New study sheds light on 'PTSD genes' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

A VA Million Veteran Program study identified locations in the human genome related to the risk of re-experiencing traumatic memories, the most distinctive symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, Yale University School of Medicine, the VA San Diego Healthcare System, and the University of California San Diego collaborated with colleagues on the study of more than 165,000 veterans.

The results appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

PTSD is usually considered to have three main clusters of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Avoidance and hyperarousal are common to other anxiety conditions as well, but re-experiencing is largely unique to PTSD. Re-experiencing refers to intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks.


The researchers compared the genomes of 146,660 white veterans and 19,983 black veterans who had volunteered for MVP.

The study revealed eight separate regions in the genome associated with re-experiencing symptoms among the white veterans. It did not show any significant regions for black veterans, considered separately as a group, because there were far fewer black study participants available, making it harder to draw conclusions.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

(Department of Veterans Affairs)

Results were replicated using a sample from the UK Biobank.

The results showed genetic overlap between PTSD and other conditions. For example, two genes previously linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were implicated. This could mean that the hallucinations experienced in schizophrenia may share common biochemical pathways with the nightmares and flashbacks of people with PTSD.

The study also revealed genetic links to hypertension. It is possible that hypertension drugs that affect these same genes could be effective for treating PTSD.

Taken together, the results “provide new insights into the biology of PTSD,” say the researchers. The findings have implications for understanding PTSD risk factors, as well as identifying new drug targets.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force’s bomb squad just got an awesome new robot

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians here are working with a custom-made, next-generation robot that will pick apart bombs and study them.

Brokk — a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts with pieces of high-tech ordnance disposal machinery, as well as large construction demolition mechanics — replaces 20-year-old “Stewie,” the previous EOD robot.


EOD techs haven’t had a chance to fully test Brokk’s capabilities yet, but anticipate a live bombing exercise in the next few months will put it to work.

But the $1.3 million upgrade has been worth it so far, according to Staff Sgt. Ryan Hoagland of the 96th Civil Engineer Squadron, who said the older robot had him operating more like a mechanic than an EOD technician.

“I don’t have to mop up hydraulic fluid right now. I’m not fixing wires that have [overheated] because of the sun or that have deteriorated over the years,” among other issues, he said during a tour here. Military.com spoke with Hoagland during a trip accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to the base.

The one-of-a-kind, electric-powered Brokk provides smooth extraction with its control arms, operated remotely from a mobile control trailer nearby, Hoagland said.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
506th Air Expeditionary Group Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight members Senior Airman Aaron Skelton, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Ray Hunter Jr. and Senior Airman Joshua Brum, run a function check on a TALON robot.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

Some movements can be programmed into Brokk, which weighs around 10,000 pounds. But typically, it takes at least two airmen to operate a controller for each arm, plus another to steer the robot, he said. Technicians will watch a live video feed from cameras fastened to it.

Brokk will allow teams to dismantle bombs — often live — after a range test, in which munitions might have penetrated 30 feet or more underground.

EOD techs then collect data from the bomb, providing more information to the weapons tester on how the bomb dropped, struck its target and or detonated.

“Basically, [it’s] data to figure out what happened, and why the item didn’t perform the way it was supposed to,” Hoagland said. “We hope the test goes well. If it doesn’t, we then go in there with this and take care of it.”

The robot, made by Brokk Inc., was named after the Norse blacksmith “who forged Thor’s hammer,” according to a base press release in April 2018. Part of its arms were manufactured in conjunction with Kraft Telerobotics.

Hoagland said the service could incorporate a few more capabilities into Brokk in the future, depending on necessity.

Whether that means lasers is unknown.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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5 reasons why troops dominate civilian obstacle courses

Troops and veterans often check their social media accounts to find their civilian friends from home posting photos of their latest foray into fun runs or obstacle courses.

This gives troops the idea of joining in on the fun — and why not? The troops may not always win, but you can be damn sure they’ll come out in the top ten percent. And it looks even more impressive when they do it while covered in enough mud to hide from the Predator.

Coincidentally, troops can put their awesome ass-kicking skills to the test when Spartan Race returns to military installations this summer.


