Editor’s Note: This story was first published on TheConversation.com in May 2018. It does not discuss the most recent development in the region, but is still a great guide to the state of tensions between the two countries.
After Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally pull back from the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time. The Israelis retaliated by targeting Iranian forces and positions in Syria. That attack, which killed 23 people, was the biggest Israeli assault on Iranian positions in Syria since the civil war there started in 2011.
For a moment, it looked like two of the Middle East’s major political and military players to the verge of a full-scale military conflict. An Israeli-Iranian war could throw the Middle East into one of its most destructive clashes in modern history, one that could polarise the world’s powers, dragging in the US, a reliable ally of Israel, and Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and hence Iran’s strategic ally. And yet, neither has so far chosen to escalate further. Why?
For its part, Iran knows that its capacity to strike back is limited. But more than that, the two countries’ history and military development makes an explosive conflict unlikely.
While Israel has openly clashed with its Arab neighbors before — notably Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — it has never engaged in a direct military showdown with Iran. In fact, it’s easy to forget now that before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel enjoyed a close relationship. They were the US’s two main Middle Eastern allies, and Iranian oil was delivered to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Things only changed when the Iranian Shah was ousted in 1979; after that, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed Israel a “foe of Islam” and cut off all ties with it.
Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
But then came the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. This grueling conflict had a huge impact on Iran’s military doctrine, and the experience of it underpins the country’s geopolitical and national security concerns to this day. The reality of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compelled the Iranian government to prioritiZe a more defensive foreign policy; where it participates in other conflicts, it usually prefers to do so via proxies rather than by direct military action.
As a result, to the extent Israel considers Iran a major existential threat today, it’s particularly worried about Iranian involvement in other Middle Eastern conflicts. It has more than once fought Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, most recently in 2006. And while the protracted conflict in Yemen, for example, is in many ways a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iranian-backed forces could use Yemeni territory to strike Israeli targets.
But even if a conflict erupted on one of these fronts, there’d be another calculation to factor in: the two countries’ very different military assets.
The bulk of Iran’s arms stockpile is domestically developed and manufactured, its own-brand rockets and missiles tested in the field mostly by Hezbollah. But in recent years, Iran has also been procuring weapons and technical expertise from nations antagonistic toward the West: China, Russia, and possibly (in nuclear form) North Korea.
Israel’s main strength is its exceptional military power. Its weapons systems include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defence shields, extremely precise defence tools that can pulverise perhaps more than 90% of hostile missiles in mid-air.
Israel also commands air power unrivalled in the Middle East; it recently took possession of the US-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which it is augmenting with its own technology. On top of all this, in 2016, the US agreed to increase its military aid to Israel to US.8 billion a year until 2028.
IAF F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israeli Air Force, 2016.
And yet, Israel too is less than confident about the consequences of an conflict with Iran. However formidable its strategic and technological edge, it’s still unable to fully mend political and diplomatic fences with many of its Arab neighbours. It lives in hostile surroundings, constantly vulnerable to attack on almost all fronts. A major war with another heavily armed power is the last thing it needs.
At arm’s length
One advantage Iran does have is its array of proxies and non-state allies, which allow it to project hard power far closer to Israel than it would want to send regular forces. It has a valuable ally in Hamas, which controls Gaza; in Lebanon, Hezbollah could be prepared to assist if necessary. It could also exploit Sunni/Shia splits across the Middle East to secure the support of Shia volunteer armies. And since Saddam Hussein’s fall, Iran has been hugely influential in Iraq, which is struggling to establish a political order that can accommodate Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis.
Yet even with all this influence at its disposal, Iran would clearly prefer not to end up escalating a military conflict with Israel. Aside from the military implications, to do so would squander what moral and diplomatic support it’s gathered since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
So for now, both sides are being cautious. Israel’s recent airstrikes targeted raid on military installations, not individuals — an acknowledgement that a heavy casualties might put Iran under pressure to retaliate. Meanwhile, Iran’s domestic debate on whether and how to respond is still rumbling, with progressives insisting the nuclear deal must be safeguarded while their hawkish countrymen would prefer a more confrontational stance. The government has yet to decide which road to take.
But whatever happens in the immediate future, Israel and Iran remain bitter foes, both heavily armed and tied up in a mess of geopolitical interests. Were a war to break out between them, they would gravely damage each other, but neither is likely to rise as the ultimate victor. That both seem to be fully aware of this reality is perhaps the most important thing standing on the way of what could be a true catastrophe.
When the National Museum of the United States Army opens to the public outside Washington, D.C. in 2020; six New York Army National Guard soldiers will be a permanent part of it.
The six men who serve at the New York National Guard Headquarters outside Albany and the 24th Civil Support Team at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, are models for six of 63 life-sized soldier figures that will bring exhibits in the museum to life.
Studio EIS (pronounced ice), the Brooklyn company that specializes in making these museum exhibit figures, would normally hire actors or professional models as templates for figures, said Paul Morando, the chief of exhibits for the museum.
But real soldiers are better, he said.
“Having real soldiers gives the figures a level of authenticity to the scene,” he said. “They know where their hands should be on the weapons. They know how far apart their feet should be when they are standing. They know how to carry their equipment.”
Actual soldiers can also share some insights with the people making the figures, Morando added.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald displays the cast made of his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The museum is under construction at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The Army Historical Foundation is leading a 0 million dollar campaign and constructing the 185,000 square-foot building through private donations. The Army is providing the 84-acre site, constructing the roads and infrastructure, and the interior exhibit elements that transform a building into a museum.
The museum will tell the story of over 240 years of Army history through stories of American soldiers.
The figures of the six New York National Guard Solders — Maj. Robert Freed, Chaplain (Maj.) James Kim, Capt. Kevin Vilardo, 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt, Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison, and Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald — will populate two exhibits from two different eras.
Vilardo, Gerdt, and Archibald will portray soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Nick Archibald clutches pipes representing rope as a technician prepares to apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The figure modeled by Archibald, an assistant inspector general at New York National Guard headquarters, will be climbing down a cargo net slung over the side of a model ship into a 36-foot long landing craft known as a “Higgins boat.”
The boats took their name from Andrew Higgins, a Louisiana boat-builder who designed the plywood-sided boats, which delivered soldiers directly to the beach.
Vilardo, the commander of A Troop, 101st Cavalry, who also works in the Army National Guard operations section, was the model for a combat photographer. His figure will be in the boat taking pictures of the action.
Gerdt, a survey section leader in the 24th Civil Support Team, modeled a soldier standing in the boat gazing toward the beach.
