F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.

Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.

Syria’s government has been linked to 33 cases of chemical weapons use against its own people during the 7 year-long civil war, and along with Russia stands accused of war crimes such as the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals and schools.


Russian media has accused terrorists and groups with US-backing of plotting to stage, and to actually carry out, a chemical weapons attack on children and families in Idlib to justify attacking the Syrian regime.

But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.

Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.

With a small armada of Russian ships in the Mediterranean, Russia too appears to have taken measures to look more committed to its cause.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

Enter the F-35B

In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.

But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.

The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.

Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.

“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.

(US Marine Corps photo)

Russia flirting with disaster

Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.

The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.

If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 of the world’s worst aircraft carrier (right now)

There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.

Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.

Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.

So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.

Check them out below:


F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

1. China’s Liaoning (16).

Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.

The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.

But just a few years later, the Liaoning was spewing steam and losing power, and in at least one incident, a steam explosion blew out the ship’s electrical power system.

Since then, the Liaoning has been rather unreliable, like most Soviet Kiev-class carriers, and used mostly as a training carrier.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

2. Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov (063).

The Kuznetsov is a Kiev-class carrier that is currently undergoing repairs and won’t be ready for service until 2021.

In October 2016, the Kuznetsov was sailing to Syria through the English Channel on a combat deployment when it was spotted belching thick clouds of black smoke.

“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”

Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.

The National Interest recently even placed the Kuznetsov on its list of 5 worst aircraft carriers ever built.

Take a tour of the Kuznetsov here.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet.

(United States Navy photo)

3. Thailand’s Chakri Naruebet (911).

Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.

Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.

So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.

Read more about the Chakri Naruebet here.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The Wasp didn’t sail on a combat deployment for seven years, at the height of the Iraq and Afghan wars, for reasons that remain mysterious.

(United States Navy photo)

4. America’s USS Wasp (LHD-1).

The Wasp is an amphibious assault ship that was recently fitted to carry F-35Bs.

But until then, the Wasp was conspicuously absent from major deployments from at least 2004 to 2011.

A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.

“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”

Although F-35Bs have since touched down on the Wasp, and it departed its homeport in Japan for a mission in the Pacific in early August 2018, something might still not be exactly right with the ship.

“If people are worried about a hollow force, this is a hollow ship,” a congressional analyst told Military Times in 2013.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

HMAS Canberra, a Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship, arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016.

(United States Navy photo)

5. Australia’s HMAS Canberra (L02).

Commissioned in 2014, the HMAS Canberra is a Landing Helicopter Dock carrier, and one of two for the Royal Australian Navy.

Although the Canberra took part in RIMPAC 2018, it was sent back to port in March 2017 with serious propulsion problems.

It was expected to take only about seven to 10 days to resolve, but in May 2017, the Canberra was still undergoing repairs in dry dock.

“It may well be a design issue,” Rear Admiral Adam Grunsell told ABC in May 2017.

One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.

(United States Navy photo)

6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).

Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.

The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.

Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.

(United States Navy photo)

7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).

Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.

In April 2017 and January 2018, the Ford was sent back to port after experiencing a “main thrust bearing” failure.

In May 2018, the Ford was at sea undergoing trials, when its propulsion system malfunctioned, forcing back to port again after only three days.

The Ford has also had issues with the state-of-the-art Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and Advanced Arresting Gear systems designed to launch and recover airplanes, which have suffered repeated delays, despite recent reports of progress.

The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.

When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.

“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”

“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.

You can take a tour of the Ford here.

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

Articles

Pentagon says rules of engagement haven’t changed after Mosul strike

The Pentagon is disputing reports that its rules of engagement in Iraq have been loosened following a deadly strike in Mosul that killed more than 100 civilians.


But its own spokesman seemed to confirm last month it did exactly that.

Previously, American advisors on the ground were required to go through an approval process with a command center in Baghdad before strikes were carried out. But in February, the AP reported the military had dropped this requirement to speed up strikes, with some advisors operating on the ground being “empowered” and no longer required to coordinate with Baghdad.

From the AP:

The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, confirmed to The Associated Press the rules of engagement in the fight against IS in Iraq were adjusted by the December directive, explaining that some coalition troops were given the “ability to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell.”

More coalition forces have been “empowered” to have the ability to call in strikes in the Mosul operation, Col. Dorrian told a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday.

