U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon following a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.
“We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” Trump said at a Jan. 29 luncheon with representatives of the UN Security Council. “There may be a time, but it’s going to be a long time.”
Kabul, in recent weeks, has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on Jan. 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.
U.S. Army Capt. DeShane Greaser stands in a crater caused by a bomb dropped during an air strike conducting a Battle Damage Assessment outside a combat outpost in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)
At least 235 other people were wounded in the attack, including more than 30 police officers.
Following that attack, Trump called for “decisive action” by all countries against the Taliban, saying in a statement that the “murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners.”
Speaking at the White House on Jan. 29, Trump said: “We’re going to finish what we have to finish” in Afghanistan.
He added that “innocent people are being killed left and right,” including children, and that “there’s no talking to the Taliban.”
Several Americans were killed and injured earlier this month in the 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel claimed by the Taliban.
Afghan officials, along with the Trump administration, have accused neighboring Pakistan of providing a safe haven for terrorists operating in Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.
Early this month, Washington announced it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it took “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network that are operating in Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the freeze could affect $2 billion worth of assistance.
Captain Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, said on Jan. 29 that Washington is “very confident the Taliban Haqqani network” was behind the deadly suicide bombing in Kabul over the weekend.
The United States has long said the Haqqani network has found safe haven in Pakistan.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on Jan. 29 that Islamabad “is extending whatever help and assistance is required” to combat terrorism.
“Our desire and support is for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and the early resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan,” Faisal said.
He added that Pakistan has “very limited influence” on the Taliban, “if any.”
A Marine fire team return to base after a routine patrol in Afghanistan. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups — including Islamic State extremists — since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.
The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.
A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been stuck at sea for months due to a viral outbreak of what’s likely the mumps, and servicemembers are continuing to fall ill as the medical workers try to get the situation under control, Fifth Fleet told Business Insider March 28, 2019.
As of March 23, 2019, 27 sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry have been diagnosed with parotitis, which the Navy described in a statement earlier this month as a “viral infection which has symptoms similar to mumps.”
Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps.
The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) later explained to BI that “based on clinical presentation and laboratory testing, these cases are currently classified as probable cases of mumps,” one of a number of illnesses that all US military personnel are vaccinated against.
Twenty-six of the affected sailors and Marines have recovered and returned to duty.
The first troubling case appeared on Dec. 22, 2019, shortly after the ship departed Mayport Naval Station in Florida for its current deployment. “The point of origin has not yet been determined,” Fifth Fleet told BI.
Amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 24, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci)
In response to the outbreak, the Navy and Marines Corps Public Health Center has deployed health professionals to the quarantined Fort McHenry to conduct an in-depth epidemiologic investigation, a process which has not yet been completed.
The Navy has been working hard to contain the outbreak. “Since the onset of the first case, the ship’s medical department has implemented health protection measures, provided an additional outbreak-specific dose of vaccine to the crew, and managed patients to stop the spread of the illness,” BUMED explained.
Complications from the mumps are rare, but can be life-threatening.
As of March 9, 2019, just a few days before CNN first brought the story public, 25 servicemembers aboard the Fort McHenry had fallen ill. By March 17, 2019, Fifth Fleet had informed BI that all 25 affected personnel had made a full recovery and returned to duty.
A new case popped up March 26, 2019, CNN reported at the time, and since then, the number has risen again.
“The health and welfare of our Sailors and Marines is paramount,” the Navy said, “Our servicemembers are receiving the best care to treat this illness and prevent it from spending to others.”
In addition to making the decision to quarantine the ship at sea while sick servicemembers received treatment, the Navy, exercising caution, also gave all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.
The amphibious dock-landing ship USS Fort McHenry arrives in Dublin
(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Lewis)
“The Navy’s position is that vaccines are effective at reducing the incidence and severity of vaccine-preventable diseases,” BUMED told BI. Unfortunately, “the mumps portion of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the least effective of the three components, providing 88% effectiveness after completion of the two dose series.”
While outbreaks of influenza and other common illnesses occur every year aboard Navy vessels, the situation on the Fort McHenry is unusual, the Navy explained. “It is not common for us to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable viral infections.”
