It’s no secret that this year is super strange for parents. Still reeling from months in quarantine, working from home and homeschooling, parents everywhere are now staring down the barrel of summer vacations with far fewer options than they had in previous years. Parents are navigating uncharted territory, and there’s no doubt it’s putting their parenting skills, their patience, their sanity to the test. But here’s the thing, you’re not alone, parents. We’re all in this together. All you can do is take it one day at a time, power through and find a way to cope. Someday this will all be a distant memory. In the meantime, they say laughter is good medicine, so here are a few parenting memes that will make you feel seen and perhaps LOL just a little. Enjoy!
– excerpt from a speech by President Donald Trump, March 2018
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Five military veterans walk into a bar. A Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, a Coast Guardsman, and an Airman. They all order a drink. The Soldier orders a German beer, raises his stein, and says, “Prost.” The Sailor orders a shot of rum, raises his shot glass, and says, “Fair winds.” The Marine orders a tequila, salts his thumb, and says, “Semper.” The Airman orders a blue ice bomb, elevates his plastic cup, and says, “Aim high.” The Coast Guardsman orders a dark and stormy, clinks glasses, and says, “Down the hatch.” A sixth veteran arrives, a Space Guardian, and the Airman buys him a shot of Jim Beam bourbon whisky. The Space guy raises his glasses and says to the others, “Beam me up.”
Get it? It’s a bad joke that I just made up. It was ill-conceived, poorly timed, and expensive in terms of the time it took me to think it up. It was just a dumb idea. These are all adjectives that the new Space Force has been called as well. Ill-conceived, prematurely timed, created at the expense of more important priorities. A dumb idea. A bad joke. Absurd. Another in a series of punchlines that critics of the current administration feel have pockmarked the last four years. In a year that’s been hard to laugh at, a lot of “humor” has derived from making fun of the administration. Here’s something more lighthearted: The late 2000s gave rise to the popular trend known as “gender reveal parties.” Those being the touchy 2000s, these parties couldn’t avoid being the subject of controversy. Critics argued that it’s the baby’s sex, not gender, that is being revealed. Gender is a social construct, not tied to biological characteristics. After a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party in Yucaipa, CA started the El Dorado Fire in September, the fad has thankfully faded. Not because it is said to heavily reinforce stereotypical gender roles, but because it’s just plain dumb.
On June 18, 2018, the Space Force, still a fetus, was given, what could be called, its gender reveal party. On that day, President Donald Trump spoke in front of the National Space Council. “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation…our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security.”
Three months earlier, on March 13, the day before Stephen Hawking died, the president teased the military’s sixth child at a speech aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. “My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.”
At the National Space Council meeting in June, he continued, “When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.” Remember that line; a lot of press did. Then came the reveal: “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces… We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal.” Addressing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs he said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out.” Marine General Dunford replied, “We got it.”
No fires were started with the president’s reveal that day in March 2018. Unless you count the one started in the press, or all the laptop fires started by bloggers, writers of various online magazines and publications, columnists, journalists, amateur or professional, Twitter users, and internet trolls, as they furiously pounded keyboards, drumming up mocking headlines, retorts, and rebuttals that called into question the declaration’s timing, sanity, legality, and everything in between.
Jokers Gonna Joke
Do an online search for the words “space” and “force” and the first result is www.spaceforce.mil. Then the official Space Force Wikipedia page, and third, Space Force, a new TV series The Office creator Greg Daniels and actor Steve Carell. The collaboration, ordered by Netflix, capitalized on the president’s June 2018 announcement, which must have been catnip to comedy writers. The show was announced on January 19, 2019, seven months later. In the show’s promotion, the words from an August 2019 speech by Vice President Pence are used: The Space Force’s mission is to “defend satellites from attack and perform other space-related tasks… or something.” The “or something” was their clever and completely groundbreaking addition.
In a review of the show by Sophie Gilbert for The Atlantic, Gilbert seems to have made a judgment on the merit of the Space Force (the military branch, not the show) without having done any real digging:
“The show was supposedly dreamed up a few years ago when President Donald Trump announced the founding of a sixth, extraterrestrial branch of the armed forces, a project so absurd that most people just carried on living their lives without really processing that it was real — barring occasional reminders in the form of Star Trek badges and Scientology-vague recruiting ads. A grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego!”
