The Pakistani military allegedly coordinated a surveillance operation which collected data from US, UK, and Australian officials and diplomats.
Researchers from US mobile-security company Lookout found Western officials were unintentionally caught up in a data-gathering operation which used surveillanceware tools dubbed Stealth Mango (for Android) and Tangel (for iOS).
In a report released in May 2018, Lookout researchers said they believe Pakistani military members were responsible for hacks targeting civilians, government officials, diplomats, and military personnel in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the UAE.
“These tools have been part of a highly targeted intelligence gathering campaign we believe is operated by members of the Pakistani military,” the report read. “Our investigation indicates this actor has used these surveillanceware tools to successfully compromise the mobile devices of government officials, members of the military, medical professionals, and civilians.”
According to Lookout, which analyzed 15gb of compromised data, perpetrators largely targeted victims via phishing messages which linked to a third-party Android app store.
Once a surveillanceware app was downloaded it was able to access text messages, audio recordings, photos, calendars, contact lists for apps including Skype, and the phone’s GPS location. It also had the ability to detect when a victim was driving and turn off SMS and internet reception during that time.
On at least one occasion the app store URL was sent via Facebook messenger which, according to Lookout, suggests “the attackers are using fake personas to connect with their targets and coerce them into installing the malware onto their devices.”
The individuals targeted in this campaign unknowingly gave hackers access to pictures of IDs and passports, the GPS locations of photos, legal and medical documents, internal government communications, and photos of military and government officials from closed-door meetings.
Officials and civilians from the US and Iran, as well as British and Australian diplomats, were not targeted in the operation but their data was compromised after interacting with Stealth Mango victims.
Some of the victims’ compromised data included:
A letter from the United States Central Command to the Afghanistan Assistant Minister of Defense for Intelligence
A letter from the High Commission for Pakistan to the United States Director of the Foreign Security Office Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by Australian Diplomats
Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by German Diplomats
Photos of Afghan and Pakistani military officials
It’s unknown when Stealth Mango was launched, but its latest release was made in April 2018.
Lookout believes it was created by freelance developers with physical presences in Pakistan, India, and the United States, but actively managed by actors in Pakistan who are most likely members of the military.
The main developer is thought to be a full-time app creator. Lookout suspects he once worked for a company based in Sydney, Australia. On LinkedIn, most of the company’s employees are based in Pakistan.
When contacted by Lookout, Google said the apps used in this operation were not available on the Google Play Store, but “Google Play Protect has been updated to protect user devices from these apps and is in the process of removing them from all affected devices.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
David Silcott, left, chief executive of S3i, goes over an airflow particle test for Navy Vice Adm. Dee Mewbourne, right, deputy commander, U.S. Transportation Command, on board a United Airlines 767 aircraft at Dulles International Airport, Va., Aug. 28, 2020. (DoD/ Stephenie Wade)
A new military-led study unveiled Thursday shows there is a low risk for passengers traveling aboard large commercial aircraft to contract an airborne virus such as COVID-19 — and it doesn’t matter where they sit on the airplane.
Researchers concluded that because of sophisticated air particle filtration and ventilation systems on board the Boeing 767-300 and 777-200 aircraft — the planes tested for the study — airborne particles within the cabin have a very short lifespan, according to defense officials with U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and Air Mobility Command, which spearheaded the study.
“The favorable results are attributable to a combination of the airframes’ high air exchange rates, coupled with the high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration recirculation systems, and the downward airflow ventilation design which results in rapid dilution and purging of the disseminated aerosol particles,” Vice Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command, said during a virtual roundtable with reporters.
DARPA teamed up with biodefense company Zeteo Tech, scientific research company S3i and the University of Nebraska’s National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) for the trials. Industry partners included Boeing and United Airlines.; the study was funded by TRANSCOM, according to Army Lt Col Ellis Gales, spokesman for the command.
“All areas on both aircraft proved to be extremely effective in dispersing and filtering out the aerosol particles,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Pope, TRANSCOM Operations directorate liaison for the airflow particle test. “So specifically, can I tell you to sit in seat XYZ? No; they all performed very well.”
During the tests, held Aug. 24-31, analysts released two types of aerosols that had specific DNA signatures. The tagged fluorescent tracers allowed for researchers to better follow their distribution path, both in flight and on the ground.
Sensors throughout the aircraft measured over 300 iterations of aerosol releases — at rates of 2 to 4 minutes — across four cabin zones on the 777, and three zones on the 767, Mewboourne explained. The dispersions were mapped in real-time, he said.
