Soldiers take part in pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone at Fort Benning, March 21, 2019. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)
The U.S. Army may close or drastically alter its Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as part of a sweeping review of all service schools operating in the reality of the stubborn COVID-19 pandemic.
Army Times reported that the service is considering shuttering the historic, three-week course that was created during World War II to train special teams of paratroopers how to guide large airborne formations onto drop zones behind enemy lines.
Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) confirmed that the Pathfinder course — which also trains soldiers how to conduct sling-load helicopter operations — is part of the review being conducted by the service’s Combined Arms Center, or CAC.
TRADOC spokesman Col. Rich McNorton told Military.com that no decision had been made as to “which ones are we going to turn off, convert to distance [learning] or in some cases go to a mobile training teams. … Pathfinder School is in there with all of those courses.”
The CAC has been conducting an analysis of all TRADOC schools for about four months to see whether they are meeting the needs of combat commanders, he added.
Shrinking defense budgets have forced the Army to look for ways to save money by possibly reducing travel needed for some training courses.
“COVID-19 accelerated that process because, all of the sudden, now we’ve got these restrictions,” McNorton said. “Some courses that we have are a week long and, in order to sustain that, we have to quarantine them for two weeks and then they start it. And it doesn’t make sense to do that.”
McNorton said what will likely happen is that the Army will prioritize which courses will remain the same and which ones will convert to mobile training teams or distance learning.
Another option may be to relocate a course, such as the Master Gunners courses at Fort Benning designed to provide advanced training to gunners on M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Part of TRADOC Commander Gen. Paul Funk II’s guidance is “looking at and saying, ‘Hey does it make sense for everybody to go to Fort Benning for this particular course? How about we push it out to Fort Hood where the tankers are and not bring them in?'” McNorton said.
He said he isn’t sure when the review will be complete, but any recommendation to close an Army school will have to be approved by the service’s senior leadership.
“This stuff gets briefed up to senior leaders, and the senior leaders can say, ‘Bring that one back. We are not getting rid of it,'” McNorton said.
The 1950s and 60s were a more fraught time in French history than most Americans realize. It was a time where senior generals deployed their forces against French territory and threatened Paris and the sitting president twice in just three years.
The first coup came in 1958, following years of unrest. The French Fourth Republic, the government formed in 1946, a couple of years after the liberation of France from Nazi control, was never steady. Among other problems, an unpopular and bloody war in Algeria, then a French colony, was a millstone around the nation’s neck.
Members of the French Army operate in Algeria.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Richard M. Hunt via State Archives of North Carolina)
In May, 1958, the government attempted to open negotiations with their major opponent in French Algeria, the Algerian National Liberation Front. If the war was unpopular, capitulating was worse. Rioters in French Algeria occupied an important government building.
The situation continued to degrade until May 24, when the troops got involved.
Military members in French Algeria launched Operation Resurrection, invading Corsica with little bloodshed. Gen. Jacques Massu, one of the senior military officials in French Algeria and the coup forces, agreed with others that the paratroopers could take Villacoublay Airfield, just a few miles from Paris.
Gen. Charles de Gaulle and his men were greeted by huge crowds when Paris was liberated, and he enjoyed enduring popularity for years.
(U.S. Office of War Information photo by Jack Downey)
The French Fourth Republic, facing mounting unrest at home and the growing possibility of an invasion by its own forces, collapsed. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who had avoided politics since 1946 but retained massive support of the protesters and France at large, took power. A new constitution was approved in September and the Fifth French Republic was born.
For the French people, this was a potential return to stability and sensible government. For forces in French Algeria, this was seen as the chance to focus on the business of fighting rebels.
But the French people outside of Algeria were still not fully behind the war — and it only got worse over the following years.
Workers set up communications for the Ministry of Armament and General Liaisons, a part of the resistance during the Algerian War that survived the end of the war and became part of the permanent government there.
By 1960, de Gaulle was working to negotiate peace with the rebels and the morale of troops stationed there plummeted. Mid-career and senior officers began refusing orders as some troops tried to avoid dying in the final days of a lost war while others attempted to achieve some victories that would strengthen the French position and prevent a second Vietnam.
