The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.
Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.
“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”
Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.
Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.
(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)
Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)
Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)
Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)
Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.
(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)
The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The service announced in May 2018, it will adopt the Army Combat Uniform, known as the ACU, which sports the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. The Air Force plans to have all airmen wearing the new uniform by April 2021.
“The decision to move to this new uniform outfits our airmen in the best utility uniform available in the inventory,” Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff said in a statement.
So far, the Air Force is calling the uniform the OCP.
“The [OCP] is proven for better form, fit and function and will be an important part in preserving our service and squadron identities,” Atanasoff said
Here’s a look at the different features of the new Air Force Uniform:
The OCP has two slanted front chest pockets compared to the ABU‘s four pockets on the blouse, which date back to the Battle Dress Uniform design. It has two shoulder pockets, with side zippered closures and Velcro for mounting unit patches.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The rank identification patch for both officers and enlisted personnel is located in the center of the chest instead of on the sleeves for enlisted and collars for officers on the ABU. Name and service tapes, rank and patches are all attached with Velcro.
Airmen will have the option to sew on their name tape and service tape, Air Force officials say.
Officers will wear their rank on their patrol caps. The OCP’s patrol cap features a Velcro-mounted name tape on the back.
The Air Force uniform will differ from the Army’s in Velcro patches, name tape and insignia by using a “spice brown” color, service officials said. The Air Force will redesign patches used for commands down to the squadron level so they incorporate the spice brown color.
The OCP’s blouse has a front zippered closure instead of the ABU’s buttons. Similar to the ABU, the OCP has a two pen slots on the blouse sleeve.
The OCP’s trousers feature slanted cargo pockets as well as smaller pockets above each ankle.
For female airmen, the OCP is less boxy and includes multiple sizes for women.
Airmen will also be required to wear the same coyote brown boots as the Army, Air Force officials said.
Both the OCP and the ABU fabric weight and same 50/50 percent nylon-cotton blend, Atanasoff said. There is no permanent press treatment on the OCP like the ABU. In addition, the OCP has an “insect shield” permethrin treatment.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The US has three bombers — the B-1B Lancer, the stealth B-2 Spirit, and the B-52 Stratofortress — to deliver thousands of tons of firepower in combat.
Some form of the B-52 has been in use since 1955. The B-1B took its first flight in 1974, and the B-2 celebrated its 30th year in the skies in 2019. A new stealth bomber, the B-21, is in production and is expected to fly in December 2021, although details about it are scarce.
The US Air Force has been conducting missions in Europe with B-52s and B-2s in order to project dominance against Russia and train with NATO partners, but the bomber fleet has faced problems. The B-1B fleet struggled with low readiness rates, as Air Force Times reported in June 2019, likely due to its age and overuse in recent conflicts.
Here are all the bombers in the US Air Force’s fleet.
A B-1B Lancer takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Oct. 11, 2017.
(US Air Force)
The Air Force’s B-1B Lancer has had problems with mission readiness this year.
The Lancer is a long-range, multi-role heavy bomber and has been in service since 1985, although its predecessor, the B-1A, was developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the B-52.
The B-1B is built by Boeing and has a payload of 90,000 pounds. The Air Force is also looking at ways to expand that payload to carry more weapons and heavier weapons, including hypersonics.
The Lancer has a wingspan of 137 feet, a ceiling of 30,000 feet, and can hit speeds up to Mach 1.2, according to the Air Force. There are 62 B-1Bs currently in service.
A US Air Force B-1B Lancer over the East China Sea, Jan. 9, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)
The B-1B was considered nuclear-capable bomber until 2007, when its ability to carry nuclear arms was disabled in accordance with the START treaty.
The B-1B is not scheduled to retire until 2036, but constant deployments to the Middle East between 2006 and 2016 “broke” the fleet.
Service officials and policymakers are now considering whether the Lancer can be kept flying missions, when it should retire, and what that means for the bomber fleet as a whole.
B-52F dropping bombs on Vietnam.
(US Air Force)
The B-52 bomber has been in service since 1955.