The particles were quickly diluted, however, and only remained detectable for fewer than six minutes on average, TRANSCOM said in the report. By comparison “a typical American home takes around 90 minutes to clear these types of particles from the air,” the command said.
While the more time spent on an aircraft correlates to a potential infection rate, according to the study, even passengers on long-haul flights wouldn’t be able to pick up a sufficient viral load under the test conditions. Passengers traveling on board the 777 would need to spend at least “54 hours when sitting next to an index patient in the economy section,” and more than 100 hours in the other cabins of both the 777 and the 767 to be exposed to an infectious dose, the study said.
Mannequins representing passengers were positioned throughout the aircraft, some wearing masks and some without. David Silcott of S3i and one of the authors of the report said the dispersed mannequins were part of both breathing and cough tests.
During the simulated cough tests, masked mannequins showed a “very, very large reduction in aerosol that would come out of [them], greater than 95% for most cases,” Silcott said. “It definitely showed the benefit of wearing a mask inflight from these tests.”
Pope said it is important to consider that the study was specific to aerosols and not ballistic droplets, those that are emitted while coughing, sneezing or breathing heavily.
That said, “the mask is very important in that the larger droplets that travel ballistically through the air will be caught by your mask,” Pope said. “And if you don’t have the mask on, then you cannot reduce those numbers of ballistic particles.”
Scientists also collected samples from surfaces like armrests and video screens, considered “high-touch” zones; the tests showed that while the distribution on surfaces was minimal, flat surface areas — like armrests — are more likely than vertical surface areas like seatbacks or screens to collect deposits of particles.
There are other caveats: The scientists didn’t try to simulate passengers freely moving about the cabin, moving around to switch locations or turning toward one another to have a conversation.
“While … we’re very encouraged by the results, that’s part of the reason why we’re making the results public, and sharing them with the scientific community so that that follow-on research can be done,” Pope said.
The study next heads into a peer review before its findings can be submitted for a scientific journal. TRANSCOM is examining the results, which could spur new travel policies or proposals, Pope said.
Following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, TRANSCOM identified an immediate need to move passengers in a safe manner, including high-risk patients as well as military members and families traveling aboard the Defense Department-contracted Patriot Express flights. The two Boeing aircraft used for the aerosol simulations are the aircraft most typically used for Patriot Express flights.
The officials stressed service members should still follow current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and airline protocols when boarding a flight.
The new US strategy in Afghanistan, by working more closely with Kabul and taking a harder line toward Pakistan, stands a better chance of working than previous plans, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Sept. 20.
Speaking at an Asia Society meeting in New York, Ghani said former President Barack Obama’s previous strategy to try to successfully conclude the 16-year war and withdraw US troops failed because Obama “did not have a partner in Afghanistan.”
Ghani did not elaborate, but his remarks implicitly criticized his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, who had a sometimes rocky relationship with Washington.
Unlike Obama, US President Donald Trump has “a team of partners in Afghanistan,” Ghani said, and Trump developed his strategy after holding “immense consultations with us.”
Ghani gave Obama credit for his decision to maintain some US forces in Afghanistan rather than following his pledge to pull them all out, saying that decision “ensured our survival” at a time when Taliban militants were strengthening in their drive to defeat and unseat the government.
Ghani, in a separate interview with National Public Radio due to air on Sept. 21, revealed some details of Trump’s Afghan strategy not previously disclosed by the White House.
He said the administration’s objective is to bring 80 percent of Afghanistan back under the government’s control in the next four years. The United States currently estimates that the government directly controls only about half the country.
Ghani told NPR that the new strategy’s goal is to double the size of the Afghan commando force and elevate it from a division to a corps command, while bolstering the Afghan military’s airpower.
All this would occur as Kabul overhauls its military leadership, he said.
“We ourselves are changing management and leadership. Our minister of defense is under 40. A new generation is taking over,” he told NPR, adding that older generals are being honorably retired.
Under the plan, Ghani told NPR that US troops will continue to advise, assist, and train Afghan forces and will not return to a combat role.
But “the advisers will be working now at the division level to make sure that the systems processes are there,” he said.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said this week that more than 3,000 additional US troops are being deployed to Afghanistan under the new strategy, raising the total number of US forces to more than 14,000. That compares with a high of more than 100,000 troops under Obama.
