Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

ISIS terrorists have taken over vast swaths of Iraq and Syria and attracted thousands of new recruits, but the group has also brought some of its former adversaries back into the fight: American military personnel.


Known as the Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL, it is the Islamist militant group responsible for ethnic cleansing, mass rape, and the destruction of antiquities throughout Iraq and Syria. The Arabs fighting the group call them Daesh, which is an acronym of the group’s name in Arabic and also happens to mean “a bigot who imposes his views on others” (and they will cut out your tongue for calling them that).

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
But they’ll hurt or kill you for pretty much anything, so…

The group started out as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq, then merged with other groups as Zarqawi was killed and the U.S.-led war in Iraq continued. It took many forms and went underreported in the West until after the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011. In 2013, the group split from Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliated Sunni group fighting the Asad government in Syria, declaring a new Islamic State, a caliphate — which muslim groups around the world (including al-Qaeda) flatll condemned. In 2014, when a string of military victories against Iraqi government forces saw Daesh approaching Baghdad on one front and trapping thousands of ethnic Yazidis on Mount Sinjar in Northern Iraq. The Yazidis were sure to be slaughtered if Daesh forces caught up to them. Who saved the Yazidis from certain death? The Kurds.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
If this were a video, they’d be walking in slow motion.

The Kurdish militia in Iraq, the Peshmerga, are the most effective fighting force in the region. Their sister service in Syria, the YPG, are battle hardened from fighting the Asad government and other Islamist faction in the Civil War since 2011. NATO air power provided cover for the already-capable Kurdish ground forces makes the Kurdish militia the best hope for pushing Daesh back into Syria and then cutting off their ability to win followers and wage war. Daesh is well-armed, well-equipped, and well-financed, while the Kurdish Peshmerga need all the help they can get.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
A Jewish volunteer spray-painted on the walls of a captured ISIS stronghold (FB Photo: Lions of Rojava)

Reminiscent of the Spanish Civil War before World War II — when foreigners flocked to that fight — people are coming from all over the world to fight ISIS. Called Heval (“friend”) by their Kurdish allies, Americans are joining the Peshmerga’s International Brigade, the Syrian YPG’s Lions of Rojava, or a number of other Kurdish units fighting Daesh, and two-thirds of them are U.S. military veterans. Former Army reservists, Marines, Rangers, and other U.S. military veterans are coming by the dozens, lest the Daesh brand of violence engulf the whole world, like Fascism did after the Spanish Civil War. Each has their own reason for coming, each left their own lives behind.

Jordan Matson, from Wisconsin, was among the first to volunteer. He didn’t spend a long time in the Army, but he’s ready to stay with the Kurds for the long haul.

As of September 2015, the YPG boasted more than a hundred American ex-military members. The Peshmerga had only a handful, as those who are discovered by U.S. forces in Iraq are routinely forced away from the front.

Sean Rowe is from Jacksonville, Florida. He did two tours in Iraq while in the Army.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

“This is something I feel compelled to do,” Rowe told his hometown newspaper. “Women and children are being slaughtered over there. They need our help. I know we can make a difference.” Rowe is an Ohio native who founded Veterans Against ISIS so he could “take the fight to them.”

Bruce Windorski is a 40-year-old former Army Ranger from Wisconsin. He is fighting in Syria with Jamie Lane, a decorated Marine veteran from California. Windorski’s brother was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Kirkuk. He originally ventured to Kirkuk to make peace with that. He went to fight in Syria instead. Lane saw footage of ISIS capturing Anbar province, where he served during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Lane in Iraq

“My friends were killed on these very streets,” Lane told the Wall Street Journal. “I felt a big part of my PTSD is trying to find a reason for that mayhem and bloodshed, and I thought maybe if I go back I can fill that hole.”

Lane joined through the Lions of Rojava Facebook Page, which advertises: “Welcome to our Family Brothers and Sisters. Join YPG…and send ISIS terrorists to Hell and save Humanity.” Some even come back to America to help other veterans get into the fight. Lu Lobello of Las Vegas, Nev. is one such veteran.

“America is not fighting Islamic State,” Lobello, a Marine, told the Wall Street Journal. “But Americans are.”

In the video above, the Americans recall being pinned down as ISIS fighters closed in on their position, saved at the last minute by an armored Kurdish bulldozer. They hopped in while the driver covered their movement and drove the dozer with his feet.

“There’s evil in this world that needs to be dealt with,” Kurt Taylor, a former soldier from Texas told Fox News. “They’re no joke. They’re very disciplined, highly effective fighters. If we’re not careful, they’ll win.”

