The government shutdown has been going on for well over a month now and the Coast Guard is still going without pay. My heart honestly burns for each and everyone one of those affected by the shutdown, but there’s one group of Coasties feeling it the worst: the Coast Guard recruiters.
I mean, think about it. It sucks to show up and still have to guard the coasts. Yet, they can continue their mission with a sour look on their face and abundant worries about paying rent. The recruiters? Yeah. I’m damn sure no one made their quota this month. Good luck getting anyone into the door when you can’t even promise them a steady paycheck.
Anyways, just like the Coasties working Lyft after duty, the meme train keeps on rolling.
Fort Carson soldiers trained Sept. 6 to tackle an unseen enemy — disease.
As part of a month-long, annual disaster drill at the post, soldiers practiced to fight a bacterial pandemic. It’s a new twist for the post, where soldiers have trained against fictional terrorist threats and even militant hackers in recent years.
But of all the exercises, fighting a microscopic enemy may be the toughest, Lt. Col. Renee Howell explained.
“I’m going to have to stay on my toes,” said Howell, who is the head of preventive medicine at Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital.
The training has roots in recent Army history. In 2014, 200 Fort Carson soldiers were sent to western Africa to help nations there combat an Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,000 lives.
The post exercise began as a mystery, with leaders working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to determine what caused the imaginary sickness spreading through Fort Carson’s 24,500 soldiers and their family members.
“We have a huge population,” she said.
Troops used their detective skills and practiced ways to control the disease including quarantine measures. They also practiced working with local authorities who would also have to deal with a quick-spreading disease that could easily leave the 135,000-acre post.
On Sept. 6, they turned a gymnasium on post into the county’s biggest pharmacy.
Soldiers from Evans worked alongside medics and military police to quickly process patients and dispense mock antibiotics.
They were able to handle about 200 patients an hour, each leaving the gym with an empty pill bottle.
“People will get the right medication at the right time,” Howell said.
While the drill centered on an imaginary infection, the procedures used could come in handy against all kinds of disasters, including the hurricanes menacing the East Coast and the wildfires raging in the West.
Howell said the common key to dealing with disasters is keeping track of people and efficiently meeting their needs.
“This operation is to make sure we screen people properly,” she said.
Away from the gym, the exercise drilled other troops in disaster skills. The hospital’s nurses and medics trained with a mass casualty exercise, overwhelming the emergency room with dozens of mock patients in need.
The post’s firefighters and ambulance crews also practiced their tactics for dealing with simultaneous emergencies.
Most Army training drills focus on combat troops, who learn how to use their weaponry and work as a team.
This one had the doctors and nurses in the spotlight.
“We are usually in the background,” Howell said.
But putting medical crews on the front lines for training has given Fort Carson piles of new plans that can be quickly implemented.
At the same briefing, Brett McGurk the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, said the flow of foreign fighters had nearly stopped, and the group’s funding is at its “lowest level ever.”
McGurk pointed to ISIS’ own propaganda, which “about a year ago” stopped advising foreign fighters to come to Syria as the group was losing badly on the ground.
ISIS used to hold significant cities and oilfields in Iraq and Syria, but recent US-backed offensives have relegated them to a section of desert along the Iraqi-Syrian border, effectively trapping them.
Initially, after declaring the “caliphate,” or territory under ISIS’ ultra-hardline Islamic control in 2014, ISIS fighters proved potent on the battlefield rolling back Iraqi security forces. But after a US-led intervention that ultimately gained support from 75 countries, the terror group has nearly imploded.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may need to organize an intervention with his family, since some of his cousins are Islamic militants hellbent on toppling his government.
Duterte claimed in an interview last week that some in his own family had joined militant groups that had been fighting in the Philippines for decades, including the so-called Islamic State, which has partnered with local insurgencies who wish to become affiliates.
“To be frank, I have cousins on the other side, with MI and MN,” Duterte told the Philippines news site Rappler, using shortened acronyms for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also known as MILF, and the Moro National Liberation Front. “Some, I heard, are with ISIS.”
