An Iraqi outpost with US and Australian military advisers in western Mosul was hit with an ineffective “low grade” mustard agent by Islamic State forces on Sunday, according to CBS News.
At least six Iraqis were treated for breathing issues at a field clinic, while none of the advisers were believed to have been injured.
The Pentagon released a statement saying that the ineffective attack “further displays the desperation of ISIS as they seek to hold an untenable position in Mosul,” ABC Australia reported.
“My advice right at the moment is no Australian troops were affected but Australian forces did provide assistance following the attack, said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “That’s my current advice received in last few minutes.”
US defense officials in Iraq could not be reached for comment.
This was reportedly the second chemical attack in recent days — an Iraqi military officer also claimed that ISIS forces launched a rocket loaded with chlorine in the al-Abar district in West Mosul, one Associated Press report said.
This wouldn’t be the first time ISIS militants were allegedly using chemical agents to fend off coalition fighters. Troops embedded with the Kurdish forces also reported that ISIS was using chemicals in their mortar attacks, judging by the coloration of its plumes of smoke.
Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, has seen heavy action since Iraqi Security Forces launched their campaign earlier this year to liberate the ISIS-controlled city.
Since then, ISF troops, backed by the coalition forces, have managed to reclaim the sparsely populated areas of eastern Mosul, however, the battle to retake western Mosul still rages on — with large portions of it requiring door-to-door combat. Some reports claim that more than half of western Mosul has been liberated.
If you haven’t given Triple Frontier a go on Netflix, you definitely should. If you’re unfamiliar, the story follows five Special Forces veterans who travel to a multi-bordered region of South America to take money from a drug lord. It stars Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Pedro Pascal, and Garrett Hedlund, who all do a fantastic job capturing the attitudes of their characters. But one thing especially helped make this film feel realistic: the presence of Special Forces veterans.
While Hollywood productions generally do have military advisors, it isn’t necessarily common that those advisors take the time to work with the cast to really nail down things like tactics and weapons handling. In this case, J.C. Chandor had two Special Forces veterans who did just that — Nick John and Kevin Vance.
Here’s why they were the most important part of the production:
This may not seem like a big deal but nicknames are a huge part of military culture and knowing how service members earn their nicknames can help you really understand the culture itself.
They taught the actors about nicknames
Charlie Hunnam plays William Miller who goes by the nickname “Ironhead,” and, of course, he wanted to know why, so he asked one of the advisors who explained that the nickname likely comes from the character having survived a gunshot to the head.
This film will have you saying, “Wow, these actors actually know what they’re doing with that weapon.”
They taught the actors how to handle weapons
Most of us who spent a lot of time training in tactics can really tell when the actors on screen haven’t had enough training, if any at all. It’s probably most evident in the way they handle weapons. In the case of Triple Frontier, Nick John and Kevin Vance really took the time to train the actors, and it shows.
They trained the actors with live ammunition
When learning how to handle a weapon, it helps to shoot live ammunition. Well, at the end of the first day of the two-week training, Nick John felt the actors were prepared to handle it. So, they gave them live ammunition and let them shoot real bullets, which is not standard for a film production, but it really pays off in this film.
The way these actors clear buildings is very smooth and convincing.
They taught tactics
After trusting the actors with live ammunition, Nick John and Kevin Vance ran them through tactics. From ambushes to moving with cover fire, the actors learned the basic essentials to sell their characters on screen, and they do so extremely well.
Actor Charlie Hunnam said, “It was amazing. I was shocked by how much trust they put in us. Very, very quickly, they allowed us to be on the range with live fire, doing increasingly complex maneuvers. We started ambush scenarios, shooting through windows and panes of glass, doing cover fire, and operating movements I’ve never done before.”
Veterans have a tendency to spot inaccuracies immediately. But, what Triple Frontier brings to the table is realism. While not perfect, it does a great job of really making you believe these characters are real and all the work Nick John and Kevin Vance put into teaching the actors really pays off.
If you haven’t checked out Triple Frontier on Netflix yet, you definitely should.
Here’s a short list of things we already knew about Kaj Larsen:
1. He’s a former U.S. Navy SEAL
2. He’s an Emmy-nominated producer and war correspondent for VICE and he has a masters from Harvard University.
3. He’s a total hottie a founder of The Mission Continues, an organization that empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact.
But you might not know that he has rather eclectic taste in music and even learned to play while deployed.