The ship hasn’t made a port call since early January 2019 and now isn’t likely to for at least another month — a very long stretch at sea that’s a morale killer for the crew. Typically deployed US warships have port calls at least once a month to repair systems and rest the crew.
It is difficult to know how long the Fort McHenry’s ongoing quarantine at sea will last as a situation like this cannot be considered fully resolved until two full incubation periods have passed without incident. “This ensures that the virus is no longer spreading, as infected individuals sometimes show no symptoms of illness,” BUMED said.
For the mumps, the incubation period is 25 days, so it will be another 50 days after the last affected servicemember recovers before the Navy can declare the situation under control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iconic C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” crashed on July 21, 2018, in Burnet, Texas. 13 people were aboard when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived, although injuries (one severe and 7 with minor injuries) have been reported. The C-47 was on its way to AirVenture 2018.
“At 9:18 AM, BCSO Communications was notified of a plane crash on the runway at the Burnet Municipal Airport. The aircraft was reportedly attempting to take off when the crash occurred. Everyone on board survived and were able to exit the aircraft. One person was airlifted by helicopter to SAMMC with significant burn injuries. Seven persons were transported by ambulance or personal vehicle to Seton Highland Lakes with minor injuries.
The aircraft caught fire as well as nearby grass. The fires were extinguished by responding fire departments. For further information please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Federal Aviation Administration who are handling the investigation.”, said the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office in a Facebook statement.
The investigation into the crash is still undergoing, though it is seen in the video that the tail never gets off the ground. According to specialists, this might have been caused by not enough speed or rotation. Although it is currently pure speculation until the investigation of the crash has been finished.
C-47 “Bluebonnet Belle” N47HL is, sadly, a total loss.
Tom Cruise attended the ceremony virtually (U.S. Navy)
Naval aviators are often considered to be the best aviators in the world. The training is intensive and it can take students years to earn their wings of gold as fully qualified aviators. Although the Navy does confer the designation of Honorary Naval Aviator upon select individuals, the title is extremely exclusive. On September 24, 2020, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and actor Tom Cruise became the 35th and 36th Honorary Naval Aviators, respectively.
Bob Hope receives his wings at NAS Pensacola on May 8, 1986 (U.S. Navy)
The Honorary Naval Aviator Program was started in 1949 as a way for the Navy to honor individuals who have greatly contributed to or have provided outstanding service to Naval Aviation. Individuals who receive the title earn the right to wear the coveted gold wings and are entitled to all honors, courtesies, and privileges afforded to Naval Aviators. The program is managed by the Chief of Naval Operations, Director Air Warfare and final approval of a nomination is made by the Chief of Naval Operations. Famous Honorary Naval Aviators include Jim Neighbors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. fame and Bob Hope.
On September 24, Bruckheimer and Cruise received their wings of gold from the Commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, prior to an advance screening of Top Gun: Maverick at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. The citation read:
In the history of motion pictures, there is not a more iconic aviation movie than the 1986 Paramount Pictures film Top Gun. Its characters, dialogue and imagery are ingrained in the minds of an entire generation of Americans. The movie captured the hearts of millions, making a profound positive impact on recruiting for Naval Aviation, and significantly promoted and supported Naval Aviation and put aircraft carriers and naval aircraft into popular culture.
Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Rear Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell following the winging ceremony (U.S. Navy)
Top Gun‘s contribution to Naval Aviation was arguably even greater than its box office success of 0 million. Following the civil unrest and turmoil of the 60s and 70s, the military was not an attractive prospect for many Americans. Top Gun made the military, and particularly Naval Aviation, cool again. Michael Ironside, who played Lt. Cdr. Rick ‘Jester’ Heatherly, noted how effective the film was at recruiting after two sailors approached him angrily following the release of Top Gun saying, “We joined because of that f*****g movie.” Perhaps it was too effective a recruiting tool.
In the sequel to the 1986 blockbuster hit and cultural icon, Cruise reprises his role as Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell with Bruckheimer returning to produce the film. Reportedly, Val Kilmer also returns to reprise his role as Tom ‘Iceman’ Kazansky. Top Gun: Maverick follows America’s favorite hotshot pilot into the cockpit as an instructor and is scheduled to premiere on July 2, 2021.