Part of Trump’s announced strategy is to take a tougher line toward Pakistan for allegedly providing refuge to the Afghan Taliban and other extremist groups. Pakistan denies the accusations.
Ghani told the Asia Society that by targeting Pakistan and taking a more “regional approach,” the Trump strategy provides a new opening for peace talks.
“The message to Pakistan to engage and become a responsible stakeholder in the region and in the fight against terrorism has never been clearer,” he said.
“What I am offering the Pakistan government, the Pakistan security apparatus, is the invitation to a comprehensive dialogue,” Ghani said. “If Pakistan does not take this opportunity, I think they will pay a high price.”
Ghani said Afghan forces are getting better, having gained more experience by assuming a bigger role in the fighting after the massive cuts in US forces under Obama.
He said he believes it will not take another decade to win or settle the war but rather “some limited years.”
On November 30, 2020, the Navy announced the decision to decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6). The Wasp-class amphibious ship suffered extensive damage during a fire while in port in July. The decision follows an extensive assessment of the ship after the fire.
As a landing helicopter deck amphibious assault ship, the Bonhomme Richard was an integral part of the Navy-Marine Corps team. She was capable of supporting a wide range of aircraft including the SH-60F/HH-60H Seahawk, UH-1Y Venom, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, AV-8B Harrier, MV-22B Osprey, and the new F-35B Lightning II. Her well deck also allowed her to support landing craft like LCACs, LCUs and LCMs.
The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned on August 15, 1998. From January 24 to July 24, 2000, she made the first WESTPAC deployment of any U.S. Navy vessel in the new millennium. The next year, she began her participation in the War on Terror with a deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Bonhomme Richard provided critical support to Marine Corps operations. She offloaded Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines in Kuwait and went on to launch 547 combat sorties. Marine Attack Squadrons VMA-211 and VMA-311 delivered more than 175,000 pounds of ordnance launching from Bonhomme Richard‘s deck.
Additionally, the ship assisted in humanitarian operations. Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the Bonhomme Richard was detached from Operation Iraqi Freedom and sailed for Sri Lanka. The ship helped to airlift relief supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia. Following a port visit to Guam, the ship returned to the Indian Ocean. Helicopters from the Bonhomme Richard flew medical supplies and personnel into Indonesia and evacuated the wounded.
Tragically, a fire broke out on board the ship while in her homeport at San Diego during maintenance. At around 8:50 am, an explosion occurred on the ship. “It is a Class Alpha fire,” said Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, Expeditionary Strike Group 3 commander, “meaning it was fueled by paper, cloth, rags or other materials in a standard fire.” Despite not being accelerated by fuel or munitions, the fire was extensive. Firefighting effort were delayed because fire-suppression systems had been disabled due to the maintenance.
Finally, on July 16, the Navy announced that all fires on board had been extinguished. A total of 40 sailors and 23 civilians received minor injuries as a result of the fire. The fire was a “very, very serious incident,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday. 11 of the 14 decks sustained fire and water damage. Many sections of deck were warped or bulging and the ship’s island had been gutted by the flames. On July 31, nine sailors assigned to the Bonhomme Richard were meritoriously promoted for their actions in fighting the fire.
Although NCIS and the ATF questioned sailors following the fire, no charges were made and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Navy is also conducting investigations into safety standards to prevent future fires.
On November 30, the Navy announced that the Bonhomme Richard would be decommissioned. “We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite. “Following an extensive material assessment in which various courses of action were considered and evaluated, we came to the conclusion that it is not fiscally responsible to restore her.” In fact, the assessment concluded that it would cost the Navy over $3 billion and take five to seven years to restore the ship. The Navy also considered repurposing the ship. However, the associated costs were estimated to exceed $1 billion, as much or more than the cost of a new purpose-built ship.
At this time, the timeline for towing and dismantling is still being finalized. “Although it saddens me that it is not cost effective to bring her back, I know this ship’s legacy will continue to live on through the brave men and women who fought so hard to save her, as well as the Sailors and Marines who served aboard her during her 22-year history,” Braithwaite said.
Silence, darkness and cold. Those were the only things surrounding the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) since she plummeted to her deep-sea grave on the sea floor two miles below the surface of the war-torn Pacific on May 8, 1942.
Until March 2018.
