MIGHTY CULTURE

How an Iraqi translator risked his life to reunite with American flag

How far would you go to reunite with a symbol you love?

For one Iraqi man, it took 13 years, 7,474 miles, help from a family member, a trip to an isolated field, and a rusty can to reclaim a treasured part of his life — an American flag.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed* shared how reuniting with the America flag changed the course of his life as he spoke to the Iron Soldiers of 1st Battalion “Bandits,” 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Sept. 11, on East Fort Bliss.

More than 200 soldiers listened intently as Ahmed gave tribute to the Bandits he served and fought with during the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.


Remembering the Bandit legacy

In 2003, Ahmed was serving as the official military translator for the Iron Soldiers of the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. His assignment was to translate for the unit’s command team during meetings with local dignitaries and special missions. After a few months, however, the Iraqi native began to work heavily with infantry troops and accompanied them on raids, night missions and surveillances through downtown Baghdad.

The now 37-year-old vividly described the core of his job as working with U.S. soldiers, becoming part of their team and sharing in their comradery.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed speaks to Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division during a ceremony held at the 1-37 AR motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

“I wanted to help these U.S. soldiers,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of rebuilding the Iraqi police and the Iraqi Army. When I got the chance to become a linguist for the Bandits, I witnessed, learned and experienced many things.”

Ahmed recounted images filled with watching local streets in Iraq swarmed with Bradley Fighting Vehicles, tanks, convoys and barbed-wire fences. He said that even at a young age, he had a drive to bring change into his country. He added that although his own family was proud, and they respected his decision to help U.S. troops, he had to remain cautious, as the war-torn county remained in turmoil.

Loyality

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers, who believed in him enough to invite him into their inner circle of trust during his time with the 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT. They continued working together on missions and conducting local surveillances. During this time, he began to appreciate the strength and core values of the U.S. Army and its soldiers.

“I began to see the Army as a melting pot,” he said. “There was so much diversity and different nationalities, and yet they fought together, they served together and they mourned together. Although I was from a different culture, they trained me and respected my background and ethnicity. As my role as their translator increased, so did our brotherhood.”

Ahmed said the Bandits’ last ambush toward Fallujah was a memory that will always stay with him. It was an intense mission and not every soldier survived.

“You are never prepared to lose a comrade,” he said. “On that mission, I lost my best friend, Sgt. Scott Larson. It was hard to believe. These soldiers were the same age as me and we all bonded; we formed a team.”

When the Bandits’ deployment was extended and assigned to a different area of operation, the soldiers presented Ahmed with an American flag. Each of the soldiers signed the flag to solidify their loyalty and friendship. He recalled how proud and honored he felt to receive it.

“It meant so much to me to become a part of the team with these great soldiers,” he said. “I saw their discipline and integrity every day, and I was honored that they gave this U.S. flag to me.”

Courage

Ahmed continued his work with the American soldiers. In 2005, two years after his time with the Bandits, he decided to take the flag to his home in Baghdad; he wanted to hang it in his room. He protected the flag with two heavy-duty plastic bags and then hid it inside a gym bag. But, while traveling home, his bus driver received a call that there was an anti-American checkpoint ahead.

Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division with Staff Sgt. Ahmed pose after a ceremony held at the 1-37 motor pool Sept. 11, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Michael West)

Ahmed knew he could lose his life if he was caught with an American flag. In a panic, he decided to descend the bus and walk off the freeway. He continued walking until he got to a residential neighborhood. He then quickly buried the bag using and old-rusty tin can as a shovel.

Why I serve

Ahmed moved to the United States in 2008. Inspired by his time with the Bandits and seeing their dedication for upholding the Army values, he took the oath of enlistment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and become a U.S. soldier. He now lives in California and serves as a staff sergeant in the Active Guard Reserve.

In 2016 Ahmed’s parents made a special trip from Iraq to visit him and celebrate his accomplishments. But before his parents departed the country, Ahmed called his father with one special request – locate the buried flag and bring it with him to the United States.

“Even though more than a decade had passed since I buried the flag in Iraq, I knew exactly where it was buried, and I instructed my father to please bring it to the U.S.,” said Ahmed. “When my father told me he had located the flag, a part of me was alive again.”

The proud father and husband said his dream came true when he arrived at Fort Bliss Sept. 11 carrying the framed flag and sharing its legacy with a new era of Bandits.

