Lt. General Charles “Chuck” Pitman passed away this past Thursday at age 84. His career spanned over 40 years, including three combat tours in Vietnam. He also was involved in Operation Eagle Claw, the attempted rescue of the American hostages in Tehran in 1980. He commanded an Air Wing and was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Marine Corps Aviation. He earned the Silver Star, four Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. But for all his achievements in uniform, Pitman is better known for ignoring military protocol and breaking a bunch of regulations so he could save lives.
That was the thought process of then, Lieutenant Colonel Pitman. On Jan. 7, 1973, Pitman was the commander of the Marine Air Reserve Training in Louisiana. Pitman had turned on the television to see a horrible scene unfolding. A gunman had taken position on top of a hotel and was shooting and killing police officers. The sniper had a full view of all on comers, and any attempt to enter the hotel was met with murderous gunfire.
Pitman didn’t even think twice about asking permission to help. He grabbed another pilot and two crew members and jumped in a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter and headed toward New Orleans.
The incident Pitman was flying into actually started several days earlier on New Year’s Eve. Mark Essex was a Navy vet who had been kicked out due to behavior issues. He had ended up in New Orleans, where he fell in with radical groups. One of those groups was the Black Panthers. Essex had grown angrier over time with what he perceived to be injustices he faced in the Navy and now as a civilian. After learning of a civil rights protest in which two students from Southern University were killed by police, Essex lost it.
He went to New Orleans police headquarters, where he shot and killed an African American cadet; shooting him from behind. He then fled and tried to break into a warehouse. When police arrived, unaware that he was linked to the shooting at HQ, Essex ambushed them, mortally wounding one. By the time backup arrived, he had vanished into the night.
On Jan. 7, Essex reappeared, and entered a Howard Johnson hotel in downtown New Orleans. As he made his way to the roof, he murdered a newlywed couple and the hotel’s manager and assistant manager. He then set fires in several rooms and made his way to the roof.
Essex had set an ambush. The shooting and fires would draw first responders to the scene. Then he would carry out his horrible plan to kill more cops.
As the police and firefighters arrived, they attempted to enter the hotel. Essex killed three police officers and wounded several more. He was able to pin down anyone that attempted to move toward the hotel and was completely concealed from return fire by concrete barriers on the roof.
By this time, the TV cameras had shown up. Broadcasting over the airwaves, they told viewers of the horrible situation unfolding in downtown New Orleans.
One of the viewers was Lt. Colonel Pitman.
Pitman flew the CH-46 toward the hotel without any idea what he was actually going to do. He just knew he had to do something. When he arrived on site, Pitman located an empty parking lot next to the hotel. He landed, headed to the command center, and quickly became apprised of the situation. The cops on the scene sought his advice, and his years of service in Vietnam kicked in. Essex had the high ground, so Pittman would go higher.
He put several New Orleans police officers on the helicopter and took off. He started flying passes over the roof of the hotel, slowing down and turning so that the police could get a good shot. They could not. Essex would take shots at the aircraft from afar but would take cover the minute they closed in. Pitman noticed this and kept making passes to lure Essex into thinking this was his routine. Finally, after one pass, he turned immediately around and caught Essex in the open. The police in the helicopter unloaded on the sniper.
When all was said and done, Essex was found with over 200 rounds in his body.
Pitman was lauded as a hero by the police and citizens of New Orleans and just about everybody…except the United States Marine Corps.
It turns out that Pitman (kind of… sort of) violated a few rules and regulations when he took the helicopter. He wasn’t allowed to use military personnel or aircraft for anything other than a rescue mission (like evacuating flood victims).
You would think that the Marine Corps would look at the badassery that Pitman just pulled off and call it a public relations coup. But, they didn’t (of course) and started the process of a court-martial.
It was only due to the intervention of Democratic Congressman and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Edward Herbert that the issue was dropped.
Pitman would continue his amazing career, retiring in 1990 as a Lt. General.
Lt. General Pitman, rest easy, and Semper Fidelis.
Melvin Pender was a 25-year-old soldier headed to the 82nd Airborne Division when he first tied on some running shoes to race, but it quickly became clear that he would become a legend in the sport. He was fast. So fast, in fact, that the Army would twice recall him from active duty to train for the Olympics.
A helicopter deposits troops in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.
(U.S. Air Force)
The first recall came in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympics, where Pender placed sixth. After the games, he went to officer’s candidate school. A few years later, Pender was sent to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as a platoon leader.
The fighting was fierce, with rounds tearing through the underbrush to crash into the bodies of American soldiers. One day was particularly bad for Pender and his men.
“You couldn’t see the enemy; they were shooting at us from the jungles,” Pender told his friend Keith Sims during an interview. “And, uh, I had one of my kids killed. This young man died in my arms.”
