of the ocean-going canoe rendezvoused with a merchant vessel in the area that was directed to their location to effect rescue. The merchant vessel provided the canoers with water, food and navigational assistance so they could safely return to land.

The eight-engine, long range B-52H bomber joined the search when the crew from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was on a routine flight during a deployment to Guam. The heavy bomber crew responded to a call from the Coast Guard for assistance in the search on June 25, 2018.

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Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“This was a unique situation for us,” Capt. Sean Simpson, one of the bomber’s crew, said in an Air Force statement. “It’s not every day the B-52 gets called for a search and rescue.”

Initially the crew of the B-52H was unfamiliar with the type of vessel they were searching for. Coast Guard personal compared the small, difficult to spot indigenous canoe with the boat from the Disney cartoon “Moana”. Capt. Simpson told media, “We asked for more details about the vessel and the dispatcher told us, ‘It’s just like the boat from [the Disney film] ‘Moana.'”

The B-52H crew were able to locate the canoe and its crew at sea only three hours after being called into the search and rescue operation.

“We spotted this vessel from about 19,000 feet,” 1st Lt. Jordan Allen told Air Force media in the statement. “It’s really a small miracle that we were able to see it, because there was quite a bit of clouds.”

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

The lost canoe was located by the crew from one of the B-52H after it was compared to a similar one that appeared in a Disney cartoon.

“Search and rescue isn’t something people typically think of when they talk about the B-52, but our training and adaptability really paid off,” Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, the bomb squadron’s director of operations, said in the statement. “Being a part of this successful search and rescue operation speaks to the diversity of our skill set and shows our importance here in the Pacific.”

While the 63-year old Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, first flown in 1952 and accepted into the Air Force in 1955, is oddly well suited for the maritime search and rescue role even though it was introduced as a global reach strategic nuclear bomber. The aircraft has an extremely long combat radius of 4,480 miles, meaning it can search out in a straight line 4,480 miles and return the same distance without refueling. Given midair refueling availability, the B-52’s endurance is limited mostly by its crew’s physical endurance.

In January 1957 three USAF B-52s set an endurance record by becoming the first jet aircraft to circle the earth on a non-stop flight. The early version B-52Bs flew continuously for 45 hours and 19 minutes. In total the planes flew 24,345 miles without landing.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin dismisses killing Syrian civilians as ‘inevitable’

Russian President Vladimir Putin deflected questions about Russia’s involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which at least half a million people are estimated to have been killed.

During an interview with with Fox News Channel host Chris Wallace, Putin was asked about whether he had any “qualms” about civilians being killed in Russian bombings in both Aleppo and Ghouta.


“You know, when there is a warfare going on — and this is the worst thing that can happen for the humankind — victims are inevitable,” Putin told Wallace.

“And there will always be a question of who’s to blame,” he added, before shifting responsibility to terror groups in the region, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, for “destabilizing” the country’s political situation.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia has supported the Assad regime in Syria since it formally entered the country’s civil war in 2015.

Putin also tried to deflect the issue of casualties by talking about the Syrian city of Raqqa, where Amnesty International says US-led coalition airstrikes killed and injured thousands of civilians in 2017 and left the city in ruins.

On July 16, 2018, President Donald Trump met with Putin in Helsinki and discussed a number of issues including the humanitarian situation in Syria.

“Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives,” Trump said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia took Israel’s most advanced missile from Syria

The Russian military has reportedly obtained one of Israel’s most advanced air defense missiles from the David’s Sling battery, the Times of Israel reports, raising the possibility that Russia could quickly figure out how to defeat a cutting-edge system designed to destroy ballistic missiles in flight and share that with US and Israeli foes like Iran.

The Russian military reportedly obtained the missile in July of 2018, when Israel fired it against Russian-made Syrian rockets headed toward Israeli terrority. Of the two missiles the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fired at Syria, one was self-detonated by the Israeli Air Force when it became clear the Syrian weapons wouldn’t breach Israel’s border.


The other missile reportedly landed intact within Syria, where, as Chinese news agency SINA reported Nov. 2, 2019, it was picked up by Syrian forces and handed over to Russia, which is fighting alongside the regime troops under Bashar al-Assad.

The David’s Sling is a medium-range missile interceptor and was built by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and US company Raytheon as a replacement for the Patriot missile battery built to defeat ballistic missiles. Israel first obtained the system in 2017; July 2018 is believed to be the first operational use of the system, which fires the Stunner missile.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs

David’s Sling Weapons System Stunner Missile intercepts target during inaugural flight test.

(United States Missile Defense Agency)

“It’s certainly a concern. If I was at Rafael, I’d be nervous right now,” Ian Williams, deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic International Studies, told Insider.

The concern, Williams said, is not so much that Russia will produce a copy of the system for its own use as other countries might. “If Iran captured this thing, we would see an identical system two years from now,” he told Insider.

But if Russia has indeed got its hands on the Stunner missile, it could study the technology and figure out how to defeat the David’s Sling system, which would be a massive problem for the countries — like Poland — where Israel is attempting to sell the system, not to mention Israel itself.

“If I was Israel, my big concern is that if Russia can get the intelligence to defeat the interceptor to Iran,” Williams said.