Now contrast that with reporting from The New York Times, in which spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said rules had not been loosened. Besides its easing of the process, advisors were embedded at lower echelons of Iraqi security forces at the brigade and battalion level, rather than division — meaning that US forces have increasingly gotten closer to direct combat.

Also read: Intel from Yemen raid prompted latest TSA electronics ban

Davis told The Times the strike that killed hundreds in Mosul was “at the request of Iraqi security forces,” and did not mention American advisors. This seems to suggest that US military planners may have received a direct request for air support from Iraqi troops, which may not have attempted to minimize collateral damage.

The idea of putting Iraqi troops in the driver seat with the ability to call in American air strikes seems a result of the “adjustment” of rules the AP had reported. In that story, published on Feb. 24, an Iraqi Army general is able to call an American lieutenant colonel to report a mortar attack and request support directly, something that had not been possible last year.

Col. Dorrian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Pentagon may be technically accurate when it says rules of engagement have not changed. Rules of engagement guidelines help troops understand when they can and cannot fire at an opposing force. Typically, troops are required to get positive identification of a target, only fire when under threat, and are required to minimize collateral damage when calling in air strikes.

While the overarching guidelines may not have changed, the process for carrying out air strikes certainly has — and it may be the reason why Mosul could be the site of the largest loss of civilian life since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that it would investigate the March 17 strike, accordingto The New York Times. The process is expected to take at least a few weeks.

“Coalition forces comply with the Law of Armed Conflict and take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians,” a release on the coalition website says.

Articles

This is the Marine Corps’ first female boot camp mascot — and she’s adorable

Humans apparently aren’t the only ones breaking glass ceilings.


The Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina just received its first female mascot, according to the Marine Corps Times.

The English bulldog, Opha Mae, is named after the first female Marine — Opha Mae Johnson, who enlisted in 1918, according to the Beaufort Gazette.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode
Early female Marines (left to right) Private First Class Mary Kelly, May O’Keefe, and Ruth Spike. Photo courtesy of USMC.

She is “currently a poolee,” Marine Capt. Adam Flores told the Beaufort Gazette, “and will begin recruit training in the near future.” Opha Mae will be the 21st such mascot, but her starting date is currently unknown.

She will eventually take over duties, which include attending ceremonies and graduations, from Cpl. Legend, who is in poor health, the Beaufort Gazette said.

Here’s a video of Opha Mae:

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MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the greatest phrases you hear as lower enlisted

To the absolute surprise of no one in the military, being enlisted personnel can suck. Of course, the magnitude of that suckiness depends on your unit but, overall, there’s a very good reason it tops many peoples’ lists of “worst jobs in the world.”

Being the lowest guy on the worst totem pole isn’t all bad, though. There are genuine moments of levity that keep troops reenlisting — despite how much bile they spew about their unit.

Leaders in the military aren’t the troops’ mothers. They won’t pat them on the back for tying their boots properly or washing their hands like a big kid. What a good leader will do, however, is commend good troops when it’s warranted. And, to be completely honest, there was no better feeling than knowing you’ve impressed your chain of command.

As a lower enlisted, these are the six greatest things you’ll hear.


F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

The thing about being commo was that no one notices you until something goes wrong — and then it’s your fault. Being commended means a lot.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“Huh… I guess you’re right”

Good troops will always try to better themselves in their given field. If they’re an infantryman, you know they’re going to try to be the best infantryman they can. If they’re a waterdog, you better believe they’ll be be best damn waterdog the world has ever seen.

Acknowledgement of one’s hard work is rarely direct. You’ll likely never hear, “good job, Pvt. Smith. You really cooked one hell of a batch of eggs this morning.” True gratification usually comes when a leader admits that they’ve been bested at a given task by the person they’re training.

Having a superior admit that you’re in the right is a sweet, sweet feeling.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

Or the commander could just have you mop the grass in front of the company. That’d be a surprise to everyone.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“The commander has a surprise for you at close out formation”

Surprises are almost never a good thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it means that the poor Joe has to go clean the latrines or sweep all that sunshine off the sidewalk.

When it’s specifically noted that a surprise is coming “at close out formation,” however, it usually means either a promotion ceremony or an award. You know, the kind of surprises you actually want.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

If your barracks room actually does need cleaning, then it’s not a subtle clue. Clean your damn barracks room.

(U.S. Army)

“I got nothing else for you. Go clean your barracks room or something”

The military can’t stop for a single second. That’s just how it works. So, when the business day is reaching its close, the company area has already been cleaned for the seventh time that week, and there aren’t any pending connex layouts, leaders still need to find something for their troops to do.

