Inside a 'Guardian Angel' rescue mission in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

It’s dark. The air is heavy, filled with Afghanistan smoke and dust. On the flight line at Bagram Airfield, an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter waits, beating thunder with its blades.


An 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team, which consists of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, runs out and boards the helicopter. As the Guardian Angels settle into their seats, the helicopter takes off against the night sky over the mountainous terrain.

Also read: Here’s what happens when the Air Force’s computer nerds hang out with pararescuemen

During the ensuing flight, two Operation Freedom’s Sentinel teams will conduct a personnel recovery exercise, testing their capability to work together as they extricate simulated casualties from a downed aircraft. The Army and the Air Force are working together to execute personnel recovery.

‘Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission’

“Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Wilson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander. “The interoperability between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, by way of the CH-47F, has enabled our Guardian Angel teams to effectively conduct a wide variety of personnel rescue operations in ways not previously attainable.”

Executing missions with CH-47Fs gives the seven-man Guardian Angel team unique advantages; such as an increased capacity to recover a larger number of isolated personnel and the ability to fly further and higher than previous platforms allowed.

“This partnership strengthens the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air to fight harder and longer, knowing that someone will always have their back,” Wilson said.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
Air Force pararescuemen, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, set up a perimeter during a training scenario with members of the Army Aviation Reaction Force, Task Force Brawler on the flight line at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2018. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The Chinook is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter with a useful load of up to 25,000 pounds. With its high altitude and payload capability, the CH-47F is vital to overseas operations, such as in Afghanistan. Its capabilities include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and combat search and rescue.

Related: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“I’ve been flying CH-47 models for 22 years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Miller, a CH-47F pilot with the South Carolina National Guard. “This is an unprecedented tasking. Never in its history has an Army unit been tasked to provide dedicated aviation assets and crew to conduct joint personnel recovery operations.”

Miller’s team is also joined by the Illinois Army National Guard.

The CH-47F model, with its enhanced capabilities, combined with the combat search and rescue mission set, allows the team to transport more personnel and essential equipment higher, further distances, and offer longer on the scene station times than ever before, Miller added.

Joint operations

Joint operations between services capitalize on the unique skillsets each branch brings to the fight.

For missions in Afghanistan, because of its high altitudes and current enemy threats, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks of using a different system. Especially in terms of the varied mission sets required of the personnel recovery enterprise.

More: Airman seeks to rejoin pararescue team despite loss of leg

The pararescue team also specializes in cold weather/avalanche or snow and ice rescue, collapsed structure/confined space extrication, or many different forms of jump operations in static-line or free-fall configuration.

Using the teams to their full capacity is all about strengthening the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air.

“Critical to the warfighter is knowing that a highly trained and capable PR force is standing ready at a moment’s notice, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way … so that others may live,” Wilson said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.

“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.


But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.

The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.

The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.

Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’

www.youtube.com

The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.

Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.

“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.

“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.

During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.

“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”

U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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

Articles

The Biden Administration is set to release three Guantanamo Bay detainees

President Joe Biden has renewed President Barack Obama’s pledge to draw down the number of detainees currently being held at a secure facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are now nine detainees set to be released out of the 40 still held there after 20 years. 

According to the New York Times, the United States is set to release 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, 54-year-old Abdul Rabbani and 40-year-old Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman. Uthman is a citizen of Yemen. The other two detainees are from Pakistan. 

None of the men have ever been charged with a crime. When releasing “Gitmo” detainees, the U.S. usually asks the receiving country to place special security precautions and travel restrictions on them, but the United States isn’t sure where to send the recent list of soon-to-be-freed prisoners. A total of nine are set to be transferred to other countries.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
The entrance to Camp 1 in Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Delta. The base’s detention camps are numbered based on the order in which they were built, not their order of precedence or level of security. Photo by Kathleen T. Rhem (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the previously cleared prisoners have waited for more than a decade for some other country to take them in. The other 31 prisoners have either been charged with war crimes, are considered too dangerous for release or have been convicted on charges. 

Paracha, Rabbani, and Uthman were approved for release in a joint decision from the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security. These offices maintain seats on the Periodic Review Secretariat, a kind of parole board that reviews the records of detained persons in the camp. 

A total of 775 detainees were brought to the U.S. Navy installation on Cuba in the years following the September 11 attacks. Most of these prisoners were released without charges, after being held for years on end. The last time a prisoner was transferred out of the camp prison was 2008, when one of the former detainees was returned to Pakistan. 