The Air Force’s longest-serving bomber came into service in 1955 as the B-52A. The Air Force now flies the B-52H Stratofortress, which arrived in 1961.
It has flown missions in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and during operations against ISIS.
The B-52H Stratofortress can carry a 70,000 pound payload, including up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, and can fly at 650 mph. It also recently dropped laser-guided bombs for the first time in a decade.
The Stratofortress is expected to be in service through 2050, and the Air Force has several upgrades planned, including new engines, a new radar, and a new nuclear weapon.
A B-52 bomber carrying a new hypersonic weapon.
(Edwards Air Force Base)
As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52s in use with the Air Force and 18 more with the Reserve.
Two B-52s have returned to service from 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, also known as the “boneyard,” where retired or mothballed aircraft are stored.
One bomber, nicknamed “Ghost Rider” returned in 2015, and the other, “Wise Guy,” in May.
“Wise Guy,” a Stratofortress brought to Barksdale Air Force Bease in Louisiana to be refurbished, had a note scribbled in its cockpit, calling the aircraft, “a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror” and instructing the AMARG to “take good care of her … until we need her again.”
The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere.
The B-2 was developed in a shroud of secrecy by Northrop Grumman. It is a multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions.
It has a payload of 40,000 pounds and has been in operational use since 1993. July was the 30th anniversary of the B-2’s first flight, and the Air Force currently has 20 of them.
A B-2A Spirit bomber and an F-15C Eagle over the North Sea, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
The Spirit can fly at an altitude of up to 50,000 feet and has an intercontinental range.
The B-2 operates out of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and three of the bombers are currently flying out of RAF Fairford in the UK.
From Fairford, the B-2 has completed several firsts this year — the first time training with non-US F-35s, its first visit to Iceland, and its first extended flight over the Arctic.
(US Air Force)
Little is known about the B-21 Raider, the Air Force’s future bomber.
What we do know: It will be a stealth aircraft capable of carrying nuclear and conventional weapons.
Built by Northrop Grumman, the B-21 is named for Doolittle’s Raiders, the crews who flew a daring bomb raid on Japan just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Air Force said last year that B-21s would go to three bases when they start arriving in the mid-2020s: Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Air Force Magazine reported in July that the B-21 could fly as soon as December 2021.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said on July 24 that he has an application on his phone “counting down the days … and don’t hold me to it, but it’s something like 863 days to first flight,” according to Air Force Magazine.
The B-21 also loomed over the B-2’s 30th anniversary celebrations at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, where the B-2 was built and first flew.
Company officials have said work on the B-2 is informing the B-21’s development, and recently constructed buildings at Northrop’s Site 7 are thought to be linked to the B-21.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Soldiers leaving military service have a lot to prepare for as they transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. Thanks to the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, this transition can set soldiers up for success through the sometimes tricky process of translating military service and military occupational specialties to civilian workforce skills, resume writing and opportunities to participate in vocational certificate programs.
One program available at Fort Jackson offers service members a chance to trade their Army Combat Uniform for fire retardant bunker gear, equipment regularly used by firefighters to protect them from the intense heat from fires. The program is called Troops to Firefighters, and one Fort Jackson soldier has taken full advantage of what the program has to offer.
“Going through the Soldier for Life program here at Fort Jackson, I had a leader who was looking for information for his wife and he said ‘Hey man, they have a firefighter program here and they pay for it,'” said Staff Sgt. James Hall, Company A, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “So I did it.”
Chief Curtis Maffett, vice president of Training Troops to Firefighters speaks to the class during the 911 dispatch operators program, designed to assist veterans, transitioning service members, and family members in becoming nationally certified firefighters and 911 emergency dispatch operators.
(Photo by Ms. LaTrice Langston)
Hall has served on active duty for more than 20 years and is set to retire in August 2019. He, like all separating soldiers, attended a mandatory separation brief where he learned about the Troops to Firefighter program. He said he never thought about becoming a firefighter before the briefing, but he submitted a packet to enroll in the program, and a few weeks later he received the news that he had been accepted.
