Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on November 21, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.
ISIS’s last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on November 17, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq’s border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.
Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS’s territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.
Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.
The rise and fall of ISIS
Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.
The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.
At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.
In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.
Threat from ISIS remains
But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups.
The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS’ continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.
In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world.
Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.
Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It’s likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran’s regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Where the Iron Curtain once divided Europe with barbed wire, a network of wilderness with bears, wolves, and lynx now thrives. Commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, people wear poppies to evoke the vast fields of red flowers which grew over the carnage of Europe’s battlefields. Once human conflict has ended, the return of nature to barren landscapes becomes a potent symbol of peace.
Abandonment of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster ushered in wildlife.
Warfare can also result in human exclusion, which might benefit wildlife under specific conditions. Isolation and abandonment can generate wild population increases and recoveries, which has been observed in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
The strange link between war and wildlife
Fish populations in the North Atlantic benefited from World War II as fishing fleets were drastically reduced. Fishing vessels were requisitioned by the navy, seamen were drafted and the risks of fishing due to enemy strikes or subsurface mining deterred fishermen from venturing out to sea.
As a result, the war essentially created vast “marine protected areas” for several years in the Atlantic Ocean. After the war, armed with faster and bigger trawlers with new technology, fishermen reported bonanza catches.
A more gruesome result of World War II allowed opportunistic species such as the oceanic whitetip shark to flourish, as human casualties at sea proved a rich and plentiful food source.
The growth of oceanic whitetip shark populations during WWII is a grisly example of how war can sometimes benefit wildlife.
Warship wrecks also became artificial reefs on the seabed which still contribute to the abundance of marine life today. The 52 captured German warships that were sunk during World War I between the Orkney mainland and the South Isles, off the north coast of Scotland, are now thriving marine habitats.
Exclusion areas, or “no mans lands”, which remain after fighting has ended may also help terrestrial ecosystems recuperate by creating de facto wildlife reserves. Formerly endangered species, such as the Persian leopard, have re-established their populations in the rugged northern Iran-Iraq frontier.
An uneasy post-war settlement can create hard borders with vast areas forbidden to human entry. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a 4km by 250km strip of land that has separated the two Koreas since 1953. For humans it is one of the most dangerous places on Earth, with hundreds of thousands of soldiers patrolling its edges. For wildlife however, it’s one of the safest areas in the region.
Miraculously, even habitats scarred by the most horrific weaponry can thrive as places where human access is excluded or heavily regulated. Areas previously used for nuclear testing, such as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean have been recolonizedby coral and fish, which seem to be thriving in the crater of Bikini Atoll, declared a nuclear wasteland after nuclear bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s.
War – still good for nothing
For all the quirks caused by abandonment, warfare overwhelmingly harms human communities and ecosystems with equal fervor. A review of the impact of human conflict on ecosystems in Africa showed an overall decrease in wildlife between 1946 and 2010. In war’s aftermath, natural populations were slow to recover or stopped altogether as economic hardship meant conservation fell by the wayside.
Humans often continue to avoid a “no mans land” because of the presence of land mines. But these don’t differentiate between soldiers and wildlife, particularly large mammals. It’s believed that residual explosives in conflict zones have helped push some endangered species closer to extinction.
Today’s European Green Belt traces the original route of the Iron Curtain.
However, where possible, accidental rewilding caused by war can help reconcile people after the fighting ends by installing nature where war had brought isolation. There is hope that should Korea reunify, a permanently protected area could be established within the current demilitarised zone boundaries, allowing ecotourism and education to replace enmity.
Such an initiative has already succeeded elsewhere in the world. The European Green Belt is the name for the corridor of wilderness which runs along the former Iron Curtain, which once divided the continent. Started in the 1970s, this project has sprawled along the border of 24 states and today is the longest and largest ecological network of its kind in the world. Here, ponds have replaced exploded land mine craters and forests and insect populations have grown in the absence of farming and pesticide use.
Where war isolates and restricts human movement, nature does seem to thrive. If, as a human species, we aim for a peaceful world without war, we must strive to limit our own intrusions on the natural paradises that ironically human warfare creates and nurture a positive legacy from a tragic history.
