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.
We all know a nuclear blast on land brings devastating effects to the surrounding region. But what if humans detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Following is a transcript of the video.
Imagine if we detonated a nuclear bomb in space? Actually, you don’t have to.
You can see it for yourself. That was Starfish Prime — the highest-altitude nuclear test in history. In 1962, the US government launched a 1.4 megaton bomb from Johnston Island. And detonated it 400 km above the Pacific — about as high as where the International Space Station orbits today.
The detonation generated a giant fireball and created a burst of energy called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, that expanded for over 1,000 kilometers.
EMPs can cause a power surge, damaging electronic equipment in the process. And this one was no different. Across Hawaii, street lights went dark, telephones went down, and navigation and radar systems went out, not to mention the six, or so, satellites that failed.
And all this came from a 1.4 megaton bomb. Tsar Bomba, which was the largest nuclear bomb that has ever been detonated, was 50 megatons.
So what would happen if we detonated that above the United States?
For starters, there’s no atmosphere in space. So, there would be no mushroom-shaped cloud and no subsequent blast wave or mass destruction. Instead, you’d get a blinding fireball 4 times the size of Starfish Prime’s. And if you looked directly at it within the first 10 seconds, you could permanently damage your eyes.
Satellites wouldn’t be safe either. Radiation from the explosion would fry the circuits of hundreds of instruments in low-earth orbit. Including communication satellites, military spy satellites, and even science telescopes like the Hubble.
Plus, astronauts on board the International Space Station might be at risk of radiation poisoning.
On the ground, however, you’d probably be fine. The detonation point would be far enough away that the high-energy radiation wouldn’t reach you.
But don’t get too comfortable. Remember Starfish Prime’s EMP? This time, the EMP would cover ⅓ of the entire United States, bringing down regional power grids and electronics like a lightning strike.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The radiation would also interact with oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere and create a spectacular aurora near the detonation site, that would last for days.
Now, let’s be clear. This will probably never happen. Super-thermonuclear devices like the Tsar Bomba no longer exist. And even if they did, the Tsar Bomba weighed around 27,000 kilograms. There are only a couple of operational rockets in the world that could manage to lift something that heavy into space in the first place.
So we’re probably safe from that, anyway. This video was made in large part thanks to the calculations from physicists at Los Alamos National Lab.
On the heels of a widely praised 2015 decision to issue the more maneuverable M4 carbine in lieu of the M16A4 to Marines in infantry battalions, the Marine Corps may be on the cusp of another major weapons decision.
The Marine Corps’ experimental battalion, the California-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, has been conducting pre-deployment exercises with the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to evaluate it as the new service rifle for infantry battalions, the commander of 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue told Military.com Thursday.
The battalion is set to deploy aboard the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this spring. As part of its workup and deployment, it has been charged with testing and evaluating a host of technologies and concepts ranging from teaming operations with unmanned systems and robotics to experiments with differently sized squads.
“When they take the IAR and they’re training out there with all the ranges we do with the M4, they’re going to look at the tactics of it. They’ll look at the firepower, and they’ll do every bit of training, and then they’ll deploy with that weapon, and we’ll take the feedback to the Marine Corps to judge,” O’Donohue said.
Marines in 3/5 used the IAR as their service rifle during the 28-day Integrated Training Exercise held this month at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, California. The exercise, also known as ITX, is the largest pre-deployment workup for deploying battalions, and typically one of the last exercises they’ll complete. O’Donohue said the ubiquity of ITX would give evaluators ample data as they contrasted results with the different weapons.
“All you have to do is compare this battalion to the other battalions going through ITX,” he said.
The M4 carbine and the M27 IAR handle very similarly as they share a number of features. However, the M27 has a slightly longer effective range — 550 meters compared to the M4’s 500 — and elements that allow for more accurate targeting. It has a free-floating barrel, which keeps the barrel out of contact with the stock and minimizes the effect of vibration on bullet trajectory. It also has a proprietary gas piston system that makes the weapon more reliable and reduces wear and tear.
And the the IAR can fire in fully automatic mode, while the standard M4 has single shot, semi-automatic and three-round burst options.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with a single IAR, carried by the team’s automatic rifleman.
“I think the fundamental is the accuracy of the weapon, the idea that you’re going to use it for suppressive fires. And at first contact you have the overwhelming superiority of fire from which all the tactics evolve,” O’Donohue said. “So it starts with the fire team and the squad, if you give them a better weapon with better fire superiority, you’ll just put that vicious harmony of violence on the enemy.”
