Iraqi Army's recent gains are fragile as US draws down - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

From their outpost on Iraq’s westernmost edge, U.S. 1st Lt. Kyle Hagerty and his troops watched civilians trickle into the area after American and Iraqi forces drove out the Islamic State group. They were, he believed, families returning to liberated homes, a hopeful sign of increasing stability.


But when he interviewed them on a recent reconnaissance patrol, he discovered he was wrong. They were families looking for shelter after being driven from their homes in a nearby town. Those who pushed them out were forces from among their “liberators” — Shiite militiamen who seized control of the area after defeating the IS militants.

It was a bitter sign of the mixed legacy from the United States’ intervention in Iraq to help defeat the militants. American-backed military firepower brought down the IS “caliphate,” but many of the divisions and problems that helped fuel the extremists’ rise remain unresolved.

The U.S.-led coalition, which launched its fight against IS in August 2014, is now reducing the numbers of American troops in Iraq, after Baghdad declared victory over the extremists. Both Iraqi and U.S. officials say the exact size of the drawdown has not yet been decided.

Also read: Twin bombings in Baghdad kill 38, shatter post-IS calm

U.S. and Iraqi commanders here in western Iraq warn that victories over IS could be undercut easily by a large-scale withdrawal. Iraq’s regular military remains dependent on U.S. support. Many within Iraq’s minority communities view the U.S. presence as a buffer against the Shiite-dominated central government. Still, Iranian-backed militias with strong voices in Baghdad are pushing for a complete U.S. withdrawal, and some Iraqis liken any American presence to a form of occupation.

That has left an uncomfortable limbo in this area that was the last battlefield against the extremists. Coalition commanders still work with Iraqi forces to develop long-term plans for stability even as a drawdown goes ahead with no one certain of its eventual extent.

Hearts and minds — again

“Let’s go win us some hearts and minds,” Sgt. Jonathan Cary, 23, joked as he and Hagerty and the patrol convoy set off from a base outside the town of Qaim, evoking a phrase used in American policy goals for Iraq ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
U.S. Army military police provide crowd control while Iraqi citizens line up for food and water being distributed to citizens in need in April 2003. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson.)

After just a few hours moving on foot across farmland and orchards to a cluster of modest houses, Hagerty realized the families he thought were returnees to the area were in fact newly displaced. Their homes in Qaim had been confiscated by the government-affiliated Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, made up mainly of Shiite paramilitary fighters backed by Iran.

“Our end goal is a stable Iraq, right?” Hagerty said later, back at the base. “But when you see stuff like that, it makes you wonder if they are ever going to be able to do it themselves.”

After victories against IS, the PMF has built up a presence in many parts of Sunni-majority provinces, including western Anbar. It formally falls under the command of the prime minister, but some Iraqi commanders accuse the PMF of being a rival to government power.

PMF flags line highways crisscrossing Anbar. At a PMF checkpoint outside al-Asad airbase — a sprawling complex used by both Iraqi and coalition forces — U.S. convoys are regularly stopped for hours while busloads of PMF fighters are waved through.

U.S. Marine Col. Seth Folsom works closely with the branches of Iraq’s security forces — Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi army — who are increasingly concerned about the rise in power of the PMF. Iran has given no indication of dialing back its support after the defeat of IS extremists.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
Popular Mobilization Forces fire a mortar during the Hawija offensive in 2017. (VOA photo by Dlshad Anwar)

“The biggest question I get now is, ‘how long can we count on you being here?'” Folsom said of his conversations with Iraqi commanders and local politicians.

That decision ultimately rests with Iraq’s political leadership, he said.

“I guess some people could see that as a cop-out, but at the same time it’s not my place as a lowly colonel to define how long the U.S. presence is going to be.”

‘Forward line of freedom’

For the senior officers leading the current fight against IS, decades of U.S. military intervention in Iraq has defined their careers.

The top U.S. general in Iraq — Lt. Gen. Paul Funk — served in Iraq four times: in the Gulf war in 1991; in the 2003 invasion; in the surge when some 170,000 American troops were serving in Iraq in 2007; and most recently in the fight against IS.

