Spain has long had a maritime tradition. For example, Christopher Columbus was sponsored by Spain for his fateful voyage that discovered America. There was also the Spanish Armada, which, well… didn’t turn out so well for Spain.
Now, Spain has built a relatively small but powerful navy — still called the Spanish Armada. These days, its flagship is the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, named after the king of Spain who brought the nation into the 21st century. Its hangar can hold a dozen helicopters or eight EAV-8B/B+ Harriers. This vessel weighs in at 19,300 tons, roughly the size of the Yorktown-class carriers that held the line in the early part of World War II, and has a top speed of 21.5 knots. It is capable of hauling just under a thousand troops and can also carry up to 110 vehicles.
In addition to being the flagship of the modern Spanish Navy, the Juan Carlos I-class design has been exported. Australia bought two of these vessels, naming them HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide. Now, according to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the Turkish Navy is going to get one of these ships. The vessel, to be named TCG Anadolu, just had its keel laid. This is part of an expansion program which will give Turkey not just this amphibious assault ship, but an amphibious transport dock and some smaller landing craft.
The Turks are not the only country in the eastern Mediterranean to acquire such vessels. Egypt acquired two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships originally built for Russia from France after the French canceled the deal in the wake of Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The two vessels were purchased with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.
Aligning with a superpower worked for some countries during the Cold War, and for many others, it didn’t. But Iran never aligned itself with the US or the Soviet Union, preferring to maintain its independence and sovereignty. But where the Non-Aligned movement was dedicated to the principles of pretty much minding one’s own business, the coalition Iran is building is more dedicated to pushing back against the US.
But just for one very specific reason: inflation.
Ever since the United States left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the ‘Nuclear Deal’ – sanctions imposed by the U.S. have left Iran’s currency and economy in tatters. As today is the day Iranians celebrate the New Year, Iran’s Supreme Leader is celebrating the regime’s resistance to the economic hardship.
“In the face of severe, and according to them unprecedented, sanctions from America and Europe, the Iranian people showed a strong and powerful reaction both in the field of politics and economy,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a pre-recorded speech. President Hassan Rouhani echoed that sentiment and called for Iranian to stop fighting each other a band together against the United States.
With sanctions crippling the value of Iranian currency, the Iranian government is looking to its neighbors to strengthen the rial. Other countries like Germany and France, who are still party to the nuclear plan, have opened channels to Iran for trade without using the dollar. While this has eased the out of control inflation in the Islamic Republic, the rial is still trading at 190,000 to one. Iranians have seen their savings and their net worth plummet in the past few years, which is the first result of rampant inflation.
Banks, merchants, and institutions have also seen the values of their businesses and livelihoods decline as a result. Throughout Iran, the inflation and unhappiness with the sanctions, and the regime’s inability to do anything about it has caused widespread protests and demonstrations – some on the same scale of the ones that brought down the Shah and saw the Islamic Republic come to power.
On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted for $6.4 million in funding to increase the size of the city police department. Police officials requested the extra funding eight days earlier, explaining the force had effectively lost more than 200 officers in the months since the death of George Floyd caused protests across the city.
Former officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled for trial March 8. Three other former officers will face trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Currently 638 officers are available to work in the city of Minneapolis, despite the department’s having 817 officers on payroll. Sixty officers have retired or resigned since the beginning of 2020, and more than 150 are on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including post-traumatic stress following the unrest last summer.
The plan was approved unanimously, despite some members of the City Council previously pushing for large-scale structural changes in the police department.
In late January, three City Council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder — introduced the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment. This would create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department, replacing it with a Division of Law Enforcement made up of “licensed peace officers” within the new department.
In response to these public safety concerns, the police department will update its hiring application with questions about city residency, advanced degrees in fields such as criminology and social work, and volunteer activities. The city will post these newly funded openings this week and hopes to have new officers starting this summer.
On Saturday, a demonstration took place near the former location of the police department’s 3rd Precinct, which was burned by violent protesters in May 2020. Organized by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local groups who support replacing the police department entirely with a Department of Public Safety, the activists were collecting petition signatures for the plan in hopes of getting it on the election ballot this fall.
Marines in Afghanistan who need critical supplies in remote areas won’t have to lug their gear in trucks anymore. Instead, Corps planners have developed a new airdrop system that literally flied the supplies to their exact location.
Take that Amazon.
