Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes - We Are The Mighty
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Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Over this past weekend, Iran reportedly threatened two U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft operating in international waters. The P-8A Poseidon and the EP-3E Aries II operating in the Persian Gulf received the threatening radio messages but proceeded with their mission.


Iran could very well have the means to shoot down U.S. spy planes. Iran has the SA-10 “Grumble” (also known as the S-300) missile system from Russia and also has developed a home-brew version of the air defense missile called the Bavar 373. Iran has a number of other surface-to-air missiles in service as well as fighters like the MiG-29 and F-4 Phantom.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
A P-8A Poseidon assigned to the Bureau of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 replicates the characteristics of an MK-54 torpedo. (U.S. Navy photo by Greg L. Davis/Released)

The P-8A Poseidon is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 airliner, slated to replace the legendary P-3 Orion. The P-8 can carry torpedoes, anti-ship missiles, and even AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense, and it has a range of 4,500 nautical miles. The plane has been ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force.

The EP-3E Aries II is a modified version of the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft that specializes in electronic intelligence, or ELINT. The plane has a range of 3,000 miles. This was the aircraft that was involved in a 2001 incident off Hainan Island that killed the pilot of a Chinese J-8 Finback after a mid-air collision.

The threats come after a series of incidents between Iranian and American naval vessels. Notable incidents included harassment of the Aegis destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) and an incident where the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at Iranian Boghammers. American surveillance aircraft have also faced harassment from Russian and Chinese forces in recent years, including incidents where aircraft have come within ten feet of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and RC-135 surveillance planes.

In 1988, tensions between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf region led to a series of clashes, including Operation Praying Mantis in April after the frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) was mined. During a day of heated clashes, American forces sank a frigate and missile boat and destroyed or damaged other Iranian maritime assets, in exchange for one AH-1 Cobra helicopter. Later that year, an Airbus was shot down during a clash between the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Vincennes and Iranian Boghammers.

The current state of tensions between Iran and the United States raises the specter of another round of clashes. How would an Operation Praying Mantis II go down? It could very well start with a shoot-out between Revolutionary Guard speedboats and a U.S. Navy vessel. After that, we could very well see a sharp series of naval and air clashes, combined with cruise missile strikes on Iranian bases.

If Iran were to launch missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict breaking out (Saddam Hussein tried that gambit in 1991), the entire Middle East could be on the precipice of a conflagration.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US State Dept. in Europe to discuss ‘Iran-backed terrorism’

The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe.

The State Department announced Ambassador Nathan Sales’ trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in a Jan. 29, 2019 statement, saying that Iran “remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”


“In recent years the regime has directed or backed terrorist plotting in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Albania, and elsewhere,” it added.

In January 2019, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting — or carrying out — attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Nathan A. Sales prepares to sign his appointment papers to become Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29, 2017.

(State Department Photo)

Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.

The Dutch government in 2019 accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.

In October 2018, Denmark accused Iran’s authorities of planning to carry out attacks on its soil on Iranian exiles belonging to an Iranian opposition group, while France blamed Tehran for a foiled bombing attack that targeted a rally organized by another banned group near Paris in June 2018.

And in December 2018, non-EU member Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador to Tirana and another diplomat, saying they were suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”

Precise reasons for the move were not given, but U.S. officials said it sent a clear message that conducting “terrorist operations in Europe” was unacceptable.

The alleged plots in Europe have strained relations between Tehran and the European Union, which has been working to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. State Department said that Sales’ talks with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian officials will also touch upon the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled from Europe and other parts of the world to fight alongside the extremist group Islamic State in countries such as Syria and Iraq.

“The United States is urging its partners to repatriate their citizens and prosecute them for the crimes they have committed,” the statement said.

It said that a 2017 UN Security Council resolution requires states to combat terrorist travel, using tools including terrorist watch lists and airline reservation data.

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

Articles

Help catch this hoaxer who generated 28 false alarms for the Coast Guard

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
(Photo montage by Tracy Woodward)


The Coast Guard is the smallest of America’s armed forces, with about 42,000 active-duty personnel. Their task is to secure America’s maritime borders, about 12,380 miles in length – about six times that of the U.S.-Mexico border that has become a hot issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Coast Guard doesn’t just provide border security, it also is the primary maritime search-and-rescue organization of the United States government.

It’s a huge task, and the Coast Guard can be stretched very thin while carrying it out. Matters aren’t helped when you have some joker making false alarms, and the Coasties have been dealing with a bad one in the vicinity of Annapolis, Maryland. Over the last two years, the Coast Guard has responded to 28 false alarms – costing the service over $500,000 – from the same person.