The new, free ID card was ordered by Congress in 2015 as a way to give veterans proof of service at businesses without carrying a copy of their DD-214 forms. The VA, a week ago, rolled out the online application for the card for all honorably discharged veterans, but the system appeared to immediately face technical problems.
Tests by at least two Military.com reporters accessing the site with their own VA logins and military service credentials encountered repeated errors. One was able to successfully complete the process despite multiple rejections and system timeouts.
Currently, however, veterans who look to apply for the card are instead told they need to come back later.
Thank you for your interest in the Veteran Identification Card! Currently, we are experiencing a high volume of traffic. We apologize, and want you to know we’re working to fix the problem,” the notice states. “In the meantime, please enter your email address and we’ll send an update when the Veteran Identification Card application is back online.
Officials with the VA did not respond to requests for information on when the application will be reopened, how many users successfully applied for the ID card before applications were suspended, or how many users started but did not complete the application process.
“We are aware some veterans have experienced issues with the application process, but leaders of VA’s Office of Information and Technology are actively engaged in fixing them,” Curtis Cashour, the agency’s press secretary, said in a statement.
“Still, many Veterans have successfully registered for the card since the program was announced, and we are excited finally to begin providing this resource to Veterans, fulfilling a promise that was made to them more than two years ago under the previous administration,” he added.
To apply for a card, users had to log in to the VA website using either a DS login or the ID.me system, provide a variety of personal information, and upload a copy of a government-issued ID. They also needed to provide a shoulders-up photo to be displayed on the ID card. VA officials said Nov. 29 that users could expect to receive their new ID cards within 60 days of application.
Some veterans, such as those who receive health benefits from the VA and military retirees, already have IDs that can provide proof of service. The new IDs will not qualify as official government-issued identification for air travel or other uses. The ID card program is voluntary.
Before Linda Perry became the frontwoman for the 90s rock group 4 Non Blondes, she was homeless and living on the streets of San Diego. That, of course, all changed when she moved to San Francisco and began her music career. Though 4 Non Blondes was short-lived, Perry’s career in music continued.
“I left my band because I felt like that wasn’t the destination for me,” Perry says. “I wanted to write songs and produce music so, that’s what I’ve done for past 15 or 16 years. Now, I have a label and publishing company, and I manage acts as well.”
So when director and humanitarian Lysa Heslov asked Perry to write a song for her documentary “Served Like A Girl,” the inclination was natural.
“Served Like A Girl” follows five female veterans as they train to compete in the Ms. Veteran America competition. The competition benefits women veterans, many with children, who are in danger of slipping into poverty and homelessness after their service ends.
The women featured in the film go through many trials and tribulations as they transition and it becomes easy to see just how possible it is for a woman to be a Master Sergeant one week and living on the streets the next.
When Linda Perry saw the film, she was blown away.
“I had no idea,” she says. “You’d be surprised. People don’t know about this situation. Women are serving and coming home to double standards, not getting benefits, and are homeless after serving their country. There’s nothing there to support them.”
Perry wrote “Dancing Through The Wreckage” as an anthem for the women and for the film, teaming up with rock legend Pat Benatar, who did the vocals on the track. The two were working together on a song (“Shine”) for the 2017 Women’s March when the idea came to Perry.
“The song just kind of showed up,” Perry recalls. “I’m going, ‘Holy f*ck, I’ve got the holy grail of women empowerment in my f*cking studio right now.’ I showed Pat the trailer and then played her what I started and we just jumped in. Her husband Neil Giraldo jumped in and we wrote the song for the movie.”
Linda Perry’s involvement in the film isn’t limited to its signature song. Perry was also a producer on the film. The song is woven throughout the film’s emotional moments.
“‘Dancing Through the Wreckage’ is such a great visual,” Perry says. “I kind of feel like that really summed up, for me, the feeling of what I was watching. It’s like they’re dancing through all this bullshit, and they’re getting through it, so it’s a Hallelujah moment at the same time.”
The song serves to highlight the joint effort needed to address the underlying issue depicted in the film. Women veterans are the fastest-growing homeless population in America. There are now an estimated 55,000 homeless female veterans on the streets of the United States.