New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

And we do it while hungover.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor L. Jackson)

Morning PT is much harder than most normal workouts

Barring any physical restriction, troops always keep themselves at peak physical performance. They’re not out there bragging about that one time they went to the gym (in early January), they’re out there every morning doing what they must to remain fit.

And while it may seem like the combat arms units are working harder than support units, the fact is that even the guys in, say, the motor pool, are still getting a much more difficult workout on a daily basis than most dudes collecting selfies at the gym.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

Then, after morning PT, we go hard AF in the gym — meaning that civilians are screwed.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger)

Morning PT is well-rounded

One of the biggest mistakes of fitness newcomers is that they focus in on one aspect of training. They target one muscle and they go hard. Sure, it’s great that you can curl the bells on the bottom rack, but it’s laughable that you think you’ll look like Arnold by skipping leg day.

Obstacle courses don’t exclusively require lifting heavy things and putting them down. To find real success, you need to max out your entire body. It just so happens that much of what’s required to dominate an obstacle course is built into the morning PT schedule.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

Despite what people with a fear of heights think, this tower is actually a rest opportunity.

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. 1st Class Lisa M. Litchfield)

We’ve got the technique

Which brings us to the actual obstacle course itself. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a course that doesn’t include the classic “low crawl under barbed wire” and a sheer wall to climb. If you’ve never attempted either of these, prepare to be gassed.

The biggest secret about obstacle courses is that it requires brain more than it does brawn. Almost anyone can climb a rope if they know the proper technique (curl the rope onto one of your feet and step on it with the other, clinching it so you don’t fall). We know how to climb, crawl, and run with the best of them.

And when an obstacle calls for physical strength, well… see points one and two above.

Coordination without communication

Some obstacle courses require teamwork. Civilians, in general, will waste precious time figuring out how to approach a challenge while the troops just nod at each other and instinctively know.

This isn’t magic. This is because troops have worked for so long and so hard with their fellow troops that words aren’t needed. Years of training means that you know what your squadmates’ weaknesses are and who among you has the strength to negate them.

Take a look at the video below. You’ll see troops first lift the strong guys, followed by the weaker guys, followed finally by the two who can complete the obstacle themselves.

Failure is not an option

Typically, there isn’t some big cash prize at the end. Being the first to complete an obstacle course out in the middle of nowhere isn’t going to land you any product endorsements (probably). Most people are there test themselves and have a good time.

Troops, on the other hand, take everything as a challenge because, in our minds, second place really means, “first place loser.” Even if the grand prize is just some plastic trophy that’ll sit on the back of a shelf, you best believe that troops are going for it. To us, that piece of plastic spells victory.

If you feel like showing the world what you can do, check out the Spartan Race and see if it’s coming to your installation!

MIGHTY TRENDING

There will be a special exhibit at the National Mall this Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend, the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor will return to the National Mall in Washington D.C., featuring 645,000 poppies — each one representing an American service member who has fallen since World War I.

This year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the USAA Poppy Wall will also include a video featuring paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division.


The red poppy became synonymous with fallen Allies during the First World War when the hardy bloom painted the heroes’ graves red, and it has remained a symbol of their sacrifice ever since.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

USAA’s poignant exhibit will feature a clear wall stretching 133 feet long and 8.5 feet tall filled with the red bloom, making a striking contrast to the National Mall. From Friday, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, visitors can see the wall on the southwest side of the Reflecting Pool — between the Lincoln Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.

Also read: This is how the poppy became a symbol for fallen troops

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

In addition to the exhibit in Washington D.C., everyone is invited to dedicate a poppy in tribute to a fallen service member. During a time when many Americans celebrate the beginning of summer with a long weekend, there are those who can never forget the price paid for that freedom.

Related: 7 things you didn’t know about Memorial Day

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
MIGHTY TRENDING

China trains near Taiwan Strait, ready to defend

China has kicked off large-scale military drills in waters near Taiwan just days after warning in a new defense report that it remains ready and willing to use force to achieve reunification.

Drills are being held at both ends of the Taiwan Strait, according to two local maritime safety administration notices marking off the exercise areas.

An area off the coast of Guangdong and Fujian provinces was blocked off from Monday to Friday for military activities in the South China Sea while an area off the coast of Zhejiang province was marked off for military exercises in the East China Sea from Saturday to Thursday, Reuters reported.