“I’d been leaning towards becoming an electrician; that’s what my Family business is,” Hall said. “But I really fell in love with firefighting after going to the fire academy.”
With the support of his unit’s chain of command, Hall was placed on permissive temporary duty to attend the South Carolina Fire Academy. After a grueling eight weeks, Hall graduated and returned to his regular duties with his company.
“I thought it was definitely physically challenging,” Hall said. “It’s not the easiest job, but it’s very rewarding.”
Hall said his military training as an infantryman helped prepared him for the physical demands a firefighter faces daily. The weight of the bunker gear is similar to the combat load of body armor and ammunition. He also explained how military structure is equally similar to a firehouse, including the camaraderie and style of training found within most military units.
“I think James is a very good fit to go into the fire service,” said Pete Hines, assistant chief of the Fort Jackson Fire Department. “He is intelligent. He can think. I wish he could stay [here at Fort Jackson].”
Members of the Fort Jackson Fire Department pose in front of two of their fire engines.
(Photo by Ms. Elyssa Vondra)
Hall graduated the fire academy in March 2019 but remains on active duty until he starts his terminal leave at the end of May 2019. With the support of his commander and Hines, Hall was able to keep his newly acquired skills sharp by spending a few days out of the week working for the Fort Jackson Fire Department. There, Hall’s duty day is like the other firefighters. He helps to maintain his personal protective equipment, the fire vehicles, the firehouse and respond to fire calls. Hall was also afforded opportunities to attend additional fire training classes to expand his firefighting certifications that will make him more attractive to prospective fire departments in Texas when Hall moves his Family back home in May 2019.
Hall’s successful completion of the program and his volunteer service with the fire department will allow him to begin seeking employment with a local fire department as soon as he is settled in Texas. Hall said he believes the transition will be a smooth one thanks to the program, support from his Family and support from his chain of command.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Fort Jackson Fire Department, (the program) and my unit,” Hall said. “Any of these programs that are available, I say take advantage of them while they are here.”
The Troops to Firefighter program is one of many offered to transitioning soldiers. Other programs include lineman, trucking, piping, solar energy and more. To find more information about these programs, contact the Soldier For Life – Transition Assistance Program office at www.sfl-tap.army.mil or 1-800-325-4715.
Ukrainian lawmakers are to decide whether to introduce martial law after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.
The Verkhova Rada is to vote on Nov. 26, 2018, on a presidential decree that would impose martial law until Jan. 25, 2019, the first time Kyiv has taken such a step since Russia seized Crimea and backed separatists in a war in eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Before submitting the decree, President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia immediately release the ships and sailors, who he said had been “brutally detained in violation of international law.”
He also urged Moscow to “ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step” and to ease tension more broadly.
European Council President Donald Tusk condemned the “Russian use of force” and tweeted that “Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels refrain from further provocations,” adding: “Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine.”
European Council President Donald Tusk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the Ukrainian sailors would be held responsible under Russian law for violating the border, but did not specify what that meant.
Poroshenko earlier said he supported the imposition of martial law, which could give the government the power to restrict public demonstrations, regulate the media, and postpone a presidential election slated to be held in late March 2019, among other things.
Yuriy Byryukov, an adviser to Poroshenko, said on Facebook that his administration does not plan to postpone the election or restrict the freedom of speech.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Kyiv of violating international norms with “dangerous methods that created threats and risks for the normal movement of ships in the area.”
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was called for later in the day, and NATO ambassadors were meeting their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels to discuss the situation.
In a sharp escalation of tension between the two countries, Russian forces on Nov. 25, 2018, fired on two warships, wounding six crew members, before seizing the vessels along with a Ukrainian Navy tugboat.
Kyiv said it had not been in contact with 23 sailors who it said were taken captive.
The three Ukrainian vessels were being held at the Crimean port of Kerch, the Reuters news agency quoted an eyewitness as saying on Nov. 26, 2018. The witness said people in naval-style uniforms could be seen around the ships.
