ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.


Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.

Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.

The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.

SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.

The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.

An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.

Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.

On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.

After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.

“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.

Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.

ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.

On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.

“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.

“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.

The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.

But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.

“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.

UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.

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15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

Fifteen years after a 17-hour battle on an Afghan mountaintop, a pararescueman’s extraordinary heroism was recognized with an Air Force Cross, upgraded from a Silver Star, following a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.


ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Then-Tech. Sgt. Keary Miller –against overwhelming odds and a barrage of heavy fire from Al Qaeda militants– dashed through deep snow into the line of fire multiple times to assess and care for critically-wounded U.S. service members, March 4, 2002.

Miller was previously awarded the Silver Star medal for these actions, Nov. 1, 2003. The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor.

“We are blessed to have Airmen like Keary in the Special Tactics community,” said Col. Michael Martin, the 24th Special Operations Wing commander, who directed training for Miller’s pararescue team before their deployment in 2002. “In an extraordinary situation, Keary acted with courage and valor to save the lives of 10 special operations teammates. This medal upgrade accentuates his selflessness despite an overwhelming enemy force…although Keary may humbly disagree, he belongs to a legacy of heroes.”

Miller was deployed from the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, an Air National Guard unit based in Standiford, Kentucky. During the mission, he was the Air Force combat search and rescue team leader assigned to a U.S Army Ranger quick reaction force.

Also read: Special tactics airman receives medal upgrade for dramatic rescue

“I would describe Keary as a dedicated pararescueman – dedicated to his craft and dedicated to the motto ‘That others may live.’ That’s how he defined himself and that really defines his actions that day,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mclane, the 123rd STS commander, who was a second lieutenant in Miller’s home unit during that time. “We have a proud legacy and a tradition of valor, and Keary is a big part of that.”

On March 4, 2002, his team was tasked to support a joint special operations team on a mountaintop called Takur Ghar, occupied by Al Qaeda forces– an engagement commonly known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge after the first casualty of the battle, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.

One of the most significant events in recent Special Operations history began when a joint special operations team attempted to infiltrate Takur Ghar, which held a well-fortified and concealed force. The ensuing battle would result in the loss of seven special operations team members.

“We were notified there was a missing aircrew and we were launching a team to go find them,” said Maj. Gabriel Brown, a Special Tactics officer, formerly an enlisted combat controller. “It was unknown who exactly was missing, but we loaded up two helicopters full of Rangers and the (combat search and rescue) package, which included me, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham [pararescueman] and Keary, who was my team leader. I trusted him.”

As the quick reaction force helicopter made its approach over the landing zone, they were struck by rocket propelled grenades at close range –they returned fire with mini guns, but the helicopter impacted the ground hard, lurching into the snow.

“Once we landed, 7.62mm rounds ripped through the fuselage–the daylight popping through, smoke aglow; then the rotors decelerated to a grinding halt,” Brown said. “Immediately, we had several casualties; I remember seeing two Rangers face down. Keary and I were deep in the aircraft—and we made eye contact and shared kind of a ‘here we go’ moment.”

The team disembarked from the aircraft to combat the blistering fire of a waiting enemy. At great risk to his own life, Miller moved through the snowy terrain, crossing into the line of fire on several occasions in order to assess and care for critically wounded servicemen.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

“I saw Keary taking action on the wounded, worried about collecting the casualties and triaging them,” Brown said, who was in charge of aircraft communications and precision strike. “He was careful in his thoughts and actions, conducting himself calmly and coolly – relaying the casualty information to me all morning.”

As the battle continued, Miller collected ammunition from the deceased to distribute it to multiple positions in need of ammo, moving through heavy enemy fire each time.

“I was listening to the updates as they were coming in; I was so proud because my friends were on that mountain and their future was so uncertain but they were rocking it – they were doing everything right,” Mclane said, who was listening real-time to satellite communications of the battle. “It’s like, these guys might not make it off this mountain, but by God, they’re going down swinging.”

