The US military, together with its coalition partners, is close to liberating the last of the ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, the Pentagon’s top official said Jan. 29, 2019.
“I’d say 99.5% plus of ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians,” Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan told reporters. “Within a couple of weeks, it will be 100%.”
“ISIS is no longer able to govern. ISIS no longer has freedom to mass forces. Syria is no longer a safe haven,” Shanahan added.
The secretary’s update that the fall of the physical caliphate in Syria is imminent comes weeks after President Donald Trump declared victory over the terrorist organization.
“We have won against ISIS,” President Donald Trump announced in December 2018, as he called for the withdrawal of American troops. “We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And, now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Despite the president’s claims, many observers argue that ISIS is far from defeated, despite the organization’s crumbling caliphate.
Direct of National Intelligence Dan Coats, commenting on the Worldwide Threat Assessment, stated Jan. 29, 2019, that ISIS “has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide,” adding that “ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”
ISIS forces targeted a coalition patrol recently, killing two US service members, a Department of Defense civilian employee, and an American contractor.
Shanahan said, as others have, that there is still more work to be done, explaining that the planned troop withdrawal is still in the “early stages.”
Since Trump’s victory tweet, administration officials have said conflicting things about the timeline and full scope of the pullout, often indicating that this may be a long, drawn-out process.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During the 2016 election, Russian-linked bots and trolls on social media attempted to inflame relations among Americans by spreading fake news and highlighting vulnerable racial and political divisions. They bought ads on Twitter and shared posts on Facebook, concealing their identities while pretending to be real Americans.
But the Kremlin has another, more conspicuous way of spreading propaganda and trolling the West that doesn’t normally get as much attention.
In the last few years, Russia has used official government Twitter accounts to undermine the West and hit back against criticism, often with tantalizing and meme-filled rhetoric. The Twitter accounts of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and its Embassy in the UK, both of which tweet in English, have been particularly active.
On March 6, 2018 for example, after UK Prime Minister Theresa May slammed Russia for planting fake stories and Photoshopping images on social media “in an attempt to sow discord in the West,” Russia’s MFA tweeted a satirical response.
This was one of several examples of official Russian government tweets aimed at sparking controversy among Moscow’s adversaries.
In a report published in November 2017, the watchdog group Freedom House noted that in few places is “the hypocritical link between state propaganda and legal restrictions on the media stronger than in Russia.” This gives Russia monopoly over the flow of information within its borders. Increasingly, the report says, Russia has used similar information manipulation tactics abroad.
Here are 10 other times Russia has used its official Twitter accounts to troll Western leaders and the media:
1. The Russian Embassy in the UK reacted to former President Barack Obama expelling diplomats and closing Russian compounds in December 2016 in retaliation for meddling in the US election.
2. Stories of Russian hacking and election interference became more widespread in the US, and the Russian Embassy was at it again.
3. Theresa May said Belgium was meddling in its general election — and Russia was happy they weren’t being accused this time.
7. Amid fears of spying, England said its football team would travel in Russia with a surveillance team. The Russian Embassy shot back with a zinger about England’s football team.
8. Critics alleged that President Donald Trump is a Russian pawn, and the Russian Embassy shared a meme from The Great Gatsby.
9. The British member of parliament leading the UK investigation into Russian election meddling talked about fake news, and the Russian Embassy egged him on with some #ThursdayThoughts.
10. On March 7, 2018, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert sent a series of tweets that condemned Russia’s military involvement in Syria, and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a low blow.
A C-130J assigned to the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base performs low-level training through the Alaskan mountains July 21, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Stephanie Serrano)
For the last five years, Air Force Special Operations Command has been working toward incorporating a high-energy laser weapon on its newest AC-130J gunship. It now plans to test-fire a 60-kilowatt laser in 2022, according to a program officer affiliated with the program.
“If it is successful — and we are planning for success — then it will feed into our new requirements and potentially a new program down the road,” said Air Force Col. Melissa Johnson, program executive officer for fixed-wing programs at Special Operations Command. She spoke during last week’s Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.