Why is it so absurd, grandiose, totally unnecessary, obscenely expensive, and a militaristic monument to one man’s porcelain-dainty ego? We’ll never know because she doesn’t back up any of those claims with facts. She just provides some links to affiliated content and the Space Force’s recruiting video on YouTube. Comparing it to Scientology is like comparing a Marine Corps recruiting video to the NXIVM cult because Marines sometimes get eagle, globe, and anchor or USMC brandings and tattoos. Her journalism in this regard is emblematic of the epidemic that has plagued supposedly objective journalism in the past few years. Feelings have taken the place of facts and unconscious bias has been replaced by an angry and very conscious one. To weigh the idea of the Space Force on its own, apart from the president, would be too much and risk the possibility that not all things he says are bad, a thought that would send some writers, reporters, and journalists into a catatonic state.
On September 18, 2018, three months to the date after the president’s announcement, Stephen Colbert yukked it up on his late show with guest Neil deGrasse Tyson. Colbert simply invoked the words “space force,” twisted his mouth into a wry grin, and looked into the camera. He was validated by the audience with a mixture of equal parts incredulous laughter and contemptuous cackles. It has since become a worn-out comedy shtick, a crutch for comedians with little else to offer but to say what the audience wants to hear. Speak the name of the president or one of his “crackpot ideas” and win the crowd, their clapping, and laughter, or clappter,” offered up in agreement, not as a response to anything said being funny, clever, or original.
“People make fun of it, I among them,” Colbert went on. “I like space exploration, I’m excited about us conquering space scientifically and through knowledge. Why do we need the Space Force?” The audience, satisfied with another skewering of the president, lapped it up.
“Just ‘cuz it came out of Trump’s mouth, doesn’t require that it then be a crazy thing,” responded Tyson. More chuckles in the crowd. The implication – that everything the president says and does is a hair-brained scheme of some sort – tickled all the pleasurable nerve endings in their high blood sugar bodies.
“It don’t help,” Colbert replied drily, and the audience’s clappter crescendoed. Colbert beamed, then got down to business. “But why do we need a Space Force?”
More Than an Absurd Idea
It’s a question necessary to answer if we’re ever to get past the ignorance and idiocy of such lowbrow comedy shows like the Colbert-created Our Cartoon President and a thousand other virtually identical satires with identical premises that have capitalized on the prevailing sentiment of the last four years: orange man equals bad.
While Chinese and Russian space operations have been cited by the president and backers of the Space Force as a rationale for the move, countries aligned against the West are not the only reason. Like the other warfare domains – land, air, sea, and cyberspace – America continuously strives to achieve and maintain dominance. Space, now recognized as a crucial and contested domain, is no different. The creation of the Space Force is not a publicity stunt, it is not a calculated move for political gain or Emperor Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns, it’s more than fodder for late show monologue jokes or, apparently, even a good premise for a Netflix comedy series. (Ms. Gilbert did not give the show a favorable review). It is the evolution of the military-space relationship long in the making.
It might help critics if they understood the difference between going to space in order to arm it, and arming space because we are, inevitably, driven into it. And we’re not alone in our aspirations. Anti-west sentiment doesn’t end in space. The opposition has decried the Space Force as a continuation of Reagan-era rhetoric, saying it hurls war into space like Red Bull Flugtag where competitors launch homemade flying machines off a pier into the water for no other reason than to excite the audience with a fun, slightly dangerous spectacle. But is that really the case, or is that just the lazy observation to make when one disagrees with a president and his administration?
The word “spacepower” is not in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Neither is the word “warfighting.” Like the Space Force itself, spacepower is newly minted. On August 10, nearly eight months after the birth of the Space Force, the same time when infants transition from rocking on their bellies to crawling, the Space Force published its doctrine titled Space Capstone Publication, Spacepower (SCP). Dedicated to past, present, and future spacepower pioneers, the Space Capstone Publication sheds light on and provides clues to several of the questions critics have been asking.
The 60-page document, with a foreword penned by General John W. Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, begins with a preface and a quote from the 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy: “The eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.”
The quote is echoed in the first guiding principle for military spacepower, which calls for a “peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain.” Let us not forget that oft-cited Roman general Vegetius quote, “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (If you want peace, prepare for war). China certainly has not, neither has Russia. Aerospace experts and legislators in Congress, notably Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN) and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) have said the Air Force needed an immediate congressional push to match the “potentially threatening progress from China and Russia.”
