Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump granted the Pentagon the authority to manage troop levels in Afghanistan, administration officials said.


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who is believed to support sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, will determine if the approximately 9,800 U.S.troops currently deployed there should be reinforced. Trump gave Mattis similar authority over troop levels in Syria and Iraq in April.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

A formal announcement on ceding the authority to the Defense Department is expected June 14. The move comes earlier than anticipated; it was expected that any action on changes in U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan would come after mid-July, when the administration’s strategy review is completed.

Giving more authority to the Pentagon allows military leaders more latitude in planning and conducting operations. Options were developed to deploy up to 5,000 more U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, to augment the international coalition force of about 13,000 troops presently in Afghanistan. About 2,000 U.S. troops there are currently assigned to fight al-Qaida and other militant groups.

Mattis told the Senate Armed Service Committee on June 13 to expect the Trump administration to unveil its Afghan strategy within weeks.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis said in testimony.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did TurboTax use ‘military discount’ to mislead troops into paying to file their taxes?

In patriotism-drenched promotions, press releases and tweets, TurboTax promotes special deals for military service members, promising to help them file their taxes online for free or at a discount.

Yet some service members who’ve filed by going to the TurboTax Military landing page told ProPublica they were charged as much as $150 — even though, under a deal with the government, service members making under $66,000 are supposed to be able to file on TurboTax for free.

Liz Zimmerman is a mother of two teenage daughters and a toddler who lives with her husband, a Navy chief petty officer, in Bettendorf, Iowa, just across the river from the Rock Island military facility. When Zimmerman went to do her taxes this year, she Googled “tax preparation military free” and, she recalled in an interview, TurboTax was the first link that popped up, promising “free military taxes.” She clicked and came to the site emblazoned with miniature American flags.


But when Zimmerman got to the end of the process, TurboTax charged her , even though the family makes under the ,000 income threshold to file for free. “I’ve got a kid in braces and I’ve got a kid in preschool; is half a week’s worth of groceries,” she said. “Who needs date night this month? At least I filed my taxes.”

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Micah Merrill)

In the commercial version of TurboTax that includes the “military discount,” customers are charged based on the tax forms they file. The Zimmermans used a form to claim a retirement savings credit that TurboTax required a paid upgrade to file. If they’d started from the TurboTax Free File landing page instead of the military page, they would have been able to file for free.

Like many other tax prep companies, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, participates in the Free File program with the IRS, under which the industry offers most Americans free tax filing. In return, the IRS agrees not to create its own free filing system that would compete with the companies. But few of those who are eligible use the program, in part because the companies aggressively market paid versions, often misleading customers. We’ve documented how Intuit had deliberately made its Free File version difficult to find, including by hiding it from search engines.

In a statement, Intuit spokesman Rick Heineman said, “Intuit has long supported active-military and veterans, both in filing their taxes and in their communities, overseas, and in the Intuit workplace.” He added: “Intuit is proud to support active military, including the millions of men and women in uniform who have filed their tax returns completely free using TurboTax.”

To find TurboTax’s Free File landing page, service members typically have to go through the IRS website. TurboTax Military, by contrast, is promoted on the company’s home page and elsewhere. Starting through the Military landing page directs many users to paid products even when they are eligible to get the same service for no cost using the Free File edition.

An Intuit press release this year announced “TurboTax Offers Free Filing for Military E1- E5” — but refers users to TurboTax Military and does not mention the actual Free File option. (E1-E5 refers to military pay grades.) It was promoted on the company’s Twitter feed with a smiling picture of a woman wearing fatigues outside her suburban home. Google searches for “TurboTax military,” “TurboTax for soldiers” and “TurboTax for troops” all produce top results sending users to the TurboTax Military page.

That site offers a “military discount.” Some service members can use it to file for free, depending on their pay grade and tax situation. Others are informed — only after inputting their tax data — that they will have to pay.

