Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism - We Are The Mighty
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Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Articles

Watch: Chicago police survive 6-second, point-blank shootout

It all happens in 6 seconds.

Two police officers jump from their car as a man is walking — slowly, almost casually — toward them in an alley. The cops yells at him to stop.

In a flash almost too quick to see, a gun appears. Everything is point-blank. A spray of shots ring out.

Both officers — Julio Garcia, 28, and Mark Nakayama, 25 — are hit. As one cop falls, he returns fire and hits the shooter.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of two shootings including the shooting of a police officer and bullet wound injuries.

The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released gripping body-worn camera footage Wednesday showing an early morning shooting in an alleyway on May 16, 2021. The footage shows just how quickly police have to make split-second decisions in lethal situations. 

Two calls to 911 had reported a man firing shots, and a police-run listening system had located the sound of gunfire in Chicago’s West Douglas Boulevard, about 5 miles west of downtown. Within minutes, officers found a man matching caller descriptions in a nearby alleyway. As two officers followed the man, identified as 45-year-old Bruce Lua, on foot, Garcia and Nakayama pull into the alley ahead of him, cutting him off and leaving him surrounded.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
A screengrab from Chicago Police officer Julio Garcia’s body-worn camera shows the moment Bruce Lua fired, and captures the brass casing of Garcia’s bullet as it ejects from his pistol on May 16, 2021. Lua’s shot hit Garcia in the right hand within a split-second of this image. Screengrab from COPA Vimeo video.

Garcia and Lua are a few feet apart as they fire at each other, almost simultaneously. One frame from Garcia’s camera appears to capture the exact moment that he both fires his weapon and is hit by Lua’s shot. In the frame, a brass casing is ejecting from Garcia’s weapon as he fires, but his hand appears to be deflected by Lua’s bullet.

Following the shooting, Garcia can be seen with blood dripping down his right arm and hand. He then almost immediately switches his weapon from his right hand to his left, covering Lua.

This officer body camera video includes graphic images of three shootings including the shooting of two police officers.

Nakayama — who on his body camera footage can be heard telling other officers he is shot in the leg — falls but appears to fire at least one shot that strikes Lua, causing him to fall as well.

Garcia covers Lua until other officers arrive who disarm and cuff Lua and begin to treat Nakayama.

At one point, a fellow officer can be heard yelling, “Where the f*ck is that ambulance?”

Both officers and Lua were transported to the hospital and released. The CPD Case Incident Report lists the officers’ injuries as “serious,” with Garcia shot once and Nakayama shot twice. Lua is being held on $10 million bail and charged with two counts of attempted murder.


This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Feature image: Screen grab from COPA Vimeo video

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most spine-chilling military superstitions

Humans are superstitious. We tend to come up with all kinds of ways to justify certain things we don’t fully understand. That same quality definitely has a home in military service. While some of these may seem ridiculous at first glance, there’s usually some kind of explanation underneath.

The Navy is easily the most superstitious of the branches — since their origins are tied to a history of life at sea, both military-related and otherwise, where imaginations ran wild after spending many months adrift. But, as a whole, the military has a wide array of superstitions that, when you take a closer look, are actually pretty creepy.


Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

You don’t want one of these bad boys to drift right over a cliff.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Yarnall)

Don’t carry a white lighter… Ever.

This is a superstition held by a huge number of people, mostly because of the notorious “27 Club” — a club made up of famous musicians and artists (like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others) that died at the age of 27 while carrying, you guessed it, a white lighter.

In the military, however, this superstition was given legs by a bad experience with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Rumor has it, the vehicle lost its brakes and went off a 100-foot cliff while one Marine carried a white lighter and another had a damn horseshoe. That horseshoe might have been good luck, but the lighter’s bad mojo was enough to disrupt the balance.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

King Neptune doesn’t want to hear your sh*t.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Andrew Betting)

Neptune doesn’t like whistling

It’s a long-held belief in many cultures that whistling, especially at night, is an invitation to the spirits. There’s a home for this superstition in maritime tradition, too. Instead of spirits, however, the idea is that whistling will summon bad weather as it angers the King of the Sea.

So, if you find yourself on ship and you get the urge to whistle — don’t. Neptune seriously hates it.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

When you hear the enemy eating apricots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Apricots

A Stars Stripes article from 1968 explains a story surrounding Marines at Cua Viet who continuously found themselves under attack by enemy artillery barrages. What they started to notice, however, was that these barrages would start almost immediately after a Marine ate a can of apricots from their C-Rations.