“One thing we can all agree on is that space superiority for our nation is critical, so we appreciate the attention the issue is getting right now,” said an Air Force spokesman.
Like Vegetius witnessing the deterioration of the Roman army’s quality, Mr. Cooper cited “eroding dominance” in U.S. satellite and related technology in comparison to China and Russia. Both countries are developing anti-satellite weapons that could threaten U.S. satellites. This concern is a real one, say Defense Department officials and aerospace experts. In June 2018, shortly after the president’s announcement, the New York Times reported that in February, “a U.S. intelligence threat assessment warned that Russia and China would be able to shoot down American satellites in two to three years, potentially endangering GPS satellites as well as military and civilian communications satellites and the country’s spy satellites.” China made history on January 3, 2019, by achieving the first attempt at and successful landing of an unmanned robotic spacecraft on the “dark side” of the moon, which is never visible from Earth.
Where Space Force and Global Security Collide
The U.S. military is reliant on space. From satellites that “help guide aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, drones in the skies above Yemen and fighter jets over Syria, to American ground troops on patrol in Afghanistan using GPS coordinates to track their movements, and intelligence officers at C.I.A. headquarters depending on spy satellites to gather information on adversaries.”
The Air Force itself was also highlighted as a reason America needs a “separate but equal” Space Force. Representatives Cooper and Rogers argue that the Air Force does not pay enough attention to outer space. Other critics of the Air Force say that it will never make space its top priority when it also has pilots and warplanes to worry about.
“We keep buying these big expensive satellites that are juicy targets for our adversaries,” said Todd Harrison, the director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Meanwhile, our existing space forces are fragmented across our military.”
“Over the years, the Air Force has used space programs as a money pot to reach into and subsidize air-dominance programs when they feel like Congress hasn’t given them enough for tankers, fighter jets, whatever,” Representative Rogers said. “Congress has not given any of the services enough, but that doesn’t mean you starve to death one of your subordinate missions.”
U.S. military officials have acknowledged that America’s adversaries have caught up to it in space. But classified reports paint an even more troubling picture, the lawmakers said. Rogers called the over-classification of such information “disturbing.”
“There would be a hew and cry in the American public to fix this situation if they knew how bad things were and what we’ve allowed Russia and China to do,” he added.
Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that studies space policy, emphasized the military’s reliance on space assets. “Take drones, for instance. Their signals are routed over satellites. Data is routed over satellites. Intelligence satellites do the B.D.A. [battle damage assessments] after strikes.” Mr. Weeden continued, “In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the American military exercised restraint on anti-satellite weaponry.” But other leading powers did not follow in America’s footsteps, and Russia and China “have not decided to exercise the same restraint.” As those countries continue to develop ways to disable American satellites, they could interfere with U.S. communications in potential future conflicts.
For the past two decades, it seems the main arguments against creating a Space Force have been money and bureaucracy. In 2017, White House, Pentagon, and Air Force leaders pushed back on a proposal from the House Armed Services Committee to create a “Space Corps” (its name chosen to reflect that it would be what the Marine Corps is to the Navy). They argued that it would add unneeded bureaucracy. Despite Rep. Rogers’s championing efforts in Congress, the provision faced opposition in the Senate, and the 2018 defense policy law forbade the creation of such an organization.
However, the law did give Air Force Space Command “authority over space acquisitions, resource management, requirements, warfighting, and personnel development — viewed as a start for the potential creation of a Space Corps in the future.” And it required that an independent organization develop a roadmap to start a separate military department to encompass “national security space.” To the charge that the Space Force would “create unnecessary bureaucratic responsibilities for a military already burdened by conflicts,” the SCP states that it embodies the Department of the Air Force’s continued commitment to “establishing the Space Force in a manner that minimizes cost and bureaucracy and maximizes focus on space doctrine, training, and capability.”
Public opposition to the Space Force has included grievances over the needless militarization of space, specifically citing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, some going so far as to claim that the Space Force is a blatant violation. There’s been a resurgence in popularity in the public space for citing this treaty, seemingly without actually giving it a close read. The treaty provides a basic framework for international space law. Some have written that 90 countries signed the treaty, others say 106 countries. Wikipedia states that as of June 2020, 110 countries are parties to the treaty, while another 23 have signed but have not completed ratification. Signatory countries are barred from “placing weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological, and chemical) in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.” Of course, this can all become subject to interpretation, and orbiting space debris and satellite disabling technology likely do not qualify as weapons of mass destruction, nor conventional weapons, such as ballistic missiles. Generally speaking, the treaty is meant to control arms in space and maintain the peaceful, shared use of outer space. But the militarization or weaponization of space is not prohibited. Article IX, however, states:
“A State Party to the Treaty which has reason to believe that an activity or experiment planned by another State Party in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, would cause potentially harmful interference with activities in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, may request consultation concerning the activity or experiment.”