New York Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Sam Gerdt holds a pose while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 14, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The landing craft is so big that it, and three other macro artifacts, were pre-positioned in their space within the museum in 2017 — the museum is being built around them.
Kim, Morrison and Freed modeled for figures that will be in an Afghanistan tableau. They will portray soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment on patrol in 2014, each soldier depicting a different responsibility on a typical combat mission.
The figure based on Morrison, the medic for the 24th CST, will be holding an M4 and getting ready to go in first.
Freed, the executive officer of the 24th CST, modeled a platoon leader talking on the radio.
Kim, the chaplain for the 42nd Division, was the model for a soldier operating a remote control for a MARCbot, which is used to inspect suspicious objects.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed holds a pose with a mock M4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as technicians apply casting material to his body at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
The process of turning a soldier into a life-sized figure starts by posing the soldier in the position called for in the tableau and taking lots of photos. This allows the artists to observe how the person looks and record it.
When Archibald showed up at the Studio EIS facility they put him to work climbing a cargo net like soldiers used to board landing craft during World War II.
“They were taking pictures of me actually climbing a net with a backpack on and a huge model rifle over my shoulder,” he recalled. “That was uncomfortable because I was actually on a net hanging off this wall.”
The Studio EIS experts take pictures of the model from every angle and take measurements as well, Morando explained.
Heads casted from New York Army National Guard soldiers wait to be matched with their bodies at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Vilardo, who posed crammed into a mock landing craft corner with a camera up to his eyes, said the photography portion of this process was the most unnerving part for him.
“I’m not one to like my picture being taken and to have really close photography of your face and hands was a new experience,” he said.
Next, a model of the individuals face is made. A special silicone based material is used for the cast. The model’s nostrils are kept clear so the subject can breathe.
The soldiers were told what their character was supposed to be doing and thinking and asked to make the appropriate facial gestures.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Morrison holds his pose as technicians apply casting material to his face at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Gerdt was told to stare into space and think about not seeing his family for two years.
“I had to hold my facial expression for about 15 minutes while they did that,” he said.
Because his character was talking on the radio, he had to hold his mouth open and some of the casting compound got inside, Freed said.
New York Army National Guard Major Robert Freed poses with a mock M-4 and block of wood replicating a radio handset, as photos of his pose are taken at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 15, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“It was a bit nerve wracking, “Freed recalled. ” They pour the silicon liquid over your entire face and you have these two breathing holes. Your hearing is limited. It is a bit jarring.”
The material also warmed up.
“It was like a spa experience,” Kim joked. “They had me sit with one of those barber covers on. I had to be still with my head tilted back.”
The material got so warm that he started sweating, Archibald said. “As they did the upper portion (of his body) I got pretty toasty in there,” he said.
Once their facial casts were done the Studio EIS experts cast the rest of their body. The soldiers put on tight shorts and stockings with Vaseline smeared over body parts and posed in the positions needed.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo poses as World War II combat cameraman standing in the corner of a landing craft at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Kim was asked to crouch and hold a controller in his hand. When he got up to move his legs were frozen, he said. “It was four hours and a lot of stillness,” Kim said.
Archibald was positioned on blocks so that his body looked like it was climbing and they used this small little stool supporting my butt.” He also had to clench his hand around rods to look like he was gripping a rope.
Vilardo jammed himself into a plywood cutout so it looked like he was stabilizing himself on a boat. Morrison held an M-4 at the ready as if he were ready to lead a stack of soldiers into a room.
The six New York National Guardsmen and four other soldiers visited the Brooklyn studio during the first two weeks of November 2018.
New York Army National Guard Major (Chaplain) James Kim poses with the remote control for a MARCbot robot as Paul Morando, the Exhibits Chief for the National Museum of the United States Army, refines his position at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 8, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
They were the last soldiers to be turned into figures, Morando said.
Four active duty soldiers also posed during the process; Chaplain (Major) Bruce Duty, Staff Sgt. Dereek Martinez, Sgt. 1st Class Kent Bumpass, and Sgt. Armando Hernandez.
Next the artists will sculpt sections into a complete figure, dress and accessorize, and paint precise details on the face and skin; crafting it to humanistic and historical perfection. These lifelike soldier figures will help visitors understand what it looked like on D-Day or during a combat mission in Afghanistan, Morando said.
The New York soldiers got their chance to be part of the new, state of the art museum because of Justin Batt, the director of the Harbor Defense Museum at Fort Hamilton.
He and Morando had worked together before, Batt said.
Morando needed soldiers to pose and wanted to use soldiers from the New York City area to keep down costs. So he turned to Batt to help find ten people.
Batt, in turn, reached out to Freed to ask for help in finding guard soldiers.
Soldiers pose for museum exhibits.
(U.S. Army photo)
The museum was looking for soldiers with certain looks, heights, and in some cases race, Freed said.
For the D-Day scene they needed soldiers of certain height and weight who would look like soldiers from the 1940s. The design for the Afghanistan scene included an Asian American and African-American soldier, Freed said.
He recruited Kim, a Korean-American, as the Asian American and Morrison as the African-American soldier. Vilardo, Archibald and Gerdt are lean and looked more like an American of the 1940s.
The six New York Guardsmen that Freed recruited were perfect, Batt said. Not only did they look the part but also they all have tremendous military records, he added.
New York Army National Guard Captain Capt. Kevin Vilardo holds a pose as a World War II combat cameraman while technicians take a cast of his upper torso at Studio EIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Nov. 13, 2018.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
Being part of the National Museum of the United States Army is an honor, the soldiers said.
While their names won’t be acknowledged on the exhibits, it will be great to know they are part of telling the Army story, they all agreed.
He was impressed to find out how much work goes into creating an exhibit and the care the museum staff is taking to get it right, Freed said.
“I have a newfound appreciation of the efforts the Army is making to preserve its history,” he added.
“I think it is pretty cool that they would get soldiers to model as soldiers,” Archibald said. “Part of it is an honor to be able to bring people down there and point at the exhibit and say that is actually me there.”
This draft of the landing craft exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Army gives a sense of what the finished result will look like when the museum opens.
(National Museum of the United States Army)
“I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a historic display, “Kim said. ” To be immortalized and to be able to share that with generations of my family. It is a once in a life time opportunity.”
“It’s extremely cool. I feel honored to do it,” Gerdt said, adding that he was looking forward to taking his newborn daughter to see the exhibit.