“If this goes forward past the demo … we’ll have an additional [research, development, test and evaluation] program going forward,” Johnson said, as reported by NDIA‘s National Defense Magazine.
Johnson explained that previous tests have largely been ground-based and done in conjunction with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. The next, scheduled for fiscal 2022, will be onboard the AC-130 aircraft, she said.
The J-model aircraft achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.
The fourth-generation AC-130 is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J-variant sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force.
Along with the 105mm cannon sported by its cousin, the AC-130U model, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon “almost like a sniper rifle. … It’s that precise; it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill,” Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st SOW, told Military.com during a trip to Hurlburt in 2018.
Palenske said that a laser would be the ultimate ace in the hole, making disabling other weapons systems easier.
“If you’re flying along and your mission is to disable an airplane or a car, like when we took down Noriega back in the day, now, as opposed to sending a Navy SEAL team to go disable [aircraft] on the ground, you make a pass over that thing with an airborne laser and burn a hole through its engine,” he said.
Palenske was referring to 1989’s Operation Nifty Package mission to capture and remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega from power, during which a SEAL team “disable[d] his aircraft so he couldn’t escape.”
With a laser, “it’s just like that. And you just keep going on, and there’s no noise, no fuss, nobody knows it happened. They don’t know the thing’s broken until they go and try to fire it up,” he said at the time.
AFSOC had hoped to incorporate the laser onto the aircraft this year. Johnson said gaps in funding, not technological maturity, were behind the delay.
“After several years of seeking stable funding, we are there,” she said.
Then-AFSOC commander Gen. Brad Webb made a similar remark in 2018.
“The challenge on having the laser is funding,” Webb said during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium that year. “And then, of course, you have the end-all, be-all laser questions: ‘Are you going to be able to focus a beam, with the appropriate amount of energy for the appropriate amount of time for an effect?’
“We can hypothesize about that all we want. My petition is, ‘Let’s get it on the plane. Let’s do it. Let’s say we can — or we can’t,” Webb said.
If there’s one thing we know about military spouse careers, it’s that they rarely follow a set path. Work from home? Full-time job? Part time? Retail? Home sales?
But military spouses don’t just forge their own paths, they willingly share the lessons they’ve learned on the way to make working easier for everyone else. And that was exactly the theme during an employment help panel at a military spouse town hall event in May before the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year awards.
The employment panel featured spouses who work for nonprofits, work from home, spend time on the road or operate their own multi-level marketing business, popularly known as home sales.
Working from home can be isolating; operating a home sales business requires keeping a robust network; and getting a new gig after your next move could be all about who you know. Those are just some of the reasons the panelists said spouses should make the extra effort to show up at networking events in person, no matter what kind of job they have.
But it’s especially important for those in home sales, said Mary Nelson, a former Coast Guard spouse of the year who has long operated her own home-based business. She even suggests attending your home sales company’s conference whether you are making enough to cover the cost or not.
“Always make an effort to attend functions. You never understand what that company is about unless you make it a point to spend that money you may not have,” she said.
2. Have a designated work space and keep work hours.
Work from home? Make sure you set aside a space in your home as an office, even if it’s just a corner, and only do work there. And be careful to work only during designated work times, not around the clock. By setting work hours and a work space, you can keep your job from taking over your entire life, even if it’s based in your home.
Meal kit delivery? Amazon Subscribe and Save? Curbside grocery pick-up? Asking a friend for help? All of these are important tools military spouses should be using to keep life simple, especially during deployments or training absences, panelists said. It’s not about working harder — it’s about working smarter.
Lindsey Bradford, a former Navy spouse of the year, said she keeps her sanity as a remote worker with a heavy travel schedule by doing things throughout the day that bring her joy. On the road, for example, she finds a local coffee shop to work from and sample. It’s all about the little moments, she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
When re-entering the United States, it’s necessary for every traveler to go through U.S. customs first. And it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re coming from – even if you came from the Moon. That’s what the three members of the Apollo 11 crew found out when NASA declared its moon rock and moon dust samples it brought back to Earth.
The Apollo 11 customs declaration.