And according to the Space Force’s Space Capstone Publication, “In keeping with international law, the United States acknowledges that the use of space is for peaceful purposes while preparing for the reality that space must be defended from those who will seek to undermine our goals in space.”
This is Part I of a multi-part series on the United States Space Force. Part II will publish tomorrow.
When the US Air Force took delivery of its four E-4B Nightwatch ‘doomsday’ jets, they made sure the small fleet was capable of surviving a nuclear holocaust, its occupants safe and sound within its protective cocoons as they carried out their mission of directing the US military in the aftermath of the end of the world.
As it turns out, the Nightwatch may be able to survive a nuclear blast in the air, but the forces of nature are a different matter altogether.
On June 16, a pair of E-4Bs, currently known as “Advanced Airborne Command Posts,” found themselves sitting in the path of a tornado while parked at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Though both aircraft were pulled into hangars, their tailplanes still sat somewhat exposed and suffered the wrath of the tornado, taking enough damage to keep them grounded and inoperable.
A number of RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft, also parked at Offutt at the time, were affected by the storm but were quickly repaired and returned to service.
The extent of the damage is unclear, though it’s probable that these two aircraft will be out of service for the time being as the Air Force and Boeing both evaluate and determine a course of action to repair them. The two remaining Nightwatches were away from Offutt at the time — one undergoing an overhaul, while the other is currently operational.
The tailplane of the Nightwatch does house one of its mission systems — a 5-mile long antenna which can be spooled out the rear of the aircraft while in-flight. This antenna allows the battle staff aboard the E-4B to communicate with the US Navy’s ballistic missile submarines while they’re underway. It’s definitely likely that this part of the aircraft, known as the Trailing Wire Antenna, sustained some damage during the storm.
The E-4B, formerly known as the National Airborne Operations Center, entered service with the Air Force in the 1970s, replacing older EC-135J “Looking Glass” aircraft, as “doomsday planes” — command posts that allow members of the US National Command Authority to stay in touch with the military during a catastrophic event. Each Nightwatch is equipped with an advanced communications suite that facilitates this, allowing it to virtually contact anything connected to a phone line in the entire world.
Today, Nightawtch serves as the Secretary of Defense’s official transport, ferrying him across the world on state-sponsored trips to foster good relationships with American military partners. Because of its communications abilities, the E-4B allows the SECDEF to remain constantly up-to-date on US military activity no matter where he is, even while flying.
The Air Force recently tendered a $73 million contract to support the E-4B’s expansive communications systems over the next seven years, though it’s possible that the service could potentially consider retiring all Nightwatch jets in the coming years in favor replacing them with newer aircraft with lower operating costs. The current hourly operating figure for a single E-4B is estimated to be at least $159,529 per hour.
Above the heavy financial burdens of flying these converted Boeing 747s, the small fleet is getting harder to support due to its age. The Air Force projects that by 2039, all E-4Bs will have maxed out their lifetime flying hours, necessitating a follow-on aircraft to carry out the same mission on behalf of the Air Force and NCA.
In May, the Air Force announced it would spearhead a joint program with the Navy to seek a replacement for the E-4B and the Navy’s E-6 Mercury. The E-6 is a continuation of the Looking Glass program, and shares a similar role with the Nightwatch fleet, though its mission is more popularly known as TACAMO, short for “Take Charge And Move Out.”
This project will see the Air Force and Navy unite their airborne command post assets under a fleet of identical nuclear-proof aircraft with next-generation communication and sensor systems. There’s no word just yet on whether or not America’s upcoming fleet of doomsday aircraft will be tornado-proof as well, however.
A new video offers a look at the inside of the B-2 Spirit bomber for the first time in the three-decade history of one of America’s most secretive aerial weapons.
The US Air Force allowed a civilian journalist to board a B-2 stealth bomber and record the flight from inside the cockpit, capturing exclusive footage of one of the service’s most closely-guarded secrets.
