Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.
But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”
Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.
However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.
Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.
However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.
Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”
No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.
U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.
But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”
U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.
Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
In the military, we wake up at the butt-crack of dawn, join our units to stretch before undergoing an intense training session, and then conduct some cool-down exercises to cap it all off. This is a routine that many troops have performed for decades and will continue long after their service ends. However, after years of performing the same morning ritual, many educated physical trainers are saying we’ve been doing things wrong.
Now, we’re not saying that you’ve been doing those eight-count bodybuilders incorrectly, we’re merely suggesting that there’s a problem with your warm-up routine.
In recent years, fitness experts have discovered that there’s no need to stretch out specific muscles before every workout.
Traditionally, troops will stand in either a school circle or in a structured formation as they move through a series of synchronized stretching exercises. These exercises focus on loosening up specific muscle groups before they’re put through strain. This might not be the best way to do things.
Stretching out a cold muscle is like pulling apart a frozen rubber band. A muscle that hasn’t been warmed up isn’t very pliable. By stretching that cold muscle, you’re not gaining a whole lot. In fact, you’re risking unneeded pain and injury.
Instead of conducting acute stretches, which focus on specific muscle groups, consider performing dynamic ones, based on the type of workout you’re about to put your body through. Dynamic stretching consists of warming up several muscle groups at once — these include things like side-straddle hops and jumping rope.
Many trainers suggest that you conduct the muscle-specific stretches after your workout, when tendons are most flexible and muscles are pliable, to further tear your muscles in a controlled manner. This kind of stretching will prevent injury down the line and help you build up muscles stronger.
The U.S. Air Force may only want a handful of light attack aircraft, but U.S. Special Operations Command now appears to want at least 75.
According to a new solicitation posted on the government’s acquisition and awards website, beta.sam.gov, SOCOM plans to host an industry day event seeking “armed overwatch” aircraft for its units.
“Armed Overwatch will provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) deployable and sustainable manned aircraft systems fulfilling Close Air Support (CAS), Precision Strike, and SOF Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments,” according to the request.
If awarded, the contract is expected to be an “Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) with a base 5-year ordering period and 2-year option ordering period.” SOCOM is looking to procure an estimated 75 aircraft “with associated support,” the request said.
The latest measure is independent of the Air Force’s ongoing work to buy a limited number of light attack aircraft.
In October, the Air Force issued an official request for proposal to acquire a small fleet of turboprop aircraft as part of its light attack effort.
The service said it wants a limited number of Textron Aviation AT-6 Wolverine and Sierra Nevada Corporation/Embraer Defense Security A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to increase “partner capacity, capability, and interoperability via training and experimentation,” according to a release at the time.
The Air Force plans to purchase two or three light attack aircraft from each company, a decision Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein first disclosed in March 2019.
He told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee during a hearing at the time that the service would base some of the aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and some with Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
The AT-6 will be used by Air Combat Command at Nellis “for continued testing and development of operational tactics and standards for exportable, tactical networks that improve interoperability with international partners,” Air Force officials said in October. The A-29, meanwhile, will be housed at Hurlburt “to develop an instructor pilot program for the Combat Aviation Advisory mission, to meet increased partner nation requests for light attack assistance.”
But some believe the Air Force hasn’t been moving fast enough on the program, one which showed early promise.
A draft request for proposal was issued in August 2018. The service was then supposed to RFP in 2018 for a light attack aircraft, but it never came until the recent October 2019 solicitation.
The slowed pace angered some lawmakers.
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Florida, introduced a measure into the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation that would put the propeller-driven planes under U.S. Special Operations Command’s purview, taking it away from the Air Force.
“My frustration is almost palpable at why it is taking so long to get this platform out to where the warfighters need it,” Waltz said during a September Mitchell Institute event, as reported by DefenseOne.
“If we can’t move this program forward, then perhaps we need to explore if the Army needs that authority,” he said.