Though Duterte is known for his bloody war against drug dealers, the insurgency in the southern Philippines has been growing in recent years, and ISIS has made significant progress in the region. Both the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute have reportedly pledged allegiance to the terror group.
A bomb blast at a night market in Davao City killed at least 14 people and injured more than 60 in September, and on Christmas Eve, 13 people were injured in a bombing outside a church in Midsayap, Rappler reported. Just this morning, Reuters reported that insurgents attacked a prison in the south and freed more than 150 inmates. Initial information pointed to the MILF group’s involvement.
When asked what he would say to his cousins who may have joined ISIS if he were in the same room, Duterte told Rappler: “Let’s be understanding to each other. You are you and I am I, and I said, if we meet in one corner, so be it.”
Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who lives in constant fear of assassination, has reportedly hired Russian ex-KGB bodyguards to protect him in case of an attempt on his life.
Japan’s Asahi Shinbum reported that Kim hired about 10 former KGB counter-terrorism agents to train his bodyguards on how to detect and respond to terrorist attacks.
The KGB, the former Soviet Union’s main security and spy agency, had decades of practice in defending high-value targets against attempts at regime change.
The source told Asahi Shinbum that Kim was particularly scared of US advanced-weapons systems, like the Gray Eagle drone the US is set to operate in South Korea in 2018.
However, it’s unclear how counter-terrorism bodyguards could protect Kim against a drone high in the sky raining down bombs.
South Korean media has reported that the US and South Korea have been working together on a “decapitation force” to kill the North Korean leader in the event that Pyongyang becomes intolerably aggressive.
Kim has a history of going to extreme measures to shore up his reign over North Korea, with some reports saying he killed his half-brother Kim Jong Nam to thwart a Chinese-backed coup attempt.
The media’s craze surrounding possible Russian interference with the US election through hacking isn’t going away anytime soon. Though the hype is primarily political, it’s important to separate fact from fantasy.
Tangibly, the overarching processes that corporations and nation-states use to gain advantage over a competitor or adversary are quite common. It’s important to evaluate how these attacks are used in the world today. The two main vectors used to attempt to exploit our election were Spear-Phishing and Spoofing.
Spear-phishing targets select groups of people that share common traits. In the event of the Russian hack, the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, and affiliated non-governmental organizations (companies, organizations, or individuals loyal to Russia), sent phishing emails to members of local US governments, and the companies that developed the voting-registration systems.
Their intent was to establish a foothold on a victim’s computer, so as to perpetrate further exploitation. The end-result of that exploitation could allow manipulation and exfiltration of records, the establishment of a permanent connection to the computer, or to pivot to other internal systems.
Spoofing is an act in which one person or program successfully masquerades as another by falsifying data, thus gaining an illicit benefit. Most people understand spoofing in terms of email, whereby an attacker spoofs, or mimics, a legitimate email in order to solicit information, or deploy an exploit.
As it relates to the Russian situation, spoofing a computer’s internet protocol (IP) address, system name, and more, could have allowed a successful spear-phisher to bypass defenses and pivot to other internal systems. This kind of act is so trivial, some techniques are taught in basic hacking courses.
Ignore the Hype
What we know from reporting, as backed by unauthorized disclosures, is that defense mechanisms appear to have caught each of the spear-phishing and spoof attempts. Simply put, there is no information to suggest Russia had success.
For political reasons, politicians have worked hard to make this a major talking-point. However, these same politicos cannot speak in absolutes, because there simply wasn’t a successful breach—let alone one able to compromise the integrity of our national election.
One piece of information to note: these attacks are some of the most common seen in the cyber world. There is nothing revolutionary about these vectors, or how they are employed against government, commercial, and financial targets. This isn’t to suggest it is a moral or acceptable practice, rather the reality of life in the Information Age.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a note about the way Hollywood (and media in general) portrays hacking in a way that is mystical and comical. The portrayals only serve to conflate an issue that is easily managed with thoughtful consideration and implementation of best-practices.