The video was taken by documentary filmmaker Jeff Bolton aboard a B-2A with the 509th Bomb Wing out of Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss., the only operational base for the Spirits.
Exclusive First Look: Step inside the cockpit of a B-2 stealth bomber
“In an era of rising tensions between global nuclear powers — the United States, China, Russia, and North Korea — this timely video of is a vivid reminder of the B-2’s unique capabilities,” Bolton said in a statement. “No other stealth bombers are known to exist in the world.”
Another video from Bolton shows external footage of the B-2 refueling in flight, in addition to more shots from inside the cockpit.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role stealth bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated enemy defenses to strike targets with both conventional and nuclear payloads. The unmatched aircraft is a cornerstone of America’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Air Force pilot Bill Crawford is a stealth pilot, someone who has risen to the very top of an extremely challenging field. But to hear him tell it, it can all be chalked up to a very simple secret, a secret that will sound familiar to anyone who has served in the military.
Kill and Survive: A Stealth Pilot’s Secrets of Success | Bill Crawford | TEDxRexburg
His trick is becoming the best in the world, studying and refining himself and his processes until he’s above whatever cutoff he needs to clear. And that includes the time in college when he learned that the Air Force was cutting fighter pilot training slots from about 1,000 a year to 100 per year. In order to make sure he cleared the cutoff, Crawford became the best.
Not the 100th best, not the 10th. He received a scholarship that year for being the single best.
And he wants everyone to have the chance to be the best in the world at whatever it is they do.
In his TEDx talk, Crawford talks about bombing Baghdad, conducting inflight refuelings, and, most importantly, conducting the post-mission debrief. The after-action review.
And, yeah, that’s a big part of Crawford’s secret. As anyone in the military can tell you, all the branches have some sort of process for reviewing mission performance and success (two different things) from any operation. Crawford’s version from his Air Force career is asking five questions:
What went right?
What went wrong?
The Army had a slightly different version. What was supposed to happen? What did happen? Why? What should we, as a team, sustain about that performance? What should we change? But all the branches have some version of this process.
And this self-review is key to understanding modern military success. If you look at old articles from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, plenty of hand-wringing in the West was about the pain, death, and destruction Russia inflicted, but many military leaders worried about Russia’s review process after the invasion.
That’s because the most successful organizations and individuals define their processes and actively assess whether or not they are doing it the best way they can. Russia hadn’t historically reviewed their successes all that deeply. But they decisively won the war on the ground in Georgia in five days, then they reviewed their success for how to do better.
And that meant that they wanted to improve their processes. Crawford wants everyone to learn to do that process in their own life just like the American military has for decades, and Russia now does as well. And the process is simple.
But it’s also hard to do. Crawford and his team had to do their debrief from bombing Baghdad right after they landed. So, right after completing 40-hours of flying and bombing, they had to go sit in a room and discuss their process, their success, and what they could do better.
But if you can make yourself do all that, you’re more likely to get better. And if you keep getting better, you’ll be the best.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
When Eli Williamson returned from two deployments to the Middle East, his hometown of Chicago felt at times like a foreign battleground, the memory of desert roads more familiar than Windy City central thoroughfares. As he relearned the city, Williamson noticed a strange similarity between veterans like himself and the young people growing up in tough parts of Chicago. Too many had witnessed violence, and they had little support to cope with the trauma.
Applying the timeworn principle of leaving no soldier, sailor, airman or marine behind, Williamson co-founded Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), a national nonprofit focused on securing education and employment for our warriors. Williamson formed the organization based on “just real stupid” and “crazy” idealism: “You know what?” he says. “I can make a difference.” Since work began in 2008, with a measly operating budget of $4,674 to help pay off student loans, LNVB has eliminated around $150,000 of school debt and provided 750 transitional jobs, Williamson says.
“Coming out of the military, every individual is going to have his or her challenges,” says Williamson, who served as a psychological operations specialist and an Arabic linguist in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2007. “We’ve seen veterans with substance abuse issues, homelessness issues.” Additionally, at least one in five veterans suffer from PTSD, and almost 50,000 are homeless and 573,000 are unemployed.
Williamson started the group with his childhood friend Roy Sartin. They first met in high school, when they joined choir and band together. “I think we’ve been arguing like old women every since,” Williamson says. Both joined the U.S. Army Reserves while at Iowa’s Luther College and were mobilized to active duty during their senior year after the Twin Towers fell. Williamson finished his education at the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, while Sartin put his learning on hold.