“We’d sit around as a platoon. A couple of us played guitar, and we’d play and sing and that was extraordinarily significant for me on that first deployment. It helped carry us through.”
In a conversation with We Are The Mighty, Larsen shares the songs that meant something to him at different moments during his military career — whether it was the shotgun rack in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” hitting home before a mission, or the patriotism of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” during a controversial time in American history.
Larsen easily carries the gravitas of a combat-experienced SEAL, but he isn’t concerned about being vulnerable. He can laugh about being afraid of his jump training and how R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” helped get him out the door.
That’s the thing about music — in many ways, it becomes the soundtrack to our lives , and Larsen’s has been a rather inspiring one.
Check out what he had to say about music and his SEAL career in this video:
Don’t want to put a variable optic up top? Try an Aimpoint magnifier instead.
A gear porn bulletin from WATM friends The Mad Duo of BreachBangClear.com.
Remember — this is just a public service “be advised message,” and we’re saying this without the slightest trace of tergiversation. All we’re doing is letting you know these things exist and might be of interest to you. This isn’t a critique or a review any more than it is rectopexy.
It’s been a long time coming (we first saw it debuted back at SHOT 2016), but the new Aimpoint 3X-C Magnifier is now available.
Use it as a a budget friendly, responsibly-armed-citizen-version of its almost bombproof military cousin, or throw it up to your peeper as a monocular and perv on the cougar who lives across the street.
Aimpoint 3X-C — ain’t she somethin’?
The 3X-C is designed to be used in conjunction with all Aimpoint sights for better reaching-out-and-touching someone, or for observation if your fetish job is an ISR role. You can use the variable dioptric (-2 to +2) setting to fine tune it to your specific eyeball as required.
Remember that the 3X-C utilizes the Aimpoint red dots as the aiming reticle. You won’t need to worry about re-zeroing when you shift between magnified (i.e. with the 3-XC) or non-magnified (after you’ve snapped it back to the side) aiming.
The 3X-C is encased in a rubber cover that makes it easy and comfortable to grip (that’s what she said), but more importantly, it absorbs shock and impact. Internal optical adjustments make aligning the magnifier a task even grunts can do easily.
Note that the 3X-C is only compatible with 30mm ring mounts. It doesn’t have the same 4-hole mounting plate the “pro” models do. It is NOD (NVD) compatible.
The 3X-C has a 6° field of view, exit pupil of 6.5mm, and eye relief of 56mm. It will function in a wide enough variety of climes that if it doesn’t work where your’e living, you probably need to just pack up your shit and move.
Don’t forget you’ll need a mount (believe it or not some folks do). Figure out ahead of time what sort of co-witness you’re going to prefer (absolute or lower 1/3) and make sure you’re not using some peculiar size/shape BUIS, then get your mount.
There are many options out there, and of course Aimpoint offers one as well. Their AR Ready Mount is a lever release Picatinny (LRP) mount with a 39mm spacer. Like all their magnifiers, the Aimpoint 3X-C works with their own proprietary TwistMount. You can also buy it with the FlipMount. If you already own the former, buy the upper portion of the latter (it will work with the old base) and you’re good to go.
Or, you can just wait for that 6x (C) magnifier that oughta be out really soon…
You know. Whatever your “shooting” preferences are.
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
The 3-year-old daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome Cinco, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds her father close before his departure from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.
She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.
But some of us in military families saw something different.
As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.
Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.
But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.
I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.
I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.
I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.
I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.
But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.
I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.
Often when service men and women return home from a long military deployment, they can have a sense of feeling lost being back stateside.
Many troops believe they still have plenty of unfinished business “over-there,” extending years down the line after their return. In the interim, they can be found struggling with various forms of depression.
Many veterans seek counseling, but one former Army captain found relief by revisiting the place that caused him so much anxiety — Iraq.
“We all have to ultimately take care of our own healing process and so that’s where I wanted to go back,” Iraq veteran and former Army Capt. Stacy Bare says.
U.S. Army captain, Iraq veteran, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Stacy Bare smiles bright while on his cathartic journey. (Source: Adventure Not War/Screenshot)
In February 2017, Bare, CEO of Combat Flip Flops and Army Ranger Matthew Griffin, and former helicopter pilot Robin Brown embarked on a ski ascent and descent from Mt. Halgurd — the tallest mountain in Iraq — to the hallowed battlegrounds from which Bare once served.