Vilardo, who has a seven-year old daughter, said she was pretty excited when he showed her photographs of him being turned into an exhibit figure.
“I told her it would be just like “Night at the Museum”, he said referring to the Ben Stiller movie about museum exhibits coming to life, “and that we could go visit anytime.”
“It is extremely humbling to know I am going to be part of Army history, “Morrison said. “I already thought I was part of the Army Story. Now I am going to be part of the story the public gets to see.”
Editor’s Note: The National Museum of the United States Army is a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the non-profit organization, The Army Historical Foundation. The museum will serve as the capstone of the Army Museum Enterprise and provide the comprehensive portrayal of Army history and traditions. The Museum is expected to open in 2020 and admission will be free. www.thenmusa.org
Air liaison officers and tactical air control party operators will soon see new career field-specific physical testing as the Air Force expands physical training beyond the standard PT test, officials announced Jan. 31.
It marks the first time specific career fields will have “occupationally specific and operationally relevant standards, as well as a second fitness assessment,” the service said in a release.
“ALO and TACP operators will be given a 12-month period after implementation to adapt to these new tests and standards before they are officially enforced,” Dr. Neal Baumgartner, chief of the Air Force’s Exercise Science Unit (ESU), said in the release.
“There are certain career fields, ALO and TACP for instance, that required much higher and broader levels of physical fitness to meet the demands of their operational mission sets,” he said.
Because of the critical skills these career fields require, Baumgartner said, the unit — with support from Rand Corp., a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, and its Project AIR FORCE team — initiated the science-based review.
Based on the study and focus groups, the new Tier 2 test — which is still being augmented in certain cases — includes such exercises as follows:
1,000-meter row (measured in minutes and seconds);
Pull-ups (measured in repetitions);
Trap bar deadlift (five repetitions, measured in pounds);
Two-cone agility drill (measured in seconds);
Medicine ball toss (measured in feet);
Grip strength test (measured in pounds per square inch);
100-yard farmer’s carry (or 4 x 25 yards, measured in seconds);
Extended cross knee crunch (measured in repetitions);
Weighted lunges (measured in repetitions); and
A faster 1.5 mile run (measured in minutes and seconds).
Tier 2 is scored on a 1-10 scale in each of the 10 components. The ALO or TACP must score at least 46 points out of 100 to pass, according to the scoring sheet provided to Military.com.
In addition, TACPs or ALOs must now complete the 1.5-mile run in 11 minutes, 31 seconds, or less, the scores reveal.
Unlike the Tier 1 test, age, and gender are not a factor.
The tape test — widely unpopular among airmen, which measures weight and waist circumference — will still be taken, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.
The study, which began in 2011, found that in order “to properly develop Tier 2 tests and standards, we performed five major steps to develop a final product: identify critical physical job tasks; develop fitness tests and physical task simulations; validate fitness tests and standards versus operational physical requirements; implement and verify these tests and standards; and finally document Tier 2 products and provide recommendations for policy during the adaptation period,” Baumgartner said.
The first step used Air Force focus groups to identify 44 air liaison-TACP Critical Physical Tasks, or CPTs, the release said. They were reviewed and approved by senior leaders in the operations community.
The ESU team then identified 10 testing components deemed critical for strength training, dubbed “Tier 2 Operator Prototype PF Test Battery.”
They included grip strength, medicine ball toss, back and side; three cone drill; trap bar deadlift, five repetition maximum; pull-up; lunges, weighted 50 pound, metronome; extended cross knee crunch, metronome; farmer’s carry, 2 x 50 pound, 100 yards; row ergometer, 1000 meters; and 1.5-mile run.
“The important takeaway here is that each of these 10 components have specific relevance to unique ALO-TACP operational mission sets,” Master Sgt. Matthew Gruse, ESU NCO in charge, said in the release.
“The grip strength test, for example, measures muscular strength in the hands and forearms, but why?” he said.
“While some may see this as redundant to other test components, our study found grip strength plays a significant role in performing tasks such as litter carries, casualty drags and rescue sled pulls during casualty movement,” Gruse said.
Lastly, Rand designed eight broad physical task simulations, or PTSs, which were developed in collaboration with special operators, reviewed by senior leaders, and tested during a pilot study.
Physical Task Simulation components included rope bridge; rope ladder; cross load personnel and equipment; casualty movement; and small unit tactics.
Coming in 2019
All airmen are required to pass the service-wide Fitness Assessment known as Tier 1, Brzozowske said.
With Tier 2 in the mix, there is some nuance.
“ALOs and TACPs are granted permanent exemption from the aerobic (1.5-mile run) and muscle fitness (sit-up and push-up) components [under] the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment,” Brzozowske said in an email Wednesday. They were granted the exemption on Nov. 1, 2017, she said.
That is because the sharper run is already built in their new Tier 2 training.
Brzozowske said, “The exemption applies only to ALO and TACP personnel assigned to positions that are required to take the Tier 2 [Occupationally-Specific, Operationally-Relevant] Fitness Assessment per forthcoming Air Force Instruction 13-113, TACP Training Volume 1 policy. All other ALO and TACP personnel must continue to take the Tier 1 Air Force Fitness Assessment.”
While there were no women represented in the career fields during the pretrial testing, officials said they are eligible for either career field provided they “meet all minimum standards outlined in respective qualifications summaries.”
How and when the Air Force intends to implement the Tier 2 testing is still being determined.
The service is also weighing expanding job-specific physical testing standards for other Special Tactics career fields such as combat controllers, weather officers, combat rescue and combat pararescue, as well as non-battlefield airmen careers such as fly-away security teams, loadmasters and firefighters, which require more endurance on the job.
To prepare and to avoid duplication, some of these careers — combat control (1 C2Xl ), combat rescue officer (13DX), pararescue (1 T2Xl), special tactics officer (13CX), special operations weather technician (1 WOX2) — may be granted a temporary exemption of the aerobic run, push-ups, and sit-ups until Dec. 1, 2018, Brzozowske said. The waist-tape test will still occur.
“This exemption is contingent upon each career field manager resuming and continuing development and validation of their new AFSC-specific, operationally specific/relevant fitness assessments,” she said.
The Tier 2 test is expected to be fully implemented for the ALO-TACP career fields by the start of 2019.
Instagram has fully dominated the zeitgeist. The “can I get your number?” of years’ past has mutated into the “what’s your IG handle?” of the new era. But you don’t have any need for that anymore. You’re married to a member of the United States armed forces. So here’s a handful of accounts to bring your carpal-tunnel thumb scrolling into the new age with a bit of inspiration for the loved ones of military members.