Guantanamo Bay
A Soldier stands guard on a cell block inside Camp Five at the Joint Task Force Guantanamo detention center at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Nov. 14, 2006. Camp Five is one of six camps that comprise the dentention center, and has been built with many features that can be found in many maximum security prisons in the United States. Camp Five is where the most non-compliant and hostile detainees are held. ( Photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau)

After 20 years of detention, the stigma of being held in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and the ailing health of Saifullah Paracha, it’s unlikely for them to find a new home anytime soon. 

In 2003, Paracha flew from his home in Karachi, Pakistan to Thailand by FBI agents who believed he helped the September 11th plotters make financial transactions in the wake of the attacks. He admitted he held money for them, but denied knowing who they were or what the money was for. 

Rabbani was captured by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in a 2002 raid along with his brother. Both were accused of being members of al-Qaeda, of staying in al-Qaeda safehouses, undergoing military training in Afghanistan, and becoming an al-Qaeda operative. 

The two brothers were held by the CIA for more than 500 days before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were also held at the CIA black site code named “Cobalt” – also known as “The Salt Pit” – and may have endured the torture experienced by many of the site’s detainees. 

Uthman was brought to Camp X-Ray in 2002, captured and held on charges of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s many bodyguards. 

None of the men have any future plans for how they can support themselves once released, and no country has stepped forward to take them in. 

The Periodic Review Secretariat published its rationale for releases, security assurances, and recommendations for future resettlement for all released detainees on its public website

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remains of Korean War dead could be Army killed at the Frozen Chosin

The remains returned by North Korea are possibly those of Army troops who fell in the brutal 1950 battle at the Chosin Reservoir, Pentagon POW/MIA officials said on Aug. 2, 2018.

The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.


Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.

Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)

In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.

There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.

Byrd said the 55 transfer cases brought by two Air Force C-17s to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii could represent more than 55 individuals, due to remains possibly being mixed.

“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”

McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.

He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.

“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.

Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.

“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.

Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.

The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.

McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.

Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.

Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard is begging for a new icebreaker

The Homeland Security Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 requests $2 billion to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s surface fleet — notably $750 million to design and build the US’s “first new heavy polar icebreaker in over 40 years,” according to details released on Feb. 12, 2018 as part of President Donald Trump’s budget request.


The Coast Guard’s total request for the next fiscal year is a little over $11.65 billion — an increase of 8.4%, or $979 million, over the amount requested for fiscal year 2018.

The budget request includes several big-ticket projects for the Coast Guard, including $15 million to support the Service Life Extension Project for the Polar Star, the service’s only operational heavy polar icebreaker.

Related: The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

The Polar Star entered service in the mid-1970s and was refurbished in 2012 and is now well past its 30-year service life — “literally on life support,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, is no longer in service and now provides parts to keep the Star running.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
The crew of the motor vessel Ocean Giant lines up with the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star to be escorted to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 25, 2017. (US Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

Zukunft, who assumed command of the Coast Guard in 2014, has been a driving force behind efforts to acquire a new icebreaker and has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers. In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.

“When I came into this job, we thought: ‘Well, hey, we can wait a while before we address icebreakers. Maybe we can wait another four or five years.’ Well, if we wait another four or five years, as difficult as it is to find an appropriation today, it’s not going to get easier any time in the future, at least when I look into my crystal ball,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of 2017.

The $750 million proposed in the 2019 budget “provides detail, design, long lead time materials, construction, program management office support, feasibility studies and maintaining the indicative design, cybersecurity planning, project resident office initiation, and Navy reimbursable technical support.” The money will support efforts to “maintain scheduled delivery … in 2023.”

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
The Polar Star on McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, Jan. 7, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst.)

In addition to money apportioned to icebreaker sustainment and development, the 2019 budget would direct $400 million to start construction of a second offshore patrol cutter and provide long-lead-time materials for a third.

The offshore patrol cutter is meant to replace the service’s medium-endurance cutters, which operate on the high seas and in coastal approaches.

Another $240 million is designated for four fast-response cutters. FRCs are meant to replace the service’s 110-foot patrol boats and improve the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search-and-rescue, border-security, drug-interdiction, and disaster-response operations.

The four new FRCs will bring the service to 52 of the program’s planned 58 ships.