Coincidence? You be the judge.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Maybe the “grandma’s couch” pattern wasn’t the best camouflage idea.

(Reddit)

Skeleton Keys

This superstition comes from the U.S. Army. If you look closely, you’ll see a pretty distinct key-shaped blotch within modern camouflage patterns. In what may be coincidence, several soldier took bullets right in the keys. It could just be that — coincidence — or it could be a deeper, like a spiritual omen.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Just don’t do it. Please.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.)

Saying the “R” word

You know the word. “Rain.”

Marines, soldiers, and anyone who has a job in the military that requires going outside believe that using the term will change the weather from anything to pouring rain. Infantry Marines will tell you that a bright and sunny day changes almost instantly when someone utters this word.

What’s worse is that it won’t stop until you head back to the barracks.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

General wants Army aviators to stop apologizing and start asking

Retired Gen. James Thurman recently told Army aviation officials they’ve got to “quit apologizing” to the Pentagon and ask for what they need to win the next war.

“The Air Force doesn’t apologize, the Navy doesn’t apologize, so don’t apologize. You’ve got to go forward and put the bill on the table, and you’ve got to have the analytical data to back it up. That’s what happens in the Pentagon,” he said during a panel discussion last week at the Association of the United States Army’s Hot Topic event on aviation.

Thurman, who commanded U.S. Forces Korea from 2011 to 2013, made his comments during a discussion on the Army’s effort to track training and readiness against the backdrop of the service’s six-priority modernization effort.


Future vertical lift is the Army’s third of six modernization priorities. Aviation officials must compete for the same resources advocates of the other priorities — long-range precision fires, the next generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — are vying for if the service is going to field a new armed reconnaissance aircraft and a new long-range assault aircraft by 2028.

“You’ve got to fight for it … if we don’t modernize this force, we are going to lose the next fight. It’s as simple as that,” Thurman said, warning of the progress potential adversaries are making in battlefield technology. “If you look at what the Russians are doing and what the Chinese are doing, in my mind, the Chinese are number one right now.”

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

The Lockheed-Boeing SB-1 Defiant.


In addition to modernizing, Army aviation officials say the branch needs to use training resources more effectively to ensure units are at the appropriate readiness levels.

“I think we do ourselves a disservice anytime we are funded to a certain level and under-execute for multiple reasons,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, commander of the Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama. “If we fly less and we still call ourselves trained, that is doing a disservice to us … because the Army will resource us at a lesser level.”

Army aviation accounts for 25 percent of the service’s budget for training and sustainment, said retired Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, vice president for Army Aviation Programs, Rotary and Mission Systems at Lockheed Martin. But, he said, “aviation is the only branch where the number of [Training and Doctrine Command] seats is limited by budget.”

“For every other branch, we determine how many seats are required and fund it,” he said. “For aviation, seats are based on funding available.”

Mangum said he agrees with Thurman’s advice. “Don’t apologize, but we’ve got to use that 25 percent of the Army budget as effectively and efficiently as we can.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is rolling to the field

Soldiers are about to get their hands on the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs), and the first unit will start receiving the trucks as 2019 begins.

These deliveries keep the program right on schedule, following an Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decision in December 2018 to move forward with fielding JLTVs to the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit, located at Fort Stewart, Ga., will start receiving its own JLTVs in January 2019, and should be fully equipped with about 500 new JLTVs by the end of March 2019.


“The JLTV program exemplifies the benefit of strong ties between the warfighter and acquisition communities,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology. “With continuous feedback from the user, our program office is able to reach the right balance of technological advancements that will provide vastly improved capability, survivability, networking power, and maneuverability.”

The new trucks represent a significant modernization success for the Army and Marine Corps, with the program on track to replace many venerable High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV).

“I simply could not be prouder of the team that is bringing JLTV to reality,” Jette continued. “Our single focus is giving soldiers better capabilities, and our team of soldiers, Marines, and civilians worked tirelessly to deliver an affordable, generational leap ahead in light tactical vehicles.”