Unexploded ordnance, often called “UXO,” has long been a problem after wars. In World War II, the Allies dropped almost 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany – the equivalent of 6.4 million 500-pound bombs. Every major city was hit.
The problem is that not all the bombs exploded — not surprising when so many were dropped. These have been hanging around – and even now, 72 years after V-E Day, some of them still turn up.
And in Hanover, Germany, on May 7, 2017, three of those UXOs were found by construction crews, according to the BBC.
With so many people affected, the city decided to throw a big UXO party. Numerous events were set up, including screenings of films for kids, sporting events, and museum tours. There were also efforts made to provide food and other essential supplies to the evacuees while the Allied bombs were secured.
There’s no doubt about it, UXO can still kill, even after decades under ground. The BBC reported that in 2010, three German EOD techs were killed while trying to defuse a World War II leftover. In 2012, a construction worker was killed when his equipment hit an old bomb. Old World War II ordnance has sometimes been discovered during training exercises, notably in the Baltic Sea.
In the United States, most of the UXO is from the Civil War. In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a number of cannonball left over from that conflict were unearthed.
The collision of guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a tanker near Singapore was the fourth accident involving ships from the US Navy’s 7th fleet in less than a year.
Two of the incidents — collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald earlier this summer — have left a total of 17 sailors dead or missing, more than the 11 service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year.
But the number of accidents involving warships in the western Pacific — during “the most basic of operations” — has stirred concern that outside factors are affecting the ships and their crews.
“There’s something more than just human error going on because there would have been a lot of humans to be checks and balances” when transiting the Strait of Malacca, the narrow, heavily trafficked waterway the McCain was approaching, Jeff Stutzman, a former Navy information warfare specialist, told McClatchy.
“I don’t have proof, but you have to wonder if there were electronic issues,” said Stutzman, who is now chief intelligence officer for cyber-intelligence service Wapack Labs.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, tweeted on August 21 that there were “no indications right now” of “cyber intrusion or sabotage.” But, he added, the “review will consider all possibilities.”
2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now…but review will consider all possibilities
The admiral said the McCain’s collision with the tanker was the second “extremely serious incident” since the Fitzgerald’s collision with a Philippine cargo ship off the coast of Japan in mid-June. The nature of the incidents and the narrow window in which they occurred “gives great cause for concern that there is something out there that we’re not getting at.”
Experts have downplayed the likelihood of such attacks on US warships, noting that infiltrating Navy guidance systems would be very hard to do and instead citing human negligence or error as likely causes. Others have dismissed the likelihood of state-directed attacks on ships at sea, noting that such efforts would be a misuse of resources, strategically unwise, and generally harmful to maritime conduct.
But recent high-profile cyberattacks around the world have brought new attention to the security of maritime navigation, which is highly reliant on computer networks.
The US Navy uses encrypted navigation systems that would be difficult to hack or deceive, and there’s no sign satellite communications were at fault in the McCain’s collision. But there is technology out there to misdirect GPS navigation — typically through a process known as “spoofing” that leaves the system thinking it is somewhere it’s not.
The software and electronic gear needed to spoof a GPS system has become easier to get in recent years, particularly for private or nonstate actors.
In 2013, a team of graduate students led by Todd Humphreys, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and satellite-navigation expert, were able to spoof the GPS on an $80 million yacht, directing it hundreds of yards off course without the system detecting the change.
In late June, GPS signals for about 20 ships in the eastern Black Sea were manipulated, with navigation equipment on the ships, though seeming to be functioning correctly, saying the ships were located 20 miles inland. An attack on thousands of computers later that month also disrupted shipping around the world.
Global commercial shipping is more vulnerable to such attacks and cargo ships are more exposed — the number of them plying the high seas has quadrupled over the past 25 years. And causing a collision by hacking or hijacking a commercial vessel’s GPS is seen as increasingly possible.
Most commercial and passenger ships use the Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to locate other ships and avoid collisions. But the AIS has weaknesses, and hackers could in theory send out a signal claiming to be a phantom ship, affecting navigation decisions by other ships in the area.