Also read: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

An additional $5 million is apportioned to support the service’s waterways-commerce cutter, a program that may replace the aging fleet of inland tenders and barges that operate on US inland waterways, assisting the movement of $4.6 trillion in economic activity that makes use of US ports and waterways every year, according to the budget document.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, with 75,000 horsepower and its 13,500-ton weight, is guided by its crew to break through Antarctic ice en route to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station, Jan. 15, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

While the budget requests highlight several programs involving the Coast Guard’s surface assets, the replacement of the icebreaker fleet has been a high-profile goal for some time. The aging Polar Star is the only ship the service has to support year-round access to Antarctic and Arctic regions — the latter of which has seen increasing activity as polar ice recedes, opening new channels for commerce and natural-resource exploration.

Operations by other countries in the region — particularly Russia, which already has a large icebreaker fleet — have been a particular point of concern for US policymakers.

“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in late 2017. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”

Check out: The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker took a frigid beating

Some experts have said the Russian icebreaker fleet is less of a concern than its resurgent navy, and Coast Guard officials, including Zukunft, have highlighted the service’s positive interactions with its Russian counterparts. But the commandant also sounded a note of caution about US policy toward the northern latitudes going forward.

“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider. “I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up. And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”

MIGHTY MONEY

There is no one in NFL history more devoted to veterans than Jared Allen

During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.

That’s what led to Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors (JAH4WW).


“It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I’ll never forget,” Allen said of his time visiting troops. “We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines.” Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America’s wounded.

Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he’s listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn’t what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.

“Football is what I do, it’s not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people’s lives — can last forever,” he told SB Nation. “We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do.”
Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.

(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)

When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, “Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.”

Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)

“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”

If you’re a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization’s website. Jared Allen is one guy you definitely want in your corner.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia now has thousands of troops in Syria

Every Russian troop in Syria voted for Vladimir Putin in March 18, 2018’s presidential election, NPR’s Moscow Correspondent, Lucian Kim, tweeted on March 19, 2018, citing the Russia Defense Ministry.


“Russian MoD: All Russian military personnel in Syria have voted, and all 2,954 ballots are for Putin,” Kim tweeted.

“(Well, at least we know the exact troop numbers now.)”

 

 

While this figure could easily be true, it’s difficult to verify, given Russia’s continual game of misinformation. It’s also unclear if that figure included Russian mercenaries who operate in the country, namely to guard oil fields.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Putin won with nearly 77% of the vote, but the election has been criticized by international election monitors as “overly controlled” and lacking “genuine competition,” according to CNN.

Russia and the Syrian regime also continue to conduct airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta, where at least 30 were killed on March 18, 2018 alone from regime bombing runs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and China are top threats according to Dunford

In September 2018, Russian armed forces, joined by Chinese and Mongolian troops, gathered in the country’s east for Vostok-18, an “unprecedented” military exercise that Russia said was the largest since 1981.

In October and November 2018, all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland massed in Norway for Trident Juncture 2018, a regular exercise that this year was the largest version since the Cold War, according to NATO officials.


Joining Trident Juncture was the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which sailed into the Arctic Circle west of Norway on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so since the early 1990s.

These events, plus heightened tensions between Russia and NATO and other close encounters between them, have given many the impression the world has returned to a Cold War.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

According to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that’s not the case, but there are now real challenges to US power.

“I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a Cold War,” Dunford said on Nov. 5, 2018 during an event at Duke University. “But if you think about the 1990s,” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he added, “the United States had no competitor, and as we look at Russia and China today, we see Russia and China as peer competitors.”

Tensions in Europe have been elevated for some time.

In the early 2000s, not long after Vladimir Putin rose to power in Moscow, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia joined NATO, bringing the alliance into a region that Russia has long considered sensitive.

A decade later, fearing NATO would be invited into strategic areas of the Black Sea region, Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine and has remained involved in the simmering conflict there in the years since.

Since then, NATO has boosted its presence in Eastern Europe in response, with more US armored rotations and the stationing of multinational battle groups in Poland and the Baltic states.

China, too, has grow in power over the past two decades. It has been increasingly active in its near abroad, making expansive claims over the South China Sea, which its neighbors dispute and an international tribunal rejected.

The US has played a major role in contesting those claims, leading freedom-of-navigation exercises in the region to ensure waterways remain open. That has led to confrontations with Chinese forces on sea and in the air.