“That’s what’s so powerful about this film,” Perry says. “Through Lisa’s passion and through these beautiful stories these women allowed Lisa to share, the word is getting out there.”
“Served Like a Girl” is in theaters in Los Angeles and New York. It will open in other areas soon.
To learn more about the Ms. Veteran America Competition or donate to fight female veteran homelessness, visit their website.
While the Pentagon has questioned the need for a dedicated Space Force, the U.S. is already a signatory to multiple space treaties that spell out its obligations in the final frontier. And there are already a number of missions being done by other forces that would clearly be the purview of an independent Space Force.
Here are nine things the Space Force must do — and two things it can’t.
They probably won’t need so many graphical overlays to do it, though.
Protect American satellites
American satellites are one of the most important parts of modern, digital infrastructure. They’re also extremely vulnerable. They’re under constant threat of striking debris that’s already flying through orbit and China and Russia both have demonstrated the capabilities to bring one down at any time.
A Space Force would likely be tasked with building countermeasures to protect these valuable assets. Oncoming missiles could be confused with jamming or brought down with lasers — but lasers can also serve as an offensive weapon against enemy satellites. Additionally, some spacefaring nations, including the U.S., are developing technologies that could allow them to seize enemy satellites and steer them into danger.
Tactical battles in space sound complicated.
(U.S. Air Force)
Identify enemy killer satellites and template attacks against them
Speaking of which, the Space Force will likely need intelligence assets to identify satellites with offensive capabilities and template ways to neutralize them quickly in a space war. Satellites could be the U-boats of a future conflict, and the best way to stop them before they can hide amidst the space junk is to take them out at the first sign of conflict.
Satellites are expensive. And hard to make. And worse to replace.
(U.S. Air Force)
Ensure plans for the replacement constellations are viable
But there’s no way that American defenses could stop all — or likely even the majority of — attacks. Luckily, DARPA and other agencies are already testing potential ways to rapidly rebuild capabilities after an attack.
They’ve tested launching moderate-sized satellites from F-16s as well as sending up rockets with many small satellites that work together to achieve their mission, creating a dispersed network that’s harder to defeat.
(Graphic by U.S. Air Force)
Figure out how to destroy space debris
We mentioned space debris earlier — and it’s important for a few reasons. First, it’s a constant threat to satellites. But more importantly for strategic planners, most methods of quickly destroying an enemy’s satellite constellation will create thousands (if not millions) of pieces of debris that could eventually destroy other satellites in orbit, including those of the attacking nation.
So, to create a credible threat of using force against other nations’ satellites, the U.S. will need a plan for destroying any space debris it creates. The most pragmatic solution is to create weapons that can kill satellites without creating debris, like the lasers and killbots. But those same lasers and killbots could be used to clear out debris after satellites are killed with missiles.
China has proposed a “space broom,” armed with a weak laser that could clear debris (and, purely coincidentally, might also be used to destroy satellites).
Air Force graphics are as complicated as Army graphics. I wonder if everyone thought it was the graphics that decided who got the Space Force? (You win this round, Air Force).
(U.S. Air Force)
Protect American industry in space
The U.S. military branches are often called to protect national interests. Among those national interests is business — and business in space is likely to be massive in the near future, from private space companies teasing the possibility of tourism to asteroid mining to zero-gravity manufacturing.
Of course, building the infrastructure to do these things in space will be expensive and extremely challenging. To make sure that America can still gather resources and manufacture specialized goods — and that the military and government can buy those goods and resources — the Space Force will be tasked with protecting American interests in space.
There is little standardized equipment between different space agencies, though Russia does share some matching equipment thanks to their access to Space Shuttle schematics when overhauling the Soviet space program. The Space Force will likely have to figure out ways to rescue astronauts and civilians in space despite equipment differences.
Yeah, you guys can hitch a ride. Did you bring your own spacesuit or do you need a loaner?
(Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ian Dudley)
Provide orbital rides for other branches
While the Marine Corps has already done some preliminary work on how to move its Marines via orbit, little planning exists for the nitty gritty details of moving troops through space. All of the branches will likely develop some tools for moving personnel, but Congress will likely demand that the branches prevent unnecessary redundancy — like how the Army has its own boats, planes, and helicopters, but has to get most of its rides from the Navy and Air Force.