Breaking News: China simultaneously conducts major military exercises targeting Taiwan in the East and South China Sea from July 28 to August 02.pic.twitter.com/UABJv9GiIk

twitter.com

The South China Morning Post reports that these exercises may be “routine” drills the Chinese defense ministry recently announced but adds that these appear to be the first simultaneous exercises in the area since the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. Business Insider was unable to independently confirm this point.

“The main goal of the drills is to practise how to effectively maintain control of the sea and the air amid growing foreign interference in Taiwan affairs,” Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military analyst, told the Post, explaining that the exercises “serve as a warning to foreign forces that the [People’s Liberation Army] has the resolve to [achieve reunification] with Taiwan.”

Also read: That time Russia and China almost went to nuclear war

A Taiwan-based naval affairs expert said that the PLA was responding to US arms sales to Taiwan and the increasingly routine transits by US Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait, a sensitive international waterway.

Earlier this month, the US has also approved a .2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, one that will see the delivery of tanks and surface-to-air missiles able to help Taiwan “maintain a credible defensive capability.”

Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do

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Here’s why so many nations want to control the South China Sea — and what China wants to do

And last week, the US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait. The move came just one day after the release of a new Chinese defense white paper warning that the Chinese government will not renounce the use of force to achieve reunification with Taiwan.

“We make no promise to renounce the use of force, and reserve the option of taking all necessary measures,” the report read. “This is by no means targeted at our compatriots in Taiwan, but at the interference of external forces and the very small number of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and their activities.”

“The PLA will resolutely defeat anyone attempting to separate Taiwan from China and safeguard national unity at all costs,” the sharply worded warning said.

Commenting specifically on the recent Taiwan Strait transit, the state-run China Daily accused Washington of “raising a finger to what the white paper said about China’s determination to defend its unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” adding that if the US “thinks that Beijing will not deliver on this commitment, it is in for a rude awakening.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said Monday that it is monitoring Chinese military activities, adding that it remains confident in its ability to defend the homeland and safeguard Taiwan’s freedom, democracy and sovereignty, according to local media.

“The national army continues to reinforce its key defense capacity and is definitely confident and capable of defending the nation’s security,” the ministry said in a statement.

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

Articles

This Marine just retired after 54 years of service

In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.


One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant addresses guests during his retirement ceremony, at the Camp Courtney Theater, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.

“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”

After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
Retired Lt. Col. Frederick Grant retired Jan. 27, 2017, after 54 years of continuous service to the Marine Corps. Grant served as the director of the Tactical Exercise Control Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, after 38 years of service as an enlisted Marine and officer. Grant, from Emporia, Virginia, enlisted Oct. 2, 1963, and served as an infantryman in Vietnam in addition to various other enlisted and officer billets. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”

He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.

“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”

And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?

“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”

Semper fi, Marine, and well done.

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This is the reason Wild Weasel pilots have a low survival rate

The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat.


These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars. Once targeted, the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Wild Weasels and other attack aircraft to destroy the threat.

Actually, the unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: “You Gotta Be Sh-tting Me.” It was B-52 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) veteran Jack Donovan’s natural response when he was introduced to the tactics and mission details. His exact reply was: “you want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he’s invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me, you gotta be sh-tting me!” His vernacular stuck and YGBSM is prominently displayed on the patch of some squadrons, adding to the legend of the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasel radar detection and suppression concept was developed by the Air Force during the Vietnam War to combat the growing surface-to-air (SAM) threat, specifically the Soviet-made SA-2 Goa. It’s the same type of missile that brought down the CIA U-2 spy plane over Russia piloted by Francis Gary Powers on May 1, 1960. Powers was arrested by the Soviets after he was shot down and eventually released to the U.S., he’s the subject of Tom Hank’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
50 years of YGBSM. Contains the following Wild Weasel Jets: F-100F Super Sabre; F-105F Thunderchief; F-105G Thunderchief; F-4C Phantom II; F-4G Phantom II and F-16CM Fighting Falcon. Image courtesy of Aircraft Profile Prints.

 

Birth of the Wild Weasel

During the Vietnam War, the Weasels used two tactics to accomplish their mission. The first tactic, dubbed “Hunter Killer,” used Wild Weasels to hunt down enemy air defense systems and F-105 Thuds to kill them.