Like an improbable plot from one of Clive Cussler’s “NUMA Files” adventure novels, billionaire explorer Paul Allen and his own private fleet of deep-sea scientists used a remotely piloted submarine to discover the wreckage of the USS Lexington on March 4, 2018. She lies on the bottom in 10,000 feet of water about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia where she sank. Photos show her deck guns still trained at a black liquid sky waiting for phantom Japanese Zeros, Val dive bombers and Kate torpedo bombers that disappeared into antiquity decades ago.
The wreck was discovered from Paul Allen’s private research vessel, the R/V Petrel, on March 4, 2018 at about 8:00 am local time in the Pacific. Brilliant color images of the Lexington and some of her aircraft were transmitted to the surface and shared around the world over the last 24 hours.
One of the most remarkable photos shows a beautiful, colorful Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter from U.S. Navy Fighter Squadron 3 (VF-3) that was aboard the USS Lexington at Coral Sea. The aircraft wears the “Felix the Cat holding a bomb” insignia common along with four Japanese kill markings on the right side of its fuselage below the canopy. The aircraft sits with its canopy open and its beautiful blue upper wing and fuselage and gray lower surface paint livery. It is the first time anyone has seen the aircraft since she was sent to the bottom in 1942. Despite the crushing depth, corrosive seawater and decades gone by, it remains in amazingly good condition.
Researcher Robert Kraft, director of subsea operations for Allen, was quoted earlier today on Geekwire.com in a story by writer Kurt Schlosser as saying that the USS Lexington was on a priority list of ships to locate by Allen’s team.
“Based on geography, time of year and other factors, I work together with Paul Allen to determine what missions to pursue,” Kraft said. “We’ve been planning to locate the Lexington for about six months and it came together nicely.”
Underwater images and video taken by the remotely operated submersible launched from the research vessel R/V Petrel also show large deck guns on the carrier along with aircraft like the F4F Wildcat and others. The advanced submersible robot camera vehicles used by Allen’s team can submerge to a depth of nearly 20,000 feet and transmit high-resolution video and navigation data to the surface.
Allen’s team also found the fabled USS Indianapolis in 2017. The cruiser Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine after a secret mission to deliver the first atomic bomb in 1945. The terrifying ordeal of the Indianapolis survivors became famous after it was featured in a monologue by the fictional character “Quint” in the Peter Benchley novel and movie, “Jaws”.
In 2015 Paul Allen’s team also located the wreck of the Japanese mega-battleship, “Mushashi“, sister ship to the giant Yamato battleship. Mushashi and Yamato remain the largest battleships ever constructed. Both were sunk in WWII.
Significant history also surrounds the discovery of the USS Lexington making Allen’s find even more extraordinary.
The USS Lexington was the first full-sized fleet aircraft carrier to be sunk by aircraft launched from an enemy aircraft carrier in WWII. The Lexington took hits from several torpedoes and bombs launched from Japanese aircraft as it fought alongside the USS Yorktown with an opposing force of three Japanese carriers. Her deployment in the region was a critical strategic deterrent to an anticipated Japanese invasion of the Australian mainland that never came. About a year earlier the smaller Royal Navy HMS Hermes, one of the first purpose-built aircraft carriers, was sunk by Japanese dive bombers.
After the USS Lexington took multiple hits from Japanese aircraft on May 8, 1942, a massive explosion tore through her spaces at 12:47 PM. Gasoline vapor from the ruptured port aviation fuel tanks exploded. The giant explosion destroyed the ship’s main damage control station, but air operations continued despite the fires. Remarkably, all of the surviving aircraft from the morning’s strike were recovered by 2:14 PM.
Moments later at 2:42 PM another major explosion tore through the forward part of the Lexington, igniting fires below the flight deck on the hanger deck and leading to a power failure. Though assisted by three destroyers, the damage control parties were overwhelmed after a third explosion ripped through her hull at 3:25 PM. That explosion, the death blow to Lexington, cut off water pressure to the hanger deck preventing fire crews from containing the fire there. As a result, a final, enormous explosion from fuel and ammunition stored in her hold and magazines ignited an uncontrollable inferno on board.
Shortly after 3:28 PM her commander, Captain Frederick Sherman, issued the order to abandon ship. Despite multiple explosions and fires on board Lexington a remarkable 2,770 crewmen and officers were rescued. Tragically, 216 were killed in the Japanese attack on the ship and in the fire-fighting efforts that followed. The USS Lexington was scuttled (purposely sunk) by several torpedoes fired from the USS Phelps to prevent her hulk from falling into Japanese hands.