The Space Force will be the pre-eminent branch in space, and will likely need the spaceports and shuttles to match.
Learn to steer (or at least divert) asteroids
Currently, NASA has the lead on detecting near-Earth objects and preventing collisions, but the military generally gets the bigger budget and, as they say, “with great funds comes great responsibility.”
Of course, the Space Force won’t be all shuttle pilots and flight attendants — the admin folks will have a lot of paperwork to do, too. Another U.S. space treaty obligates America to provide details of every object it launches into space as well as every person who enters space.
All of those details that get passed when personnel enter or leave a country will also have to get passed when they enter or leave space, necessitating an admin corps who join the space force exclusively to pass paperwork.
If you think that makes the Space Force more boring, just wait until you see the things they, by treaty, aren’t allowed to do.
Super sexy — but also not allowed to be based on the Moon.
(U.S. Air Force)
No carrying weapons of mass destruction
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans any spacefaring nation from putting weapons of mass destruction in orbit or basing them on celestial bodies, like the Moon. So, no Space Marines with nuclear missiles in orbit. Rockets, bullets, and lasers? Maybe.
Nukes? No way. Gotta leave those back on Earth.
No building military bases on celestial bodies
Even worse news for Space Force personnel: They can’t have any dedicated military bases on celestial objects either, also due to that same Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The U.S. will need to renegotiate the treaty, build more space stations, or keep nearly all Space Force personnel on Earth, only sending them up for short missions.
In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.
At least, that’s what Navy recruits tell each other during basic training — but that wasn’t the real intention.
In the early 1800s, the iconic trouser’s front flap (crotch area) or “broadfall” had 15 buttons before it was modified 90-years later to have just seven, allowing the manufacturer to reduce the amount of material.
Reportedly years later, the broadfall was enlarged for various reasons including that many sailors didn’t have enough room down there, so the Navy listened and added the extra material and six buttons.
Pro tip: Many sailors have their trousers tailored to remove all the buttons and replace them with Velcro strips to grant easier access to the goods. They then resew the buttons to the outside flap, with uniform inspectors being none-the-wiser.
A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.
“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.
“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”
On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.
Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner
The Air Force has laid out plans to welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions.
The service, through the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, or VRRAD, is encouraging pilots who held a job in the 11X career field to apply before Dec. 31, 2018, officials said in a release this week.
In an effort to address the increasing pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last July signed off on the program, which aims to fill flight staff positions with those who have prior pilot experience and expertise, thus allowing active-duty pilots to focus on training and missions.
Returning retirees will not be eligible for aviation bonuses, the release said. They will deploy only if they volunteer.
Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major, or lieutenant colonel can apply for VRRAD, according to the service’s criteria for the program.
While the Air Force select candidates on a first-come, first-served basis, officials said, applicants are required to be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical; must have served in a rated staff position within the past 10 years; or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within five years of application.
Officers who retired following, or in lieu of, a Selective Early Retirement Board, and officers who retired for a physical disability are not eligible to apply, the release said.
“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding.
“They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments,” Jarding, who works at the Air Force Personnel Center, said in the release.
The Air Force is looking to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.
“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who has been a military pilot, and [we] would like to be able to keep our pilots who are current in the aircraft in the aircraft and try to fill some of these vital flight slots,” Wilson said in August.
Should those positions remain unfilled through 2018, the Air Force will keep the program open for additional applicants, the release said.
Former airmen can apply for the program, which began Aug. 11, through the Air Force Personnel Center via the myPers website. Those without a myPers account must establish one via http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.
Since the close of the Cold War, military parades have been associated with authoritarian powers, like China, Russia, and North Korea, who show off their newly built military platforms to the chagrin of military analysts around the world.
While the U.S. has the best military in the world, there are some things Russia, China, or North Korea can do in a parade that the U.S. simply can’t.
For example, Pennsylvania Avenue probably can’t handle a long convoy of heavy military vehicles. Today’s M1 Abrams tanks weigh a whopping 67 tons. World War II-era military parades featured tanks that weighed about half that.
The weight and treads of an Abrams tank might just tear up the road. When China and Russia put on military parades, they roll through state-of-the-art military vehicles, while the U.S.’s main battle tank was first built in 1979. In many ways, Russia and China’s parades would likely outclass the U.S.’s in terms of how new their equipment is.