The tactic was developed from on-the-job training, for lack of a better description. It was the best play they had against the SA-2. All the U.S. military knew about the SA-2 was that they were usually camouflaged, had a range of 15 to 20 miles and used a target tracking radar. The latter was key for the Weasels because they used it to home in on the target with radar-seeking missiles while the F-105s flew in with heavier ordnance and cluster munitions to complete the kill.

“We knew that we could survive at low-level, use terrain masking, pop up to get their readings and attack the sight,” said a former Weasel pilot in the video below.

The second tactic was to protect the strike force during regular missions. The Weasels would provide themselves as decoys to encourage SAM launches that generated enough smoke to make them visible — like a smoking gun. Meanwhile, the strikers zeroed in on their targets. The Weasels would orbit the target area for 20 to 40 minutes exposed to enemy fighters, SAMs, and air artillery shells (AAA).

Both tactics were very dangerous and resulted in a high fatality rate. After about seven weeks of operations, the first Wild Weasels only had one aircraft left, and many members of the original 16 aircrews had been killed in action, were POWs or had left the program, wrote Warren E. Thompson for HistoryNet.

This documentary perfectly captures the Wild Weasel mission and history:

 


Feature image: USAF photo by Jake Melampy

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why the ‘Florida Man’ is definitely a drunk Marine

We’ve all seen “Florida Man” show up in ridiculous headlines. You know the ones: “Florida man calls 911 over missing beer so many times he gets arrested.” Or how about, “Florida man claims wife was kidnapped by holograms.” The list goes on. In fact, headlines coming out of Florida are so often outrageous that “Florida Man” has become something of a pop culture myth, known for getting into trouble in the most ridiculous ways — ways that only someone in an altered state of mind to conjure up.

Alcohol is undeniably a big part of military culture. Troops are constantly pushing the boundaries of what defines alcoholic behavior. The most prolific offender among the branches is, without a doubt, the Marine Corps. Drunk Marines are notorious for getting into trouble and, by now, it’s practically expected because it happens so often.

At the end of the day, the “Florida Man” has a lot in common with a drunk Marine. Here’s why:


New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

Then the Army has to come clean up the mess.

(U.S. Army)

1. The antics are surprisingly similar

For some reason, “Florida Man” is always noted for his intoxication — and even if it doesn’t make the headline, you can safely assume his state of mind. Drinking, getting rowdy, and stripping in public are some of Florida Man’s favorite pastimes — just like Marines! In fact, if you were to take some of his greatest works and replace “Florida Man” with “drunk Marine,” nobody would bat an eye at it.

No, really. Try it with us:

“Naked Florida Man drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down house baking cookies on George Foreman Grill”

And make these changes:

Naked, drunk Marine drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down barracks baking cookies on George Foreman Grill

Seamless, right? That’s why we’re not allowed to have toasters in our rooms.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

Seriously? Over chicken?

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. They both exhibit aggressive tendencies

Drunk Marines are, quite possibly, the most irritable people on the planet. Making simple requests or doing anything that might accidentally upset one will likely result in violence.

Tell me, which of these is the real headline?

Florida Man swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Drunk Marine swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Can’t tell? Us neither. This is what happens when you don’t have a battle buddy.

3. Playing with dangerous, live animals

Both Marines and Florida Man have a penchant for messing with whatever wildlife happens to share their environment. Add a little bit of alcohol to the situation, and you might end up with this:

Florida Man enters convenience store carrying live gator, chases customers

That could easily be this:

Drunk Marine enters PX carrying live gator, chases customers

I feel like I’ve seen both of these before…

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

Why do drunk people always want to fight cops?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

4. Trying to fight cops

To be fair, drunk Marines will fight anyone when given the chance. But, of course, any challenge of authority will result in direct confrontation. That’s how you get headline swaps like this:

“Florida Man trashes McDonald’s, challenges cops to fight him at jail”

“Drunk Marine trashes chow hall, challenges PMO to fight him”

After evaluating the evidence, we can conclude with near certainty that Florida Man is indeed a US Marine.

Articles

Increased civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria draw criticism

Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants are quickly moving to drum up outrage over a sharp spike in civilian casualties said to have been caused by U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, posting photos online of a destroyed medical center and homes reduced to rubble. “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants,” the caption reads.


The propaganda points to the risk that rising death tolls and destruction could undermine the American-led campaign against the militants.