It was against this backdrop that the retired and popular French Gen. Maurice Challe met with senior officers and proposed a second coup, this one against de Gaulle. He was joined in the inner circle by generals Edmond Jouhaud, Andre Zeller, and Raoul Salan, but the group enjoyed the support of other senior officers.
In the final hours of April 21, 1961, French paratroopers took over important buildings and infrastructure in French Algeria, especially the capital, Algiers. Challe took to the radio the next morning to call on all other troops in French Algeria to cease supporting Paris and follow him instead. It had been less than three years since some of those same troops had supported the coup that brought de Gaulle to power.
Challe threatened Paris itself in his radio address, saying he, “reserved the right of extending the action to metropolitan France to reestablish a constitutional and republican order.”
De Gaulle gave his own public address, while wearing his old uniform, where he called on the people of French Algeria and France as a whole to resist the attack on the Fifth Republic.
France, for the most part, followed de Gaulle. Workers staged a symbolic, hour-long strike to show that they could shutdown industry if the coup continued. Citizens rallied and prepared to occupy the airfields around Paris with cars and bodies to prevent any planes from French Algeria landing.
The six-foot, five-inch Charles de Gaulle was popular at home and imposing everywhere he went, but he faced numerous attempts to force him and his government from power by vocal and well-organized opposition, including some generals in French Algeria.
Many pilots and crews flew their planes out of the country and sabotaged their own aircraft to prevent further use. Soldiers refused to leave their barracks or organized their own ruling committees if they thought their officers were loyal to the coup.
Oddly, despite de Gaulle calling for resisting “by all means” and ordering loyal troops to fire on rebel troops, there were no known cases of troops loyal to France attacking or inflicting casualties on rebelling troops. Rebel troops are thought to have killed less than five people, a tragic loss of life, yes, but much less than would be expected in a rebellion with organized battalions on each side.
Saint Marc remained in the barracks and the men were arrested the following morning. Challe was later sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served a little over five before receiving a pardon from de Gaulle. Saint Marc was sentenced to 10 but also received a pardon.
The Fifth Republic, despite its rocky start, endures today. Algeria achieved independence in 1962, ending France’s colonial empire.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.
The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.
The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.
The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.
A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.
Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.
Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.
Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.
Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)
“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.
Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.
Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.
His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”
Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.
“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.
Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.
The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.
Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect soldiers and fight resistance.
Bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.
Researchers at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, identified a way to do just that. The U.S. Army established the institute in 2002 as an interdisiciplinary research center to dramatically improve protection, survivability and mission capabilities of the soldier and of soldier-supporting platforms and systems.
“This is a crucial development in the battle against these superbugs,” said Dr. James Burgess, program manager, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “Finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is particularly important for soldiers who are deployed to parts of the world where they may encounter unknown pathogens or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wounded soldiers are even more susceptible to infections, and they may come home carrying these drug-resistant bugs.”
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for extraction during a training event.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
In this study, published in Cell, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. The results showed that these engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria.
“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” said Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering and the study’s senior author. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”
The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral scaffolds that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.
‘Blues Platoon’ conducts ‘Fallen Angel’ training.
(U.S. Army photo)
“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu said.
The researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. They came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.
They created phages with about 10 million different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the non-engineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating LPS receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.
The researchers plan to apply this approach to target other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli and to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria.
“Being able to selectively hit those non-beneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu said.
The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies engages in fundamental, multidisciplinary nanoscience research relevant to the soldier. In collaboration with Army and industrial partners, this focused nanoscience research creates opportunities for new materials, properties and phenomena that will directly advance modernization efforts. As an Army University-Affiliated Research Center, the institute’s contract is administered and overseen for the U.S. Army by the Army Research Office.
A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.
But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.
Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.
This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.
This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.
When I was a young, motivated recruit at Parris Island, my drill instructor stood behind a stack of foot lockers assembled into a podium. “This is the most important period of instruction of your life,” he said with a thousand-yard stare. What were we talking about?
For an unknown amount of time, we sat there, listening to passionate warnings from our most-feared mentor. He recited romantic tragedies that gave Greek myths a run for their money. Afterwards, he gave the obligatory lesson on the administrative process of enrolling your new family for benefits.