“The flag finally made it home,” said Ahmed. “I think of these soldiers every day when I put on my Army uniform and display the flag on my shoulder. Today, I did not see faces and ranks, but as I looked around, I saw the Old Ironsides patch and friendships that will last a lifetime. Larson did not live to see his flag again, but these soldiers did.”

For Cpl. James Klingel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-37 AR, 2nd ABCT, seeing and hearing Ahmed was inspirational.

“I was shocked that the flag was buried for so long, had traveled so far, and still looks amazing,” he said. “It showed us that it doesn’t matter how much time passes by. We still have the same Army traditions and the same Army values that should always be upheld, and deeply respected.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

hauntedbattlefields

Why Okinawa is the most haunted place in the military

The profession of arms deals in death, no matter how we like to think of our daily military lives. No matter what your military speciality is, you’re helping that end. If you’re a cook, you feed warfighters who are out there dealing death. If you work in finance, you’re reimbursing travel vouchers for troops who likely dealt some death. Combat cameramen, you’re documenting the history of dealing death and inspiring others to join in.


I’m not passing moral judgement — I was in the military, too. That’s just the reality of what’s happening.

In that respect, not only does it make sense that some military installations, vehicles, and battlefields would be haunted (if you believe in that sort of thing) – it should actually make us wonder how military installations, vehicles, and battlefields aren’t more haunted.

No where else is that more apparent than Kadena Air Base, Japan.

Do you like ghost anime? Have I got a story for you…

Building 2283

Rumor has it the house was demolished in 2009, but Building 2283 on Kadena’s base housing was notorious for being the single most haunted house in the entire U.S. military. No one lived there for a long time and the building was reportedly used for storage — because no one could stand to stay there.

It was said that an Air Force officer murdered his entire family there before killing himself some time in the 1970s. The next military family to move in to the house experienced feelings of unrest and paranoia — until the father of the family stabbed everyone. So, it became a storage shed. But that didn’t stop the house from haunting people. Passersby reported hearing sounds of children crying, strange laughter, and, in one instance, a report of a woman washing her hair in the abandoned house’s sink.

“I don’t have time to wait for CE to come fix the shower, okay?”

You might ask what took the Air Force so long to tear the house down, which is a valid question. Kadena reportedly attempted to tear it down, but workers attempting to destroy the building reported headaches, hallucinations, and suffered from a high rate of on-the-job injuries.

Teachers at the daycare next door (yeah, there was a daycare next door this whole time) complained of children on the playground throwing toys over the fence because “the little kids on the other side ask them to.”

Kids are creepy.

Other reports have cited ghostly phone rings (despite there being no phone line attached to the house), faucets turning on by themselves, curtains opening, and even a sighting of the house glowing.

If the hallucinations and urges to kill your family weren’t enough to dissuade anyone from living in the house, the worst selling point for moving in might have been the goddamn Samurai warrior that rides his horse through the living room every once in a while, for reasons unknown.

“I’M HERE TO CATCH THE FINALE OF THE BACHELOR”

That’s not the only sighting of a Samurai warrior. A similar Samurai warrior is said to ride the road to Camp Foster up Stillwell Drive, reportedly headed to base housing.

Spectral gate guards

There’s nothing creepy about Security Forces. Not inherently, anyway. Those guys look sharp. But when you’re pulling up to a gate at 3am and encounter a World War II-era Marine covered in blood and asking for a match, things take a turn for the creepy.

That’s what happened at Camp Hansen’s old Gate 3 — more than once. In a weird way, it’s a good thing the ghostly Marine was hanging out at the gate, defending living American troops because ghosts of World War II Japanese soldiers were reportedly at the same gate all the time.

Eternally defending Flavor Country from the Japanese.

The haunting happened so often (some say every weekend) that Marine guards began to refuse to stand guard at Gate 3 and the entry control point was eventually closed. Closing the gate seemed a little unnecessary since the soldier would disappear once his cigarette was lit.

Even if I didn’t know this place was haunted, I would assume it was.

Kadena’s Banyan Tree Golf Course cave

During World War II, the Japanese maintained a field hospital on the site where Kadena’s golf course was built. After U.S. troops took the airfields on Okinawa in 1945, Japanese nurses, terrified of Americans due to Japanese propaganda, committed suicide in a nearby cave.

These days, Okinawans won’t go near the cave because the women are said to still haunt the cave and the nearby land – but it’s part of Kadena’s annual Halloween ghost tour.

“Listen, bro, I’m telling you…”

Maeda Point’s prophet of doom.

