Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.
As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.
But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.
“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.
The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.
The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.
“We have a huge population,” she said.
Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.
On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.
Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.
They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.
“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.
While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.
Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.
“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.
Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.
The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.
Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.
This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.
“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.
But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.
Despite Winston Churchill’s popular image, Britain’s most celebrated statesman spent much of his seemingly extravagant life on the edge of a financial cliff, according to retired banker and Oxford history scholar David Lough.
Churchill’s private finances often threatened his political career, which spanned more than a half century, including two stints as prime minister.
To compensate for his financial woes, Churchill focused on becoming a prolific writer; however, his prose wasn’t enough on its own, Lough notes.
So Churchill took an emergency bank loan, which brought his borrowings to £30,000 in 1925, or $2.1 million at current exchange rates and adjusting for inflation (inflation multiples: UK£ x 50).
Feeling the financial pinch, Churchill made several budget cuts to Chartwell, his country estate, in the summer of 1926.
He began by selling all of the cattle, chickens, pigs, and ponies housed on the estate.
Churchill cut the estate’s monthly expenses, which cost nearly $33,400 (£480) and included food, wages, maintenance, and cars, in half.
“Nothing expensive is to be bought, by either of us, without talking it over,” Churchill wrote to this wife Clementine, according to Lough.
“No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given only white or red wine, or whisky and soda will be offered at luncheon, or dinner. The Wine Book to be shown to me every week. No more port is to be opened without special instructions.”
“Cigars must be reduced to four a day. None should be put on the table; but only produced out of my case.”
In addition to the proposed savings, the Churchills would “very rarely, if at all,” invite guests over to the estate and would discontinue serving fish during dinner.
Within a year, Churchill’s cost-saving plan unraveled and his family shipped off for a lengthy cruise around the Mediterranean.
While traveling, Churchill added a stop to Normandy to enjoy a wild pig-hunt with the duke of Westminister and the duke’s new girlfriend Coco Chanel.
Churchill made a second detour to a nearby casino and gambled away $24,350 (£350).
Meanwhile, Churchill was still dodging bills from his architect Philip Tilden who was hired in 1923 to build a new wing to the Chartwell estate.
According to Lough, the Churchill’s wanted “larger bedrooms, new bathrooms and kitchen, a library, a large study, and a room for entertaining.”
At the time, Churchill had not approved Tilden’s building cost estimates before work began on Chartwell. The swelling modernization costs soared, resulting in a series of allegations and delayed payments for Tilden.
“There were renewed threats of legal action on both sides, but the financial trail disappears at this point because Churchill’s bank accounts for the last part of 1927 and 1928 are missing from his archive,” Lough notes.
In 1927, the Chartwell estate and its furnishings are estimated to have cost at least $2,783,400 (£40,000), nearly triple Churchill’s original estimate.
Churchill went on to become prime minster in 1940 and helped craft a successful Allied strategy against the Nazi’s during World War II.
He was elected prime minister again in 1951, however, his financial woes shadowed the remainder of his life.
A U.S. attack on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 in the country’s north on Feb. 8, and the regime came roaring back with airstrikes of its own on rebel forces near Damascus.
The airstrikes from Assad killed 21 and injured 125, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Feb. 8.
The U.S. responded with artillery, tanks, and rocket fire.
In the exchange, no U.S. forces were reported hurt or killed, but 500 of Assad’s were said to be engaged, many wounded, and 100 dead.
“We suspect Syrian pro-regime forces were attempting to seize terrain SDF had liberated from Daesh in September 2017,” a U.S. military official told Reuters.
The pro-Assad forces were “likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham that had been a major source of revenue for [ISIS] from 2014 to 2017.”
But Syrian state media characterized the event differently, saying the U.S. had bombed “popular local forces fighting” ISIS, and that it was a U.S. “attempt to support terrorism.” The Assad regime and its Russian backers have an established history of calling anyone who doesn’t support the regime a terrorist.
Though some of the anti-Assad resistance has become entwined with Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, the U.S. vets the groups it works with and maintains that the SDF are moderate rebels who were instrumental in the defeat of ISIS.
Syria wants the U.S. out, but it won’t go without a fight
Syria’s air offensive on rebel-held areas near Damascus has been going on for days, with local reports claiming that airstrikes from the Syrian government and Russia killed scores of civilians.