Will Trump show nukes?
Additionally, Russia, China, and North Korea like to parade their ICBMs around, but the U.S. can’t really do that. Unlike the authoritarian nuclear powers across Asia, the U.S. parks its ICBMs in silos, not atop huge military trucks.
When the U.S. does move its ICBMs around, it does so in plain-looking trucks. The U.S. has paraded nuclear weapons down Pennsylvania Avenue before, but today’s nuclear weapons are far more discrete looking.
But there is a nuclear platform that would make sense for a parade and avoid tearing up the road — nuclear bombers. The U.S. could fly B-2 and B-52 bombers overhead, as well as stealth jets, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
In terms of air power, the U.S. has much more to show off than Russia, China, or North Korea, which can’t even fly its planes due to a lack of fuel.
The U.S. has something Russia, China, and North Korea can’t touch
While the U.S. military doesn’t exactly lend itself to parading, it has something worth showing off that China, Russia, and North Korea can’t touch — soldiers who actually want to be there.
The pride of the U.S. military is not any one single platform, or any combination thereof. All major militaries have planes, tanks, and missiles, but the U.S. has an all-volunteer force, while Russia, China, and North Korea rely on conscripts.
Even more important than troops marching though, are the people watching. In the U.S., anyone of any status can think and say or write what they like about the soldiers. They can attend, or not. The revelers on the sidelines of the parade w0uld be proud U.S. citizens attending of their own free will.
That’s simply not the case in North Korea, Russia, and China.
A Canadian sniper operating in Iraq set the world record for a long-distance confirmed kill at 3,450 meters, or 2.14 miles just last month.
According to Robert Fife of the Globe and Mail, this soldier functions as part of Canada’s contribution to the war against ISIS, and serves as a member of Joint Task Force 2, the country’s top-tier special operations unit.
Fife reports that the shot was part of a response to an ISIS attack on Iraqi security forces. To break up the attack, coalition forces, including sniper teams, engaged the enemy element from a distance, picking out targets and dropping them from afar. The JTF2 sniper’s kill shot took around 10 seconds to reach its mark after exiting the barrel of the rifle.
Yet-to-be-released video footage of the shot apparently further adds credence to the claims surrounding this incredible feat.
It may surprise you that this isn’t the first time Canadians have held the record for a longest confirmed kill. In 2002, Cpl. Rob Furlong, a marksman with 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry set a record for a kill at 1.5 miles breaking the previous record set at 1.43 miles, held by… you guessed it, another Canadian – Master Cpl. Arron Perry, also of the same unit.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, during a 2017 military exercise. Photo by Sgt JF Lauzé (Canadian Army)
Furlong’s shot was exceeded in 2009 by a British army sniper, Craig Harrison, who dropped a pair of Taliban machine gunners while serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The JTF2 sniper reportedly used a McMillan Tac-50 rifle, known as the C15 Long Range Sniper Weapon in Canadian service. The C15 is chambered to fire the same .50 caliber round the M2 heavy machine gun utilizes, though for shots that require considerable amounts of precision.
Interestingly enough, the record prior to Perry’s 2002 kill stood at 1.42 miles, held by legendary US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, who actually used a modified M2 outfitted with a scope to take his shot in early 1967. Both Furlong and Perry used the C15 for their long-distance shots in 2002.
The secretive JTF2 exists in the same vein as the US Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, also known as DEVGRU. Like its American counterpart, the Canadian unit is primarily tasked with counterterrorism, though it can be used for direct action, high value target capture, and reconnaissance operations as needed. It’s also one of the smallest units of its kind in the world, recruiting very selectively from the three branches of the Canadian military.
Potential JT2 “assaulters” are put through a difficult selection and training phase, designed to weed out candidates quickly so that only the toughest remain. Following selection, assaulters can be assigned to various specialties within two operational fields, air/land and sea. The unit regularly cross-trains with foreign partners around the world and at home in Canada.
Though JTF2, in comparison with similar units like the Special Air Service and DEVGRU, is very young in its history, it has already racked up a number of commendations for its actions on the battlefield, especially with its service in Afghanistan over the past 15 years.