If you’re around Maeda Point on Okinawa and you see an elderly man walking around a tomb near the water, just go ahead and row to shore, go right to Personnel, retire, and fly home. It’s not worth sticking around, because rumor has it that old man is a ghost and every time someone sees him, there’s a body washing ashore on a beach nearby in a just a few days.

The point is apparently the site of many, many suicide jumpers who ended their lives by throwing themselves off the cliff. Not only that, this was also the site of another field hospital used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. If an old man foretelling doom wasn’t enough, scuba divers even report seeing ghosts underwater. Some of these end up jumping off the haunted cliff for the rest of eternity, as ghost jumper reports are as ubiquitous as Taco Rice.


MIGHTY CULTURE

5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

The Space Force is presumed to be exactly like our current military. Over-the-top recruitment videos will only lead to utter disappointment, just like any other branch. “You’ll get to see the world,” the recruiter will promise, but we all know you’ll probably just be seeing it from a desk back on Earth. Even in many years when the need for space infantrymen comes up, it’ll still be filled with all the same BS that happens down here.

Think about it. There will still be NCOs and officers who will still need to bide their time until closeout formation. The only difference will be that it’ll take place 254 miles above the Earth’s surface. And how will latrines work? Who will clean them?!

You know the answer.

That’s just from man-made stuff… then you have to worry about the stardust

(NASA)

1. Literally cleaning the ship absolutely spotlessly

Remember those novelty “space pens” that you can find at souvenir shops? The joke on the back is that America spent a butt load of cash trying to get a pen that could write upside-down and with zero-G’s but those crafty Russians just used a pencil. Hate to burst that bubble but no one uses pencils in space for a very specific reason.

Any bit of dust or flakes caused by just regular everyday things, like pencil shavings, could mess with electrical systems while it’s floating around in space.

You can’t honestly expect lieutenants to clean up after themselves when there are privates available, now can you?

2. Vacuuming all that stardust

Of course no one down here can see it, but space is actually pretty filthy. There’s plenty of dust on the outside the atmosphere from when the universe was formed and we can’t go around with an unclean space ship. Most of it is microscopic but NASA astronauts regularly have to clean the dust or else it gets everywhere.

Any spacewalk done will suck in plenty of that minuscule specs of dust whenever the bay-doors open. When the astronaut comes back into the oxygen-filled area, the dust will follow. And some poor space private will have to vacuum all that up.

I want this globe spotless or no one is being released.

(NASA)

3. Police calling space debris

All of this is just to clean up the inside of ship — there’s also the outside. Satellites and other man-made debris deteriorate eventually and even a 1cm paint flake could zoom low orbit faster than a bullet. Those flakes can rupture panels and cause all sorts of hell on the ship.

This problem is magnified with even larger pieces of debris, like a baseball sized scrap of metal hitting anything at 4.76 miles per second. To prevent Newton’s Second Law (force is equal to the mass times acceleration) from obliterating everyone on board, it’s up to the space privates to handle it.

Good luck finding that ONE serial number for the change of command layout.

(NASA)

4. Container organizing… but in zero Gs

At first, it seems like this would be so much easier in space. You wouldn’t have to lift heavy things because it’s near weightless now. And astronauts are notorious about taking only what they need into space. But that’s the silver-lining. Trying to tie things down and organizing things to take up as little space as possible is the real problem.

A space private’s Tetris skills will be checked as there isn’t any room for open space.

Imagine losing a wrench and sending it soaring into Earth’s atmosphere.

(NASA)

5. Repairing the exterior of the ship

There is a diminishing return on enjoyment. The first time you go on a space walk, it’ll be beyond your wildest expectations. Your 1,348th time going on a space walk to scrub the stardust off the window because the Colonel is coming won’t be as great.

Even more high-stress would be making repairs on the spaceship. Any minor mistake and either you die alone or everyone gets sucked into the vacuum of space.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch what happens when a missile misfires on a German frigate

A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.

The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.


The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.

“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.

Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.

It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.

While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.

The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.

Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.

(Photo by German Navy)

“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”

Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.

The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.

At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 things you didn’t know about firing squads

Throughout history, executions have been controversial ways of punishing heinous crimes against individuals, institutions, and governments. From hangings to lethal injection, executions have spanned the gamut of cruelty and, at every point, there has raged a debate over the moral grounds of taking a life for justice.