When Cunningham was killed during another attack, the casualty collection point he was at was compromised. Miller assumed Cunningham’s role — providing medical aid under fire to the wounded – and braved enemy fire to move the wounded to better cover and concealment.

Related: 12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

“I wholeheartedly believe the Air Force Cross accurately represents Keary’s actions that day,” said Brown. “I know those lives were saved that day were because of his efforts within that environment…the steps he took to ensure they made it off the battlefield.”

Miller is credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. service members that day, and the recovery of seven who were killed in action.

Following his deployment, Miller returned to the 123rd STS as a mentor for the newest generation of operators. The events he experienced helped him to shape tactics, techniques and procedures for years to come.

“Keary was already a mature pararescueman before he went on that mission,” Mclane said. “But, when he returned, he really dedicated himself to improving our body armor, our equipment, our (tactics, techniques and procedures) when under fire – he was driven to be better, and to make his teammates better.”
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That time a guy jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet with no chute — and survived

On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.


Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.

His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”

In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.

When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.

“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”

So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.

The RAF Museum picks up the story:

He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.

Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.

He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.

“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.

The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”

Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.

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15 of the most expensive projects abandoned by the US military

The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.


But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.

The abandoned projects are largely due to a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.

Sequestration, which is indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is the greatest threat to the US military currently, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.

Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially due to a lack of funds.

Future Combat Systems

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army

A prototype of the Non-Line-of-Sight-Cannon, a component of the Future Combat Systems.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle Program. This program was also ultimately canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

RAH-66 Comanche Armed Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $7.9 billion

Follow-On: The helicopter was superseded by the later canceled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter project.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

An artist’s concept drawing of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

Branch: Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sunk-Costs: $5.8 billion

Follow-On: The program was replaced by the now canceled Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). The DWSS is slated to be restarted as the Weather Satellite Follow-On.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Airborne Laser

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
US Missile Defense Agency

The Airborne Laser in flight with the mirror unstowed.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $5.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was canceled without an identified replacement.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

VH-71 Presidential Helicopter

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Sikorsky

A conceptual drawing of the VH-71 helicopter.

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.7 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Marine Corps

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.3 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

XM2001 Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $2.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, which was also then canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

E-10 Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Air Force

An E-8, which was intended to be replaced by the E-10.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.9 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Replacement Program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Space Based Infrared Systems — Low

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Air Force

An artist’s rendition of the Space-Based Infrared System — Low

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.5 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Advanced SEAL Delivery System

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Navy Photo

An SDV is docked into place by Navy SEALs.

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.6 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the later canceled Joint Multi-Mission Submersible.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $0.5 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred following the Army’s decision to field a mix of drones and AH-64Es instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Aerial Common Sensor

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Navy

The Aerial Common Sensor was replaced with the P-8 (pictured).

Branch: Army/Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.4 billion

Follow-On: The project deferred in favor of the Navy’s P-8 program and upgrades to Army aircraft.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CG(X) Next Generation Cruiser

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Navy

Pictured above are two DDG 51 destroyers, which were purchased instead of the CG(X).

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred, and the Navy purchased additional DDG 51 destroyers instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CSAR-X Combat Rescue Helicopter

The HH60 Pave Hawk, which was produced as part of the Critical Rescue Helicopter program.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately restarted as the Combat Rescue Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Next Generation Bomber

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Nothrop Grumman

Concept art for the Long Range Strike-Bomber that replaced the Next Generation Bomber project.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the Long Range Strike-Bomber.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

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These 12 historical photos vividly show where the Navy’s term “salty” came from

“Salty” is a term from the United States Navy used to describe an experienced sailor – someone for whom the romanticized idea of ship life is gone and replaced with sea salt.

Recently WATM published photos from the 1898 Spanish-American War that were found during a U.S. Navy archive office renovation. One of our readers asked if we could find historical photos of the  U.S. Navy’s saltiest sailors throughout history, so we did.


Check these sea dogs out:

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
An older sailor with a young one, circa 1917.