U.S. Army soldiers take a break during a patrol in Vietnam.
(Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. Collection, Texas Tech University)
Later that same day, Pender was told that he had to go home. The Army needed him to run in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, this time as part of a four-man relay team. Pender tried to stay, but was told it wasn’t optional.
“And I told my men, I says, ‘I’m going back for you. I’m going to win this gold medal for you guys,'” Pender told Sims.
But the 1968 Olympics were roiling with the same racial tensions that were consuming America as black athletes protested racial violence in the states.
When we got to Mexico, we start getting threats from the president of the Olympic Committee, saying if we demonstrated in the Olympics, ‘I’m going to send all you boys home.’
How are you, how are you going to call someone ‘boy’? I mean, here I just got out of combat, seeing people die defending my country, and you’re going to call me a boy? They don’t make boys like me.
While Pender opposed the restrictions that were being placed on black athletes at the games, he acceded to orders from a colonel to not take part in any protests.
He focused on the games and the promise he had made to his men to win a gold medal for them.
“To be on the relay team, it was my time to shine,” he said. “I ran my heart out. We ended up winning the race at a world record time of 38.2 seconds.
The world record in the event has been beat numerous times since, but only by fractions of a second each time. Pender’s team’s 38.2 second run is still less than two seconds from the current world record of 36.84 set by a Jamaican team (You can see the race on YouTube here).
Despite Pender keeping his head down at the games, he did end up tangentially connected to protests. His roommate was John Carlos, one of the athletes who famously gave the Black Power salute on the podium during the U.S. Anthem, something that the athletes and Pender maintain was about asserting black humanity, not disrespecting the anthem. Pender told Sims:
You know, when Carlos came back to the room, I could see the hurt in his eyes and he just said, ‘I did what I had to do, Mel.’ And that’s when I told him, I said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’
They was not trying to disgrace the national anthem of America. What was happening was wrong. They were trying to show the world. ‘Hey, we are human beings. We are human.’ That changed my life.
Carlos and another demonstrator were stripped of their medals. Pender, meanwhile, went back to Vietnam after the games and received a Bronze Medal for his service. He rose to the rank of captain and served as the first black track and field coach at West Point before retiring with 21 years of service in the military.
Pender lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and recently told the Atlanta Journal Constitution the he still believes America “is the greatest country in the world,” a sentiment he shares with during motivational talks at high schools and other venues.
Most of the quotes in this article came from a recent StoryCorps interview between Keith Sims and Dr. Melvin Pender. A two-minute excerpt from that interview is available here.
U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward built a bridge Oct. 29, 2018, during the largest NATO exercise in more than 16 years. The Exercise Trident Juncture 18 provided a unique opportunity for Marines to train with other NATO and partner forces. With more than 50,000 troops from 31 nations participating in the exercise, Marines strengthened transatlantic bond in a dynamic and challenging environment.
A unique capability the 2nd MLG provided to the II Marine Expeditionary Force, who is deployed to Norway for the exercise, was a bridge company that’s under 8th Engineer Support Battalion. Their mission provided general engineering support to the force with employing standard bridging to enhance mobility.
During the exercise, Marines and U.S. Navy Seabees, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion One, built a medium girder bridge to ensure maneuver of the Marine force. Almost 100 U.S. Marine Light Armored Vehicles and Norwegian Bandvagns, a Norwegian all-terrain tracked carrier vehicle, crossed the bridge immediately after its completion.
Norwegian military members use a Bandvagn-206 to cross a medium girder bridge as part of Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)
“Gap crossing is a critical skill that engineers are tasked to accomplish,” says Capt. Jeffry Hart, the detachment officer in charge for 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “Being able to rapidly assess and breach a gap takes a lot of planning and coordination between all elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and is always a challenge.”
Some of the challenges the bridge company overcame during the exercise were due to the austere environment of Norway. According to Hart, the road leading up to the bridge is narrow with steep drop offs on each side, which complicated the transportation’s movement. The bridge also iced over during deconstruction, creating a safety hazard for those Marines and Sailors working around the bridge.
U.S. Navy Seabee Builder 2nd Class Mason Crane with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1, 22 Naval Construction Regiment, rests during a bridging operation as part of Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, on Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)
“This created a logistical challenge for staging and employing our bridge,” said Hart. “The Marines quickly adapted to the situation and accomplished the mission. The bridge was kept in pristine condition and was ready to use for our operation.”
Marines and Sailors swift actions helped this construction validate the most important aspect of the exercise for the U.S. Marine Corps, which is the relationship Marines built with NATO Allies and partners and Norwegians hosts, according to U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert G. Hedelund, the II MEF commanding general.
U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Michael Wilson, center, with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, set up concertina wire during security set up before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18 near Voll, Norway, Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)
“We have been reinvigorating our effort to know northern Europe better,” said Hedelund. “Should we have to come back here in extremis, the relationship with NATO is an extremely important part of that.”