It’s the ultimate getaway for the type of person that’s either preparing for an inevitable doomsday, really into Cold War history, or is simply done with everyone’s collective crap. We’ve got some good news for the reclusive and slightly paranoid: If you’re willing to put in the time, money, and effort, you can own your very own abandoned missile silo!
Once you put in the requisite funds and elbow grease, you can gloat to the internet about how your pad is much cooler than everyone else’s suburban townhouse (or that yours can survive a zombie apocalypse, whichever floats your boat).
But, as with everything else, it’s much easier said than done, even if you’ve got an extreme amount of cash laying around. Here’s what it takes.
I don’t read Russian but I’m highly confident that that reads, “Free Candy, Don’t mind the killer clown”
(Photo by Charlie Philips)
One of the first hurdles in getting your dream silo is finding it. The U.S. military technically had to release the exact locations of all nuclear silos in accordance to many nuclear arms treaties, but many of these silos have either been retained by the government as relics of a forgone time or have had their legal rights transferred back to the original landowners, from who they taken via eminent domain.
Since you’re probably not going to easily wrest the land deed from the government, your best bet is to find a private owner and hope they’re willing to sell — and that’s going to be a pricey venture.
Say you found the silo and it’s for sale — it’s likely going for somewhere in the range of 0k and million. Thankfully, those on the higher end have already been remodeled into beautiful homes capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. Congratulations. Your wallet is lighter and the job is done.
For the rest of us who’ll never see that amount of cash in one lifetime, we’ve got some options — but they’ll take work.
Oh. And there’s no natural lighting. Unless you want to just keep the “roof” open at all times.
(Photo by David Berry)
The silos that haven’t been refurbished have endured years of ruin and decay since the Cold War. After nearly thirty years of disrepair, they are more than likely flooded out. Mold and pests have probably made the place inhospitable and the rust has likely semi-permanently sealed some parts off. Expect to spend lots of time bringing the place up to inhabitable standards.
The next hurdle will be rewiring the place to allow for modern electricity and plumbing. Thankfully, housing troops within the silo and launching a nuclear ICBM both required a vast electrical grid. Unfortunately, that grid is underground, so working on it may require tunneling. Additionally, being so far underground also causes plumbing issues that may require equipment outside of the typical. Again, be ready to shell out some serious cash.
Large areas of these silos were used as living spaces by troops who once worked there. These same quarters will likely become your living space. Other areas will be filled with the remnants of old missile equipment, which you’ll probably want to clear out to make space for your personal stuff (unless you’re got super-villain plans).
To see someone take on this journey of converting an old missile silo into an awesome home, check out the following YouTube video from Death Wears Bunny Slippers — which is a highly appropriate name, given that the name belonged to the Air Force nuclear missile combat crews.
The Moscow-based company Kaspersky Lab has acknowledged that its antivirus software took source code for a secret US hacking tool from a personal computer in the United States.
The admission came in an Oct. 25 statement on the preliminary results of an internal inquiry that the company launched after media reported that the Russian government used its antivirus software to collect US National Security Agency technology.
Concerns about Kaspersky’s activities prompted the US Department of Homeland Security last month to bar government agencies from using the company’s products.
Kaspersky said that in 2014, the consumer version of its popular product analyzed questionable software from a computer in the United States — which media reports said belonged to an NSA worker — and found a zip file that was flagged as malicious.
While reviewing the file’s contents, an analyst discovered it contained the source code for a hacking tool.
The statement said that the matter was reported to Kaspersky CEO Yevgeny Kaspersky, who ordered that the company’s copy of the code be destroyed, and that after that “the archive was deleted from all our systems.”
Yevgeny Kaspersky. Wikimedia Commons photo by Kai Mörk.
The statement came after The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 5 that the Russian government was able to modify Kaspersky software to turn it into an espionage tool.
And on Oct. 10, The New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence officials have determined that Russian government hackers have used Kaspersky’s software for espionage.
The Kremlin described the reports indicating that Kaspersky has been used as a conduit for Russian espionage as “absurd.”