The money is not the big issue. $500,000 from July 2014 to the present is a drop in the bucket given the Coast Guard’s budgets from 2014-2016 were just over $30 billion. The real issue centers around that fact that every mission launched means that Coast Guardsmen are risking their lives. That includes rescues, medevac missions from ships at sea, drug interdiction, enforcing safety regulations, training to keep skills honed, and of course, responding to false alarms. In the last ten years, two HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a HH-60 helicopter, and a HC-130 Hercules have been lost during operations, with 18 of the 19 Coast Guardsmen on board being killed.

Lieutenant Commander Sara Wallace said in a Coast Guard release on this hoax caller, “Calls like these not only put our crews at risk, but they put the lives of the public at risk.  Our efforts to respond to what may be a hoax can delay us from getting on scene to a real emergency.” There is a reason that the Coast Guard’s unofficial motto is “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”

Penalties for calling in a false alarm include up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for expenses incurred by the false alarm. Those penalties would apply for each count the hoaxer is convicted on.

Anyone with information on the hoaxer is asked to contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service via e-mail at CGIS-Baltimore@uscg.mil or the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR Command Center via phone at (410) 576-2525.

Articles

This Green Beret survived an ambush after being shot three times

A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.


This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.

Also read: This Marine sniper threw the enemy’s grenade back to save his brothers

“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.

This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Dillon Behr

Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.

While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.

Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.

Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.

He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.

Insurgent Attack

“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Dillon Behr

During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.

“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.

At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.

“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.

This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.

Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.

As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.

“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.

US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.

When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.

“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.

The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind.  Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.

Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.

“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.

Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.

In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.

“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.

Life After Near-Death in Combat

Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.

When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them.  Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”

These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.

In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.

Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.

“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.

Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran gets VA health care at home

It used to be difficult for Marine Veteran Kenneth Schmitt to load his wheelchair into his car and drive to the nearest VA facility. He no longer drives, and now receives VA medical care through the VA home based primary care program.


Angela Gard, assistant nurse manager of community-based care at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, said home based primary care allows Veterans to stay in familiar and comfortable surroundings, remain functional and maintain quality of life.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Marine veteran Kenneth Schmitt and RN Farrah Mosely during a home based primary care visit in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Veterans Affairs

A nursing home alternative

“We try to keep people in their houses longer instead of going to a nursing home,” she said. “They’ve lived there forever. It’s not very often that they want to move.”

Schmitt, who lives in rural Wisconsin, receives his primary care at home through the Union Grove VA Clinic. The clinic, located about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, serves about 3,500 Veterans a year as they face the challenges of disability, aging and chronic disease.

“It works really well for Mr. Schmitt, who lives out in the country,” said Farrah Mosley, a registered nurse based at the Union Grove clinic.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

Mosley does home based primary care from the Union Grove VA clinic.

Veterans Affairs

“For example, Mr. Schmitt is a diabetic,” Mosley said. “So, the dietician comes in and completes a nutrition assessment and collaborates with the Veteran to develop a plan of care with goals and outcomes. He has done really well with it and he has really brought his numbers down.”

Schmitt said he appreciates the care and the convenience offered by the program now that he doesn’t drive.

“I have been without a license for almost two years now,” Schmitt said. “Before that I had a power wheelchair that I loaded in my car, but it was so stressful. Even if someone was trying to help, it would just wear me down. By the time I would get back home, I was done for. Takes away a lot of stress.”

Learn more about VA home based primary care.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis swears in Mark T. Esper as the new Secretary of the Army

During two separate ceremonies on Jan. 5, the Army family and the Secretary of Defense officially welcomed Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper back into the service that raised him.


As the newly appointed 23rd secretary of the Army, Esper will be key to the Army’s future, said Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis during a swearing-in ceremony at the Pentagon.

As international security continues to be a growing concern, Esper — a West Point graduate and a retired Army lieutenant colonel with combat experience — will need to “hit the ground running,” Mattis said.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
The Army family welcomed the 23rd Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. (Photo from U.S. Army)

The defense secretary said he believes Esper will lead an Army that contributes to DOD’s three lines of effort: strengthening alliances, reforming business practices, and building lethality.

“What we have here is someone that we are confident will take the Army forward, that has the right value system [and who] understands that if something is not contributing to lethality, it’s going to the dustbin of history,” Mattis said.

Esper brings with him a wealth of understanding from his time as an Army officer, in the defense industry, and on Capitol Hill, Mattis said.

