The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Disrupting terrorist networks is inherently difficult, and success is difficult to measure. Clandestine by nature, these groups generally hide their internal functions, institutions, and various chains of command. While a potentially vast cadre of fighters, sympathizers, and suppliers wait in the wings, the outside world only glimpses a few leaders, who often serve as figureheads for their organizations.

With little else to go on, states often make targeting these leaders a key priority. From the Shining Path in Peru to ISIL in Syria and Iraq, security forces carry out operations to capture or kill mid- and upper-level leaders in the hopes that their absence will be the knockout blow necessary to defeat a terrorist organization. Recent attention has turned to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who is rumored to be still alive. Intelligence gathering and planning is likely underway in multiple countries to capture or kill the man who continues to lead one of the world’s deadliest terror groups. But is leadership decapitation, as this strategy is known, effective?


Leadership decapitation rests on a simple principle: taking out a key player in a terrorist group in the hope that his or her absence destroys morale and slows the group’s operational tempo. Such strategies can target both leaders – who may hold symbolic and strategic importance – and tactical experts who might be hard to replace, like bomb makers. The policy has played an important role in U.S. counterterrorism policy since 9/11, recently receiving praise from Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

While the logic is clear, the strategy’s results are mixed and depend on the terrorist group’s internal dynamics. Smaller, younger groups – variously defined – are more susceptible to the effects of leadership decapitation, as are groups without an established bureaucracy. Group type is thought to play a role as well, with religiously-oriented groups being better able to withstand the loss of a leader. Most vulnerable are groups that lean heavily on a single, charismatic leader who plays a central role in the organization.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Leadership decapitation has ended some groups. The capture of Abimael Guzman and 14 other leaders of the Shining Path in 1992 quickly reduced the group to a shadow of its former self. The group struggled to recover after the capture of Guzman, who exercised near-total control. After the assassination of Fathi Shaqaqi in 1995, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) struggled to find a capable successor and only recovered years later.

However, not all groups fall into these categories. With its deep roots in a conflict that extends back decades, raids and airstrikes have killed a number of Al-Shabaab leaders, yet it continues to carry out deadly attacks, including an October 2017 truck bombing that killed more than 500 Somalis. Al-Qaeda has suffered the loss of a number of key leaders, including founder Osama Bin Laden and leaders of its Yemeni and Syrian branches. Despite these losses from 2011 to 2015, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) managed to hang on and even expand its operations in Yemen until coordinated US-UAE operations in 2016 forced the group to engage in direct combat, which reduced – but did not eliminate – the threat posed by the group in Yemen.

Perhaps no group is more emblematic of resilience in the face of leadership decapitation than ISIL itself. Airstrikes, battles, and military operations have killed many of the group’s leaders within Syria and Iraq and its numerous regional affiliates. Despite this, the group has proven capable of finding replacements. When ISIL’s chief strategist and number two, Mohammed al-Adnani, was killed in late August 2016, the group announced his replacement about two months later. ISIL continues to maintain the ability to launch deadly attacks via its worldwide cells and those inspired by its calls to violence, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Egypt.

As evidenced above, ISIL does not fit the profile of terrorist groups vulnerable to the effects of leadership decapitation. Its well-known penchant for bureaucracy has allowed slain leaders to be quickly replaced. While the loss of ISIL leaders has likely impacted the organization, it arguably has been affected to a greater degree by the overwhelming firepower directed at the organization from every level, not just its leaders. US strikes have pounded the group’s military positions, financial stores, and its fighters at every level, not just its leader. The redundancy within ISIL’s organization and the lack of a single, charismatic leader mean that finding competent replacements is not a life or death decision for the terror group.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Lt. Col. Rod Coffey and the insurgent flag his unit captured in Diyala Province, Iraq, in 2008. The same banner would eventually be used by the Islamic State.

(U.S. Army photo)

The most frightening aspect of ISIL’s lethality comes from the cells and sympathizers strewn across the world. Central leadership can plan and order these attacks, but cells with organic roots in localized conflicts can also plan and influence their own operations. While ISIL has been reduced to a sliver of its former territory in Iraq and Syria, the threat posed by its worldwide affiliates is unlikely to disappear with Baghdadi.

To be fair, the choice to pursue terrorist leaders is not a purely strategic calculation. Arguments about the effects of leadership on terrorists’ operational capacity mean little to those who have lost loved ones or live in fear because of terrorist attacks. And when dealing with groups that have almost no public presence, targeting leaders is often one of the only options available. It would be unwise to dismiss these other considerations for pursuing a decapitation strike out of hand, just as it would be unwise to assume that killing Baghdadi or any other leader is necessarily a knockout blow.