Activists and first responders said that at least 55 people were killed after the airstrikes on Feb. 6.
Though Russia announced its forces would withdraw from Syria in December 2017, the recent rash of renewed strikes shows they have stayed put, and are likely responding to an increased need to support the Assad regime.
In January 2018, Syria vowed that it would eject U.S. troops from the country, but since then the U.S. announced plans to stay there long enough to counter Iran’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began a more vocal campaign of accusing Syria and Russia of using chemical weapons in the conflict.
While Vladimir Putin is busy touting Russia’s newest line of hypersonic weapons he is seemingly whipping the world into a frenzy about missiles flying past early warning systems. The United States is playing catch up in this area of weapons development – at least it is in public.
In private, the U.S. military might be way ahead of Russia in the area of ultra-fast projectiles, but we’ll never know because most of its early developments have been classified. If the shooting stars and the stuff hits the fan, Uncle Sam might pull the “Marauder” out of mothballs.
It’s no secret the United States has been working on effective rail gun technology for years. A railgun is a weapon that uses electromagnetic force to fire a projectile at high velocity, some at speeds of up to Mach 6. The U.S. Navy and Air Force have both developed railgun prototypes. The Navy even developed the ability to fire multiple-shot salvos but neither service has effectively fielded a weapon.
These weapons programs even look to be losing steam, especially when compared to the development of hypersonic missile technology. The Air Force has been at this game for decades, though, and its previous work is more advanced than anything coming out of the Navy Department, Russia, China or even Kim Jong Un’s wildest dreams.
In 1993, the Air Force Research Laboratory finally published an experiment in high-velocity plasma projectile weapons. It was named “MARAUDER” – or “magnetically accelerated ring to achieve ultrahigh directed energy and radiation.”
A traditional railgun uses electromagnetic forces to drive a solid metal projectile slug to superspeeds. The Marauder uses the same principle in firing the weapon, but instead of the slug, Marauder’s projectile is superheated, donut-shaped ionized gas particles: plasma.
Where the electromagnetic railgun fires a projectile at supersonic speeds of up to Mach 6, the Marauder would fire its one-meter diameter plasma rounds at 10,000 kilometers per second, or 3% of the speed of light.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory must have made some significant progress in a short time, because computer simulations started in 1991, an experiment was conducted in 1993, and the whole thing was classified not long after. No one has heard a thing about the program since 1995.
According to one report published just over a decade after the whole thing went dark, the Marauder program was capable of firing ball lighting bolts that would explode on impact with the force of five pounds of TNT. The bolts would also send out heat, potentially superheated metal shards, and an electromagnetic pulse that would scramble unshielded electronics.
Basically, the Marauder was everything an army could possibly hope for in the area of field artillery: an ultra-fast, super-destructive gun whose ammunition was only limited to how much power the army could produce for it.
That last issue was the real sticking point. Although the technology used to develop the Marauder was theoretically laying the groundwork for more advanced energy production, namely some kind of fusion reactor, powering the weapon proved costly.
The experiment published in 1993 required the use of Kirtland Air Force Base’s Shiva Star capacitor bank. It’s the same lab used to produce energy enough for the SDI initiative (also known as “Star Wars” missile defense). Simply put, it’s not exactly mobile enough to use in ground combat.
It also cost a few million dollars every time the U.S. wanted to experiment with the technology, which is a much more likely reason the experiment ended up classified in mothballs.
China has stopped major land-reclamation in the South China Sea but is continuing to work on facilities it has already built there, according to the US Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military activity, which noted that China could soon add nuclear power plants to the mix.
After adding 3,200 acres of land to seven reefs and islands it occupies, China hasn’t done substantial artificial-island creation since late 2015, but at three of those outposts, the Pentagon report said, “Construction of aviation facilities, port facilities, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of the three outposts was underway throughout 2017.”
“The outposts may be capable of supporting military operation in the Spratly Islands and throughout the region, but no permanent large-scale air or naval presence has been observed,” according to the report.
Other countries have disputed China’s claims in the South China Sea — through which an estimated one-third of global shipping travels — and an international tribunal has rejected China’s claims to islands there.
Aerial view of Woody and Rocky Islands in the South China Sea.