The idea of going through customs makes one think of carrying luggage through a conveyor, meeting with an immigration official who stares at your passport and asks you where you went on your travels. That, of course, is not what happened to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or even Michael Collins after they safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. They were too busy being hailed as heroes for living in space for eight days, spending 21 hours on the Moon, and then coming home.
Besides, if you look at their customs declaration, it appears there’s no airport code for “Sea of Tranquility” or “Kennedy Space Center.” And “Saturn V Rocket” is definitely not on the list of possible aircraft you can take from anywhere to anywhere – unless you’re Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, or Michael Collins.
Don’t forget to sign for your cargo, you bums.
The funny part about the Apollo 11 customs declaration is that the form lists the departure area as simply “moon.”
In all likelihood, this is a pencil-whipped form, done because it’s supposed to be done and because United States airspace ends after a dozen or so miles above the Earth’s surface, and the Apollo team definitely went 238,900 miles away.
Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.
All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.
The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.
The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.
(Institute for the Study of War)
It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.
Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.
The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.
A lot. A whole lot.
ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.
There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.
When my daughter asked if she could interview me about where I was on September, 11, 2001, I didn’t hesitate with my answers. Like the rest of the country, I remember in vivid detail where I was when I heard a rogue plane had flown into the World Trade Center.
My grandfather had died just days before, and I was sleeping on an air mattress at my grandma’s house when an aunt rushed in the front door, imploring us to turn on the television. I remember exactly how I felt, watching the second plane, careen into the South Tower on live TV. I so vividly remember the pause — the disbelief, the horror — of the news anchor, clamoring for words while the world realized we were under attack.
I can still feel the hot tears on my cheeks as the towers fell, thinking of the thousands of people trapped inside, waiting for a rescue that wouldn’t come. Twenty years later, I can still hear the recordings of the phone calls from UA93 with messages of love and hope, sadness and resolve.
Our military community remembers with painstaking detail the moments, hours, days and weeks that followed – the start of 20 years of war. Our operational tempo hasn’t slowed since, and while we may be weary, our commitment to service hasn’t faltered.
We all remember exactly where we were when we heard the news of a terrorist attack on that beautiful, clear Tuesday morning in September.
But what I can’t remember is the night before. I don’t remember September 10, 2001. Who I called. What I said. How I spoke to or treated the people I love the most. I can’t remember how I felt that night, or how I made others feel. While the rest of the world will remember 9/11 – as we all should – I seem to always spend more time reflecting about 9/10.
I’ll spend today and tonight in deep reflection — hoping the mommies made time for one more story and the daddies had patience for one more hug … hoping couples kissed goodbye on their way out the door, instead of leaving in anger … children too busy to call their parents made time … and those harboring hatred in their hearts found forgiveness. And for those who didn’t or couldn’t, I’ll pray they find their peace.
Today, I think of the hundreds of people who packed suitcases, briefcases, even diaper bags thinking “tomorrow” would be just another day. Today, I’ll spend a little extra time practicing gratitude, being intentional with my children and offering more words of support, understanding, tenderness and empathy. I hope you’ll join me.
In a time of such great divisiveness of our country, let us take today to remember that we are better United. We are stronger as humans, as brothers and sisters, and as Americans, when we can find tolerance, kindness, mercy and love.
Let the heroes of 9/11 — and their unfinished stories on 9/10 — remind us that tomorrow is never “just another day.”
Tessa Robinson serves as Executive Editor for We Are The Mighty and she loves showcasing military spouse and veteran voices. Email her at email@example.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.
“Peak performance” is a term thrown around every locker room in the NFL, but achieving true excellence in any sport is a process based on a variety of factors — both physical and mental. As a result, players and coaches often debate whether an extra workout or strict adherence to a specific diet is the most important variable in achieving results on the field.
In short, achieving peak performance among a team of athletes is incredibly challenging. This year, some NFL teams are giving consideration to a new variable: trust, and they’ve turned to an unlikely ally for help — the Green Berets.