It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.
What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.
Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.
“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.
Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:
“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”
Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.
A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.
Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.
Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.
1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.
Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.
A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.
So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.
Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.
While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.
Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.
More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.
The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.
The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.
In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.
But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.
Two proposals concerning Amazon’s controversial facial recognition software failed to pass at the company’s shareholders meeting on May 22, 2019, according to reports from CNET and TechCrunch.
The first proposal would have prevented the Seattle tech giant from selling the software — called Rekognition — to the government, while the other would have required an independent human rights group to study the technology.
The decision marks a contentious turning point in a saga that put Amazon at odds with activist shareholders and civil rights groups, which have vocally opposed government use of facial recognition due to privacy concerns.
But with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos controlling a significant, though not a majority, stake in the company he founded and many large institutional shareholders holding similar voting rights as Bezos, it was a long shot that the proposals would pass.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Rekognition, which Amazon launched in 2016, can identify people and objects in both videos and photos and has been used by government groups as well as media organizations. Amazon said the software has been used to rescue victims of human trafficking, for example, and Sky News used it to identify celebrities attending the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last year.
But the technology has been heavily criticized by civil rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has raised concerns over Rekognition’s accuracy and its potential to be used for surveillance. Last July, the organization found that the facial recognition software incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress with images of people who had been arrested. Prior to May 22, 2019’s meeting, the ACLU published an open letter urging shareholders to back both proposals.
Amazon has said in a previous statement to Business Insider that it has been working with working with academics, researchers, customers, and lawmakers to balance the “benefits of facial recognition technology with the potential risks.”
The decision comes after Amazon unsuccessfully requested that the SEC block the proposals in January. The company is expected to share a filing with the final vote tally later this week.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Carolina National Guard soldiers escorted four WWII veterans and their families to 75th-anniversary liberation celebrations Sept. 11-17, 2019.
The veterans served in the 30th Infantry Division, known as Old Hickory, and helped to liberate Belgium and the Netherlands from German occupation in September 1944.
Throughout the week, the Old Hickory veterans were honored with ceremonies, dinners, hugs, and a parade through Maastricht in the Limburg Province.
The soldiers and WWII veterans enjoyed the festivities, as well as the smaller, more personal moments.
“The most emotional part for me was when George Ham visited the spot where his battle buddy was killed,” said Maj. Kevin Hinton, deputy commander for the NCNG’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “George served in Charlie Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, and that’s who I served with in Iraq in 2004.”
WWII Veterans who served in the 30th Infantry Division, and North Carolina National Guard soldiers visit the graves of 30th Inf. Div. soldiers buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands on Sept. 12, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
Hinton, vice president of the 30th Infantry Division Association, said he felt a connection to what the WWII veteran was going through.
“Part of George’s emotion is that he was supposed to be that guy, but he switched positions,” Hinton said. “There’s probably some survivor’s guilt on his part, and I’ve been there. I understand that feeling.”
The N.C. Guard soldiers were all veterans of the same unit, having served in Iraq with the now reorganized 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team, and acted as representatives of the Guard and the 30th Infantry Division Association, a membership group for veterans of the unit.
The trip affected not only the 30th Infantry Division veterans but also currently serving soldiers who were part of the liberation celebrations.
“It gives value to my own sense of service and what I’m doing now by serving,” said Col. Wes Morrison, the North Carolina Army National Guard chief of staff. “I see that folks appreciate, across the world, what the United States Army has done for the world at different times. Your service means something and it means something to not just Americans, but people across the world.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division were honored with a ceremony and parade through the City of Maastricht in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands that ended in a festival on Sept. 14, 2019, in celebration of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Limburg Provence by 30th Inf. Div. soldiers in September of 1944.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
The group was able to visit the same places where the 30th Infantry Division fought back the German occupation and other places where they were able to rest after almost 90 days of being on the front lines.