While China has said those projects are meant to improve the lives of personnel at those outposts, the work may be part of an effort to assert de facto control of the area and to maintain a more flexible military presence in order to boost its operational and deterrence abilities, the Pentagon report said.
“China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute,” the report added. “In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations.”
State-owned China National Nuclear Power said in late 2017 that it had set up a joint venture with several energy and ship-building firms to boost the country’s nuclear-power capabilities as a part of Beijing’s aim to “become a strong maritime power.”
That announcement came about a year after the state-run China Security Journal said Beijing could construct up to 20 floating nuclear power plants to “speed up the commercial development” in the South China Sea.
Floating nuclear power plants could bolster China’s nuclear-energy capacity and support overseas activities by providing electricity and desalinated water to isolated outposts.
“China sees securing the ability to develop marine nuclear tech as a manifestation of its maritime power status,” Collin Koh, a military expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University, told The South China Morning Post in 2017. “It will enhance Beijing’s staying power and assert its claims, as military garrisons and civilian personnel living on those remote outposts would be able to sustain themselves better [and therefore stay longer].”
A Chinese Coast Guard ship patrols the South China Sea about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam.
(Screenshot / Reuters TV)
Experts have said that the technology for floating plants, which provide about one-quarter of the energy produced by onshore plants, is not yet mature but that major powers are pursuing their development because of the mobility they provide.
Russia has already deployed its own floating nuclear reactor. In May 2018, the Akademik Lomonsov, the first nuclear power plant of its kind, arrived at the port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea ahead of a voyage to Russia’s far east, where it is to provide power for an isolated town on the Bering Strait.
While Russia has decades of experience operating nuclear-powered icebreakers, activists have criticized the plan. Greenpeace has dubbed the plant the “nuclear Titanic” and a “floating Chernobyl.”
“There are serious challenges unique to regulating the operational safety of floating nuclear power plants due to the novelty of the technology, the difficult operating conditions, and the inherent safety limitations of these plants,” like a higher chance of incidents due to collisions or capsizing, Viet Phuong Nguyen, a nuclear researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, wrote for The Diplomat in early 2018
In light of civil-liability issues related to potential accidents with these plants and safety risks stemming from piracy or terrorism, “the best case scenario” for the region would be China reconsidering the plan or delaying the deployment, he wrote.
But China’s plan to test the plants at sea before 2020 makes that scenario unlikely, he said, so Southeast Asian countries “should soon seek at least a communication channel with China on how to exchange information on the safety of the fleet and the regulation of its operation, while not compromising the territorial claims of each country over the islands in the South China Sea.”
Featured image: the floating Russian nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”
The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.
The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.
Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.
The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.
The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.
Development and Design
During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.
The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.
The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.
The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.
Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.
The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.
The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.
The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.
Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.
As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.
The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.
There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.
– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”
– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.
– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.
AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:
Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.
Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level
Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun
Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)
Deployment date: 1995
Unit cost: $210 million
Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0
Veterans with heart conditions will soon be able to hold a 3D model of their own heart while talking with their doctor about possible treatments, thanks to 3D printing.
VA Puget Sound Health Care System doctors, researchers and engineers are working with their counterparts at the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine to use 3D printing to diagnose and treat complex heart conditions.
Hold your heart in your hands
“Imagine the power of holding a life-sized 3D model of your own heart in your hands while your cardiologist discusses your treatment plan and walks you through your upcoming procedure step by step. This is the reality that we want for all of our patients,” said VA Puget Sound radiologist Dr. Beth Ripley.
3D models of aortic valve helps doctor plan surgery.
Currently, without a 3D model, a surgeon creates a plan for surgery by looking through hundreds or thousands of CT or MRI scans, putting together a rough picture of the actual organ from a series of flat images. To create a model, a radiologist uses those same images to make a 3D blueprint, which is then sent to a 3D printer. The result is an almost perfect copy of the patient’s body part.
Reducing costs and shortening surgery times
Three-dimensional heart models will come in handy for a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, in which the surgeon replaces a narrow heart valve that no longer opens properly.
“Beyond improving our understanding of a patient’s anatomy, it allows us to know which catheters and replacement valves will fit, and how best to approach the particular structure,” said UW research scientist Dmitry Levin. In turn, he said, that knowledge helps reduce the cost of devices and shorten the length of surgery.