But officials do see some potential drawbacks to equipping every infantry Marine with the weapon.
“One of the things we’re looking at is the rate of fire,” O’Donohue said. “You can burn off too much ammo, potentially, with the IAR. We have a selector, a regulator [showing] how many rounds the Marines shoot. So that’s one area we’re examining with experimentation.”
Another variable is cost.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the gunner, or infantry weapons officer, for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com the M27 costs about $3,000 apiece, without the sight. Because the Marine Corps is still grappling with budget cutbacks, he said he was skeptical that the service could find enough in the budget to equip all battalions with the weapons. He said a smaller rollout might be more feasible.
“To give everyone in a Marine rifle squad [the IAR], that might be worth it,” he said.
O’Donohue said feedback would be collected on an ongoing basis from the Marines in 3/5 as they continued workup exercises and deployed next year. Decisions on whether to field a new service weapon or reorganize the rifle squad would be made by the commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, when he felt he had collected enough information, O’Donohue said.
If the Marine Corps can sort out the logistics of fielding, Wade said he would welcome the change.
“It is the best infantry rifle in the world, hands down,” Wade said of the IAR. “Better than anything Russia has, it’s better than anything we have, it’s better than anything China has. It’s world-class.”
But while the markets may have seen violent swings in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave, the longer-term political ramifications of a Brexit are interesting to consider, too.
Earlier in the day, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer tweeted that the Brexit is “the most significant political risk the world has experienced since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
When asked to explain what he meant by that comparison, Bremmer told Business Insider in an email: “Yes it’s a significant shock for the near term. But it’s the tipping point it reflects longer term that really matters. Much, much more G-Zero.”
The term “G-Zero world,” coined by Bremmer and political scientist David F. Gordon, refers to a power-vacuum world in which “major powers set aside aspirations for global leadership – alone, coordinated, or otherwise – and look primarily inward for their policy priorities.”
In this kind of environment, global governance institutions become confrontational hotspots, and, as a result, economic growth and efficiency slows.
As for the Brexit, it has “enormous long-term and structural impact” and “critically undermines the Transatlantic Alliance – the most important alliance in the postwar era,” Bremmer said.
It “sharply weakens and probably leads to eventual disintegration of the UK” and “also ends further EU integration,” he said, “while the Brits need to be maximally punished by EU countries to ensure there isn’t a path for further exit.”
For what it’s worth, Bremmer isn’t the only one who warned of long-term political ramifications of a Brexit, including less EU integration going forward.
Ahead of the Brexit vote, a Citi Global Economics research team led by Ebrahim Rahbari, Willem Buiter, and Tina M. Fordham expressed similar sentiments in a note:
“We are very skeptical that the Eurozone and EU would respond to Brexit with attempts to deepen integration in the near-term. … Opposition to further European integration is fairly widespread across EU countries, both north and south and both debtor and creditor countries. We would therefore mostly expect a ‘freeze’ in terms of integration even though some areas may well see further headway (e.g. for existing initiatives in various areas, including banking union, capital markets union or energy union or some movement towards a Eurozone chamber in the European Parliament).”
Similarly, earlier in the week, a Deutsche Bank research team argued that in light of upcoming European elections and ongoing large-scale economic and political challenges like the migrant crisis, Europe is unlikely to see deeper coordination:
“Beyond the immediate risk events of the Brexit referendum and Spain election, geopolitical agenda remains in focus. This backdrop makes policy progress very unlikely as domestic politics drive the agenda [leading to] limited room for country-level structural reform [and] little progress toward EU or eurozone reform or integration.”
The team added that “policy uncertainty is and will remain high,” and noted that policy uncertainty in Europe is now around 2011-12 levels comparable to those during the height of the eurozone crisis.
How do you keep a country hermetically sealed off from the news in a world where the internet exists?
That’s the fundamental challenge for North Korea, the hermit kingdom whose citizens have been kept in the dark both literally and figuratively. The internet, smartphones, laptops, TV, film, radio exist, but not as most people would be familiar with them. Radio and TV sets are configured so North Koreans can’t tune into anything other than the domestic broadcasts, and the internet isn’t widely accessible to the population.
But it’s increasingly hard for North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, to control the stream of illicit microSD cards and SIM cards flowing over the border from China, which contain illegal foreign media or allow people to access the internet unfettered.