Humvees with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, use Humvees to provide security before a bridging operation during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)
Building a bridge over a river, halfway around the world from the home station, was not the only challenge. It was also a battle of logistics, which is why the Marine Corps’ relationship with Norway is important. To assist in this battle and foster the close friendship, the Marine Corps turned to another capability that was available in this exercise. Since 1981, the Marine Corps has prepositioned equipment and supplies in Norway to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency. The program, called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program – Norway, has been used to support logistics for combat operations like the war in Iraq. During Trident Juncture 18, the Marines utilized the concept by withdrawing equipment from caves to build the bridge.
U.S Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Evans with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group-Forward, opens a meal ready to eat beside a Humvee during Exercise Trident Juncture 18.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott R. Jenkins)
The prepositioning program in Norway enabled Marines access to prepositioned equipment and supplies to enable a quicker response in times of crisis or contingency.
“I believe that logistics are the Achilles heel of any operations in the field,” said Navy Adm. James G. Foggo, the commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples and the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa. “When we talk about the maritime domain, the land component, the air domain, cyber and space… we now have a sixth domain to talk about and that is logistics.”
The overall exercise, to include the bridge building construction, helped II MEF test and validate their warfighting capabilities across the warfighting domains, better preparing them to help support NATO Allies and partners.
Elite Russian soldiers can crash computers, treat wounded troops, and read foreign-language documents locked inside a safe using the power of their minds, a report in the Defense Ministry’s official magazine claims.
The techniques were developed over a long period starting in the 1980s Soviet Union, by studying telepathy in dolphins, the report said. It also claimed soldiers can now communicate with the dolphins.
The article, entitled “Super Soldier for the Wars of the Future,” was swiftly scorned by experts. But its appearance in the February 2019 edition of the Russian defense ministry’s Armeisky Sbornik (Army Collection) magazine is nonetheless remarkable.
The front cover of February’s “Armeisky Sbornik.”
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The report says: “With an effort of thought, you can, for example, shoot down computer programs, burn crystals in generators, eavesdrop on a conversation, or break television and radio programs and communications.”
“Those capable of metacontact can, for example, conduct nonverbal interrogations. They can see through the captured soldier: who this person is, their strong and weak sides, and whether they’re open to recruitment.”
Soldiers could even “read a document in a safe even if it was in a foreign language we don’t know,” the report said.
Soldiers have also been trained in “psychic countermeasures,” the report said — techniques which help soldiers stay strong during interrogations from telepaths in rival armies.
The report also says Russian special forces used these “combat parapsychology techniques” during the conflict in Chechnya, which ran from the mid-1990s until the late 2000s.
The chairman of the commission to combat pseudoscience at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yevgeny Alexandrov, told news outlet RBK that “combat parapsychology” is a fabrication and is recognized as a pseudo-science.
(Photo by michelle galloway)
He said: “Such works really existed and were developed, but were classified. Now they come out into the light. But, as in many countries of the world, such studies are recognized as pseudo-scientific, all this is complete nonsense.”
“All the talk about the transfer of thought at a distance does not have a scientific basis, there is not a single such recorded case, it is simply impossible.”
However, Anatoly Matviychuk from Russian military magazine “Soldiers of Russia” told RBK that parapsychology is the real deal.
“The technique was developed by the Soviet Academy of Sciences in an attempt to discover the phenomenal characteristics of a person.”
“A group of specialists worked under the leadership of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces. The achievements of that time still exist, and there are attempts to activate them.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Top Gun” is due for an upgrade. And no, it’s not the upcoming sequel to the classic 1986 film due out in 2019.
The ranges at Naval Air Station Fallon (NASF) in rural western Nevada – the epicenter of naval aviation combat training – have not seen a significant modernization in more than 20 years. Since then, the exponential evolution of aircraft and long-range weapons technologies have made Fallon Range Training Complex (FRTC) too small for pilots to realistically train for combat.
Realizing this, in 2016 the Navy published a proposal which would expand FRTC to meet the evolved training requirements. Under the plan, an additional 945 square miles of public land and 102 square miles of non-federal land would be withdrawn for military use.
“This is an absolutely enormous modernization, a once in a generation expansion which is critically important for naval aviation,” said Alex Stone, a Pacific Fleet environmental planner who conducted an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for the project.
But FRTC’s modernization program is under the gun: the permits for its current ranges – in use for 77 years – will expire in 2021, and the plan needs to be implemented before then. Doing so, however, would potentially impact a broad range of actors: ranchers, miners, hunters, 17 different tribes, off-road recreation enthusiasts, as well as a host of federal, state, and local agencies.