“This Army has been tested and withstood the strain, but it stood because we have patriotic young people that have put their lives on the line,” Mattis said. “I know you are going to keep us feared by our adversaries and reassure our allies. They know when [the Army] shows up, they will fight harder alongside us.

“When the U.S. Army comes, what you’re saying is America is putting itself on the line,” Mattis said. “That is the bottom line.”

Esper said he appreciates the direction and support that Mattis gives to each of the five services, and that he couldn’t be more inspired to work under the defense secretary’s leadership. He also said he is excited to work alongside the leadership that already stands inside the Army.

“I could not have picked finer Army leadership to serve alongside,” Esper said. “And I can’t say enough about the virtue of our Soldiers, and their resiliency and willingness to take on the tough tasks that lie ahead.”

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis officially welcomed back Army Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper into the service that raised him during a swearing-in ceremony held in the Pentagon Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Arrival

Since coming aboard the Army Nov. 20, Esper has traveled to meet with Soldiers stationed both inside the United States and abroad. He said he’s been impressed by what he has seen.

“In my first 30 days, I have been able to watch the 1st Calvary Division train at Fort Irwin. I’ve met with the global response force at Fort Bragg, [North Carolina] preparing for a no-notice deployment. And I visited with our troops in combat, in Afghanistan,” Esper said during his arrival ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Friday afternoon.

“Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset. Their welfare and readiness will always be my top priority,” Esper said.

Before a large crowd of Soldiers, veterans, families, congressional members, foreign dignitaries, and defense industry professionals, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley spoke highly of his new boss.

“[Esper] has a spine of titanium [and] steel that is not going to bend to the temporary dramas of the day in D.C.,” Milley said. “He has the Army’s static line like a good jumpmaster. He will not waver. He will never fail to do the right thing for our nation, our troops, or our Army, regardless of the consequences to himself.”

Building the future force

At the official arrival ceremony, Esper discussed his priorities for the Army, which include taking care of people, remaining focused on the Army’s values, readiness, modernization, and reform.

“My first priority is and will remain readiness, ensuring that the total force — active, Guard, and Reserve — is prepared to deploy, fight, and win across the spectrum of conflict,” Esper said.

Read More: This is what you need to know about Mark Esper, the new Army Secretary

Currently, the Army is engaged in over 140 countries around the world. However, fiscal pressures and a lack of steady budget continue to impact the Army’s current readiness and affect future operations, Esper said.

“We are now challenged to address the rise of aggressive near-peer adversaries in Asia and Europe, while our Soldiers continue to fight terrorist groups abroad and reassure our allies around the globe,” Esper said.

We must continue to build strong alliances and partnerships around the world [with] countries that train together [and] fight well together. And those that fight well together are most likely to win together.

Through 2017, Soldiers took the fight to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, provided advice and assist support to Afghanistan and other nations, trained with allies and partners in European countries, and provided assistance to citizens recovering from natural disasters.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
The Army family welcomed the 23rd Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“Our job is to be ready — to be ready for combat,” Milley said. “To deter war, but to fight and win if deterrence and diplomacy fail. That is a solemn task for this nation. We are and will remain ready to engage the intense, bloody, unforgiving crucible of ground combat against any foe anytime and anywhere.”

Esper also identified the need to become better stewards of Army resources, all while modernizing current and future capabilities.

“This means growing the force while maintaining quality. Reshaping it to be more robust and successful in all domains, and modernizing it with the best weapons and equipment available to guarantee clear overmatch,” Esper said.

Consequently, for modernization to be successful, improvements need to be made to the current acquisition process, Esper said.

“This includes improving how requirements are set, empowering acquisition personnel to be successful, ensuring accountability, prototyping, and demonstrating systems early, and involving the private sector much more,” Esper said. “We must provide our Soldiers the tools they need to fight and win when they need it. I am confident that the new Futures Command we’re designing will do just that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This paratrooper just took his first jump in 31 years

It is uncertain what the record is for the time between Army parachute jumps, but Lt. Col. John Hall may hold it at 30 years and six months.


When Hall parachuted from a military aircraft January 2018, it was the first time he had done so in over thirty years. Hall, a 53-year-old school teacher at Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Vicenza, Italy, as the public affairs officer for the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade, the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

I first worked with the 173rd Airborne when I was put on active duty with the Michigan National Guard in 2014 and sent to the Baltic Countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and in support of Latvia, our State Partnership Nation,” Hall said. “The 173rd Airborne Public Affairs leaders and I developed a close working relationship, so last summer, when they needed an experienced public affairs officer to lead their team, I was selected and put on orders.