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Joint Light Tactical Vehicles demonstrate their extreme off-road capability at the U.S. Marine Corps Transportation Demonstration Support Area at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

(U.S. Army photo by Mr. David Vergun)

The JLTV family of vehicles is designed to restore payload and performance that were traded from light tactical vehicles to add protection in recent conflict. JLTVs will give soldiers, Marines, and their commanders more options in a protected mobility solution that is also the first vehicle purpose-built for modern battlefield networks.

“We are very excited to get these trucks into the hands of our soldiers,” said Col. Mike Adams, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. “It’s an honor to be chosen as the first unit to receive such an improved capability, and I look forward to getting it into our formations.”

The JLTV program remains on schedule and on budget as it wraps up its low rate initial production phase, yet the program office’s work is far from over. As warfighter needs change, the team will continue to explore ways to refine the design and the capability it offers.

More deliveries are slated across each service in 2019. Ultimately, the Army anticipates purchasing 49,099 vehicles across its Active, Reserve, and National Guard components, and the Marine Corps more than 9,000.

The JLTV will be fielded in two variants and four mission package configurations: General Purpose, Close Combat Weapons Carrier, Heavy Guns Carrier, and a Utility vehicle.

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

Articles

This Marine is the first combat wounded veteran to reach the summit of Mount Everest

In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world.


Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Linville is an Afghanistan veteran and father of two who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED attack. Medvetz is the founder of The Heroes Project and a former member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. They arrived at the Everest base camp on April 17 and reached the summit of the mountain on May 19, making Linville the first combat wounded veteran to make it to the top.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
Linville and his gear, extra leg and all.

 

Their first two attempts to summit the mountain failed. In 2014, they made it to Lobuche Peak just above Everest Base Camp when a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall. The resulting avalanche killed 18 sherpas. They opted not to proceed out of respect for the dead.

And in 2015, they were once again on the mountain when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastated the region. Linville and Medvetz decided to link up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Linville and Medvetz climbed the mountain with videographer Kazuya Hiraide and producer Ed Wardle. The team is currently descending the mountain.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy helps search for submarine lost for nearly a week

An Argentinian submarine is missing at sea.


The ARA San Juan, with 44 crew members on board, disappeared on Nov. 15, about 270 miles off the southern tip of South America.

NASA has been trying to help find the 216-foot sub from the sky. And now the U.S. Navy is sending support to locate and rescue the ship from the sea.

The U.S. Southern Command said Nov. 19 it’s sending a Submarine Rescue Chamber, designed during WWII, which can reach a submarine submerged up to 850 feet, and bring up to six people at a time back to the surface. A Pressurized Rescue Module, which can rescue up to 16 people at a time, and a Remotely Operated Vehicle are also on their way.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
Personnel assigned to the Portuguese navy submarine SKS Tridente climb down to their submarine after mating with the U.S. Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s Pressurized Rescue Module, Falcon, during the NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011. Bold Monarch is the world’s largest submarine rescue exercise with participants and observers from more than 25 countries. The 12-day exercise supports interoperability between submarine rescue units. (Image DVIDS)

On Nov. 18, the missing crewmembers tried to make seven satellite calls, Argentine defense minister Oscar Aguad said. But stormy weather in the southern Atlantic likely blocked the calls from going through.

Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the crew should have enough food and water aboard, in order to wait out the choppy seas and 20-foot waves until they are found, according to Reuters.

The working theory is that an electrical outage knocked out the ship’s communications. Submarines are supposed to surface if that happens.

Also Read: Microsoft’s co-founder just helped find this long-lost Navy cruiser

The families of the crewmembers are anxiously awaiting news of the missing submarine.

“Yesterday’s news was something of a respite for us, to know that there is life,” Claudio Rodriguez, whose brother is on the San Juan, told local TV channel A24 Sunday morning.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hundreds of troops on border shifted to California

Hundreds of troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona have been moved to California to support border patrol agents securing the border against the thousands of Central American migrants camped nearby.

“In coordination with CBP, it was determined that forces including military police, engineering and logistics units could be shifted from Texas and Arizona to support the CBP requirements in California,” US Northern Command told Business Insider, confirming an earlier report from The Washington Post.

“Approximately 300 service members have been repositioned to California over the past few days.”


In November 2018, there were 2,800 troops in Texas, 1,500 in Arizona, and another 1,500 in California. Over a period of several weeks, the active-duty military personnel deployed to these states ran over 60,000 feet of concertina (razor) wire.