This account is one of the most popular MILSO (military significant other) accounts on Instagram. ArmyWife101 covers everything from veteran’s issues to perfect care packages to promoting fellow MILSO accounts.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/airmantomom/?hl=en expand=1]Amanda (@airmantomom) • Instagram photos and videos
Amanda has a great account for any woman who has transitioned from military to service to motherhood. In addition to having a very current IG profile, she also runs a podcast under the same @—a perfect program to underscore a jog around the block.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/themilitarywifeandmom/ expand=1]Lauren Tamm (@themilitarywifeandmom) • Instagram photos and videos
Lauren is a military wife and mother of two who documents her life closely for her followers. It gives fellow military spouses a gentle look into the life of someone who can empathize with the struggles and triumphs of someone who is facing life as a military mother. Her shots are artfully composed and sure to crack a smile.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/reccewife/ expand=1]Kim (@reccewife) • Instagram photos and videos
Kim is a tough ass, salt of the earth, no-nonsense Canadian military spouse. Her sardonic wit gives her profile a bit of an edge and is perfect for anyone who wants a glimpse into the parallel life of a military spouse across our northern border.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/soldierswifecrazylife/ expand=1]Julie (@soldierswifecrazylife) • Instagram photos and videos
If you want something a bit more personal— Julie has you covered. She’s a military spouse and mother of two who fills her account with personalized messages of support in a non-partisan, playful way. She’s a spoonful of honey on your IG feed.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/humans_on_the_homefront/ expand=1]Humans on the Homefront (@humans_on_the_homefront) • Instagram photos and videos
This handle is, unfortunately, inactive since 2017 (although the hashtag is alive and well). However, it has 61 posts archived to sort through. Each detailed post tells the stories of the brave men and women who serve our country, as well as the incredible people who love them. Any military spouse, parent, relative, or friend could get a twinkle of inspiration from this account.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/movingwiththemilitary/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Moving With The Military (@movingwiththemilitary) • Instagram photos and videos
This account is like “Extreme Home Makeover: Military Spouse Edition.” Maria operates the account, which shows makeovers that they do for USOs, military spouses, and a whole other assortment of charitable military work. It’s a breath of positivity on your feed.
Lizann works this account as a super valuable resource to MILSOs everywhere. She creates workshops and masterclasses to give tips and advice to newly minted military spouses dealing with everything from deployment to surviving the holidays at your parents.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/support_lgbt_military/ expand=1]Support LGBT Military (@support_lgbt_military) • Instagram photos and videos
This is a beautiful account filled with stories, profiles, and (best of all) memes that empower LGBT veterans and service members. The account is highly active and, with over 10K followers, has a massive community with which to interact.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/thewaitingwarrior/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Michelle Bowler (@thewaitingwarrior) • Instagram photos and videos
Michelle Bowler balances mothering four children with the difficulties of being an “Army wife” at Ft. Campbell. Her IG account’s message is clear—”you are not alone.” Her whole goal is to act as a supportive lens to all MILSO’s and loved ones of first responders. Michelle also has a podcast with 46+ episode of interviews with spouses of all experiences, talking about various parts of military and first responder spouse life.
PRAGUE — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking about the contentious Belarusian presidential election and the ensuing police crackdown against peaceful protesters, says that “we want good outcomes for the Belarusian people, and we’ll take actions consistent with that.”
Pompeo, who earlier condemned the conduct of the election that handed authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth-straight term by a landslide, said in a wide-ranging interview with RFE/RL in Prague on August 12 that “we’ve watched the violence and the aftermath, peaceful protesters being treated in ways that are inconsistent with how they should be treated.”
The August 9 vote, which the opposition has called “rigged,” has resulted in three-straight evenings of mass protests marred by police violence and thousands of detentions.
Pompeo said that the United States had not yet settled on the appropriate response, but would work with Washington’s European partners to determine what action to take.
Asked whether the election and its aftermath would affect the future of U.S.-Belarus relations, including the promised delivery of U.S. oil, Pompeo said: “We’re going to have to work through that…we were incredibly troubled by the election and deeply disappointed that it wasn’t more free and more fair.”
U.S. Troops In Afghanistan
Pompeo, who was in Prague at the start of a five-day trip to Europe that will also take him to Slovenia, Austria, and Poland, discussed a number of other issues, including allegations that Russia was involved in offering Taliban militants bounties to attack U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan; expectations that Washington will seek to extend the UN arms embargo against Iran; and the effect violence against protesters in the United States might have on Washington’s image abroad.
The U.S. secretary of state declined to comment on whether he believed U.S. intelligence reports that reportedly said Russia had offered money to the Taliban and their proxies in Afghanistan to kill U.S. soldiers, saying he never commented on U.S. intelligence matters.
“What we’ve said is this: If the Russians are offering money to kill Americans or for that matter, other Westerners as well, there will be an enormous price to pay,” Pompeo said. “That’s what I shared with [Russian] Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov. I know our military has talked to their senior leaders as well. We won’t brook that. We won’t tolerate that.”
Regarding the prospect of resistance among European allies to U.S. efforts to extend the expiring arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, Pompeo said it “makes no sense for any European country to support the Iranians being able to have arms.”
“I think they recognize it for exactly what it is,” he said of the U.S. proposal, a draft resolution of which is reportedly currently being floated in the 15-member Security Council. “And I hope that they will vote that way at the United Nations. I hope they will see.”
“The resolution that we’re going to present is simply asking for a rollover of the extension of the arms embargo,” Pompeo said. “It’s that straightforward.”
Asked specifically about the prospect that Iranian allies Russia and China could veto such a proposal, the U.S. secretary of state said: “We’re going to make it come back. We have the right to do it under 2231 and we’re going to do it.”
UN Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously by the United Nations in 2015, endorsing the Iran nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
The United States withdrew from the deal, which offered sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for security guarantees aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, in 2018.
Russian Media Pressure
Pompeo also discussed recent efforts by Russia to target foreign media operating there, which the secretary of state earlier warned would “impose new burdensome requirements” on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice Of America.
In an August 10 statement, Pompeo said that the two U.S.-funded media outlets already faced “significant and undue restrictions” in Russia, and that a recent draft order by Russia’s state media regulator requiring all media registered as “foreign agents” to label their content as such or face fines of up to 5 million rubles (,000) had left Washington “deeply concerned.”
In Prague, home of RFE/RL’s headquarters, on August 12, Pompeo said that he believed that “we think we can put real pressure and convince them that the right thing to do is to allow press freedom.”