There’s an understanding between good leaders and troops that the phrase “clean your barracks room” doesn’t always mean “clean the barracks.” Sometimes, it means go hide out in your room with your phone on. It definitely mean, “start drinking” — you’ll be called back in at any moment.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

Training rooms are like those sloths in Zootopia except the reason they’re so slow is because no one cares enough.

(U.S. Army)

“Your paperwork was pushed through”

You’d think that with the stupid amount of bureaucracy in the military, accountability of paperwork would be paramount. It isn’t. Not by a mile. When people tell you to make copies of everything and keep your originals, it’s not an off-handed suggestion. Things will get lost.

That being said, there are those once-in-a-blue-moon moments when everyone in the training room and battalion S-1 are in sync and absolutely nothing gets lost, torn, or rejected. When everything works in concert and a leave form is involved, it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

All you can do is keep being the troop that your leader knows you to be.

(U.S. Army photo)

“My guy is one hell of a soldier/Marine/airman/sailor”

Leaders are in a perpetual pissing contest, trying to prove that they lead best. That’s part of the reason they push for their Joes to make the “Soldier of the Month” boards. Sure, it looks good for the soldier, but it’s more about getting some bragging rights over other leaders.

Still, knowing that you’re one of the guys that your leader is willing to put on a pedestal is one hell of a feeling.

“Zonk!”

This list wouldn’t be complete without the one-word phrase that makes a morning so much better:

“Zonk!”

It means that the first sergeant is fine with giving the troops a morning of PT off if they can sprint to their barracks room/car before they have time to change their mind. Legend has it that the first sergeant will do something if they catch someone — but nobody has ever been slow enough.

This is basically what it looks like.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier saved his crew under fire while covered in white phosphorous

Not everyone can maintain composure when the aircraft he’s in starts to lose control. But that’s just what this Medal of Honor recipient did, despite being severely wounded while it was happening.

Rodney Yano was born on the Big Island of Hawaii nearly two years to the day after the U.S. entered World War II. His grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. from Japan well before that.


According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, he’s one of 33 Asian-Americans to receive the Medal of Honor.

Yano joined the Army in 1961 before graduating from high school. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant and was on his second tour of Vietnam when he became an air crewman with the 11th Air Cavalry Regiment.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode
Rodney Yano

On Jan. 1, 1969, Yano was the acting crew chief and one of two door gunners on his company’s command-and-control helicopter as it fought an enemy entrenched in the dense Vietnamese jungle near Bien Hao.

The chopper was taking direct fire from below, but Yano managed to use his machine gun to suppress the enemy’s assault. He was also able to toss grenades that emitted white phosphorous smoke at their positions so his troop commander could accurately fire artillery at their entrenchments.

Unfortunately, one of those grenades exploded too early, covering Yano in the burning chemical and causing severe burns. Fragments of the grenade also caught supplies in the helicopter on fire, including ammunition, which detonated. White smoke filled the chopper, and the pilots weren’t able to see to maintain control of the aircraft. The situation wasn’t looking good.

But Yano wasn’t ready to go down with the ship, as they say. The initial grenade explosion partially blinded him and left him with the use of only one arm, but he jumped into action anyway, kicking and throwing the blazing ammunition from the helicopter until the flaming pieces were gone and the smoke filtered out.

One man on the helicopter was killed, and Yano didn’t survive his many injuries. But his courage and concern for his comrades’ survival kept the chopper from going down, averting more loss of life.

For that, Yano was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant first class. On April 7, 1970, his parents received the Medal of Honor for his actions from President Richard Nixon.

In his honor, the cargo carrier USNS Yano was named for him, as well as a helicopter maintenance facility at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and a library at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch this WW2 pilot take to the skies in his old trainer aircraft

WWII pilot Capt. Jerry Yellin decided to join the military after the attack against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.


I decided at that moment that I was going to fly fighter planes against the Japanese.

And he did. A P-51 driver, he flew 19 missions in total — including the very last combat mission over Japan on Aug. 14, 1945. After the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Yellin said he didn’t think they’d ever have to fly again, but when Japan refused to surrender, he and his wingmen took to the skies.

On Aug. 13, four days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Yellin was ordered to fly a mission over Nagoya, a hub for Japanese aircraft manufacturing and war equipment production. Before takeoff, his wingman, Phil Schlamberg, told Yellin, “If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back.”