The discovery of the USS Lexington wreck and the images made by Paul Allen’s research team provide a unique and invaluable insight into WWII history. This treasure of historical data would have likely remained lost forever if it weren’t for the wealthy investor’s remarkable drive for discovery and commitment to research.
A team of Fort Bragg soldiers set their sights on one of the top officials within warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army late last year.
The soldiers, working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, tracked down the family of the official — communications chief Michael Omona.
He played a key role in the Ugandan warlord’s cultish militant group, which was built on the backs of former child soldiers abducted from their homes in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Fort Bragg soldiers – part of a regional psychological operations team deployed to Africa – weren’t targeting Omona with firepower. Instead, it was a campaign fueled by facts and meant to counter the misinformation Kony spread across his force.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Col. Bethany Aragon, the commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group at Fort Bragg, described what happened next.
“If you can envision yourself walking through this dense jungle,” she said. “… As he’s walking through the jungle, he hears his mother’s voice begging him to come home.”
The voice came from a U.S. Army loudspeaker team, piping voices into the countryside.
A little while later, leaflets dropped from the sky. On them, images of Omona’s uncle, who raised him as a father, and his daughter; both pleading for Omona to turn himself in to authorities.
“We targeted him,” Aragon said. “And in January 2017… he walked for two weeks to defect.”
Omona’s defection gave authorities key information in the search for Kony and the LRA. He provided access to codes used by the group and inside information on the higher workings of the LRA.
It was one of the highest profile defections in the long-running effort to dismantle the LRA. And Aragon used the example to show the value psychological operations soldiers played in those efforts.
“For over two decades, they abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced two million people and then really destabilized a region the size of California,” she said of the LRA.
Today, Aragon said the LRA has been rendered irrelevant. And a generation of stolen Uganda children have been returned to their homes as the LRA has dwindled from an army of thousands to less than 100 members.
At AUSA, Aragon and other special operations leaders presented case studies on the value of their forces during a panel led by Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Often working with foreign partners, conventional forces and other government agencies, Tovo said the Army’s special operations forces provide a set of unique capabilities that can’t be easily reproduced.
They are complementary skills, Tovo said, that when mixed with other capabilities and forces form a “symbiotic whole” to fuel national objectives.
“To quasi-quote Tom Cruse in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” he said. “We complete each other.”
Tovo said there are about 4,300 special operations soldiers deployed around the world in 78 countries. That includes Special Forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, Army Rangers and other special operations troops.
While the more violent aspects of special operations tend to make the most headlines, Tovo’s panel largely focused on the more unheralded aspects of the force – what he called an “indigenous approach” to operations around the world.
Members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Soldiers deployed to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa stand for a class photo after the UPDF graduated from the third of a four-phase psychological operations training held at the Uganda Junior Command and Staff College, Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2017. The training was part of the U.S. mission of strengthening partner nation defense forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)
“We live among, train with, advise and fight alongside people of foreign cultures,” Tovo said. “We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option.”
Joining Tovo on the panel were Aragon; the former ambassador to Ukraine and current ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt; Brig. Gen. David Komar, director of the requirements integration directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center; 75th Ranger Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier; and Lt. Col. Tom Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Tegtmeier discussed how the Rangers are working with Afghan partners. And Craig, who left Northern Syria about a week ago, discussed the task force comprised of Special Forces A-teams, special operations and conventional troops working to train and support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State.
“The indigenous approach is absolutely working,” he said, explaining how special operations forces are uniquely suited to the ongoing fight against ISIS.
Craig said his Special Forces soldiers have language skills and cultural understanding built up over multiple deployments that allow them to have influence on the nation’s Syrian partners.
“In Syria, it’s important to note,” he said. “We are advising a partner who is in the lead.”
He said the relatively light footprint of U.S. forces in Syria allow them to be agile and flexible, while also providing important support.
Craig said troops are training, equipping, advising and providing air support and intelligence to their partnered forces.
Pyatt said that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most challenges to American national security will happen in so-called “gray areas” between diplomacy and hard power.
Those are the areas in which special operations forces thrive, officials said.
Pyatt said the relationships between SOF and diplomats were critical.
“There’s a very, very high return on investments,” he said. “They don’t cost a lot of money, but they get a lot done.”
Komar said the conventional force was beginning to model some of its reforms after the SOF community, specifically with the creation of security force advise and assist brigades.
At the same time, he said the days of deconflicting between SOF and conventional forces were largely over. Instead, the Army has embraced and integration between the two types of units.