In 2004, members of the unit were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation because of their actions as part of Task Force K-Bar, the first Canadian unit to hold such an honor since the Korean War.
Very little is known today about what JTF2 does in Iraq. It is known that the unit was first deployed late last year to the beleaguered country, supplementing other coalition special operations units currently active in the area.
Though it’s possible that JTF2 has carried out direct action assaults, it’s generally understood that their primary mission in-country is to serve in a training and advisory role with Kurdish fighters in the battle against ISIS.
U.S. forces in southern Syria came under attack by Islamic State militants around midnight local time on April 8, joining with local partner forces to repel the assault in an hours-long fight that required multiple airstrikes and left three U.S.-backed Syrian fighters dead.
U.S. special-operations advisers were on the ground near the al-Tanf border crossing when a force of 20 to 30 fighters with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked in what a U.S. Central Command spokesman called a “complex and coordinated” attempt to take the base from the coalition.
“U.S. and coalition forces were on the ground in the area as they normally are, and participated in repulsing the attack,” said Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command, according to the Associated Press.
“There was close-air support that was provided, there was ground support that was provided, and there was med-evac that was supported by the coalition,” Thomas added. No Americans were killed or wounded.
Marines train for attacks like this. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)
“Clearly it was planned,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon. “The coalition and our partner forces had the resources to repulse that attack. A lot of them wound up being killed and the garrison remains controlled by the people in control before being attacked.”
“Ultimately the attackers were killed, defeated, or chased off,” Thomas said.
U.S. forces at al-Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, had initially withdrawn to avoid potential retaliatory action after the U.S. strike on an Assad regime airfield in western Syria.
The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as U.S.-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from U.S.-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.
“Around 20 ISIS fighters attacked the base, and suicide bombers blew up the main gate, and clashes took place inside the base,” Tlass al-Salama, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya Army, part of the U.S.-backed moderate rebel alliance, told The Wall Street Journal.
Salama’s force sent reinforcements to the base, but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.
U.S. special-operations forces and their Syrian partners who had moved out of the base quickly returned, and they initially repelled the attack on the ground in a firefight that lasted about three hours.
Coalition pilots also carried out multiple airstrikes amid the fighting, destroying ISIS vehicles and killing many of the terrorist group’s fighters.
“It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official said April 10. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.”
U.S. special-operations forces had been training vetted Syrian opposition troops at al-Tanf for more than a year. The Syrian opposition fighters in question were operating against ISIS in southern Syria and working with Jordan to maintain border security.
The pullback from al-Tanf to safeguard against reprisals was just one step the coalition took in the aftermath of the U.S. strike on Shayrat airfield, which was believed to be the launching point for a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village April 4.
The coalition also reduced the number of air missions it flew, out of concern Syrian or Russian forces would attempt to shoot down U.S. aircraft. The U.S. presence in Syria has increased in recent months, as Marines and other units arrive to aid U.S.-backed fighters.
ISIS may become more active in southern Syria as U.S.-backed forces close in on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital located in northeast Syria. Top ISIS leaders have reportedly fled the city in recent months.
On behalf of the upcoming film Last Flag Flying, Amazon Studios partnered with We Are The Mighty to donate two World Series tickets to a lucky veteran in the Los Angeles area.
When Army veteran Greg Alaimo was told he’d won tickets to the World Series, he couldn’t believe it. “You won’t believe it either!” he told We Are The Mighty.
Alaimo, a Vietnam War veteran and Bronze Medal recipient, had assisted the Los Angeles Dodgers in finding recommendations for Vietnam War veterans for their Hero Of The Game. After Alaimo received the final list (which includes men like Medal of Honor recipient Ray Vargas and Charlie Plumb, who was a POW for 6 years during the war), he realized he wanted to meet the men on it.
“The heroes they chose are amazing. I called my contact and thanked him for allowing me to participate. I then asked if I could purchase two tickets. He regretfully indicated no tickets were available. I wanted to visit with those chosen for this is the first time the Dodgers have honored Vietnam veterans at a World Series.”
That’s when Amazon teamed up with We Are The Mighty to give out another set of tickets.