David’s Sling Missile System -⚔️ New Israel Missile Defense System [Review]

www.youtube.com

Dmitry Stefanovich, Russian International Affairs Council expert and Vatfor project co-founder, told Insider that Russia could also potentially use the missile to refine its own systems — “both offensive and defensive.”

“In terms of air defense interceptors, they’re no slouches themselves, they do have pretty advanced, very sophisticated interceptors as is,” Williams said, citing the S-300, S-400, and S-500 systems.

SINA also reported that the United States and Israel requested that Russia return the missile to Israel; however, that effort was unsuccessful. Neither Russia nor the IDF has confirmed reports of the missile coming into Russian possession, according to the Times of Israel.

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

Humor

7 things you shouldn’t say to a troop about to deploy

Before service members ship out to the front lines, they typically go on pre-deployment leave, during which they’ll spend time with friends and family at various locations.


Most of those locations serve alcohol and when naive civilians get a little tipsy, they tend to make remarks and ask questions they probably shouldn’t.

Here are just a few of the things civilians should never say to troop about to deploy.

Related: 7 white lies recruiters tell and what they really mean

1. “Shooting at people sounds like so much fun.”

Grunts like to joke about how awesome it is to engage the enemy. However, the act tends to create various, collateral issues.

2. “If you’re good at Call of Duty, you shouldn’t have a problem during a firefight.”

No matter how good you are at any game or how well you’re trained, nothing can truly prepare you for the vigors of a real firefight.

What the f*ck did you just say?

3. “I bet it feels weird as hell to get blown up.”

Troops continuously think about getting wounded during their service. However, it isn’t a fun thing to have swimming around your mind, and it definitely isn’t something you want to think about while on leave.

No sh*t, Sherlock.

4. “I wanted to join the military, but I went to college instead.”

Even if they’re kidding around, you should consider backhanding whoever makes a dumb comment like that.

5. “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you run into a bad guy?”

No one can predict jacksh*t. Although running into a hostile is a possibility, your training will help you decide on a specific course of action when the situation presents itself.

6. “Dude, aren’t you nervous you’ll come back with, like, PTSD or something?”

Worst question to ask… ever!

Also Read: 7 reasons why you shouldn’t be too nice in the military

7. “How many people do you think you’re going to shoot?”

Second worst question to ask… ever!

He just lost faith in humanity.

Articles

This retired general thinks all young Americans should serve for a year

It’s a question that has lasted as long as the Selective Service debate: Should every American serve for a year or two before entering the work force or pursuing higher education?


Arguments have been made for both sides of the case since the last draft in 1973, though the pro-service cause may have just found their strongest and most vocal ally yet — former Joint Special Operations Command chief Stanley McChrystal. Though McChrystal has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement in 2010, he has still been very vocal about this concept, recently penning an op-ed for Time Magazine on the value of national service.

In his article, McChrystal says that the time is ripe for the country to come together to institute a mandatory year of paid national service for young Americans aged 18-28 years. A yearlong commitment would not only instill the values of accountability and responsibility towards citizenship, but will also develop character and leadership traits, he argues.

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The retired general does stress, however, that national service should not be directed entirely towards the military. He feels that an open choice between different service organizations needs to exist, allowing for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to have a positive impact beginning in their communities, and resulting in progress on a national level.

This is a view seemingly very common among military veterans, a number of whom have gone on record to discuss the merits of a year of service. It also isn’t the first time McChyrstal has promoted a year of compulsory national service. In 2016, he urged candidates participating in the 2016 presidential race to consider making this idea a reality, and in 2012, the former special operations chief gave a speech to Harvard University on the same topic.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs
AmeriCorps volunteers working in Mississippi, circa 2006.

McChyrstal himself is no stranger to service, having joined the Army in 1976 after graduating from West Point. Born into a military family, he rose through the ranks, serving with regular infantry units, on a Special Forces “A-Team”, and eventually the 75th Ranger Regiment, prior to taking command of JSOC in 2003.

Described by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat [he] had ever met,” McChrystal is easily a soldier’s soldier, known for his willingness to be on the frontlines instead of an air conditioned office stateside. His career in the Army ended in 2010 with a truncated stint as the command of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

A national service commitment isn’t exactly anything new, especially with many European and Asian nations. Israel and Switzerland are two of the most notable examples, with both countries mandating by law that youth of a certain age are required to register with the military or with a civil service body for a predetermined term. In both countries, the commitment ranges from a year to two years, though some decide to stay around and build a career out of their service terms.

Coast Guard struggling to keep up with surge of narco subs
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Switzerland, in particular, has utilized conscription to staff its military for decades by having conscripts report for a 260-day service period upon reaching the age of majority. Recruits can choose to serve their entire commitment in 300 continuous days, or train in periods throughout the year, somewhat similar to the National Guard and various branch reserves in the United Sates.

However, should a recruit decide that military service isn’t for them, they can elect to join the country’s civil service as a paid employee for a 390-day period.

Currently, the national year of service topic has yet to be brought up by the White House or Congress, though it still remains a talking point for many, including McChrystal and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy attack pilot.

Until meaningful discourse on the subject arises, the retired general and the sitting Senator have worked together to sponsor efforts to afford military veterans and civilian volunteers more opportunities to voluntarily serve their countries in various civil organizations.

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