There is little doubt that ISIL, while still dangerous, is a weakened organization. Recent success in pushing back the group – a refreshing change from 2014 and 2015, when it appeared ready to roll over much of Syria and Iraq – is owed to several factors. A growing international recognition of the threat posed by ISIL, a crackdown on those traveling to and from Syria and Iraq, and overwhelming firepower directed against the group in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere have all played a role in reducing the threat. However, there is little reason to believe that what threat remains of ISIL would disappear with Baghdadi, especially in light of the group’s demonstrated resilience and commitment to terror.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the Army plans to keep soldiers more comfortable during jungle ops

In January, US Army uniform officials will begin an evaluation of the service’s new Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform by issuing the lighter, more breathable uniform to thousands of soldiers in Hawaii.


The new IHWC is the result of a directed requirement to outfit soldier with a jungle uniform suitable for operations in the Pacific theater. This follows a similar effort that recently resulted in the Army fielding 9,000 pairs of new Jungle Combat Boots to the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat teams in Hawaii between March and August.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
The Army Jungle Combat Boot. Army photo by C. Todd Lopez.

Up until this point, 25th ID soldiers training to operate in hot, tropical environments have been wearing Universal Camouflage Pattern Army Combat Uniforms and Hot Weather Combat Boots intended for desert environments.

“January 2018 is going to be huge,” said Capt. Daniel Ferenczy, assistant product manager for Extreme Weather Clothing and Footwear. “They are going to be pure-fleeted in the [Operation Camouflage Pattern] with jungle boots in a hot weather combat uniform.”

The new uniform, made by Source America, is a 57 percent Nylon / 43 percent cotton blend to make it “faster-drying” and have “greater airflow” than the 50-50 Nylon cotton blend on the ACU, Ferenzcy said.

“It adds a little bit more strength, which allows us to make it a lighter blend or a thinner weave … so it should dry a little quicker,” Ferenzcy said. “There are also architectural differences between the ACU uniform and this one.”

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
Daniel Ferenczy wearing the Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform. Photo from Military.com.

The new uniform has better flexibility and less layers of fabric, Ferenczy said adding that “less layers of fabric means that it retains less moisture means it dries quicker.

There are no breast pockets since soldiers in the field are typically wearing gear that covers them, and “all they end up doing is retaining moisture and heat, so we removed that extra layer there,” Ferenzcy said.

“The back pockets in the trousers are gone as well for the same reason,” he said. Uniform officials have added an ID card pocket inside the waistband.

The Improved Hot Weather Combat Uniform blouse also features a button-down front instead of a zipper closure. Uniform officials also replaced the side zipper closure on the shoulder sleeve pockets with a button-down flap at the top of the pocket, Ferenzcy said.

The new uniform features reinforced elbows and reinforced and articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, said Ferenzcy, whose office worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop the IHWCU.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
Army Spc. Jake Burley assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st, Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division maneuvers through a river during United Accord 2017 at the Jungle Warfare School on Achiase military base, Akim Oda, Ghana, May 26, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Chaney)

“Every design feature on this uniform came straight out of the horse’s mouth,” Ferenzcy said. “The folks that designed it worked hand-in-hand with the Jungle Operations Training Center in Hawaii.”

The plan is to issue about 20,000 sets of the new uniforms to the 2nd and 3rd BCTs in Hawaii in January and then another 10,000 to 12,000 sets in March, Ferenzcy said, describing the $14 million effort.

“This is under a directed requirement, so right now they are just a one-time buy,” Ferenzcy said. “It was ‘hey, we need to get these guys ready for Pacific operations.’ We don’t know exactly yet how we are going to sustain it.”

After 25th ID soldiers have a chance to train in the new uniforms, Ferenzcy’s team plans to return in “April or May and get feedback on the uniform and then we will make adjustments as needed, Ferenzcy said.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
The IHWCU promises to dry faster; useful in environments common in the Pacific Theater. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jerome D. Johnson.

“It they don’t like this material, the 57/43 NYCO blend, we may go with something else,” he said.

Phase two of the effort involves buying another 11 brigades worth of the IHWCU in its final form for contingency stocks “in case another brigade got turned on to deploy or do a training mission in a tropical environment, we would have uniforms ready for them,” Ferenzcy said.

“This uniform is about a pound lighter than the Army Combat Uniform; it’s very comfortable and not only does it make fighting and operating in a tropical hot wet environment easier, it’s also going to potentially mitigate heat injuries because it holds less heat and less moisture,” Ferenczy said.

“There no scientific studies to back this up, but heat casualties across the force are one of the biggest things that take soldiers out of the fight.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy won’t reinstate Crozier, holds 1-Star’s promotion over poor decision-making

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story and the headline incorrectly stated that Rear Adm. Stuart Baker had been fired. His promotion has been held by the Navy.