According to a Marine Corps Systems Command release, the last of 162 Joint Precision Air-drop Systems were delivered to the Marines in April. The system, based on the Firefly from Airborne Systems, is capable of delivering 2,200 pounds of supplies to within roughly 500 feet of an aim point when dropped from about 15.5 miles away.
“An average combat logistics patrol in Afghanistan that’s running behind a route clearance platoon may travel at only five to six miles an hour,” Capt. Keith Rudolf of the Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems said. “Depending on how much supply you have on there, you may have a mile worth of trucks that are slow-moving targets.”
The United States Army also operates the 2,200-pound version of the system and also operates a version of the system capable of delivering five tons of supplies. The Marines have also acquired a version known as JPADS ULW – which can deliver 250 to 700 pounds of supplies.
Both versions of the system enable a cargo plane like the C-130J Hercules or the MV-22 Osprey to drop the pallet from an altitude of 24,500 feet – far outside the range of man-portable surface-to-air missiles, RPGs, heavy machine guns, and small arms.
Marine Corps Systems Command is now shifting from the acquisition of the JPADS to sustainment of the system. This includes planning for upgrades to the system to keep it relevant as the missions evolve.
The Marines are also considering a version that will allow reconnaissance Marines to be parachuted in with their gear.
For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.
The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.
U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.
The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.
This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.
“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)
Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.
Who knew the word to be used most often in 2020 would be quarantine? With travel being restricted, social isolation being encouraged – plus states closing down schools and offices; it’s leaving many feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the days ahead. Freud suggested that humor is one of the highest forms of defense and he knows a thing or two about the human mind.
So, without further ado – let’s dive into the 10 most epic songs to make you laugh through your quarantine.
Destiny’s Child – Survivor (Official Music Video) ft. Da Brat
As the world is increasingly self-quarantining or “socially isolating” to prevent community spread; the lyrics to this one are epically funny: “Now that you’re outta my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger.” This one is sure to be a fun anthem for your whole family. Especially with words like: “Long as I’m still breathin’, not leavin’ for no reason.”
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Official Audio)
This amazing classic is the perfect anthem as you continue to stress over the increasingly chaotic world. “I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive,” let these lyrics calm your nervousness, you got this. Pandemic-smandemic.
Slightly dramatic, but still epic just the same. “I’m locked up; they won’t let me out. No, they won’t let me out” should give you a chuckle. No, none of us are really locked up in our homes, but it’s sure going to feel that way over the coming weeks. Take a breath, fire this one up, and know it could be worse. You could literally be in jail. Their food is terrible, and I bet they actually run out of toilet paper.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) [Official Video]
Press play on this powerhouse of a song and feel that endorphin rush! Lyrics like: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger; Just me, myself and I” should empower you! Embrace the suck of social isolating with this one.
In the mood to sing moodily into your hairbrush? This is the perfect quarantine ballad for you. The lyrics will speak to your socially isolated heart:
Oceans apart day after day And I slowly go insane I hear your voice on the line But it doesn’t stop the pain If I see you next to never How can we say forever Wherever you go Whatever you do I will be right here waiting for you
If this one doesn’t make you almost spit your quarantini drink in laughter, you need a better sense of humor. With lyrics like: “I told you homeboy u can’t touch this, yeah that’s how we’re livin’,” how can you not laugh? Never mind that the chorus being epically perfect for this pandemic: “You can’t touch this”! Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!
Mysterious incidents affecting the health of American diplomats in Cuba continued as recently as August, the United States said Sept. 1, despite earlier US assessments that the attacks had long stopped. The US increased its tally of government personnel affected to 19.
The new US disclosures came the same day that the union representing American diplomats said mild traumatic brain injury was among the diagnoses given to diplomats victimized in the attacks. In the most detailed account of the symptoms to date, the American Foreign Service Association said permanent hearing loss was another diagnosis, and that additional symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance, and “cognitive disruption.”
At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US was continually revising its assessments of the scope of the attacks as new information was obtained. She said the investigation had not been completed.
“We can confirm another incident which occurred last month and is now part of the investigation,” Nauert said.
US officials had previously said that the attacks, initially believed to be caused by a potential covert sonic device, had started in fall 2016 and continued until spring 2017. Last week, Nauert had said at least 16 Americans associated with the US Embassy in Havana had been affected, but that the “incidents” were no longer occurring.