Today, I pass those words of traumatic wisdom onto you, the young, love-struck recruit.
1. Deployments don’t get easier, you get tougher
Marines are tough — and they need an equally tough spouse to weather the storm of deployments. We’re the tip of the spear, and you need to make sure that’s what your spouse bargained for.
Some deployments are shorter than others and they involve varying degrees of danger — but they don’t easier. You need someone that, when the going gets tough, they get tougher. But it’ll always suck.
2. You’re not getting out of work, you’re doing different work
Some troops use their marriage as a way to get out of work, and there’s nothing single troops can do but watch them put on those already-sharp skates and get out of dodge — but it’s not all free time and rainbows on the other side.
I had a master gunnery sergeant who referred to his wife as the ‘sergeant major’ of the house. When you’re single, can you just pack your stuff in your car and hit the road. Married Marines, however, have much more red tape to navigate.
3. You’ll miss being a degenerate
Gone are the days of actionable intel from the Lance Corporal Underground, last-minute trips to a bar crawl, and the spontaneous brawls between Alpha company and Charlie company.
Sure, you might not miss the part where the Big Green Weenie conducts acts of terror. You won’t miss random formations, the duty needing something or drunk people breaking your stuff, but you will miss time with the boys.
4. Everyone knows your secrets
Your spouse needs friends. Naturally, the spouses of your friends are the first round draft picks. They can keep each other informed on what your unit is doing, important dates and if you’re being delayed.
In a way, it’s convenient. Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to speak with your loved one, he or she knows why, and won’t worry. However, that’s not the only thing they’ll talk about. Assume nothing is sacred. Susie and Kelly know your secrets in and out of the bedroom. OPSEC or the whole unit will know your search history, too.
5. Contract marriages are, uh… flimsy
A contract marriage is when two people fall in love — for money. The Big Green Weenie and the law’s blue version will hold hands while they unceremoniously wreck your life. Not only is it illegal to marry someone for the increased pay and benefits, but your spouse will inevitably betray you.
Before your first deployment is over, your house will be sold, your truck will be gone, and they’ll upload a video wearing your favorite shirt that can’t be shown on YouTube.
Chinese bombers are much more active and operating farther from Chinese shores at an increased frequency, and the Pentagon thinks they are likely training for strikes on US targets, according to the 2018 China Military Power Report.
“The [People’s Liberation Army] has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the Department of Defense explained in its annual report to Congress. “The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam.”
The report noted that these flights could be “used as a strategic signal to regional states,” but the PLA hasn’t been clear about “what messages such flights communicate beyond a demonstration of improved capabilities.”
In 2017, PLA bombers flew a dozen operational flights through the Sea of Japan, into the Western Pacific, around Taiwan, and over the East and South China Sea — all potential flashpoints. There were only four flights respectively in 2015 and 2016, and only two between 2013 and 2014.
The Pentagon report noted that in August 2017, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) expanded its operating area by sending six H-6K bombers up past Okinawa for the first time. The bombers flew along the east coast of the island, home to approximately 50,000 American military personnel.
Bomber flights into the Western Pacific are also disconcerting because “the extended-range [H-6K] aircraft has the capability to carry six land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), giving the PLA a long-range standoff precision strike capability that can range Guam.”
Activities around Taiwan and in the East and South China Sea are also alarming given Beijing’s contested interests in these areas.
China is in the process of modernizing its military in an attempt to fulfill Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision of a world-class military that can fight and win wars in any theater of combat by the middle of this century. Part of this process is the development of power projection tools, such as aircraft carriers and long-range strategic bombers capable of striking targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads.
The US is watching these developments closely, as the Pentagon believes that “great power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary focus of US national security,” as Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis explained early 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Facing increased pressure from China, the Taiwanese military has added another weapon to its arsenal — a stand-off cruise missile designed to give the air force the ability to strike Chinese coastal military bases and amphibious ship groups, according to The Taipei Times, citing defense officials.
The Wan Chien cruise missile, a long-range cluster munition developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, was declared fully operational after a recent live-fire test against sea-based targets. All Indigenous Defense Fighters have been upgraded to carry the new missiles, which reportedly rely on GPS and inertial navigation system guidance.