The Navy won’t reinstate the captain who was fired after warning of a serious health crisis on his ship, and the captain’s superior has also had his promotion withheld as the result of a deeper probe into the matter, top Navy leaders said on Friday.


The Navy secretary and top admiral reversed course on a previous recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Crozier will be reassigned. If he was still in command today, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said he would relieve him.

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“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said.

Crozier acted too slowly to keep his crew safe and made questionable decisions to release sailors from quarantine, potentially putting others at risk, the CNO added. Gilday also said the email Crozier sent warning about the situation on the ship “was unnecessary.”

Gilday, about two months ago, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

“Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation,” Gilday said on Friday. “… Capt. Crozier’s primary responsibility was the safety and the wellbeing of the crew so that the ship could remain as operationally ready as possible. In reviewing both [Rear Adm. Stuart] Baker and Capt. Crozier’s actions, they did not do enough soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation.”

Baker, former commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, won’t be promoted pending further review, Gilday said. His promotion to rear admiral upper half was approved by the Senate on March 20.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

“They were slow egressing sailors off the ship, and they failed to move sailors to available safer environments quickly,” Gilday said. “… It is my belief that both Adm. Baker and Capt. Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

The decisions are the result of a deeper review into the situation on the Roosevelt, which James McPherson directed in April over what he called “unanswered questions” while serving as acting Navy secretary.

Braithwaite said on Friday he stands by the latest investigation’s findings. Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, also said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was briefed on the findings and supports the Navy’s decisions.

Baker was aboard the Roosevelt when Crozier emailed several people about a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the crew. Crozier, whose email asking for help was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, was ultimately fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over his handling of the situation.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

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Modly told reporters when announcing his decision to relieve Crozier of command that the captain should’ve walked “down the hallway” to discuss his concerns with Baker before sending the email. Modly later resigned from his post as acting Navy secretary amid backlash over these events.

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam in late March as more than 100 crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes-fatal illness caused by the coronavirus. Crozier had warned in his email that sailors could die if they didn’t quickly evacuate the ship.

“If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” he said.

Ultimately, more than 1,200 members of the roughly 4,800-person crew tested positive for the virus, including Crozier. One sailor, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., died of the illness.

Gilday said his initial recommendation to reinstate Crozier was based only on “a narrowly scoped investigation” that looked only at why he had sent the email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-acting Secretary Modley’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday said, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

The CNO said the two-month-long deeper investigation, ordered by McPherson, made additional facts visible. That included the decision to lift quarantine in part of the ship, which allowed about 1,000 crew members to potentially expose other sailors to the virus, Gilday said. He also said Crozier and Baker failed to take advantage of 700 beds in a gym in Guam that were spaced 6 feet apart, choosing to put his sailors’ “comfort over safety.”

In his endorsement letter accompanying the results of the investigation, Gilday said he thought Crozier had the best interests of his crew and the readiness of the ship in mind. But, he added, Crozier did not “forcefully and expeditiously execute the best possible and available plan, or do enough, soon enough.”

Baker and Crozier were talking to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commander every day, Gilday told reporters on Friday, and if the two had issues they should have raised them.

“If [Crozier] fearlessly communicated with that email that he sent — that I’ve never disagreed with, his fearless sending of the email — then he certainly should have just [as] fearlessly communicated issues every day during those video teleconferences,” Gilday said.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that everyone up and down the Navy chain of command had a role to play in the inadequate response to the situation on the carrier. Smith announced that his committee has launched its own investigation into the Roosevelt’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Department’s civilian leadership portrayed Captain Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame,” Smith said. “… While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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MIGHTY MOVIES

Ellen surprised this vet and even Robert Downey Jr. cried

Look. Surprising veterans never gets old.

And the holidays just makes it even more impactful and meaningful, which is why celebrities and talk shows often reach out and give back to troops during this time of year. Ellen is no different — but this “Greatest Night of Giveaways” just got better and better.

I watched the whole thing. With the sound on. I recommend you do the same:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIbE0TN8D6k
Robert Downey Jr. and Ellen DeGeneres Give USMC’s Roy Gill and His Mom a New Car and House! (Part 2)

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Marine reservist Lance Cpl. Roy Webster and his mother were guests on the show, which already started out strong.

Since Iron Man is Webster’s favorite movie, Ellen pretended like she was going to give him a DVD of Avengers: Endgame but instead, Robert Downey Jr. popped out of a box.

This would have been enough.

But that wasn’t the surprise.

No. RDJ was just there to be an elf who help dole out more surprises.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCt89wuGlj0
USMC Lance Corporal Roy Gill’s Story: Third-Grade Teacher Helped Him Triumph Over Adversity (Part 1)

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USMC Lance Corporal Roy Gill’s Story: Third-Grade Teacher Helped Him Triumph Over Adversity

The nineteen year-old Marine didn’t have an easy time growing up, but he credits his mother and his third-grade teacher for helping him learn about how to take care of others.