Related: The US is beginning to draw down from fighting in Iraq

“It will definitely be positive,” Funk said of the legacy of the U.S. role against IS in Iraq. “People see their young men and women out here defeating evil. That’s a positive thing.”

On a recent flight from Baghdad to a small U.S. outpost in northern Syria near Manbij — a trip that traversed the heart of the battlefield with IS for the past 3½ years — Funk described the future of the fight as ideological and open-ended.

“The problem is people believe it’s already over, and it’s not,” he said. “Beating the ideology, destroying the myth, that’s going to take time.”

Touching down outside an orchard on the perimeter of the Manbij base, Funk exclaimed: “Welcome to the front line of freedom!”

Funk predicts the ideological fight could take years and easily require U.S. troop deployments elsewhere. He said that is one reason he believes it’s so important to visit U.S. troops on the current front lines — to show them “the American people believe in their purpose.”

“We have got to recruit the next generation,” he said.

More reading: This is the story behind the rise and fall of the Islamic State group

Many of the young U.S. troops interviewed by The Associated Press said they didn’t know anything about the Islamic State group when they enlisted.

Rayden Simeona, a 21-year-old corporal in the Marines, enlisted in 2014, when all he knew about the U.S. military was from movies and video games.

“I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere with my life, I had no idea what IS was. I just knew I wanted to go to war,” he said. Once deployed, he said talk rarely broached the big questions of “What we are doing here?” or “Why?”

“But I do wonder all the time: Why are we spending all this money in Iraq?” he said. “There’s probably some greater plan or reason that someone much higher up than me knows.”

Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Along Iraq’s border with Syria, the two Iraqi forces charged with holding a key stretch of territory lack direct communication. Because one force falls under the Defense Ministry and the other under the Interior Ministry, their radios are incompatible.

Instead, the troops use Nokia cellphones in a part of the country where network coverage is spotty to nonexistent.

At the nearby coalition outpost near Qaim, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brandon Payne spends much of his time filling communications gaps by relaying messages between different branches of Iraq’s military.

“The coordination is not where we hoped it would be,” Payne said. “But they do talk to each other, and we see that as a sign of progress.”

Tactical shortcomings within Iraq’s military are partially what fueled the expansion of the coalition’s footprint in Iraq in the past three years. As Iraqi ground forces demonstrated an inability to communicate and coordinate attacks across multiple fronts, U.S. forces moved closer to the fighting and sped up the pace of territorial gains.

Despite the caliphate’s collapse, those weaknesses have persisted. Iraqi forces remain dependent on coalition intelligence, reconnaissance, artillery fire, and airstrikes to hold territory and fight IS insurgent cells.

Payne regularly shuttles between his base, Qaim and the Syrian border, meeting with different members of Iraqi forces to coordinate security and repel IS attacks from the Syrian side.

Read more: ISIS’ last town in Iraq falls to Iraqi security forces

“I would say we are still needed,” Payne said. “We are getting great results with this model, but you see how much goes into it.”

The base, once a small, dusty outpost, now houses a few hundred coalition troops and is a maze of barracks, gyms, a dining facility, laundry services and a chapel.

“At some point, someone much higher up than me is going to decide the juice is just not worth the squeeze,” Payne said, referring to the cost of such a large outpost in a remote corner of the country.

Rotten leadership

Iraqi army Lt. Col. Akram Salah Hadi, who works closely with Payne’s soldiers at the Qaim outpost, said coalition training and intelligence sharing have improved the performance of his unit. But overall, the U.S. effort in Iraq gives him little hope for the future.

Corruption in the military, Hadi said, remains as bad as it was in 2014, when it was seen as a major reason why entire Iraqi divisions simply dissolved in the assault on Mosul by a few hundred IS fighters.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
This soldier instructs a motivated group of Iraqi troops. (Image from DoD)

Young Iraqi soldiers with ambition and talent can’t rise through the ranks without political connections. Top ranks are bloated with officers who have bought their promotions. Within his division alone, Hadi said he can think of 40 officers with no military background who attained their rank because of their membership in a political party.