One of those places was the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, a rest center for soldiers after the liberation. While there, some of the current Soldiers took a photo in the same courtyard where a formation of Old Hickory soldiers took a photo 75 years ago.
Hinton hoped this trip would help build a bond between the new generation of Old Hickory veterans and the people of the Limburg province to continue the tradition.
“It’s a part of the history of the 30th and the North Carolina National Guard,” Hinton said. “We need to educate our young soldiers on the history of what the 30th has done. When the WWII veterans are long gone, the U.S. and the Netherlands will still exist, and we have to maintain this and remember what they did. Like someone said in one of the speeches, the beginnings of the European Union started with the liberation and the desire for Europe to never go through that again.”
WWII Veterans who served with the 30th Infantry Division, visit the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in Belgium on Sept. 15, 2019, where more than 300 Old Hickory soldiers who died during WWII are buried.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mary Junell)
As the soldiers, veterans, and their families prepared to travel home, many were heard to say “see you in five years,” anticipating the 80th anniversary of the liberation.
Even though the WWII veterans may no longer be able to make the trip, Morrison thought it was important the tradition continues.
“If we honor the veterans of the past, we bring more value to the service that we have today,” Morrison said. “You wear the uniform in the current unit, you’re wearing Old Hickory. You now have the responsibility of that lineage and history of that unit on your back. We can’t let them down. The history they created here, the high bar, high standard for performance of duty and what they did here, 75 years ago is something we have to keep in the back of our minds all the time.”
Azerbaijani T-72’s lead BMP’s during the military exercises on May 20, 2020. (Photo by Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense/released)
At the end of May, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense announced the conclusion of their Large-Scale Operational-Tactical Exercises as part of their combat training plan for 2020. The week-long exercises included some 10,000 military personnel, 120 tanks and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to a statement from the Azerbaijan MOD, “During the exercise, the combat readiness, planning and operation of various military units will be developed, and the small and large scale capabilities of the strike groups will be checked.” The MOD released a statement at the conclusion of the exercises stating, “According to the exercises leadership’s evaluation, the troops fully achieved the goals assigned during the completed exercises. The military personnel amassed its practical experience and skills in carrying out combat operations and also demonstrated real abilities in the field.”
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises can be likened to exercises held at Fort Irwin, CA and Fort Polk, LA, the U.S. Army National Training Center and Joint Readiness Training Center respectively. Units come to these training centers to validate their planning, tactics, crews, and equipment in preparation for deployment.
However, rotations to NTC and JRTC were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the Washington Army National Guard and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, NY were on deck for the now-cancelled NTC and JRTC rotations. In lieu of their training exercises, the 81st BCT was made available to Washington state governor Jay Inslee to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2nd BCT remained at Fort Drum to continue to train for their next mission. NTC and JRTC rotations have yet to be rescheduled.
Soldiers train for their worst day of combat in “The Box”. (U.S. Army photo from army.mil/released)
U.S. relations with Azerbaijan began immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 when the U.S. formally recognized 12 former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, as independent states. In March 1992, respective embassies were opened in Washington and Baku. Due to its strategic location in the region, Azerbaijan has been an integral contributor in the War on Terror. The country has provided troops as well as overflight, refueling, and landing rights to U.S. and coalition aircraft in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, at the height of combat operations, over one-third of nonlethal equipment such as fuel, food, and clothing used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan traveled through Baku.
Relations have also been influenced by the ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1988, the local Karabakh provincial government appealed to the Soviet Union to transfer them from the Azerbaijani SSR to the Armenian SSR. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region and Armenia held spontaneous mass demonstrations, the first of their kind in the USSR, in support of the appeal. The demonstrations sparked clashes between Azeris and ethnic Armenians in the Karabakh region, which continued through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Clashes turned into a bona fide war in January 1992 when the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament declared the region’s independence and intention to join with Armenia. Formal hostilities ended in May 1994 with a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the de facto independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh/Republic of Artsakh. However, the region is still recognized by most nations as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Consequently, clashes have continued to erupt along the border to this day.