In one instance, Petty Officer Laurell, a hospital corpsman in the Navy who didn’t want his full name used, was charged even though he makes under ,000. TurboTax charged Laurell this year and 0 last year, his receipts show.

“I am upset and troubled that TurboTax would intentionally mislead members of the military,” said Laurell, who has been in the service for a decade.

Using receipts, tax returns and other documentation, we verified the accounts from four service members who were charged by TurboTax even though they were eligible to use Free File. They include an Army second lieutenant, a Navy hospital corpsman and a Navy yeoman.

The New York regulator investigating TurboTax is also examining the military issue, according to a person familiar with the probe.

Active-duty members of the military get greater access to Free File products than other taxpayers. All Americans who make under ,000 can use products offered by one of 12 participating companies in the program. But each company then imposes additional, sometimes confusing eligibility requirements based on income, age and location.

Those additional requirements are not imposed on service members for most of the Free File products.

TurboTax’s Free File edition, for example, is available to active-duty military and reservists who make under ,000 in adjusted gross income compared with a threshold of ,000 for everyone else.

It’s unclear how many service members were charged by TurboTax, even though they could have filed for free. The company declined to respond to questions about this.

Jennifer Davis, government relations deputy director of the National Military Family Association, said the group is concerned by ProPublica’s findings about Americans being charged for tax services that should be free. “As an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of military families, we are concerned that many military families have fallen prey to these fraudulent actions as well,” she said. Davis pointed out that service members have a range of other free tax filing options, including in-person help on many bases and an online option through the Defense Department called MilTax.

We tested TurboTax Military and TurboTax Free File using the tax information of a Virginia-based Navy sailor and his graphic designer wife with a household income of ,000.

The filing experiences had just one major difference: TurboTax Military tried to upgrade us or convince us to pay for side products six times. We declined those extras each time. Finally, the program told us we had to pay 9.98 to finish filing.

And that “military discount”? All of .

In the Free File version, by contrast, we were able to file completely free.

Here’s what happened when we landed on TurboTax Military:

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

The software took us through filing our taxes in the standard question-answer format used across all TurboTax products. We entered the sailor’s employer and income information.

Then TurboTax told us we were going to save some money because of our service.

“Congrats! You qualify for our Enlisted military discount.”

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

We were then repeatedly offered other paid products.

TurboTax recommended we purchase “+PLUS,” which promises “24/7 tax return access” and other services for .99.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

We were offered “TurboTaxLive” — access to advice from a CPA — for 4.99.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

We were also offered “MAX,” which includes audit defense and identity loss insurance for .99 (a good deal, the company suggests, because the products represent a “5.00 value”).

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

We rejected all of these offers. We finished filing the sailor’s military income and added his wife’s 1099 income of ,000 and her modest business expenses.

When we were done entering their information, the software broke some bad news: We would need to upgrade to TurboTax Self-Employed for 4.99 (minus thanks to the military discount).

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

On top of that, we were charged .99 to file Virginia state taxes, bringing our total to 9.98.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

When we started on TurboTax Free File instead of TurboTax Military and entered the same information, the filing experience was virtually identical, with two major differences: We weren’t pitched side products such as audit defense and the final price was .

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

While the sailor’s family was eligible for Free File, TurboTax Military never directed us to the product, even after we entered a family income of less than ,000.

On May 10, the New York Department of Financial Services sent a request for documents to USAA, the insurance company that caters to service members, according to a person familiar with the investigation. USAA promotes TurboTax Military, and DFS, which regulates insurance companies, sought records related to any deals with Intuit and other tax prep firms. Two other insurance companies, Progressive and AAA, also received requests for records from DFS. Spokespeople for the three companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.

TurboTax first launched the Military Edition in 2012. “TurboTax has a long history of supporting the military and many of our employees have served our country,” the then-head of TurboTax said in the company’s press release.

It has apparently been a lucrative business. On an earnings call six months later, Intuit’s then-CEO Brad Smith boasted “we saw double-digit growth this season from the military and digital native customer segments.”