“With leadership like this, the rest will always be rotten,” he said.

Coalition programs that have trained tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have largely focused on the infantry, not the junior officers needed to lead units and instill a culture of service that will make a professional force.

Folsom, the U.S. Marine colonel, said military power will not root out corruption or heal Iraq’s longstanding divisions.

“I have a saying out here,” he added, “‘You can’t want it more than them.'”

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS dubs New York terrorist a ‘soldier of the caliphate’

The Islamic State extremist group on Nov. 3 called the attacker accused of killing eight people in a truck rampage in New York “soldier of the caliphate,” according to a US-based extremist monitoring group.


“One of the soldiers of the Islamic State attacked a number of crusaders on a street in New York City,” said an article in the group’s al-Naba weekly newspaper, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, has been charged with terrorism in connection with the Oct. 31 attack in which he allegedly used a rented pickup truck to mow down bicyclists and pedestrians on a mile-long stretch of bike path near where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
The West Side Highway Bike Path, where the attacks took place. Flickr photo by user Sarah_Ackerman.

Prosecutors say Saipov confessed to being inspired by IS and “felt good about what he had done,” even demanding to hang an IS black flag in his hospital room as he was recuperating from being shot by police in the abdomen.

Police said Saipov appeared to have followed very closely instructions IS has disseminated online on how to stage such truck attacks.

IS’s embrace of Saipov came after US President Donald Trump repeatedly called for a death sentence for Saipov on Nov. 2, At the same time, Trump appeared to rule out a sending him to the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a series of tweets on Twitter.

 

 

Prosecutors in presenting their case against Saipov highlighted evidence that he sympathized with IS. Prosecutors have not said he acted alone, but New York’s governor and other authorities have said they believe it was a “lone wolf” attack inspired by IS.

Court documents said the Uzbek immigrant had kept thousands of IS propaganda photos and videos on his cell phone, some showing gruesome executions of IS prisoners.

Questioned in his hospital bed, Saipov said he had been inspired by IS videos that he watched on his cellphone, and began plotting an attack about a year ago, FBI agent Amber Tyree said in court papers.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
ISIS-produced propaganda portray the group as a highly organized military force. The suspect in the Oct. 31 New York truck attack claims he was influenced by such videos.

In the past few years, IS online posts have exhorted followers to use vehicles, knives, or other readily available means of killing people in their home countries.

England, France, Sweden, Spain, and Germany are among the countries which have all seen similar deadly vehicle attacks since mid-2016, often by suspects that police said were followers of IS.

Acquaintances of Saipov have told RFE/RL that he appeared to be radicalized only after leaving Uzbekistan and moving to the United States in 2010.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
NYPD Counterterrorism officers are investigating an attack that killed 8 and injured more in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017. The attack is being considered a terrorist attack. Image from Twitter user @NYPDSpeechley

While embracing Saipov as an adherent of its extreme brand of Islam, IS provided no evidence that the group was directly responsible for the New York attack. Its claims of responsibility for previous mass killings have not always been borne out by evidence.

Intelligence officials have said that as IS has rapidly lost territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria this year, it has put more effort into trying to inspire and sponsor attacks overseas.

“The grace of Allah, the operation instilled fear in crusader America, prompting them to increase security measures and intensify actions against immigrants to America,” IS said in the al-Naba article, according to SITE.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Details on ‘missing’ sailor Peter Mims are unpleasant and kinda sad

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and U.S. Seventh Fleet dropped everything to search for the presumed “man-overboard” Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims on June 8. For three days, the search continued until it was called off and he was labelled lost-at-sea. By the 15th, they were planning the memorial service in his honor…until he was found alive and hiding. He faces court martial and admits to the charges of abandoning watch and dereliction.

As new details come to light into the Mims investigation, it becomes clear that Mims was not mentally well. Bear in mind: For a list of all the details released to the public, an exclusive on the Navy Times goes in greater detail.