Ethnic Armenians of the Artsakh Armed Forces conduct exercises in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Photo by the Artsakh Defense Ministry/released)
The Azerbaijani Military Exercises have raised alarm and garnered condemnation from the Armenian MOD.
“It is noteworthy that the exercises are exclusively offensive in nature, during which massive strikes of missile-artillery, aviation, and high-precision weapons at the operational depth of the enemy will be utilized,” the Armenian MOD stated, calling them, “a threat to the regional security environment.”
On May 20th, the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ) penned a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper expressing concern over the Azerbaijani Military Exercises and a 0 million allocation of U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan. The letter was co-signed by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) as well as Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ),Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Juan Vargas (D-CA). The full text of the letter to Secretaries Pompeo and Esper is reprinted below.
Dear Secretaries Pompeo and Esper:
We are gravely concerned about the military exercises reported to be held by the Republic of Azerbaijan from May 18 to 22, 2020. These exercises are dangerous, violate diplomatic agreements and have the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and threatened the health of many more. We strongly urge the Department of State and the Department of Defense to condemn these egregious actions taken by the Azerbaijani military.
Even in normal circumstances, these exercises would be unacceptable due to their offensive nature and the failure to follow diplomatic notification practices. On May 14, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released information describing military exercises that would take place from May 18 to 22. Azeri reports state that the exercises are expected to include 10,000 servicemen, 120 artillery and armored vehicles, 200 missile systems, 30 aviation units, and various unmanned aerial vehicles. The failure to provide adequate notification as prescribed under the 2011 Vienna Document and the size of the exercises demonstrates Azerbaijani President Aliyev’s intention of further aggravating historical tensions with the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
We are especially concerned that over 0 million in security assistance the United States has sent to Azerbaijan over the last two years through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program has emboldened the Aliyev regime. This taxpayer funding defies almost two decades of parity in U.S. security assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The aid appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019.
We cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations. We urge you to immediately condemn the reckless actions of the Azerbaijani military and to work with our allies and international partners to halt the provocative actions being taken by the Aliyev Regime.
We look forward to your prompt reply to this request.
U.S. Representative Frank Pallone. (U.S. House of Representative Official Portrait, 113th Congress/released)
The following day, May 21, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy announced during a Facebook Live appearance that the Trump administration is ending USAID’s humanitarian Artsakh demining program. In response to criticism over the defunding of the program, Ambassador Tracy underscored the benefits of the demining program and its successes over the past 20 years, but noted that the U.S. is, “preparing populations for peace…to help toward that goal of achieving a lasting peaceful settlement of the conflict.”
For decades, this region and its inhabitants have navigated a tumultuous era of changing borders and armed conflict. The U.S. has had to walk a fine line between these two conflicting nations as they continue to clash, both politically and militarily, over this area in the Caucasus region. This path of attempted neutrality between the two nations may not be an option for the U.S. in the future if tensions continue to rise.
Nagorno-Karabakh Army T-72 tanks on parade. (Photo by the Nagorno-Karabakh Army/released)
Disclaimer: The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the Republic of Artsakh refer to the same region. Nagorno-Karabakh is derived from the Soviet name for this region and recognized by Azerbaijan and the international community, while Artsakh is the Armenian name for this region and utilized by Armenians to advocate for the sovereignty of the region. The people of the region generally prefer the Republic of Artsakh, but both are technically correct.
Base leaders greet General Jay Raymond, U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, on their helicopter pad Jan. 10, 2020, on Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota. Raymond arrived to Cavalier after visiting the University of North Dakota, where he toured the new Walking Space Studies facility and spoke with Reserve Officer Training Corps and Space Studies students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melody Howley)
It’s easy to joke about the Space Force. From their ridiculous motto to their seal, it seems like the leadership for America’s newest military branch is just asking to be the butt of jokes. Space Force is the sixth branch of our military and the first new branch since the Air Force’s creation way back in 1947. At least the Air Force had a precursor (the Army Air Corps) and a definite need. With the Space Force, we’re not so sure.