“Given our scale and our data capabilities,” he said, “we plan to extend this advantage to even more taxpayers next season.” Smith is now executive chairman of Intuit’s board.

Last week, a class action was filed against Intuit by a law firm representing a Marine, Laura Nichols, who was charged by TurboTax even though she was eligible to file for free, according to the complaint. The suit cites ProPublica’s previous reporting on the issue. The company declined to comment.

This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @propublica on Twitter.

Articles

6 Army Chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice

Chaplains have long held a special place in many troops’ hearts. In fact, at times, they become legends. In the Army, the first chaplains were authorized on July 29, 1775. They’ve been with the troops on the front lines ever since.


Some chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most famous instance was that of the “Four Chaplains” who were on board the transport SS Dorchester when it was torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55AM on Feb. 3, 1943.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Painting of the rescue of USAT Dorchester survivors by USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77) on Feb. 3, 1943, in the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard image)

According to HomeofHeroes.com, when the transport was hit, the four chaplains, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington promptly began to aid the troops who were on the stricken vessel.

One sailor was heading back to his bunk for gloves, but Rabbi Goode instead handed his over. Despite a loss of power, they got some of the troops to the deck. Then, they began handing out life jackets, even as the Dorchester was rapidly headed to a watery grave.

Finally, when the life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They were among the 668 who went down with the Dorchester, but many of the 230 men who were saved owed their lives to the Four Chaplains, each of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Army Capt. (Chaplain) Emil Kapaun performs Mass in the field, Oct. 7, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Col. Raymond Skeehan)

In the Korean War, two other chaplains notably made the ultimate sacrifice. Chaplain Emil Kapuan, a Catholic priest, was captured during the Chinese offensive of 1950 — and shortly after his capture, he shoved a Chinese soldier who was trying to execute an America.

Then, while held as a POW, he would steal drugs and smuggle them to a doctor. He continued to steal supplies and bolster the morale of his fellow prisoners. He would die in captivity on May 25, 1951. In 2013, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Chaplain Herman Gilbert Felhoelter. (U.S. Army photo)

Then there was the case of Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, also a Catholic priest, who, during the initial salvos of the Korean War, offered to stay behind with a medic to help the wounded. As he was providing comfort, North Korean troops attacked and wounded the medic, who escaped.

The North Koreans then proceeded to carry out what became known as the Chaplain-Medic massacre, killing the wounded Americans and the chaplain. Felhoelter received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his actions.

These cases only begin to scratch the surface of why the troops love their chaplains.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Steeler went to four Super Bowls after being wounded in Vietnam

Rocky Bleier was unique among Americans in the late 1960s. He was drafted – twice. In the same year. First, the Notre Dame running back was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then, the college graduate was drafted by the U.S. Army to head to Vietnam. And he did. Unlike many athletes at the time, the 1-A draftee was not put in reserves, so he put his NFL career on hold to answer the country’s call to arms.


Unfortunately for the Steelers, Bleier was sent to combat duty in southeast Asia after leaving basic training in 1969. He joined well over half a million American troops there, more than 11,000 of which would die in combat. Rocky Bleier was not one of those men but he came very, very close.

“There were a handful of players who had been drafted in their career, and I got drafted in the latter part of the year,” He told Fox Sports. “Next thing I knew, I was in basic training and my world had kind of been turned upside down. Then, eventually, I found myself in Vietnam, like all replacement soldiers at the time –€ shipped over because they needed bodies.”
Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Bleier arrived in Vietnam in May, 1969, a mortarman with the U.S. Army’s 196th Light Infantry Brigade. His company was in an area called LZ Siberia near Hiep Duc. One day, in August, 1969, his unit got word that their sister company was ambushed by an entire regiment of North Vietnamese Army regulars. Bleier’s Charlie Company was sent in to help Bravo Company.

But the moment they arrived in the area, they had to extract. It was a bloody mess. Charlie company had to carry out the dead and wounded bodies of Bravo Company, and as they did, they were ambushed themselves. Bleier and his fellow soldiers had to go. Two days later, they would have to come back for those bodies.