“We’re withdrawing an additional 750,000 acres, so even though it’s a rural area, that withdrawn land is going to take from the public a lot of areas for which there are currently other uses,” Stone explained. “What makes this such a challenging, complex project is the number of stakeholders involved, because this withdrawal affects so many different groups and each of these groups has a unique set of concerns and issues.”
U.S. Navy Lt. Matthew Stroup, left, and Sophia Haberman, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center, examine ways to attract new talent through strategic communication with USC™s Dr. Tom Hollihan during NPS™ Strategic Communication Workshop.
Stone’s team has leaned into this challenge. They’ve brought in a range of experts, including anthropologists, biologists, and geologists, and held a series of open meetings with the Bureau of Land Management to keep the public informed and engaged in the process.
Yet they want and need to do more. And do it better.
“The success or failure of this project is really going to be tied to how well we can communicate with these different stakeholders,” Stone said. And that’s what brought the Top Gun team to the Naval Postgraduate School.
In early August 2018, Stone and 22 colleagues travelled to the university to refine their team’s strategic communication capability. Along with dozens of key members from multiple commands throughout the Navy, they took part in the school’s intense, three-day Strategic Communications Workshop (SCW), Aug. 7-9, 2018.
Developed by NPS’ Center for Executive Education (CEE), the SCW provides a deep dive into the design, planning and implementation of large-scale communications initiatives. Participants teamed up with both NPS faculty and professors from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism (USC-ASCJ) to apply the latest research and lessons learned from across the Department of Defense (DOD) and industry.
“These workshops make you stop and say, ‘OK, where are we?,'” said Gail Fann Thomas, SCW program manager and an associate professor in NPS’ Graduate School of Business and Public Policy (GSBPP).
“Once you conduct a strategic analysis, you can improve your communication tactics: who are your key stakeholders and how do they impact the achievement of your goals? What messages are your actions conveying, both inside and outside your organization?
“How can your organization’s communication provide better linkages between your day-to-day activities and your commander’s priorities?” she continued. “Might new media such as crowdsourcing and social media better create your desired effects? How are you maximizing your strategic effect with communication processes and metrics?”
To help commands across the services tackle these questions, Thomas has led more than 300 SCWs since becoming program manager in 2005, both at NPS and around the globe, bringing the workshop to commands on invitation.
At each SCW, attendees acquire new skills and tools to work through the military’s most vexing communications issues, from conducting in-depth stakeholder analyses to assessing communications risks, and developing metrics to track the effectiveness of initiatives.
“They’re not here to learn out of a textbook and go home,” Thomas said. “They all bring a real, concrete issue that they’re trying to work through, either because they’re looking ahead and saying, ‘Wow, we don’t know how we’re going to get there,’ or ‘We’ve got to do something different, and we don’t think we know enough to be able to do it.'”
All too often, strategic communications is incorrectly equated with ‘messaging.’ The SCW emphasizes the strategic analysis necessary prior to developing messages in order to ensure unity of efforts, actions and words.
U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Lazir Ablaza, a fighter pilot with the 157th Fighter Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., prepares to launch an F-16 Fighting Falcon for a training mission from Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., Nov. 13, 2014
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
“Often a leader will say ‘Where’s my story? Give me an article; give me a message,’ but you have to stop and ask whether that’s the right thing, the right media, the right topic, and addressing the right people,” Thomas noted. “There’s a whole lot of work that has to be done before you figure out what your message might be.”
A key component of this is communications is within the organization itself.
In an era defined by the ubiquity of social media – when a Facebook post by a junior enlisted service member has the potential to end up on the front page of the Washington Post – it is absolutely critical that all personnel are on the ‘same sheet of music.’
“If their internal communication isn’t aligned very well, that means their external communication isn’t very good either, because you probably have different people telling different stories,” Thomas said. “So, the SCW helps them do the diagnostics and better align their internal communication.”
This was an ‘Ah-ha!’ moment for Navy Lt. Matt Stroup.
A public affairs officer (PAO) with the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in San Diego, his team paired up with USC-ASCJ doctoral studies director Tom Hollihan to find new ways to attract talented warfare tactics instructors to the command.
“We came here fully expecting to be externally focused on how best to communicate with the audience from a mass communications perspective, but what we’ve learned working with Tom is to identify the internal processes to our organization,” Stroup said.
Often, leaders think a PAO can dictate perceptions or actions through a single product, Stroup said.
“But it’s very much a team game,” he added. “It’s not something that you can do with just one person and hope they’re going to fix it.”
Hollihan was fully confident that Stroup’s team will be able to take their insights gleaned at the SCW home with them.
“They didn’t really know each other well, but this has been kind of an introduction to their own attitudes, values and styles,” he said. “What impressed me is how much respect they seemed to have for each other’s ideas and how productive the conversation was.”