Historically, one form of execution has been reserved for military personnel: the firing squad. The concept is elementary: a prisoner stands against a brick wall or study barrier and is gunned down by a handful of soldiers. It might sound simple, but there are a few things about this deadly punishment that you might not know


The final walk

Out of grim curiosity, we’ve watched several videos of firing-squad executions found in the war archives. We noticed that the majority of criminals sentenced to die conducted their last walks under their own accord. Although this was likely their last moment of life, criminals weren’t dragged to their position.

We thought that was interesting.

A firing squad in Cuba.

The crimes committed

Throughout many parts of the world, if a troop or civilian was convicted of cowardice, desertion, espionage, murder, mutiny, or treason, they would be sent up in front of a firing squad as punishment.

That doesn’t happen too often today.

What it’s like facing a Spanish firing squad without a blindfold.

Blindfolds

In many cases, the prisoner was blindfolded before stepping in front of his executioners. However, some requested the opportunity to face the men who were about to unload their barrels.

That’s pretty ballsy.

According to the Crime Museum, when the condemned person was able to look into the eyes of their executioners, it diminished their anonymity. This made the event stressful for the shooters who were following orders.

The firing squad

Once given the cue by a superior, each soldier pulled the trigger of their rifle simultaneously, resulting in a kill shot by multiple rounds.

In some cases, only a handful of the executioners were given live rounds. The rest would receive blanks. This way, nobody could know who, exactly, was responsible for the kill.

Ronnie Lee Gardner in the the courtroom

(National Public Radio)

The last use of a firing squad for a convicted criminal.

According to NPR, the last person to be executed by firing squad was convicted murderer, Ronnie Lee Gardner, in 2010. While already faced with a murder conviction in Utah, Gardner attempted to escape and, in the process, killed an attorney.

Gardner’s conviction came through before the state abandoned the use of the firing squads in 2004. He elected to be killed this way.

Articles

The fascinating origin of Arlington National Cemetery

The final resting place of presidents, bandleaders, war heroes, astronauts, inventors, civil rights leaders, Pulitzer Prize winners, boxers, Supreme Court justices and sports stars, Arlington National Cemetery stands as a memorial to the melting pot of the United States. With connections to some of our nation’s most influential people and pivotal events, its history is as interesting as its denizens.


A serene image of Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ingfbruno)

Arlington is situated on 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D. C. Although today it is surrounded by the nation’s capital, at one time, Arlington was a bucolic estate with a neoclassical mansion, Arlington House. Still presiding over the grounds today, the mansion was built by George Washington’s (yes, that Washington) grandson and marks the beginning of the cemetery’s history.

Before she married George, Martha was married to Daniel Parke Custis. After he died and she wed the “Father” of our Country, George adopted her two surviving children. The oldest, John Parke Custis (JPC), died in 1781 while serving with the Revolutionary Army. He left behind four children, the youngest of which, George Washington Parke Custis (GWPC), was born only shortly before his father’s death.

Related: These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

GWPC and one sister went to live with the Washington’s. When he became of age in 1802, GWPC inherited wealth and property from his deceased father (JPC), including the Arlington land. Hoping to build a home that could also serve as a memorial to his grandfather, George Washington, GWPC hired an architect and built a Greek revival mansion believed by some to be “modeled after the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens.”

The home was built in pieces, with the north wing being completed in 1802, and the south in 1804. These two stood as separate buildings until the central section connected them in 1818. During GWPC’s life, a portion of the mansion was reserved to store George Washington memorabilia, which included portraits, papers and even the tent Washington used while in command at Yorktown.

GWPC and his family lived and died on the property, where many of them were buried.

In 1831, GWPC’s only surviving child, Mary, married Robert E. Lee (yes, that Lee). The Lee’s lived on the property with the Custis’s where they raised their seven children. At her father’s death, Mary inherited Arlington. Robert E. Lee loved the property and once described it as the place “where my attachments are more strongly placed than at any other place in the world.”

Prior to the Civil War, Lee had attended West Point (graduating second in his class) and saw service for the U.S. in the Mexican War (1846-1848). A respected and well-liked officer, Lee struggled with his decision to resign his commission of 36 years in order to take command of Virginia’s confederate forces. When he did in April 1861, this choice was seen as a betrayal of the Union by many of his former friends including Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs.

As Arlington, on high ground overlooking the capital, was critical to either the defense or defeat of D.C., Union leaders were eager to control it. After Virginia seceded in May 1861, Union troops crossed en masse into Virginia and soon took command of the estate. The grounds were quickly converted into a Union camp.