An AGM-154C Joint Standoff Weapon glide bomb, which the Wan Chien cruise missile reportedly resembles.
The new missile can hit targets as far 124 miles away, and the Taiwan Strait is only 80 miles across at its narrowest point. The air-to-ground cruise missile is said to resemble the US AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon or Europe’s Storm Shadow, accordingto the Asia Times. With its range, the Wan Chien cruise missile is reportedly the longest-ranged cluster munition carried the Taiwanese air force can carry.
During the most recent evaluation last week, an unspecified fighter from Chihhang Air Base fired on surface targets to the southwest of the island while another fighter and a drone monitored the exercise from a distance, sending real-time data back to Jioupeng Military Base.
The Taiwanese air force took all possible measures to maintain secrecy during testing. For instance, one evaluation was cancelled after a fishing boat entered the restricted area.
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capabilities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
In recent years, tensions have been running high between Beijing and Taipei as the two sides continue to disagree over the fate of what the Chinese government considers a separatist territory. China has ramped up military drills near the democratic, self-ruled island.
“The mainland must also prepare itself for a direct military clash in the Taiwan Straits,” the widely-read, state-affiliated Global Times reported in March as China geared up for military drills in the strait. In the months prior to the drill this past spring, China’s military conducted air and naval drills near Taiwan to send a message.
Last year, Taiwan touted its ability to strike deep into Chinese territory. “We do have the capability and we are continuing to reinforce such capability,” Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said at the time. “Should the enemy insist on invading, we will weaken their capabilities by striking enemy troops at their home bases, fighting them at sea, crushing them as they approach the coastlines and wiping them out on the beaches,” a defense report added.
Several days later, Feng revealed that China had positioned DF-16 precision-strike missiles for strikes on Taiwan should such action prove necessary.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Aug 6, 2018, that she is determined to bolster the island’s defense budget as the situation with Beijing worsens, according to the South China Morning Post. Her aim is to increase Taiwan’s military spending by 5.6 percent, raising the annual figure to .3 billion.
“Our national security is faced with more obvious and complicated threats,” Tsai said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Hundreds of troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona have been moved to California to support border patrol agents securing the border against the thousands of Central American migrants camped nearby.
“In coordination with CBP, it was determined that forces including military police, engineering and logistics units could be shifted from Texas and Arizona to support the CBP requirements in California,” US Northern Command told Business Insider, confirming an earlier report from The Washington Post.
“Approximately 300 service members have been repositioned to California over the past few days.”
In November 2018, there were 2,800 troops in Texas, 1,500 in Arizona, and another 1,500 in California. Over a period of several weeks, the active-duty military personnel deployed to these states ran over 60,000 feet of concertina (razor) wire.
Now, after the recent shift, there are 2,400 troops in Texas, 1,400 in Arizona, and 1,800 in California. The total number of active-duty troops at the border has decreased by about 200, dropping from 5,800 to 5,600, NORTHCOM explained to Business Insider, noting that changes are the result of mission assessments carried out in coordination with CBP.
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)
While the number of troops deployed to the southern border has decreased, the number of troops serving in California is on the rise. Thousands of migrants have been pouring into Tijuana, which is where more than 5,000 migrants, possibly many more, are camped.
Border patrol agents clashed with hundreds of migrants Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, one of the largest and busiest ports of entry on the US-Mexico border, after what began as a peaceful protest meant to call attention to the plight of asylum seekers turned into a mad and chaotic dash.
Some migrants attempted to enter the US illegally by forcing their way through and over barricades while others threw rocks at US border agents after they overwhelmed Mexican authorities. The crowd of migrants was driven back by rubber pullets and tear gas.
More than one hundred migrants have been arrested by authorities in the US and Mexico. Many of those who have been detained face deportation, meaning that their weeks-long journey to the US will end where it began.
The role of US troops at the border has been in debate over the past few weeks, with critics of the president calling the deployment a waste of time, resources, and manpower.
While active-duty troops deployed to the border were initially limited to laying razor wire, the White House recently authorized US troops to use force, including lethal force if necessary, to defend CBP agents against violence.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.