VA Puget Sound doctors already print 3D kidney models that they use for planning kidney surgery. They also print 3D foot orthotics that prevent amputations for veterans with type 2 diabetes.
The VA-UW team expects the partnership to result in new techniques and treatment approaches. As a result, it could eventually help heart patients worldwide.
Ripley said the next frontier is 3D printing of living tissue. “In the near future, we will be able to make living bone,” complete with blood vessels, she said.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The fall of Custer and five of the companies under his command at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, known by the Sioux Nation as the Battle of Greasy Grass, was as much a failure of reconnaissance and intelligence as of strategy and tactics, and a modern battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Nation would play out differently.
First and foremost, modern military formations have better intelligence gathering assets. While Gen. George A. Custer labored under the false impression that Sitting Bull, the Lakota leader, had only 800 warriors with him, it’s more likely that he had well over 1,000 and possibly as many as 2,500.
When Custer first spotted the signs of the camp on June 25, he wanted to spend time scouting and resting his men before attacking but thought his presence had been detected by Sioux forces and would soon be reported. So, he ordered hasty preparations for an attack.
But modern drones and listening devices would have let him know that the fighters who spotted his men were actually leaving the encampment and not reporting to Sitting Bull. Once Custer knew that and was able to spend time gathering intelligence, he would have learned of the size of the enemy force and at least hesitated to attack with his 647 men without getting reinforcements.
But if he did press the attack anyway, that battle would be most similar to a clash between uneven forces of cavalry and mounted infantry. While Custer’s men would likely have enjoyed a technological advantage, the four-to-one numerical advantage of the Lakota, Dakota, Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne forces would have been too much to overcome.
While Custer tried in 1876 to break through to the civilian parts of the camp to force the enemy to either fire in the direction of their loved ones or surrender, a modern Custer would likely try to draw out the enemy forces instead.
To help overcome his shortage of manpower, Custer would likely do this with a careful attack, trying to minimize civilian casualties while inflicting maximum damage on enemy vehicles.
Custer’s best chance would likely have been to send anti-armor missile teams into cover and concealment near the Sioux while one or two mechanized infantry companies deployed their Strykers just below the peak on nearby ridge lines.
Then, at a prearranged signal, the Strykers would roar over the ridge and fire TOW missiles at the Sioux vehicles. To keep the technological gap between the U.S. and Sioux forces, we’ll say the Sioux predominantly have Bradleys and HMMWVs.
The mortars embedded in the infantry companies could then start laying it on thick, slamming rounds into the top armor of enemy vehicles and hitting treads and tires with shrapnel to get mobility kills.
But Custer’s force of almost 650 troops would find it nearly impossible to keep over 2,000 enemies penned in for long, and the Sioux vehicles would make it into the open sooner or later. Once they did, their superiority in numbers would quickly turn the tide.
Custer could claim a victory at this point, satisfy himself with the large losses already inflicted and conduct an orderly withdrawal while radioing other U.S. government forces to be ready to attack the Sioux forces if they dispersed across the area.
If the Sioux followed him as a large group, he would be able to draw them to a larger government force and wipe them out.
If, instead, he pressed his luck, and continued to fight near the Little Bighorn River, it’s likely that the final result would once again be a victory for the Sioux. Once the government anti-tank Strykers and anti-armor teams had expended their missiles, attempts to take the Bradleys out with the Stryker guns would take much longer.
Sitting Bull would be able to get a force assembled, likely by staging it behind one of the hills that dominate the area, and then launch it from behind cover and into the American flank.
Once the American lines were properly disrupted, more and more Sioux vehicles would be able to escape from the camp and launch additional attacks against the beleaguered 7th Cavalry.
While the Sioux would have suffered much heavier losses than in the actual 1876 battle, the end result of a standing battle between the 7th Cavalry and the Sioux nation would always be subject to the huge numbers disparity on the ground.
A Kurdish female militia that took part in freeing the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group said on Oct. 19 it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.
In a highly symbolic gesture, Nisreen Abdullah of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, made the statement in Raqqa’s Paradise Square — the same place where ISIS fighters once carried out public killings.