Prior to being missing, Seventh Fleet wasn’t known for it’s high morale. Fat Leonard scandals, several collisions, and historically low morale just scratch the surface. Sailors of the Shiloh and Mims’ engineering department were no different. After the USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo, the missions of the Shiloh were reportedly multiplied and sailors were reporting three hours of sleep a night as normal.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

As for GSM3 Mims, his mother was sick with cancer and was asking his chain of command about leaving the Navy early to care for her. Caring for his family and being indebted to the Navy left his pay checks bone dry at $40 to $60. To top all of this off, shipmates claim that he believed in some wild ideas, like being able to shut down the engine room with his body’s electricity or shoot fireballs out of his hands, that he’d been to space, and that other sailors were going to poison him with needles.

He was seen at 6PM, prior to his watch shift, but failed to show up at 8PM. It was over 30 minutes before he was logged as missing. He was, however, seen during his hiding, but the unnamed sailor in the galley didn’t realize it was Mims at the time. It was later discovered that Mims squirreled away large amount of Pop Tarts and granola bars.

He was seen again, covered in rust and carrying a 34-gallon plastic bag filled with water. Mims told the sailor who spotted him that people were trying to kill him and that there were hidden messages in the movie titles listed in the plan of the day. Terrified by how erratic Mims was, this sailor also did not report it immediately. The crew later searched his last spotted locations. The entire ship had been cleared top to bottom except for the Main Engine room 2 catacombs, which was ignored because of the extreme heat and overwhelmingly putrid scent — believed to be fuel and oil, they later realized it was actually human waste.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

He was found covered in feces and urine, carrying a camelback, a multi-tool, a box of Peeps, and an empty peanut butter jar. His fellow sailors talked him into leaving the tight hiding spot and turning himself in. He was escorted to the command master chief’s cabin. Mims said that he had no plans of being caught, plans to reveal himself, or even plans to escape. He would be taken into custody at the USS Reagan.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You’ve never seen this many military discounts in one place

Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.

And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.


Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

Then you can keep your savings in one place.

GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.

The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.

But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”

Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.

In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.

Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is asking its followers to take aim at this tropical destination

A recent Islamic State video calls upon would-be jihadis to join the terrorist group in the Philippines rather than the core caliphate in Syria, an NBC News analysis reveals.


The video specifically instructs any would-be travelers in the Asia-Pacific region to go to the Philippines instead of trying to travel to the core caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

“Come forth to the land of jihad. Perform hijrah. Come forth to … Marawi,” a militant instructs in the video.

ISIS fighters remain besieged in the Filipino city of Marawi, where it has mounted a months-long surprisingly robust insurgency. The battle for Marawai has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents and began during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorist group frequently uses the holy month as an excuse to mount some of its deadliest operations. Dozens of Filipino soldiers have been killed in the ensuing siege.

The group’s loss of territory has caused a concerted change in the terrorist organization’s propaganda efforts, which now tell fighters to either carry out attacks in their home countries or travel to one of the group’s affiliate chapters.

ISIS also has active affiliates in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Libya, each of which command the loyalty of hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters. Many of its affiliates have been linked to high-profile attacks in their host countries and even plots against the West.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Green Beret behind the Afghan SOF Strategy, Scott Mann, talks leadership

*My editor sent me this after listening to the episode:
“I wanted to let you know that this was by far one of my favorite episodes to edit. It provided great insight into leadership skills.”*

The Professionals Playbook” t-shirts are now available here.

My guest today is Scott Mann who spent 23 years as an Officer in the United States Army, 18 of those as a Green Beret in Army Special Forces, where he specialized in unconventional missions in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan.


He is the author of two international best-selling books: Game Changers and Straight Talk About Military Transition.

He’s also given 3 TED talks.

In our conversation we talk about how Green Berets build rapport with local tribes, how he almost took his life after leaving the military, and how leaders can connect with their people.