In addition to ongoing operations and recent case studies, the panelists discussed ways the special operations community was preparing for future fights.
Tovo said each special operations specialty has different skillsets, but complement one another.
Whether serving as a crisis response force or working alongside State Department personnel, special operations forces are able to provide unique perspectives and insight.
“When bad things happen in any part of the world and we’ve got SOF there,” he said. “… We provide the nation a suite of tools applicable across the full range of military operations.”
Aragon said the campaign against the LRA was the most effective psychological operations campaign in Africa to date.
She said the groundwork was laid in 2011, when a team of just four psyops soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the continent.
Aragon said Omona and other members of the LRA lived in dense jungle and worked for an unhinged leader. Most, like Omona himself, were former child soldiers abducted from their homes years ago.
“He’s susceptible,” she said. And so were others within the LRA.
The goal was to use radio, leaflets and area loudspeakers to reach disaffected members of the group.
Key to those efforts were buy-in from the Ugandan government, which offered amnesty for defectors, she said.
Early successes gave the psyops team additional weaponry – the voices and stories of former LRA members who could speak to the fair treatment they received.
The first mass defection came in 2013, Aragon said, when 19 combatants defected.
Omona’s name came up in latter conversations, identified through a nonprofit group dedicated to the reintegration of former child soldiers in Africa called Pathways to Peace.
Omona had been kidnapped by the LRA when he was 12. Twenty-three years later, he was personally in charge of Kony’s communications.
Aragon said soldiers enlisted the aid of Omona’s family. His defection helped the soldiers end their mission against the LRA earlier this year.
But for the next fight, potentially against a more advanced enemy force, Aragon said officials must begin their efforts now.
“We cannot wait until the deployment to find the next Michael Omona,” she said. “We have to be doing that persistently if we are to be ready and relevant.”
Damascus and Moscow have denied they were behind the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, an account Britain dismissed at an emergency U.N. session called in response to the attack.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the U.K. had seen nothing that would suggest rebels “have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday.”
Russia said it would submit information from its Defense Ministry to the Security Council debate.
A resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the U.S. stresses the Syrian government’s obligation to provide information about its air operations, including the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on the day of the attack.
Diplomats were also meeting in Brussels for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region. Representatives from 70 countries were present.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on April 4, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies.
Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s six-year conflict.
The Turkish Health Ministry said three victims of the attack died while being treated in Turkey, and that 29 people wounded in the attack were still being cared for in hospitals in the country. Syrian opposition groups had previously reported 72 dead.
Turkey set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay following the attack, where the victims are initially treated before being moved to hospitals.
Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.
The World Health Organization and the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.
In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”
Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and that he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”
Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Councilresolution condemning the attack.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”
Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on April 4, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.
Renewed airstrikes on April 5 hit near the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following the April 4 attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among those killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun, said his group has recorded 70 deaths.
He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.
Israeli defense officials said on April 4 that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.
The officials said Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on April 5 as they are not allowed to brief media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.
A top Syrian rebel representative said he held U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura “personally responsible” for the attack.
Mohammad Alloush, the rebels’ chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said the U.N.’s silence “legitimizes” the strategy.
“The true solution for Syria is to put Bashar Assad, the chemical weapons user, in court, and not at the negotiations table,” said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army rebel faction.
Syria’s rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.
Associated Press writers Philip Issa in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
The 2018 Star Match between the Army and Navy women’s soccer teams lies ahead this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Annapolis. A key part of the Star Series presented by USAA, the Mids will host their service academy rivals from New York in a matchup of two of the Patriot League’s top-five teams.
Navy comes into the contest at the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility with a 8-4-3 record and a 4-1 mark in Patriot League play, while Army will enter at 6-3-5, 2-2-1 in league action.
VA nurses recently received an unexpected gift, thanks to Nike. The multinational footwear and apparel manufacturer donated nearly 3,800 pairs of Air Zoom Pulse shoes to VHA nurses on the frontlines battling COVID-19.
While roughly 1,300 pairs were received by VHA’s Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) volunteers dispatched to COVID hot spots, the others were sent to healthcare workers who have been implementing innovative care solutions at their home facilities.
VA’s Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships (SCSP) collaborated with several VA offices to handle the donation, including the Veteran Canteen Services (VCS), Office of Nursing Services, Voluntary Services, and the Office of General Counsel. Together, they coordinated a detailed distribution plan, involving 123 VA medical facilities and their respective Community-Based Outpatient Clinic locations.