Captain Jason Van Camp (left) as a Green Beret in Iraq
U.S. Army Green Berets are some of the military’s most elite soldiers and their mission is almost always impossible. Tasked with infiltrating deep behind enemy lines, Green Berets link up with local forces and train them for battle. Instead of kicking down doors, they train indigenous forces to kick the doors down for them. They can always expect to be faced with limited resources and, even worse, limited time, but Green Berets have a special skill that’s fostered from the very first day of their training: They focus on people first and live by a principle that “humans are more important than hardware.”
This strict belief in a humans-first mentality is why some NFL Coaches are turning to former Green Beret Jason Van Camp and his team of Special Operations veterans from Mission 6 Zero, a management consulting company that combines Special Forces with Science. Over the past seven years, Jason and his Mission 6 Zero team has worked with NFL and MLB teams to improve their performance both on and off the field by focusing on trust as the foundation of team building. This is a mission that Jason and his team know very well. They’ve helped foreign allies around the world achieve peak performance in some of the most austere environments. Now, instead of working deep behind enemy lines, these Green Berets are embedded in locker rooms across the league, training players, coaches, and front office personnel.
In the process of driving Mission 6 Zero to an elite level, Jason and his team decided to create Warrior Rising, a non-profit organization that helps veterans start or accelerate their own businesses. The Minnesota Vikings (one of the NFL teams that Mission 6 Zero advises) offered to sponsor a fundraising event in Minnesota to support Warrior Rising’s vetrepreneurs. The fundraising event was attended by Vikings players and coaches and intended to be a team bonding experience focused on trust.
Trust is the cornerstone of any successful team, but there are thousands of factors that can degrade trust within organizations, including fear, communication problems, family issues, values conflicts, and more. The veterans with Warrior Rising know that a lack of trust is what can lead a convoy into an ambush — or a turnover in the Redzone — but before Jason, a former West Point football player himself, and his team can help the NFL, they start their work by listening.
This tactic is essential, especially in today’s NFL where any action, from an off-handed comment in the locker room to an overt gesture like kneeling, can have an impact that extends far beyond the playing field. Jason explained his approach to We Are The Mighty,
“Working with an NFL team is very similar to being a Green Beret in Iraq or Afghanistan – you must master the art of communication in order to succeed. Proper communication leads to trust. Trust is an amazing weapon, but before you step out into battle, you need to understand the barriers that are keeping your teammates from trusting each other.”
Once the Green Berets have an understanding of the issues facing the team, that’s when they develop a full training plan to turn up the heat — literally — by using flamethrowers. Yeah, you read that right: flamethrowers, because there’s nothing quite like using pressurized-fuel weapons to build trust among teammates.
Jason briefs the Minnesota Vikings on there next training exercise.
Jason and the Green Berets’ logic is simple – get comfortable being uncomfortable. A little shared danger, adrenaline, and communication about team issues can help burn down (sorry) the obstacles between peak performance. Jason believes that,
“Having a talented roster alone does not make you a great coach. Great coaches create an environment that allows their players’ talents to flourish.”
In preparation for the 2018 Season, Jason and his team have used their unique approach to team-building with the Minnesota Vikings. As the season starts, we’re all excited to watch how the Green Berets’ trust training will translate into touchdowns.
Seen = killed. This was the objective of our entire marksmanship program when I served as a Special Operator in the 75th Ranger Regiment. “Seen” was the critical precursor to action; shoot the enemy combatants. Leave the non-combatants be.
Some of us out there have forgotten this critical point, today in America. Some of us are attacking the wrong people without “seeing” who we are targeting before we pull the trigger.
(2003. Konar Province, Afghanistan.)
The flash identified the origin of fire before the rocket motor etched a line across the night sky, burning a streak into my night optical device. Enemy contact. Only it was directed at the walls of our firebase, not our patrol.
We halted the convoy, a few kilometers from the safe house, identified the enemy position and marked it while air support was scrambled to the area. Bad situations turn worse quickly when you have multiple friendly elements in the battle space and you make enemy contact. Because of this, we knew how critical it was for our Joint Task Force to know where we were.