Order of Topics:

  • Using SOF training for COVID-19
  • How Green Berets compare to other SOF units
  • How to go into a village and establish trust
  • Interpersonal techniques
  • Architect of the Afghan SOF program
  • Almost committing suicide
  • How to transition from the military
  • Green Beret principals
  • How to build relationships
  • Leadership training

Sign up for my newsletter for a few useful and insightful things that have helped me over the last month. You can sign up here.

LinkedIn– Justin Hasard Lee
Instagram– @justinfighterpilot
Facebook–@justinfighterpilot

This episode was edited by Trevor Cabler

You can review the show by tapping here and scrolling to the bottom where it says: “Write a Review.” Thanks for the support ?

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Arnold Schwarzenegger got drop kicked while watching athletes perform in Africa

On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.

While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.


Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.

(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)

“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”

Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.

And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight. By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA

twitter.com

In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.

“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”

Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”

It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.

Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.

twitter.com

Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.

“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”

Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.

“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”

Articles

The Air Force’s first F-35s will be fully ready for war next month

After years of development, and having only just entered service officially with the US Air Force last year, the F-35A Lightning II will finally be declared fully combat ready next month, heralding a new age of air power for the service.


Aviation Week reports that the 34th Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah, will take delivery of brand new F-35As fresh from the production line in Dallas, Texas. What differentiates these latest stealth jets from the F-35As currently flown by the Air Force is that they will come with the Block 3F software upgrade.

Block 3F is the final step towards enabling the aircraft to fully utilize every air-to-surface and air-to-air weapon it was built to field in combat. Currently, the F-35s flown by the Air Force and US Marine Corps operate with a limited weapons load while Lockheed Martin and other program contractors ready the Lightning II’s software.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
A Norwegian F-35A taxiing (Photo Department of Defense)

The F-35 was created as part of the Joint Strike Fighter program of the late 1990s, bringing about a dedicated multirole replacement for the F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AV-8B Harrier II jumpjet operated by the Marine Corps.

By building aircraft with similar architecture – just different engines – the Department of Defense theorized that money could be saved in the long run while keeping operational readiness for the military’s entire fighter fleet at an all-time high. As such, Lockheed Martin has developed three variants of the F-35: the A model for the Air Force, the B model short takeoff/vertical landing for the Marine Corps, and the carrier-capable C model for the Navy.

The F-35 was originally designed to work in tandem with the F-22 Raptor – the Raptor serving as an air superiority fighter while the Lightning II functioning more as a swing-role “Swiss army knife” aircraft. The deployment of the Block 3F software is a huge leap towards making that goal a reality today.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
A USAF F-35A departs from Luke AFB in Arizona (Photo US Air Force)

This upgrade comes in the wake of a training deployment conducted by the 34th Fighter Squadron to the United Kingdom earlier this year with F-35As that were still limited in their warfighting capabilities – most in terms of the weapons they could carry and employ. The Marine Corps has also pushed its F-35Bs out to Japan, but are also serving in a limited capacity until the new software update is rolled out.

With fears of a potential confrontation with North Korea, and with the rise of Chinese and Russian stealth fighters on the horizon, maintaining an edge with its own fifth generation fighters has become a major priority for the Air Force. According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the F-35s which were deployed to the UK in spring could have been sent to battle if called upon, though their pilots would not be able to access the aircraft’s full potential, with the limited software built into their aircraft at the time.

The Pentagon expects to place more than 100 F-35s in Asia within the next three to four years to counter the Chinese air force’s fielding of its own fifth generation fighters like the J-31 Gyrfalcon and the J-20 multirole fighters.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did Russia just bomb US allies in Syria again?

Russia has dismissed allegations that its military struck U.S.-backed forces in war-torn Syria, injuring several allied fighters.


Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on September 17 that Russian strikes only hit targets in areas under the control of the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Konashenkov that the Russian military informed the United States well in advance of its operational plans.

“To avoid unnecessary escalation, the commanders of Russian forces in Syria used an existing communications channel to inform our American partners in good time about the borders of our military operation in Deir al-Zor,” he said.