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Exchanging seas stories, circa 1900

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Sailors aboard the USS Oregon, circa 1900

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
These are U.S. Navy sailors from the Spanish-American War period. This photo was recently found in an archival building.

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
The crew of the Holland, the Navy’s first commissioned Submarine in 1899

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Sailors from the USS Hartford, circa 1876

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Sailors aboard the USS Ohio circa 1870.

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Sailors of the Union Navy during the Civil War, 1865

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Admiral DD Porter, 1860

 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
A Mexican-American War Era Navy Commander, circa 1850

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.


Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepare to fire an AT4 rocket launcher at an insurgent position during a firefight in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.

That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.

According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)

But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.

Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,

Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea may now have a biological weapons program

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was under way on a biological weapon.


The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
A surface-to-surface mediu long range ballistic missile is transported for launch in North Korea. (KCNA)

North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons programme, from factories that can produce microbes by the tonne, to laboratories specialising in genetic modification, according to United States and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts.

Leader Kim Jong Un’s Government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

U.S. analysts say North Korea could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbours or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

“That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means,” said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?”

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea’s programme, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare programme of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
(North Korea state Media)

Yet, in 2015, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-storey facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory. State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides — mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea’s cabbage crop.

To U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons programme. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country’s installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax,” Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown.

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American “biological warfare schemes” against its citizens.

Kim’s trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
(Photo from North Korean State Media)

Some weapons experts were sceptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory’s purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork.

Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

“The real takeaway is that [ North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production,” said Andrew Weber, a former Assistant Secretary of Defence for nuclear, chemical and biological defence programmes. “What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability.”

Read Also: This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang’s nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

But determining North Korea’s precise capabilities — and the regime’s intentions for using such weapons — have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts.

Questions about North Korea’s capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
An aerial view of North Korean capital Pyongyang, taken by photographer Aram Pam. (Image Youtube)

While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield — hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly.

Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programmes for decades.

“They talk openly about their ‘nuclear deterrent,’ but with chemical and biological weapons, it’s different,” DeTrani said. “They’ve always played it close to the vest. For them, it’s a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out what Stars and Stripes reporters go through to bring the news

The newspaper Stars and Stripes has an interesting little niche in its place in American journalism. Wherever the Armed Forces of the United States may go, Stars and Stripes reporters might just go along with them. The idea of such a paper can be traced back to the Civil War, the reporting as we know it dates back to World War I. While the paper is a government-funded entity reporting on military operations, you might find it full of the hardest-working most objective staff in the world.

And if their movie is to be believed, maybe the craziest staff in the world to boot.


The documentary film The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route is the story of the unsung heroes who deliver the news to the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else the U.S. military gets the newspaper – and everywhere they’ve been for the past 100 years. The film includes never-before-seen imagery from the Stars and Stripes archive of photographers and writers who were in the war zones with the fighting men and women from Verdun to Saigon.

The list of correspondents and contributors to the legendary newspaper include Andy Rooney, Bill Maudlin, Steve Kroft, Shel Silverstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Arnett, to name just a few. Even the civilians working on the staff used to see combat – one civilian in Vietnam even saw action with every major combat unit to go through the country during the war.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

How does one news outlet get so much access to the United States military while still retaining their credibility, you might ask. The answer is that even though Stars and Stripes is funded by the Department of Defense, its creative and editorial direction are protected from the Pentagon by Congress. It is something that the readership of the paper looked forward to receiving every time they could, so says Gen. David Petraeus, interviewed for The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.

“It is, in a way, the hometown newspaper of the U.S. military,” Petraeus says.

This is an organization that not only knew what was happening back home, as a matter of course, but also was embedded with the troops on the ground, and knew what was going on in-country. The reporters at Stars and Stripes put their lives on the line to produce a newspaper for the troops – and anyone who might pick up a copy.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

In The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route, the viewer goes on a journey downrange to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to see what it’s like to cover the United States military and its operations in today’s Global War on Terror. In places like Afghanistan, picking up the computer and getting a wifi signal isn’t as easy as it may be anywhere else in the world. Here, physical newspapers that provide unquestioned reporting are all American forces have to read and understand the world around them and the world which continues to go on without them back home.