The announcement of the hostilities on Nov. 25, 2018, came on a day of heightened tension after Russia blocked the three Ukrainian Navy ships from passing from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait.
The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency session on Nov. 26, 2018, to discuss the matter.
The AFP news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying the meeting was requested by both Ukraine and Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Ukrainian authorities of using “gangster tactics” — first a provocation, then pressure, and finally accusations of aggression.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which oversees the country’s border-guard service, said its forces fired at the Ukrainian Navy ships to get them to stop after they had illegally entered Russian territorial waters.
“In order to stop the Ukrainian military ships, weapons were used,” the FSB said. It also confirmed that three Ukrainian Navy ships were “boarded and searched.”
But the Ukrainian Navy said its vessels — including two small artillery boats — were attacked by Russian coast-guard ships as they were leaving the Kerch Strait and moving back into the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s “aggressive actions” violated international law and should be met with “an international and diplomatic legal response.”
Demonstrators protested outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv late on Nov. 25, 2018.
Earlier on Nov. 25, 2018, Kyiv said a Russian coast-guard vessel rammed the Ukrainian Navy tugboat in the same area as three Ukrainian ships approached the Kerch Strait in an attempt to reach the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted a video of the ramming on his Facebook page.
Mariupol is the closest government-controlled port to the parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are controlled by Russia-backed separatists.
It has been targeted by the anti-Kyiv forces at times during the war that has killed more than 10,300 people since it erupted shortly after Russia seized Crimea.
In a reference to Russia, the Ukrainian Navy said the collision occurred because “the invaders’ dispatcher service refuses to ensure the right to freedom of navigation, guaranteed by international agreements.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Ukrainian Navy said in a statement. “All illegal actions are recorded by the crews of the ships and the command of Ukraine’s Navy and will be handed over to the respective international bodies.”
“The ships of the Ukrainian Navy continue to perform tasks in compliance with all norms of international law,” the Navy said in a statement.
After that incident, Russian authorities closed passage by civilian ships through the Kerch Strait on grounds of heightened security concerns.
Russian news agencies quote a local port authority as saying that the strait was reopened for shipping early on Nov. 26, 2018.
In Brussels, the European Union late on Nov. 25, 2018, called upon Russia “to restore freedom of passage”‘ in the Kerch Strait.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said NATO was “closely monitoring developments” in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and was “in contact with the Ukrainian authorities, adding: “We call for restraint and deescalation.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he supports a move to introduce martial law.
“NATO fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity, including its navigational rights in its territorial waters,” Lungescu said. “We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea, in accordance with international law.”
The spokeswoman stressed that at a summit in July 2018, NATO “made clear that Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea, and the Azov Sea pose further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region.”
Russia claimed it did nothing wrong. The FSB accused the Ukrainian Navy ships of illegally entering its territorial waters and deliberately provoking a conflict.
The Sea of Azov, the Kerch Strait, and the Black Sea waters off Crimea have been areas of heightened tension since March 2014,when Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and began supporting pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
A 2003 treaty between Russia and Ukraine designates the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters.
But Moscow has been asserting greater control since its takeover of Crimea — particularly since May 2018, when it opened a bridge linking the peninsula to Russian territory on the eastern side of the Kerch Strait.
Both sides have recently increased their military presence in the region, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of harassing ships heading toward Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, such as Mariupol and Berdyansk.
The Ukrainian Navy said it was a Russian border-guard ship, the Don, that “rammed into our tugboat.” It said the collision caused damage to the tugboat’s engine, outer hull, and guardrail.
Russia’s ships “carried out openly aggressive actions against Ukrainian naval ships,” the statement said, adding that the Ukrainian ships were continuing on their way “despite Russia’s counteraction.”
But the Kyiv-based UNIAN news agency reported later that the two small-sized armored artillery boats and the tugboat did not manage to enter the Sea of Azov.