As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.
Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.
The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.
President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.
A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.
The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.
Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.
‘Things aren’t made the way they used to be’ is a sentiment often tossed around when a new car or appliance breaks down. Even with all the new inventions and integrated technology there’s something to be said about the simplicity of an original design. Mountain Home Air Force Base members are learning this lesson firsthand.
Airmen from the 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron, also known as Gunfighters, are the first in the Air Force to perform hot-pit refueling on F-35 Lightning II’s with a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose cart from the 1970s.
A hot-pit is when a plane lands, refuels then takes off again without turning off the engine, explains Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th LRS fuels operator. The typical refueling procedure consists of landing, turning off the engine and a laundry list of to-do’s.
Traditional refueling takes upwards of 2 hours while the hot-pit gold standard takes 13 minutes, which translates to huge monetary saving.
During hot-pits, Gunfighters initially used eight R-11 refueling trucks that hold 6,000 gallons of fuel each. One R-11 is only capable of refueling two jets and requires a new truck to come out with additional fuel to meet the demands of the mission, said Tech. Sgt. Zachary J. Kiniry, 366th LRS fuels service center noncommissioned officer in charge.
Senior Airman Michael Rogers, 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician, and Senior Airman Christian Cook, 366th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels operator, performs a hot-pits refueling with a hose cart from the 1970s on an F-35 Lightning II from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, June 20, 2019, at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)
“This method is not time-efficient, ties up 50 percent of the base’s R-11’s and associated personnel and creates traffic on an active flightline that could pose a safety hazard,” Kiniry said.
His team realized that more moving parts was not the answer, Kiniry said. With a new, simplified approach they found a resourceful solution in using older-generation equipment to better complete the mission.
Now, Gunfighters use a Type 1 hydrant system from the 1950s and hose carts from the 1970s directly connected to 500,000 gallon tanks, allowing Gunfighters to virtually endlessly refuel F-35s.
“Our old equipment is persisting and performing up to the hot-pits gold standard of 13 minute turnarounds,” Kiniry said.
With this new process, Gunfighters have the capability to run hot-pits 24/7, saving 15 minutes between every other F-35 that was previously needed to set up a new R-11.
F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham)
“We have eliminated safety concerns from the heavy traffic on the flightline and reallocated eight R-11’s with their associated personnel to perform the rest of the mission outside of hot-pits,” Cooks explained.
Gunfighters are continuing their legacy of excellence and are an example how flexibility is the key to air power.
“Mountain Home Air Force Base is proving that we can still fuel F-35 aircraft right off the production line with some of the oldest equipment at unheard of turnaround times,” Kiniry said.
“We have learned through continual improvement, experimentation and innovation how to enhance readiness and keep Airmen safe, regardless of what tools we are given.”
The 24-year-old North Korean defector who successfully made it across the North Korean border and into South Korea under a hail of gunfire was reportedly involved in a crime “that led to a death,” according to South Korean intelligence officials cited in Donga Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, on Jan. 23.
Chung-sung Oh reportedly confessed to the alleged crime, according to intelligence officials who are investigating his background as part of the standard procedure involving North Korean defectors. The National Intelligence Service, the primary intelligence agency in the country, was said to be looking into all circumstances of the alleged death, including whether it was a murder or an accidental death.
A reporter from Chosun Ilbo, another South Korean news organization, also said he received a similar unconfirmed report in December, in which Oh is believed to have been involved in a vehicle accident involving another person and may have defected in fear of being punished.
Oh, who has been recovering after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, is said to have a carefree personality, according to government sources. But those sources noted that his testimony seemed to change depending on his mood. The investigation is expected to extend beyond February.
If reports of Oh’s statement proves to be true, it could complicate the proceedings and exclude him from benefits for North Korean defectors, according to the South Korean newspaper. But because the government does not have an extradition treaty with North Korea, Oh does not appear to be at risk of being sent back to the North.
Meanwhile, South Korean intelligence officials have publicly denied Oh’s testimony and said those involved with the matter had “never made a statement of that kind.”
The Ministry of Unification, the government body responsible for inter-Korean relations, said that it could not confirm the account because the investigation was still ongoing.