A new report by journalist and North Korea tech expert Martyn Williams for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) sheds new light on the ways Kim and his regime use technology to continue keeping the population in the dark — from signal jamming radios to modifying Android to spy on people.
1. North Korea tightly controls the internet
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from the internet, as evidenced by the numerous hacks thought to be perpetrated by state hackers operating inside the country.
Man using smartphone in Pyongyang, North Korea.
But it is tightly controlled at the network level and historically hasn’t really been open to the general population. That is changing, with more citizens buying smartphones.
As Martyn Williams notes in his report: “The entire infrastructure is State-run and the security services are heavily integrated in the running of the telecommunications network.”
Everything is monitored by a state agency called Bureau 27, or the Transmission Surveillance Bureau.
2. North Korea imports cheap Chinese Android phones, then modifies the software to spy on people
North Korea isn’t totally cut off from everyday innovations like mobile data or smartphones. Citizens can buy smartphones that were manufactured in China, but are distributed under a North Korean brand name. The phones look a lot like the cheap Android phones you could buy in any shop — but these come pre-loaded with spyware and software tailored by the state.
Alternatively, citizens can buy their own unlocked devices smuggled across the Chinese border, but they face being tracked via North Korea’s mobile network.
It’s the same on PCs, with North Korea producing a Linux-based operating system called “Red Star” that can snoop on user activity.
3. The spyware can monitor what sites people are looking at
According to Williams, North Korean phones run on Android, the open source mobile software. Engineers have modified the software to include a background program called “Red Flag”, which spies on everything a user does and takes screenshots at random intervals to capture their activity. Those screenshots are recorded on a database called “Trace Viewer.”
Although North Korea probably doesn’t have the resources to check everyone’s screenshots, Williams noted that it’s a great mechanism to get people to self-censor out of pure fear.
4. If you open a foreign media file on a North Korean device, the regime will know about it
According to the report, North Korean engineers created file watermarking software that essentially tags and monitors any media file that’s opened on a device, whether that’s a PC or mobile.
Anyone watching a foreign film on their device would have that file tagged and tracked. The tag can track every device on which the file is viewed — so if one person in particular is distributing lots of foreign media with fellow citizens, the regime would probably find out.
5. The state operates a ‘split’ mobile network, where North Koreans can’t phone anyone outside the country
North Korea does have a telecommunications system, and the current version is a joint venture with an Egyptian firm called Orascom.
The network is split into two halves, according to Williams’ report, meaning both North Korean tourists and foreign citizens can make calls and send texts inside the country — but neither can communicate with the other.
Described as a “firewall”, Williams writes that this is set at the account level. He adds that domestic citizens have phone numbers prefixed with 191-260, while phones for foreigners have numbers that begin with 191-250.
Tourist SIM cards have found their way back into the country — so North Korea has begun deactivating them so there’s no risk citizens can get hold of SIM cards that let them access the broader internet or foreign calls.
6. It’s probably a death sentence for watching porn
Williams spoke to a number of North Korean defectors, people who fled the regime into China, Japan, or South Korea.
They reported that the regime will put people to death for watching foreign content, especially for anything as illicit as porn, or anything criticizing the Kim family.
“Watching pornography is strongly restricted. I’ve heard you can get executed for watching pornography,” according to one escapee.
An Amnesty International report also found that a man who watched porn with his wife and another woman was executed, with the entire city summoned to watch his death.
But porn smuggled in on discs remains highly valuable, costing as much as 0
Unsurprisingly, few escapees are willing to talk about their porn habits.
But citing a source who knows about illegal smuggling between North Korea and China, Williams states that SD cards containing porn can fetch up to 0. That price reflects both the high demand and the extreme risk of smuggling the material across.
7. All radios sold in North Korea are fixed to government frequencies
North Koreans buying a radio through official channels will find the device locked only onto government-approved frequencies. Listening to foreign radio, or watching foreign TV, is illegal and the government regularly carries out raids to make sure people aren’t consuming anything subversive. (Lots of North Koreans have a second radio or TV which can receive foreign broadcasts and which they keep hidden, and show their “official” device to any inspectors.)
(Photo by Rob Sarmiento)
According to Williams, North Korea jams foreign radio signals. This, he writes, involves “transmitting loud noise” on the same frequencies to overpower the broadcast. In particular, North Korea focuses on jamming two stations run by South Korea’s intelligence service, called Voice of the People and Echo of Hope.