The comments come after the U.S.-led coalition battling IS militants in Syria said the Russian military on September 16 struck forces of a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab militia in Syria.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
U.S. Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, Mar. 24, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachery C. Laning)

“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisors,” a statement said. “Several SDF fighters were wounded and received medical care as a result of the strike.”

It added that coalition advisers who were present “were not wounded as a result of the Russian strike.”

Earlier, the SDF accused Russian jets of bombing its forces in Deir al-Zor Province, injuring six of its fighters in the last major IS stronghold in Syria.

The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS forces in the east of the country near Iraq.

Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year-old war, while the United States and Turkey support various rebel groups opposed to the Damascus government.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
An instructor with the Syrian Democratic Forces observes a Syrian Arab trainee clear his rifle during small arms training in Northern Syria, July 31, 2017. Syrian Arabs who comprise the Syrian Arab Coalition, a component of the SDF, are fighting to expel ISIS and regain control of their homes. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

IS fighters, who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014, are opposed by all sides and are being driven from most of their strongholds by the separate government and rebel campaigns.

Washington and Moscow have largely stayed out of each other’s way in their fight against IS in Syria, with the Euphrates River frequently serving as a dividing line.

The commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Lieutenant General Paul Funk, said in the September 16 statement that coalition officials “are available and the de-conflictation line with Russia is open 24 hours a day.”

“We put our full efforts into preventing unnecessary escalation among forces that share ISIS as our common enemy,” Funk said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.

The statement added, “Coalition forces and partners always retain the right of self-defense.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army accidentally drops humvee 1 minute short of drop zone

Army testers accidentally dropped a Humvee from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft Oct. 24, 2018, about a mile short of the intended drop zone on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Airborne and Special operations Test Directorate was testing a new heavy-drop platform loaded with a Humvee, base spokesman Tom McCollum told Military.com.

“They were going in for a time-on-target on Sicily Drop Zone at 1 p.m.,” McCollum said. “Everything was going well; they were at the one-minute mark to the drop zone.


“We don’t know what happened, but the platform went out early and landed in a rural area. There was no one hurt. No private property was damaged.”

The incident, which is under investigation, follows a similar airborne mishap that occurred in April 2016 when three separate Humvees came loose from their heavy-drop platforms and crashed onto a designated drop zone in Germany.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

The Texas Air National Guard 136th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules aircraft completes a heavy cargo airdrop with a Humvee.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Julie Briden-Garcia)

For his role in the incident, Sgt. John Skipper was found guilty of three counts of destroying military property and one of lying during the investigation, according to Army Times.

A court-martial panel sentenced Skipper to be demoted to the rank of private and to receive a Bad Conduct Discharge.

In today’s accident, the C-17 was flying at 1,500 feet during the heavy-drop test, McCollum said.

“Basically what takes place is a heavy drop pallet is inside the aircraft and by this time the doors have already been opened,” he said, explaining that a pilot parachute pulls the platform out of the aircraft and three heavy-drop parachutes then open. “Everything worked as it was supposed to, except it went out early.”

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

Articles

This is the French aircraft carrier headed to Syria for payback

As French citizens deal with the emotions that surround the Paris attacks that killed 129 people and left many more wounded, the French military has come out swinging against ISIS. Land-based aircraft already deployed on anti-ISIS missions struck targets Sunday night across Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital. Ten jets dropped 20 bombs, striking a command center, a recruitment center, a munitions depot, and a training camp, according to the BBC.


Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
The Charles de Gaulle sails beside the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea in 2012. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Julia A. Casper

But France’s 10 planes in the region can only do so much. Resultantly, France was already sending an aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, to the region. It can host 40 aircraft and is expected to have 20 strike aircraft onboard when it arrives in the Gulf.