The 173rd Brigade commander sent word to Hall that he would be expected to jump from aircraft as a part of his duties.

“I was really excited and completely terrified at the same time. I graduated from ‘Jump School’ when I was 19 years old and last jumped when I was 22, so I knew what to do,” Hall said with a laugh.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a paratrooper and public affairs officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, poses for a photo in Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 31, 2018. Hall is a Michigan National Guard soldier currently on active-duty orders with the 173rd. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger )

The 173rd put Hall through a one-day airborne refresher course, he said. This training included parachute landing, actions in the aircraft, and emergency procedures, followed by multiple jumps from a 34-foot tower in which his technique was assessed.

The next day, Hall reported to Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, donned his parachute with a couple of hundred other Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, climbed aboard an Air Force C-17 aircraft and, when 1,200 feet over the Juliet Drop Zone, exited the door and tested his training.

Perfect landing

“The jet blast spun me in the air so when my ‘chute deployed it was pretty twisted and did not have a full canopy,” Hall said. “I was surprised that I automatically reached up, pulled the ‘risers’ apart and worked the parachute fully open. Good training takes over and we automatically do the right thing. I then checked my position in the sky and prepared to land. It was all over in less than a minute. I took up a good parachute landing fall position and the landing was perfect.”

Hall has served in the Army since graduating from LakeVille High School in the Flint area where he was an All-State wrestler, president of the school’s student council, and where he began dating his eventual wife, Laura.

“I enlisted as a combat medic when I was 19 years old and served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1980s, where we conducted frequent parachute operations as a part of our combat training,” Hall said. “After leaving the 82nd, I didn’t think I would ever jump from a military aircraft ever again.”

Also Read: That time a dangling paratrooper was rescued by open-top biplane

Since leaving active duty with the 82nd, Hall has served in the Army Reserve, the Florida and Michigan National Guard, and has been called back to active duty — to include combat duty in Iraq — on multiple occasions, but he has not been assigned to a unit with an airborne mission until now.

He was initially commissioned as a cavalry officer following officer candidate school and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in E Troop, 153rd Cavalry Regiment in Ocala, Florida. His later assignments include company commander in the 1-125th Infantry in Flint, Michigan, as well as executive officer and commander of the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Fort Custer, Michigan. It was in the 126th PCH that Hall served a combat tour in Baghdad.

Service in Iraq

Coincidentally enough, while serving as a press officer for Multinational Forces Iraq, Hall was serving in a combat zone at the same time as his daughter, Savannah, who had recently been commissioned as an officer through the University of Michigan ROTC program.

“My daughter, Savannah, grew up around the Army and has seen me in uniform since I was in the 82nd Airborne,” Hall said. “She decided when she went to college that she wanted to enroll in ROTC, serve in the Army, and be a paratrooper. It was indeed a proud moment when I pinned her ‘Jump Wings’ on her at Fort Benning, Georgia. And now my youngest daughter, Samantha, is shipping off to Army basic training later this spring. It remains to be seen if she, too, will become a paratrooper.”

Hall has been working in Vicenza, Italy, on the senior staff of the 173rd Airborne Brigade since August 2017. In this short time, he has supported airborne combat training in Latvia, Germany, Slovenia, a historic mission to Serbia, mountaineering training with the Italian Alpini Brigade, and next week will travel to Toulouse, France, to support 173rd Airborne combined engineering operations with French paratroopers.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Hundreds of 173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers conduct a tactical airborne insertion exercise onto Juliet Drop Zone in northern Italy, Jan. 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall )

High operational tempo

“The operational tempo here at the 173rd Airborne is intense. We continually have combat training going on with our NATO allies throughout Europe,” Hall said. “Our command philosophy is that we are always ‘preparing our soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.'”

A significant part of this, in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is conducting airborne operations, so Hall will complete several more jumps from military aircraft in the coming months.

As far as teaching is concerned, Hall intends to return to the classroom teaching English, history, and theater for the fall 2018 semester. It is certain that the dynamic training and real-world experiences contribute to his classes and his students’ enthusiasm.

Until then, Hall is an Army paratrooper and he said he’s proud of the Soldiers he works with.

Hall added, “It is truly an honor to be able to serve with the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. To be able to begin my military career with the 82nd Airborne Division and end it with the 173rd Airborne Brigade is remarkable. I am humbled every day by the discipline, determination, and dedication of these young Americans forward stationed and always prepared to defend their country.”