“VA healthcare workers have demonstrated true heroism, working tirelessly caring for Veterans and civilians during this COVID-19 pandemic, including traveling to hot spots across the nation. Nike proactively reached out to VA with this generous donation to lend support and share gratitude to those who have dedicated countless hours caring for others,” said Deborah Scher, SCSP’s executive advisor to the Secretary.
According to Amy Kanfer, chief merchandising officer for VCS, Nike also worked with partners Good360 and Webco-Hale to ship the items to VCS locations throughout the nation. “Canteen locations were the most efficient way to make this donation happen,” Kanfer said.
“Nike has always believed in the outstanding values and character found in the military, and we are thankful to all those who serve – and those who serve them. We hope they know how grateful we are for their care of our Veterans,” said BJ Prendergast, Nike’s global category director for Special Field Systems, and brigadier general with the Oregon Army National Guard.
“Frontline healthcare workers are the true heroes of this extraordinary time, and the donation of a shoe designed just for them is our way of showing our gratitude,” he added.
More information on SCSP
VA’s SCSP works with external partners who wish to assist VA with providing quality care for our nation’s Veterans. Donations to help enrich our Veterans and health care workers’ lives during the current COVID pandemic can be sent to the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships at email@example.com.
The Viking Age spanned from the sacking of the abbey on Lindisfarne in June, 793, and is generally accepted as ending with William the Conqueror’s ascension to the English throne in 1066. The Norse traveled outward from Scandinavia, reaching everywhere from Estonia to Canada to Spain to Baghdad. Despite their many accomplishments in exploring and trading, history knows them as warriors who welcomed battle and death.
No viking warrior has a reputation for badassery quite like that of Ragnar Lothbrok. His lifestyle was so badass that it’s been made into television series on History, aptly named Vikings. According to the show, Lothbrok single-handedly lead the assaults on Lindisfarne, Paris, and Wessex, and his eventual death sparked his sons to form the Great Heathen Army.
Looking at the timeline of those events in the real-world, that would mean he had a roughly 73-year viking career. The vikings, historically, made those victorious raids in 793, 845, and 858, before his death in 865. While it’s not entirely impossible for someone to raid for 73 years, the show’s creators are open about their creative liberties. The biggest of them being that there may have been many people named Ragnar Lothbrok — or no one at all.
I mean, if your BS story makes a cold-hearted deathbringer think twice, it’s worth the risk.
(Vikings Heading for Land / Frank Dicksee / 1873)
The Norse weren’t keen on preserving their own history. They did tell stories orally, which is how they still exist today, but historical records kept by the vikings are scarce at best. As with most stories, there was room for exaggeration. Plus, the people who wrote the stories of the vikings were almost always on the receiving ends of raids, concerned more with exaggerating their ferocity and triumphs over vikings than accurately retelling their defeats.
This leads us to the biggest debate surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok: When and where he actually died. Many have claimed responsibility for death: from Carlingford Lough to East Anglia to Anglesey to where the show places his death, Northumbria, everyone wanted to be known for slaying the fearsome Lothbrok. Taking credit for such a victory could ward off potential raids, but there’s little proof to back up most of these claims.
The battles of the Great Heathen Army were entirely accurate. They destroyed the hell out of Old England.
The only legitimate source for information on Ragnar Lothbrok is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of documents detailing Anglo-Saxon history originally published around the time Ragnar was said to exist. His name does appear, but there is a debate within the historical community if that the name “Ragnar” has been attributed to several other Norse leaders and not one single badass.
This puts a new perspective on the term “Son of Ragnar,” as it might have been more of a title than an actual blood relation. In the television series, many of Ragnar’s sons are born from his multiple wives. The two sons that actually have been historically proven to exist are Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless, both from different mothers. But any stories of their exploits, once again, fall firmly in the “with-a-grain-of-salt” category, seeing as The Saga of the Sons of Ragnaris, like much of viking history, more of a collection of campfire stories than historical evidence.
Though Vikings may not be a completely historically accurate telling of events, they do the vikings plenty of justice by interweaving the vast collection of Ragnar Lothbrok tales and piecing them into a single, compelling, easy-to-follow narrative. The facts are a bit hazy, but it’s still one of the more accurate representations of vikings in modern media. It just takes some liberties with individual characters.
Of course, there was no one assuming the mantle of “Ragnar” at the Lindisfarne raid. The actual viking, Rollo, who became the First Duke of Normandy in the year 911, lived nearly fifty years after Ragnar’s death, which means it’s impossible for them to be brothers. Even his first wife, Lagertha, may also be more myth than fact.