We confirmed our location with the JTF Command and then the men within the walls returned fire on the enemy. All of this happened within moments. Silently, invisible to all but our friendlies engaging the enemy position, we waited.
We felt helpless watching the fight. Our distance was too great to maneuver on the enemy, so our fires would do little more than give our position away. Masked by the night, we had the only dominant position in the fight. We did all we could: maintain discipline, calm our adrenaline and direct fires from the shadows. The engagement did not last long, but the feelings never left me. Helplessness. Guilt. Gratitude. Rage.
In all of this, I was angry. My strong sense of justice had been assaulted by these people who attacked us. We are here to help.
Our patrol had just escorted Civil Affairs soldiers into the valley to conduct meet and greets with the local mullahs. A rare mission for our JTF. They had gathered intelligence and offered assistance to the village. They provided generators and school supplies and promised to return with a MEDCAP (medical civil action program). Weeks prior, our medics had treated a boy with a near leg amputation from a construction accident in town.
Why are they attacking us!? We’re the “Good Guys!”
Things move fast overseas. Often times the lives of your teammates depended on your ability to react to contact with speed and accuracy. Two things stood out most from my experience that night: the discipline of the American Soldier and the feelings of betrayal by a people we were trying to help.
Both themes — discipline and betrayal — stand out today as I observe the way the veteran community reacts before understanding the facts.
I work with and for veterans every day and it is one of the greatest honors of my life. I humbly submit that veterans are the leaders America is reaching for right now, but sometimes I fear we do our community a disservice when we fail to seek the facts before we fire away with our voices. Once silent servants of the Republic, we did our jobs, regardless of whether we agreed or disagreed with the policy.
Today, as veterans, we have the opportunity to speak our minds. To opt in or out on a topic. Our countrymen are starving to hear from us and in some respects, we have a responsibility to them still, to serve and to lead.
In most cases I see veterans seizing that opportunity to make a big difference in their communities. They are leading within the home, the corporate sector, small business, government and nonprofits. Sadly, I also see entitlement, outrage and misplaced attacks from those of us who fail to do the work and lazily fall for the title of the hottest “click bait” article in the news cycle. I see outrage and indignation with little to no understanding of the facts. And I see made up controversies.
Two timely examples are with Walmart and Starbucks.
On Veterans Day 2015, Walmart rolled out their Green Light a Vet campaign. Many veterans were outraged at the fact that Walmart was selling green light bulbs in their name, and claimed it was all for profit. As if the sales of $.96 light bulbs would move the financial needle for Walmart!
Fact is that Walmart donated all the profits of the sales of green light bulbs to worthy Veteran Serving Non Profits. It was a statement: Veterans, we see you and we are here for you. We support you.
Why were we attacking them? They were the “Good Guys.” As a community, we should have just said, “Thank you.”
Fast forward to today. Recently, Howard Schultz announced that Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees worldwide and the response from some in the community, again, is outrage. Many in our community are indignant that Starbucks would hire refugees over veterans or military. Fact is, Starbucks made a declarative to hire 10,000 veterans and family members back in 2013, and have since hired 8,800 veterans and military spouses. Meanwhile, Howard and Sheri Schultz’s Family Foundation has poured millions of their own dollars into supporting the veteran community.
Neither Walmart nor Starbucks (nor the Schultz Family) were even given a chance by the raw and reactive. The facts were never even examined. Some of us failed to “see” before going for the “kill”.
We know better.
We know to gather the facts of the situation prior to formulating our plan of attack. It has been beaten into us since day one of our time in service. We are no longer in service and the intel is no longer fed to us, which means we must be more responsible, more discerning in where we seek out the facts. It also means we must take our time and seek to understand prior to the “ready, fire, aim” attitude that is counterproductive to our unity as citizens. Counter-productive to our ability to coexist as Americans: different, yet united.
I fear that at some point, America is going to get tired of trying to support us if even the smallest “we” criticize the attempts to assist with little (to no) context and with such vitriol in our responses. That would be a shame, especially since we risked all to protect those who are now reaching out to us. Especially since many of the folks who work at these establishments and lead these programs are also veterans themselves. And especially since many of us know exactly how it feels to be attacked by the very people we are there to help.