Ukrainian Navy spokesman Oleh Chalyk told Ukraine’s Kanal 5 TV that the tugboat “established contact with a coast-guard outpost” operated by the FSB Border Service and “communicated its intention to sail through the Kerch Strait.”
“The information was received [by Russian authorities] but no response was given,” Chalylk said.
But the FSB said the Ukrainian ships “illegally entered a temporarily closed area of Russian territorial waters” without authorization. In a statement, it did not mention the ramming of the Ukrainian tugboat.
A few hours before Russian forces fired on Ukrainian Navy ships, the FSB said two other Ukrainian ships — two armored Gyurza-class gunboats — had left Ukraine’s Sea of Azov port at Berdyansk and were sailing south toward the Kerch Strait at top speed.
Russian officials said after the reported shooting incident in the Black Sea that those Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov turned back to Berdyansk before reaching the Kerch Strait.
The FSB also warned Kyiv against “reckless decisions,” saying that Russia was taking “all necessary measures to curb this provocation,” Interfax reported.
Iranians are making fun of an Iranian official for posting a picture of an astronaut suit adorned with an Iranian flag that seems to be a photoshopped version of a children’s Halloween space costume.
Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi issued the image on February 4 with the hashtag #bright_future. Without any explanation at the time, it was unclear if he was trying to fool people into believing it was an actual Iranian-issue space suit or just a joke.
Azari Jahromi’s vague tweet was quickly met with derision, criticism, and humorous memes by Iranians on social media amid allegations the minister was, in fact, trying to trick his countrymen into believing the image was an actual suit for the government’s ambitious but not-ready-for-prime-time space program.
He later clarified that the image was “the picture of a dream, the dream of walking on the moon.” He added that he found the many jokes posted online to be “interesting.”
Speaking at a Tehran event titled Space Technologists’ Gathering, Azari Jahromi said his tweet “was the introduction to good news.”
“The suit wasn’t really important because we haven’t made an Iranian space suit, yet work is being done to create a special outfit for Iranian space scientists,” he backpedaled.
That didn’t stop the torrent of jokes.
“He bought a Halloween space costume [for] , removed [the] NASA logo while sewing an Iranian flag on it. He’s promoting it as a national achievement,” a user said in reaction to the image.
Some posted memes to mock the minister, including a video of an astronaut dancing to Iranian music with the hashtag #The_Dance_of_Iranians_In_space #Bright_future.
Another user posted a photoshopped photo of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin wearing the suit Azari Jahromi had posted on Twitter.
Azari Jahromi — an avid Twitter user who’s been blacklisted by Washington for his role in censoring the Internet in Iran, where citizens are blocked from using Twitter and other social-media sites — has been promoting Iran’s space program in recent days while announcing that Tehran will launch a satellite, Zafar (“Victory” in Persian), into orbit by the end of the week.
Azari Jahromi said on February 4 that his country had taken the first step in the quest to send astronauts into space. “The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has ordered manufacturing five space capsules for carrying humans to space to the Aerospace Research Center of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology,” he was quoted as saying on February 4 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.
Iran had two failed satellite launches in January and February of last year and a third attempt later in the year resulted in the explosion of a rocket on the launch pad.
But Azari Jahromi said on Twitter on February 3 that Tehran was not afraid of failure and that “we will not lose hope” of having a successful space program.
Do Monkeys Get Space Suits?
Iran does have a recent history of sending creatures into orbit, much to the consternation of animal-rights activists around the world.
In 2010, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket was launched by Iran with a rodent, two turtles, and several worms into suborbital space and they reportedly returned to Earth alive.
A Kavoshgar-5 carrying a monkey was launched into suborbital space in 2011 but it was said to have failed, though there was no information about the unidentified monkey on board.
Iran sent another monkey up on a Pishgam capsule two years later that it said was successful. However, no timing or location of the launch was ever announced, leaving many to doubt it had taken place. A second monkey, named Fargam, was said to have made a similar trip into suborbital space nearly a year later.
Iran’s planned satellite launch this week comes amid heightened tensions with the United States, which has accused the Islamic republic of using its space program as a cover for missile development.