We’re no closer to getting personnel on the moon than we were back in 1947, and it seems like everyone from Netflix to Star Trek is getting in on the jokes.
Now Space Force just made it a whole lot easier.
In September, a squadron of 20 airmen deployed for Space Force’s first foreign deployment – all the way to far off distant Dubai, UAE. The squad was sworn in as Space Force recruits at the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, becoming the military’s newest first foreign deployed trips. What makes this swearing-in unique is that all 20 squad members were already searching overseas with the Air Force. The group of enlisted and commissioned Airmen assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and the 609th Air Operations Center was deployed to Qatar. With their swearing-in comes a new uniform and a new place to call home for a while.
Air Force Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Forces of US Air Forces CENTCOM, said that the group was making history as the 20 members officially switched branches from the Air Force to the Space Force. The ceremony officially transferred Space Operations and Airmen in core space career fields, including space operations and space system operations. In the future, ceremonies will induct professions in common career fields like acquisitions, intelligence, engineering fields, and cybersecurity.
According to a press release, the squad has been stationed in the UAE as part of support for combat operations.
During the swearing-in ceremony at Al Udeid, the newest Space Force personnel were flanked by American flags and massive satellites. Soon more will join the “core space operators” to help run satellites, track enemy maneuvers, and avoid conflicts that happen in space.
Benson reiterated that the missions aren’t new, and neither are the personnel. But what is new is the price tag. The force is expected to grow to at least 16,000 troops by 2021 and have a budget of 15.4 billion. Some leadership worries this entire project is a vanity push for President Trump ahead of next month’s election, though there’s no conclusive evidence to support that.
The growing concerns over the weaponization of outer space are conversations that senior military leaders have been having for decades. As outer space ownership becomes increasingly contested, many cite the need to have a space corps devoted specifically to American interests.
Of course, military presence in the Middle East is nothing new. We’ve been there in some capacity for generations.
But according to historians, the Middle East might just be where the first “space war” was actually fought – that is, if you’re willing to accept the use of a satellite-based GPS mission as a “space war.” During the 1991 Desert Storm operation, US troops used satellites to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, making military history in the process.
Since the 1991 use of satellites in combat, threats from global agitators have grown. In his briefing welcoming the newest personnel, Benson declined to name the “aggressive” nations the Space Force will monitor and track. Unsurprisingly, the decision to deploy the Space Force to the UAE comes just months after the ramp-up of tensions between the US and Iran.
The 16th Space Control Flight, part of the 21st Operations Group, was operational from 1967 until 1994. It was reactivated in 2007, and its mission is to protect critical satellite communication links to detect, characterize, and report sources of electromagnetic interference.
The US Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait Nov. 28, 2018, just days ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, accompanied by the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos, transited the strait, US Pacific Fleet explained to Business Insider in an emailed statement.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Dave Werner, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told BI. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The move could be seen as a message to China, which the US has accused of intimidation and coercion in the region, behavior that runs contrary to the US vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The US military has used similar rhetoric for freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and other activities in that area that have at times run afoul of Chinese interests.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale.
The US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam — through the strait in October 2018. A similar operation was carried out in July 2018, when the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed between mainland China and Taiwan.
Beijing is extremely sensitive to US military maneuvers near Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province.
The US Navy’s moves through the Taiwan Strait come just before Trump is expected to sit down to dinner with Xi at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of different issues, ranging from trade to tensions at sea, during their meeting.
In recent months, the US Air Force has repeatedly flown B-52 bombers over the South China Sea. In September 2018, a US Navy destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands, where it was challenged by a Chinese warship that forced the American vessel off course.
Despite some goodwill gestures, such as the recent port call by the USS Ronald Reagan in Hong Kong, tensions between Washington and Beijing persist.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.