 

(American Veterans Center | YouTube)

 

Yellin told his wingman to stay on his wing. They exchanged a thumbs up from their cockpits, but Schlamberg’s feeling proved to be true — he went missing during the mission.

It was the last combat mission of World War II, and according to Yellin, Schlamberg was the last casualty. To his dismay, Yellin learned that the Japanese had surrendered three hours before, but the pilots didn’t receive the message in time.

Also read: This WW2 veteran recalls guarding Nazi POWs and the Dachau concentration camp

This year, Yellin took to the skies again in a Stearman PT-17, just like the one he trained in during the war at the once-called Thunderbird Field II at the Scottsdale Airport. His flight was part of a Veterans Day event to build a memorial to honor early aviation pioneers and veterans.

Having a museum to remind people of who we were then and what we are now is extremely, extremely important.

Check out Capt. Yellin’s flight and hear the inspiring vet talk about what it meant to serve during World War II right here:

 

(Sequence Media Group | YouTube)
Articles

Navy officer accused of espionage is about to go to trial

A military trial is set to begin for a Taiwan-born Navy officer accused of passing military secrets to China or Taiwan.


Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Turo, a Navy spokeswoman, confirmed on May 3 the espionage trial in Norfolk will begin May 4.

Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin is accused of failing to report foreign contacts and passing along secret national defense information. He is being held in a Navy brig in Virginia.

Also read: 7 ways to prove your spouse is really a spy

Court documents do not reveal whom Lin is accused of spying for. But officials told The Associated Press last year that the country involved is China or Taiwan, and possibly both.

Civilian defense attorney Larry Younger declined to comment. Lin’s sister, Jenny Lin, wrote to members of Congress last year and said the Navy lacks evidence to support the charges.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How soldier-made ‘The Gatekeeper’ fights veteran suicide

There were more than 6000 veteran suicides each year from 2008-2016 alone.

In contrast, the total number of fatal casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 is 6,995.

Suicide is a threat to our nation’s service members — and in U.S. Army Paratrooper and creator Jordan Martinez’s words, “Now, more than ever, we must tell stories about their experiences and remind others how important it is to never give up on the battle at home.”

His passion for this topic is what inspired the USC School of Cinematic Arts graduate student to create The Gatekeeper, a psychological thriller that accurately, artistically, and authentically highlights the real struggles veterans face with PTSD and suicide.

This ain’t no ordinary student film:


F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

‘The Gatekeeper’ cast and crew filming on location at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

The Gatekeeper will be the first film in USC history to use motion capture technology for pre-visualization. Martinez has invested state of the art technology and equipment, incredible production locations, and professional cast and crew for this film, including Navy veteran and Stranger Things actress Jennifer Marshall and Christopher Loverro, an Army veteran and the founder of non-profit Warriors for Peace Theater.

Martinez is a combat veteran who saw first-hand the psychological effects war has on returning service members — and decided to do something about it.

Also read: We have to talk about this week’s ‘SEAL Team’ death

“I knew I had to make this movie last year when I learned two of my military friends had decided to take their own life,” said Martinez.

For more and more veterans, losing friends to suicide is becoming a reality. For the rest, it’s a deep fear, and one we must respond to.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

U.S. Army veteran Christopher Loverro in ‘The Gatekeeper.’

“This is the war they are fighting — and this is the war they are losing,” said Loverro, who has been open about sharing his own struggles after returning from combat.

Martinez’s film reflects a growing trend among veterans in the film industry to tell their own stories, both as a form of catharsis and also to ensure authenticity in the work.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

This set was not cheap.

The Gatekeeper is currently in production. If anyone wants to help bring the film to life, there are a few ways to do it.

Southern California locals can become part of the cast and crew in a Mojave Desert shoot the weekend of May 11-12.

Or you can contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, which will directly pay for authentic looking military grade equipment, wardrobe, weaponry, and locations, as well as daily expenses for the crew. Student films rarely yield a return on the financial investment of the students who create them, so supporting a campaign like this will go directly to helping a veteran tell a critical military story — the first of many, unless I’ve read Martinez’s tenacity, vision, and drive wrong.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What you can do to help people in war-torn Syria

The crisis in Syria reached new, heartbreaking heights on April 3, 2018, when one of the most devastating chemical attacks left dozens of people — including at least 27 children — dead or critically injured.