“We’ve condemned it. We’ve also imposed enormous sanctions on Russia for other elements of their malign activity,” Pompeo said. “We hope that the rest of the world will join us in this. We hope that those nations that value the freedom of press, who want independent reporters to be able to ask questions, even if sometimes leaders don’t like them, will join with us.”
Asked whether the recent handling of protests against social injustice in the United States, which has included the use of police force against civilians and journalists, had harmed Washington’s image and weakened its moral authority in scolding authoritarian regimes, Pompeo called the question “insulting.”
He said that the “difference between the United States and these authoritarian regimes couldn’t be more clear.”
“We have the rule of law, we have the freedom of press, every one of those people gets due process. When we have peaceful protesters, we create the space for them to say their mind, to speak their piece,” he said.
“Contrast that with what happens in an authoritarian regime. To even begin to compare them, to somehow suggest that America’s moral authority is challenged by the amazing work that our police forces, our law enforcement people do all across America — I, frankly, just find the question itself incomprehensible and insulting.”
The ability to rapidly project power and force against any threat on a moment’s notice has long been a hallmark of American military might. Dozens of advanced stealth fighters carried on that tradition during a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018.
During the exercise, the US Air Force put a lot of destructive power in the air very quickly, launching a total of 35 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in 11 minutes.
Check out these stunning photos of this show of force by dozens of F-35s.
Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group prepare an F-35A for its mission Nov. 19, 2018.
(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)
F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
2. The milestone drill marks the first ever F-35 “Elephant Walk” combat power exercise, the purpose of which is to fly as many sorties as possible in a predetermined time period in preparation for a possible combat surge.
F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly in close formation during the combat power exercise.
(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)
10. During development, the F-35 has faced numerous setbacks. The aircraft, recognized as the most expensive in military history, suffered its first crash in South Carolina the same week it completed its first combat mission.
In science-fiction movies and television shows, lasers are often used for fighter combat. Whether it is the Rebel X-wings from Star Wars or Air Force F-302s from Stargate SG-1, laser bolts have been taking out bad guys for years. But in real life, lasers aren’t there yet. Not by a long shot. Their biggest military application has been as a guidance system for weapons like the AGM-114 Hellfire and the Paveway laser-guided bombs.
That is in the process of changing. According to a report by CNBC, the Air Force has given Lockheed a contract to develop “high-energy fiber laser weapons” for tactical fighters that are not equipped with stealth technology. The intent is to give planes like Lockheed’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Boeing F-15 Eagle a means to destroy incoming surface-to-air missiles.
According to a Nov. 6 release by Lockheed, the contract comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory, which has a Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD program in place. The program has three components:
SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE), a targeting system for the laser beam.
Laser Pod Research Development (LPRD), which will design the pod to power and cool the laser
Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE), the high energy laser itself.
Lockheed has a concept High-Energy Fiber Laser that would turn a Blackhawk into a Laserhawk, albeit the pallet shown in a Lockheed graphic is too large for use on a fighter like the F-16 or F-15. That system is intended to help counter rocket and mortar attacks using a laser that can produce up to 30 kilowatts.
“The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships,” Dr. Rob Afzal said in the Lockheed release.
While the system seems geared towards zapping missiles, past tests have seen lasers used on vehicles and unmanned aircraft. Soon, it could be that hauling a gun like the A-10’s GAU-8 could be a thing of the past.
Joel Rivera rumbled down dirt roads in his mother’s Kia Forte weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico — on a mission for the U.S. military that he never imagined when he joined the Navy 14 years ago as a submariner.
Dressed in civilian clothing, Rivera and his cousin drove through mountains searching for islanders needing food and water who were out of reach because large trucks couldn’t use debris-filled and washed-out roads. He’d drop off what little provisions he could carry in the four-door sedan and — whenever he could get a cell phone signal — report to military officials on the island about the hardest-hit areas.
“I’d really just pick a spot on a map that was secluded,” he said. “At this point the government was handing out food and water to the cities.”
“I wanted to take care of the places where they were overlooking.”
This was far from an ordinary assignment for Rivera, a machinist’s mate aboard the USS San Francisco as it transitions from a decommissioned attack submarine to a training vessel at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth.
While the Navy sent helicopters, ships and doctors from Hampton Roads to help, Rivera was simply on vacation. He managed to get to an Army Reserve Center base, secured orders to temporarily join a military police battalion there, then was given an incredible autonomy to help in a way few others could — all without ever wearing a uniform.
“It was a great experience doing that. At the same time you could see in their faces that this is not enough, and it’s always going to be like that I think,” Rivera said earlier this month at Submarine Forces Atlantic’s headquarters in Norfolk. “I could only give them a couple things here, a couple things there.”
Rivera’s unlikely role as a submariner delivering humanitarian aid ashore started out as rest and relaxation.
He was born in Puerto Rico and was visiting his parents for the first time in six years when Maria struck as a Category 4 storm in September, causing catastrophic damage to much of the American territory’s infrastructure and leaving residents like his parents without electricity or running water. He had chosen a two-week visit during what happened to be hurricane season because he has no family in Hampton Roads and volunteered to work over the holidays so others could spend time with loved ones.
He was set to fly back to Norfolk just four days after the hurricane made landfall, but it soon became clear that would be impossible. A few days after clearing debris in his parents’ neighborhood, helping neighbors repair roofs and generators, he hiked for five hours to get to his grandmother’s house and ride with his uncle to a nearby military base. He needed to tell his bosses in Virginia what happened, but even the base didn’t have telephone or internet service yet.
He didn’t try going to another base for several more days — gas for a vehicle was a precious commodity. But when the roads near his parents house became passable, he found an Army Reserve Center he heard might have communications.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Rivera, right, assigned to Deep Submergence Unit, directs members of the media down the hatch of the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System during a submarine rescue exercise as part of exercise Bold Monarch 2011. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ricardo J. Reyes)
There, he was able to use Facebook Messenger to let his superiors know he was safe. They told him to just keep helping out in his community and return to Virginia when he could.
On Day 28 in Puerto Rico, he got a cellphone signal and talked to his boss again. Rivera was told if he could find a base to take him in, he would be given temporary orders to join it so he didn’t have to use all his leave. The Army Reserve quickly said yes.
At first, Rivera mostly did clerical work at a base near his home. But after two days, he said he felt like he wasn’t doing enough to directly help.