The evolving US assessment indicated investigators were still far off from any thorough understanding of what transpired in the attacks, described by the US as unprecedented. As the bizarre saga has unfolded, the US has encouraged its diplomats to report any strange physical sensations. So it’s unclear whether some symptoms being attributed to the attacks might actually be unrelated.
Still, the fact there was an incident as recently as August suggested the attacks likely continued long after the US government became aware of them and ostensibly raised the issue with the Cuban government, creating even more uncertainty about the timeline and who was responsible.
Notably, the US has avoided accusing Cuba’s government of being behind the attacks. The US did expel two Cuban diplomats, but the State Department emphasized that was in protest of the Cubans’ failure to protect the safety of American diplomats while on their soil, not an indication the US felt that Havana masterminded it.
US investigators have been searching to identify a device that could have harmed the health of the diplomats, believed to have been attacked in their homes in Havana, but officials have said no device had been found.
One of the diplomats affected had arrived over the summer of 2017 to work at the US Embassy and was later diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms, said a US official, who declined to specify the symptoms that led the diplomat to report the situation.
And in Canada, a government official said that the Canadian government had first learned in March 2017 that one of its citizens was affected. Ottawa had previously confirmed that at least one Canadian diplomat was involved, but had not revealed any timeline for when it occurred or came to light.
Both the US and Canadian officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
It’s unclear whether Canadians were intentionally targeted or whether there could have been collateral damage from an attack aimed at Americans, given that diplomats from various countries often live in the same areas of a foreign capital. US officials have said the Americans were targeted in their homes in Havana, not in the Embassy.
Canadian officials have been actively working with US and Cuban authorities to ascertain the cause. A Cuban attack deliberately targeting Canadians would be even more confounding, given that Canada — unlike the US — has long had friendly ties to Cuba.
The American Foreign Service Association, in describing the damage to diplomats’ health, said it had met with or spoken to 10 diplomats affected, but did not specify how many of the 10 had been diagnosed with hearing loss or with mild traumatic brain injury, commonly called a concussion.
Yet the confirmation that at least some diplomats suffered brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.
“We can’t rule out new cases as medical professionals continue to evaluate members of the embassy community,” Nauert said. She added that the embassy has a medical officer and has been consistently providing care to those who have reported incidents.
Asked for further details about what the US had learned about the cause or culprit in the attacks, the State Department said it had no more information to share.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically results from a bump, jolt, or other external force that disrupts normal brain functioning, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short- and long-term effects can include changes to memory and reasoning, sight and balance, language abilities, and emotions.
Not all traumatic brain injuries are the same. Doctors evaluate patients using various clinical metrics such as the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which a numerical score is used to classify TBIs as mild, moderate, or severe.
“AFSA strongly encourages the Department of State and the US Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated,” the union said in a statement.
In 1982, the United Kingdom and Argentina fought a major war over the Falkland Islands. And yes, it was a major war. The British lost two destroyers, a landing ship, a merchant vessel, and two frigates. The Argentinean Navy lost a cruiser.
This doesn’t count the land or air battles as well. But Argentina hasn’t given up hope of taking back what they call the Malvinas. What would happen if they tried to take the islands today?
Both the Royal Navy and the Argentinean Navy have declined greatly, according to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World.” In 1982, the British had two carriers they sent down to the south Atlantic. Today, the UK only has one — the HMS Ocean — and that ship cannot really operate the F-35 fighters that the Brits have bought, and their Harriers are long retired.
The only saving grace is that Argentina lacks the aircraft carrier they had in 1982 (formerly a British carrier, ironically), and has seen its amphibious force cut down to a modified Type 42 destroyer and an old amphibious transport. And its navy has four destroyers, six frigates, and some corvettes, along with three diesel-electric subs.
On the Falklands, the British have a garrison that houses 1,200 soldiers, according to a 2015 London Telegraph report. There is a flight of four Eurofighter Typhoons, plus a tanker and two Chinook helicopters, at RAF Mount Pleasant. A Type 23 frigate is usually in the South Atlantic as well (sometimes, the Brits will send a Type 45 destroyer), and there may or may not be a nuclear-powered submarine there.
The British have contingency plans to reinforce the Falklands, by adding up to a battalion and to send a couple more surface combatants.