While watching a humanitarian disaster unfold before your eyes across the world may make you feel powerless, there are some things you can do to aid the people still in Syria and the 4.8 million refugees who have fled their country since the civil war began nearly six years ago.

Here are some actions you can take to help:


Donate to a charity

These 13 organizations received 3 or 4 stars (out of 4) from Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit that rates charities based on their financial management and accountability. Here are links to their websites, listed in alphabetical order:

Volunteer

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode
Syrian refugee children attend a lesson in a UNICEF temporary classroom.
(Photo by Russell Watkins)

Your time can be even more valuable than your money.

Instead of — or in addition to — donating to a charity helping Syrian refugees, volunteer with them.

Contact any of the charities listed on the previous slide (plus find more from USAID here) and ask them how you can give your time.

You can also join Doctors Without Borders and go to Syria or a European country where refugees have fled to.

If you live in several European countries or Canada, you can also list your home as a place where Syrian refugees can stay (sort of like a free Airbnb).

Educate yourself and others

Learn more about the crisis from official sources, and educate your friends and family about what you discover. The more you know about the crisis, the more you can help.

Here is more information about the situation in Syria from the United Nations Refugee Agency and the USAID Center For International Disaster Information.

Keep up with the latest news on Business Insider’s Syria page.

Contact your lawmakers

Call, email, or send a letter to your elected officials or the US State Department and encourage them to act the way you want them to.

Your voice can be louder than you might think.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Combat controller goes up against 350 ISIS fighters

A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.


Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.

F-35s ready for war if Syrian tensions explode

Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)

Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”

As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.

“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.

A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.

Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.

This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and Europe want to sidestep sanctions, angering U.S.

The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.

“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”


Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.

The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.

“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”

Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.

U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”

Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.

“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.

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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.

But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.

Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.

Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.

Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.

Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.

The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.

It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.

Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The government is quiet about plutonium missing for the last year

Two Department of Energy security experts took off to San Antonio in March, 2017. Their mission was to retrieve potentially dangerous nuclear material from a nonprofit research lab. Just to be certain they were getting the goods, they were issued radiation detectors along with a disc of plutonium and a small amount of cesium to calibrate their sensors.

When these two security experts stopped for the night along the 410 beltway, they left the nuclear materials in their rented Ford SUV in a Marriott parking lot that was not in the best neighborhood. The next morning, they were surprised to find the vehicle’s windows smashed in and the nuclear materials gone.

The cesium and plutonium were never recovered, according to the Center for Public Integrity.


For the uninitiated, plutonium is one of the most valuable substances on Earth. It’s also one of few elements that will undergo nuclear fission, which is used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. It’s an extremely deadly and dangerous substance with a half-life of just over 24,000 years. One kilogram of plutonium can explode with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT. Luckily, the Idaho National Laboratory says the amount stolen isn’t enough to make a nuclear bomb — that requires nine pounds of uranium or seven pounds of plutonium.

Something the size and weight of a kettle bell could fill the material need for a nuclear weapon.

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Pictured: terrorism.

Cesium is an element that can be used in highly accurate atomic clocks and dirty bombs. It’s one of the most active elements on Earth and explodes on contact with water.

No one briefed the public, no announcement was made in the San Antonio area, and no one would say exactly how much fissile material was stolen and is currently in the hands of someone who thinks they’re just holding cool pieces of metal while slowly irradiating themselves and those around them.

And the military doesn’t have to do any of that, so they don’t. In fact, it happens so often there’s now an acronym for it: MUF – material unaccounted for. An estimated six tons of fissile material is currently considered MUF.

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If there’s an acronym AND a powerpoint about it, you know that sh*t is happening all the time.

The Government Accountability Office doesn’t even have a thorough record of material it loaned to other nuclear nations, what the status of that material is, and if their systems are rigorously inspected. At least 11 of those sites have not been visited by U.S. inspectors since before the September 11, 2001, attacks.

In one instance, 45 pounds of enriched uranium — enough for five nuclear detonations — loaned from the military was listed as safely stored when it was actually gone as of 2009 and had been missing for as long as five years. Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency tracked 270 incidents where dangerous fissile materials were trafficked with the intent of doing harm.

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“He seems totally trustworthy to me. Let’s transfer our plutonium immediately.”

The security contracting firm who lost the equipment was given an award, government bonuses, and a renewed contract. Since the Idaho National Lab considered the amount of nuclear material stolen to be of little consequence, they closed the case.

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