News surrounding Oh has become a hot-button subject in Korea after footage of his dramatic escape in November was captured in stunning detail. Following Oh’s rescue, those involved in the recovery, including his physician, have been the center of media attention in the country.
If you look at a list of body parts men want to tone, somewhere up near the top, you’ll see abs. Sure, bulging biceps would be great, and you probably wouldn’t mind pecs that pop either. But abs — those elusive, sculpted, six-pack symbol of hyper-fitness — are universally sought on any fitness list. And yet, there is a cottage industry selling misguided, haphazard ab advice. The best abs workouts for men are pretty hard to come by.
The main problem is that many workouts don’t take into account that your midsection is actually composed of multiple muscles. The rectus abdominis is probably the one you know best: Running down your centerline from your sternum to pubic bone, this is the muscle people are typically talking about when they describe a six-pack. Then there are the obliques, technically two sets of muscles that run on diagonals beneath the rectus abdominis from your lower ribs to your hip bones. The transverse abdominus is even deeper still, wrapping around the sides of your torso and stabilizing your core. Your lower back muscles also play an integral role in defining your core — both aesthetically (they eliminate some of that side-fat overhang situation) and functionally (a strong lower back helps you rotate your core and stand more erect).
Not sure whether you’re hitting all the essential muscles in your core routine? The workout here has you covered. These 10 moves will sculpt your midsection into one lean, mean abdominal machine. Of course, no core workout will ever be a success if it’s not accompanied by eating smart and keeping up the cardio — if you’re carrying extra pounds, you’re going to have a gut, no matter how many planks you do.
One you can get through the below workout comfortably, add reps to your set, or sets to your circuit, to keep challenging yourself.
1. Flutter kick
Lie on your back, legs extended, heels about 6 inches off the ground. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Begin to scissor your legs up and down, as if you are doing the backstroke in the pool. Flutter kick for 20 seconds, rest 10, then do 20 seconds more.
2. Leg drop
Lie on your back on the floor, legs straight up in the air, feet together. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Without bending your knees, lower your legs to just above the floor, then raise them back to their vertical position. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds, then do another 10 reps.
Grab an 8-10 pound medicine ball or dumbbell. Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Hold the weight with both hands, arms straight in front of your chest. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Twist to the right, letting your arms swing over to your right side. Twist back to the left, letting arms swing to the left side of your body. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds. Do 3 sets.
Get into an extended pushup position, then lower yourself to your elbows. Keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe, hold the position for 60 seconds. For variations on the theme, try a side plank (prop yourself up on one elbow, then raise your hips off the ground to create a straight line from your feet to your shoulders).
From an extended pushup position, engage your abs and hike your hips into the air until your body forms an inverted V shape. Hold for three counts, then lower yourself back into an extended pushup position, keeping your back flat. Repeat sequence for 60 seconds.
Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Place a medicine ball between your feet. Lean back and lift your feet off the floor, straightening your legs until your weight is balanced in a V position. From here, either hold this position for 30 seconds, or for a more advanced challenge, bend and straighten your legs while maintain the V-hold. Relax, then repeat.
7. Side cable pull
Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Stand perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest, placing the pulley at chest height. Keeping your feet and hips stationary, twist your torso to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable until your arms are straight in front of your body and your torso is straight over your legs. Hold for one count, then twist back toward the machine to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.
8. Reverse crunches
Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Extend your arms in front of you as a counterbalance. Engage your abs and sink deeper toward the floor (don’t let your shoulders touch the ground), then immediately return to the start position. Pulse up and down for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Using an overhand grip, perform a standard pullup. Once your head clear the bar, hold the contraction while bending your knees to your chest. (For a simpler version, hang from the pullup bar, arms extended. Bend your knees to your chest, then release them.) Do 8-10 reps, 30 seconds rest. 2 sets.
10. Diagonal chop
Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Half-kneel perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest to the machine and left knee bent in front of you (right leg on the floor). Place the pulley just above head height. Keeping your lower body stationary, twist to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable on a diagonal until your arms are down at your right hip, torso twisted to your right side. Hold for one count, then twist back to the left to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.