Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski of the Cape Caution. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.
A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.
The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).
“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.
The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.
Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.
“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”
The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.
Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.
His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.
“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”
Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.
Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.
Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.
Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.
On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.
“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”
Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.
“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.
The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.
Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.
“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.
As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.
“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”
War is just as much a psychological battle as it is physical. If you’re able to convince your enemy that they have no chance of surviving before the first drop of blood is spilled, you’ve already won. No warriors in history have embodied this concept better than the Anausa or, as they’re more commonly known, the Persian Immortals.
Even their very name, “Immortal,” is a part of the mind tricks they played on their enemies. In order to keep up the image of being unkillable, they wore matching uniforms and hastily recovered their dead or wounded, fueling the illusion that none fell in battle. But that barely even scratches the surface of the psychological warfare the Persians employed to conquer 44 percent of all humanity at the height of their power in 480 B.C.
As over-the-top as the rest of the film was, this is an entirely accurate scene. The rest of the movie though? Ehhh…
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
As with many early civilizations, much of the history of Achaemenid Empire (to Empire for which the Immortals fought) has been lost to time. The history we do have comes from the Greek scholar, Herodotus. Though he opposed Persia, he kept detailed battle plans of the Immortals and those that faced them.
One such example happened to make its way into the 2006 film, 300. A Spartan at Thermopylae scoffed at a Persian envoy who said their arrows could “black out the sky” by replying, “then we’ll fight in the shade.” That wasn’t just a boast — that actually happened.
The Immortals were well aware that their arrows were inferior to Spartan steel. So, instead of making them stronger, they made more of them so that every archer could unleash them in one, rapid moment, literally blacking out the sky with arrows.
“Cats! Our only weakness!” – Some Egyptian, probably.
(Ancient History Museum)
Another example of the ferocity of the Immortals was when the Persians defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Pelusium. The Persians knew that the Egyptians were faithful to the Egyptian Goddess of Cats, Bastet. To the Egyptians, any harm done to a cat was considered great sacrilege.
Knowing this, the Persians simply drew cats on their shields and let loose a bunch of cats onto the battlefield. This alone was enough to make many Egyptians immediately surrender. When the other Egyptians manned their catapults, the Persians would let them know that they had cats with them — and that unleashed the artillery could mean killing a few felines.
If the Immortals didn’t have enough time to prepare for an individual opponent, they’d resort to their shock-and-awe cavalry, armed with sagaris, or long axes. The lightweight ax made it easy for Immortals to twirl them over their heads and swing fast enough to make an enemy’s blood splash far enough back to intimidate their foes.
At the Battle of the Granicus in 334 B.C., Alexander II of Macedon was nearly scalped by an Immortal cavalryman named Spithridates. His ax sliced clean straight through Alexander’s helmet and was just millimeters away from being a fatal blow.
After that moment, Alexander swore to the destruction of Persia. He studied their tactics and instructed his men on how to counter their advances. This took away the Persian’s edge in battle, and Alexander, from then on, took on the moniker of “the Great.”
The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the Afghan capital of Farah province on May 15, 2018, forcing the US to send in A-10 Warthogs in a show of force, according to numerous media reports and a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
The Taliban, equipped with HUMVEEs and Afghan police pickup trucks, attacked multiple Farah City checkpoints and took over an intelligence headquarters, according to Long War Journal.
“There is fighting still going on in the city of Farah,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, told Business Insider over the phone, which “despite rumors to the contrary, remains on the outskirts of the city, three kilometers to the north and west.”
“You’ve got Army, police, commandos, and Afghan air force involved in the fight,” O’Donnell said. “Both Afghan A-29s and Mi-17s have conducted multiple air strikes, and US forces have conducted one drone strike. We’ve also conducted a show of force with A-10s.”
Dozens of Taliban fighters have been killed, and Afghan forces have suffered an unknown number of casualties, O’Donnell said, adding that he was unsure of any civilian casualties.
The Afghan governor of Farah province, Basir Salangi, fled the city of 50,000 people when the attack began at about 2 a.m., but he remains in the province, according to The New York Times.
(U.S. Air Force Photo)
O’Donnell said the Afghan government remains in control of the city, but ATN News reported that “at least three parts of the city came under the control of Taliban,” Long War Journal reported.
The “rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department,” Long War Journal reported, citing Pajhwok Afghan News. Taliban fighters have also attacked the city’s hospital, where they killed two wounded Afghan police officers. They may even be moving on the prison.
O’Donnell said that the fighting is expected to last through May 17, 2018, and that US advisers are on the ground, but not involved in the fighting to his knowledge.