During the past two years of fighting to push back the Islamic State group, the U.S.-led coalition has faced little backlash over casualties, in part because civilian deaths have been seen as relatively low and there have been few cases of single strikes killing large numbers of people.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In Iraq — even though sensitivities run deep over past American abuses of civilians — the country’s prime minister and many Iraqis support the U.S. role in fighting the militants.

But for the first time, anger over lives lost is becoming a significant issue as Iraqi troops backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes wade into more densely populated districts of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and U.S. -backed Syrian fighters battle closer to the Islamic State group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

That has the potential to undercut victories against the militants and stoke resentments that play into their hands.

At least 300 civilians have been killed in the offensive against IS in the western half of Mosul since mid-February, according to the U.N. human rights office — including 140 killed in a single March 17 airstrike on a building. Dozens more are claimed to have been killed in another strike late March, according to Amnesty International, and by similar airstrikes in neighboring Syria since Trump took office.

In Syria, as fighting around Raqqa intensified, civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes rose to 198 in March — including 32 children and 31 women — compared to 56 in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which documents Syria’s war. Over the course of the air campaign, from September 2014 through February, an average of 30 civilians were killed a month, according to the Observatory.

The U.S. military is investigating what role the U.S. played in the March 17 airstrike in Mosul, and American and Iraqi officials have said militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted explosives in the building. The blast left an entire residential block flattened, reducing buildings to mangled concrete.

Among those who lost loved ones, resentment appears to be building toward the U.S.-led coalition and the ground forces it supports.

“How could they have used this much artillery on civilian locations?” asked Bashar Abdullah, a resident of the neighborhood known as New Mosul, who lost more than a dozen family members in the March 17 attack. “Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that’s why people didn’t leave their houses. They felt safe.”

U.S. officials have said they are investigating other claims of casualties in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State group fighters have overtly used civilians as human shields, including firing from homes where people are sheltering or forcing people to move alongside them as they withdraw. The group has imposed a reign of terror across territories it holds in Syria and Iraq, taking women as sex slaves, decapitating or shooting suspected opponents, and destroying archaeological sites.

Mass graves are unearthed nearly every day in former IS territory.

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Photos recently posted online on militant websites showed the destruction at the Mosul Medical College with a caption describing the Americans as the “Mongols of the modern era” who kill and destroy under the pretext of liberation. A series of pictures showing destroyed homes carried the comment: “This is how Trump liberates Mosul, by killing its inhabitants under the rubble of houses bombed by American warplanes to claim victory. Who would dare say this is a war crime?”

In Syria, IS and other extremist factions have pushed the line that the U.S. and Russia, which is backing President Bashar Assad’s regime, are equal in their disregard for civilian lives.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs)

U.S. “crimes are clear evidence of the ‘murderous friendship’ that America claims to have with the Syrian people, along with its claimed concern for their future and interests,” said the Levant Liberation Committee, an al-Qaida-led insurgent alliance.

Some Syrian opposition factions allied with the U.S. have also criticized the strikes, describing them as potential war crimes.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities “will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a purpose for the next phase of the Islamic State’s existence.”

Criticism has also come from Russian officials, whose military has been accused of killing civilians on a large scale in its air campaign in Syria, particularly during the offensive that recaptured eastern Aleppo from rebels late last year.

“I’m greatly surprised with such action of the U.S. military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren’t striking the designated targets,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, acknowledged the spike in civilian casualty reports could change the way the coalition is conducting the war. He said it was a “very valid” concern that loss of life and destruction could play into the hands of IS or cause some coalition members to waver.

“But the coalition is not going to back down when (the fight) gets hard or there’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “That’s what ISIS wants.”

In Syria, the deadliest recent strike occurred earlier this month in a rebel-held area in the north. Opposition activists said a mosque was hit during evening prayers, killing around 40 people, mostly civilians, and wounding dozens of others. The U.S. said it struck an al-Qaida gathering across the street from the mosque, killing dozens of militants, adding they found no basis for reports that civilians were killed.

In Mosul, the scale of destruction wrought by increased artillery and airstrikes is immense in some areas.

Abdullah, the resident of New Mosul, buried 13 members of his family in a single day.

Standing in a field now being used as a graveyard, he said: “This was not a liberation. It was destruction.”

Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef in Cairo, Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Mstyslav Chernov in Mosul, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Articles

The Army once considered putting the A-10’s BRRRRT! on a tank

The A-10 Thunderbolt II, popularly known as the Warthog, was originally designed as a “tank-killer”. In fact, the entire aircraft was essentially built around a 30 mm rotary cannon, known as the GAU-8 Avenger, a fearsome name for a gun capable of spitting out depleted uranium shells the size of soda bottles designed to shred heavy Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers into mental confetti.


While the Avenger’s primary use has been as the A-10’s main weapon, seeing combat action from the Persian Gulf War onward, the US Army once considered making this cannon its own by mounting it on the very thing it was created to destroy: tanks.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
General Electric’s concept of the M247 Sergeant York, complete with a shortened version of the Avenger (General Electric)

In the late 1970s, the US Army began looking to replace their aging force of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns with newer, more effective systems that could do a similar job with even more lethality and effectiveness than ever before. The result of this search for new air defense artillery would be fielded alongside the Army’s newest and fighting vehicles — namely the M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, as part of the service’s vision for the future.

A competition under the Division Air Defense name was thus created.

The goal of the DIVAD program was to design, build and field a self-propelled air defense gun system, able to engage and shoot down low-flying enemy aircraft with controlled bursts of shells from a cannon mounted on a turret. The system would be manned by a small crew, aided by a radar tracking system that would pick up targets and “slave” the gun to them before firing.  In concept, the DIVAD vehicle could go anywhere, dig in and wait for enemy aircraft to appear, then shoot them down quickly.

One of the various participants in the competition, according to Jane’s Weapon Systems 1988-1989, was General Electric, fresh from designing the GAU-8 Avenger for what would be the Air Force’s next air support attack jet – the A-10 Warthog. General Electric had the bright idea to take a modified version of the Avenger and place it in a turret, configured to hold its weight while moving the cannon around quickly to track and hit new targets as they appeared.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
The GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun next to a VW Type 1. Removing an installed GAU-8 from an A-10 requires first installing a jack under the aircraft’s tail to prevent it from tipping, as the cannon makes up most of the aircraft’s forward weight. (US Air Force photo)

The turret, in turn, would be mated to the chassis of an M48 Patton main battle tank as per program requirements, giving it mobility. Able to spit out shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute at an effective range of 4000 feet, the Avenger would’ve been a major threat to the safety of any aircraft in the vicinity, sighted through its radar.

However, General Electric’s entry, referred to as the Air Defense Turret, didn’t advance during the DIVAD program. Instead, Ford and General Dynamics were given prototype production contracts to build their designs for testing, with Ford ultimately winning the competition. Known as the M247 Sergeant York, Ford’s anti-aircraft gun system was much more conventional, significantly lighter and apparently somewhat cheaper to build than the Avenger cannon concept.

However, it under-performed severely, much to the embarrassment of its parent company and the Army.

The DIVAD program soon proved to be an abject failure, with nothing to show for pouring millions into the project and the Sergeant York prototypes. The M247 couldn’t adequately track target drones with its radars, even when the drones were made to hover nearly stationary.

In 1985, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger finally put the program out of its misery, noting that missiles were the future of air defense.

The Avenger cannon nevertheless does serve in a somewhat similar role today, functioning as the core of the Goalkeeper Close-In Weapon System, found on a number of modern warships around the world. Goalkeeper is designed to engage surface-skimming missiles aimed at naval vessels and obliterate them by putting up a “wall of steel” – essentially a massive scattered burst of shells which will hopefully strike and detonate the missile a safe distance away from the ship.

Still, one can’t help but wonder just how incredibly awesome mounting a 30mm Gatling cannon to a tank could have been, had the Army chosen to pursue General Electric’s idea instead of Ford’s.

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This video is the Army men battle you wanted to fight as a kid

Remember those little green Army men your brother kept in a large bucket that you could only play with while he was at basketball practice? YouTube user Michael Akkerman remembers, and he created an epic battle with the little toys that tells the tale of a Green Army offensive against the Tan Army.


Army Men – Plastic Apocalypse

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The battle, embedded above, is mostly shot using stop motion, but makes extensive use of what appears to be CGI when weapons fire and larger rounds explode. This becomes gnarly when troops are hit by enemy fire and melted plastic splatters across the ground like thick blood.