This all depends on getting enough advanced warning. Argentina has one advantage: If it can achieve strategic and tactical surprise, its Air Force could use its A-4AR Fightinghawks (A-4s with F-16 avionics) to try and catch the Typhoons on the ground. Similarly, the Argentinean Navy will use its force of Super Etendards to try and sink any British ship in the area.
Once that’s done and air and sea superiority has been achieved, the Argentineans would likely move to land troops. The goal would be to grab control as quickly as possible. Once done, Argentina would try to reinforce its garrison before the British can get a sub on scene.
At that point, the British will face the same challenge they had in 1982 – re-capturing the Falklands at the end of a long logistical chain. Subs would move to cut off the Falklands, likely sinking any Argentinean warship or merchant vessel they catch at sea.
There might even be some Tomahawk strikes on Argentinean bases – an effort to catch their planes on the ground. Argentina has 22 Fightinghawks and 10 Super Etendards, according to World Air Forces 2017. If the force can be whittled down enough, the Brits may not need much air cover to take the islands back.
The British would have to commit most of its force of Type 45 destroyers and Type 23 frigates to the attack, and they would need to be able to land troops. Oh, yeah, and do it without carriers or planes. You only have to look at what happened to HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse to see how badly that can go.
But when cut off, and knowing that supplies cannot get through, any Argentinean garrison would eventually agree to surrender, likely parlaying to allow the British to land new troops at RAF Mount Pleasant. Much less hard fighting than in 1982, but the same ultimate outcome – Argentina loses – is the most likely one.
Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.
“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”
Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.
(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)
At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.
Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.
“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.
Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.
“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”
Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.
Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.
(Army CIO G6 photo)
A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.
Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.
“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”
To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.
“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.
“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.
It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.
So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.
“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”
Chinese media reported on Oct. 15, 2018, that Beijing would unveil its H-20 nuclear stealth bomber in 2019 during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
But the reports have not been officially confirmed by the Chinese military, according to Defence Blog, which first spotted the Chinese media articles.
Two days before that article, the Global Times also released a report about a “morale-boosting gala” held by China’s strategic bomber division in which “the silhouette of a mysterious aircraft appeared” in a logo displayed on a big screen, Defence Blog reported.
As the Global Times notes, the bomber silhouette has “angled winglets” unlike China’s known H-6 bomber.
A screenshot of a video China released in May possibly teasing the H-20.
The Hong-20 is often compared to the US’s B-2 stealth bomber, but its specifications are still relatively unknown.
A researcher working with the US Air Force previously told Business Insider that the Hong-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”
The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone previously reported.
The Asia Times, citing a previous Global Times article, previously reported that Fu Qianshao, a Chinese aviation pundit, said the goal was for the Hong-20 to have about a 7,500 mile range and a 20-ton payload.
While the latter estimates may very well be exaggerated, The War Zone reported that a range of 5,000 miles would certainly bolster Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and pose a threat to Taiwan and even US aircraft carriers in the Pacific.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Not too long ago at Thule Air Base, Greenland located in the Arctic, a change of command ceremony was taking place.
Outgoing 821st Air Base Group US Air Force Commander — Col. Mafwa Kuvibidila — passed the flag to her successor Col. Timothy J. Bos.
In her outgoing speech, Kuvibidila thanked everyone in the audience for supporting her during her command. This included members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.
These ceremonies happen every few years, but what’s been consistent at the base is the Army Corps’ presence. For over half a century, the Army Corps has performed construction for the base. Presently, it’s consolidating the base by 40% to save energy, tax-payer money and to sustain its readiness.
Kuvibidila, who managed the base for the past year, understands the importance of consolidation.
She said, “For Thule it’s a matter of looking at the best way to use the infrastructure currently on base, and what is needed to support it to maximize resources.”
Thule Air Base in Greenland.
(US Army Corps of Engineers)
Thule, Air Base Mission
Thule pronounced “Two Lee” is Latin for northernmost part of the inhabitable world. Thule Air Base is located in the northwestern corner of Greenland, in a coastal valley 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 950 miles south of the North Pole.
The base is the United States’ northern most military installation that has the responsibility of monitoring the skies for missiles in defense of the United States and its allies.
For over half a century, the base has been home to active-duty Air Force members who live and work in this remote Arctic environment to perform National security.
Throughout this time, the Army Corps under extreme weather conditions and less daylight hours, has helped the base fulfill its mission by constructing many structures including several dormitories, an aircraft runway and surrounding apron and taxiways, and a medical facility.