Find out how important the newspaper has been to American troops, see the unparalleled access and legendary images captured by the Stars and Stripes staff, and feel the nerve-wracking stress of seeing an unarmed camera operator out in combat, carrying only a camera.

The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route can be watched free with an Amazon Prime subscription.

MIGHTY CULTURE

First naval aviators graduate new USAF pilot training program

The first two student naval aviators graduated from the U.S. Air Force’s Pilot Training Next (PTN) program at Randolph Air Force Base (AFB) just outside of San Antonio, Aug. 29, 2019.

The PTN program is a course of instruction designed to train military pilots at a lower cost, in a shorter amount of time, and with a higher level of proficiency leveraging emerging technologies to create a dynamic training environment.

The PTN program individualizes training, adjusting to each student pilot’s strengths and weaknesses. It integrates virtual reality (VR), advanced biometrics, artificial intelligence (AI), and immersive training devices (ITD) with traditional methods of learning.


“The most appealing part of this program is we step away from the common denominator or one-size-fits-all training that has to be done on a certain timeline,” Det. 24 Commander U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Riley said. “With PTN we have been able to focus more on competencies and the focus of the individual student. We tailor the training to you, and that is a very different mindset shift and that is what I am most excited about.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

A T-6A Texan II aircraft prepares to conduct a tough-and-go landing on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Navy instructors selected Ensigns Charles Hills and Seth Murphy-Sweet for the PTN program in lieu of the standard Navy Primary Flight Training phase. This joint training effort is a step toward integrating emerging technologies into Navy’s flight training curriculum. Now Hill and Murphy-Sweet are ready to move forward to the advanced stage of flight training with the Navy’s Training Air Wing 2 at Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas.

“I think a big thing with this program was the ability to utilize the VR, get the experience and pacing down for each flight realtime,” Hill said. “This benefited all the students – being able to chair fly while being able to see the whole flight rather than to have to use your imagination. This helped in getting the motor skills while we were able test it out in VR and see how the exact input corresponds to a correct output.”

The relatively new program is being improved with each iteration and allows a more tailored approach to learning in comparison to traditional flight training from the instructor’s perspective. Instructors use a collaborative learning environment to evaluate and analyze students and subsequently make corrections and improvements.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Ensign Charles Hill (left) and Ensign Seth Murphy-Sweet stand with their graduating Pilot Training Next (PTN) class on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

PTN First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) U.S. Air Force Capt. Jake Pothula shared his views on just how the program differs from the traditional syllabus.

“I went through traditional training,” he said. “The biggest difference with the PTN program is the fact that we aren’t tied to a very rigid, unforgiving syllabus, so students have the ability to choose their own training or have it be molded by instructor pilots who have the students’ individual best interest in mind. In traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) you get more flying hours, but PTN students get a lot more simulator time. The students probably get three times as many hours in the sim than a traditional UPT student would. It’s something they could do at their own pace and choose what they want to do. I would say that these students have a very different set of skills. They excel at understanding their place in a larger mission and understanding what their aircraft is going to do especially in the cases of large field or large force exercises. I feel they definitely have a better grasp on more abstract concept such as mission management.”

Integrating new technologies such as ITDs allows students to gain experience using real-world scenarios. Students can not only fly the strict patterns and procedures they learn from their books, but also integrate air traffic control decondition as well as other aircraft.

“I think the unique and most exciting aspect with where PTN is going is the partnership with the Navy and Air Force,” Riley said. “With this partnership the Navy has loaned us eight T-6B Texan II aircraft. The manufacturer modified the avionics to what we call the T-6B plus, which has software specifically built for the PTN program mission.”

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Commander Air Force Recruiting Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt speaking at the Pilot Training Next (PTN) class graduation on Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st. Lt. Pawel Puczko)

Adding Navy instructors and students to the PTN program brings a unique perspective since training in the T-6B Texan II is new to the Air Force. VR simulators add a new and exciting element to the PTN program and draws parallels to the gaming industry, which could help attract new accessions.