With Taylor is an unnamed Marine from Washington State and Aaron Core, a former Tennessee National Guardsman whose tour in Iraq ended in 2010. When the terrorist organization killed journalist James Foley in August of 2014, he was determined to come back. They do not get paid for their time with the Kurds.

Samantha Johnston left her three children with a care taker and came to Iraq to help the children there.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

“These children here who are homeless, orphaned; mothers and sisters have been raped and sold, fathers who have been killed,” Johnston told the Daily Mail. “They are suffering, and I knew that I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. I couldn’t look my children in the eyes and say, ‘I didn’t do anything to help.'”

Patrick Maxwell is a real estate agent in Austin, Texas. When he was in Iraq as part of his Marine Corps duties, he never saw the enemy, never fired a shot. Maxwell, who separated in 2011 and had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life, still considers himself a warrior.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Maxwell in a YouTube video

“I figured if I could walk away from here and kill as many of the bad guys as I could,” Maxwell told the New York Times. “That would be a good thing.”

Roberto Pena joined the Marines in 2001 and deployed to Iraq in 2003. He fought as a Rifleman in the Battle of Fallujah in 2004 and fully understands the risks of going back to fight ISIS today.

“It’s about humanity itself,” he told NBC San Diego. “We cannot let atrocities continue to happen and history keep repeating itself, where we just turn a blind eye.”

This month, a UK-based investigative journalism organization called Bellingcat released the results of a study it conducted on why Americans go to fight ISIS. Like the few mentioned here, some go out of a sense of moral need, some go for religious beliefs, and some are veterans who struggle to rejoin civilian life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klNTv9P8sYg

Americans who go off to Iraq and Syria to join Daesh face numerous criminal charges if they return. That isn’t so for those going off to fight them. Governments of Canada and the Netherlands openly say there are no consequences for citizens going to fight ISIS in Iraq or Syria.

Running off to join the Kurdish fighters is easy, but not without its risks, of course. In June, Keith Broomfield of Massachusetts died during the battle for Kobani, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border. Broomfield believed a divine message told him to fight for the Kurds. Turkey has since entered the conflict and as part of its ongoing war with Kurdish separatists, has taken to bombing Kurdish positions where Western fighters might gather before advancing on ISIS positions. Looming large, too, is the prospect of being captured by Daesh.

The Peshmerga have since stopped accepting foreign volunteers. Other militias still do, but since most of the groups in the field in the region, including the YPG’s sister militia in Turkey, the Kurdistan Workers Party (or PKK) are considered terror groups by the United States and allies, the unwary volunteer my end up fighting for the wrong side.

 

NOW: Meet the “Angel of Death” who’s trolling and killing ISIS fighters

OR: This 25 year old mom left her three kids behind to fight ISIS

Articles

10 beautiful quotes about war from Shakespeare’s literature

Teenagers dread reading Shakespeare’s works because the old English can be difficult at times. In fact, Shakespeare deliberately made up words and expanded the English dictionary by extension. It is not hard to imagine a young mind shying away from his written works. However, Shakespeare did not just write about love, but also war. His take on the art of destruction still echoes today.

The arms are fair, when the intent of bearing them is just.

Henry IV

I interpret this as another way of saying “the end justifies the means.” Men can do great things when they believe their cause is just. However, the most evil men who have ever existed believed they were doing good. In essence, to fight, we must be right.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Pictured: People who thought they were the “good guys.” (U.S. Army photo)

Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Até by his side come hot from hell, shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice Cry “Havoc,” and let slip the dogs of war.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was one of the greatest warriors in the history of warfare. Shakespeare’s depiction of him is equally as epic. This quote in particular is famously quoted across many movies and TV shows.

War gives the right to the conquerors to impose any condition they please upon the vanquished.

Julius Caesar

This one is self-evident.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Japanese General Yoshijiro Umezu signs the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on board the USS Missouri, Sept. 2, 1945. (DoD photo)

In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.

Julius Caesar

We can all think of a war or two that were started by asinine reasons. One war was literally fought over a stolen bucket. Other times trivial causes for war are used to justify military action without being ousted as an aggressor.

Your breath first kindled the dead coal of wars and brought in matter that should feed this fire; and now ’tis far too huge to be blown out with that same weak wind which enkindled it.

King John

It’s easier to start a war than to end one. The same goes for trying to control the scope of the war. Things can get out of hand quickly, and stay in chaos for years to come.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
(U.S. Army photo)

I’ll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked.

Macbeth

Throughout history, countless troops on the losing side of a battle have fought to the last breath. Their stories are often retold as our tales of patriotic heroism.

A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.

Much Ado About Nothing

This is true. It is much better to cross the wire and return with all your troops, even if there was no contact with the enemy. However, if there is an enemy and there are no friendly casualties in combat, it is definitely double the cause to celebrate.