Articles

History shows that successful military leaders don’t always make good political ones

Political analysts are buzzing this week over rumors that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously considering a high-ranking former Army general as his running mate. And while many on the right — and even some on the left — are applauding the move, history shows former military leaders don’t necessarily make good political ones.


Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former top spy for the military, has been a vocal Trump supporter since he left the Army as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, and has recently taken on a role as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. But lately, his name has been floated by Trump associates as a potential vice president for the Republican real estate mogul.

“I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals. We’re thinking about — actually, there are two of them that are under consideration,” Trump told Fox News in reference to his VP vetting process.

A pick like Flynn might appeal to a broad political spectrum. He’s a registered Democrat, has leaned pro-choice on abortion, and has criticized the war in Iraq and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But he’s also been a critic of Hillary Clinton and her handling of classified information and was forced to retire after publically denouncing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

And while a no-nonsense, general officer style might work in a service environment and appeal to voters looking for something new, history shows plenty of landmines for military men who turn their focus from the battlefield to the ballot box.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
(Photos: US Department of Defense)

While two of America’s most senior officers in history, General of the Armies George Washington and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, enjoyed successful careers as presidents after military service, their compatriot General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant led an administration marked by graft and corruption.

On the list of generals-turned-president, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes were respected in their times, but Jackson’s wife died due to illness aggravated by political attacks during his campaign.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor was a hero in the Mexican-American War but he struggled as a president. Photo: Public Domain

Zachary Taylor ran as a political outsider and then found himself outside of most political deals cut during his presidency. Benjamin Harrison’s administration was known for its failure to address economic problems which triggered the collapse of 1893. James A. Garfield’s assassination early in his presidency is sometimes cited as the only reason he is known as an inconsequential president instead of a bad one.

So, why do successful general officers, tested in the fires of combat and experienced at handling large organizations, often struggle in political leadership positions?

The two jobs exist in very different atmospheres. While military organizations are filled with people trained to work together and put the unit ahead of the individual, political organizations are often filled with people all striving to advance their own career.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Painted: The British burn the White House in 1814, also known as the last time strongpoint defense was the most important thing a vice president could know. (Library of Congress)

And while backroom deals are often seen as a failure of character in the military, they’re an accepted part of doing business in politics. One senator will scratch another’s back while they both look to protect donors and placate their constituencies.

Plus, not all military leaders enter politics with a clear view of what they want to accomplish. They have concrete ideas about how to empower the military and improve national security, but they can struggle with a lack of experience in domestic policy or diplomacy after 20 or 30 years looking out towards America’s enemies.

These factors combined to bring down President Ulysses S. Grant whose administration became known as the “Era of Good Stealings” because of all the money that his political appointees were able to steal from taxpayers and businesses. It wasn’t that Grant was dishonest, it was that he failed to predict the lack of integrity in others and corrupt men took advantage of him.

Of course, at the end of the day it’s more about the man than the resume, and Flynn and McChrystal both have traits to recommend them. McChrystal was seen as largely successful as the top commander in Afghanistan where he had to work long hours and keep track of the tangled politics of Afghanistan.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Gen. Stanley McChrystal may have more experience with Afghan politics than American. (Photo: Operation Resolute Support Media via Flickr)

Flynn has spent years in Washington as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Beltway may be full of duplicity and tangled deals, but it isn’t much worse than all the terrorist organizations and hostile governments Flynn had to keep track of for the Department of Defense.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that neither man will end up next to Trump at the podium. The rumors say that McChrystal has not been contacted and is not interested in being the next vice president. Flynn appears to be more open to the idea but registered as a democrat for years, something that would make him impalatable for many Republican party leaders.

If one of them does end up on the presidential ticket, they should probably buff up on their Eisenhower, Washington, and Grant biographies, just to be safe.

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This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today’s growing technology industry.


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MSSA is an 18-week program that provides transitioning service members and veterans with intensive training for high-paying careers in tech fields like database and business intelligence administration, cloud application development, server and cloud administration, and cybersecurity administration. Essentially, it draws on military service members’ skill sets to quickly assess, analyze, and fix a situation with the resources at hand while remaining calm and focused, this time in the virtual world. It’s a role for which they’ve already proven themselves well-suited.

“I feel like I have so many new opportunities at my fingertips and I have the ability contribute the Microsoft mission now,” says Brown.