Iranian officials maintain their space activities do not violate United Nations resolutions and that there is no international law prohibiting such a program.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
In early January, the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack. Tehran retaliated a few days later by launching a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.
Those possible responses include destroying a launch site before North Korea could test a missile and targeting a stockpile of weapons, according to The Telegraph.
“The Pentagon is trying to find options that would allow them to punch the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that we’re serious,” a former US security official briefed on policy told The Telegraph.
Attacking North Korea would make the Syria strike look easy
When US Navy ships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield, President Donald Trump had the world’s support in attacking a nation accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.
Syria’s military was already stretched thin fighting a civil war and multiple Islamist terrorist groups. The strike went virtually unpunished.
But that most likely wouldn’t be the case with a US strike on North Korea, which has a massive standing army and a military posture geared toward offense.
And there are practical reasons the US can’t just blow up a North Korean missile launch site. As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter, “Mobile missiles don’t need launch sites, Donald.”
Instead of using designated launch sites, North Korea puts its missiles on mobile launchers, some of which have treads to launch from off-road locations.
Lately, North Korea has varied its launch sites, most likely to make it harder for the US to track and possibly intercept missiles.
If the US wants to give you a bloody nose, nothing can stop it
The US does have tools to give North Korea a “bloody nose.”
Short of blowing up a launch site, which could kill launch officers — and possibly Kim Jong Un, as he usually watches launches from close by — the US could attempt to intercept North Korea’s next missile launch.
The US and allies have not only increased missile-defense deployments to the region — they’ve also deployed F-35 stealth fighters that have some capability to shoot down missile launches.
Submarines like the USS Michigan, which has frequently visited South Korea in recent months, could send a volley of cruise missiles at any military site in North Korea without ever surfacing.
Forward-deployed Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the US Navy could intercept the missiles as they launched, Sid Trevethan, a former US Navy specialist in ballistic missile defense and electronic countermeasures, told Business Insider.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently said that though North Korea’s last ballistic missile test demonstrated a very long range, he’s not convinced the entire missile system works. US policy on North Korea explicitly calls for denying it the means to perfect its missile program.
Destroying North Korean missiles during launch would rob Pyongyang of valuable testing and could ensure it never tests an ICBM at full range, meaning it could never be fully confident in its ability to hit the US.
Calling Kim’s bluff risks nuclear war
The US knows what capabilities it has to counter North Korea, but not how North Korea would respond.
If the US were to send Tomahawk missiles toward a launch site, North Korea might interpret the incoming salvo as targeting its supreme leader and being an outright act of war.
The bloody-nose scenario comes down to a gamble on whether North Korea is ready to enter all-out war over a limited strike.
North Korea has sunk US and South Korean ships without proportionate punishment in the past. It has shelled South Korean islands, captured Americans and South Koreans, and killed civilians without US retaliation.
North Korea, despite having the weaker hand militarily, has often gambled that the US and South Korea value prosperity and peace — albeit an uneasy peace — too much to respond tit-for-tat to its military provocations.
A US attack on North Korea might just call a long-standing bluff and show that Pyongyang’s bark is worse than its bite — or it might unleash nuclear war.
Before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was blotted out by a US airstrike on June 7, 2006, he made an impression, especially on Stanley McChrystal, who, as a lieutenant general in charge of US Joint Special Operations Command, led the effort to take out the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi’s zealotry made him a lodestar for an extremist movement that still roils Iraq and the region, McChrystal said on a recent episode of Business Insider’s “This Is Success” podcast.
“For about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth,” said McChrystal, who profiled al-Zarqawi in his most recent book, “Leaders.”
“But then, what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs — if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot — other people were attracted to him,” McChrystal added. “He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do.”
Arriving in Iraq in 2003 to lead a US Joint Special Operations Task Force, McChrystal recognized the strengths of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the mismatch the group presented for the US military’s traditional conception of its enemies.