American flags adorn the graves at Arlington. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley.

By 1862, Congress had passed a law that imposed a tax on the real property of “insurrectionists.” Mary was unable to pay the tax bill in person, and her proxy’s attempt to satisfy the debt was rebuffed. As a result, Uncle Sam seized Arlington, and at its auction, the federal government purchased the estate for $26,800 (about $607,000 today, far below market value).

Not only a good bargain, Union leaders felt that by seizing the estates of prominent Rebels, they would, in the words of Gen. William T. Sherman: “Make them so sick of war that generations would pass away before they would again appeal to it.”

In 1863, after thousands of former slaves, freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, converged on D.C., a Freedman’s Village was established on the estate “complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which former slaves grew food for the Union war effort.”

As one journalist described it:

One sees more than poetic justice in the fact that its rich lands, so long the domain of the great general of the rebellion, now afford labor and support to hundreds of enfranchised slaves.

As Union casualties began to mount in the spring of 1864, Gen. Meigs suggested burying some of the dead at Arlington. The first, on May 13, 1864, was Pvt. William Christman, a poor soldier whose family could not afford the cost of a burial. Soon, many other indigent soldiers were laid to rest on Arlington’s grounds, near the slave and freedman cemetery that had already been established. Realizing the efficacy of this system, Gen. Meigs urged Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton:

I recommend that  . . . the land surrounding Arlington Mansion . . . be appropriated as a National Military Cemetery, to be properly enclosed, laid out and carefully preserved for that purpose.

Serving the dual goals of paying homage to the dead and making “Arlington uninhabitable for the Lees,” Meigs had prominent Union officers buried near Mrs. Lee’s garden. He also placed a mass grave of over 2000 unknown soldiers, topped with a raised sarcophagus, close to the house.

After the war, the Lee’s tried in vain to regain Arlington. Mary wrote to a friend that the graves: “are planted up to the very door without any regard to common decency.” After Robert E. Lee’s death in 1870, Mary petitioned Congress for the return of her family home, but this proposal was soundly defeated.

Shortly after, other monuments and structures honoring the dead were erected including numerous elaborate Gilded Age tombstones and the large, red McClellan Gate at the entrance to the grounds.

The family was not done, however, and in January 1879, following six days of trial a jury determined that the requirement that Mary Lee had to pay the 1862 tax in person was unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court concurred, so the property was once again in the hands of the Lee family.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Rather than disinter graves and move monuments, however, the federal government and Mary Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, agreed on a sale. On March 31, 1883, Uncle Sam purchased Arlington from the Lee family for $150,000 (about $3,638,000 today).

Today, Arlington shelters the remains of over 400,000 souls. In addition to its famous sea of somber, beautiful white headstones, Arlington also hosts numerous monuments including the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Rough Riders Monument, the Pentagon Group Burial Marker and two memorials to the Space Shuttle tragedies Challenger and Columbia.

One of the National Cemetery’s most well known gravesites is that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy with its eternal flame. Two of his children and Jackie Kennedy are also interred there.

The eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Wknight94)

William Howard Taft is the only other U.S. President buried on the grounds, and he along with three other Chief Justices and eight associate justices represent the Supreme Court at Arlington.

Of course, war heroes abound and famous generals buried at Arlington include George C. Marshall (father of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII) and Omar N. Bradley.

Famous explorers interred at Arlington include Adm. Richard Byrd (the first man to fly over both poles) and Rear Adm. Robert Peary (another arctic explorer). John Wesley Powell (of Lake Powell fame) is also laid to rest at Arlington, as are several astronauts including Lt. Col. Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Capt. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. (the third man to walk on the moon).

Other famous Americans buried at the National Cemetery include Abner Doubleday (who, in fact, had nothing to do with baseball contrary to legend), big bandleader Maj. Glenn Miller (who went missing in action on Dec. 15, 1944, so he really just has a headstone there), boxing’s Joe Louis, inventor George Westinghouse and civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Articles

The chair of the joint chiefs of staff reveals biggest lesson he’s learned in the fight against ISIS

Gen. Dunford touring a facility in Kabul Base Cluster | Flickr


The US has been able to greatly improve its use of intelligence over the 600-day fight against ISIS, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Business Insider on Tuesday.