Enrolled service members take the course as their duty assignment, either on base or at a local community campus, spending the 18 weeks receiving both classroom and hands-on training in tech products and skills. They also prep for interviews and work with Microsoft mentors to ready them for a career in the technology industry. The program boasts a graduation rate of over 90% and upon completion, graduates are guaranteed an interview with Microsoft or one of its more than 280 hiring partners.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes

A new community for vets in tech

For Brown, MSSA translated to a total of 14 interviews with Microsoft. From those interviews, she received seven job offers, ultimately choosing to parlay her experience in USMC as an intelligence analyst into a security analyst in Microsoft’s own Cyber Defense Operations Center.

Just as important, though, she’s found a new sense of camaraderie with her co-workers in the tech industry, something she feared her exit from the Marines would force her to give up. She credits MSSA and Microsoft with building that community and introducing her to it.

“It has been easier to adjust to corporate world than I would have expected and I know it’s because of Microsoft being so amazing and because there are so many former military personnel where I work,” says Brown.

Job satisfaction, new purpose and a strong civilian community – it’s a vision of your future that’s worth the fight.

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Marines look to ease strain on special operators in Middle East

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Spencer Knudson and Sgt. Mark Herd survey the landscape during a Combined Anti-Armor Team patrol at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 23, 2015. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel


The commander of Marine units across the Middle East sees opportunities for the Corps to take on more missions in the region that would typically be tasks for special operations forces.

In a recent interview with Military.com, Lt. Gen. William Beydler, commander of Marine Corps Central Command, said there were multiple traditional special operations mission sets that competent Marines could take on, freeing up the forces for more specialized undertakings.

“I’m not for a moment suggesting that Marine capabilities and SOF capabilities are the same, that’s not my point, but I do think, and I think that SOF would agree, that some of the missions they’re executing now could be executed by well-trained and disciplined general purpose forces like U.S. Marines,” Beydler said.

Marines maintain a constant presence in the Middle East between Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, a roughly 2,300-man unit that operates across six Middle Eastern countries with an emphasis on supporting the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

They also operate consistently in the region off amphibious ships attached to Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, that routinely provide presence in the Persian Gulf.

Beydler, who assumed the command in October 2015, said these Marines could take on quick-response force operations, security missions, maritime and land raids, and ship visit-board-search-seizure operations, all of which Marines train to do as part of the MEU pre-deployment workup.

“There’s a range of things Marines are especially well trained to do — they can offer up capabilities that might free SOF forces to do other things,” Beydler said. “We’re not trying to encroach on what they do, but we think that we can be better utilized at times and free them up to do even more than SOF does right now.”

Beydler said the Marine Corps was already stepping into some of these roles, though he demurred from specifics.

In one instance that may illustrate this utilization of conventional troops, Reuters reported in May that “a very small number” of U.S. forces were deployed into Yemen to provide intelligence support in response to a United Arab Emirates request for aid in the country’s fight against Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the Defense Department did not identify the service to which these troops belonged, officials told Reuters that the amphibious assault ship Boxer — part of the deployed 13th MEU — had been positioned off the coast of Yemen to provide medical facilities as needed.

In a January fragmentary order, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller emphasized his desire to see Marines operate more closely with SOF troops and develop a deeply collaborative working relationship.

To this end, six-man special operations forces liaison elements, or SOFLEs, began to deploy with MEUs in 2015 to improve communication between Marines and SOF forces downrange and coordinate efforts. Beydler said professional rapport had increased as a result of these small liaison teams.

“A part of this is again developing professional relationships, developing professional respect and having SOF appreciate that which Marines can do,” he said.

Currently, he said, the Marine Corps is considering creating SOFLEs for the Marines’ land-based Middle East task force. While there is no timeline to test out the creation of new liaison elements, Beydler said the unit informally looks for opportunities to coordinate with special ops in this fashion.

“I think that we’ve valued the SOFLEs at the MEU level,” he said. “We’ll continue to work with SOF to see if we can’t have more of these liaisons, more of those touch points.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

With the Islamic State group almost defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria and its territorial hold dramatically reduced, the terror group and its sympathizers continue to demonstrate their ability to weaponize the internet in an effort to radicalize, recruit and inspire acts of terrorism in the region and around the world.


Experts charge that the terror group’s ability to produce and distribute new propaganda has been significantly diminished, particularly after it recently lost the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital and media headquarters.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
ISIS fighters have been surrendering en masse after the fall of Raqqa.

But they warn that the circulation of its old media content and easy access to it on social media platforms indicates that the virtual caliphate will live on in cyberspace for some time, even as IS’s physical control ends.