She said the all-women force, which is part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces battling ISIS, lost 30 fighters in the four-month battle to liberate Raqqa.
Under the rule of the Islamic State group, women were forced to wear all-encompassing veils and could be stoned to death for adultery. Hundreds of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority were captured and forced into sexual slavery.
Raqqa was center stage of ISIS’ brutality, the de facto capital of the militants self-proclaimed “caliphate.”
“We have achieved our goal, which was to pound the strongholds of terrorism in its capital, liberate women, and restore honor to Yazidi women by liberating dozens of slaves,” Abdullah said.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of several factions including the YPJ, said on Oct. 17 that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city.
The spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, tweeted on Oct. 19 that the SDF has cleared 98 percent of the city, adding that some militants remain holed up in a small pocket east of the stadium. Dillon added that buildings and tunnels are being checked for holdouts.
Even as the guns have gone quiet, preparations for a reconstruction are underway.
In Saudi Arabia, a state-linked news website said a high-level Saudi official was in Raqqa to discuss the kingdom’s “prominent role in reconstruction” efforts. The Okaz site quoted unnamed Saudi sources as saying that Thamer al-Sabhan met with members of Raqqa’s city civil. The website said the United Arab Emirates will also play a role in rebuilding.
The report included a photograph of al-Sabhan, apparently in Raqqa with Brett McGurk, the top US envoy for the coalition battling the ISIS. Saudi Arabia is a member of the coalition. Al-Sabhan was previously ambassador to Iraq, but left amid threats from Iranian-backed militias.
The SDF is expected to hold a news conference in Raqqa on Oct. 20 during which the city will be declared free of extremists, for the first time in nearly four years.
The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat for IS, which has seen its territories steadily shrink since last year. ISIS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad met with a visiting Iranian army commander on Oct. 19 to discuss bilateral relations, the state news agency SANA said. The Iranian general also conveyed a message from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
SANA said Assad and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri focused on military cooperation, “which has witnessed a qualitative development during the war that Syria and its allies, mainly Iran, are waging against terrorism” in Syria.
Iran has been one of Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.
SANA quoted Bagheri as saying that the aim of his visit is to “put a joint strategy on continuing coordination and cooperation at the military level.” He also stressed Iran’s commitment to help in the reconstruction process in Syria.
Bagheri met with several Syrian officials on Oct. 18, including Defense Minister Fahd Jasem al-Freij, and Syrian army commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Ayyoub.
Meanwhile the al-Qaeda linked Levant Liberation Committee released a rare video of its leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani, showing him speaking with his fighters. The release comes two weeks after Russia said it seriously wounded him in an airstrike.
The video appears to have been shot before an al-Qaeda offensive on a central government-controlled village on Oct. 6. Two days before the attack, Russia’s military claimed that al-Golani was wounded in a Russian airstrike and had fallen into a coma. The military offered no evidence of al-Golani’s purported condition.
The al-Qaeda-linked group subsequently denied al-Golani was hurt, insisting he is in excellent health.
One month ago, RN Terri Whitson was mucking out hurricane-damaged houses in Lake Charles, LA. On Tuesday, she was at the Navajo Nation vaccinating frontline workers against COVID-19.
Making that vaccine delivery was very emotional for Whitson, who retired from the Navy in 2016 and has spent much of the past year volunteering on feeding operations and assisting with hurricane relief with Team Rubicon.
“What I heard more times than not, is ‘it’s the beginning of the end.’ We’re just hopeful that things are going to get back to normal and people are not going to be sick anymore. People are not going to be dying,” said Whitson of her first day providing vaccines. “And, to think that I had a small, itty bitty part in that is pretty amazing.”
Whitson, who served in the Navy Nurse Corps, deployed as a volunteer nurse with Team Rubicon at the Gallup Indian Medical Center on December 6 having no idea she’d be there when the vaccine arrived. When she heard it was coming she asked to extend her deployment by another week so that she could help get the vaccine into the arms of people who need it most.
“I feel pretty fortunate to have been involved in this, and to be involved in something that I think is so huge—so huge that it could possibly bring everybody’s lives back to normal again and provide protection for these frontline workers in the hospitals who are just so overwhelmed,” Whitson says, before stopping to dry some tears. She gets a little emotional thinking about the losses Americans, and medical workers, have experienced over the past nine months.