They were ambushed again.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
“Obviously, we knew there was some enemy in the area, and we had just taken a break early in the morning and were moving out on an open rice paddy,” Bleier said. “So we’re moving out into that open rice paddy and all of a sudden we kind of ran into, accidentally, enemy soldiers. Our point man got excited and opened up fire, and then they started to run. We started to chase them, the machine gun leveled the area, and now we’re in a firefight in open rice paddies and that’s when I got hit the first time.”

Bleier was wounded in the thigh in that action; the bullet tore through his body. It felt like a punch to the leg and the Pittsburgh running back wasn’t sure if he could run. Or walk. Or even crawl. Somehow, he tied gauze around the wound and made it back to his commanding officer.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

But that was far from safety. As the day wore on, the NVA were able to advance on the Americans. The communist troops were able to get a grenade into the position Bleier and his CO occupied.

“It hit my commanding officer, who I was lying next to,” Bleier said. “It bounced off his back and rolled between my legs, and by the time I jumped to get up, it blew up. I was standing on top of it and it blew up on my right foot, knee and thigh and my commanding officer caught a lot of that shrapnel as well.”

it was during that exchange that the North Vietnamese troops suddenly retreated from the battlefield. No one is quite sure why, but the Americans suspected the NVA field commander had been killed or wounded. It was dark by then, the two sides had been fighting almost the entire day. With the break in fighting, Bleier’s unit decided to leave. It took them hours to get to their landing zone.

Bleier suffered from a bullet wound in the thigh, shrapnel wounds in both legs, and a torn-up right foot. Doctors removed 100 pieces of shrapnel from him throughout several procedures, each a threat to his football career. Doctors told him he would never play again. Bleier set out to prove them wrong.

And the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to help.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Bleier was placed on Injured Reserve for the 1970 NFL season and on waivers for the 1971 season, where he went unclaimed. By 1972, he was good enough to make the team again. He had few touches on the ball before the 1974 season, where he helped take the Steelers to the first of his four Super Bowls.

After doctors told him he would never again have the flexibility and strength to perform at an NFL level, Bleier ran for 3,826 yards on 922 carries, scoring 23 rushing touchdowns. On top of that, he also caught 133 passes for 1,226 yards and two touchdowns.

“I was one of a few Vietnam veterans that our fellow soldiers could identify with and say, ‘Hey, he’s one of ours, and God bless him,'” Bleier later said. “I was telling the story and giving a different image than one of baby-killers or derelicts or post traumatic stress or unemployment or homelessness. It was that kind of image that needed to be changed and I got to be a part of that, of changing that image.”
Articles

This slave escaped to join the Union Navy then bought his former master’s house

If there’s such a thing a revenge served warm, the story of Robert Smalls best describes it. Smalls was born into slavery in 1839 Beaufort, South Carolina. He was hired out by his master in Charleston by the age of 12, working the hotels, docks, and wharves of Charleston Harbor.


It was while he was working in the hotel he met his wife, Hannah Jones, whom he married in 1856. She had a daughter already, and the two had a son and daughter. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Smalls was pressed into service on board the CSS Planter, a Confederate transport. This is where he would make history.

While the Planter’s three white officers were ashore, the seven slave crewmen decided to make a break for the Union blockade. The slave escape wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision. They planned the escape meticulously, even picking up their families, who were hiding near the southern wharf.

He brought the ship and its cargo of cannon and ammunition to the Union, as well as the Confederate Navy’s code book and the map of Charleston’s harbor defenses.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
From a spread about Smalls in Harper’s, ca. 1862

President Lincoln and the U.S. Congress would award the prize money for the capture of the Planter to Smalls and his crew. Smalls’ bravery and skill became the instrumental argument for allowing black troops to fight for the Union.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere,” Smalls said. “All, they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

Smalls himself enlisted with the Union as a Naval pilot, eventually ending up back on the Planter, now a Union transport, as a free man. He piloted the USS Keokuk during a major attack on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

When the Keokuk’s skipper wanted to surrender during the failed assault, Smalls took command and got the ship to safety. For this, he was promoted to the Keokuk’s captain. When the war ended, Smalls took the Planter back to Charleston for the ceremonial raising of the American flag at Fort Sumter.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
The raising of the Union flag at For Sumter, 1865.