He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made.

Henry V

Not everybody is cut out for combat. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
)U.S. Air Force photo by Alejandro Peña)

Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!

Richard III

Pre-battle speeches are paramount to get the troops fired up. Speaking of war speeches, my favorite film speech is from “We Were Soldiers” delivered by Mel Gibson in his role of Lt. Colonel Hal Moore.

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor.

William Shakespeare

Another that might be self-evident, but carries no less weight. The reason for this warning has played out countless times in human history.

MIGHTY CULTURE

From green to gold

The longevity of a service member’s career is a complicated equation. Perhaps even more so for the enlisted track, which boasts more active-duty soldiers than the Officer Corps. Joining the leadership ranks without foregoing pay or benefits is the secret weapon of candidates who pursue the Green to Gold Active Duty Program — a two-year program providing eligible, active-duty enlisted soldiers an opportunity to complete a baccalaureate degree or a two-year graduate degree and earn a commission as an Army officer.

The question of what’s next can often stem from frustration with career plateau or restrictions within a particular MOS, leading many to answer the unknown by leaving the military. What is known is that experienced, confident soldiers make influential leaders — an important characteristic of any officer. The Army also needs people at the helm who can take charge in any scenario, regardless of the circumstances.

Army officers are often put under extreme stress with enormous responsibilities and expectations. Non-commissioned officers are naturally adept to meeting these challenges head on. Skillsets acquired through combat, field maneuvers or operations, plus professional development add unparalleled insight to the success of mission planning that officers are responsible for.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

Sgt. First Class Adam Cain with his family.

“I joined the Army straight out of high school. I’m not the same soldier that I was back then, and I wanted my career to reflect that maturation,” Sgt. First Class Adam Cain, current Green to Gold cadet, said about his reasons for joining the program.

Advanced training, schools and two combat deployments kept Cain searching for the next level of success within his service.

“This is me staying competitive and making a tangible impact, while taking into consideration the quality of life for my family,” Cain said.

Completing a degree means potential candidates need to begin earning credits well before application.

“The Army wants the best, and becoming the best requires a dedication to this choice, the selection process, and the development of yourself,” Army Staff Sgt. Elijah Redmond, current applicant hopeful, said.

Utilizing programs like tuition assistance — a free option to earn college credits without utilizing the G.I. Bill benefits, is just one possibility to become a more attractive candidate before completing an application packet.

The Army offers four different options within the program. The active duty option, which is discussed here, is a highly–competitive process, with the biggest perk being soldiers remain on active–duty pay and with full benefits throughout the duration of their college studies.

Both the university and the Army will pass its own independent decisions on accepting applicants.

“Staying hopeful, hungry, and positive is important,” Redmond, who was at the second of two phases of the process at the time of this interview, said. The two-phase process takes an in–depth look into GPA, GT scores, PT score, medical history and more.

Do prior enlisted officers hold the potential to advance companies faster, and with better operational knowledge than their peers?

“Coming into this new role, I will be highly aware of the role my words, actions, and decisions will play in the goal of creating soldiers,” Cain, who experienced firsthand how toxic and unaware leadership affects morale, explained.

“What we (prior enlisted) bring to this side of leading, is a comprehensive look at all working components of a unit,” Redmond said. He hopes to gain commission within his current MOS field: military police.

The Army invests millions in training a soldier into the precise and highly–capable person he or she is destined to become. Soldiers like Cain and Redmond understand that value and are looking for the best ways to utilize their skillsets with maximum impact. The beneficiaries of trained leaders are no doubt the company, soldiers, and missions which fall under their command. Not having to teach the nuances of Army life means skipping ahead to the more important details, diving deeper into development, and achieving a higher success rate overall.

While the selection process may appear overwhelming, both applicants and the Army information page recommend checking out the Green to Gold Facebook page, which is regularly updated with helpful tips and information at https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Government-Organization/US-Army-Cadet-Command-Green-to-Gold-Program-300473013696291/.