But increased tensions don’t mean the world has returned to the status quo ante, Dunford said.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(Photo by Myles Cullen)

“It doesn’t necessarily equate to a Cold War. Competition doesn’t have to be conflict,” he said during the event. “But … from a military perspective, we have two states now that can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all five domains” — ground, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — “and that’s what’s different than in the 1990s.”

Though he described them as new challenges, he characterized the US response to each of them differently.

During meetings with his Russian counterparts, Dunford said he has tried to “make it clear that what you’re seeing in our posture, what you’re seeing in the increased forces that we have put in Europe, what you’re seeing in the path of capability development that we’re on, is in order to deter a conflict, not to fight, and in order to make sure that we can meet our alliance commitments in NATO.”

“Russia has made a concerted effort over the last 10 years to increase their capabilities,” including at sea, on land, in space and cyberspace, and with nuclear weapons, he added, “So I’ve tried to explain to them is that what we are doing is responding to that challenge that they pose.”

In contrast, in the Pacific region — where the US recently renamed its combatant command as Indo-Pacific Command in what as seen as a compliment to India and a slight to China — the US is trying to ensure everyone plays by the same rules, Dunford said.

“China is irritated by what we do, but again, [we] try to explain to them that, look, there is a rules-based international order, and we talk about a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international law, norms, and standards,” he said.

“What we are doing in the Pacific is we’re flying, operating, and sailing wherever international law allows, and the purpose of that is to demonstrate that we are standing up for those rules.”

In addition to claiming a vast swath of the South China Sea, Beijing has reclaimed land on reefs and islands there and, on some of them, constructed military outposts.

The US and others have rejected those claims and continued to treat the area as international waters, which has led to a number of close encounters.

Dunford encouraged continued diplomacy with China, and he spoke positively about his interactions with Chinese military leadership, saying they had been able to perform “confidence-building measures” and to “increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation.”

But he also said a “coherent, collective response” was necessary and that, like other US officials, he had made plain to Beijing the US’s objections.

“I learned early in my career that if you see something that is not to standard or not within the law and you ignore it, you’ve set a new standard, and it’s lower,” Dunford said Nov. 5, 2018. “When I talked to my Chinese counterpart, I said, look, this is not about a pile of rocks in the Pacific. It’s about enforcing international law and a coherent response to your violation of international law.”

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

Articles

Mattis’ statement to North Korea is true ‘Warrior Monk’

After a heated exchange between President Donald Trump and North Korea that culminated in threats by Pyongyang to envelope the US territory of Guam in missile fire, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis laid bare the US’s resolve against intimidation.


North Korea “should cease any consideration of actions that will lead to the end of the regime and destruction of its people,” Mattis said in a statement.

Mattis’ statement appears to allude to Tuesday night’s statement from the North Korean army, which said the country was considering striking Guam with nuclear-capable Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles.

Mattis stressed that his first talks with Trump centered on the US’s ability to defend against and deter nuclear-missile attacks.

Mattis also lauded the State Department’s efforts to bring a diplomatic solution to the Korean Peninsula’s conflict. He made clear that the US had “the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth.”

The US, which protects its air and naval bases on Guam with advanced missile defenses, appeared prepared to meet the challenge of North Korea’s unreliable missiles.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon for Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2017. (DoD photo)

“We always maintain a high state of readiness and have the capabilities to counter any threat, to include those from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, told Business Insider.

But Mattis previously testified before the House Appropriations Committee that a fight with North Korea would be “more serious in terms of human suffering” than anything since the original Korean War ended in 1953.

“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” Mattis said at the time, but “would win at great cost.”

Read Mattis’ full statement below:

“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from attack. Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability. The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.

“President Trump was informed of the growing threat last December and on taking office his first orders to me emphasized the readiness of our ballistic missile defense and nuclear deterrent forces. While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now posses the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on earth. The DPRK regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force identifies pilots involved in deadly T-38 crash

The Air Force has identified the pilots involved in Nov. 13, 2018’s T-38 Talon crash at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.

Capt. John F. Graziano, 28, an instructor pilot with the 87th Flying Training Squadron, was killed in the crash, officials said. Graziano was from Elkridge, Maryland. The crash was the 5th involving a T-38 in just the last 12 months.