In a small area of Northern France, in a town called Seringes-et-Nesles, is a cemetery filled with soldiers who died fighting to keep France from falling to the Kaiser’s Germany during WWI.
The cemetery, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, holds the remains of 6,012 soldiers in plots A-D, some unidentified, as well as a memorial to the almost 300 who went missing and were never found. There are many interesting side stories about this cemetery. Famous poet Joyce Kilmer is buried here. The tombs of the unknown are marked with the same epitaph as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
The most infamous stories, however, lie in plot E.
Officially Plot E does not exist. The 100-by-54 foot oval does not appear on maps, pamphlets, or on any websites. Ninety-six white markers the size of index cards, carrying only a small ID number litter the ground in Plot E, overlooked by a single granite cross. No U.S. flag is allowed to fly over it. The bodies are interred with their backs to the four plots across the street.
Plot E now contains the remains of 94 bodies. Across the street, unmarked, surrounded by thick shrubs and undergrowth, and accessible only through the supervisor’s office, the infamous fifth plot inters the “Dishonorable Dead,” Americans dishonorably discharged by the U.S. Army before being executed for crimes like rape and murder during or shortly after WWII.
With the exception of the infamous deserter Eddie Slovik (who was buried here after becoming the first soldier since the Civil War to be tried and executed for desertion – his remains have since been repatriated), each criminal faced the firing squad or the hangman’s rope for the murder of 26 fellow American soldiers and 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians (both male and female) who were raped or murdered.
British murder victim Elizabeth Green (age 15) was raped and strangled by Corporal Ernest Lee Clarke (Grave 68) and Private Augustine M. Guerra (Grave 44). Louis Till (Grave 73), the father of American Civil Rights Icon Emmett Till, was hanged for his part in the murder of an Italian woman in 1944. Sir Eric Teichman was shot in the head by George E. Smith (Grave 52) in December 1944 after Smith was found poaching on his estate. Smith was hanged on V-E Day.
The Army executed a total of 98 servicemen for these kinds of crimes during WWII. While they were originally buried near the site of their execution, in 1949 they were all reinterred to where they are today.
Two government agencies have teamed up to provide teachers with a unique education in the wake of increased school shootings.
The United States Army and Homeland Security Department are in the midst of creating a virtual reality experience they hope will help train educators on how to react in the event of a school shooting, according to Gizmodo.
Users can take on three roles in the virtual reality experience: teacher, shooter, and officer.
Teachers in the simulation must gather nervous pupils and find shelter. Those playing as the shooter are able to navigate the virtual school and kill at random. Officers in the virtual reality simulation must aim to find and kill the shooter.
The simulation is being developed as part of the $5.6 million Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) initiative, which is an “online training environment for first responders.”
In 2016, the Army and HSD released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train first responders to handle hostile situations.
They’ve created simulations for both fire and police departments regarding school shooting response.
“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE, told Gizmodo.
“So, this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”
To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. This allowed them to incorporate the most gruesome realities into the simulation.
It also helped them zero in on specific survival tactics and best practices for such scenarios, including locking doors, avoiding windows, ordering students to line up against walls, and finding items to use as barricades.
According to Gizmodo, administrators in the simulations can enable different tools, including an intercom system and automated locks.
Griffith told the publication she’s hopeful that using the simulation in varying roles within the school will allow educators to stay calm should such a real-life situation arise.
“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” she said.
“And so we want to give them the chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”
The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring.
The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.
The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Armyuniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.
The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.
“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.
The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.
The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.
The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.
The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.
The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.
Russia is quarantining thousands of troops who had been rehearsing for a large military parade in Moscow that was called off only a few days ago due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
The country had planned to hold its Victory Day parade, on May 9, and as many as 15,000 Russian service members were expected to participate. Even as the coronavirus spread around the world, Russian troops continued to prepare for the big event, a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
“All the members of the rehearsals are burning with desire to participate in this historic event and are training their hearts out,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said in early April, according to The Guardian.
Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called off the parade, explaining that the “risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not passed yet, are extremely high.”