“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group. … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”
The US announced in November 2017, that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes. Some analysts have criticized it as a game of “whack-a-mole” since the Taliban can reportedly rebuild the labs in just a matter of days.
The US has been quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history, going on 17 years, which the Pentagon says costs about $45 billion per year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. Air Force C-146A landed unannounced (and apparently uninvited) at Libya’s al-Watiyeh airbase last weekend. The numbers on the airplane that landed at the base Southwest of Tripoli match with craft assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron. Once on the ground, it dispatched a number of personnel, presumably American special operators.
The team of armed men wearing civilian clothes deplaned after 6am on December 14, 2015 without any cooperation from local authorities, which is why they were asked to take off. Their arrival had just enough time for the Libyan Air Force to broadcast them on social media.
The visit comes at a crucial time in Libya’s post-Qaddafi history. Factions of fractured Libya formed coalitions, militias and legislatures to claim legitimacy as the true head of government. One faction is Islamist-based and controls the traditional capital of Tripoli. The other is the democratically-elected, internationally-recognized government with the support of the Libyan Army, based in Tobruk. The two have been fighting since 2014.
The purpose of the short layover is not yet known. The plane is part of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of unassuming special-ops planes with civilian call signs. (The Air Force has 17 of these.) According to Inquisitr, when the Libyan Air Force personnel asked the assumed special forces members why they were there, the soldiers replied that they were part of a larger operation held “in coordination with other members of the Libyan army.” The forces were turned away anyway.
Stymied by the lack of funding for his promised US-Mexico border wall in the latest spending bill, President Donald Trump now wants the military to pay for the barrier.
The Pentagon confirmed on March 29, 2018 that Trump has spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about using military funds for the wall’s construction.
“The secretary has talked to the president about it,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said, according to Military Times. “Securing Americans and securing the nation is of paramount importance to the secretary. They have talked about it but I don’t have any more details as to specifics.”
The $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump ruefully signed late March 2018, only included $1.6 billion for fencing and levees on the border and just $641 million for new primary fencing in areas that do not currently have barriers. The bill also limits that money to “operationally effective designs” that were already in the field by May 2017.
That amount is well short of the $25 billion in long-term funding Trump was pursuing in negotiations with Democrats (offering three years of protections for young immigrants in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program), and that stipulation means the prototype walls Trump has reviewed cannot be used.
Trump — upset about potential disappointment among his supporters and invoking “national security” — is now reportedly eyeing the $700 billion allotted for the Pentagon, The Washington Post first reported, a sum he touted as “historic,” to provide funding for the wall. Two advisers told The Post that Trump’s comment in a recent tweet, “Build WALL through M!” referred to the military.
Photo by James N. Mattis
During a press briefing on April 3, 2018, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not explicitly deny the report when asked about it, saying only the Trump administration was continuing to work on it.
After broaching the idea to advisers, Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan that military should provide funding, three people familiar with the meeting told The Post. Ryan reportedly offered little response.
Senior officials in Congress told The Post such a move was unlikely, and a senior official at the Pentagon said redirecting money from the 2018 budget would have to be done by lawmakers. Setting aside money in the 2019 budget would require Trump to offer a budget amendment — which would still need 60 votes to pass the Senate.
Trump has also suggested to Mattis that the Pentagon pay for the wall rather than the Homeland Security Department.
Mattis has sought to distance himself from contentious issues, chief among them the border wall, that have wounded US relations with its southern neighbor.
During a September 2017 trip to Mexico, Mattis emphasized that US-Mexican military ties were strong and that the two countries shared common concerns.
“We have shared security concerns. There’s partnerships, military-to-military exchanges, that are based on trust and respect. I’m going down to build the trust and show the respect on their Independence Day,” Mattis said at the time. “Every nation has its challenges it deals with. And Mexico is keenly aware of these, and I’m there to support them in dealing with them.”
When asked about his role in the border-wall issue, Mattis said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.
Ground combat is the US Army’s main domain, but a lot of that ground is surrounded by water.
That’s why the Army’s plan to get rid of most of its boats and the units overseeing them, caused immediate dismay.
As of November 2018, the Army’s fleet included eight Gen. Frank S. Besson-class Logistic Support Vessels, its largest class of ships, as well as 34 Landing Craft Utility, and 36 Landing Craft Mechanized Mk-8, in addition to a number of tugs, small ferries, and barges.
Landing craft move personnel and cargo from bases and ships to harbors, beaches, and contested or damaged ports. Ship-to-shore enablers allow the transfer of cargo at sea, and towing and terminal operators support operations in different environments.