He returned to Beaufort, S.C. as a freeman during Reconstruction. He opened a store for newly-freed slaves and purchased his old master’s house. He eventually allowed his old master’s wife to move back into the house shortly before her death. The house still stands.

511 Prince Street – The Robert Smalls House from Lowcountry Real Estate on Vimeo.

Smalls went on to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives and Senate as well as the South Carolina militia as a major general. He was eventually elected to represent South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives and served for four years before his death in 1915.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

An experimental vaccine is fighting the latest Ebola outbreak


The first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak suspected of killing 23 people arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on May 16, 2018.

The Health Ministry said vaccinations would start at the weekend, the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago.


The vaccine, developed by Merck and sent from Europe by the World Health Organization, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016.

Health officials hope they can use it to contain the latest outbreak in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo.

8,000 doses needed

Peter Salama, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said the current number of cases stood at 42, with 23 deaths attributed to the outbreak.

“Our current estimate is we need to vaccinate around 8,000 people, so we are sending 8,000 doses in two lots,” he told Reuters in Geneva.

“Over the next few days we will be reassessing the projected numbers of cases that we might have and then if we need to bring in more vaccine we will do so in a very short notice.”

Health workers have recorded confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in three health zones of Congo’s Equateur province, and have identified 432 people who may have had contact with the disease.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Siah Tamba is an Ebola survivor who now works at the Ebola treatment unitu00a0in Sinje, Grand Cape Mount, Liberia, after losing her mother, sister, and daughter.
(Photo by Martine Perret)

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the supplies sent to Congo included more than 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities. The vaccine will be reserved for people suspected of coming into contact with the disease, as well as health workers.

“In our experience, for each confirmed case of Ebola there are about 100-150 contacts and contacts of contacts eligible for vaccination,” Jasarevic said. “So it means this first shipment would be probably enough for around 25-26 rings — each around one confirmed case.”

Storage temperature

The vaccine is complicated to use, requiring storage at a temperature between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.

“It is extremely difficult to do that as you can imagine in a country with very poor infrastructures,” Salama said.

“The other issue is, we are now tracing more than 4,000 contacts of patients and they have spread out all over the region of northwest Congo, so they have to be followed up and the only way to reach them is motorcycles.”

The outbreak was first spotted in the Bikoro zone, which has 31 of the cases and 274 contacts. There have also been eight cases and 115 contacts in Iboko health zone.

The WHO is worried about the disease reaching the city of Mbandaka with a population of about 1 million people, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently stayed in Bikoro for funerals are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation.

The WHO report said 1,500 sets of personal protective equipment and an emergency sanitary kit sufficient for 10,000 people for three months were being put in place.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the most ridiculous things naval officers did with ‘Fat Leonard’

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet is having a really tough year. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Navy is the full throes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal. The fallout began in November after 28 people were charged with crimes by the Justice Department.


The scheme is detailed in full by the Washington Post, but the gist of it is that the government believes those involved helped the Singapore-based firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its head, “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, milk the Navy out of some $35 million by overcharging for resupply – often by passing along classified information to GDMA.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Forged by the sea.

All of this happened between 2006 and 2013. The conspirators weren’t dumb enough to use their Navy email accounts (one of them was dumb enough to transmit classified data via Facebook). Instead, they took out accounts on a consumer site. The indictment says Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch wrote to his conspirators,

“Just got turned on to this third-party email website that the military folks can’t block or track.”

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Oops.

There’s a whole timeline of events at the Naval Institute’s site.

So, how did “Leonard the Legend” do it?