Stroup described the SCW as “an incredibly valuable experience.”
“There aren’t too many other times in my career where I’m going to be able to sit for six to eight hours with a leading professor from one of the most highly-rated communications doctoral program in the U.S. and get some guidance on how to do this,” he said. “That’s gold as far as I’m concerned.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Navy Cmdr. James Johnston, who attended the SCW as part of the team from Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), the command responsible for all naval aviation, including the Top Gun school.
“It’s been humbling,” he said. “I’d like to think that all of us got to the positions we’re at by being masters of our craft, but none of us has a lot of experience in communications other than communicating to subordinates.
“This program is a good example of how a command can accelerate their learning curve. In order to get this amount of concentrated teaching, you’d probably have to attend a whole semester class,” Johnston continued. “This will enable us to go back to our command and help our entire staff learn a lot quicker how to get through this process.”
That’s a win, according to Thomas. Enabling an organic strategic communications capability is the ultimate goal of the SCW, allowing commands to get ahead of crises before they develop.
“Nothing happens without communication, but for the most part, people don’t think about communication at all until a crisis happens and then they go, ‘Why didn’t we think about that?,'” she said. “Instead of being in crisis mode all the time, we want people to be able to look at the communication that’s needed and to anticipate and be proactive about it. Then, have a strategy around our communication for whatever it is.”
The SCW certainly accomplished this for the team negotiating the challenges of the Fallon range modernization effort, Stone said.
“We can get the process and all the facts right, but without the communication, we’re not going to be successful,” he said. “This workshop really gave us a path forward for how to approach communicating with all the stakeholders involved.
“So many people have been appreciative that they had the opportunity to attend something like this,” Stone added. “Everyone came away refocused on the project and full of enthusiasm moving forward.”
A Marine artillery battalion assisting Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, with 24-hour support fired with an intensity not seen more than 40 years — and burned out two howitzers in the process.
“They fired more rounds in five months in Raqqa, Syria, than any other Marine artillery battalion, or any Marine or Army battalion, since the Vietnam war,” Army Sgt. Major. John Wayne Troxell, senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Marine Corps Times.
“In five months, they fired 35,000 artillery rounds on ISIS targets, killing ISIS fighters by the dozens,” Troxell said.
An artillery battalion, which consists of up to 18 guns, from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in northern Syria to support the SDF in March 2017. That unit, firing 155 mm M777 howitzers, was replaced in April by another contingent of Marines.
That unit topped the roughly 34,000 rounds fired in support of the invasion of Iraq, and it fired a little over half of the more than 60,000 rounds fired by the over 730 howitzers the Army and Marines used to support Operation Desert Storm, according to historical records seen by Marine Corps Times.
Troxell told reporters that howitzers fired so many consecutive rounds in support of operations against Raqqa the barrels of two of them burned out, making them unsafe to use.
The M-777 Howitzer is 7,500 pounds and highly maneuverable. Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, but it can fire four rounds a minute for up to two minutes, according to its manufacturer, BAE Systems.
A former Army artillery officer told Military Times that the number of rounds it takes to burn out a howitzer depends on the range to target and the level of charge, the latter of which can vary based on the weight of the shell.
“I’ve never heard of it ― normally your gun goes back to depot for full reset well before that happens,” the former Army artillery officer said. “That’s a sh*tload of rounds, though.”
“Because of all these rounds they were firing, we had to continue to recycle new artillery pieces in there because they were firing so much ammunition,” Troxell told Marine Corps Times.
The M-777’s maximum range is 18.6 miles. Video emerged in summer 2017 showing Marines firing 155 mm artillery shells with XM1156 Precision Guidance Kits, according to The Washington Post.
That kit turns the shell into a semi-precision-guided munition that, on average, will hit within 100 feet of the target when fired from the M-777’s maximum range. The XM1156 has only appeared in combat a few times.
The U.S. military is currently working on two systems to increase the accuracy of artillery — the handheld Joint Effects Targeting System, which an Army official said could turn a howitzer “into a giant sniper rifle,” and Precision Guidance Kit Munitions that could be used with 155 mm rounds like those fired on Raqqa.
The Marines supporting the SDF in Raqqa withdrew shortly after the city was recaptured. Syria declared victory over ISIS in the final weeks of the year. U.S. troops supporting the fight against ISIS in Iraq have also started to draw down in the wake of Baghdad’s declaration of victory over the terrorist group at the end of 2017.
While ISIS has lost nearly all of its territory in Iraq and Syria, some of its fighters have hung on in remote pockets along the Euphrates River and in the surrounding desert in Syria.
An Army Ranger assigned to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command will be awarded the Medal of Honor Sept. 11 for his actions in a 2015 raid that rescued approximately 70 prisoners from Islamic State militants in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.