Capt. Mark S. Palyok, also an instructor pilot with the unit, was injured in the crash. Palyok was transported to Val Verde Regional Medical Center in Texas, where he was treated for his injuries. He was released Nov. 14, 2018, officials said in an announcement on the official Laughlin Facebook page.


“Knowing how everyone is affected by this tragedy, my immediate concern is making sure that every member of our Laughlin family is okay,” Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, said in the post. “Together, we are Laughlin and now is the time that we stand together to take care of one another.”

The Air Force T-38 Talon went down at 7:40 p.m. local time on Nov. 13, 2018, at the base, officials said. Emergency crews responded to the scene.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

“Our investigators are doing everything possible to ensure they investigate this incident to the fullest,” Gentile said.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

Capt. John Graziano was killed Nov. 13, 2018, in a T-38 Talon crash.

(Air Force via Facebook)

The 87th is responsible for training student pilots and, to include specialized undergraduate pilot training for the active-duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard as well as foreign allied air forces.

The latest crash comes as the Air Force is on the path to receive new trainer jets to replace its current Northrop Grumman-made T-38s.

There have been four previous crashes involving T-38s in the last 12 months, one of them deadly.

In September 2018, the service awarded Boeing Co. a .2 billion contract to build the service’s next aircraft for training future pilots.

The new trainer cannot come too soon for the service as it struggles to maintain its aging Talons, as well as its T-6 Texan II aircraft.

The Texan has had its share of problems as well.

The Air Force cleared its fleet of T-6 trainers to resume training operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph after a “brief pause” following a crash near the base Sept. 18, 2018.

Both pilots safely ejected from the aircraft. The Texan was also grounded in February 2018 after ongoing reports of pilots suffering breathing problems.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s president is kind of a big deal


  • The name of President Xi Jinping has been written into China’s constitution.
  • This makes Xi the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
  • The change was supported by 2,300 Communist Party members at the close of the party’s congress on October.

President Xi Jinping has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi’s name was added to China’s constitution on October 24, the first time a living leader’s name had been added since Mao ruled from 1935 until his death in 1976.

Related: China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

The political ideologies of China’s presidents have usually been added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.

The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.

If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.

Also read: This is what China will do if the US attacks North Korea

The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.

During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian dissident under police protection after attack

Russian dissident activist Pyotr Verzilov and those close to him are under around-the-clock protection by German police while he receives treatment for a suspected poisoning, his former wife says.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the punk art collective Pussy Riot who has a child with Verzilov, said in an interview with Current Time TV that police in Berlin implemented the security measures after a friend of the activist reported being followed by unidentified men.

“They sleep in the same building as police, and if they go somewhere, then it’s only in a police minivan,” Tolokonnikova told Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, on Sept. 25, 2018.


Verzilov, 30, fell ill in Moscow on Sept. 11, 2018, with symptoms that his friends say included diminished eyesight and an inability to speak or move.

After his initial treatment in the Russian capital, he was transferred to the Charite hospital in Berlin, where a doctor told a news conference that “it was highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning.”

Tolokonnikova, who returned to Moscow on Sept. 23, 2018, after visiting Verzilov at the Berlin hospital, said the German police protection came after Verzilov’s friend, Hunter Heaney, noticed unidentified men following him in Berlin on two separate occasions.

Those incidents on Sept. 22 and 23, 2018, respectively, came after reports by Kremlin-friendly Russian media outlets featuring images of Tolokonnikova that appear to have been taken surreptitiously while she was shopping for clothes in Berlin.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova speaks with Current Time TV: “Most likely this operation was not carried out by idiots, but rather with relative sophistication.”

(RFE/RL)

The reports by the REN-TV network downplayed Verzilov’s illness and suggested Tolokonnikova was more interested in shopping that in Verzilov’s treatment.

“We don’t know who it was. I didn’t see anyone. There is speculation that it could have been officers of Russian security services or people affiliated with them who then leaked the photographs of us to the REN-TV network,” Tolokonnikova said, adding that she was buying underwear for Verzilov at the time the images were taken.

Heaney, a friend of Verzilov who has visited the activist in the hospital, told RFE/RL that he noticed two men watching the front door of his apartment in central Berlin on Sept. 22, 2018.

The following day, he saw one of those men in the passenger seat of a red compact car “that pulled out on a deserted street I had just walked down and doubled back…to come in my direction and sped off as I looked closely in the windows,” Heaney said in an e-mail.