Dana Goward, former chief of Marine Transportation Systems for the US Coast Guard, said hackers could go after the unsecured navigation system on a commercial or private ship while simultaneously jamming a Navy ship’s guidance systems. Or they could misdirect the commercial ship’s guidance system, sending the ship off-course.
In the aftermath of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions, the demands facing the US Navy, and the Pacific fleet in particular, have gotten renewed focus. Greater operational demands on fewer ships have cut into time for rest as well as time dedicated to training (and the nature of that training has changed as well).
In light of such demands, experience suggests that in high-traffic areas mistakes by humans manning the ships remained a likely culprit, said Goward, a former Coast Guard captain. “It’s a difficult environment to be in and human error is always present,” he told USA Today.
This isn’t the first time troops and veterans have rushed head-first into danger to aid civilians. During the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October, many veterans risked their lives to bring innocent people to safety and treated their wounds. In 2015, two Marines overpowered a gunman on a train in France. There are many examples of troops and veterans going above and beyond for citizens; but today, Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy, this one goes out to you.
Around 7:40 a.m. Dec. 18, an Amtrak train took a turn too fast, going 80 mph (129 kph) in a 30 mph (48 kph) zone, and derailed, plunging into the Southbound I-5 outside of Tacoma, Washington. On the scene was Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just next to the derailment site.
“I saw many people that were just paralyzed with fear and I don’t blame them at all. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation to watch unfold.” He tells KCPQ of Dupont, Washington. “The train is going south and I’m just kind of driving, just driving, and I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it hits the concrete walls on the side and when it hits the walls — the walls kind of exploded— and the train just falls off. I see the train fall and it kind of falls on itself… and it hits three vehicles that were in front of me — a semi, an F-150, and a Kia Soul.”
“I couldn’t afford to be scared, I couldn’t afford to be shocked. I had to do what I am called to do and focus and channel that and help these people around me get to safety as best as possible.”
He grabbed what gear he had in his truck — tourniquets and a CPR mask — and rushed to the teetering train cars. He and another volunteer climbed on a damaged semi-truck to reach survivors. They carried people who were ejected from the train to safety, away from the highway. Next, he noticed a woman dangling out of a train. Her daughter was trying to bring her back in so McCoy picked her up and brought her to a safe spot.
Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy saved 15 people before the police and firefighters arrived.
The US Marine Corps plans to arm its forces with a new anti-ship missile that will allow US troops to sink enemy ships from shore-based launchers 100 miles away, a capability the Marines have been chasing with China’s growing navy in mind.
The Corps has decided to spend roughly $48 million on Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile, a long-range precision strike missile the Navy ordered last year for its littoral combat ships and future frigates, Raytheon announced this week.
The service has made fielding this capability a priority.
“There’s a ground component to the maritime fight. You have to help the ships control sea space. And you can do that from the land,” Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller told USNI News earlier this year. “We’ve got to be able to attack surface platforms at range.”
Breaking Defense reported in January 2019 that the Marines were considering Lockheed Martin’s Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, the Naval Strike Missile, and Boeing’s Harpoon as options for the kind of capability the Corps desires as the US military readies itself to defeat a powerful rival like Russia or China.
Army experiments with land-based launch of Naval Strike Missile during RIMPAC 2018.
(David Hogan, AMRDEC WDI)
The Naval Strike Missile, which was manufactured by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence Systems in partnership with Raytheon, carries a 275-pound warhead, has a range of over 100 nautical miles, and can be fired from ships and mobile shore-based launchers.
The Army experimented with a land-based launch of the Naval Strike Missile during last year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, when the weapon was fired from a truck at a decommissioned ship off Hawaii.
The Marines have yet to select a suitable mobile launch platform, which could be Lockheed’s M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System or one of two large, heavy trucks from Oshkosh, Breaking Defense previously reported. The Corps told Military.com two years ago they wanted a launcher that could be easily moved by a V-22 Osprey.
The Corps still has some important experimentation and decision-making to do before the Naval Strike Missile can be effectively fielded from shore-based batteries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.
That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.
The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)
Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.
His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.
Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.
“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.
There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.