“By habit, we started mapping the organization in a traditional military structure, with tiers and rows. At the top was Zarqawi, below him a cascade of lieutenants and foot soldiers,” McChrystal wrote in 2011, a year after retiring. “But the closer we looked, the more the model didn’t hold.”
AQI’s network was characterized by the free flow of information and resources.
Tactics changed quickly across broad swaths of Iraq. It became clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was less a hierarchical fighting network than “a constellation of fighters” organized by relationships and reputations.
At the center was al-Zarqawi.
“When he became the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way. He wore all black [and] looked like a terrorist leader,” McChrystal told Business Insider correspondent Richard Feloni.
In 2004, al-Zarqawi beheaded American contractor Nicholas Berg, McChrystal said.
That was “a gruesome thing to do,” he added, but it served as a message that “‘our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific.'”
“He was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam when most of them really didn’t,” McChrystal said. “The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to Al Qaeda, but yet he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.”
In summer 2005, McChrystal was recalled to the White House to brief the National Security Council on al-Zarqawi.
“Are you going to get him?” President George W. Bush asked McChrystal.
President George W. Bush.
(White House photo by Eric Draper)
“We will, Mr. President,” McChrystal replied. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
As US forces whittled away the middle ranks of al-Zarqawi’s organization, which he had built into semiautonomous cells, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was seeking to ignite a sectarian war, stoking violence between Sunnis and Shiites.
By spring 2006, al-Zarqawi was a bigger priority for JSOC than Al Qaeda cofounders Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the latter of whom is still alive.
By May that year, JSOC had mapped out al-Zarqawi’s organization around Baghdad, including his spiritual adviser, with whom he met frequently.
On June 7, 2006, a drone tracked the adviser to a house in Hibhib, a village roughly 12 miles from McChrystal’s own headquarters, where US personnel watched intently as a man dressed black walked out and strolled through the driveway.
Just after 6 p.m., an F-16 dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on the house, following it with another less than two minutes later.
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
Less than 20 minutes after that, US Army Delta Force operators arrived at the demolished house to find Iraqi police loading a still-alive al-Zarqawi into an ambulance. They watched him die.
“We didn’t just depose him. We killed him,” McChrystal told Feloni. “I stood over his body right after we killed him.”
McChrystal expressed no admiration for al-Zarqawi’s methods — “in many ways, he was a psychopath,” he said — but he acknowledged al-Zarqawi’s strengths as a leader.
“Your first desire is to demonize him, but you know the reality is I had to respect him. He led very effectively,” McChrystal said.
“Initially you just say we’re just going to get this guy, and then after a while you watch him lead, and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent, he’s making me better, [and] you’re also going after someone who truly believes,” he added.
McChrystal held his position in Iraq until 2008 and was credited with making JSOC more agile and more lethal, evincing “an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists” and pushing his command to kill as many of them as possible.
He took over command of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009, but his tenure was short-lived.
He resigned in the summer of 2010, after the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which his aides were quoted disparaging US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Vice President Joe Biden.
The killing of al-Zarqawi looms large among McChrystal’s accomplishments, though he said that operation was reflective of how he learned to decentralize responsibility rather than indicative of his martial prowess.
“The myth is the counterterrorist who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — went out, wrestled him to the ground, bare to the waist, and that’s total BS,” McChrystal told Feloni, when asked how he would describe his own biography.
“At times, do I like the myth, because people go, ‘Wow, look at him’?” he said. “Yeah, it’s kind of cool, and you never want to go, ‘no, that’s not true.’ But it’s not true.”
“The reality is that I built the team” that took out al-Zarqawi, he added. “Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team than I would be of wrestling [al-Zarqawi] to his death.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.
It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.
Overall, here’s what you can expect:
It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)
You get treated like a human being
There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.
Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.
Waiting in lines
Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.
The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.
It’s seriously not bad.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.
Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.
It doesn’t take long, honestly.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)
This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.
A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”
A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.
“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”
Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.
Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.
“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.
Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.
Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.
“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.
Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.
“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.
Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.
During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.
“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.
That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.
“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.
The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.
That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.
As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.
The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.
“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”