The military personnel that had been rehearsing for the parade “have been ordered to return to home bases in accordance with the decision to postpone the military parade on Red Square,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday, according to Russian state media.
“Upon arrival, all military personnel who took part in rehearsals will be placed in two-week quarantine,” the ministry said, adding that all military vehicles and equipment will be disinfected.
The Victory Day parade rehearsals involved thousands of Russian service members training in close proximity to one another at a training area outside Moscow, Reuters reported, citing television footage of the preparations.
There was reportedly no evidence of social distancing, and no one shown was wearing a mask.
The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?
John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.
Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.
Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.
“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.
The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.
During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.
Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.
John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.
(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)
It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.
John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.
Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.
Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2
What makes an air force good? Is it combat capability? Is it their track record? Much of that can stir up debates and cause one heck of a…disagreement among patrons at any watering hole or establishment.
Then again…life gets boring without such things.
So, here’s a look at the eleven best air forces in the world:
11. Russian Air Force
The Russians have been working on some new planes, but most of their very large force is old. Still, quantity can have a quality all on its own.
Russia also has long-range bombers and some tankers and airborne early warning planes. It’s just they are old, and maintenance levels have fallen off since the Cold War ended.
10. Republic of Korea Air Force
South Korea’s air force has come a long way in the same timeframe as China. F-5s and F-4s have been replaced by F-16s, and they developed the T-50 Golden Eagle, which is a very capable advanced trainer — so much so it has also been turned into a multi-role fighter as well.
9. People’s Liberation Army Air Force (includes People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force)
Twenty years ago, the bulk of China’s planes were copies of the MiG-21 Fishbed. Today, many of the planes are from the “Flanker family,” including home-grown versions like the J-11, J-11B, J-15, and J-16.
China also has the indigenous J-10 and JH-7, while also flying two fifth-generation designs.
8. Indian Air Force (including Indian Navy)
This country has won a few wars, and also has developed some of their own planes in the past and present. The only reason they are behind the Saudis is their reliance on Russian airframes, while the Saudis and Japanese have F-15s.
Having the second-best carrier aviation arm doesn’t hurt.
7. Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (including Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force)
Japan could rank higher, but they have limited themselves due to Article 9 of their post-World War II constitution.
While they are stretching the boundaries, the lack of real ground-attack capabilities is very telling. But they have very good air-to-air, anti-surface ship, and anti-submarine capabilities.
With four “helicopter destroyers” that are really small carriers, Japan could vault up very quickly.
6. Royal Saudi Air Force
In 1990, the Royal Saudi Air Force had nice gear, but there was an open question of how well they could use them. Today, they’ve been upgrading the gear, and they have combat experience. This 1-2 combination is enough to vault them into the top air forces.
5. United States Marine Corps
The Marines really do close-air support well. Not that they haven’t had aces in their history, but the last air-to-air kill a Marine scored was during the Vietnam War.
Then there are the issues with their F/A-18s, and the need to pull airframes from the boneyard.
4. Royal Air Force (including the Fleet Air Arm)
This is a very capable, albeit small, force. The problem is “the Few” are becoming “fewer” — and there have been some uncomfortable gaps, including the early retirement of their Harrier force, which was a poor way to repay the airframe that won the Falklands War.
The fact that the Royal Navy’s new carrier will have to deploy with United States Marines says a lot.
3. Israeli Defense Force
The Israelis have had a good air force — much of it based on need. Yes, the airframes are American designs, but the Israelis have installed their own electronics on the F-15I and F-16I planes that are now the backbone of their military.
Plus, their pilots are very, very good.
1. United States Air Force and United States Navy (tie)
The Air Force and Navy have long been rivals – always trying to one-up each other. But in this case, the two are in a virtual tie. While the United States Air Force has strategic bombers the Navy doesn’t, the Navy, by virtue of its carrier fleet, is much more responsive.
The two services are complimentary and each are very good at what they do.