Now the Army Corps is helping once again, by consolidating and modernizing the base’s infrastructure.
In the early 1950s, the base’s main mission was to be an aircraft refueling stop. It was home to 10,000 personnel, US military troops, as well as a support staff comprised of Danish and Greenlandic national people.
During the Cold War Era, the base’s mission changed and it is now home to less personnel that are mainly performing early missile warnings and space surveillance for the United States.
The base has many buildings spread out over the entire base. Many of these buildings are still in use, but have become severely weatherworn and energy and fuel is being wasted to heat them. They are also a distance from the base’s central power plant that requires maintaining long pipes to transport heat to them.
Many of these old buildings are being demolished and new buildings are being constructed closer together to make them easier to reach and to save energy.
A contingency dorm that will provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors at Thule Air Base, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
The US Military has been on a mission to save energy and costs. Because of this, the U.S. Air Force tapped into the expertise of the Army Corps to consolidate the base. “This includes demolishing old facilities and constructing new ones that will be situated or consolidated more centrally near the hub of the base where the airfield, hangars, dining facility, hospital and runway are located,” said Stella Marco, project manager, New York District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Army Corps is performing this work in partnership with two Army Corps agencies that have expertise in performing construction in an Arctic environment — the Cold Regions Research Engineering Lab and the US Army Corps of Engineers Engineer Research Development Center.
Kuvibidila recalls the consolidation work that she witnessed during her command. “There were multiple projects being worked on during my time at Thule from a new dorm, to finalizing new consolidated facilities for vehicle maintenance and supplies, along with various power projects,” she said.
The main structures that are being constructed are dormitories for non-commissioned officers who are on temporary duty and contingency lodging for the overflow of visitors, scientists, re-fueling operation crews, contractors, maintenance operations specialists and temporary duty personnel.
Recently, the Army Corps completed the construction of three, multi-story high rise dormitories for non-commissioned officers. Currently, construction is ongoing on the upgrade and renovation of two additional dormitories and 636 existing dorm rooms.
Marco said that the older dorms were the “gang-latrine” types, where a person staying at Thule would be assigned an individual room that contained the amenities of a bed, television, desk and a closet, however, all showers and toilet areas were located down a hall, in one area, that would require the guest to walk down through a public hallway to use.
She said the new dorms were constructed more into suites or modular units and are more conducive to privacy and to providing proper rest, relaxation and personal well-being.
A module consists of two or four individual bedrooms that lead into a centralized living area along with a partially shared bathroom. Modules provide some degree of privacy for the officers. Additionally, each floor has a common kitchen and dining area for residents to gather in.
Also contingency lodging is also being renovated to provide living quarters for the over-flow of visitors.
This involves renovating some of the existing old fashioned, trailer-like living quarters named “flat-tops” currently occupied by Danish and Greenlandic support staff and contractors that work on the installation.
In addition to new living quarters being constructed and renovated, the aircraft runway was just reconstructed and repaved in asphalt as were the surrounding aprons and taxiways.
“The runway is the lifeline to Thule Air Base since the waterways are only passable by sealift from July to mid-September,” said Marco.
“By using lessons learned of Arctic construction, the latest knowledge of constructing in permanently frozen ground called permafrost, along with the latest construction and paving practices, has allowed the Army Corps to build the best new runway possible,” said Marco.
Thule Air Base from the top of a nearby mountain, June 2019.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Working on the runway was challenging due to the extreme weather conditions.
Paving the 10,000 foot long runway was performed in three phases — one each year — because the construction season was limited from June through mid-September. Half the runway was paved one year and the other half was paved a second year.
“Since only half the runway was available each year for pilots to use, they had to be able to land and stop their aircraft on 4,000 feet of paved area. During this time, mainly C-130 Aircraft were used because of its ability to stop in such a short span,” said Marco.
Another challenge was to lay the asphalt during the warmest temperatures possible. Asphalt cannot be paved in cold temperature because it will not adhere properly and will fail. To read more about constructing in the Arctic, please see the sidebar “Construction Challenges in the Arctic.”
Other facilities constructed to consolidate the base include a consolidated base supply and civil engineering facility to house the maintenance shops, including sheet metal, painting and carpentry, and a new vehicle maintenance equipment storage facility.