“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.
The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.
Strobino was hit, and it was bad.
“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”
Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)
The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.
“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.
But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.
The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.
Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.
Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”
A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.
“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.
“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”
At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.
“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”
A pair of skydivers nearly had an unfortunate run-in with two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets in the skies above southern England earlier this year, a British air safety board reports.
The US fighters out of RAF Lakenheath, home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, were flying at 345 mph above Cambridgeshire on April 17, 2019. Above Chatteris airfield, a popular skydiving location the fighter pilots were not aware was active, two parachutists were in freefall at roughly 120 mph, Stars and Stripes reported, citing a UK Airprox Board report released this past summer.
The skydivers captured video footage of the fighters passing beneath them.
“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath,” the report read, further explaining that “once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in freefall.”
An F-15E Strike Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Couillard)
There was a debate about how close the fighters actually came to the skydivers, Airprox explained, adding that the board eventually concluded that “safety had been reduced much below the norm.” The pilots did not see the parachutists, nor were they aware of any planned jumps.
Chatteris airfield, according to the Airprox report, notifies Lakenheath every morning of its planned activities. The board agreed that “there was very little more that Chatteris could have done from an operational perspective to prevent” this near-miss, which was the result of problems both on the ground and in the air.
In response to this incident, the 48th Fighter Wing is briefing crews again and reminding everyone of the need to steer clear of the Chatteris skydiving site.
An Air Force F-15C Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
RAF Lakenheath is “using this incident to reinforce the vital importance of situational awareness and attention to detail for all of our air traffic controllers and aircrew,” Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, told Stars and Stripes.
“UK airspace is incredibly complex and often congested, and the safety of our aircrew as well as those we share the skies with is our number one priority,” he added. The Airprox report noted that prior to the near-miss with the skydivers, the F-15s had been forced to change course to avoid a KC-135 refueling tanker that was determined to be “on a collision course with the formation.”
It was apparently that course change, combined with various other influencing factors, that sent the fighters over Chatteris and put the skydivers in danger.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The battle to justify the need for a Space Corps rages on in Washington, but the war may soon be upon us, according to the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David Goldfein. The waiting list to sign up as a Space Shuttle door gunner, sadly, isn’t yet available, as the actual battle will be satellite defense primarily.
Space isn’t just a vast nothingness outside of our planet. The placement of satellites in orbit has played a key, strategic role in combat. Historically, satellites in orbit were fairly hard to reach, so the need to defend them hasn’t been a concern. That was until an increasing number of nations gained the ability to knock them out.
The Air Force has kept their eyes on fighting in Space since before 1963. Following the Air Force’s lead, the Department of Defense has made many advancements to America’s space program, such as the Space and Missile Systems Center and free access to GPS satellites. In 2007, China took steps toward being able to shoot down satellites and, in 2008, America proved it could. Recently, Russia claimed to have a plane-mounted laser that can take out satellites.
Gen. Goldfein told the press we need “to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.” To do this, the United States needs missile-detection satellites in place to watch over our orbiting assets.
Of huge benefit to the USAF’s Space Program is the advancement of civilian space programs, such as SpaceX, and their ongoing innovations, such as the reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle, Falcon Heavy. The USAF and SpaceX have worked hand-in-hand on all things space. SpaceX helps research and foot part of the bill while the USAF helps by providing equipment and certifications. Combined, they’re about to launch the Deep Space Atomic Clock. While this might not sound as impressive as an all-out war in space, it will help give an absolute measurement of time in Space — which, because of time dilation, is a pain in the ass to keep accurate.
Needless to say, the final frontier is going to get much more interesting in the next few years.
I never went to Afghanistan. Iraq was my war, and when I think back about my deployments, there are very few things that I miss. I definitely don’t relish the sand storms or the dirt or the myriad of dangers lurking behind every piece of trash (and there is a sh#%load of trash).
Instead, I sometimes think back to those quiet moments of deployment, especially ones when I needed the rush of nicotine before stepping off on patrol or the pull of a long drag to settle down from one. Those frequent cigarette breaks with my fellow Marines were some of the most memorable moments of my life. I cherish them.