So Rivera was given a unique assignment: Go to a commercial airport near his parents’ home in Ponce on the southern end of the island that was being used to fly in humanitarian supplies by JetBlue Airlines. There, JetBlue officials stuffed his mother’s car with boxes of bottled water, canned goods, breakfast bars, snacks, and other supplies.
“We went exploring and talked to the people, said, ‘Hey, I’m trying to find the people that really need this.’ They were really helpful. They weren’t greedy. They pointed us where to go,” Rivera said. “It’s mountainous areas, places I didn’t even know were there.
“Dirt roads. Places I shouldn’t have been taking my mom’s car through.”
When he could, Rivera said, he’d wait in line for hours to get ice so that residents could have a cold sip of water during extremely hot and humid days. Rivera bought a cooler for the ice and paid for gas, although he said the Army base provided some fuel.
For two weeks, Rivera primarily operated on his own, occasionally texting his whereabouts to a contact at the police battalion. When he was able to get a flight home nearly two months after he arrived, he returned to the reserve center base one more time so he could thank everyone for the opportunity to work with them.
Rivera realizes it’s unusual for a submariner to do what he did, but the lessons he’s learned in the Navy about staying calm under pressure helped.
“When disaster strikes you try not freak out about it and try to see the bigger picture. We’ll eventually get this road clear, we’ll eventually get a little bit more stable with the water,” he said.
“I think that was one of the biggest things, is just realizing is that everything’s eventually going to be a little bit better throughout any situation.”
“It’s not about winning the war. It’s about winning the peace,” was an expression heard often at the Counter Violent Extremist Organizations Chiefs of Defense Conference on Oct. 16, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the gathering, which drew representatives from 83 nations, including all the U.S. combatant commanders and commanders of counter terrorism operations from around the world.
This was the third chiefs of defense conference. It started in 2016 with 40 countries. “Last year we had 71 [countries] and this year 83, so we are pleased with the turnout,” the general said.
Combating violent extremism
Over the past two years there has been real and quantifiable military progress against violent extremism. But that does not mean the campaign is over. Nations now must particularly address the underlying conditions that lead to radicalization, and that requires a whole-of-government approach, the chairman said.
There is a military dimension and chiefs of defense play an important role. The chiefs generally deal with the counterterrorism fight and mass migration. But getting after the underlying conditions – building economies, establishing schools, hospitals and infrastructure, and improving legitimate governance is a broader issue.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, brief the press at the Counter Violent Extremist Organization Chiefs of Defense Conference held at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.
DOD photo by Jim Garamone
“What we’ve tried to do throughout the day is ensure that we have in context the role of the chiefs of defense,” Dunford said. “One of the things that I think most of them will be more empowered to do when they return to their countries is describe the nature of the challenges we face and help craft more comprehensive solutions to deal with violent extremism.”
The military can deal with the symptoms of terrorism, but it cannot solve the root cause.
The chiefs of defense themselves are a network aimed at taking on a network. The chiefs’ network opens up opportunities to share information, share intelligence and share best practices and then, where appropriate, to take collective action, the chairman said.
The chiefs discussed countering violent extremism around the world, from West Africa and the Sahel to Libya and the maritime operation the European Union is conducting there. They discussed the fight against ISIS and al-Qaida. They discussed the operations in Afghanistan. They also talked about the Sulu Sea and the challenges in Southeast Asia.
Dunford said he was pleased with the good dialogue at the meeting. The chiefs “came prepared to engage and have a discussion,” he added.
Stabilization, sustainment effort
McGurk called the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria a microcosm of the counter violent extremist organizations campaign worldwide. “The theme of the day is the conventional fight. While not over, we can see the endpoint,” he said. “But that is not the end of the campaign. We talked about transitioning to a new phase really focusing on the stabilization and sustainment effort.”
He noted that nations have announced 0 million in contributions just over the last five months enabling stabilization initiatives in Syria. This is giving hope in even in very difficult places like Raqqa – the former capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate – where 150,000 Syrians have returned to their homes.
In Iraq, the U.S.-led effort has now trained over 170,000 members of the security forces. “We had a good presentation today from the commander of the new NATO Training Mission to Iraq that will continue to professionalize the force,” McGurk said. The United States announced 8 million will go to vulnerable communities in Iraq that were so damaged by the fight and campaign and the genocidal acts of ISIS.
Getting information and intelligence to the countries that can act upon it is important, as well. Dunford said nations in Africa and Southeast Asia are looking at establishing fusion centers where regional nations can share this vital information.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
“Well, they sure favor their Earth tone clothing over here; every color is … dark, dingy, and just… gray. It’s like this whole city is trapped inside a gray balloon,” my brother observed and commented. “What the hell is with all the dark clothing, seriously?” he puzzled. “I mean is there some kind of extra import tariff on $hit that is red, yellow, or orange — the longer wavelength colors — always with the shorter waves, Moriarity; ALWAYS WITH THE SHORTER WAVES!”
Sarajevo is the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina in former Yugoslavia. The boys and I came here shortly after a United Nations (UN)-induced cease-fire. The tide of homicide, genocide, fratricide, and suicide along the countryside… had all just become so, so, so over the top for the world theater’s pallet.
The suffering on the ground was hellish but what the real world didn’t know and we only learned on the ground was that we were here because of a doll. Yep, that’s right journalists were placing dolls in the scenes of carnage which when seen by coffee-talkers around the world sparked global outrage — time to send in some troops!
“They’re ripping babies out of mothers’ arms and then gunning both down right there in the streets… and I think that’s just wrong, you know?” bleat the crestfallen Gladys Pumpernick of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. “Oh, but what of the children??”
And so it went; that’s how me and the boys ended up in a C-130 Herc out of Germany, junked-up with body armor and helmets. Ground fire was an indeed thing in and around the Sarajevo airport. No slow shallow glide to the flight line; that would lend undue exposure of the aircraft to ground fire. Ours was a fast approach with a sudden steep dive and flare onto the tarmac.
Air Force likes to tell you that a dive gives you a chance. The Army tells you to throw on body armor. Despite both schools of wisdom, you’re still stuck in a metal tube with absolutely nothing you can do. We looked and felt stupid in our armor, with nothing protecting us from bullets coming up through the floor of the aircraft.
“In Nam the Air Cavalry sat on their steel pots!” recalled a brother, and we all quickly removed our armored vests and helmets. We lay our vests on our red nylon seats, the K-Pot helmets on the vests, then sat on top of the combo, grinning back and forth at each other the grin you grin when you have saved your testicles for yet another day.