Whether she’d posted a personal-best time or suffered a collision on the track, Emily Sweeney would flash her trademark smile to fans, media, or anyone who watched her compete. Even when sliding during frigid winter storms in challenging conditions, the New York National Guard Soldier kept smiling.
But for six months during the winter and spring of 2014, that bright-eyed grin couldn’t hide bitter disappointment.
A charismatic Olympic hopeful, Sweeney had entered the 2013 World Cup season as a favorite to make the 2014 Winter Games. When Sweeney lost the final spot on the 2014 U.S. Luge Team, missing the Olympics for the second time, she shut herself off from the sport to which she had dedicated most of her life.
“It’s something that I’ve wanted for so long and it’s something that’s very tangible for me,” said Sweeney, who in December, finally qualified to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
For Sweeney, the road to PyeongChang could be described as anything but easy.
Tough matchup hits close to home
Photos and murals of past Olympians adorn the walls of the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center. Medals of previous Olympic greats in bobsled, figure skating, and luge sit encased in the facility’s trophy room.
Some former Olympic competitors still work at the facility, including former silver medalist Gordy Sheer, Team USA’s director of marketing and sponsorship. Sweeney, like other Olympic hopefuls, spent much of her youth here.
As a seven year old, Emily idolized her older sister, Megan, who competed in the luge program at the junior levels. She later joined the USA Luge program herself, after participating in a “slider search” in Rhode Island at age 10. Her sister remained a hero to her.
“I wouldn’t be here or be the person I am today without her,” Emily said. “I was really pushed by Megan from early on because I saw the potential of what I could be through her and that was really inspiring to me.”
After she turned 16, Sweeney showcased tremendous speed on luge tracks across the globe. And she demonstrated enormous potential in the sport in her first year competing.
During the 2009 World Cup season, Sweeney began competing at a higher level. She built her luge resume by nabbing Norton Junior World Champion honors and earning bronze medals at the Junior World Cup in Winterberg, Germany and a gold medal at Park City, Utah.
And during the 2009 season, Emily began to beat her older sister and some of her national team peers during practice runs and some competitions. During one World Cup competition in Park City, Utah, she called her parents with concerns about competing with her sister and hero.
“She was very upset,” said Sweeney’s mother, Sue. “She was worried that she was going to beat Megan in the race and it would be the end of Megan’s (Olympic bid).”
Dreams of the Olympics, of course, had always been on her sister’s mind, and her own as well.
“I’ve always wanted that moment of walking in on opening ceremonies,” said Sweeney. “That is the epitome of what I want … to walk in with my whole team and have ‘USA’ on our backs.”
Later that year, during the final World Cup competition in Lillehammer, the final two spots for the 2010 Olympic team came down to two competitors. Both wore the name “Sweeney” on their uniforms.
Jarred by the prospect of beating her idol, the sisters made a pact to leave everything on the floor on their next competition.
Emily went on to lose to her sister in a race off at the Olympiacenter in Norway, falling by two tenths of a second. Due to a medical waiver, another team member took the final spot for the 2010 Vancouver team, while Emily remained on stand-by as an Olympic alternate. Emily still traveled to British Columbia to cheer on her sister from the stands.
“Going to the Olympics and watching her was difficult,” Emily said. “I’m glad I went, I’m glad I supported her. I wouldn’t have changed that for the world. But it was tough standing on the other side of the track watching my dream happen.”
After she missed a shot at Vancouver, Emily would make a life decision that would set the foundation for life after luge.
An athlete and a soldier
Jack Sweeney, Emily’s grandfather, had long been an inspiration in Emily’s life. While she would prepare meals for him, he’d relay stories to her about his days in the Navy. Emily said her grandfather instilled in her a sense of pride for her country and also inspired her to join the Army National Guard.
Joining the military sparked a change in Emily. She often took a leadership role during basic combat trainng at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She did the same during her advanced individual training there, where she learned to be a military policeman. She even graduated with honors from the Army’s military police school.
Once in the Army, Emily also opted to join the World Class Athlete Program.