But on the bright side, the greatest scene in the entire series — if not television history — is actually very historically accurate.
Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.
“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”
When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.
Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.
The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.
Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Army Apaches are using a new technology in Afghanistan which enables the attack helicopter crews to view real-time video feeds from nearby drones, control the drones’ flight path and therefore more effectively destroy enemy targets, service officials told Scout Warrior.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming, or MUM-T, gives AH-64E Apache attack helicopters an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of Army Shadow and Gray Eagle drones. Army officials say the combination of the Apache’s lethal weapons and the drones’ sensors enable helicopter crews to find and go after dynamic or fast-moving targets from further ranges.
For instance, looking at real-time Electro-Optical/Infra-red images from drone cameras in the Apache cockpit gives crews an increased ability to, for instance, more effectively destroy groups of enemy fighters on the move in pick-up trucks or attack insurgents hiding near a known U.S. Army convoy route planning to launch an ambush.
Manned-Unmanned Teaming was recently used with great success in Afghanistan by the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Army officials said.
“Now before the unit even deploys out of the Forward Arming Refueling Point, or FARP, they can actually bring up the UAS (drone) feed, look through the sensors and see the target they are going to attack up to 50 or 60 miles away,” Apache Program Manager Col. Jeff Hager told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Hager also explained that maintaining drone sensors on targets which can move and change gives the Apache crew an opportunity to make adjustments while en-route to a target location.
“They have full situational awareness on that target as they fly inbound and do not lose any data on that target on the way,” Hager added. “They don’t go into a situation where they are surprised.”
Apache pilots in Afghanistan are now flying upgraded AH-64E-model helicopters which give the platform increased speed and performance. In development for many years and now part of the operational force, the AH-64E models use a stronger 701D helicopter engine, composite rotor blades and next-generation communications technology and avionics.
“The additional power and capability that the aircraft brings actually changes the face of the battlefield. Now they can close, maintain and assume contact activities with the enemy at a much faster rate. The enemy could time the amount of time it was going to take the Delta (“D” model Apache) models to get to them. We completely threw that out the window and they (the “E” model Apache crews) can get there much faster,” Hager explained.
The ‘E” model is able to transport a larger amount of ammunitions and fuel in what is described as “high-hot” conditions at altitudes of 6,000 feet and temperatures of 95-degrees or above. The innovations built into the “E” model give the helicopter all of the technological advantages of its predecessor “D” model – yet at a lighter weight making it more maneuverable and effective.
The AH-64E Apache is also 20 knots faster than the previous model and can reach speeds of 164 knots.
The current “D” model Longbow Apache is heavier than the original “A” model helicopter; it carries the Longbow radar and significantly improved targeting and sensing technologies, however it lacks the transmission-to-power ratio and hard-landing ability of the initial “A” model. The AH-64E is engineered such that an advanced, high-tech aircraft the weight of the previous “D” model can have the power, performance and landing abilities of an original “A” model with a much lighter weight.
“One of the biggest values of the aircraft (“E” model) itself is the increased performance that we put back into the airframes, specifically from the composite rotor blades. We increased the power of the engines and improved the transmission. That gives the aircraft and Alpha (“A”-model”)-like performance that we have not seen in years,” Hager explained. “The aircraft is faster and more lethal.”
In total, the Army plans to acquire 690 AH-64Es by 2025. The helicopters can carry 16 Hellfire missiles, 70 2.75mm rockets and 1,200 30mm chain gun rounds, service officials said.
“We are getting super feedback from what they were doing over in combat. MUM-T has really changed the state of the battlefield,” Hager added.
The AH-64E is highly mobile, lethal and can destroy armor, personnel and material targets in an obscured battlefield conditions at ranges out to 8-kilometers, an Army statement said.
The “E” model also keep the millimeter wave fire control, radar frequency interferometer and targeting sensors engineered into previous Apache version, the statement continued.
The AH-64E, which is manufactured by Boeing, was also praised by Boeing officials who report hearing favorable feedback from Army pilots who flew the helicopter in combat.
“Its performance in ‘high-hot’ conditions made it able to go from point to point to the target where it was going, as opposed to having to go longer and down into a valley or up into a higher peak” said Kim Smith, Vice President of Attack Helicopters, Boeing.
Smith also said that Apache crews say the composite rotor blades make for a smoother flight.