So Ellen decided to bring out his teacher.

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH.

But Ellen wasn’t done. She gave the teacher and her husband an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii.

THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!!!

But Ellen still wasn’t done. Grab some tissues and watch the first video above to see what she did next.

Happy Holidays, everybody. Take care of each other out there.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how you can watch an astronaut perform an enlistment ceremony from outer space tomorrow

Everyone remembers their oath of enlistment ceremony, but how many people can say theirs was truly out of this world? Tomorrow, over 800 soldiers participating in a ceremony spanning more than 100 locations around the country will be able to say theirs was. What makes this ceremony so special? It’s being administered by Army astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan from the International Space Station.


“This is an incredible opportunity for us to partner with Space Center Houston to recognize future Soldiers across the nation with a truly unique experience,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, USAREC deputy commanding general in a press release. Michaelis will facilitate the ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan. “This is the first event of its kind and will allow us to show the nation the breadth and depth of opportunities the Army offers today’s youth.”

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

According to USAREC, Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. He is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and was selected to become an astronaut in 2013.

Morgan is also a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and also has served as a combat diver. He’s clearly conquered land and sea, and now space. He’s completed seven spacewalks and one flight to the International Space Station. In addition to the enlistment ceremony, he’ll be sharing his stories and experiences with program attendees on a 20 minute live call from outer space.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

Michaelis said, “We need qualified and innovative people to help us continuously adapt to the changing world. The young men and women who will begin their Army story with the incredible experience with Col. Morgan are part of our future. They will perform the traditional jobs most people associate with the Army, like infantry and armor, but they will also take on roles many people don’t realize we do – highly technical and specialized careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

The oath of enlistment ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan will stream live on NASA TV, DVIDS, and U.S. Army Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 12:50 pm eastern time. We’re over the moon about this event.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This church fell on 9/11, but Greek grit built it back better

A small Greek Orthodox church decimated by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack will reopen next year as a national shrine, in grander size and form.


The south tower of the World Trade Center demolished the modest 35 ft tall St. Nicholas church when it fell on 9/11, but architect Santiago Calatrava is bringing it back with a unique design, according to the Associated Press.

St. Nicholas was the only other building besides the twin towers completely destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attack. Now the church, being rebuilt as a national Orthodox shrine according to Calatrava’s design, will begin offering services in 2018 as The St. Nicholas National Shrine.

“What I’m trying to do as an architect is give a sense of hope,” Calatrava told AP.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
The St. Nicholas National Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood before 9/11, is set to open for services in 2018. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

The church’s design is inspired by the Hagia Sophia and the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora, two Byzantine-era shrines in Istanbul. The structure will sport an outer layer of marble mined from the same quarry that supplied the marble for the Parthenon in Athens, with the permission of Greece’s government, and will be lit up from the inside to give the appearance of a glow at night.

The Greek government, various Greek Orthodox church members, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston provided funding for the church’s $50 million construction, as did the Italian town of Bari, as St. Nicholas is their patron saint.

“You’ll see that the dome is glowing and the front is glowing, said Jerry Dimitriou, executive director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. “The dome area will all be illuminated like a candle.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
The dome of the St. Nicholas National Shrine, which stands where the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood before 9/11, will glow from the inside. (Associated Press photo via News Edge)

“On one side you have water and memory, and on the other side, in the church, you have the idea of the light of the candle and the flame and the sense of hope,” Calatrava added.

The Greek Orthodox church established the original building as a church in 1919, and stubbornly refused to move during the construction of the twin towers.

“All of the buildings around it were sold,” said Olga Pavlakos, member of the parish board and descendant of some of the church’s founders. “We stood our ground. Greeks are tough people.”

The church building could not stand against the terroristic destruction of 9/11, but the church itself will continue on, intended as an icon of reflection and hope for all who wish to enter.

“It’s not only for Greek people, it’s a place for everybody,” Pavlakos said. “And that’s what we stood for before, so this is a continuation.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Sebastian Stan stars as US official who risked his career to honor a fallen hero in ‘The Last Full Measure’

Airman 1st Class William “Pits” Pitsenbarger was a Pararescueman during the Vietnam War. Less than a year after receiving orders, he would go on to fly nearly 300 rescue missions and save over 60 men before sacrificing himself to aid others during one of the most brutal battles of an already harsh war. When offered the chance to escape on the last helicopter out of the combat zone, Pits stayed behind to protect the lives of others and was later killed by Viet Cong snipers.

The Last Full Measure is the long-awaited story of how the men he saved would try to procure him the Medal of Honor — and the dark reason why the American government resisted.