Once on the ground, were attached to the in-country commanding general’s group of the UN-titled Implementation Force (IFOR). All soldiers from all nations wore the IFOR badge on their uniforms. Our badges, being with the command element read “ComIFOR” the Command of IFOR, a title that lent prestige in countless areas as well as free parking spots.
We wore only functionally rugged civilian clothes and carried a concealed M-1911 pistol on our person. Parking along a curb on our first day we were immediately approached by a fireplug of a hateful U.S. Military Police person. She huffed and she puffed and sought to blow us down:
“You can’t park there!”
Our team lead, D-man, neatly closed the driver’s door of our SUV as he replied: “Yes we can.”
“No you can’t — IFOR!” huffed the MP as she jammed an indicating index finger into the IFOR badge on her chest.
D-Man tapped his badge on his chest: “Yes we can — ComIFOR.”
The MP’s eyes flashed a “been-got” flash, and she stewed momentarily. “Well, don’t take all damned day!” was all she had.
“Yeah, we’ll be sure and not take all damned day, sweetheart,” was how D-Man dismissed our host.
I can tell you that it was dark in Sarajevo at night, so dark. My first night there I counted from up high a grand total of five lights coming from some sources in the city, not even bright ones. Two of them were traffic lights… just two traffic lights on main street in the entire city. It was dark in Sarajevo at night, yeah.
Night in a shopping district of modern-day Sarajevo
The country’s infrastructure was simply destroyed from the years of bombing and shelling. There was no dependable electric grid, fuel or transportation was rare. People were forced to spend long days well into night, mostly on foot just trying to take care of their basic needs.
And at night our headlights revealed the ghost people as they moved through the streets. Clad mostly in black; light black and dark black. A splash of gray to compliment the dark something-or-other, an ensemble pulled together with a black pleather jacket.
And the women, dark on dark with pallid skin, long raven hair, black lipstick, and dark eyeshadow… looking like a hoard of listless Morticia Addams’ sulking their way to somewhere. They shuffled as singletons or couples arm in pleather arm. Goth was just the untimely trend for the young there. It just made for an even more macabre ambiance in the city at night.
The original Morticia Addams
Back at our little compound, I had a chance to meet one of the ghost people face to face: Rado, short for Radovan, had been a newspaper editor before the war in just his early 20s. He was since rounded up by Serbian troops and held for many months in a barn with the other men of his neighborhood and tortured beyond logical description, to the brink of a ghost person.
Subject to his calamity he became as simple as a little child in both thought and action. He did odd jobs around the American Embassy for food and pennies. He smoked like a meat house and wore the same unlaundered pullover sweater the entire three months I was there.
The team and I really came to question the ghost people: why were they walking in the street at night in dark clothes, in the middle of the street even?! It’s like they’re begging to be killed… they’re stoned freaking crazy — all of them! Yes, it sure seemed that way to me too. I have to reckon that after all they have been through these last years nothing really lights their fuses.
What can I tell you? These souls have been treading in Lucifer’s backyard for over four years now, the longest siege of a major city in modern history. Day after day of pacts with the devil to stay alive, scratching and screaming to stay living, promising all and everything to the Creator for just one more day above ground… do we honestly expect them to worry over their dark wardrobe while they stroll the street shoulders of their peace-time home??
An American Colonel gave Rado his used New Balance running shoes the day he signed out; he just walked up and stuffed them in Rado’s chest and walked away. Rado stood stunned, gradually sinking to the ground crying and hugging his now most prized possession, his (used) American shoes. “Even and they are my number!” he cried out in fractured English, meaning they were just his size, “Even and they are my same number!”
Driving on patrol or even on the base was always a challenge for us with the Ghost people lurking in the shadows. “I swear to God “Sarajevo” is the Bosnian word for ghost people! They need to move out of the freakin’ way!!” =HONK — HONK — HOOOOOONK= “I’m going to run one of these sons-of-bitches over and it’s not going to be my fault!” Tough talk, but we would continue to always yield to the ghost people, our rage notwithstanding.
Rado got hit by an IFOR HMMWV (hummer) and died on Alipašina Ulica (street). It was night, and the street was dark. Rado was dark and too simple, the driver American and so irate, irate with the ghost people of Sarajevo.
I didn’t see the accident, but I raced there when I heard the news, as it was very close by. Rado lay still where he died, wearing his same rancid pullover sweater, and now the Colonel’s used running shoes, his same number, Rado’s, the simple child… Rado, the ghost of Sarajevo.
Radovan Bozhić served his sentence in Hades. He was finished with his sentence, and now it was time for him to live; it was someone else’s turn to stagger the green mile to death for a fair spell.
Somewhere, somehow, some clerk made an errant entry in the wrong row, the wrong column of a divine dispatch log, and mistakenly put Rado wrongfully back on the mortal path… my, but I did hate it so.
Marines and sailors from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit participated in exercise Trident Juncture 18 in Iceland and Norway during October and November 2018. Trident Juncture is the largest NATO exercise held since 2002 and allowed for military forces to operate in a collective defense scenario.
Marines initiated the exercise in Iceland where they executed an air assault and conducted cold weather training to prepare for the live exercise in Norway. The cold weather training allowed Marines to rehearse establishing a bivouac location and familiarized them with their gear in Iceland’s high winds and driving rain.
“We need to exercise our capabilities in different locations so we can plan for different variables,” said Lt. Col. Misca Geter, the executive officer with the 24th MEU. “The weather and terrain of Iceland forces us to plan around those factors.”
After Iceland, the 24th MEU moved on to Norway who hosted the live exercise portion of Trident Juncture. Norway provided another challenging environment for Marines to train in that would not otherwise be possible in the United States. The unique climate and terrain allowed the Marines to demonstrate their proficiency in the cold weather, precipitation, and high altitude.
Marines and sailors offload light armored vehicles from a landing craft air cushion on Alvund Beach, Norway during an amphibious landing in support of Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 30, 2018.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Margaret Gale)
The culminating event for the 24th MEU came Oct. 29-31, 2018, when they executed an amphibious landing and air assault in Alvund and Gjora, Norway, respectively. Eleven amphibious assault vehicles, more than 50 HMMWV’s, and six light armored vehicles were delivered ashore during the amphibious landing. More than 20 other vehicles were moved from ship to shore and approximately 1,000 Marines were transported ashore by surface or air connectors. The air assault saw a company of Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines insert into Gjora, secure the landing zone, and set the conditions for follow on operations. While ashore, Marines rehearsed tactics in conjunction with NATO allies to defeat the notional enemy forces.