Today the Navy’s Primary Flight Training phase uses simulators and VR trainer devices to augment the traditional curriculum, which allow students better familiarity with aircraft controls and their areas of operations. Technology within fleet aircraft and the aviation community at large is constantly advancing, and as we move forward simulators and ITDs will play an increasingly significant role in the way we train our military aviators.

CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world’s finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

These comedians entertain troops worldwide with the ‘Apocalaughs’ tour

Matt Baetz is a comedian, actor, writer, and host and a veteran of six Armed Forces Entertainment and USO tours across the world. He’s performed his standup routine for the troops in Afghanistan, Africa, Bahrain, Cuba, Greenland, Kosovo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He’s also done numerous television and radio appearances on shows like “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” and Playboy Radio. He was awarded Best of the Fest Performer from the NY Fringe Festival for his role in the 2014 play, “Kemble’s Riot.”


Joining Matt on the most recent “Apocalaughs” tour were fellow comedians Steven Briggs, Liz Miele, and Leo Flowers.

“Not just anyone can hack these tours,” Baetz said. “The schedule is demanding and the living conditions are sometimes not the best. But I explain to the talent right up front that, wherever we go, I don’t want them coming right out of the gate and asking whether there’s wifi or complaining about the coffee. We’re there for the people serving away from home.”

Here’s a look at four of the stops on the recent tour:

1. Cuba

2. Egypt

3. Turkey

4. Italy

Hello 

Today, Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense for providing entertainment to troops overseas. More than 60 tours are sent out providing over 600 performances per year to 400,000 soldiers.

Here’s a brief history of the organization:

  • World War II-1951: The United Service Organizations (USO) Camp Shows program recruited and fielded live entertainment for military personnel. Camp Shows usually consisted of well-known celebrities who were recruited to entertain military personnel serving overseas.  For many entertainers, this was their first time performing and traveling abroad. However, the Camp Shows scheduling, which was coordinated by each Service, was considered inconsistent.
  • 1951-1970: Before the establishment of the Department of Defense (DoD) in 1951, the Military Services agreed to provide a single point of contact for the USO. The Secretary of the Army was designated as the administrative agent for the DoD’s relationship with the USO. Operational responsibility rested with the Adjutant General, then transferred to the Commander, U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. In 1951, Service representatives were assigned to the new Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Office (AFPEO) to administer the fielding of USO Shows, provide shows where the USO Camp Shows were unable, and establish a regularly scheduled program. 

Units consisted of celebrities, professional artists, college groups sponsored by the American Theater Association (ATA) and the All American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS).  The USO and DoD sent thousands of entertainers, celebrity and non-celebrity, to entertain U.S. military personnel, DoD and Department of State civilians, and their family members worldwide.  By the end of the Vietnam era, virtually all of the programmed shows were non-celebrity with DoD fielding over half of the units.
  • 1982: USO canceled the non-celebrity program to concentrate on the recruitment and fielding of well-known celebrity entertainment. The DoD directed the Secretary of the Army to assume responsibility for the non-celebrity program. In June, all non-celebrity entertainment units sent abroad were participating in the Armed Forces Professional Entertainment Program overseas, nicknamed “DoD Overseas Shows”.  In addition to the non-celebrity program, the AFPEO continued to uphold DoD’s portion of the celebrity show responsibilities with the USO.  These shows were renamed “USO/DoD Celebrity Shows.”
  • 1989: The Assistant Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) assumed operational control of the AFPEO with the Secretary of the Army remaining the Executive Agent.  This assumption was designed to elevate the AFPEO’s authority, facilitate coordination, and increase program visibility.
  • 1997: The U.S. Air Force was assigned the Executive Agent for providing celebrity and non-celebrity programs to troops serving overseas, creating the jointly-manned office, Armed Forces Entertainment.
MIGHTY TRENDING

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

The US Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force left its base in Romania for training in Bulgaria this month, carrying out exercises that are another sign the US military is preparing for a kind of conflict that’s different from what it has faced in recent decades.