Check out the final trailer, released today:


“The sacrifices of the fallen will never be forgotten,” intones Christopher Plummer, who plays the father of William Pitsenbarger. The Last Full Measure, written and directed by Todd Robinson, also stars Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, and William Hurt.

“Todd Robinson’s riveting drama chronicles one man’s sacrifice and valor on the battlefield, and we believe it also highlights an aspect of American patriotism overdue for recognition. Everyone should know about William Pitsenbarger’s bravery and life, and it’s a privilege to bring this film to theaters where it should be seen,” said Roadside’s Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as reported by Deadline.

Pits was initially posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, becoming the first enlisted Airman to receive it, before it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

William “Pits” Pitsenbarger

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Medal of Honor Citation

“Airman First Class Pitsenbarger distinguished himself by extreme valor on April 11, 1966 near Cam My, Republic of Vietnam, while assigned as a Pararescue Crew Member, Detachment 6, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. On that date, Airman Pitsenbarger was aboard a rescue helicopter responding to a call for evacuation of casualties incurred in an on-going firefight between elements of the United States Army’s 1st Infantry Division and a sizable enemy force approximately 35 miles east of Saigon. With complete disregard for personal safety, Airman Pitsenbarger volunteered to ride a hoist more than one hundred feet through the jungle, to the ground.

On the ground, he organized and coordinated rescue efforts, cared for the wounded, prepared casualties for evacuation, and insured that the recovery operation continued in a smooth and orderly fashion. Through his personal efforts, the evacuation of the wounded was greatly expedited. As each of the nine casualties evacuated that day were recovered, Pitsenbarger refused evacuation in order to get one more wounded soldier to safety. After several pick-ups, one of the two rescue helicopters involved in the evacuation was struck by heavy enemy ground fire and was forced to leave the scene for an emergency landing. Airman Pitsenbarger stayed behind, on the ground, to perform medical duties.

Shortly thereafter, the area came under sniper and mortar fire. During a subsequent attempt to evacuate the site, American forces came under heavy assault by a large Viet Cong force. When the enemy launched the assault, the evacuation was called off and Airman Pitsenbarger took up arms with the besieged infantrymen. He courageously resisted the enemy, braving intense gunfire to gather and distribute vital ammunition to American defenders. As the battle raged on, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to care for the wounded, pull them out of the line of fire, and return fire whenever he could, during which time, he was wounded three times. Despite his wounds, he valiantly fought on, simultaneously treating as many wounded as possible.

In the vicious fighting which followed, the American forces suffered 80 percent casualties as their perimeter was breached, and airman Pitsenbarger was finally fatally wounded. Airman Pitsenbarger exposed himself to almost certain death by staying on the ground, and perished while saving the lives of wounded infantrymen. His bravery and determination exemplify the highest professional standards and traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Air Force.”

He was also posthumously awarded the rank of Staff Sergeant. Other awards and medals include the Air Force Cross, the Airman’s Medal, and two Purple Hearts. His name can be found on Panel 06E Line 102 of the Vietnam Wall.

Following the battle, Pitsenbarger’s fellow PJ’s and soldiers who he saved in combat embarked on an over 30 year effort to upgrade his Air Force Cross to a Medal of Honor. In the trailer, William Hurt, who plays a fellow PJ, describes the situation as “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Finally, in 2000, Pitsenbarger received the Medal of Honor in a cermony attended by his parents, fellow veterans and the Secretary of the Air Force. The Last Full Measure will release in theaters on January 24th, 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force increases B-52 patrols in clear signal to China

Several US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers have flown through the contested East and South China Seas multiple times in August 2018, sending an unmistakable message to potential challengers.

Four flights involving no more than two bombers each time were carried out in the disputed seas as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission. Two B-52s assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron (EBS) participated in joint anti-submarine training exercises with two US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft on Aug. 1, 2018, in the East China Sea, US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in an official statement.

“Ultimately, it increased our readiness to serve as a credible deterrent force and presence within the theater,” Maj. John Radtke, 96th EBS mission planner, explained.


One B-52 bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam participated in a CBP training mission in the East China Sea on Aug. 22, 2018, PACAF public affairs told Business Insider, adding that two more B-52s with the 96th EBS conducted CBP operations in the South China Sea on Aug. 27, 2018. It is unclear if the bombers flew past Chinese occupied territories in the area, as PACAF refused to provide the information, citing “operational security concerns.”

The flights were initially detected by Aircraft Spots, on online military aircraft tracking site.

The site’s latest flight tracking data suggested that two more B-52s conducted exercises in the South China Sea on Aug. 30, 2018, which would mean that American heavy bombers have been active in the disputed waterway twice in a week. PACAF confirmed in a public statement the Aug. 30, 2018 flight following queries from Business Insider.