It’s been a decade since I was in the sandbox and I don’t smoke anymore, but as I unlock the door to We Are The Mighty, I have the crazy urge to light up. I’m nervous. Unlike other conflicts in our history, there isn’t a sacred place, a monument, for veterans of my generation to visit and reflect on our war and maybe even smoke a cigarette like old times. While that place may come someday, today we only have each other, and that’s why I’m nervous. I’m about to meet Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.
The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest award for valor, and it often comes at a significant price. Since WWII, 60% of all medals awarded for valor are posthumous and, for those who are able to receive the medal while living, the process is often long and arduous. Many are forced to relive and describe one of the worst days of their life — over and over again. As I prepare for the interview, I want to be sensitive to all Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his platoon in the 2-2 Ramrod faced during their war. But their story is special. They fought, and Staff Sgt. Bellavia earned his honor during hand-to-hand combat while clearing houses [Official Citation] in one of the most iconic battles: Fallujah.
Fallujah is a place that almost every Iraq war veteran has heard of. Like Iwo Jima or Hue, this battle defines an entire war. As I contemplate this idea, Staff Sgt. Bellavia and his full Army escort enter my office. As I reach out to shake Staff Sgt. Bellavia’s hand, I can’t help but think I am shaking the hand of a man who is the living monument to my war.
As I meet Staff Sgt. Bellavia, thankfully, he calms my nerves. First, he’s a very humble, open guy. He introduces himself as “Dave.” A modest father of three who’s been called back to service to tour the country in the wake of his medal ceremony. Second, he’s funny — like, really funny. He cracks a joke about how hard it is to put on a uniform after fifteen years, and I can relate; there’s no way I could wear my uniform now either. This is exactly the kind of guy who I would share a cigarette with. We laugh together as the cameras turn on.
Staff Sgt. David Bellavia MOH Lincoln Memorial Visit.
Welcome to We Are The Mighty. So, we all have a crazy story of how we got in uniform… What’s yours?
DB: Sure. I joined the Army in 1999. My Army story’s a little bit crazy because my son was born with some birth defects. He’s good now, but the Army didn’t know what to do. So they put me on what’s called a “compassionate reassignment.” So right out of basic training, infantry cord, I go to a recruiting station for two and a half years, which is the worst gig because you’re not a recruiter, you’re not an infantryman. You’re just there telling the Army story, which you don’t know anything of because you don’t have an Army story. And when September 11th happened, the Army was like, “Hey, your son’s not officially healthy. You either get out or go on what’s called an ‘All Others Tour.'”
What’s an “All Other’s Tour”?
DB: So, I had a choice of basically getting out of the Army or just going for three years without my family… and I chose the Army. And so I went to Germany for three years. I didn’t see the family except for block leave, and that was really tough. But it was the best decision I made because of the relationships and the guys, it was really special.
Special? How so?
DB: Yeah. It’s always great to introduce young 18-year-old Americans to Bavarian beer.
Haha. Nice. Did you deploy from there?
DB: Yeah. I deployed to Kosovo in 2002, and then back-to-back from Kosovo to Iraq for 12 months, 2004 to 2005.
Kosovo? What was that like?
DB: It’s unbelievable. The one thing that I learned is that, for whatever reason, those kids in Kosovo could burn a DVD of a movie that is still in production. I don’t even know … they’re like, “Hey, have you seen X-Men 2?” I’m like, “It comes out in a month,” and like, “Here it is.” I’m like, “How is that possible? How do you have access to B-roll footage of a Marvel film before it’s made?” But these guys, [they] can’t figure out plumbing. [They] can’t get a mass transit system, but [they] can burn any movie within hours of Ron Howard saying, cut.” It’s done. It’s crazy.
Do you have a family history of military service?
DB: I grew up on Lake Ontario. Small little town. My dad was a dentist. I was the youngest of four kids. Every one of my brothers has like either multiple master’s degrees or like PhDs. I had two brothers who went to seminary. My grandad was in the Normandy campaign. [Not] D-Day. This was the 35 days after D-Day, but it was the hedgerows, ton of fighting. He would tell me his World War II stories at like … I’d be six years old just listening to this stuff. He’s still with us. He’s 99.