“If you want to talk about lessons learned, I‘ll tell you, I’m probably relearning lessons over the last couple of years, and No. 1 is intelligence,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said in response to a question from Business Insider during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“If you want to know why our operation’s quantifiably more effective today than they were a year and a half ago, it’s because our intelligence is getting much better,” Dunford continued.

Dunford had stressed in recent congressional testimony that with nearly 100 nations and approximately 30,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria, the US military needed more cooperation from other nations’ intelligence operations.

“I won’t go into great detail right now, but in terms of how you fully harness the intelligence community, getting the right people in the right places to do target development — has been something that’s frustrating to me,” Dunford said Tuesday.

“I think we’ve made some improvements that result in the progress that we have made,” he added.

Dunford’s comments came days after the Pentagon announced the US-led coalition, Operation Inherent Resolve, killed Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, the top financier for ISIS (aka Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). It was a sign of the progress to which Dunford referred.

“We’re systematically eliminating ISIL’s cabinet,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said during a briefing last Friday.

As of March 15, the US-led coalition has conducted a total of 10,962 strikes throughout the region, with 7,336 strikes in Iraq and 3,626 strikes being conducted in Syria.

The Department of Defense puts the total cost of anti-ISIS operations at $6.5 billion as of February 29, 2016. And the average daily cost stands at about $11.4 million for 571 days of operations.

Articles

The Pentagon is worried about the missile threat from these countries

The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.


North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.

“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.

The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.

The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.

Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.

A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.

High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.

Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.

“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.

Photo from Tasnim News Agency.

Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.

Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.

North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.

North Korean Missile. (Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.

MIGHTY CULTURE

PCS life hacks I learned from watching ‘Tidying Up’ on Netflix

As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…

Prepping for our PCS

As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.


Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.

But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.

(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)

Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.

And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Paper
  4. Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
  5. Sentimental Items

According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.

If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.

So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?

Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.

After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.

Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”

For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.

Can our next PCS move be different?

The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to use thermoplasic to make tools for your gun

While working on a completely different project I discovered something curious on Amazon. That product was moldable thermoplastic pellets.

Shaped in balls like smaller-than-usual airsoft pellets, moldable thermoplastic melts at just 140F, can be formed like clay, and then increases in hardness as it approaches room temperature.

There are seemingly endless uses for this product, but I had a pet one in mind for the test: a US Optics turret tool.


(RECOILweb)

With most scopes (several of them being US Optics) a simple hex wrench can be used to float turrets back to zero after obtaining a physical zero.

But no, not the case with the USO BT-10.

(RECOILweb)

While official instructions say to press down with your palm on the top and rotate, the reality meant several friends and I tried in vain to accomplish this for about an hour.

And once you get it, it has to be pushed back in the same way.

Either way you cut it, it sucked on both ends.

So, a US Optics BT-10 tool it would be.

Firstly, you heat up some water at a medium temperature. Then drop some thermoplastic in place. Once it’s clear, then it’s pliable.

(RECOILweb)

Then all you have to do is mold it around an object. I have found that it does not stick to treated metal but may to plastics (so use a release agent like PAM). As it comes to temperature, it becomes opaque again.

(RECOILweb)

[Note that I did attempt to add texture which is why it looks so rough]

Does it work?

Hell. Yes.

The extra area and easier grip makes floating turrets a HELLUVA lot easier with this scope.

(RECOILweb)

The best part is, if you muck it up it can be re-melted and reused.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

Articles

7 hilarious but accurate descriptions of military hardware

When it comes time to write up the technical pamphlets for the next generation of military gear, the manufacturers … probably won’t call us.


Here are seven perfectly accurate descriptions of military hardware that no self-respecting manufacturer would ever publish:

1. The Apache is the world’s most advanced digital camera

It’s a lot of money for relatively poor image quality, but the zoom is fantastic.

The AH-64 just has so many features that Canon and Nikon would never dream of putting on a camera: multiple rotor blades, a hydraulics systems, missiles, rockets, and a cannon. It’s almost hard to spot the camera sensors in the ball at the front.

2. The M1A2 Abrams tank provides very effective body armor for troops

Does your armor deploy its own smoke grenades? And depleted uranium shells?

Because the armor is on motorized tracks, you can barely even feel the 60 tons of protection. It even has seats, a feature most body armor lacks.

3. The A-10 is a great way to get a look at the battlefield

It gets you high enough to see over the terrain while keeping you low enough to see all your enemies. If only there was something we could do about them from up here?