President Donald Trump will award the nation’s highest award for military valor to Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne in a White House ceremony set for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Payne will receive the medal for his actions Oct. 22, 2015, as a member of an American and Kurdish raid force that sought to rescue 70 prisoners — including Kurdish peshmerga fighters — from a compound in the town of Huwija, Iraq, roughly 9 miles west of Kirkuk. The Kurds and Americans had reliable intelligence reports that ISIS was planning to kill the prisoners.
“Time was of the essence,” Payne said, according to the AP. “There were freshly dug graves. If we didn’t action this raid, then the hostages were likely to be executed.”
Fast rope training with US Army Special Operations Aviation Regiment forces. US Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite.
When ISIS militants opened fire after Kurdish forces attempted and failed to breach the compound with an explosive, Payne and his unit climbed over a wall, entered the compound, and quickly cleared one of the two buildings where the prisoners were held, the AP reported.
Clearing through the building, the team used bolt cutters to break locks off prison doors and free nearly 40 hostages.
After other task force members reported they were engaged in an intense firefight at the second building, between 10 to 20 soldiers, including Payne and Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, maneuvered toward the second building, which was heavily fortified and partially on fire.
“The team scaled a ladder onto the roof of the one-story building under a savage fusillade of enemy machine-gun fire from below. From their roof-top vantage point, the commandos engaged the enemy with hand grenades and small arms fire,” the AP reported. “Payne said at that point, ISIS fighters began to detonate their suicide vests, causing the roof to shake. The team quickly moved off the roof to an entry point for building two.”
As ISIS fighters continued to exchange gunfire with the raid force as they entered the building, Payne worked to open another fortified door, cutting the first lock before heavy smoke from the fire forced him to hand off the bolt cutters to an Iraqi counterpart and retreat out of the building for fresh air.
Rangers pull security while conducting a night raid in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
After the Iraqi partner had to retreat for fresh air, Payne grabbed the bolt cutters and reentered the building to cut off the last lock. After kicking open the door, the commandos escorted about 30 more hostages out of the burning building, which was about to collapse and still taking enemy gunfire.
Payne reentered the building two more times to ensure every prisoner was freed, having to forcibly remove one of the prisoners who had been too frightened to move during the chaotic scene, according to the AP.
Payne joined the Army in 2002 as an infantryman and has deployed several times to combat as a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and in various positions with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal for a wound he sustained in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the AP report. Payne also won the Army’s Best Ranger Competition as a sergeant first class representing USASOC in 2012. He is married with three children and is stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is from the South Carolina towns of Batesburg-Leesville and Lugoff.
The news of Payne’s Medal of Honor comes just nine days after another soldier was recommended for the extraordinary honor.
In a letter to lawmakers Aug. 24, Defense Secretary Mark Esper endorsed a proposal to upgrade to a Medal of Honor the Silver Star Medal Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe was awarded after he died of the catastrophic burns he suffered while pulling six soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle in Iraq, on Oct. 17, 2005.
The Times’ journalists scanned the locations of nearly 150 coalition airstrikes across northern Iraq and found the rate of civilian deaths to be more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.
Such negligence — a combination of simply flawed and outdated intelligence — amounted to what the Times noted “may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”
Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Department of Defense agency overseeing the US-led coalition, said “US and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes.” He told the Times that the US has been “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.”
The reality on the ground reportedly tells a much different story.
Data from coalition forces reported Iraqi civilian deaths have resulted in about one of every 157 airstrikes. The Times found that civilians were killed in one out of every five.
Basim Razzo was almost one of the victims, according to the Times. In September 2015, Razzo was sleeping in his bed in Mosul — then under ISIS control — when a US coalition airstrike reduced much of his home to a heap of rubble. He awoke drenched in blood. The roof of his house had been torn apart. Worst of all, he didn’t know if his family had been hurt. He soon discovered his wife, daughter, brother, and nephew had been killed.
Later that day, the US coalition uploaded a video to YouTube entitled, “Coalition Airstrike Destroys Daesh VBIED Facility Near Mosul Iraq 20 Sept 2015.” The military claimed it had successfully demolished an ISIS car-bomb factory, but it now appears they actually struck the homes of Razzo and his brother, killing four innocent civilians in the process.
Human rights concerns
In July, the Iraqi Army liberated Mosul from ISIS forces, but people like Razzo couldn’t move on. Many still live with the fear of being misidentified as ISIS sympathizers, and the tragedy of losing innocent loved ones.
“We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Central Command, told the Times regarding civilian casualties. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”
That’s not enough for human rights organizations, who often criticize coalition forces for poor reporting procedures that leave dozens, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dead civilians unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch also called on President Donald Trump to do more to protect civilians abroad as news surfaced that he was modifying US military rules of engagement with suspected terrorists.