8. The state distracts people with homegrown mobile games
In a cloistered world where entertainment is low-quality or scarce, food is hard to come by, and the work repetitive and unfulfilling, it’s little wonder that foreign films and international TV holds some allure to North Korean citizens.
The state has, according to Williams’ report, come up with a softball distraction method: offer homegrown smartphone games.
The report claims there are up to 125 mobile games available to play on North Korean mobile devices, such as “Volleyball 2016” and another title called “Future Cities.” The BBC in September reported that North Korea had created a Ronaldo-focused mobile game that was becoming popular.
The idea is this: if citizens spend their leisure time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they’re not spending their cash on illegally smuggled media.
9. Open WiFi networks are banned
North Korea has gone to extreme lengths to make sure its citizens can’t casually access the foreign internet (or any internet).
For a time, according to Williams’ report, foreign embassies in capital city Pyongyang ran open WiFi networks. Enterprising citizens with smartphones lingered nearby to browse the internet without being caught — until the state cottoned on and banned open networks.
Eventually, North Korea introduced its own public Mirae (Korean for “future”) public network. It requires an app to use and, according to state media, only offers people access to North Korea’s intranet and not the global internet.
10. Shifting to tightly controlled streaming TV tech
North Korea doesn’t have Netflix but, like much of the rest of the world, it is shifting to streaming TV.
According to Williams’ report, there are two homegrown IPTV services, but the more popular one is called Manbang. Just like phones, the set-top box is built cheaply in China, imported, then reskinned as a domestically branded device.
People who own a Manbang device can stream a huge amount of state output, but can’t tune into to foreign services. For now, people can also tune into traditional, over-the-air broadcasts (including foreign ones, if they have a hidden TV set). But, Williams concludes, North Korea could ban traditional broadcasts altogether and only put out content through IPTV.
This would make it even tougher for North Koreans to access foreign broadcasts.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There is no gift more uniquely Afghan than something made of the mineral lapis lazuli. Since the dawn of human civilization, nowhere was the powerful blue rock more plentiful than in this now-war-torn country. The history of using this stone in jewelry dates back to the days of the Pharaohs of the Nile River Valley, but its time as a mineral dates back much further, to the Archean Eon — before life on Earth.
Now, you can wear a small piece of it while helping the women of Afghanistan put their lives back together. Combat Flip-Flops, the clothing company founded by two Army Rangers with a mission of using business entrepreneurship and women’s education to end the cycle of conflict in the Afghanistan, has a new product: a bracelet made from lapis lazuli. Each is handmade in Afghanistan using stones from the Sar-i Sang Mines — the same mine whose ores have decorated ancient kings and queens across the known world.
Lapis lazuli has a rich history and you can own a piece of it. We’re working with Combat Flip-Flops to give our readers 20-percent off their purchase when using the coupon code at the end of this article.
Lapis lazuli dates back some 2.7 billion years — that’s more than half of the Earth’s total age. It wasn’t until well after its formation that the first stirrings of single-celled organisms began to appear on Earth. Humans didn’t appear as we know them until five to seven million years ago.
This stone is, truly, timeless.
The raw lapis lazuli gives the mask its deep blues.
(Egyptian Musum in Cairo)
Humans in what we today call Afghanistan first began mining and using lapis lazuli around the 7th millennium BC, the same time agriculture began to spring from Mesopotamia. The beauty of the deep blue stones has been found at numerous ancient sites, from the Indus Valley in modern-day India to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Georgia, and Armenia. Afghan lapis lazuli was even found on the West Coast of Africa. Queen Cleopatra is said to have used it as eyeshadow and the mineral adorns King Tutankhamun’s burial mask.
In the middle ages, lapis lazuli was imported through the Silk Road, crushed, and turned into the deepest blue hues of paint available anywhere on earth: the ultra-expensive, ultramarine color. Artists like Michelangelo, Titian, and Vermeer all used the color in their most famous works.
The skies depicted on the Sistine Chapel are all painted with ultramarine, from lapis lazuli of Afghanistan.
For 6,000 years Afghans have mined the Sar-i Sang for lapis lazuli. The deeply blue-hued mineral can be found on everything from Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, to Fabergé Eggs on display in St. Petersburg.