4. Navy aircraft carriers are cruise ships with (slightly) less sex and much more (hidden) booze

You can move a LOT of people with one of these ships. Over 6,000 with the old Nimitz-class. The newer Ford ships hold less people, normally about 4,000, but have sweet magnets that could hold literally anything to a fridge. In a pinch, there’s even a way to move people from shore directly to the ship without it docking. But be warned that the cruise directors are pretty uptight and the upper decks are noisy.

5. TOW missiles are a much faster delivery method than carrier pigeons

But, you know, they’re still faster than pigeons.

While carrier pigeons top out at around 90 mph in a sprint, TOW missiles fly at an astounding 715 mph. There’s almost nothing that can get your message across a battlefield faster, and the control cables let the recipient know just where the message came from.

Just a quick note, when sending messages to friends you should be sure to remove the original payload.

6. Rifles can punch holes through hella paper at once

(via Military Memes)

Don’t use boring three-hole punches that can only handle a few sheets when these rifles can create either 5.56mm or 7.62mm openings in dozens of sheets of paper at once.

7. CS gas is a quick and effective decongestant

Neti pots are weird and pouring liquids through your sinus cavities can lead to brain parasites. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile has neither drawback and is extremely effective at helping you breathe free clearing your sinuses.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Asad regime threatens to attack US forces in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of conflict between his army and U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon — prompting a warning from the Pentagon.

In an interview with Russia’s RT television on May 31, 2018, Assad asserted that he is willing to negotiate with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are allied with and embedded with U.S. forces and currently hold about one-quarter of Syria’s territory.

But he said he will reclaim their territory by force, if necessary.

“The only problem left in Syria is the SDF,” Assad told RT, adding he sees “two options” for solving the “problem.”

U.S. armored vehicle inu00a0northeastern Syria.

“The first one: We started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians, supposedly they like their country. They don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said in English.

“We have one option: to live with each other as Syrians. If not, we’re going to resort…to liberating those areas by force.”

Assad added that “the Americans should leave.” He said Washington should learn a “lesson” from its experience in Iraq.

“People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.

Assad’s threat to use force against U.S. allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.


“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, said at a press conference in Washington on May 31, 2018.

The U.S. State Department also said that while Washington is not seeking conflict with Syria, it would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces, which have teamed up to fight Islamic State militants in the region.

In the RT interview, Assad responded sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent description of him as an “animal,” saying, “What you say is what you are.”

President Donald Trump

Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad’s forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million abroad as refugees.

After regaining control of Syria’s two largest cities — Aleppo and Damascus — Assad this spring set his sights on areas in the country that remain outside his control and in rebel hands.

The Kurdish militia group SDF that is backed by the United States holds the largest area of Syrian territory outside government control, but it has tried to avoid direct clashes with the government during the multisided war.

Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the SDF, said in response to Assad’s comments that a military solution would “lead to more losses and destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people.”

The SDF wants a “democratic system based on diversity, equality, freedom, and justice” for all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, he said in a voice message to Reuters.

Assad in the RT interview also sought to minimize the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria. Israel, which is alarmed by what it claims is a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, has recently destroyed dozens of military sites that it claimed were occupied and used by Iranian forces and Hizbullah militias.

But Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to a May 10, 2018 air strike by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent Britain-based war-monitoring group, has said at least 68 Iranians and pro-Iranian forces have been killed in Israeli air strikes since April 2018.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

10 Black celebrities you didn’t know were veterans

If 2020’s stay-at-home order told us one thing, it’s how much we rely on entertainers to keep us sane. Music, movies and online entertainment have been our lifeline to the outside world. Many of the celebrities who have kept us amused have also spoken out about the importance of recognizing the achievements of Black Americans — and that includes veterans!


Over 160,000 Black people are currently in the United States military, serving a critical role in keeping our country safe, and they’ve been doing so for a long, long time. In fact, many of the Black celebrities you know and love are veterans! Keep reading to learn about 10 of the most famous Black veterans…you might be surprised!

Montel Williams

Born in 1956, Montel Brian Anthony Williams is best known for his work as a TV host and motivational speaker. His show, The Montel Williams Show, ran for 17 years, but that’s not his only claim to fame. Williams served in both the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. After enlisting in 1974, he attended a four-year officer training program, graduating with a degree in general engineering and a minor in international security affairs.