“The Army has these unique capabilities to redeploy their forces or insert their forces into an austere environment if needed,” Sgt. 1st Class Chase Conner, assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade, said during an exercise in summer 2018.
In 2017, the Army awarded a nearly billion-dollar contract for 36 new, modern landing craft. But in January 2018, then-Army Secretary Mark Esper, who is now secretary of defense, decided the Army Reserve would divest “all watercraft systems” in preparation for the service’s 2020 budget.
Esper said the Army had found billion that could be cut and spent on other projects.
Lt. Col. Curtis Perkins, center, commander of 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, talks to crew aboard Army Landing Craft Molino Del Ray, Kuwait Naval Base, Kuwait, Aug. 6, 2019.
(Kevin Fleming, 401st Army Field Support Brigade)
The Army memo starting the process said the goal was to “eliminate all United States Army Reserve and National Guard Bureau AWS (Army Watercraft Systems) capabilities and/or supporting structure” — nearly 80% of its force.
The memo was first obtained by the website gCaptain.
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
The 170-foot-long, 25-foot-high fuselage of a C-17 cargo aircraft is lifted onto Army transport ship SSGT Robert T. Kuroda at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, July 22, 2009.
(US Navy/Gregg Smith)
Later in July, the listing for the Kuroda was taken down, according to The Drive. By the end of July, plans to auction nearly half of the Army’s roughly 130 watercraft were halted.
Before the auction was taken down, a id=”listicle-2640238370″ million bid was entered for the Kuroda, but that did not meet an unspecified reserve price for the ship, which cost million to construct.
Army mariners on a multiday transport mission aboard Army logistic support vessel Maj. Gen. Charles P. Gross from Kuwait Naval Base, Jan. 19, 2017.
(US Army/Sgt. Aaron Ellerman)
The order to halt reportedly came from acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and included a hold on the deactivation of watercraft positions and the transfer of Army mariners to other non-watercraft units.
US Army Reserve watercraft operators replicate a fire-fighting drill during a photo shoot aboard a logistics support vessel in Baltimore, April 7 and April 8, 2017.
(US Army Reserve/Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)
The Army confirmed in early August that it halted sales to conduct a study ordered by Congress, after lawmakers who disagreed with the plan moved to withhold funds for deactivations until the Army reviewed and validated its ability to meet watercraft needs.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
US Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer recently sailed through the Strait of Hormuz with an armored vehicle strapped to the flight deck, ready to fight off drones and Iranian gunboats.
A light armored vehicle belonging to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit can be seen on the flight deck as an AH-1Z Viper lifts off in a recently released Marine Corps photo, NPR’s Phil Ewing first noted.
The Marine Corps LAV-25 has a high-end targeting system that directs its 25 mm chain guns and M240 7.62 mm machine gun. The Boxer is armed with counter-air missiles, as well as various close-in weapon systems, among other weapons. The Vipers carry two air-to-air missiles, rocket pods, a handful of air-to-surface missiles, and a 20 mm Gatling cannon.
The Marine Corps began experimenting last year with strapping LAVs to the decks of the amphibs — flattops capable of carrying helicopters and vertical take-off and landing jets, as well as transporting Marines — to make the ships more lethal.
In September 2018, the 31st MEU embarked aboard the USS Wasp, another amphibious assault ship, for an exercise in the South China Sea with a LAV parked on the flight deck, training to fend off the types of threats Marines might face in hostile waterways.
The AH-1Z Viper taking off from the Boxer.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
“This was the first time,” Capt. George McArthur, a 31st MEU spokesman, told Military Times, “that an LAV-25 platoon with the 31st MEU performed this level of integrated targeting and live-fire from the flight deck of a ship such as the Wasp with combined arms.”
He added: “Weapons Company assets improved the integrated defensive posture aboard the Wasp.”
The Boxer was harassed by Iranian unmanned aerial assets in the Strait of Hormuz in July 2019, and the US says the warship downed one, if not two, of the drones with a new electronic jamming system. Another potential threat in this region is Iranian gunboats, which have targeted commercial shipping in recent months.
Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, on a Light Armored Vehicle atop the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. E. V. Hagewood)
Commenting on why the Marines experimented with using armored vehicles on the flight decks of the amphibs, Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the director of expeditionary warfare for the chief of naval operations, said in November 2019 that he “watched a MEU commander strap an LAV to the front of a flight deck because it had better sensors than the ship did to find small boats.”