The combat includes armored units, artillery, and combat engineers, but it focuses on the infantrymen making up the bulk of the advance against the Tan Army’s prepared defenses, which includes barbed wire, trenches, and bunkers. Oddly, these prepared defenses include a lot of snipers who, for some reason, fire almost exclusively from guard towers.

As a Green infantryman says at 9:15, “gosh, that is a bad sniper.”

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

While the military details aren’t perfect (the artillery is always brought up into direct fire positions and never once fires an indirect shot), it’s still a lot of fun to see the combined arms invading force try to deal with the thick defensive lines of the Tan forces.

The director keeps the bulk of his shots close to the army men on the march, making it feel like you’re in the thick grass with the men. Occasional wide shots give an idea of the scope of the battle as dozens of men on both sides clash over whatever ideological difference the hordes of plastic soldiers may have.

Be prepared for some gut-wrenching moments. Green forces are no boy scouts, and they aren’t above committing a few atrocities to secure a Tan-free future. Playing with army men was the best, wasn’t it?

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Marines could ditch ammo cans in push to get lighter

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’
Marines lift ammo cans during a Company C squad competition at Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, Sept. 23, 2016. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.


QUANTICO–In the Marine Corps’ rush to drop weight, one of the most beloved and storied pieces of gear could be left behind. At the service’s first Equipping the Infantry Challenge here Sept. 27, program managers said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the iconic ammunition can.

Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders that the rectangular can, which today looks much the same as it did during World War II and Vietnam, may be overdue for an upgrade.

Also read: 5 obvious fixes for the military’s weight problem

Marine Corps ammo comes to the warfighter, he said, “in the same metal can that it’s come in for 100 years. That metal can is one of those things that when the ammunition is brought to Marines, they take the ammunition out, distribute it however they’re going to distribute it, then throw [the can] away. The ammo can itself provides no value added to the Marine, except to help get the ammunition there.”

Some may disagree. The blog Shooter’s Log in 2013 listed 50 possible uses for the ammo can that range from improvised washing machine to anchor. Another website, Survival List Daily, topped that with 74 uses, including field toilet and cook pot.

The gear is even more central to Marine Corps identity: one of the elements of the Combat Fitness Test that all Marines must pass once a year is the ammunition can lift, in which troops are tested on the number of times they can lift a 30-pound can above their head and shoulders within two minutes.

But the calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”

Emerging technology, such as logistics drones that might be able to carry resupply items to troops in the field, may also put limits on how much a new delivery of ammunition can weigh.

The cans, which weigh anywhere between three and seven pounds depending on their make and the caliber of ammunition, can amount to a quarter of the ammo weight that Marines are carrying, Rideout said.

“If we can get that weight out of the system, that’s more ammunition that can be resupplied to Marines to allow them to do their jobs,” he said. “So we need lighter-weight packaging. Ammo is what ammo is, but there are a couple areas out there where we can reduce weight to enable Marines to do their jobs better, especially against a near-peer type competitor or distributed ops.”

Ammo cans aren’t the only area getting a look.

Rideout and Mary Flower LeMaster, chief engineer for ammunition at SYSCOM, said the brass casing that houses bullets may also be ripe for improvement.

“The brass provides no value added to the weapons system; it’s just to enable the round and the propellant to interface with the weapon to provide effect downrange,” Rideout said. “That’s where we need to attack that weight. And there is technology out there that can do that and so we’re looking for industry to help us there.”

Rideout and LeMaster provided no alternatives to these key ammunition items, and it’s unclear how the Marine Corps might move forward with service-specific improvements to items used by multiple service branches, like ammo cans and brass. But this call-out to industry is in keeping with a broader service effort to solicit revolutionary ideas to improve the way Marines fight on the battlefield. During the same Infantry Equipping Challenge event, SYSCOM Commander Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader said he wanted ideas for a meal, ready-to-eat optimized for Marine infantrymen in the field, with more efficient and practical packaging.

Currently, the ammunition managers said, they’re looking for ideas to improve five different calibers of ammo, as well as the cans: 9mm, 5.56, .762, .50-caliber, and .300 Winchester Magnum.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

New study sheds light on ‘PTSD genes’

A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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