After completing Naval Cryptologic Officer training, he spent 18 months as a cryptologic officer in Guam. He later became supervising cryptologic officer at Fort Meade, eventually leaving the navy after achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He earned several awards including the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Sunny Anderson

Food Network personality Sunny Anderson grew up as an Army brat. Her family’s ongoing travels and her parents’ love of food gave her a chance to explore international cuisines, inspiring her future career. After graduating high school in 1993, she joined the United States Air Force, where she earned the rank of Senior Airman. She also worked as a military radio host in Seoul, South Korea, going on to work for the Air Force News Agency radio and television in San Antonio from 1993 to 1997.

(Wikimedia Commons)

MC Hammer

Stanley Kirk Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, is one of the most well known American rappers of the late 80s. He rose to fame quickly both as a rapper, dancer and record producer, coming out with hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” In addition to creating the famous “Hammer pants” and his successful entertainment career, Burrell served in the Navy for three years as a Petty Officer Third Class Aviation Store Keeper until his honorable discharge.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Ice-T

Tracy Lauren Marrow, AKA Ice-T, is a multi-talented entertainer with a tumultuous background. He had more than one run-in with the law in his youth, but after his daughter was born he decided to join the Army. Marrow served a two year and two month tour in the 25th Infantry Division.

Military life wasn’t for him, however, and he used his status as a single father to leave the Army and begin his career as an underground rapper. Since then, he has made a name for himself as a musician, songwriter, actor, record producer and actor, starring as a detective on Law Order SVU and hosting a true-crime documentary on Oxygen.

Harry Belafonte

Jamaican-American singer, songwriter, activist and actor, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr is no stranger to hard work. He enlisted in the Navy at the start of World War II while he was still finishing high school. After an honorable discharge two years later, he focused on his music career, bringing Caribbean-style music to the US. One of his first albums, “Calypso,” was the first million-selling LP by a single artist.

He was also a passionate supporter of the civil rights movement, going on to advocate for humanitarian causes throughout his life. Since 1987, he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and currently acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues.

Shaggy

Ever heard of Orville Richard Burrell? Don’t worry, I hadn’t either, but you probably know his stage name: Shaggy. Burrell was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1968. He began taking voice lessons in the early 80s, filling the streets with music. His talent was apparent early on, but in 1988 he joined the Marine Corps, serving with the Field Artillery Battery in the 10th Marine Regiment during the Persian Gulf War. He achieved the rank of lance corporal, and continued to sing while he did it. He went on to earn seven Grammy nominations, winning twice for Best Reggae Album.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Jimi Hendrix

James, better known as Jimi, Hendrix, began playing guitar in his hometown of Seattle at just 15 years of age. After enlisting for a short time in the Army and training as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne Division, he continued his music career to become one of the most renowned guitarists of all time. His music career, much like his military career, was brief, but powerful. He earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which describes him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”

Berry Gordy Jr

American record, film, and tv producer and songwriter Berry Gordy Jr didn’t get his start in the music industry. He dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer, which he excelled at until he was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1950. He was first assigned to the 58th Field Artillery Bn., 3rd Inf. Div. in the Korean War, later playing the organ and driving a jeep as a chaplain’s assistant. When his tour was over in 1953, his music career took off.

He founded the Motown record label, which was the highest-earning African American business for several decades. Several of his songs topped the charts, and he’s known for helping budding artists like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes achieve greatness.

2016 Invictus Opening Ceremony

Morgan Freeman

Actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman is yet another famous veteran. He earned a partial drama scholarship from Jackson State University, but he turned it down to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. There, he served as an Automatic Tracking Radar Repairman, rising to the rank of Airman 1st Class.

After being discharged four years later, he moved to Los Angeles and studied theatrical arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. Considering he has since won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and many Oscar nominations, it looks like his hard work paid off!

(Wikimedia Commons)

James Earl Jones

Few voices are as iconic and recognizable as that of American actor James Earl Jones. Before launching his acting career, Jones served in the military, receiving his Ranger tab and helping to establish a cold-weather training command at the former Camp Hale. During his time in the military, he was promoted to first lieutenant. Following his discharge, he served his country in a different way, with over seven decades of theatrical excellence. In addition to winning numerous Tonys, two Emmys and a Grammy, he was presented with the National Medal of the Arts by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Nearly two decades later, President Barack Obama invited him to perform Shakespeare at the White House. Wow!

These Black veterans aren’t the only ones we should care about.

The history of African American military personnel is as old as our country itself. Countless Black Americans have made their mark on U.S. Military history, and they continue to do so today. Click here to explore the firsthand experiences of Black vets, or learn more about how to support them here.