Heaney, who said he provided information about the car to police, confirmed that he and others close to Verzilov are now under constant police protection.

A spokesman for Berlin police told Reuters that they were in touch with Verzilov and those with him but declined to comment on possible security measures “in detail.”

‘Like being in a black hole’

Verzilov on Sept. 25, 2018, posted his first lengthy tweet since he fell ill, writing: “I’ve been relatively conscious now only for the past three days, and before that it was like being in a black hole.”

“I am spending my days in the friendly company of wonderful poisons. But not polonium-210 or Novichok, but something new and surprising,” he added.

Novichok is the Soviet-developed toxin that British authorities say Russian operatives deployed in the March 2018 poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England. Radioactive polonium-210 caused the 2006 death of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London.

Another doctor at the Charite hospital, Karl Max Einhaeupl, said that there was so far no other explanation for Verzilov’s condition other than poisoning and that there was no evidence that the activist was suffering from a long-term illness.

He added that the symptoms indicate a disruption of the part of Verzilov’s nervous system that regulates the internal organs, but that the substance responsible for the poisoning hasn’t been yet determined.

Tolokonnikova said it remains unclear precisely how or when Verzilov might have been poisoned and that his associates did not notice anything suspicious before he fell ill.

“That tells us that most likely this operation was not carried out by idiots, but rather with relative sophistication,” she told Current Time.

Tolokonnikova said she believes Verzilov’s alleged poisoning may be linked to an investigation he was working on into the the killing of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in July 2018.

Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko were killed on July 30, 2018, in the C.A.R., where they were working on a documentary about the possible activities there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary group with alleged Kremlin ties.

Tolokonnikova said that the day before he fell ill, Verzilov, publisher of the Russian news outlet Mediazona, received a report from an associate in the C.A.R. investigating the killings.

“As far as I know, [Verzilov] is interested in pursuing this investigation further, because the current report is far from finished,” she said.

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

popular

This is what basic Marine infantry training is like

If you know anything about Marine infantry, you know that we’ve built up one h**l of a reputation over the past 243 years. Whether it’s destroying our enemies or our profound capability to drink an entire town dry of alcohol, one thing is for sure — we’ve made a name for ourselves. But, the biggest and most important reputation is the one we have on the battlefield.

But the infantry plays the biggest role — closing with and destroying the enemy. Some may even regard us as the best in this respect but, to be the best, you have to train like the best from the ground up. This all starts at the Marine Corps School of Infantry so here are some things you should know about how the Marine Corps makes Infantry Marines:


Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
You’ll be pushed further than you were in boot camp. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Chelsea Anderson)

 

Infantry training is tough

You probably expected as much. But, let’s get this out of the way now: it’s tough but it’s not as tough as you’ll think it is. There are going to be lots of challenges but remember that the goal is to mentally and physically prepare you for being a professional war fighter.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
A lot of late nights and early mornings, but it’s for the best. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

Sleep deprivation

Not unlike the first 48 hours of boot camp, you’re deprived of sleep. Very unlike the rest of boot camp, the sleep deprivation doesn’t end after the first 48 hours. In fact, you might develop a mentality like, “I can sleep when I get to my unit.” But, chances are, you won’t.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
It’s better than nothing though. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane T. Manson)

 

Malnourishment is a common side effect of joining the infantry

In boot camp, you get three meals at the mess hall each day with the exception of field week, where you get MREs, and the Crucible, where you get, like, one MRE for three days. In SOI, you get nothing but MREs – and believe me, your gut will feel it.

There might even be times your instructors don’t pull your platoon aside to make sure you eat; you’ll just have to eat when you can.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
Okay, you might get tents in your unit. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Donato Maffin)

 

Sleeping indoors is rare

You might have expected this. Infantry Marines sleep outside no matter what. Sleeping inside is something you only get to do when you’re out of the field so get used to sleeping in the dirt under the rain.

Inside a ‘Guardian Angel’ rescue mission in Afghanistan
Remember that they’re teaching you a lot of valuable lessons, even by being tough. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Orrin G. Farmer)

 

The instructors are more harsh

Just because they don’t scream in your face all the time like Drill Instructors doesn’t mean they’re better. Combat Instructors are, in a way, much easier to deal with. Overall, they’re way more harsh in the long run because they know you might end up in their squad or platoon and they want to make sure they trained you well enough to be there.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information