“Is the US trying to exert more pressure on China’s trade by sending a B-52 bombers to the South China Sea?” China’s nationalist state-affiliated tabloid Global Times asked in an editorial Aug. 30, 2018.

The CBP flights are “flown in accordance with international law” and are consistent with America’s “long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies,” PACAF public affairs said. China has often expressed frustration with the US position on this particular matter.

In early June 2018, a pair of B-52s ripped across the South China Sea, causing the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to accuse the US of “running amok” in the region. China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at the time, “We will only even more staunchly take all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”

The US Air Force similarly sent B-52s into the South China Sea in late April 2018.

In response to questions about a possible B-52 overflight in the East China Sea in August 2018, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We hope that actions taken in this region by any country could help enhance mutual trust and show respect for the legitimate security interests of regional countries. Nothing that undermines mutual trust and regional security and stability shall happen.”

The Chinese Ministry of National Defense has warned repeatedly that China “will firmly defend the sovereign security and territorial integrity of the country.”

News of the recent bomber flights in the East and South China Sea comes just after the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military power. The report specifically noted that Chinese bombers were operating with increased frequency in flashpoint zones in the region.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the report explained. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”

The Pentagon has noted that the Chinese air force is pushing to become a “strategic” force capable of power projection.T

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This ‘Front Porch Project’ of military families in quarantine is everything

When military spouse Ashley Salas heard about the “front porch project,” she knew it was something she had to do. “As soon as my friend showed me this idea, I decided to go for it,” Salas said on her company Facebook page. “I reached out on my neighborhood page and had people message me their address. I had 76 families. 76!!!!”

The idea behind the project is simple: photograph families on their front porch in this era of social distancing and quarantine. Salas plotted a route and off she went.


“I went house to house… jumping in and out of my car, about 1 minute per house, and took a photo for them to cherish because you know what? THE WORLD IS SCARY right now,” Salas shared on Facebook. “We are quarantined to our homes. We are asked to social distance from each other. We are asked to be safe, wash hands, and take this seriously.

We can all do our part and stay home as much as possible. Wash your hands. Keep your distance… but always love your neighbor.”

The results are magnificent. Some sweet, some hilarious, all incredible memories for these families and Salas.

What a memory I’ll cherish forever. And when it was over, I cried… so many emotions, but this night gave me so much joy for everyone.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Ashley Salas Photography

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Our spirit animals

The toilet paper, the wine, the screaming dad. Pretty sure we can all relate to this one.

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The T-Rex

“Wash your hands!” one signs admonishes. And of course, the T-Rex, with “I can’t!”

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The health care worker

Talk about pulling at our heart strings. The FaceTime with the loved one in scrubs is particularly moving right now.

Ashley Salas Photography

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The deployed dad

Deployments are hard enough without a pandemic.

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The rockband

The family that plays together stays together! And mom has a giant glass of wine to handle the “music.”

Ashley Salas Photography

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#RealLife

I don’t think anyone is paying attention to screen time at this point.

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The birth announcement

We can’t think of a better way to announce a pregnancy!

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The rule followers

These cuties make social distancing look adorable.

Ashley Salas Photography

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World’s okayest mom

Two kids both smiling and alive? Looks like she’s killing it to me.

Ashley Salas Photography

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It’s getting windy in here

Don’t mind me, I’m just weeping in the corner.

We love everything about this project! To see all 76 of the front porch families, visit Ashley Salas Photography on Facebook.

Articles

This is what goes through a sniper’s mind before the shot

If he had to do it all again today, he’s not sure he would be able to. Mentally, he’s not sure he’s got what it takes anymore.


But when you ask Adam Peeples about about that night on the rooftop in Ramadi when he shot an enemy sniper, he talks about it as if he just pulled the trigger.

And he’s more than alright with it.

“I was like, I can’t believe I’m in a position where I get to draw on this guy,” said Peeples, a former Army sniper who had waited for just such a moment before he even got to Iraq. “We talked about it later, and our general consensus was can you believe that guy? What was he thinking?”

That was a high point. In fact, he and his men had been up on that rooftop in the most intense fighting anyone of them had ever seen. It was February 2007 and Ramadi was a place to go to die — for Americans and everyone else.

During lulls in the fighting over three days, they got resupplied by the Bradley fighting vehicle crew that had dropped them off at the beginning of the operation. With a fresh supply of pre-loaded mags, a crate of grenades, a bunch of M240 ammo, three AT4 grenade launchers and food, the fight kept on going.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
Peeples (left) preferred taking sniper shots with his customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he ordered from the United States. (Photo courtesy of Adam Peeples)

The air smelled, the city smelled and they could hear the bullets zipping past their heads over the voices of an enemy close enough to be clearly heard. About every 10 minutes, it got kinda quiet.