These new and renovated buildings are going to be heated with an upgraded heating system.
Thule’s central power plant provides the base’s electricity and heating. Over the last few years, the Army Corps has provided the plant new energy-efficient exhaust gas heat recovery boilers and engines.
With this new equipment, the Army Corps is creating a new steam distribution system that will provide heat to most of the base.
These new engines create substantial surplus heat. This excess heat is going to be turned into steam that will be piped — by new pipes — to other buildings on the base. When the steam reaches the other buildings, it will be converted into hot water to be used for heat.
All of this consolidation work is needed to maintain readiness on the base. Kuvibidila said it is more important than ever before to improve base readiness. She said, “The current primary focus of the base is to support space, science, and allied operations and being able to continue that support will be critical.”
A window view from one of the dormitories at Thule Air Force Base, June 2019. Mount Dundas is in the distance.
(US Army Corps of Engineers/JoAnne Castagna)
Side Bar: Construction challenges in the Arctic
Arctic construction can be challenging due to severe weather and limited daylight, which requires the use of unique building materials, techniques and fast-paced construction.
Most of northern Greenland is covered with permafrost, which is permanently frozen ground — ranging from 6 feet to 1,600 feet in depth.
This requires structures to be constructed with a special elevated Arctic foundation. If buildings are not constructed off of the ground, the heat from inside the building can melt the permafrost, making the ground unstable and causing buildings to sink.
Buildings are elevated 3 feet from the ground with the use of spread footings that go down about 10 feet deep and concrete columns that come up and support the floor system above the ground.
Construction takes place during the summer and autumn months when the temperature is a “balmy” 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can be as low as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also during the summer and autumn months that there is sufficient daylight.
Because of Thule’s proximity to the North Pole, the region has 24 hours of sunlight from May through August and 24 hours of darkness from November through February.
The less cold temperatures make it possible to break up the iced shipping lanes. This allows cargo ships into port supplied with fuel and construction materials.
Building materials include concrete foundations, insulated steel and metal walls, roof panels and prefabricated parts so that the workers can perform construction rapidly.
When the winter season begins, workers begin interior construction. This work includes constructing mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection systems that are designed to withstand extreme frigid sub-zero temperatures.
The NFL take-a-knee protests dropped off dramatically Sunday, with all but a handful of players standing for the national anthem as teams pulled out the stops to honor the military for Veterans Day.
As of Sunday afternoon, only three players — the San Francisco 49ers’ Eric Reid and Marquise Goodwin and the New York Giants’ Olivier Vernon — had refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That was down from 15 players the week before, according to the ESPN tally.
The three represented the lowest number of kneelers since Week One of the NFL season, when three players sat or took a knee during the national anthem.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, who has refused to stand all season in a protest against racial and social injustice, told reporters that he made an exception for Veterans Day.
“It was to signify that we are all with the military and that we love them,” Bennett told the Tacoma [Washington] News Tribune after Thursday’s game. “There’s been this narrative that we don’t care about the military. Today we were honoring the military.”
The pro-military celebrations came amid calls to boycott the NFL for Veterans Day over the take-a-knee protests.
In a joint statement, the NFL and NFLPA said Saturday that there was “no change” in its national-anthem policy, which says players “should” stand but does not require them to do so.
Still, there was plenty of patriotic feeling at the Week 10 games, which were marked by ceremonies to commemorate the military as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service month.
At least two teams, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins, invited hundreds of new military recruits to take their oath of enlistment on the field.
Players were joined by military personnel as they ran out of their tunnels before the games; coaches and cheerleaders wore camouflage gear, and camouflage Salute to Service ribbons decorated items including footballs, helmets, pylons and goal-post wraps.
Players wore helmet decals honoring military branches. Each player on the Atlanta Falcons wore a helmet decal with the initials of a fallen hero.
Some celebrations were more spontaneous. After a touchdown, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate gave a four-way salute from the end zone to the fans.
The NFL said it would donate $5 to its military non-profit partners, including the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and the Wounded Warrior Project, for every #SalutetoService tweet.
“Honoring the military is part of the fabric of the NFL,” said the league in a statement. “This support takes place both at home and abroad, with NFL players and coaches traveling overseas to salute the troops, as well as with team recognition of our servicemen and women through the NFL’s Salute to Service.”
The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.
If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.
There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.
Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.
Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”
Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.
“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.
While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.
Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.