Now, after the recent shift, there are 2,400 troops in Texas, 1,400 in Arizona, and 1,800 in California. The total number of active-duty troops at the border has decreased by about 200, dropping from 5,800 to 5,600, NORTHCOM explained to Business Insider, noting that changes are the result of mission assessments carried out in coordination with CBP.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

While the number of troops deployed to the southern border has decreased, the number of troops serving in California is on the rise. Thousands of migrants have been pouring into Tijuana, which is where more than 5,000 migrants, possibly many more, are camped.

Border patrol agents clashed with hundreds of migrants Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, one of the largest and busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexico border, after what began as a peaceful protest meant to call attention to the plight of asylum seekers turned into a mad and chaotic dash.

Some migrants attempted to enter the US illegally by forcing their way through and over barricades while others threw rocks at US border agents after they overwhelmed Mexican authorities. The crowd of migrants was driven back by rubber pullets and tear gas.

More than one hundred migrants have been arrested by authorities in the US and Mexico. Many of those who have been detained face deportation, meaning that their weeks-long journey to the US will end where it began.

The role of US troops at the border has been in debate over the past few weeks, with critics of the president calling the deployment a waste of time, resources, and manpower.

While active-duty troops deployed to the border were initially limited to laying razor wire, the White House recently authorized US troops to use force, including lethal force if necessary, to defend CBP agents against violence.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top Marines explain why recruit training must go on despite coronavirus concerns

As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

www.facebook.com

The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.

General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.

“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video.
“And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.

Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters

“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically.
“We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”

For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.

If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Intel

Russia is trolling US troops with fake Facebook profiles of gorgeous women

When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”


It appears he has not forgotten that goal.

Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.

These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)

Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.

One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.

Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.

For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.

According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”

While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.

“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”

Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.

According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”

In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.

The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.

Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.


“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”

After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.

“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”

Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.

“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.

At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.

“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.

They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.

“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”

A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.

“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”

As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”

The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.

“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”

There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.

“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”

Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.

“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”

The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.

“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”

Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”

An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.

“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”

Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?

“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”

The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.

One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.

“I was never quick enough,” she said.

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Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.

“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”

The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.

No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.

A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.

“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”

The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.

“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.

Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”

Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.

“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”

With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.

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Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”

“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”

The two families have remained close all these years.

Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.

“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Retired Army 4-Star Jack Keane to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

A former Army vice chief of staff and Fox News analyst will be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor by President Donald Trump, the White House announced Wednesday.


Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Silver Star recipient who led troops in Vietnam and was at the Pentagon on 9/11, will be presented with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom next week.

“General Keane has devoted his life to keeping America safe and strong,” a White House statement announcing the award states.

Keane could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bill Hemmer, a Fox News host, on Wednesday called the award well deserved. “Jack Keane, a friend and colleague for years here at Fox … is a committed American to getting it right,” he said.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Presidents select Medal of Freedom recipients. The award was created to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to national, international or cultural causes in the public or private sectors. Recipients have included those in the medical, journalism, entertainment and business fields.

President George H.W. Bush presented the award to Holocaust survivor, author and political activist Elie Wiesel in 1992. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun and later saint, was chosen for the award by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and physicist Stephen Hawking by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The award was most recently presented to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh during last month’s State of the Union address. Trump took heat for the decision to award the medal to Limbaugh, who is seen as a divisive figure by critics. The talk show host has been accused of making sexist and racist comments on the air.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Keane, 77, retired from the Army in 2003. As vice chief of staff, he provided oversight for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his bio. He played a key role in formulating and recommending the surge strategy in Iraq, it states, and as recently as 2016 was still advising senior government officials on national security issues and the Afghanistan War.

Keane also serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that produces research on military and foreign affairs.

In addition to being awarded the Silver Star, Keane has earned two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, five Legions of Merit, two Army Distinguished Service Medals and the Bronze Star.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Koreans shot one of their own soldiers as he tried to defect

North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a jointly controlled area at the heavily guarded border to defect to South Korea on Oct.13, the South’s military said.


North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border. But it’s rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters (feet) away, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.

The soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South’s Defense Ministry said. It wasn’t immediately known how serious the soldier’s injuries were or why he decided to defect.

South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity, citing department rules. South Korean troops didn’t fire at the North, he said.

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism
A North Korean soldier stands guard at a missile test site.

The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War. Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. President Donald Trumpplanned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea’s nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area.

Read More: North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

At Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers. The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.

In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.

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