That the Boxer was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz with an LAV out on the flight deck suggests that the ship was ready for a confrontation.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The plane, known as the Kunlong and developed independently by China, took off from the water and landed steadily after a 14-minute flight, according to China’s state-owned Xinhua news agency.
The 121-foot-long aircraft is about 40 feet tall and has a 127-foot wingspan, making it roughly the size of a Boeing 737. It has a range of 2,800 miles and a cruising speed of about 310 mph, and it can fly for up to 12 hours.
Powered by four WJ-6 turboprop engines — Chinese-made versions of a Russian engine — it has a maximum takeoff weight of about 59 tons on land and about 54 tons on water.
It’s the third-largest aircraft designed and built in China, after the Y-20 military transport plane and the C-919 commercial passenger plane.
It can carry up to 50 people for maritime search-and-rescue operations and scoop up about 12 tons of water in 20 seconds during firefighting operations.
It’s designed to take off and land in waves up to 6.5 feet high. While it has a flight ceiling of just under 20,000 feet, it can cruise as low as about 160 feet.
Aerial view: China’s AG600 amphibious aircraft makes maiden flight from water
Beijing approved a development plan for the AG600 in 2009 and unveiled it in July 2016, when it rolled off an assembly line in Zhuhai in southern China. It made its first flight in December 2017 and carried out its first on-water tests in September 2018.
Its chief designer, Huang Lingcai, said in May 2017 that the manufacturer, state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, was aiming to get an airworthiness certification by 2021 and start deliveries by 2022.
It’s designated primarily for civil operations and intended for the Chinese market. As of December 2017, there had been 17 orders from the Chinese government and Chinese companies.
But its capabilities lead observers to think it could be used to transport troops or conduct surveillance in disputed waters like the South China Sea.
Beijing could use it to justify more buildup in the South China Sea
Xinhua has said the aircraft could “be used to monitor and protect the ocean” and called it the “protector spirit of the sea, islands, and reefs.”
The state-owned China Daily newspaper in December 2017 described Huang as saying the AG600 could make round trips from China’s southern island province of Hainan to James Shoal at the southern edge of the South China Sea without refueling.
Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told the South China Morning Post in September 2018 that “the AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys.”
“Beijing will also use it to justify any further buildup in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” Koh added.
China’s land-reclamation projects in the South China Sea have helped it expand its presence in the area, which is covered by overlapping claims made by several countries.
In addition to building runways, communications facilities, barracks, and hangars, China has militarized several of its outposts in the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands, adding various point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.
Satellite imagery released in 2018 by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative showed at least four airstrips in the Spratlys and the Paracels capable of handling military aircraft.
The AG600, which can take off and land in water as shallow as 8 feet, could be used to link those islands.
In early 2016, China appeared ready to start reclaiming land at Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocky outcroppings about 130 miles from the Philippine coast. But it backed down after the US warned of consequences, and the Philippines has since said that building at Scarborough is a “red line.”
In 2018, China’s air force said it landed bomber aircraft, including the H-6K strategic bomber, on islands in the South China Sea as part of an exercise it described as preparation for “the West Pacific and the battle for the South China Sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who was accused in 2012 of trying to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kiev, Ukraine.
Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road.
“She was shot in the head,” Osmayev told Lb.ua, a Ukrainian media outlet. “I drove as much as I could until the car stopped, I don’t know, the engine was also hit. I tried to give her first aid, but she was shot in the head.”
Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since accused Russia of orchestrating the attack. He said it was connected to a car bombing last week that wounded the Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians and once posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s hand-picked leader of Chechnya.
This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man named Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev who was masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner.
At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so he could give them a gift from his editors.
“When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,” Okuyeva told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after the June attack. “He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.”
Okuyeva then pulled out her gun and shot the would-be assassin three times before she “pounced on him with my bare hands and he gave up the gun,” she told the outlet.
Osmayev was shot in the chest, but his wife treated his wound “immediately,” and he survived that attack as well. Ukraine has since accused Russia of orchestrating the hit.
In 2012, Moscow accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Putin. He was arrested in Kiev in February 2012 on charges of possession of illegal explosives. At the behest of Russia, Ukrainian authorities charged him in connection with the plot.
But Kiev refused to extradite Osmayev, and the charges were eventually dropped. He was released from custody in November 2014 — months after Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, fled to Russia and fighting started in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Kadyrov has been implicated in several other assassinations, including the high-profile killing of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and most recently the car bombing in early September that killed Timur Mahauri, a Georgian citizen who fought with a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the Donbas. Mahauri was reportedly a personal enemy of Kadyrov’s.