“Trump’s reported changes for targeting terrorism suspects will result in more civilian deaths with less oversight and greater secrecy,” Letta Tayler, a HRW researcher, said earlier this month. “The US should be increasing civilian protections off the battlefield, not dismantling them.”
Tesla Cybertruck’s controversial style and decked out armor-like exterior and towing capability seem like overkill for everyday driving, but they could be perfect for camping just about anywhere.
During the presentation, Tesla emphasized that the Cybertruck is “completely adaptable for your needs.” The company is marketing the truck as the best of a truck and a sports car, but information on its website hints at other future possibilities.
The most expensive edition of the Cybertruck has 100 cubic feet of storage space, which would be useful for camping gear.
Tesla’s renderings at least show that the company is thinking about the possibility of a camper conversion, with one image showing a tent attached over the truck bed and what appears to be cooking attachments on the tailgate.
Tesla fans have shown an interest in converting their electric vehicles into more comfortable places to sleep in the past. Dreamcase sells mattresses designed for specific car models, designed to “transform your car into a luxury double bed.” It already sells mattresses for three current Tesla models.
Regardless of whether Tesla releases more information about possible camper conversions, the Cybertruck design already has the ability to tow an RV. The Cybertruck has a towing capacity of up to 14,000 lbs, which is more than enough to tow even the heaviest Airstream on the market.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.
Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.
General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.
The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.
“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.
“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”
Another insider attack
Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”
On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.
In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.
Surrounded by carnage, one thought became crystal clear to 29-year-old Taylor Winston. He needed a truck, and he needed it now.
Winston, of Ocean Beach, was in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when a man opened fire from the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel Resort and Casino on Oct. 1.
At least 59 people were killed, including San Diego attorney Jennifer T. Irvine, and hundreds more were injured.
“People were bleeding everywhere,” Winston said. “Gunshot wounds were everywhere. Legs, torsos, necks, chests, arms — just dozens of people.”
The Marine veteran knew victims needed to get to a hospital right away. He and spotted a nearby parking lot and started running toward it. He knew that festival employees often left keys in work vehicles and he was hopeful. He got lucky.
“The first one we opened had keys inside,” Winston said.
Over the next 40 minutes or so, Winston and a friend would transport between 20 and 30 critically injured people to a hospital in the commandeered truck.
“It was a lot of chaos, but within the chaos there was a lot of good being done and a lot of people rising to the occasion and helping others,” he said.
Just a couple of days removed from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, more stories from survivors, including local residents, are emerging.
Jeffrey Koishor, of San Diego, said it wasn’t until singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage that people realized they weren’t hearing fireworks, but gunshots.
Collective panic set in and people in the crowd around him dropped to the ground. Koishor threw himself over a friend, and, moments later, a piercing pain shot through his leg.
Despite being wounded, Koishor still managed to run to a nearby bar where his leg finally gave out. He was again shielding his friend when he was shot a second time. He said the left side of his body “wasn’t working” so he ran another 50 yards to cover, hopping on one leg.
“I have never ran so fast on one leg in my life,” he wrote on Facebook.
Two strangers helped him get to a hospital, which was absolute chaos, Koishor said.
“I was able to get a hold of my mother,” he wrote. “Trying to explain what happened, I just broke down crying so hard. I was so worried and (in) so much pain.”
Doctors told Koishor that one of the bullets had shattered his fibula and the other had fragmented when it hit his hip. Neither the bullet nor the fragments could be removed for fear of damaging surrounding nerve tissue.
A close friend started a GoFundMe account to help support Koishor as he continues to recover.
“Obviously I’m in pain, but I will take the pain tenfold knowing how lucky I am to be alive,” he wrote.
Some other local residents injured in the shooting have been identified, many through social media. They include: Del Mar Deputy Fire Chief Jon Blumeyer, George Sanchez, 54, of San Diego and Zack Mesker of San Marcos.
An unidentified off-duty San Diego firefighter was injured as well. The injury was not life-threatening.
Winston said he and his friends were to the right of the stage when the shooting began. People were getting hit all around them as they ran to a nearby fence. They started throwing people over the other side, eventually climbing over themselves.
Winston and a friend appropriated the truck soon after.
With gunfire continuing in the background, he and the friend hopped in the truck and started driving around picking up injured people. After driving them away from the shooting, they returned to the concert venue.
Victims were everywhere.
He soon spotted a group of his friends who had set up a makeshift medical area. Strangers were dragging victims there and others were providing emergency first aid.
He pulled up and started loading the most seriously injured into the truck.
“I think the hardest part was seeing so many people who desperately needed help and only being able to take a handful of them at a time,” he said.
It took about ten minutes to get everyone to a hospital. Once the victims were in the hands of medical professionals, Winston looked at his friend and said, “We’re going back for round two.”