Now, it can adorn your wrist or the wrist of someone you love. Besides having a rich history laced with historical beauty, purchasing one of the lapis lazuri bracelets from Combat Flip-Flops will fund one day of school for a young Afghan girl, employ an Afghan war widow, and support the relatives of fallen American troops..
Sold in conjunction with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, America’s premiere nonprofit dedicated to the families of America’s fallen fighting men and women), this lapis lazuli bracelet is made in Afghanistan, shipped to the U.S., and prepared for you by members of a Gold Star Family.
If you’ve never heard of Combat Flip-Flops before now, check out this vet-owned business. They’re doing some amazing things at home and abroad.
Much of NATO’s hope to remain a relevant fighting force in the coming decades has been pinned on the introduction of the F-35, but a simple look at the numbers shows that one airframe alone won’t turn the tide against Russia.
“If we think we’re going to wait for the next generation to sort the problems out, I can categorically tell you we will fail when next major conflict occurs.” Simon Rochelle, the Royal Air Force’s air vice-marshal, told the Royal United Service Institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference on March 20, 2019.
“In 2030, 80% of the European NATO forces — should one of those situations occur, God forbid — will be gen 4 fighters. You can’t walk away from that,” he continued, referring to pre-stealth jets as belonging to a fourth generation of fighters.
While Rochelle sounded confident in the F-35’s ability to meet current and future threats, he stressed that NATO wouldn’t hit critical mass in its fifth-generation fleets in time for the next big conflict.
But instead of demanding a deeper well of F-35s, Rochelle said the only practical way was to spread the benefits of the F-35 horizontally, to other airframes.
“I need the F-35’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) information off boarded,” he said. “We have F-35s and Typhoons, and I have to use those symbiotically. I can’t afford poor interoperability.”
Too little, too late
While the UK has its own fifth-gen fighter planned, the Tempest, Rochelle said the slow pace of fielding the fighters slightly defeated the purpose.
“If both those airframes take 10 years to mature to the next level, they won’t fit the purpose,” he said.
In the meantime, Russia has come up with a slew of new, low-cost, and potentially potent weapons systems meant to down NATO jets.
“The threats, in terms of how it is progressing, [are] significant,” Rochelle said of Russian systems such as the S-400, which has begun to proliferate across the globe with China, Syria, and even the NATO member Turkey looking to buy.
“Those systems are so complex and so capable that a price point for those systems of defense is far cheaper than the long running programs we have in the aircraft to development,” Rochelle said. “We can’t afford not to respond at pace, because our adversaries are responding at pace.”
An S-400 can spot even stealth aircraft such as the F-35 and, using a relatively cheap missile, down a jet that costs many hundred times its own value.
Additionally, Russia may have the even more advanced S-500 system online by the time fifth-generation fighter aircraft hit the front lines en masse.
“They are formidable beasts,” Rochelle said of Russia’s new systems, which include directed energy weapons.
At the Rapid Capabilities Office in the Royal Air Force, Rochelle’s job is to innovate new solutions to these mounting problems and get them done fast.
Rochelle discussed cutting down extensive, sometimes grueling testing requirements for non-mission critical components of fighter aircraft. He also explained how his office was able to get Tornado jets fighting ISIS in 191 days.
When it came to fitting the F-35 into the bigger NATO fight against Russia, Rochelle was full of ideas.
“I want to be able to connect a Rivet Joint, through space, into the cockpit … We need to be thinking in those dimensions,” he said, referencing the US and UK’s standard airborne signals-intelligence plane that can help spot anti-air batteries like Russia’s S-400.
“Ideally, I’d like to reprogram the F-35 in flight” with new information, potentially including things spotted by Rivet Joints and other legacy aircraft.
Essentially, Rochelle knows that Europe won’t have B-21s, F-22s, and F-35s of its own on day one of a conflict with Russia, and has launched a series of programs to make his Typhoons fight harder with the benefit of targeting and threat data pulled from F-35s.
In effect, he’s gunning for a much cheaper, lighter air force that takes the cutting edge of the F-35 and spreads it out across the entire mass of NATO’s jet fighter fleet.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Decades ago, a father took his two young sons to the aviation museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Although the father might have known it would be a great vacation for his family, he had no way of knowing the impact the trip would have on his sons’ future decision to join the Air Force.