Visit https://www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs/current-and-prior-service/advance-your-career/green-to-gold/green-to-gold-active-duty.html for the application process.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos in just one week-long period

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE

Pilots from the 317th Airlift Group, stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, fly a C-130J Super Hercules at Polk Army Airfield, La. The 317th AG delivered U.S. Army Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Polk Army Airfield during a Global Force Readiness Exercise. The exercise exhibited the partnership between the Air Force and Army and their ability to execute personnel airdrop from a large formation.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Senior Airman Peter Thompson/USAF

The MC-130P Combat Shadow team performs the final checks before takeoff on Kadena Air Base, Japan. The 17th Special Operations Squadron sent off the final two Combat Shadows in the Pacific Air Forces to retire to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Airman 1st Class Stephen G. Eigel/USAF

NAVY

PATUXENT RIVER, Md. (April 22, 2015) The Navy’s unmanned X-47B receives fuel from an Omega K-707 tanker while operating in the Atlantic Test Ranges over the Chesapeake Bay. This test marked the first time an unmanned aircraft refueled in flight.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Liz Wolter/USN

Sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) participate in a swim call. Iwo Jima is the flagship for the Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24th MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci/ USN

ARMY

Congratulations to the 2015 Best Sapper Competition winners, 1st Lt. Daniel Foky and Sgt. Brandon Loeder, assigned to 127th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Pictured below,Foky andLoeder in the lead during the poncho-raft swim event, April 21, 2015, on the first day of the competition. The 2015 Best Sapper Competition, held at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. took competitors across 50 miles in 50 hours of back to back events. The 46 teams came from as far as Alaska and Hawaii to compete.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: US Army

Soldiers, assigned to 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, load munitions onto an AH-64 Apache helicopter during an aerial gunnery exercise April 22, 2015, at Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, in Pocheon, Republic of Korea.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Sgt. Jesse Smith/US Army

MARINE CORPS

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California – Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone. The Marines, students of the Basic Reconnaissance Course, took turns being hoisted into the air by helicopter during the SPIE portion of their Helicopter Rope Suspension Training. During the course of HRST the students learn SPIE rigging, rappelling and fast rope techniques.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Lance Cpl Asia J. Sorenson/USMC

ZAMBALES, Philippines – ZAMBALES, Philippines – Amphibious Assault Vehicles land ashore during a bilateral amphibious landing by the Philippine and U.S. Marine Corps, April 21, on North Beach at the Naval Education Training Center in Zambales, Philippines, as part of exercise Balikatan 2015

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Cpl. Matthew Bragg

COAST GUARD

Petty Officer Jon Emerson helps three survivors out of a helicopter at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. Earlier today, the men were rescued from a life raft 57 miles off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska, after their fishing vessel sank.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: USCG

Rough week? Here’s a dose of “Aloha” from Base Honolulu to get you through the rest of it!

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: USCG

NOW: Legendary Gen. James Mattis has an inspiring message for all Post-9/11 veterans

OR: Watch JR Martinez and Noah Galloway talk ‘Dancing with the Stars’:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will reactivate the Atlantic fleet to support NATO

Growing tensions with Russia have led NATO and its members to make a number of changes to their military posture on the ground in Europe, and now the US is reactivating its Second Fleet to oversee the northern Atlantic Ocean and US East Coast.

The Second Fleet was deactivated in September 2011 after 65 years of service as part of a cost-saving and organizational-restructuring effort; many of its personnel and responsibilities were folded into US Fleet Forces Command. The announcement of its reactivation came during the change-of-command ceremony for US Fleet Forces Command, to which the Second Fleet commander will now report.


Second Fleet’s return is part of a shift by the US toward preparing for potential great-power conflict — and to counter Russia in particular.

“Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we’re back in an era of great-power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of US Naval Operations, said on April 4, 2018.

“Second Fleet will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” Richardson said. It will also plan and conduct maritime, joint, and combined operations and train, certify, and provide maritime forces in response events around the world.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, October 25, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

The fleet will be activated on July 1, 2018, and initially be staffed by 11 officers and four enlisted personnel, eventually growing to 85 officers, 164 enlisted personnel, and seven civilians, according to a memo announcing the change obtained by US Naval Institute News.

Issues such as the rank of the commander and relationship with joint commandant commands remain to be decided.

Also unclear is the future of Fourth Fleet, which is the naval branch of US Southern Command set up in 2008, largely to host Coast Guard law-enforcement detachments. Prior to 2008, the Second Fleet was responsible for operations in Central and South American waters.

The ‘fourth battle of the Atlantic’

Prior to the 2014 seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine by Russian forces, Navy forces on the US side of the Atlantic Ocean were mainly focused on humanitarian and disaster relief missions as well as drug interdiction.

But Russian naval activity has increased considerably in recent years, with several NATO officials describing it as being at the highest levels since the Cold War. (Though Cold War-era intelligence reports indicate that activity is still far short of Cold War peaks.)

Russia’s navy is also smaller than it was during the Cold War, but Moscow has pursued ambitious modernization efforts, focusing primarily on the Black Sea and Northern fleets. The latter force, based in and around the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic, represents a significant military force a short distance from NATO territory in Norway and contains Russia’s sea-based nuclear forces.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
US sailors from Virginia-class attack sub USS California load an MK-48 inert training torpedo at Naval Station Rota, Spain, January 13, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael C. Barton)

In 2016, US Navy Adm. James Foggo III, who is now chief of Naval Forces Europe, described tensions between Russia and the US as the “fourth battle of the Atlantic,” following the surface and submarine battles of World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us,” he said. “Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict.”