It was during one of these lulls that Peeples took the time to scan a building about 75 meters away that he believed was the source of a spate of gunshots that were more accurate than most.

“It had started easing off a little bit. We had called in three [guided missile launch rockets] and a 500 pound bomb and we’d shot three AT4s, so the buildings were pretty devastated,” he said. “But there were still guys creeping around up there and we were taking pot shots over our heads.”

Listening closely to the shots, Peeples figured the shooter was probably using something like an SVD Dragunov sniper rifle.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
An Iraqi army soldier fires an SVD-63 Dragunov sniper rifle during training. (Photo from US Military)

“A couple of shots hit the wall and I said, ‘this is a sniper… or he thinks he is anyway,’ ” he recalled.

With so many shots spinning out from their position, he had taken the universal night site off the front of his rifle because it had gotten heavy and he wasn’t really looking through it to find targets that were giving themselves away with muzzle flashes. But as he started to look around, he put the site back on the rifle to scan the building he suspected as a hideout.

Peeples used a customized weapon he built with $2,500 of his own money and parts he mail ordered from the United States.

Using the Army-issued lower receiver of his M16 — the part that makes the gun fire — he added a new barrel and several accessories that made the rifle extra accurate and customized for his shooting style.

“It was an extremely accurate weapon, every bit as accurate as the M24 was,” he remembered. “If I had a good shot on a dude’s head and I were to miss because the rifle’s not good enough to make the shot, then why take the shot?”

He propped himself up on the wall, and using his scope, looked slowly from window to window, shining is invisible IR floodlight to look into the rooms through open windows and doors.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
Peeples peers over a wall to identify an enemy sniper position. (Photo courtesy of Adam Peeples)

The night was clear and the smell of gun powder hung in their nostrils. Peeples didn’t have his finger on the trigger because he didn’t expect to see anybody – until he saw the glint and his heart beat a little faster.

As he passed over one of the open windows, it caught his trained eye – and he went back to it.

“I could see the guy. He had a table set up and a chair and he had something that he had his rifle sitting on like a pillow or a blanket or sack of sand or something,” Peeples said. “I could clearly see a rifle and a guy sitting down, I could tell his weapon had a scope on it. It’s kind of cool when you can see someone and you know they can’t see you. He was close. I could see him back there trying to figure out where to shoot at and where to see us. I can imagine from the shots he’s taking at us he couldn’t see. It was not accurate fire.”

The distance between them was shorter than a football field and Peeples didn’t hesitate.

“From the time I saw him to the time I shot him was six or seven seconds.” he said. “It was a head shot, just dropped him. He just fell right on top of his rifle and knocked the table over,” Peeples said, conceding that even though the enemy sniper’s shots weren’t accurate enough to kill him or any of his men, “somebody might have told him how to do it, or he figured it out somewhere. He had an idea of what he was doing.”

That night was Peeples’ chance to take out one of an unknown number of snipers operating in Al Anbar province.

“A big part of this job is to treat it as a job and just kind of dehumanize it,” he recalled 10 years later. “I really just made it my job, it’s what I’m going to do and not really get into thinking about what I’m actually doing. It becomes a much harder job to do when you think about what you’re doing for a job which is killing people.”

And he’d kill again if it could save the lives of some of his buddies.

“It was the personal satisfaction of knowing we set up a proper ambush, took out those guys and it was a huge motivation,” he said. “It was my drive. It was everything that made me want to go out there and do it.”

Gina Cavallaro is the author of “Sniper: American Single-Shot Warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

This incredible story was brought to you by Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions which are set to release the military thriller “The Wall” May 12. The movie, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena, is a harrowing story pitting the infamous insurgent sniper known as “Juba” against an American sharpshooter who uses an unsteady wall for protection as he tries to rescue his wounded comrade.

Articles

Marine who lost legs in Afghanistan rescues baby from a smoking car

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups
Matias Ferreira (left)


A war hero in Afghanistan became a local hero in New York City earlier this week when he rescued a baby from a smoking car – and he did it even though he has no legs.

Matias Ferreira, a Marine who lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan, was just two days away from getting married to his sweetheart when he heard a frantic mother crying for help on a busy road in Queens.

The mother was trapped in her driver’s seat after her car plowed into a median pole and needed to get her child out of the smoking car.

Thinking of his own 11-month-old daughter, the 26-year-old Ferreira jumped out of his pick-up truck and sprinted over – on two prosthetic legs – to the car.

“With the Marines, you are taught to be prepared and act,” Ferreira, who was leaving his wedding rehearsal at St. Mary Gate of Heaven Parish when he heard the screams, told the New York Daily News.