“When I was contacted about winning the tickets I thought it was a joke. I’m holding two great tickets for [Game Two] and I’ll meet those representing all Vietnam Vets — amazing.”
They’re not the only “amazing” ones. Alaimo has an impressive service history himself — during Active Duty and beyond. After fighting in Vietnam with the First Infantry Division, Alaimo returned home and became “the go-to guy” if veterans need help. A member of American Legion Hollywood Post 43, Alaimo says it’s important for him to connect with the veteran community because he doesn’t want them to be treated the way he was after he returned from Vietnam.
“They need to know we respect them and are grateful for their sacrifice, as well as the sacrifice of their families.”
Alaimo will be taking his good friend, and fellow veteran advocate, Charlie Cusumano with him to the game. We asked who they’ll be rooting for:
Meet the powerful prince who could reshape the Middle East:
Not much is known about Crown Prince Mohammed’s early life. He is the eldest son of King Salman’s third wife, and reportedly spent much of his time shadowing his father. A 2015 New York Times article details how unexpected his rise has been, noting that his three older half-brothers “all have distinguished résumés and were once considered contenders for top government roles.”
Crown Prince Mohammed holds a bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University in Riyadh and served in various advisor roles for his father. He likes water sports, such as water skiing, as well as iPhones and other Apple products, according to the New York Times profile. The article also notes that Japan is his favorite country and he visited there on his honeymoon.
Despite his supposedly lacking background, Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly was angling for a future in government. “It was obvious to me that he was planning his future — he was always very concerned about his image,” a family associate told The New York Times, noting that Prince Mohammed did not smoke, drink alcohol, or stay out late. That doesn’t mean he’s not impulsive, though. Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly bought a yacht, the Serene, for approximately 500 million euros after spotting it while vacationing in the south of France. The former owner, Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler, moved off the yacht that day.
Crown Prince Mohammed first made international headlines in January 2015, when he took over for King Salman as defense minister when his father ascended to the throne following the death of King Abdullah. He was 29 years old when he took on the job. Now 32, Crown Prince Mohammed remains the world’s youngest defense minister.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed Minister of Defense, after meeting with King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud of Saudi at the Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on May 7, 2015. (Photo from U.S. State Department)As defense minister, he has become the leading backer of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war with Houthi rebels in Yemen. Crown Prince Mohammed has also reportedly been a driving force behind the Gulf countries’ efforts to isolate Qatar. Although it’s still unclear, there are reports that Crown Prince Mohammed had a large part to play in Saudi-linked Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s resignation, submitted while he was in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 11. Each of these moves can be viewed as part of a broader campaign to increase pressure on Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.
Along with his role as defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammed was also given control of Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s state-owned oil company. In 2016, Crown Prince Mohammed announced a long-term economic plan, called Vision 2030, which aims to remove Saudi Arabia’s economic dependence on oil. More recently, in October, he announced a $500 billion mega-city that will be powered completely by renewable energy, called NEOM.
Crown Prince Mohammed has made headlines recently for wading into Saudi Arabia’s culture wars, calling for a return to “a more moderate Islam.” He was also seen to be behind the landmark decision earlier this year to allow Saudi women to drive.
As he’s gained influence, Crown Prince Mohammed has started to edge out some major Saudi power players. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was crown prince and interior minister until June 2017, when Prince Mohammed took over. Additionally, one of the biggest names implicated in the recent anti-corruption arrests was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the head of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.
With these two men out of the picture, Crown Prince Mohammed effectively controls the three pillars of Saudi Arabia’s security apparatus — the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior, and the National Guard — in an unprecedented consolidation of power.
Crown Prince Mohammed started developing ties to the US early on. King Salman sent Crown Prince Mohammed as one of two delegates to the US when the monarch pulled out of a 2015 Gulf summit. Crown Prince Mohammed “struck us as extremely knowledgeable, very smart,” former President Barack Obama told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya network. “I think wise beyond his years.”
He has struck up a strong relationship with the new administration, meeting with President Donald Trump early in his presidency. As defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammed has also met several times with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He has also reportedly become friendly with another powerful millennial, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
When his father dies, Crown Prince Mohammed will become something Saudi Arabia has never seen — a young ruler set to stay in power for decades.