“I thought it was a great avenue of opportunity,” Emily said of her decision to join the Army. “I knew I wanted to continue being an athlete, but I didn’t want to only be an athlete. I wanted something else to pursue beyond my athletic career.”
After joining the Guard, Emily became more of a leader for USA Luge as well, not only competing for the program, but also helping the program identify and recruit talented youth to the sport during talent searches.
Sochi slips away
Around Thanksgiving 2013, Sweeney knew it. Her parents, as they checked at the World Cup standings online also knew: Emily would not be competing at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.
A season that began with promise, instead led to complications with her sled, dealing with minor injuries and slower finish times on the World Cup circuit.
After her final races had finished for 2013, Sweeney sat in her hotel room. Her boyfriend, Italian luge team member Dominik Fischnaller, brought her a cup of her favorite ice cream.
And then for six months, Sweeney walked away from the sport to which she had dedicated a great chunk of her childhood. Instead of weight training and spending hours on the track, Sweeney removed herself from any luge or exercise activities. Instead, she retreated to her home in Lake Placid and contemplated her future in the sport.
“I went from being an Olympic hopeful, training at 100 percent,” Emily said, “to just stopping everything.
“I was really at a point where I said, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point of doing this if I’m not getting the results I’m wanting?’ It took a while, I closed myself off.”
She began working as a waitress and hostess at local restaurants. And while she’d visit her ailing grandfather in neighboring Saranac Lake, she mostly cut herself off from family and dealt with struggles the best way she knew: internally.
“We lost her for a while,” Sue said. “It was tough. She didn’t even watch the (2014 Winter) Games.”
“Emily had to refine her sliding and her motivation,” Megan said. “It took her a long time. But I think that’s normal when you have a dream and become so disappointed … It was very, very tough because she knows she’s good.”
The Army gets her rolling
In May 2014, Emily remained withdrawn from the luge community. It would be just the wakeup call she needed to get back on track with her sport.
She received orders to attend Warrior Leader Course (now the Basic Leader Course) that spring at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During the month-long course, she took tests on her leadership skills, land navigation and various drills to prepare to become a noncommissioned officer .
After giving up her strict luge-related training routine and regular exercising, Emily had lost muscle mass. She’d dropped 20 pounds from her 5-foot-5-inch frame. As a result, for the first time since enlisting in the Guard, she failed to score a 300 on her Army Physical Fitness Test.
“(WLC) kind of pulled me out,” said Sweeney. “It gave me a schedule that I had to adhere to again. I kind of got back into the military mode and then after that I got back into my training.”
Shortly after graduating WLC, Sweeney resumed luge-related activities. She began lifting weights again, and changed her routine, and began working out at JEKL gym in Plainville, Connecticut. There Sweeney took part in grueling gymnastics-based training to strengthen her core muscles using various gymnastics apparatus pieces including rings, the high bar and parallel bars.
“It definitely put me in my place pretty quickly,” Sweeney said.
The old Emily had returned, away from the luge track too. She began reconnecting with friends. She spoke with family members more often.
And that familiar smile came back.
“Everybody always kids her about her smile — she always has a big smile on her face,” said her mother, Sue. “But it’s true — it’s part of who she is. Once you start to see her smile coming back, you know she’s starting to feel much more like herself.”
In December 2015, during World Cup competition on their home track in Lake Placid, Sweeney and teammates Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher swept the field. It marked the first time the U.S. women knocked out the dominant German team.
“We’re more of a force to be reckoned with now,” Sweeney said.
During a fall, Sweeney suffered injury to her wrist that required surgery in 2016, proving to be a minor setback. But she bounced back to stellar marks in 2017.
“The (wrist) injury really didn’t worry me,” USA Luge coach Bill Tavares said. “For her it was all mental. When I knew that she was mentally strong coming into this year then there was no worry on my part.”
Hitting her stride
The 4,242-foot luge course in Winterberg, Germany presents a daunting challenge to competitive lugers. Those who accept its challenge must enter the course’s labyrinth in near-perfect form. In November, Sweeney and her USA teammates traveled to Winterberg to face the mighty German team that built an Olympic juggernaut on this course.