The US Navy has increased its patrols in the Baltic Sea, the North Atlantic, and the Arctic. US Navy ships have also been more active in the Black Sea to “desensitize Russia” to a US military presence there. US and Russian ships have also operated in close quarters in the eastern Mediterranean, where Russian forces are assisting the Bashar Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.

The Navy is also renovating hangers in Iceland to house P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft there to monitor the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a choke point for ships moving between the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans — though that doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.

NATO is making changes to its command structure in response to increased tension with Russia and to prepare for potential military operations on and around the continent.

In March 2018, Germany announced that the proposed NATO logistics command — which would work to streamline the movement of personnel and material around Europe — would be based in the southern city of Ulm.

The other new command the alliance wants to establish would oversee and protect the North Atlantic. In the event of conflict with Russia, it be responsible for keeping sea lanes open for US reinforcements heading to Europe.

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

Articles

The first time the US tested an EMP weapon was a doozy

It was 1962 and only four days after Independence Day, but people living on the islands dotting the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to New Zealand were about to see a light show brighter than any July Fourth fireworks display in history.


More ominously, many of those same people would get a taste of how a single nuclear weapon could wipe out a nation’s electrical grid – and the U.S. military at the time had no clue how damaging the results would be.

Codenamed Starfish Prime, it was part of a series of nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the Pentagon. Some of those tests included launches from Johnston Island of the U.S. Air Force’s PGM-17 Thor intermediate range ballistic missiles with live W49 thermonuclear warheads.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
The aurora from a U.S. nuclear test in space, dubbed Starfish Prime, could be seen as far away as Hawaii. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The purpose: rocket the warheads to the edge of space and detonate them to determine whether thermonuclear fireballs could be used to destroy incoming nuclear warheads from the Soviet Union.

Crazy? Perhaps – but keep in mind the events of the age.

In 1958, the Soviet Union called for a ban on atmospheric nuclear testing and abided by a self-imposed moratorium. Eventually, the United States followed suit. During 1959, neither superpower tested any nukes, but the brief lull in testing did not last. Soon, both nations were back at it.

In 1961, the Soviets detonated the humongous “Tsar Bomba.” Though capable of a 100 megaton yield, scientists decided to dial back Tsar Bomba’s destructive power to reduce the chance of fallout. At about 50 megatons, it still is the most powerful nuclear explosion in history. In fact, Tsar Bomba was so powerful, its heat caused third-degree burns on the exposed flesh of Soviet observers more than 60 miles away.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNYe_UaWZ3U
So, in a twisted, Cold War, Dr. Strangelove kind of way, launching nukes into space made sense.

Starfish Prime was really the third launch attempt for the U.S. – the first missile was destroyed seconds into its flight and the second blew up on the launch pad. Both incidents rained nuclear contamination down on the Johnston Island test facility.

But on July 9, 1962, the third Thor missile performed flawlessly and lifted its payload into space.

The 1.4 megaton warhead detonated about 240 miles above the Pacific Ocean – and then all hell broke loose.

“Most fortunately, these tests took place over Johnston Island in the mid-Pacific rather than the Nevada Test Site, or the electromagnetic pulse would still be indelibly imprinted in the minds of the citizenry of the western U.S., as well as in the history books,” Lowell Wood, a physicist and expert on EMP at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Congress in 2004. “As it was, significant damage was done to both civilian and military electrical systems throughout the Hawaiian Islands, over 800 miles away from ground zero.”

In Hawaii, the effects were almost immediate: streetlights blew out, circuit breakers tripped, telephone service crashed, aircraft radios malfunctioned, burglar alarms sounded, and garage door openers mysteriously activated.

As the flash from the nuclear explosion dimmed, an aurora formed in the sky that could be seen for thousands of miles. One reporter in Hawaii wrote, “For three minutes after the blast, the moon was centered in a sky partly blood-red and partly pink. Clouds appeared as dark silhouettes against the lighted sky.”

The high-energy radiation not only created a massive light show; it temporarily altered the shape of the Van Allen Belt – part of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth that actually protects the planet from solar storms that could destroy life on the world’s surface.

The Van Allen Belt had only been discovered four years earlier by University of Iowa physicist James A. Van Allen. The bands of high-energy particles held in place by strong magnetic fields were first seen as a threat to early space explorers – or a possible weapon to use against the Soviet Union.