A Marine Forces Europe and Africa release issued earlier in July said units from the rotational force were headed to Bulgaria’s Novo Selo training area, “where they would be able to take advantage of the rough, verdurous terrain for multiple training events.”

“We deployed from the place where we’re stationed at in Romania to this training area in Bulgaria. That way we can utilize the training areas out here that are a little better suited for the training that we’re trying to accomplish,” an unidentified Marine said in a video released this week by the command, first spotted by Marine Corps Times.

The Marines carried out a number of exercises focused on combined-arms proficiency and on building operational capacity.


ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Marines perform high-angle fire training with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

“During this training event we had snipers conducting everything from unknown distance ranges to live-fire stalks,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Kult, a combined anti-armor team (CAAT) platoon commander. “We also had our 81 mm mortar platoon conducting dismounted and mounted live-fire operations, both day and night.”

“We have our combined-anti-armor platoon conducting high-angle Mark-19 fire, which is a new thing for us,” the Marine said in the video. “It’s not really done in the Marine Corps anymore.”

High-angle fire with the Mark 19, an automatic grenade launcher that can fire up to 60 40mm grenades a minute, could come in handy if Marines engaged enemy personnel behind walls or other barriers, Marine Corps machine-gunners told the Times. Such fire could also be useful against Russian armor or other vehicles.

The gunners said that with skilled observers and good communications, high-angle fire — a skill taught at the Corps’ advanced machine-gunner course — from Mark 19s could quickly be walked onto a target.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

According to the release, platoons from Weapons Company from the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, typically work independently, making the joint exercises at Novo Selo a valuable opportunity.

“We don’t always get together as a company and do these combined training events, so as a whole, it improves our unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Benjamin Lepla, a forward observer. “Now we know how long it takes for every section to set up their equipment and assault the objective from different positions.”

“The most important event that we’re doing out here is the combined attack utilizing the entire company,” Kult said. “It’s a unique opportunity because normally we’re all away from each other, either supporting other companies, or in direct support of the battalion.”

NATO forces have increased their presence in Eastern Europe in the years since Russia began its incursion in Ukraine in 2014, and US military units in Europe have been boosting their capabilities.

Earlier this year, the Army’s Ironhorse Brigade arrived for a rotation in Eastern Europe — but instead of sailing to Germany, the unit disembarked in Belgium for the first time in decades to practice traveling across the continent by road, rail, and barge.

During the most recent iteration of the Saber Strike Exercise, US armored units also practiced traveling across Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. During the exercise, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced rough landings on a highway in Estonia — a drill only recently restarted after being discontinued in the 1980s.

The US military has been shifting its attention to preparations for a potential conflict with near-peer competitors like China or Russia — a change outlined in the National Defense Strategy released earlier this year.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces

Marine lubricates the interior of a Mark 19 grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Such a conflict would be different from the fights of the recent past, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said.

“I don’t think the next fight is going to be a stability op/counterinsurgency: It’s going to be a violent, violent fight,” Neller said in mid-2017, according to Marine Corps Times.

For the Marines, it also likely means a change in operational focus, away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and northern and eastern Europe, Neller told Marines in Norway late last year.

He stressed that amid that shift, Marines should remain ready for a potential conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon, according to Military.com.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” he told the Marines in Norway, who are part of a new rotational force meant to expand training and boost readiness. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

170 cybersecurity experts warn that British government’s contact tracing app could be used to surveil people even after coronavirus has gone

A group of 177 cybersecurity experts have signed a joint open letter calling on the UK government voicing concerns about the NHS’ plan to roll out a contact tracing app designed to tell people when they’ve come into contact with suspected coronavirus patients.

NHSX, the NHS’ digital experimental arm, says the app will be rolled out in Britain in the next two to three weeks. The way it works is when people sign up to the app, their phone sends out Bluetooth signals to determine what other phones are in its vicinity. If a user develops symptoms they’ll be able to report themselves in the app, and their phone will then send out an alert to all the phones it’s been nearby over the previous two weeks.