Before the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation, Whitson had spent weekdays at the Medical Center working with employee health services, where she would talk with people about their test results—hard, emotional work in itself given the number of positives and knowing how short-staffed the system already was. On the weekends, when health services was closed, she swabbed noses at the drive-through coronavirus testing site, which is open to the public.
When the vaccine arrived at the Navajo Nation at 10 a.m. on Monday, Whitson was on the team that began setting up a vaccination space. It’s a place, Whitson says, that people might receive a bit of hope. On Tuesday, she delivered her first COVID-19 vaccination there.
For now, IHS and the team are focusing on vaccinating those frontline workers who have the most exposure to COVID-19 patients, such as people working in the emergency department, anesthesiologists, and hospitalists. The hospital, which has more than 1,300 employees, has received 640 doses of the vaccine.
By the end of the day Tuesday, the team had vaccinated 80 of their fellow doctors and nurses; on Wednesday, they expect to vaccinate another 95 more.
“You can feel an excitement, and people were joking and laughing,” says Whitson of her time administering the first shots. Everyone also wanted to either have a picture taken or be videotaped making history. “It was joyous. It was such a good feeling.”
That joy was a lift for Whitson, too. She’d spent the prior week hearing codes called in the hospital and hearing ambulances come and go, and knowing for herself just how devastating the pandemic has been in this community.
“It was a good day. It was a really good day, and it felt really good to give people … to hear them say, ‘you know, this is the beginning of the end’,” Whitson says, stopping to clear her throat. “You know, we were giving them an injection of hope.”
A combat trooper’s most important piece of gear is his weapon. And fortunately for the U.S. military, American arms makers have been for years at the cutting edge of weaponology, merging technology with practicality, durability, and accuracy to field some of the best arms in the world.
We all know that the choice of what to ultimately put in the hands of America’s warfighters is a tradeoff between a lot of different factors — and there are strong opinions on either side of the debate. Just strike up a conversation with a bar table full of gun nuts over .45 ACP versus 9mm and let the fur fly.
But those of us “people of the gun” still harken back to some of the iconic weapons in U.S. military history and like to think about how things might be different if the U.S. were to bring some of them out of mothballs and hand them back to the troops fighting America’s wars.
So here’s our list of six weapons (largely) consigned to history that we’d consider bringing back to the armory:
1. The M1 Carbine
You might not know it, but more M1 Carbines were produced during World War II than M1 Garands — about 500,000 more — and it became the standard issue long gun for paratroopers and support troops like mortarmen and artillerymen.
Beloved for its short, 36-inch length and 6-pound weight, the M1 fired a fairly accurate .30 caliber rimless round that zinged at about 2,000 feet per second at the muzzle — that’s getting close to the speed of a standard mil spec 5.56 round. The M1 feeds from either a 15- or 30-round magazine, making it a killer in close quarters. So why not ditch the .300 Blackout and go retro?
Really, all you need to say about the BAR is “thirty-ought-six.”
End of discussion.
Designed by John Browning in 1917 for the trenches of Europe, the BAR sits in a nether world of not quite a machine gun, not quite a rifle. Fed from a 20-round magazine, the BAR’s .30-06 round packs nearly 3,000 feet-per-second at the muzzle and can reach out well over 1,000 yards.
Sure it weighs a whopping 16 pounds, and never mind that a BAR gunner in World War II was estimated by some to have an average lifespan of about 30 minutes. But with the popularity of the Mk-17 SCAR and it’s .308 round these days — not to mention the Marine Corps outfitting some of its designated marksmen with SR-25 .308 ARs — maybe the BAR should be given another chance.
3. Stoner 63/M63
Sure, the Stoner 63 was a maintenance headache, but its ground-breaking modular technology paved the way for predecessors like the Sig Sauer MCX and the early concept of the FN SCAR family of special operations rifles.
Chambered in 5.56 and designed primarily by Eugene Stoner, the father of the M16, the M63 was manufactured in a range of variants, including a light machine gun version with a 20-inch barrel fed from an open bolt to an assault rifle variant that fired from a closed bolt. Either fed from a standard 30-round magazine or a belt-fed drum, the Stoner 63 weighed anywhere from about 8 pounds to 12 pounds.