Okuyeva and Osmayev — both Muslims and ethnic Chechens — have been celebrated in Ukraine as heroes, having served in Chechen volunteer battalions fighting against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas.
Okuyeva, who reportedly wore her hijab in battle and fought for equality among men and women in the military, was a paramedic and sniper. Osmayev became commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in 2015.
“I declare a war on the Russian Empire,” Okuyeva told Politico in 2014. “If Russian forces continue to fight in Ukraine, thousands of Chechen immigrants living in Europe, who had been ousted of their land during the two Chechen wars, will come to Ukraine to fight a war to defend this country.”
Displaying images of Donald Trump staring at a cemetery filled with crosses and Vice-President Mike Pence enveloped by flames, the nearly four-minute video showed the island of Guam being targeted by intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
“Americans should live with their eyes and ears wide open. They will be tormented day and night by the Hwasong-12 rockets without knowing when they will be launched,” the caption reads, according to Yonhap. “They will be in jitters.”
“(We) just wish US policymakers should seriously think twice ahead of an obvious outcome (of a war),” another caption says, showing a photo of US Defence Secretary James Mattis. “Time is not on the US side.”
With the exercises continuing on Aug. 22, upped its rhetoric, saying it would be a misjudgment for the US to think that Pyongyang would “sit comfortably without doing anything,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.
The ongoing drills and visits of US military officials to South Korea create the circumstances for a “mock war” on the Korean peninsula, KCNA said.
The comments represent a more belligerent tone after a war of words between the US and appeared to have subsided.
Trump praised North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week for waiting to launch missiles over Japan into waters near Guam, after previously warning of “fire and fury” if he continued to threaten the American homeland.
Tensions increased in July after conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Trump has said military force is an option to prevent Kim from gaining an ICBM that could deliver a nuclear weapon to the US.
On Monday, South Korea President Moon Jae-in said shouldn’t use the latest round of drills as an excuse for any further provocations. The exercises “are not aimed at raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula at all,” Moon told Cabinet members.
Kim made a visit in early August to a guard post about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the border with the South, Yonhap News reported, citing unidentified South Korean government officials. The South Korean military considers the visit an unusual act and is preparing to prevent a possible military provocation, Yonhap said.
These generals may be legends — or seen as awesome commanders — but did they really live up to all their hype?
Under closer examination, there might be some instances where the shine isn’t so bright. We’re about to shatter some long-held prejudices, so buckle up your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.
1. Douglas MacArthur
MacArthur had his shining moments, but he had his share of miscalculations during his career as well.
“Good Doug” was the guy who pulls off the Inchon invasion or who sees Leyte as the place to return to the Philippines. “Bad Doug” is the guy who, according to U.S. Army’s official World War II history on the fall of the Philippines, failed to take immediate action, and saw them get caught on the ground.
Chicago Bears fans in the 2000s would always wonder which Rex Grossman would show up – “Good Rex” could carry the team, while “Bad Rex” could blow the game. It could be argued that Gen. Douglas MacArthur was much the same.
2. William F. Halsey
Let’s lay it out here: Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey was probably the only naval leader who could have won the Guadalcanal campaign, and for the first year and a half of World War II, he was well in his element. America needed someone who could help the country rebound from the infamous surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and who could inspire his men to go above and beyond.
While having a number of great moments – like stealing the uniform of the CO of the Army of the Potomac and making off with a huge haul of intelligence – Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart also was responsible for a big blunder prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
Lee’s official report on the Gettysburg campaign indicates that “the absence of the cavalry” made it “impossible to ascertain” Union intentions. An excellent dramatization of that is in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” where Lee rants about possibly facing “the entire Federal army” while chewing out Harry Heth for getting into the fight.
4. Robert E. Lee
Was Lee a great general? Well, he did beat a large number of his opposite numbers in the East. McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker among them. But like Jeb Stuart, Lee forgot the bigger picture. As Edward H. Bonekemper, author of “How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War,” noted at the Cleveland Civil War Roundtable, ”
The Union, not the Confederacy, had the burden of winning the war, and the South, outnumbered about four-to-one in white men of fighting age, had a severe manpower shortage.” The simple fact was that the South needed to preserve its manpower. Lee failed to do so, and many believed, often wasted it.
Ordering Pickett’s Charge was a classic example of wasting manpower. Antietam was another – and it was worse because the victory there allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Nice going, Bobby.
5. George S. Patton
Yeah, another legend who may be over-hyped.
But Patton, for all his virtues, had some serious faults as well. The slapping incident was but the least of those.