This incredible journey of healing spawned filmmaker Max Lowe to create the compelling documentary Adventure Not War.
This film shows a rarely seen beauty in a location known for devastation. For Bare, it created a stable place for healing wounds that are deeper than those seen on the surface.
The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.
“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”
Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.
“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”
“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”
The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.
“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”
According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.
“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”
Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.
“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”
Andy Stumpf is a former Navy SEAL who hasn’t lost one iota of his drive since he took off the uniform. The same motivation that took him to harm’s way and back is now pushing him to break the wing suit overland distance record of 17.83 miles. At the same time he’s putting it all on the line to accomplish an even more important feat: raising $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs.
You can help Andy raise 1$ million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
Andy will attempt the jump on November 1.
Here’s an infographic of Andy’s (planned) profile:
And check out this video about Andy’s motivation and the jump:
U.S. Army vet Gregory Wong is no stranger to making fan films. His Jurassic World fan filmsand their behind-the-scenes extras have 2 million+ views on YouTube alone thanks to the military perspective he and his teams brought to the franchise.
An avid airsofter and gamer, Wong enjoys bringing those tactics to life after his military service.
Most recently, he teamed up with some fellow veterans and civilians to create a one-shot style video that emulates the experience from the new Call of Duty game.
Check it out right here:
CALL OF DUTY IN REAL LIFE | CLEAN HOUSE MODERN WARFARE – SIONYX
“Since everyone, both civilian and military, has been sinking their time into the game, it felt like a fun opportunity to explore and experiment by emulating the most talked about portion,” shared Wong.
The video also uses a color night vision camera built for outdoor use — and a little help from post-production.
“We used editing software to give it that iconic green look,” Wong divulged. “It’s a good exercise for making fan projects with limited budget but high attention to detail. We were fortunate to have gear from one of the companies that actually supplies the CTSFO (British national police force like FBI SWAT or FBI HRT).”
Wong’s team used the Aurora, a day/night camera with true night vision that uses Ultra Low-Light IR sensor technology that delivers true night vision capability in monochrome or in color. They also shot with gear from c2rfast, Airsoft Extreme, and PTS Syndicate.
The Clean House mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare takes place in a large house that the player must infiltrate, eliminating enemies and protecting hostages. Forbes magazine called it the “finest single-player FPS experience in years.”
Bob Hope entertained troops on USO tours from 1941 to 1991 — fifty years of laughter and fun. From World War II to Vietnam to Desert Storm, Bob Hope was there for our nation’s heroes.
“He brought such enthusiasm, brought your life back to you. You felt like you were renewed,” said Seabee Ron Ronning, who saw Hope perform during his final USO show of the Vietnam War. “That was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”
A true patriot who traveled to more war zones than even some of the highest-ranking military leaders of all time, Bob Hope brought laughs to the front lines for the better half of the 21st Century.
As a tribute to his lasting impact on our country, President George W. Bush ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings be lowered to half-mast on the day of Hope’s funeral.
“Bob Hope served our nation when he went to battlefields to entertain thousands of troops from different generations,” the president told reporters before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. “We extend our prayers to his family. God bless his soul.”
Hope’s legacy endures, continuing to impact service members through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which provides one-on-one employment services and referrals to other resources to meet the unique needs of military personnel and veterans transitioning out of the military into a civilian job, starting their own small business, or pursuing higher education.
Since launching in 2014, the program has served nearly 1,100 veterans and families, placing more than 600 into civilian positions and helping 83 pursue degrees. Free to all veterans (the program is not exclusive to those with a disability), the program was launched with a generous seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, a division of The Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, which supports organizations that bring hope to those in need.
To date, The Bob Hope Legacy has donated more than million dollars in support of Easterseals’ military and veteran services.
Bob Hope on stage with Miss World 1969, Eva Rueber-Staier, during a Christmas show for servicemen held on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CVA-60) in Formia Bay, Italy, Dec. 22, 1969.
During a week-long campaign this year (May 23-29) in observation of Memorial Day, Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions shoppers throughout Southern California can make donations in support of the program via the pin pad at registers. 100 percent of the donations go directly to Easterseals Southern California’s Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
Chinese military personnel departed a naval base in Zhanjiang on July 18, destined for Beijing’s new base in the East African country of Djibouti.
China started construction on the base, which it officially calls a “logistics facility,” in February 2016, and it has not said when the base might formally start operations.