In fact, there are historians of the Cold War who argue that there is compelling evidence indicating that both the United States and the Soviet Union contemplated exo-atmospheric nuclear explosions to blow up the Van Allen belt either to permit space travel or destroy their respective enemy.

Fortunately, there is no evidence that either the U.S. or Soviet nuclear testing in space permanently damaged the magnetosphere. As the weeks and months went by, however, there were other casualties from the Starfish Prime blast. At least six satellites – including Telstar, the world’s first telecommunications satellite – were either damaged or destroyed by passing through the lingering radiation belt left by the detonation.

Scientists and the military were stunned by the results of Starfish Prime. They knew about EMP, but the effects of the blast far exceeded their expectations.

Despite the very public detonation of the weapon, the cause of the power failures and satellite malfunctions remained secret for years, as did a new discussion that began: how a single nuclear weapon might be used to cripple a nation in one blow.

It is a discussion that continues to this day as those in the national security community consider how a weapon like Starfish Prime detonated over or near the United States could plunge the country into darkness.

Articles

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Look Ma! No pilot! (Or RIO, for that matter.) (Photo: U.S. Navy)


Phantom Phanatics have loved the F-4, even though the legendary fighter has been out of United States service for two decades. But that may not be an accurate way to think of it. Because theF-4 actually has still been serving – and still has about two months of life left with the United States Air Force.

According to an Air Force release, these Phantoms that have been serving just haven’t been manned – for the most part. QF-4 Phantoms (the Q standing for “drone”) have been providing “live” targets for the testing of air-to-air missiles (like the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM), usually by simulating an enemy aircraft during those tests. Any number of pilots who have used air-to-air missiles in combat can thank those target drones for helping make sure those missiles worked.

How did the Phantom provide two decades’ worth of target drones? Well, it’s not hard when you realize that almost 5,200 were built by McDonnell-Douglas. Now, that includes those that were exported, but even with combat losses in Vietnam (73 for the Navy, 75 for the Marine Corps, and 528 for the Air Force). The Air Force arranged for 324 airframes to become QF-4s. The Navy also used the QF-4 after retiring its last F-4 from USMC service in 1992 – getting another 12 years of service from the “Double Ugly” until the last airframe retired in 2004.

The QF-4s were not the first planes to serve as target drones. The QF-86 Sabre, QF-80 Shooting Star, QF-100 Super Sabre, and the QF-106 Delta Dart have been among former fighters that provided additional service beyond their “official” retirement date by serving as target drones. Even the legendary B-17 had a version that served as a target drone. In fact, just as the F-4 Phantom was replaced in active service by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the QF-4 Phantom will be replaced by QF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The surviving QF-4 Phantoms at White Sands Missile Range will get one more round of maintenance, mostly to remove hazardous materials, and then they will serve as ground targets.

Here’s a video of QF-4s taking a few for the team:

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US is vulnerable to space-based attacks

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats warned about threats from space at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats on Feb. 13, 2018.


“As if we don’t have enough threats here on earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” he said.

“The global expansion of the space industry will extend space-enabled capabilities and situational awareness to nation-states and commercial space actors in the coming years. The primary concern relates to satellites and anti-satellite capabilities.”

Right now, the U.S. military is heavily reliant on GPS and signals sent between satellites in space. Col. Richard Zellmann, commander of the 1st Space Brigade, a unit within the Space and Missile Defense Command, said that up to 70% of the Army’s combat systems depend on signals sent from space.

Also read: China and Russia can now kill American satellites

In his prepared statement, Coats said Russia and China, having recognized the value of space-based communication and reconnaissance, “will continue to expand their space-based reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the breadth of their capability, and the applications for use.”

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
A Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block 1A interceptor is launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) during a Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy test in the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 13 2013. (Department of Defense)

To make matters worse, Russian and Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities are becoming increasingly advanced. Those capabilities include (ASAT) missiles, satellites capable of performing kamikaze-style attacks, jamming technology, and “directed-energy weapons” that could “blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”

Related: SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

China and Russia continue to at least publicly promote diplomatic efforts to prevent the militarization of space. But as Coats pointed out, “many classes of weapons would not be addressed by such proposals, allowing them to continue their pursuit of space warfare capabilities while publicly maintaining that space must be a peaceful domain.”

Coats estimated that Russian and Chinese ASAT weapons will probably “reach initial operational capability in the next few years.” If those weapons were to take out American satellites, American warfighting capabilities would be seriously hampered.

In the words of Zellmann: “When you start taking away those combat multipliers, we need to go back then to the days of the industrial-age army where you have to have three times as many people as the adversary does.”