If you’re looking for the next fight on social media, it has nothing to do with what’s on your news feed. It has nothing to do with a company’s policies, who’s the President or what the hottest controversy of the day is. It has everything to do with what’s going on inside of you.
I hope we are willing to investigate the next story before we react. I hope we stop falling for the title of the next “click bait” article.
I hope we can we stop sharpening our swords just to fall on them and use them to attack the real issues. I hope we will fight for, not against, one another.
Brandon Young served 11 years in the U.S. Army, primarily with the 2nd Ranger Battalion and the 75th Ranger Regiment and conducted four combat rotations to Afghanistan. A Mighty 25: Veterans to watch in 2017, Brandon currently serves as the Director of Development for Team RWB, whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans.
Spirit 03 is a revered name in the AFSOC community, often spoken of in hushed and pained tones. It was the call sign of the last AC-130 gunship shot down in combat.
The story of Spirit 03, whilst sad, was also one of heroism — the kind you’d find in the US Air Force Special Operations Command community. It was a story of American airmen putting the lives of their brothers in arms engaged in grueling ground combat above their own.
On January 29, 1991, over 2000 Iraqi troops under the direction of Saddam Hussein streamed into the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji in an attempt to draw American, British, and Saudi forces into a costly urban battle which would tie up Coalition troops until the Iraqi military had time to reorganize and get themselves back in the fight.
Just days before Khafji fell, American surveillance jets had detected large columns of mechanized Iraqi units pouring through Kuwait’s border in a mad dash towards the city. Though the warning was passed on, Coalition commanders were far more focused on the aerial campaign, which had seen the virtual annihilation of the Iraqi Air Force.
Thus, Khafji fell… but it wouldn’t be long until Saudi forces scrambled to action, barreling towards their seized city to drive the occupiers out. American and British aerial units were soon called into the fight, and in record time, engines were turning and burning at airbases within reach of Khafji while ground crew rushed around arming jets for the impending fight.
Among the aerial order of battle was a group of US Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunships — converted C-130 tactical transport aircraft that were armed to the teeth with a pair of 20 mm M61Vulcan rotary cannons, an L60 Bofors 40 mm cannon, and a 105 mm M102 howitzer. These Spectres, based out of Florida, were eager to be turned loose, planning on adding any Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles they caught around Khafji to their kill tallies.
On the 29th, Iraqi mechanized units moved towards the city under the cover of night, repeatedly engaging Saudi elements set up to screen inbound enemy ground forces coming in from Kuwait. The Spectres were already in the air, racing towards the fight and running through checklists in preparation for the destruction they were about to dish out on Saddam’s armored column.
Within minutes of appearing on station, the AC-130s leapt into action, tearing into the Iraqi column with impunity. What the enemy forces had failed to realize was that Spectres — living up to their name — operated exclusively at night so that they were harder to visually identify and track, and the gunners aboard these aircraft were incredibly comfortable with that. Spectres began flying race track patterns in the sky, banking their left wing tip towards the ground as their cannons opened up.
Despite the AC-130s inflicting casualty after casualty, the resilient Iraqi invasion force continued to advance to Khafji and managed to briefly take over and lay claim to the city. American and Saudi ground combat units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Marine artillery and infantry elements responded in kind, and launched a blistering offensive against the Iraqis as night turned to day and the AC-130s returned to base to rearm, refuel and wait for nightfall to resume hunting.
On January 30th, Spirit 03, one of the AC-130s, was loaded for bear and launched with the intent of providing Marine forces with heavy-duty close air support. Spirit 03 arrived on station and started hacking away at targets. In the hours around dawn on the 31st, the AC-130s were recalled to base when radios lit up with numerous calls for fire support from the beleaguered Marines on the ground.
An Iraqi rocket battery needed to be dealt with quickly.
The crew of Spirit 03 took charge of the situation immediately, judging that they had enough fuel and ammunition left for a few more passes. Not quite out of the combat zone, the aircraft turned around and pointed its nose towards its new target. It was then that all hell broke loose. A lone shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile arced towards the AC-130, detonated and brought down the aircraft.