Upon return, both struggled with crippling interest rates on their student loans. Sartin received a call from the loan company saying that he needed to make a $20,000 payment. “Although I had the funds, it was just enough to get myself back together. So, for me, the transition wasn’t as tough, but I was one of the lucky ones.” Williamson got a bill for $2,200 only 22 days before the balance was due. Desperate, he took to the streets playing music to cover the costs.
After talking with other vets, the two realized that many didn’t qualify for the military’s debt repayment programs. That’s when they started going out to financial sources for “retroactive scholarships” for our country’s defenders. And they sought employment opportunities for former military members to help cover the rest.
Jobs and debt relief for our nation’s warriors are the main focus of LNVB, but the group oversees several initiatives, including S.T.E.A.M. Corps, which pairs vets with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math experience with at-risk youth. More than 200 students have graduated from S.T.E.A.M., but Williamson, director of veteran affairs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, points to a more intangible benefit of his non-profit’s work: the ability for veterans “to articulate a larger vision of themselves … is our advocacy mission,” he says.
“Veterans can paint a vision for where our country needs to be, and the only reason we can do that is because you realize that you are part of something larger than yourself,” Williamson adds. “That’s a fundamental value that veterans can share, as they leave military, with the communities that they come back to.” For those who’ve just returned home from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, in other words, service is just beginning.
Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.
The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.
“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.
A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019
(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)
US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.
“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”
A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.
“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.
A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.
“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.
US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.
“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”
When most people think armor, they think of thick steel, ceramic or Kevlar. It stops (or mitigates) the harm that incoming rounds can do, but there’s one big problem: You can’t see a friggin’ thing if you’re behind it.
This is no a small problem. Put it this way, in “Clausewitzian Friction and Future War,” Erich Hartmann, who scored 352 kills in World War II, was reported to have believed that 80 percent of his victims never knew he was there. Project Red Baron, also known as the Ault Report, backed that assessment up based on engagements in the Vietnam War.
Bulletproof glass exists, but it can be heavy. When it is hit, though, the impact looks a lot like your windshield after it catches a rock kicked up by an 18-wheeler on the interstate.
That also applies in firefights on the ground – and according to a FoxNews.com report, the Navy has made it a little easier to maintain situational awareness while still being able to stop a bullet. The report notes that the Navy’s new armor, based on thermoplastic elastomers, still maintains its transparency despite being hit by bullets.
In a Department of Defense release, Dr. Mike Roland said, “Because of the dissipative properties of the elastomer, the damage due to a projectile strike is limited to the impact locus. This means that the affect on visibility is almost inconsequential, and multi-hit protection is achieved.”
That is not the only benefit of this new armor. This new material can also be repaired in the field very quickly using nothing more than a hot plate like that used to cook Ramen noodles in a dorm room – or in the barracks.
“Heating the material above the softening point, around 100 degrees Celsius, melts the small crystallites, enabling the fracture surfaces to meld together and reform via diffusion,” Dr. Roland explained.
Not only will this capability save money by avoid the need to have replacement armor available, this also helps reduce the logistical burden on the supply chain, particularly in remote operating locations that were very common in Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.
When asked on Friday if the F-35B could fly combat missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the US Marine Corps’ head of aviation said, “We’re ready to do that.”
Noting that the decision to deploy the fifth-generation jet into combat would come from higher command, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation said that the F-35B is “ready to go right now.”
“We got a jewel in our hands and we’ve just started to exploit that capability, and we’re very excited about it,” Davis said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.
Davis, who has flown copilot in every type of model series of tilt-rotor, rotary-winged, and tanker aircraft in the Marine inventory, said that the F-35 is an airplane he’s excited about.
“The bottom line is everybody who flies a pointy-nose airplane in the Marine Corps wants to fly this jet,” Davis said.
Last summer, then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford declared initial operational capability (IOC) for 10 F-35B jets, the first of the sister-service branches.
“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,'” Davis said.
“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” he said.
Ahead of IOC, Davis said that the Marine Corps “stacked the deck with the F-35 early on” by assigning Top Gun school graduates and weapons-tactics instructors to test the plane.
“The guys that flew that airplane and maintained that airplane were very, very, hard graders,” he said.
Davis added that the jet proved to be “phenomenally successful” during testing: “It does best when it’s out front, doing the killing.”
The Marine Corps’ first F-35B squadron is scheduled to go to sea in spring 2018.