The UK has taken the decision to eschew the contact tracing API being built by Apple and Google for use by governments. This decision is partly down to the fact that the UK has decided it wants to centralize users’ data on an external server, making it easier to analyze, rather than keeping processing limited to people’s devices. Apple and Google’s API stipulates that apps use the decentralized method, which is more privacy-conscious.

“It has been reported that NHSX is discussing an approach which records centrally the de-anonymized ID of someone who is infected and also the IDs of all those with whom the infected person has been in contact,” the joint letter reads. The experts argue that this data hoard could facilitate “mission creep,” i.e. the government could later use the data for purposes other than tracking COVID-19.

“It is vital that, when we come out of the current crisis, we have not created a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”

They noted that “invasive information” about users could be exploited.

“Such invasive information can include the ‘social graph’ of who someone has physically met over a period of time. With access to the social graph, a bad actor (state, private sector, or hacker) could spy on citizens’ real-world activities. We are particularly unnerved by a declaration that such a social graph is indeed aimed for by NHSX,” the experts write.

The experts ask in their letter that NHSX minimize the data it extracts from users to build trust in the app so it can be effectively deployed. Experts say 80% of smartphone users the UK would need to install the app for it to be effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus, and privacy concerns could mean falling short of that percentage.

They also ask that NHSX not build databases that could de-anonymize users, and that they lay out how the app will be phased out after the coronavirus crisis subsides.

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

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of May 20

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Air Force pararescuemen with the 58th Rescue Squadron prepare for aerial transport during a personnel recovery scenario at Pond Landing Zone during Angel Thunder 17 in Tucson, Ariz., May 11, 2017. Angel Thunder is a two-week, Air Combat Command-sponsored, joint certified and accredited personnel recovery exercise focused on search and rescue. 

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform the echelon pass in review maneuver during the Wings over Pittsburgh air show May 13, 2017, in Coraopolis, Pa.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard

Army:

A Soldier demonstrates hand-to-hand combat on a “volunteer” from the crowd during the 6th Ranger Training Battalion’s open house event, April 29, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The event was a chance for the public to learn how Rangers train and operate.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.

501st Parachute Infantry Regiment leaders observe as their follow-on paratroopers exit a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster to join in the fight during a Joint Forcible Entry Operation exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 3, 2017. Hundreds of paratroopers jumped from U.S. and Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft in conjunction with the biennial U.S. Air Force Alaska Command exercise Northern Edge.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Love

Navy:

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 16, 2017) Sailors conduct flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the western Pacific. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rebecca Sunderland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 16, 2017) U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen battle each other in a pugil stick jousting match during the class of 2020 Sea Trials. Sea Trials is a capstone event for the freshman midshipmen, modeled after the Marine Corps’ crucible and the Navy’s Battle Stations.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brianna Jones

Marine Corps:

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, run to the finish line of a circuit course while carrying a simulated patient and ammunition cans around the flight deck of USS Comstock April 24. In order to keep themselves physically, mentally, and operationally fit while on deployment, the Marines with CLB-11 have been conducting squad-level competitions that encompass a wide range of operational skill sets, such as physical fitness sessions, weapons handling drills, and casualty combat care drills.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

Marines with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command await departure during final exercise two as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course 2-17, near Yuma, Arizona, April 27, 2017. This exercise is designed to execute a simulated special operating forces raid while simultaneously supporting regimental combat team objectives and focusing on conducting all six functions of Marine Aviation.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer

Coast Guard:

The newest ensigns in the Coast Guard toss their hats in the air during the 136th Coast Guard Academy commencement exercise in New London, Conn., May 17, 2017. The ceremony was President Donald Trump’s first service academy graduation as commander-in-chief.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft departs the stage following the 136th Coast Guard Academy commencement exercise in New London, Conn., May 17, 2017. The ceremony was the President Donald Trump’s first service academy graduation as commander-in-chief.

ISIS counterattacks US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley

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