There were no survivors.
In the months and years that followed, the loss of Spirit 03 was investigated and then quickly hushed up. Some indicated that the official report blamed the crew for knowingly putting themselves in danger by continuing to fly in daylight, allowing themselves to be targeted.
Others knew that the story was vastly different—that the 14 men aboard the AC-130 knew that they were the only ones in the area able to provide the kind of fire support the Marines needed, and so paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to aid their brothers in arms.
On July 17, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Carlton Everhart ordered all 18 of the Air Force’s C-5 cargo planes at Dover Air Force Base to halt operations and undergo inspections after two of the aircraft had landing-gear malfunctions in less than a 60 day period.
Two days later, Everhart extended the stand-down to all 56 of the Air Force’s C-5s, ordering them all to undergo maintenance assessments.
The ball-screw assembly on the C-5 Galaxy, the largest plane in the Air Force, was causing problems with the landing gear’s extension and retraction, according to Air Force Times.
The C-5’s nose landing gear uses two ball-screw drive assemblies working together to extend and retract, according to the Air Force. If one of the assemblies doesn’t work, the gear can’t operate. (The Dover stand-down came a little over a year after the C-5M Super Galaxies stationed there achieved the highest departure-reliability rate in their history.)
Inspections revealed that the parts needed to fix the malfunctions are no longer made. But, Everhart told Air Force Times, maintenance personnel were able to get the needed parts from the aircraft “boneyard” belonging to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona.
As of September 1, 38 of the Air Force’s 56 C-5s were back in service. By Sept. 4, three of them had been sent to support hurricane relief efforts in Houston.
“Returning the C-5 to service so quickly is a maintainer success story. I can’t say enough about our maintainers’ ingenuity, hard work, and pride,” Everhart told Air Force Times, adding that his command was looking at adaptive techniques, like 3D-printing, to supply parts and predictive maintenance to catch malfunctions before they happen.
The Air Force’s “boneyard” in Arizona (there is more than one “boneyard“) provides long-term storage for a wide array of mothballed or unused aircraft — more than 3,800 as of mid-2016. Though they languish under the desert sun, low humidity in the air and low acid levels in the soil make it a good place to keep aircraft.
It’s not unusual for the Air Force to pull parts, or even entire planes, from the sprawling facility.
In summer 2016, the Marine Corps announced that it planned to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets stored at the base in response to a shortage of usable aircraft. In October 2016, after a 19-month restoration process, the Air Force returned to service a B-52H Stratofortress bomber that had been mothballed at Davis-Monthan.
It can be difficult for both people in the relationship when one partner is out of the house and the other is a stay at home parent. At day’s end, both partners are tired from their various responsibilities, and each has different needs (one, say, might need a human being to talk to and the other to be left alone). Then there are larger issues that crop up, too: both, for instance, can feel taken for granted in different ways (I’m not appreciated for what I do at work! I’m not appreciated for what I do at home!). The issues are complicated but solvable. So, to help you, we talked to some experts to get the lowdown on the most common arguments that come from a one-working-partner relationship, what they really mean, and how to work them out.
1. “What did you do all day?”
Why it happens: When one partner is out of the house all day, they tend to make the assumption that, since the other partner is home, they’ve got time to handle all of the household duties, from doing the dishes to handling all the shopping. The reality, of course, is that keeping the household running and raising kids are two full-time jobs. That means that their time is just as valuable and they may not always be able to get to every little thing that crops up under a roof.
How to work it out: “The key here is to ask rather than assume that the person at home has the time take on additional duties,” says Nicolle Osequeda, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the Executive Director of Lincoln Park Therapy Group in Chicago, IL. “This validates that they are busy and have commitments, and doesn’t express entitlement.”
2. “I need someone to talk to!”
Why it happens: When one parent is at home taking care of the kids, adult interaction is necessary to maintain sanity. As a result, when the partner who works out of the house comes home, they’re immediately bombarded with questions and conversation. The problem here is that when the other partner who’s been out of the house all day has been in and out of meetings, fought traffic, slugged it out on public transportation often needs time to decompress.