Articles

This Marine veteran and amputee just finished the Boston Marathon

Jose Luis Sanchez was a Marine sergeant serving in Helmand province in 2011 when he stepped on an IED and lost his leg in the blast. On Apr. 18, 2016, he ran the Boston Marathon to show support for the victims of the bombings there three years ago.


Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Jose Luis Sanchez via Instagram jls143_

His Apr. 18 race in Boston as part of Team Semper Fi was his second marathon. He ran his first in the Oct. 2015 Marine Corps Marathon where, with the help of others, he finished despite fracturing his leg and busting his knee.

“It was my first marathon ever,” Sanchez told UPROXX. “I was just so motivated by everyone else’s love and support. My mind was like, ‘Yeah, man. You can f-cking do it!”

Sanchez wanted to run the Boston Marathon as a show of solidarity with the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Sanchez’s history as an IED survivor put him in a unique place to understand their pain and to show support.

“It hit me in January or February,” he said, “and I just felt that I had to run the Boston Marathon. I wanted to run the race and support the bombing survivors, to show them that life goes on and all you have to do is just push through it.”

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Photo: Jose Luis Sanchez via Instagram jls143_

The urge to drive others and to prove himself physically was what powered Sanchez during his time as a Marine.

“I always tried to motivate others, like my Marines,” Sanchez said. “I’d push them as much as I could, encouraging them to always go after it. Even after a long patrol in Afghanistan, I was the guy who’d say, ‘Let’s go workout. Let’s do push-ups. Let’s do squats.’ I was always that type of guy. Going to the gym, taking groups on long runs, doing PT.”

(h/t UPROXX. Check out their full interview with Sanchez. You can also follow Sanchez on Instagram or show support to members of Team Semper Fi at their website.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Brothers carry on family legacy in aviation

Decades ago, a father took his two young sons to the aviation museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Although the father might have known it would be a great vacation for his family, he had no way of knowing the impact the trip would have on his sons’ future decision to join the Air Force.

“I remember that one of the airplanes we stopped at, our dad was like, ‘look it’s a Hercules,'” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic here. “We were like that’s really cool and they let us in and we climbed around in it. I just remember it being so big! And then, lo and behold, later I’m an engine guy that works on them. We’ve always been around aircraft and drawn to it.”

Jeremy’s older brother, Joel Putnam, is a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. The Putnam brothers come from a family legacy of military aviators.


“Our dad was in the U.S. Army air cavalry and he worked on airplanes,” said Jeremy. “That was a big inspiration for both of us to work on airplanes. We come from a long line of military aviators. Our grandfather on our dad’s side was in the Air Force. On our mom’s side, our grandfather was a helicopter crew chief in the Marines and then Army.”

The brothers’ camaraderie growing up continued into their adult lives as they worked in the military. Joel and Jeremy deployed to Qatar and recently participated in Exercise Swift Response together. Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise featuring high-readiness airborne forces from nine nations.

The brothers spoke about their unique experience of partnering with each other in real world scenarios of exercises and missions.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

Tech. Sgt. Joel Putnam, a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and his brother, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, pose for a photo in front of a C-130H3 Hercules at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Clayvon)


“We were doing some reconfigurations for the Swift Response exercise, changing from one layout in the cargo department to another,” said Joel. “We were setting up seats for the Army paratroopers to jump out, and I look up and Jeremy is there helping me — tag teaming.”

“Yeah, I didn’t have anything engine related, so I jumped on the airplane to help him set up for the configuration,” Jeremy added.

Joel highlighted that between the two brothers they can take care of a whole plane. “We can go on TDY together and he can do the engine work and I can do the crew chief stuff,” said Joel.

“We can run the plane, we can get it serviced up, gassed and go, or handle any major issues,” added Jeremy.

Joel spoke about completing inspections at Dobbins ARB. When a plane comes in and is jacked up, as Jeremy works on the motor, Joel will be over in the flaps.

Jeremy works as an Air Reserve technician full time at Dobbins ARB. Joel serves as a traditional reservist, frequently working on orders at Dobbins ARB.

The bond between the brothers carries into their civilian life as well. The airmen live as roommates and even produce electronic music and disc jockey together. But their favorite experience is working together in the military.

“Going out and doing real world missions together is really cool,” Jeremy said. “When we grew up playing in the backyard together trying to accomplish something, or helping dad work on the cars, it was together, and now being on a much bigger scale, in a bigger family in the Air Force, still being and working together towards the mission is awesome.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American just tried (and failed) to join up with North Korea

South Korean authorities arrested a 58-year-old man trying to cross the demilitarized border zone to defect into North Korea, The Washington Post reported on Nov. 13.


The man, who hails from Louisiana, tried to defect “for political reasons,” authorities told The Post.