During a Feb. to Apr. 2015 deployment against ISIS in Iraq, the de Gaulle launched 10-15 combat sorties per day for months.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
A French Dassault Rafale performs a touch-and-go landing. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell

The carrier’s most advanced aircraft are its Dassault Rafales, multirole fighter aircraft that can fire a variety of precision bombs and rocket-boosted munitions at targets. They also carry 30mm cannons with 2,500 rounds for gun runs against enemy personnel and light vehicles.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down
A French Super Etendard launches from the USS John C. Stennis during joint naval training. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell

In addition to its Rafales, the de Gaulle is bringing Super Etendard strike fighters. The Super Etendard brings two 30mm cannons, more GPS guided bombs, and laser-guided missiles to the fight.

Charles de Gaulle also carries a number of support planes to enable the strike aircraft.

The carrier is capable of launching a plane every thirty seconds. Since the carrier has strong catapults to assist the launch, the planes can take off with full fuel and weapons loads so they can strike plenty of targets.

U.S. and French intelligence sharing and military cooperation will be important as France steps up its campaign in Syria. The U.S. provided some of the intelligence that enabled Sunday’s strikes in Raqqa, and that partnership will surely lead to more French strike missions in the coming months. Luckily, the Charles de Gaulle already knows how to work with the U.S.

The French Navy in general and the Charles de Gaulle in particular have experience working with the U.S. The Charles de Gaulle supported America’s invasion of Afghanistan, was a hub for the strikes in Libya that ousted Muammer Qaddafi, and previously struck ISIS targets in Iraq.

Vive la France, et salute!

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 things to keep in mind when dealing with butter bars

As a prior butter bar, I want you to know that I have no regrets about my career choice.


Sure, when I signed up for the military, I thought I was going to get to do a little less paperwork and a little more single handedly saving the entire world from terrorism for all time with my bravery, but hey, we all have our roles to play. Mine was to ensure my people were able to conduct mission ops — and deep down, I know that’s important, too.

Iraqi Army’s recent gains are fragile as US draws down

I was very calculated about which branch I would serve in (Air Force, duh — I’m not a masochist) and how I would earn my commission (on the beaches of Southern California, like a BAMF). We trained on Fridays, and I was super into it (ROTC nerd to an extreme level) so I also attended optional Saturday morning training, which meant I missed out on the collegiate Thirsty Thursday, Friday night parties, and Saturday night shenanigans (because I was tired from all that training, bro).

So it really wasn’t until active duty that I realized how much lieutenants could party.

Also read: How to not be a dirtbag CGO

1. They like to have a good time

When we were at intel school at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, we set up a “pub crawl” where everyone served signature drinks from their dorm rooms — everything from a shot of Jeremiah Weed to a game of flip cup to Vodka mixed with Airborne tablets (“to help our immune systems.”)

My first Gin and Tonic was consumed in the SCIF while cramming for the Navy test (does one really need to be sober to learn about boats? I mean ships…).

In Korea, the pilots partied so hard I started carrying a sharpie with me so I could make a tic-mark on my palm to track my drinks. Most nights left me waking up with a bar code across my palm.

But beyond the drinking, the butter bars in the office are more likely to liven up the office with pranks and jokes — and let’s not forget who keeps the snack bar full.

Related: This musician and veteran invented Jell-O shots to beat base alcohol rules

2. It’s not their fault they’re n00bs

Butter bars have it great. They have enough training under their belts to feel confident about testing themselves but not enough experience for any serious responsibility. It’s a carefree time. The good ones acknowledge their shortcomings and learn quickly. The crappy ones… well, you can read some of their stories in the comments on this post (and add your own — it’s hilarious!).

The point is, butter bars are precious. They’re bright eyed and ready for a good time. They don’t know that the sh*t is about to get real. Look out for them. Show them the way.

3. They’re the future brass

Four-stars have to start somewhere, right? Their experiences as CGOs will have an effect on their leadership style down the road, so help them out. Teach them the mission. Remind them of what’s important. Show them the value of mutual respect.

They’ll remember it later and we’ll all be better for it.

And for all you 0-1s out there, work hard before you play hard. You might be at the bottom of the officer ranks now, but you’ve still got men and women who rely on you.

Oh, when you do just want to have a little fun, here’s a playlist for your partying needs (it’s okay to admit you like pop songs — you’re in safe space):

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