How to work it out: In this situation, each person needs to see the other one’s perspective and try and appreciate it. For the partner who’s been cooped up at home all day, they might need to accept that their spouse needs 10 or 15 minutes to unwind before hearing a rundown of the day’s events. Similarly, the partner who works might want to do some of that decompression before they walk in the door. Listening to an audiobook, trying a mediation app or journaling on the train can be ways to get your head out of the office so that when you’re home, you’re ready to engage with your partner. “Again — empathy, understanding, perspective taking, and generosity of assumption is helpful,” says Osequeda.
3. “I feel like we’re roommates.”
Why it happens: When one partner is out of the house during the day, then comes home dead-tired and beaten down from the rigors of their job, an emotional rift can often form between them and their partner. It can also be very easy to fall into the rut of working, coming home and then falling asleep in front of the TV together. Often this routine and roommate phase can lead to big arguments and feelings of boredom.
How to work it out:Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a licensed counselor, psychologist, and marriage and family therapist and author of Success Equations: A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life says that couples in this rut have to shake things up as soon as they can. The best way to do that, she advises, is to approach your marriage like you would your job. “Look at your relationship as a company and have monthly check in meetings,” she says. Another suggestion? Make time for fun. “Those who play together stay together,” says Campbell.
4. “You spend more time with your work wife/husband.”
Why it happens:Jealousy can easily creep up when one partner is stranded at home, often removed from adult contact, while the other one is out and about engaging with people their own age and, more troubling, different genders. Relationships that form at work, even if they’re completely platonic, can lead to feelings of abandonment and a sense that the working partner prefers the company of his or her peers to that of his spouse.
How to work it out: To combat this, Dr. Sherrie recommends always being open and honest about your work friendships, letting your spouse know not only where you stand with them, but where he or she stands with you. “Try and understand the vulnerabilities your partner has that may make him or her jealous,” she says. “Reassure your partner of your love and fidelity.” And, most importantly, she says, “don’t engage in flirting behavior that can appear harmless but be hurtful to your partner!”
5. “I’m not your assistant.”
Why it happens: This argument falls somewhat under the heading of one partner expecting the other to do household chores, but Osequeda notes that often times a partner working outside the home will turn to their spouse, whether they’re working at home or just taking care of the kids, and ask them to mail letters, send faxes, or pick up packages.
How to work it out: Honestly, just quit the behavior. “Save the request for when it counts,” she says. “Realize your partner also has responsibilities.”
6. “Why are you always in sweats?”
Why it happens: While one partner is busy dressing their best and heading to work, the other, stripped of the need to impress anyone, spends the day in sweats and a tee shirt, wearing only what they need to take care of the kids and avoid being arrested at the supermarket for indecency. After a while, the so-called ‘relaxed’ look can become too relaxed. Fights flare up when comments ensue.
How to work it out: While Osequeda says that this predominately applies to people who are working from home (parents who are forced to spend their days covered in spit-up can get a pass), the mentality is the same. “Shower, shave, shine each day regardless if you’re leaving the house or not,” she says. “Treat yourself like you’re going to work so at the end of the day you feel better about yourself and adhere to a routine that benefits you and your significant other.”
7. “You’re more interested in work than me.”
Why it Happens: Work, again, can create distance between couples and distance can breed disinterest and an unwillingness to support each other.
How to work it out: Bill Chopik, the director of Michigan State University’s Close Relationships Lab says that it’s important to actively listen and validate each other’s feelings. If your partner says that they received a promotion at work, tell them how happy you are for them and remind them that the promotion came because of the great person that they are. There, of course, destructive ways of responding. For instance, Chopik says uttering a dispassionate, ‘that’s great.’ without even looking up from the computer screen isn’t the most inspiring response. The same goes for saying things that deflate the experience, i.e. ‘I’m sure they just felt bad for you.’ “It’s shocking to think that partners do this to each other, but they do,” urges Chopik. The solution is understanding how to actively participate in your partner’s life without making them seem second best.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.