“Right now we have such a huge problem on the surface web — and [it’s] really easy to access literally tens of thousands of videos that are fed to you, one after the other, [and] that are leading to radicalization,” Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College and adviser for the group Counter Extremism Project (CEP) in Washington, said Nov. 20.

Little headway

Speaking at a panel discussion about the rights and responsibilities of social media platforms in an age of global extremism at the Washington-based Newseum, Farid said the social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have tried to get radical Islamist content off the internet, but significant, game-changing results have yet to be seen.

Farid said social media companies are facing increasing pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates to remove content that fuels extremism.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had developed new artificial intelligence programs to identify extremist posts and had hired thousands of people to monitor content that could be suspected of inciting violence.

Twitter also reported that it had suspended nearly 300,000 terrorism-related accounts in the first half of the year.

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
February 15, 2015 – Libya: A group of 21 Egyptian Christians, who were seized by ISIS fighters while working in Libya, shown in a new video before they were purportedly killed. ISIS (Daesh), released a video claiming to have killed 21 Egyptian Christians who were captured in Libya. (News Pictures/Polaris)

YouTube on Nov. 20 said Alphabet’s Google in recent months had expanded its crackdown on extremism-related content. The new policy, Reuters reported, will affect videos that feature people and groups that have been designated as terrorists by the U.S. or British governments.

The New York Times reported that the new policy has led YouTube to remove hundreds of videos of the slain jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki lecturing on the history of Islam, recorded long before he joined al-Qaida and encouraged violence against the U.S.

The World Economic Forum’s human rights council issued a report last month, warning tech companies that they might risk tougher regulations by governments to limit freedom of speech if they do not stem the publishing of violent content by Islamic State and the spread of misinformation.

IS digital propaganda has reportedly motivated more than 30,000 people to journey thousands of miles to join IS, according to a report published by Wired, a magazine published in print and online editions that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy and politics.

An ongoing struggle

Experts say measures to restrict cyberspace for terrorist activities could prove helpful, but they warn it cannot completely prevent terror groups from spreading their propaganda online and that it will be a struggle for some time.

According to Fran Townsend, the former U.S. homeland security adviser, terrorist groups are constantly evolving on the internet as the new security measures force them onto platforms that are harder to track, such as encrypted services like WhatsApp and Telegram and file-sharing platforms like Google Drive.

Read Also: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

She said last month’s New York City attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, used Telegram to evade U.S counterterrorism authorities.

“This guy was on Telegram in ISIS chat rooms. He went looking for them, he was able to find them, and he was able to communicate on an encrypted app that evaded law enforcement,” Townsend said during the Nov. 20 panel on extremism at the Newseum.

U.S. officials said Saipov viewed 90 IS propaganda videos online, and more than 4,000 extremism related images were found on his cellphones, including instructions on how to carry out vehicular attacks.

As the crackdown increases on online jihadi propaganda, experts warn the desperate terror groups and their lone wolf online activists and sympathizers could aggressively retaliate.

Last week, about 800 school websites across the United States were attacked by pro-IS hackers. The hack, which lasted for two hours, redirected visitors to IS propaganda video and images of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Similar attacks were also reported in Europe, including last week’s hacking of MiX Megapil, a private radio station in Sweden where a pro-IS song was played for about 30 minutes.

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Image from VOA.

A global response

Experts maintain that to counter online extremism and terrorism, there is a need for a coordinated international response as social media platforms continue to cross national borders and jurisdictions.

Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Google and the Group of Seven advanced economies joined forces against jihadi online propaganda and vowed to remove the content from the web within two hours of its being uploaded.

“Our European colleagues — little late to this game, by the way — have come into it in a big way,” Townsend said.

She said the U.S-led West had given more attention to physical warfare against IS at the expense of the war in cyberspace.

“We have been very proficient in fighting this in physical space. … But we were late in the game viewing the internet,” she said.

Townsend added that the complexity of the problem requires action even at the local level.

“The general public can be a force multiplier,” she said, adding, “As you’re scrolling through your feed and you see something … it literally takes 50 seconds for you to hit a button and tell Twitter, ‘This should not be here and it’s not appropriate content.’ And it will make a difference.”

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This is why intelligence agencies issue a ‘burn notice’ to bad agents

In 1984, the CIA issued a burn notice on a former Iranian secret police officer and arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar once worked for the Shah of Iran’s SAVAK internal security service and was the primary agent between the United States, Israel, and the Iranians in the early days of the Iran-Contra Affair. 