He added: “Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference.”

While his brother and future father-in-law helped free the frantic mother, Ferreira squeezed himself into the backseat of the car and rescued the baby from her car seat.

“We didn’t know if the car was on fire or anything else,” the Uruguayan-born Marine said. “We knew we had to get them to safety.”

The three men stayed on the scene until firefighters and paramedics arrived on scene.

“I didn’t hear the baby crying, so I got kind of concerned,” Ferreira added. “Then I saw her open her eyes, and it kind of reassured me she was doing better.”

Ferreira lost both legs from the knees down and broke his pelvis in January 2011 when he stepped on an IED while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he still competes in sports and rides a motorcycle.

“The prostheses were the last thing on my mind,” Ferreira said of the rescue. “It doesn’t have to be a Marine. It doesn’t have to be a firefighter. It just has to be someone with a good heart.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 troops who would get executed when captured by their enemy

War is brutal. It makes people do harsh things. Then, it makes the other side retaliate against those harsh things. But war is also a fight with rules and when sides don’t play by those rules, tempers flare, emotions run high, and that’s when the sh*t really starts to fly.

Now, the third Geneva Convention governs the treatment of POWs. No POW can be tried for fighting in war, though they can be tried for war crimes — but they certainly aren’t supposed to be executed immediately. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the laws of armed conflict like they should.

The following 7 troops would be executed immediately after capture.


7. Anyone with a trench gun.

During WWI, American troops used what came to be known as a “trench broom,” a Winchester model 1897, modified for trench warfare. The shotgun fired buckshot pellets and could be slamfired, meaning if the user holds the trigger as he pumps a new round in the chamber, the round will fire automatically. Needless to say, the trench broom killed a lot of Germans.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

The Germans lodged a formal protest against the use of the weapon, saying it was illegal under the 1907 Hague Convention definition of any “arms, projections, or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.” When the American continued using it, the German High Command threatened that any POW found with a trench gun or trench gun shells would be shot on site.

6. Germans with flamethrowers.

General John Pershing didn’t get to be the highest-ranking military officer for life because he took sh*t from people that were trying to kill him. When Germany issued the aforementioned decree, Pershing declared that any German with a flamethrower or saw-bladed bayonet would be shot.

No one on either side was shot for these reasons. Pershing 1, Germans 0.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

 

5. WWII-era special operations commandos.

Hitler was so pissed after he heard the German commandos on the island of Sark were found with their hands tied up and shot that he ordered any commando caught by the Nazis to be interrogated and then immediately executed. He specifically mentioned that it didn’t matter if they were armed, in uniform, military, or civilian — their lives would all end the same way: with a bullet.

4. Soviet commissars.

This one’s another Hitler order. The man was not a fan of Communism and so issued the “Commissar Order,” which stated that Soviet political officers captured on the Eastern Front would be separated from their units and executed. He believed their sole purposed was to spread “Judeo-Bolshevism” and that they needed to be eradicated.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

The order extended to anyone in the Soviet service who either bought into Bolshevism or was there to spread the ideology.

3. Mercenaries.

Countries don’t like it when soldiers only fight for money. You at least need to have a flag to which you pledge your allegiance. It doesn’t matter if you’re an American — if you’re not fighting with the American army, you better not get captured.

In 1976, four mercenaries – including one American Vietnam veteran who was recruited in Soldier of Fortune Magazine — were captured fighting against the government in Angola’s civil war. When captured, then-President Agostinho Neto ordered their execution, ignoring clemency pleas from the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry Kissinger.

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

 

The Confederate Army in the U.S. Civil War would also execute civilians caught fighting in Civil War battles, whether they were paid or not.

2. Okay, pretty much anyone with a flamethrower.

Yeah, it’s on here twice. The flamethrower was a nasty weapon. If I were a troop where facing a flamethrower was a possibility, I’d be scared sh*tless, too. But the flamethrower guy didn’t ask to be given the flamethrower. I mean, I assume… who’s going to ask to carry around a very shootable tank full of explosively flammable liquid that only gives you about six or seven seconds of firepower?

There’s no “stop drop and roll” when you’re covered in napalm. So, it was pretty well-known that every side hated you so much they would shoot you just for being the guy with the flamethrower. For the Nazis, this extended to flamethrower tank crews.

1. The Waffen SS.

It was not an official order, but among the Allied ground troops, there is a ton of anecdotal evidence that captured Waffen SS members were usually “shot while trying to escape.”

The logic behind decapitating terrorist groups

The Russians hated them because they found many of their Eastern Front POWs in concentration camps, shot or slowly worked to death. The Canadians hated the SS for the Ardennes Abbey Massacre. The SS slaughtered American POWs at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. British and French POWs were massacred numerous times by Waffen SS troops.

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