5. Hookers. So many hookers.

Okay, so maybe in the annals of worldwide naval history, hookers aren’t that ridiculous. But Rear Admiral (that was his real rank, stop laughing) Robert J. Gilbeau once took in two at a time, paid for by Leonard. Leonard also used to hook Gilbeau up with a particularly famous one, known only as “The Handball Player.”

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Like, you know, the sport.

Commander Donald Hornbeck (aka “Bubbles” – not a joke) was taken with a lady he called his “new Mongolian friend.” Leonard even sent Cmdr. Stephen Shedd a catalog from VIP Tokyo Escorts, a high-end call girl service. Other brilliant call girl aliases include “BT” and “The Indonesian Detachment.”

Eventually, the indictment just gives up and refers to “other prostitutes.”

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Francis allegedly also took Navy officers out to nightclubs accompanied by prostitutes and purchased dates for an unknown number of them, not just the core group of defendants – who called themselves “The Brotherhood,” “The Wolfpack,” and “The Cool Kids.”

4. Ca$h. Lots of it.

The former Rear Admiral “Tsunami Bob” Gilbeau (that was his nickname for himself) netted a cool $40,000 in cash for his part in the conspiracy. He pled guilty for lying to investigators, but was never charged with bribery or destroying evidence.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
If this guy was enlisted, he’d be in jail until the end of time. Throw things at this photo.

Other, non-cash windfalls for the officers included $37,000 hotel stays in the Philippines, $10,000 in Sydney, untold amounts for the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.

3. Sex acts with Gen. MacArthur’s corncob pipe

Navy investigators allege that one Lt. Cmdr. spent multiple days at the Manila Hotel, where Fat Leonard paid for the $3,300/night MacArthur Suite for a…

…raging, multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available.

That’s a quote from the actual indictment.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Like this, but with uniforms. And prostitutes. And…

The 78-page indictment also says that, during this stay, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sex acts.” Looking at what’s available in the MacArthur Suite, it looks like the only usable “memorabilia” is the General’s iconic pipe.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

In a thank-you email to Leonard, Shedd wrote that “it’s been a while since I’ve done 36 hours of straight drinking.” He had been emailing Leonard classified movement schedules for many Navy ships for months leading up to the weekend.

2. Food and booze

Early on in the conspiracy, three of the Navy officers charged allegedly ate at the Petrus Restaurant in Hong Kong. The bill was $20,435 — of course, Fat Leonard picked up the tab.

Those same three drank cocktails on a helipad in Singapore the very next month at the Jaan Restaurant, where they ate a lavish meal, topped off with Hennessy Private Reserve ($600 a bottle) and Paradis Extra champagne ($2,000 a bottle).

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Marines be at the chow hall like…

Other dinners were similarly expensive: $30,000 in Tokyo, $11,000 in Sydney, $18,000 in  Hong Kong, $8,000 in Thailand, and $55,000 in Manila.

On at least one occasion, Fat Leonard’s champagne bill for Dom Perignon at the Shangri-La in Manila totaled more than $50,000. The officers accompanied the champagne with $2000 Cohiba cigars.

1. Personal favors.

Leonard arranged for one of  Cmdr. Hornbeck’s relatives to receive an internship at the Chalet Suisse Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and then paid for his living expenses – a total cost of $13,000.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Bender is real and he’s in the Navy.

Other favors include VIP services for an officer’s wife’s trip to Thailand, including a tour and shopping spree in Bangkok, a family vacation for the Shedds in Singapore and Malaysia totaling $30,000, gifts of iPads and Versace purses for officers’ wives, boxes of beef (I don’t want to know the details), and three hours of lap dances in Tokyo.

Articles

Dog paratroopers jumped into combat on D-Day

Brian (military callsign “Bing”) entered service in World War II as a young family dog loaned to the British government; he served for about 18 months, jumping into Normandy and leading his fellow paratroopers across Nazi-held Europe and the Rhine River before returning to his civilian family after Germany’s surrender.