Also Read: Here’s what happened to 6 American soldiers who defected to North Korea

Coincidentally, on the same day as the US man failed to make his political statement, a North Korean soldier was shot twice by his own military as he ran through the DMZ so he could defect into South Korea.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

South Korean forces had to crawl toward the defector who had been downed by gunfire from North Korea and drag him out of danger, according to Reuters.

While around 1,000 North Koreans defect to South Korea each year, the authoritarian state has some allure among leftists in the US who may be deceived by propaganda from Pyongyang that depicts the country as a socialist paradise.

Articles

ISIS just became the latest victim of the red mercury hoax

Arms smugglers and ISIS buyers are hunting for red mercury, a substance that can make dumb bombs smart, hide anything from a drone, and allow for the creation of miniaturized nuclear weapons. If ISIS actually manages to get their hands on the material, it’s likely they could develop weapons that would wipe out any force sent to destroy them.


Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
Imagine this coming from a bomb the size of a suitcase. Photo: FEMA

Luckily, red mercury is a hoax and ISIS is just its latest victim.

Searches for red mercury are like snipe hunts. Those in the know get a good laugh while the new kid tries desperately to find something that doesn’t exist.

As with the legendary snipe, the physical description of red mercury changes depending on who is telling the tale. Sometimes it’s a powder, sometimes liquid. It’s always some tint of red or brown, but it may change to yellow at high temperatures.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
This is mercury iodide, a compound that is red until it is heated about 258 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it turns yellow. There is no temperature at which it becomes a nuclear weapon. Photo: Wikipedia/W. Oelen CC BY-SA 3.0

Likewise, its abilities change in every telling. When references to it first appeared in the 1970s, it was an essential ingredient for boosting the yield of nuclear weapons. As its myth grew, it became capable of guiding missiles to their target or hiding aircraft from enemy radar. It was later described as a nuclear material, capable of fueling a bomb on its own.

The legend of red mercury was boosted through the work of Sam Cohen, a U.S. nuclear physicist. Cohen claimed that red mercury served as a containment vehicle for nuclear reactions, allowing enough pressure and temperature to build for deuterium-tritium fusion bombs to become a reality.

North Korea, Iran, South Africa and others have all searched for the substance to accelerate or enhance their nuclear weapon programs. Now ISIS has joined them, even though the British, Russian, and American governments have all investigated it and determined it is an urban legend.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS
An Army major and another research look at something that isn’t red mercury, because red mercury is not real and so can’t be properly researched in labs. Photo: U.S. Army Africa Rick Scavetta

In a recent New York Times piece, journalist C. J. Chivers compiled a number of stories about the element. Men in the Middle East discuss a test of red mercury where a bit of the powder was mixed with chlorine. The resulting gas supposedly filled the room and then the building, forcing all the viewers from the area.

There is also a tale of different types of mercury, from green to red to the “Blood of the Slaves.” That last one can be used by magicians to summon a genie, allegedly.

Meet the US military veterans fighting ISIS

ISIS is looking specifically for the weaponized version of red mercury, and has a photo of what they think it looks like. From the C. J. Chivers piece:

The images showed a pale, oblong object, roughly the length of a hot-dog bun, with a hole at each end. It bore no similarity to the red mercury that smugglers often described — a thick liquid with a brilliant metallic sheen. It appeared to be a dull piece of injection-molded plastic, like a swim-lane buoy or a children’s toy. But it had an intriguing resemblance that hinted at how the Islamic State’s interest might have been piqued: It was the exact likeness of an object that in 2013 the Cihan News Agency, one of Turkey’s largest news agencies, had called a red-mercury rocket warhead.

So what is the government doing to prevent ISIS getting red mercury? Mostly just celebrating that ISIS is expending time and a lot of money to get it. With the International Atomic Energy Authority declaring red mercury “a bunch of malarkey,” there are much worse and very real things ISIS could be hunting for instead, like yellow cake or weaponized anthrax.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun 2’ will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, not the F-35

The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.

The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.

A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.

Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”


Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.

The F-35 community was not thrilled.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.

“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”

While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.

The F-35B had its first operational deployment in 2018 in the Pacific, but the F-35C remains a ways off from adoption onto the US Navy’s fleet of aircraft supercarriers. Persistent problems with launching the sophisticated airplane off a moving ship have pushed back the schedule and resulted in huge cost overruns.

Meanwhile, the F-18 Super Hornet continues to do the lion’s share of combat-aviation work aboard aircraft carriers, and its maker, Boeing, has even offered an updated version of the plane that President Donald Trump entertained buying instead of the F-35.

In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.

“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”

He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”

Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.

The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.

“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.

But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information