Meanwhile, the US Air Force could declare its first F-35 squadron combat-ready as early as next week.
Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump’s offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” saying we just needed a “call from your great new President.” But that call never came.
In order to expand the range of options for American intervention, Trump is looking into designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move he says will come in the next 90 days.
“They will be designated,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”
That process means the cartels acting like a foreign terrorist organization, specifically meeting certain criteria set by the State Department. The organization must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities, and present a threat to U.S. national security.
Under the ‘terrorist activity defined, they meet the criteria for being engaged in hijacking and sabotage conveyances, detaining/murder/injuring an individual or a government organization to keep them from doing any act as a condition for the release of an individual,” Lenny DePaul, Chief Inspector/Commander of the U. S. Marshal Service, told Fox News.
The groups are also guilty of targeted assassinations, using explosives to threaten and destroy government institutions, and posing a danger to individuals and property.
Once designated a foreign terrorist organization, cartel members would no longer be able to enter the United States, Americans would no longer be able to do business with these groups, their sub-organizations, or legitimate organizations with ties to the cartels. This includes doing business with any known member of any cartel. Domestic law enforcement would also be able to prosecute gang members and drug dealers using anti-terrorism laws. An estimated 80 percent of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, and the violence is only getting worse.
Since 2006, some 250,000 people have been killed in cartel infighting. The reason? The Mexican Government under President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in an effort to end drug and gun violence. It began with 6,500 troops sent to Michoacán state and ended with 45,000 being sent in. By the end of Calderon’s term, 120,000 Mexicans were dead due to cartel-related violence. Since the escalation of violence, the cartels have turned into full-on insurgent groups.
(Drug Enforcement Agency)
The cartels have begun to hire mercenaries and recruit paramilitary forces to protect their trade routes and territories. They use insurgent tactics and propaganda methods to intimidate journalists and influence the Mexican populace. When their public relations campaigns have little effect, they all turn to violence and targeted killings.
But Mexico is pushing back against the United States.
“Our problems will be solved by Mexicans,” President Andres Manuel Lopez said a press conference. “We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”
Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.
Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.
It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.
(West Point Athletics)
This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.
The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.
On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.
Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.
The sister of the North Korean leader on Feb. 9 2018 became the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Arriving on her brother Kim Jong Un’s white private jet for a three-day visit, Kim Yo Jong and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace.
Dressed in a black coat, carrying a black shoulder bag, and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.
The North Koreans — also including Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs — then moved down a floor on an escalator to board a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.
Moon has been trying to use the games as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea after a period of diplomatic stalemate and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international standoff over its nuclear program.
The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries’ senior officials.
Skeptics say North Korea, which is unlikely to give up its nukes under any deal, is just using the Olympics to poke holes at the U.S.-led international sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.
The North Korean delegation’s arrival came a day after Kim Jong Un presided over a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by the country’s developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in three flight tests last year showed potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
South Korean media have been speculating about whether Kim will send a personal message to Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the two leaders.
Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War.
As first vice director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned her brother’s absolute trust.
Analysts say the North’s decision to send her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.
By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the games, North Korea may also be trying to craft a fresher public image and defang any U.S. effort to use the Olympics to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record.
South Korea has yet to announce a confirmed schedule for the North Korean delegates aside from their participation in the opening ceremony and the Feb. 8 luncheon with Moon.
There’s a possibility that they would attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women’s ice hockey tournament, hours after their meeting with Moon. They could also see a performance by a visiting North Korean art troupe in Seoul before heading back to Pyongyang.
The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the war-separated rivals agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.
Moon, a liberal whose presidential win in May last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, has always expressed a willingness to reach out to the North. His efforts received a boost when Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Day speech called for improved ties between the Koreas and expressed willingness to send athletes to Pyeongchang.
This led to a series of talks where the Koreas agreed to have its delegates jointly march during the opening ceremony under a blue-and-white “unification” flag and field a combined team in women’s ice hockey. A North Korean art troupe also performed in Gangneung on Feb. 8 2018 and will perform in Seoul on Feb. 11 2018 before heading back home.
Critics say that South Korea while cooperating with its rival over the Olympics allowed itself to play into the hands of the North which is apparently trying to use the games to weaken sanctions.
South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North’s request to supply fuel for the ship.
While neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under U.N. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.
The U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has proposed granting an exemption for Choe, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since last June.