Bing jumped into Normandy on D-Day with the British 13th Parachute Battalion and two other airborne canines, Monty and Ranee. Bing, Montee, and Ranee were specially chosen and trained to jump from planes wearing parachutes designed for bicycles.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Bing the dog joined the British service in 1944 and jumped into Normandy later that year. (Photo: Jack1956 CC BY 3.0)

But Bing actually stumbled on his combat jump. He was supposed to be the “stick pusher,” the last one out of the plane. But he refused to jump into the flak-filled clouds over Normandy and one of the onboard jumpmasters had to throw him from the plane.

The 13th Parachute Battalion later found their dog hanging from a tree with two deep cuts to his face that they estimated were from German mortar fire.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Salvo the U.S. parachuting dog executes a jump during training in 1943. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Worse, Monty suffered severe wounds on D-Day that ended his involvement in the war and Ranee was lost soon after the jump. Bing stayed with the paratroopers and two captured German Shepherds (German by both breed and national service) who replaced Monty and Ranee.

Together, the dogs led the paratroopers during their advance across Europe, sniffing for minefields and other traps and pointing out probable ambushes.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Rob the Paradog was another heroic parachuting dog of World War II awarded the Dickin Medal. (Photo: Imperial War Museum)

Just like a pointer drawing a hunter’s attention to game, Bing would freeze up and point with his nose when he found a potential batch of Germans expected to make trouble for his paratroopers.

Other British forces, including the SAS (Special Air Service), took dogs on airborne operations — as did a small number of American troops.

After the war, Bing returned to his civilian life as Brian the family dog, but was recognized in 1947 with a Dickin Medal — an award for animal valor — bestowed by Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Bowhill. He lived to the age of 13 before dying in 1955.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more comic book creators who served their country

If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.

It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.


Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

(Courtesy Photo)

Jim Starlin — Navy

Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.

Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.

(Courtesy Photo)

Alice Marble — OSS

Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.

She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.

(Photo by Alan Light)

Curt Swan — Army

DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.

After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…

(Marvel.com)

Doug Murray — Army

Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.

The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.

(Courtesy Photo)

Larry Hama — Army

After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.

Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.

(DC Comics)

Bob Kanigher — Army

There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.

He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.

Articles

John Oliver just exposed a very big lie surrounding Edward Snowden

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan


Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden spoke with HBO’s John Oliver in Moscow recently, and one exchange stood out amid the discussion of Hot Pockets and nude photos.

“How many of those documents have you actually read?” Oliver asked, referring to the estimated 200,000 NSA documents Snowden stole and turned over to journalists in Hong Kong.

“I have evaluated all of the documents in the archive,” Snowden replied.

“You’ve read every single one?”

“Well, I do understand what I turned over.”

“There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading what’s in the documents,” Oliver countered.

“I understand the concern,” Snowden said.

Oliver was right to press Snowden, especially considering what Snowden told The Guardian in June 2013.

“I care­fully eval­u­ated every sin­gle doc­u­ment I dis­closed to ensure that each was legit­i­mately in the pub­lic inter­est,” Snowden said. “There are all sorts of doc­u­ments that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harm­ing peo­ple isn’t my goal. Trans­parency is.”

Based on the HBO interview, that claim is not true.

What about the rest?

And then there are the documents Snowden stole but didn’t give to journalists.

While working at two consecutive jobs in Hawaii from March 2012 to May 2013, the 31-year-old allegedly stole about 200,000 “tier 1 and 2” documents that mostly detailed the NSA’s global surveillance apparatus and were given to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in June 2013.

The US government believes Snowden also took up to 1.5 million “tier 3” documents potentially detailing US capabilities and NSA offensive cyber operations. The whereabouts of those documents remains unknown.

Snowden doesn’t talk about the second cache of documents anymore.

In October 2013, James Risen of The New York Times reported the former CIA technician said over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner later told Business Insider the report was inaccurate.)

In May 2014, Snowden then told NBC’s Brian Williams in Moscow that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession while in Hong Kong.