The Chinese navy has been assisting anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden and peacekeeping missions in Africa for some time, but the base in Djibouti will be Beijing’s first such facility overseas.
“The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” state news agency Xinhua said. “The base will also be conducive to overseas tasks including military cooperation, joint exercises, evacuating and protecting overseas Chinese, and emergency rescue, as well as jointly maintaining security of international strategic seaways.”
Djibouti, home to about 800,000 people, also has French and Japanese troops, is strategically located in the Horn of Africa, sitting on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to Egypt’s Suez Canal and one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors.
And the new Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, a major US special-operations outpost.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” US Africom Command chief Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said in March.
Camp Lemonnier, a US military base in Djibouti, is strategically located between the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. (Google Maps)
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to US because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes” it, Waldhauser said at the time. US Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, Joint Special Operations Command, and European Command are active there as well.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said July 12 that the Djibouti base was “primarily used for the better fulfillment of international obligations,” and that, “China’s defense policy is defensive in nature. This has not changed.”
State-run media outlet the Global Times was less reserved, saying in an editorial on July 12, “It is certainly the PLA’s first foreign naval base … It is not a supply point for commercial use.”
The base in Djibouti is just one project China has undertaken in the East African country.
Chinese banks have funded at least 14 infrastructure projects in the country, including a railway connecting Djibouti and Ethiopia, valued at $14.4 billion. Beijing has made similar investments throughout the continent.
US officials, as well as countries in the region, have expressed concern about the capabilities the new base gives Beijing and what it may augur about Chinese ambitions abroad.
The US Defense Department said in a June report that the Djibouti base, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
“China most likely will seek to establish additional military bases in countries with which it has a longstanding friendly relationship and similar strategic interests, such as Pakistan, and in which there is a precedent for hosting foreign militaries,” the report said.
Other countries in South Asia — India in particular — are concerned about Chinese activity in the region and see the Djibouti base as another part of Beijing’s “string of pearls,” which refers to Chinese facilities and alliances among Indian Ocean countries, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
China is already heavily involved in the Pakistan port of Gwadar and is building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Civilian ports that Beijing has helped build in places like Pakistan and Sri Lanka can also receive naval vessels, fueling suspicions that China aims to deepen its strategic capacities in the region.
India sees the Djibouti base as a potential hub for Chinese surveillance operations and has objected to China’s planned shipping network with Pakistan, saying it cuts through disputed parts of Kashmir.
Analysts have also said New Delhi is worried by Chinese submarines, warships, and tankers present in the Indian Ocean. India has tracked Chinese submarines entering the Indian Ocean since 2013, and a 2015 US Defense Department report also confirmed that Chinese attack and missile submarines were operating in the Indian Ocean.
“The pretext is anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden,” a Indian defense source told The Times of India in May. “But what role can submarines play against pirates and their dhows?”
“If I were Indian I would be very worried about what China is up to in Djibouti,” a Western diplomat briefed on Chinese plans said in March 2016.
Other countries in the region have looked for ways to balance against what is seen as China’s growing influence. Australia and India, along with countries like Vietnam and Japan, have considered informal alliances to bolster regional security in light of growing Chinese influence and doubts about US commitment under President Donald Trump.
This week, the Indian, Japanese, and US navies started the Malabar 2017 exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The exercise, which this year features three aircraft carriers, is seen by some as a effort to check Chinese activity in the region.
China has criticized such military balancing and has dismissed suggestions that it plans to expand its footprint abroad. After the US Defense Department report issued in June, Beijing said it did “not seek a sphere of influence.”
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Blake, Shannon, Tim, and O.V. discuss the interesting process of how Air Force pilots receive their callsigns.
In the military, callsigns are considered much more than just a name — they’re meant to capture the personality and spirit of the person.
When you think of the characters in “Top Gun,” you’re not thinking of Pete Mitchell or Nick Bradshaw — it’s Maverick and Goose, and they probably have hilarious stories that explain where those names came from. Those stories are told in a naming ceremony.
The details and traditions vary, but the rite of passage is usually met with drinks and shenanigans. Like a roast, the pilot sits front and center while his or her buddies one-by-one regale a story and propose a callsign related to it.
“It’s kind of like a roasting,” Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil humorously explains. “This is where you get to make fun of your friends.”
The squadron then collectively debates and votes on the final name.
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.