“I remember that one of the airplanes we stopped at, our dad was like, ‘look it’s a Hercules,'” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic here. “We were like that’s really cool and they let us in and we climbed around in it. I just remember it being so big! And then, lo and behold, later I’m an engine guy that works on them. We’ve always been around aircraft and drawn to it.”
Jeremy’s older brother, Joel Putnam, is a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. The Putnam brothers come from a family legacy of military aviators.
“Our dad was in the U.S. Army air cavalry and he worked on airplanes,” said Jeremy. “That was a big inspiration for both of us to work on airplanes. We come from a long line of military aviators. Our grandfather on our dad’s side was in the Air Force. On our mom’s side, our grandfather was a helicopter crew chief in the Marines and then Army.”
The brothers’ camaraderie growing up continued into their adult lives as they worked in the military. Joel and Jeremy deployed to Qatar and recently participated in Exercise Swift Response together. Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise featuring high-readiness airborne forces from nine nations.
The brothers spoke about their unique experience of partnering with each other in real world scenarios of exercises and missions.
Tech. Sgt. Joel Putnam, a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and his brother, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, pose for a photo in front of a C-130H3 Hercules at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Clayvon)
“We were doing some reconfigurations for the Swift Response exercise, changing from one layout in the cargo department to another,” said Joel. “We were setting up seats for the Army paratroopers to jump out, and I look up and Jeremy is there helping me — tag teaming.”
“Yeah, I didn’t have anything engine related, so I jumped on the airplane to help him set up for the configuration,” Jeremy added.
Joel highlighted that between the two brothers they can take care of a whole plane. “We can go on TDY together and he can do the engine work and I can do the crew chief stuff,” said Joel.
“We can run the plane, we can get it serviced up, gassed and go, or handle any major issues,” added Jeremy.
Joel spoke about completing inspections at Dobbins ARB. When a plane comes in and is jacked up, as Jeremy works on the motor, Joel will be over in the flaps.
Jeremy works as an Air Reserve technician full time at Dobbins ARB. Joel serves as a traditional reservist, frequently working on orders at Dobbins ARB.
The bond between the brothers carries into their civilian life as well. The airmen live as roommates and even produce electronic music and disc jockey together. But their favorite experience is working together in the military.
“Going out and doing real world missions together is really cool,” Jeremy said. “When we grew up playing in the backyard together trying to accomplish something, or helping dad work on the cars, it was together, and now being on a much bigger scale, in a bigger family in the Air Force, still being and working together towards the mission is awesome.”
Six of the leading veterans organizations are joining forces, forming a coalition to combat COVID-19. Team Rubicon is at the helm.
The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV) includes Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues and Wounded Warrior Project. All are united in the commitment to aid local and state officials in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to American citizens across the country.
Navy veteran and Team Rubicon President and Chief Operating Officer Art delaCruz is deeply familiar with tackling disasters and challenges, something many veterans have experience in. It’s for this reason that delaCruz believes veterans are uniquely positioned to make a tangible difference in fighting the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and winning.
Team Rubicon has been in the fight against Coronavirus since March 2020 and the VCV is what delaCruz feels is the next vital mission. “In 2019 we ran 119 operations and we ran close to 380 last year,” delaCruz shared. In 2020 TR was on the ground distributing personal protective equipment, administering COVID-19 tests, handing hurricane disaster relief and supporting neighbors in need. “Even with 140,000 volunteers we began to stretch our capacity,” he said.
“We were staring at this national problem where we knew that 350 million or so citizens needed to be vaccinated. We knew that the people who were really on the front-line, the true warriors, these nurses and doctors had been at it for 10 months and we thought ‘how can we help?’” delaCruz explained.
In November 2020, hope was on the horizon. Vaccines were receiving their emergency approvals after successful trials, and, “This,” delaCruz said, “was the answer.” One of the Special Forces doctors in a TR strategy meeting said, “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives,” delaCruz shared. It was this striking realization that led TR to forming the VCV.
With over 18 million veterans throughout the country, TR knew they needed support to activate them all. So, they brought the big guns. “We made a decision to see if we could collect everyone together and get them aligned around this mission. Come late December we started this scaffolding and framework. We had our first meeting on December 17… and we launched,” delaCruz said.
On December 15, TR was in the Navajo Nation giving their first vaccination. “They were the most devastated community in the country. Their hospitals only staffed at 5% of normal,” delaCruz shared. Soon, they received a call from Chicago’s Emergency Management team, requesting their help. “By December 28, our volunteers were training with the city personnel and they are now at seven distribution points of Chicago… and that’s just the start.”