“The training Trident Juncture 18 provided is important because we have Marines who have never deployed, been on ship or operated in the cold weather environment that Iceland and Norway have,” said Sgt. Maj. Chris Garza, the 24th MEU Sergeant Major. “We had the opportunity to operate with the United Kingdom Royal Marines, who are one of our NATO partners. The Royal Marines have a history much like ours and it has been a great opportunity to train with them. We now know our capabilities with the Royal Marines and look forward to working with them in the future.”
U.S. Marines secure a landing strip after disembarking from Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion during air assault training at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
(Photo by Sgt. Devin Andrews)
The large-scale exercise validated the 24th MEU’s ability to deploy with the Navy, rapidly generate combat power ashore, and set the conditions for offensive operations under challenging conditions. Trident Juncture strengthened the bond between the Navy-Marine Corps team and integrated NATO allies and partners, particularly the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines, who embarked with the 24th MEU in Iceland.
“It’s been interesting to integrate with U.S. Marines,” said Marine Declan Parker, a heavy weapons operator with anti-tanks 3 troop, 45 Commando. “We have had the opportunity to learn about their weapons systems and tactics. This exercise will aid the troops in future deployments”
The Royal Marines, with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, worked in conjunction with the 24th MEU and assets from Marine Aircraft Group 29 to rehearse their tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel proficiency. During the TRAP, approximately 30 Royal Marines loaded into two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 while two U.S. Marines served as isolated personnel to be recovered. The Royal Marines were attacked by the notional enemy multiple times which allowed them to maneuver on the enemy while a U.S. Marine called for close air support which was delivered by a UH-1Y Venom with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. The effective enemy suppression allowed the Royal Marines to deliver both isolated U.S. Marines safely to the awaiting CH-53.
U.S. Navy pilots land the MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during air assault training at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, Oct. 17, 2018,.during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
(Photo by Sgt. Devin Andrews)
“The fact that we were able to integrate [the Royal Marines] with Marine Corps aviation is a great training value for both of our forces,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Jacob Yeager, a member of the 24th MEU who was embedded with the Royal Marines during the TRAP. “U.S. Marine Corps aircraft delivered UK Royal Marines into a landing zone to recover two isolated U.S. Marines. That’s significant.”
As the exercise comes to a close, Marines are now more lethal and capable of operating in unique terrain and climate while exposed to the elements that the mountainous terrain presents.
“Trident Juncture has been an extremely beneficial training exercise,” said Cpl. Zachary Zupets, an anti-tank missile gunner with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 24th MEU. “The cold weather [in Norway and Iceland] is not the same back in North Carolina, it gets cold, but it isn’t the same kind of cold. This exercise has taken us out of our element and forced us to apply the things that we have learned and how to operate in this type of environment. We definitely had some fun out there. I think it was an amazing experience and my guys and I really enjoyed it.”
For almost two decades, drone strikes have been the hassle-free, war crime tolerant way to sever the heads of any kind of terror cells operating against the United States in the war on terror. There’s just one big problem with that: Hellfire missiles make a big boom, and when that boom is misplaced, a lot of people die – innocent people. And that just creates more terrorists. Lockheed-Martin has finally created a weapon designed to minimize civilian casualties while taking out the bad guys with pinpoint accuracy.
Actually, knife-point accuracy.
Imagine this hellfire missile, but instead of explosives, it’s filled with pop-out blades.
The Hellfire missile is a staple of drones, helicopters, and fixed-wing aircraft throughout the U.S. military arsenal. The laser-guided, tank-busting workhorse is great for use on a conventional battlefield but not so great when used for surgical strikes.
The term “surgical strike” gets a whole new meaning with the Hellfire R9X projectile, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has no explosives, but rather it drops 100 pounds of metal blades into a target, which includes long blades that deploy from the missile’s body right before impact. The shards hit with such force that they cut through concrete and sheet metal.
A U.S. airstrike using a Hellfire RX9 to kill al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu Khayr al-Masri in Syria in 2017. Above is the result of the surgical strike.
(New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness)
Also called “The Flying Ginsu” by the people who developed the missile, they say it’s the equivalent of dropping an anvil on a terrorist’s head, minimizing the damage to people and property in the vicinity of the weapon’s detonation. Since the weapon has no explosive effect, it is also sometimes referred to as “the ninja bomb.”
So far, the weapon has only been deployed around a half-dozen times, in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia. It was the weapon of choice to kill a number of al-Qaeda operatives, including Jamal al-Badawi, the bomber behind the USS Cole attack in 2000 and it was the back-up plan to kill Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan compound.
Amazon Prime is pushing their new show, Jack Ryan, based on the Tom Clancy character that has saved Britain’s queen, hunted Russian subs, and interrupted terrorist plots across the world in both novels and movies from the ’80s to today.
The character is a mainstay of the the thriller world — an American James Bond — which is why it’s so great that Amazon cast comedy icon John Krasinski in the role.
Now, Funny or Die has done what we’ve all been thinking — they cut together the Jack Ryan commercial and scenes from The Office, pitting America’s top analyst-turned-spy against the criminal genius of Dwight Schrute, the socially awkward and pretentious beet farmer who’s always hatching some failed scheme to teach his office mates a moral lesson.
Jim (left) feigns working at his desk as Dwight (center) looks at what he believes to be a gift-wrapped desk. Spoiler: The desk is actually gone completely. Jim made a fake frame for the wrapping and the whole thing collapses when Dwight tries to sit down.
Dwight is best known by his self-appointed job title: Assistant to the Regional Manager. Abbreviated, of course, as the Ass. Man.
He labors for years to outmaneuver Jim Halpert, now Jim Ryan, in a series of escalating pranks, from disappearing desks to fake spy taps to false faxes from the future. Apparently, Dwight is not putting up with it any longer.
Check out the hilarious video mashup below and get a look at more sinister Dwight Schrute.
Jack Ryan debuted August 31, but has already been been renewed for a second season. In the first season, Ryan notices irregularities in bank transactions and eventually finds evidence of a growing terrorist threat against the U.S., leading him across the world in a quest to hunt down the leaders and prevent the attack.
The show brings Michael Bay and John Krasinski back together. The men had previously worked together on 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a dramatization of the horrible events at the U.S. embassy in Libya in 2012. 13 Hours was probably the most well-known example of Krasinski’s pivot from comedy to action.
After years of playing Jim Halpert in The Office and performing other comedic roles, Krasinski has been branching out, directing movies and focusing on action roles.