Manufactured in limited quantities in the 1960s, the Stoner 63 became a favorite of SEAL teams operating in Vietnam, before it was removed from the inventory in the 1970s in favor of the M249 SAW.
4. M79 Grenade Launcher
The M79 grenade launcher was America’s first attempt to meld the range of a mortar with the portability of a rifle grenade. The innovative “high-low propulsion system” kept recoil low while also reducing weight.
The single-shot, break-action M79 fired a 40mm grenade with a variety of warheads, including a specially-designed one for close-in combat (the regular 40mm grenade needed at least 30 meters to arm) and was used extensively in Vietnam. It was used and modified by special operations forces — including the SEALs and Special Forces — since its development in the 1960s and was eventually replaced by the M203 and later M320.
But the M79 still had fans in more recent conflicts, with some arguing it had better range (about 400 meters) than the newer, Heckler Koch-built M320. It was even featured in the arsenal of bin Laden raid SEAL Mark Owen, which he dubbed the “pirate gun.”
5. 1911 Pistol
Ahhh, the M1911.
Literally one of the most revered guns in U.S. military history, the M1911 is one of the most comfortable and powerful semi-automatic handguns ever developed. It’s a favorite among competitive shooters (particularly more modern double-stack versions) and is still fielded in limited quantities to Marine Corps special operations troops — though that could change with greater adoption of the Glock 19 throughout SOCOM.
With his powerful .45 ACP round and a magazine-fed, seven-round capacity, the M1911 served as the standard American military sidearm for about 75 years. The M1911 was ditched in the 1980s in favor of the lighter, higher-capacity 9mm Beretta M9, but with the Pentagon looking to replace that pistol, many are wondering whether the 1911 should make a comeback.
6. Thompson Submachine Gun
Originally dubbed the “Annihilator” by its inventor, the Thompson is believed to be the first firearm to be formally designated a “submachine gun.” Operating a straight- or delayed-blowback action like a pistol, the Thompson fired the .45 ACP round like the M1911 and could be loaded with a 30-round “stick” magazine or a 100-round drum. Though it was developed as a trench sweeper for World War I, the Thompson saw most of its action in World War II.
In all, about 1.5 million Thompsons were reportedly manufactured during World War II, but the gun suffered from a hefty 11-pound weight and is notoriously difficult to control in rapid fire. The Thompson was all but scrubbed from the U.S. inventory in the 1970s in favor of newer submachine gun designs firing 9mm ammunition like the HK MP5.
Operation Safety Net, the US Marshals Service-led child trafficking task force in Ohio, has located 25 missing children as of Saturday, according to a US Marshals press release. In addition, Operation Moving Target, led by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, concluded on Thursday with 27 online predators arrested for cybercrimes and attempted sexual conduct with children.
“Sometimes the situations they — they go to, believe it or not, may be better than the situations they left from,” US Marshal Pete Elliott told WOIO-TV. “We’re trying to do our part. A number of these children have gone to the hospital after we’ve recovered them to get checked out, so again this is something we take very seriously.”
Operation Safety Net focuses on Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the surrounding area to locate missing and endangered children. The operation’s reach has extended into the northern portion of the state with help from the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force. According to the US Marshals press release, “Children have been recovered in Cleveland, East Cleveland, Akron, Mansfield, Euclid, Willoughby and as far away as Miami.” Even though the operation started in Ohio, leads developed in the state have led to locating missing children outside of Ohio.
U.S. Marshals launch initiative aimed at finding endangered, missing children
The US Marshals have been working with Cleveland, East Cleveland, and Newburgh Heights police departments for the past 20 days to locate missing children, ages ranging from 13 to 18 years old. One in every four cases resolved by the task force are related to human trafficking or prostitution.
While Operation Safety Net is still underway, Operation Moving Target was started by the Ohio ICAC on Aug. 24 and concluded on Aug. 27. The Ohio ICAC is a federal anticrime task force funded by the US Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The operation was short in duration but concluded with the arrest of 27 suspects.
For Operation Moving Target, undercover law enforcement officers posed as children online to lure sexual predators. During conversations via various social media platforms, the suspects requested meeting times and locations for sexual activity, and some even sent photos of their genitalia to the purported children. Many of the suspects had firearms, condoms, personal lubricant, sex toys, and drugs in their possession at the time of arrest.
Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, in action above, is comparable to Ohio’s Operation Safety Net. Photo courtesy of Shane T. McCoy/US Marshals Service.
When the suspects arrived at the meeting place, law enforcement arrested them for crimes including attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles, importuning, and possessing criminal tools. The suspects were transported to Cuyahoga County Jail, and each case will be viewed by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
“As we have seen the number of Cybertips dramatically increase this year, it is clear that online predators remain a serious threat to our children,” said prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley in a Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor press release. “Hopefully the success of yet another operation serves as a stern warning to offenders that you will be found, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted.”
Federal, state, and local law enforcement have been pursuing missing children and their predators for years. The US Marshals partnered with the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children in 2005. Since this partnership began, the US Marshals Service has assisted in recovering more than 1,800 missing children, according to a US Marshals press release. In 2015, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was approved, granting the US Marshals enhanced authority.
This legislation enabled the creation of the US Marshals Service Missing Child Unit, which has been setting up joint task forces to carry out operations across the country, including Ohio’s Operation Safety Net and Georgia’s Operation Not Forgotten, which located 39 missing children in a matter of weeks.
The longevity of a service member’s career is a complicated equation. Perhaps even more so for the enlisted track, which boasts more active-duty soldiers than the Officer Corps. Joining the leadership ranks without foregoing pay or benefits is the secret weapon of candidates who pursue the Green to Gold Active Duty Program — a two-year program providing eligible, active-duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer.
The question of what’s next can often stem from frustration with career plateau or restrictions within a particular MOS, leading many to answer the unknown by leaving the military. What is known is that experienced, confident soldiers make influential leaders — an important characteristic of any officer. The Army also needs people at the helm who can take charge in any scenario, regardless of the circumstances.
Army officers are often put under extreme stress with enormous responsibilities and expectations. Non-commissioned officers are naturally adept to meeting these challenges head on. Skillsets acquired through combat, field maneuvers or operations, plus professional development add unparalleled insight to the success of mission planning that officers are responsible for.
Sgt. First Class Adam Cain with his family.
“I joined the Army straight out of high school. I’m not the same soldier that I was back then, and I wanted my career to reflect that maturation,” Sgt. First Class Adam Cain, current Green to Gold cadet, said about his reasons for joining the program.
Advanced training, schools and two combat deployments kept Cain searching for the next level of success within his service.
“This is me staying competitive and making a tangible impact, while taking into consideration the quality of life for my family,” Cain said.
Completing a degree means potential candidates need to begin earning credits well before application.
“The Army wants the best, and becoming the best requires a dedication to this choice, the selection process, and the development of yourself,” Army Staff Sgt. Elijah Redmond, current applicant hopeful, said.
Utilizing programs like tuition assistance — a free option to earn college credits without utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits, is just one possibility to become a more attractive candidate before completing an application packet.
The Army offers four different options within the program. The active duty option, which is discussed here, is a highly–competitive process, with the biggest perk being soldiers remain on active–duty pay and with full benefits throughout the duration of their college studies.
Both the university and the Army will pass its own independent decisions on accepting applicants.
“Staying hopeful, hungry, and positive is important,” Redmond, who was at the second of two phases of the process at the time of this interview, said. The two-phase process takes an in–depth look into GPA, GT scores, PT score, medical history and more.
Do prior enlisted officers hold the potential to advance companies faster, and with better operational knowledge than their peers?
“Coming into this new role, I will be highly aware of the role my words, actions, and decisions will play in the goal of creating soldiers,” Cain, who experienced firsthand how toxic and unaware leadership affects morale, explained.
“What we (prior enlisted) bring to this side of leading, is a comprehensive look at all working components of a unit,” Redmond said. He hopes to gain commission within his current MOS field: military police.
The Army invests millions in training a soldier into the precise and highly–capable person he or she is destined to become. Soldiers like Cain and Redmond understand that value and are looking for the best ways to utilize their skillsets with maximum impact. The beneficiaries of trained leaders are no doubt the company, soldiers, and missions which fall under their command. Not having to teach the nuances of Army life means skipping ahead to the more important details, diving deeper into development, and achieving a higher success rate overall.