By providing resources of a million-strong veteran coalition, the VCV will assist in ensuring access to vaccinations. When President Biden announced his COVID-19 national strategy for response, five of his pillars were identical to what VCV had identified for their mission. Addressing trust, opportunity and equity were among the most important, according to delaCruz.
“A man or woman who’s been off to combat or served, they have legitimacy and a voice. Now we are using that voice to build trust. Military veterans also come from every culture and community across the country so it’s probably the most diverse organization in the US, so who better to bring the message that vaccination is something the nation should do to move forward,” delaCruz said.
It is the hope of TR and the VCV that the country will come together to unite in this fight. DelaCruz explained that it’s not unlike the victory gardens or rationing for the needs of the military during World War II. This is a new, pivotal moment where that same urgency and sacrifice is needed.
The VCV is not only battling the virus, they are attacking false and misleading information. “It’s combat against misinformation … It’s about demonstrating leadership upfront that we believe in science and vaccinations, which are important to get the nation back on its feet ,” delaCruz stated.
To help with tackling misinformation, VCV is being supported by the global advertising technology company Amobee and AdTechCares, which has over 50 partners. These organizations are committed to developing ongoing Public Service Announcement campaigns to ensure credible information is distributed about vaccine efficacy.
“Vaccinations may be an individual act but that individual act has tremendous, tremendous societal value. Just like the collective self-sacrifice in World War II, this act of vaccinations or supporting vaccinations in any way possible, it touches everyone,” delaCruz said. “Americans have traditionally risen to the occasion during the hardest of times … we have an opportunity here to make it happen again.”
Team Rubicon and the VCV is imploring veterans to put on a new uniform and continue to serve this new and vital mission. It may be one of the most important fights to date.
When you’re on deployment in the middle of nowhere, calling friends and family can be challenging. The satellite phones might be down for various reasons — or since you’re probably in different time zones — the person you’re trying to reach has been in bed for hours.
Get used to it because you have six more months until you rotate home.
As more and more people use social media these days versus talking on the phone, new problems will surface for our deployment service members — all because of freakin’ social media.
The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.
The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn’t exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.
It’s unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren’t usually available as many drones don’t come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company’s servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.
As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.
While the alert didn’t single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.
In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.
DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS’s reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don’t transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.
DJI’s full statement is below:
At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.
Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.
China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.
Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.
Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.
The men were calling in bomb after bomb — pinpointing al Qaeda positions in the hills and ridges of Tora Bora, miles from support and operating on their own for days.
In the end, the special operators from the Army’s elite Delta Force did all they could in the face of intense danger, feckless allies and brutal conditions to kill America’s public enemy number one. But to no avail.
The man who led those elite teams of Delta Force soldiers in the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan later wrote a book under the pen name Dalton Fury. Titled “Kill bin Laden: A Delta Commander’s Account of the Hunt for the World’s Most Wanted Man” it told in granular detail the risks this highly trained counterterrorism unit took to infiltrate the jagged mountains where Osama bin Laden was believed to be hiding and stitch together an ever-fraying patchwork of Afghan allies to help block his escape.
“We went into a hellish land that was considered impregnable and controlled by al Qaeda leaders who had helped defeat the Soviet Union,” Fury wrote. “We killed them by the dozen. Many more surrendered. … And we heard the demoralized — bin Laden speak on the radio, pleading for women and children to fight for him.”
“Then he abandoned them all and ran from the battlefield,” Fury added with some satisfaction. “Yes. He ran away.”
Fury was savaged by many in his former Delta and Special Forces community when the 2008 book was released, with many arguing he’d broken a code of silence on the secretive unit’s operations. His former colleagues outed his real name, Maj. Tom Greer, but he kept using Dalton Fury as his nomme de plume for a later series of popular fiction books about door kickers and contractors who hunted the world’s worst.
With the passage of time, the special ops community has settled down and Fury became Greer again. But despite his success in the world of fiction and his survival of many dangerous missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, among others, Greer is now fighting a battle he may not win.
According to friends and other sources, Greer recently has been diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer. His supporters have established a Facebook page in hopes of helping his family in their time of need.
Greer is a true warrior and decorated combat veteran of the world’s most deadly counterterrorism unit, doubtless he’ll fight this battle with the same grit and tenacity he did against America’s most dangerous enemies.