The only reporting on this second cache of documents came when Snowden provided information revealing “operational details of specific attacks on computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely” to Lana Lam of South China Morning Post.

“I did not release them earlier because I don’t want to simply dump huge amounts of documents without regard to their content,” Snowden told the Hong Kong paper in a June 12 interview. “I have to screen everything before releasing it to journalists.”

He added: “If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment.”

Eleven days later, on June 23, Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Here’s the video. The exchange starts at 19:43:

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy locates the wreckage of missing C-2A plane

The U.S. Navy has located the wreckage of a transport aircraft that crashed into the Philippine Sea in November, NHK World reported Jan. 6.


In a statement, the Navy’s 7th Fleet says a team of deepwater salvage experts detected an emergency beacon from the C-2A Greyhound. The wreckage rests on the seabed at a depth of 5,640 meters.

The salvage team had been searching the area since late December.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan
Matthew Chialastri, Steven Combs, and Bryan Grosso (l to r) were killed in the C-2A Greyhound crash on Nov 22. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, is credited with saving the lives of the 8 surviving passengers.  (Images from U.S. Navy)

The crash occurred on Nov. 22nd while the C-2A was flying from a military base in Iwakuni, in western Japan, to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

Eight of the 11 crew and passengers were recovered. The U.S. Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force launched a combined search operation over several days, but failed to locate the three missing.

Read More: Navy pilot lost in C-2 crash ‘flew the hell out of that airplane’

The U.S. 7th fleet says every effort will be made to recover the aircraft and victims despite what it calls very challenging conditions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 US targets Russia state media threatened with new Zircon missile

Days after President Vladimir Putin threatened the US, a Russian state TV channel pinpointed places in the US that Russia would target in a nuclear war with its new Zircon missile, said to travel at up to nine times the speed of sound, according to Reuters.

The targets listed in Russia-1’s broadcast on Feb. 24, 2019, were the Pentagon, Camp David, Jim Creek Naval Radio Station in Washington, Fort Ritchie in Maryland, and McClellan Air Force Base in California, according to Reuters and the Russian media outlet Sputnik. The latter two have been closed for about two decades, making them odd choices, Sputnik said.


Russia-1 claimed that the Zircon missile Russia is developing could strike critical US targets less than five minutes after launch, Reuters reported. Fired from a submarine, a hypersonic weapon can cover great distance very quickly; however, Russia’s claims concerning its new weapon are impossible to verify.​

Tensions have been flaring between the US and Russia since the two countries in early 2019 walked away from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms agreement that NATO and the US have accused Russia of violating. Observers have said the collapse of this bilateral pact risks escalating an arms race between the two nuclear powers.

Mattis has been given free rein to manage troop levels in Afghanistan

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.

Russia is particularly concerned about the possibility that the US will position new missiles in Europe. Washington has said it has no plans to do so, but its backing out of the treaty frees it to develop and eventually deploy these weapons to Europe if it deems such actions necessary.

Putin had claimed Russia would respond to any US move to deploy missiles closer to Europe by sending its missiles closer to the US, a threat that the US State Department dismissed as propaganda.

In his state-of-the-nation address on Feb. 20, 2019, Putin threatened to target countries housing the missiles and US decision-making centers with new weapons if the US were to take that step.

It was during that speech that the president unveiled the Zircon missile, a hypersonic weapon he said could fly at nine times the speed of sound and strike targets 620 miles away.

Putin also said Russia was ready for a “Cuban missile-style crisis” if the US wants one, adding that Russia could arm its submarines with hypersonic weapons and let them lurk off the US’s coast, Reuters reported.

Retired Russian Rear Adm. Vsevolod Khmyrov told reporters on Feb. 21, 2019, that Russian ships and submarines could each carry up to 40 Zircon missiles.

“For now, we’re not threatening anyone, but if such a deployment takes place, our response will be instant,” Russian state media said Sunday evening, according to Reuters.

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