At the track’s midpoint, a turn drops competitors into the labyrinth where sled speeds multiply.
After placing second earlier in the World Cup competition at on this track, mishaps on one of her runs sent Sweeney tumbling out of contention and she thought she missed her chance to clinch an Olympic berth.
But then she bounced back later that day to take her first World Cup gold in the sprint race, upsetting 2014 Olympic champion, Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger, on her home course. Instead, her shot at an Olympic berth would have to wait.
When dealing with the difficult highs and lows of competing against the best in the world, she turned to Grandpa Sweeney. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
“He’s probably a big part of her personality,” Sue said. “He’s always been one of her best friends. And she’s looked to him for advice.”
As Sweeney begins final preparations for the Winter Games, she will do so with a heavy heart. Jack Sweeney passed away at age 88 on Jan. 3. Emily said her grandfather helped keep her grounded and objective while remaining committed to her family and country.
Olympian at last
Sweeney learned that she had reached the pinnacle of her career unceremoniously — not by an announcement on the track, or from posting a career-best time — but in a text.
Dec. 14, after having dinner with her parents and returning to the Lake Placid training facility, Sweeney received a message from her mother, Sue.
“See you in PyeongChang,” the text read.
Sweeney’s mother had been tracking the Nation’s Cup live stream on her phone. The Nation’s Cup was a pre-qualifying event for the World Cup later that week. Had Raychel Germaine qualified for the World Cup, she could have potentially knocked Emily out of Olympic competition. But she didn’t, and the final Olympic women’s luge slot went to Emily.
“It was just a peaceful moment,” Sweeney said, “I was stunned.”
She received congratulations from Fischnaller, her boyfriend of eight years. Then came a flood of 30 messages and well wishes from family, friends and teammates.
“I’m really happy for her,” teammate Summer Britcher said. “I know how hard she works. I’m very happy that she’s met this goal and I’m really excited to compete alongside her in (32) days.”
Sweeney will join 2014 Bronze medalist Hamlin and Britcher on the USA roster in PyeongChang in February. The impact of reaching her dream did not hit her until after finishing World Cup competition in the women’s sprint race Dec. 16, Sue Sweeney said.
A heavy snow blanketed Lake Placid’s Mount Van Hoevenberg Dec. 16, and athletes faced a wind chill so bitter that exposed fingers and toes could feel like frozen blocks of ice. During the women’s sprint race, Sweeney posted an efficient run in these slick conditions, but a mishap at turn seven hurt her final time, eventually knocking her out of sprint qualification. Unfazed, she posted a better time in her second run.
The weight of realizing her Olympic dream began to creep in. Still clad in her helmet and orange and blue leotard, Sweeney waved to her 80 supporters, family and friends. And once more she flashed her wide grin.
“Emily’s missed two Olympic teams very narrowly,” Sheer said. “In 2014 … that was a real tough one for her. It takes a certain type of person to be able to bounce back from something like that and to be able to keep fighting and I give her all the credit in the world.”
Then after 15 minutes of speaking with local and national media members, Sweeney locked arms with her older sister, rosy-cheeked from the stinging wind chill. Standing amid swirling snowflakes, Megan whispered into her younger sister’s ear:
“I’m so proud of you,” Megan said.
Next stop: South Korea
When Emily dons the USA colors at PyeongChang next month, she knows he will be representing more than herself. She will also represent WCAP, the National Guard and the U.S. Army. Sweeney, who currently ranks eighth in the International Luge Federation women’s singles, will join fellow WCAP athletes Matt Mortensen in men’s doubles and singles competitor Taylor Morris.
At 24, the Olympics will wrap Sweeney’s fourteenth year in the sport and she plans to bring home a medal for her team.
“Going to the Olympics isn’t enough for me,” Sweeney said “I want to go to the Olympics and do something. So it’s not over — the work isn’t over.”
A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.
A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.
The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.
Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.
ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.
Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.
In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.
On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.
The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.
Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.