Few people involved trusted Ghorbanifar, but Americans were being held hostage by Iran and the shady arms dealer was their best bet. They were right not to trust him, as even Col. Oliver North once said of him “I knew him to be a liar.” After one of the arms shipments went bad and Ghorbanifar collected his money anyway, the CIA issued his burn notice. 

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Retired U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, Fox News reporter, interviews Marine Capt. Kevin T. Smalley, AV-8B Harrier pilot, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2012. North was visiting Marines and conducting interviews about the attack on Sept. 14, 2012.

A burn notice from an intelligence agency doesn’t require that an intelligence asset be killed in some covert operation. Manucher Ghorbanifar is not only still alive, he even arranged a meeting between Americans and Iranians in the days before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. 

What it does mean is that any information provided by the person in the burn notice is useless, probably fabricated, and that the asset will do anything for money. Essentially, it’s not the person getting burned, it’s all their useless information. Think of it as CIA officers are expected to burn whatever material was provided by the failed asset. 

Even though no one really trusted him, Ghorbanifar was considered a necessary evil. In the early 1980s, multinational peacekeeping forces and diplomatic cadres in Lebanon saw a series of kidnappings of high-profile people. Military officers, diplomats, and journalists were all fair game. It wasn’t just the United States as a victim; no one was immune. The Soviet Union, France, and other nations had citizens taken as hostages.

In the case of Manucher Ghorbanifar, he was a go-between for Israel, the U.S., and Iran. Iran was in the middle of a devastating war with Iraq and needed arms. The Islamic Republic also controlled many of the militias in Lebanon. The U.S. agreed to allow Israel to give arms to Iran if Iran would free the American hostages. The Americans would then replenish the Israeli stockpiles.

The deal Ghorbanifar brokered between Iran, Israel, and the United States began to unravel very quickly. The Iranians were not releasing the hostages requested, the U.S. began sending more missiles than laid out in the deal, and Ghorbanifar’s explanation was not adding up. After failing three lie detector tests, the CIA issued his burn notice. 

That was in 1984. Ghorbanifar continued to peddle his information to intelligence agencies, and even though the CIA’s burn notice went out to friendly foreign intelligence agencies, Ghorbanifar still found buyers. He was soon discovered to be a double agent, working for Mossad.

And yet, even the CIA continued to work with Ghorbanifar, despite its own files describing him as “an intelligence fabricator and a nuisance.” It was Ghorbanifar who suggested to Col. Oliver North in 1986 that they should fund the Nicaraguan Contras with money from the sale of arms to Iran.  

Iran is sending threatening messages to US surveillance planes
Frente Sur Commandas, Nueva Guinea zone of southeast Nicaragua, 1987. Wikimedia Commons

The arms for hostages deal never panned out, and many of the hostages captured by various Lebanese militia groups were either killed or held for years before release. Ghorbanifar, once burned by the CIA, decided to use his influence to get his Iranian contacts to leak the illegal American activity to the press. 

News of the Iran-Contra scandal first appeared in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa in 1986. The story’s source was former Iranian cleric Mehdi Hashemi, who opposed the Iranian regime’s dealings with the U.S.

Articles

These simple sponges seal battle wounds in no time

Innovations in battlefield medicine are constantly advancing. With deadly conflicts popping up all over the world, it’s vital to treat the wounded and get them to a safe and secure location as soon as possible.


Traditionally, field medics and Corpsman would manually pack deep wounds with Quik Clot and gauze to pack wounds, or use tourniquets to stop major bleeds. Wound control would consist of treating the damaged tissue by externally cramping large amounts of coagulated material with high hopes that your helping more than hurting.

But a new invention using these little sponges may be the key to prolonging life until the injured is transported to the next echelon of care.

FDA approved in 2015, the XSTAT hemorrhage control system is making its way into military hands. Specially designed to treat narrowed-entrance wounds like bullet holes, these circular sponges are housed in an injectable syringe and plunged into any deep wound and rapidly expand after coming into contract with liquid.

With the average wound packing time approximately three-to-five minutes, the injectable sponges cut application time down to just seconds. The sponges then completely fill up the wound and self-compress themselves outward soaking up the bleeds they come in contact with.

The XSTAT, which contains approximately 92 sponges, can treat wounds in areas tough to treat with a tourniquet and can be injected into nearly every part of the body without causing additional soft tissue damage.

“XSTAT 30 is cleared for use in patients at high risk for immediate, life-threatening, and severe hemorrhagic shock and non-compressible junctional wounds, when definitive care at an emergency care facility cannot be achieved within minutes,” – FDA
(CNN, YouTube)What do you think of this life-saving invention? Leave us a comment.
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