Plenty of people still needed to be taken to the hospital when they returned, so they loaded a second group.
“We were looking for the most critically injured,” he said. “It was hard to gauge, but we tried to make decisions as quickly as possible to hopefully save as many people as possible.”
By the time they went back for a third trip, there were several ambulances in the area.
He said he doesn’t know if all the people he assisted survived. A couple of them were limp and unconscious by the time they got to the hospital. He said he might be reunited with some of the people he transported later this week.
“I just know I’m super fortunate,” he said. “I just wanted to help as much as possible and, in life, nothing gets done by losing your cool.”
Winston decided to stay in Las Vegas for a little while longer, to continue to try and help.
“I could have easily gone back to San Diego in my safe little area with everyone I know and forget this all happened, but I’d rather be here and help out the best I can and not run from it,” he said.
As for the truck he commandeered, he parked it sometime later and it ended up being towed. Winston and the owner were connected via social media, and they got together Oct. 2 so Taylor could return the keys.
He said they had a heart-to-heart, and the owner didn’t mind “at all” that Winston had borrowed the truck.
The act of conducting a ceremonial flyover is nothing new for naval aviators, but the flyover that occurred Dec. 6, 2018, is one that has never occurred before in our Navy’s history.
At approximately 4:15 p.m. (CST), aviators from various squadrons assigned to Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic (CSFWL) and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL) flew an unprecedented 21 jet flyover at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library to honor the former naval aviator and president at his interment in College Station, Texas.
Following six days of national mourning, the ceremony served as the third and final stage of a state funeral for President Bush who was laid to rest alongside his wife of 72-years, former First Lady Barbara Bush and their late daughter, Robin.
Planning of a state funeral typically begins around the time of a president’s inauguration; however, the execution of that plan may not happen for decades and often with little notice of a president’s passing.
Navy Conducts Unprecedented Flyover for President George H.W. Bush
The plan for President Bush’s funeral service called for a 21 jet flyover, which was the responsibility of the operations team at CNAL led by Capt. Peter Hagge.
“Before I even checked in to [CNAL] a year and a half ago, this plan was in place.” Hagge said.Following the former first lady’s passing April 17, 2018, Hagge and the CNAL team coordinated efforts with CSFWL to start making preparation for the president’s death. On Nov. 30, 2018, both teams snapped in to action to execute that plan.
“We coordinated with Joint Reserve Base (JRB) Fort Worth and reached out to the commanding officer, executive officer and operations officer to make sure we had ramp space and hangar maintenance facilities,” said Hagge. “Cutting orders for the aircrew and all 50 maintainers and the other administrative details was the easy part. The tactical level detail was a lot more complex.”
All told, 30 jets made the trip to JRB Fort Worth in addition to the ground team on station at the presidential library in College Station. The extra nine jets served as backups to ensure mission success.
“It was reactionary to make sure we had the requisite number of aircraft with spares to make sure we could fill [the request] with 21 aircraft,” Hagge said.
The extra nine jets comprised of five airborne spares with four more spares on ground ready to support.
Cmdr. Justin Rubino, assigned to CNAL, served as the forward air controller on the ground. He remained in radio contact with the aircraft to match the flyover’s timing with the funeral events on the ground.
Naval aviators from various commands under Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, operating out of Naval Air Station Oceana, fly a 21-jet missing man formation over the George Bush Library and Museum at the interment ceremony for the late President George H.W. Bush.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Christopher Lindahl)
“I like the responsibility and feel like I had the most direct role in ensuring success — other than the aircraft of course,” Rubino said. “I like being the ‘point person,’ communicating what’s happening on the ground, relaying that information and directing when the flyover occurs.”
Rubino coordinates all of CNAL’s flyovers, but believes this one is special.
“It’s special because not only was he the 41st president, but he was also a naval aviator,” he said. “He flew off aircraft carriers just like we do today and that’s a bond all of us share. He’s one of us. Sure he was the president of the United States, yes, but he was also a naval aviator.”
Coordinating a nationally televised 21 jet flyover for a state funeral is no small task, but Hagge remains humble, giving much of the credit to the Joint Task Force National Capitol Region, which was responsible for the overall planning.
“As far as the complexity goes, for us, we are a really small portion of an incredibly complex machine.”
The “small portion” included executing the Navy’s first 21-jet formation that originated from an Air Force formation already in existence.
“We pretty much took the Air Force plan and put a little Navy spin on it,” Rubino said.
That “spin” included changing the distance between the aircraft and altering the formation to a diamond shape for the first four jets. The last formation utilized the standard “fingertip formation” in order to do the missing-man pull.
Hagge and his team were honored to support.
“A funeral is a family’s darkest hour and a flyover, an opportunity where we can support them in a time of mourning, means the world to them,” said Hagge. “But this one, I think, means the world to our nation.”