Was he your inspiration for joining the Army?
DB: The other thing was, I remember in high school, before the book came out, before there was a ‘Black Hawk Down’ movie, I watched the [bodies] being just dragged through the streets [of Mogadishu], that really affected me. I wanted to avenge that.
So before you got into the Army, what did courage mean to you?
DB: I had no idea what I was getting into. They told me 11 XRAY meant like extra special infantry. So courage to me was being able to endure rain and having wet socks because there was no thought of combat. Kosovo was the big war and no offense, but it wasn’t really much of a war. It was kind of a … when I got to Kosovo it was like, “Hey, take your helmets off. Soft cap.”
Let’s jump ahead. So you end up in 2-2 from 1st Infantry Division, The Ramrods. And now we’re at war with Iraq. What does that feel like?
DB: Well, I mean, first of all, we’re watching the invasion of Iraq in like a chow hall with a potato bar in Kosovo. And so the 1st Infantry Division had such an incredible legacy of just always being first to fight. We had our own movie. I remember watching The Big Red One movie, if I’m going to join the Army, I want to be in The Big Red One. No one questioned why Lee Marvin was like a 62-year-old squad leader in D-Day. You know what I mean? He’s got all white hair.
Yeah, he must have been passed over a few times…
DB: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, why is he here? I love that movie. I loved just all the stories of what The Big Red One stood for. And the take away was that, we were a peacekeeping, forward-deployed division in Germany and a war was happening in Afghanistan. A war was happening in Iraq, and we were going to miss out on it. And so my chain of command took it upon themselves in nine months of Kosovo to just train us for what was coming down the road. And we hated that because we were doing 15-hour patrols and presence and yet we were doing bunker drills and clearing houses and my God, all that training ended up saving our life because we were so ready when the fight initially came.
A year later, you were in Iraq outside Fallujah. And it was also your birthday?
DB: Yeah, November 10th  was my 29th birthday. And I just remember thinking … as a kid, I’d walk through a cemetery, and I would see people born and died on the same day on their tombstone. And I just thought, “Man, that’s gotta just be the worst.” I was just, “Get me to midnight. At least I can have something different on there.” There were a lot of times where you just give up.
And you were a squad leader at this point?
How did you manage the stress maybe even fear that you were about to lead your soldiers in one of the most violent battles of the Iraq war?
DB: When I was on block leave from Iraq, I ran into a crusty Vietnam guy, and he told me … I was telling him everything I was going through. I was so mad. I saw like a UPS guy, and I couldn’t understand why people were normal. They had no connection to what the hell was happening. And I was looking at this UPS guy deliver packages and be so happy, and I’m like, “What the … how is this?” … and this Vietnam guy told me, he’s like, “You still believe that you’re coming home. And once you give that up, once you just acknowledge that you have no control over this, everything is far more manageable. You can compartmentalize everything.” It was the best advice that we had is that it’s not about you… don’t worry about your own survivability, worry about your subordinates, worry about them, put all your … anything that causes stress, put that below your young guys and then if you come home, that’s a bonus.
Is that what you were thinking when you got to a house full of insurgents in Fallujah? The house where you earned the Medal of Honor?
DB: So yeah, this is basically what happened in Fallujah. So [in] Anbar Province, 82nd Airborne leaves, Marine Corps comes in. This is their fight. It’s very awkward to be receiving anything for Fallujah when so many Marines… you got Brian Chontosh, Brad Kasal, and Rafael Peralta, legends in the Marine Corps, did so many incredible things. We were there just to supplement them.
You did much more than support.
DB: Fallujah was left basically unmolested for six months, and the Marine Corps had a very difficult time breaching through. So what ended up happening is everyone was on one side from the north pushing in, and the only real clear breach lane [was ours]. We got into the city expecting everyone to be on our shoulder. And when we pushed through, it took like two days for the rest of the task force to get into the city. In that 48-hour period, we had very little support, and we were pretty much the only game in town. And it developed this really odd way of, you got to your objective, you cleared it, and then you massaged back, started the invasion again, cleared it. Uh-oh, come back, do it again. And so you’re refighting in neighborhoods that you’ve been almost four times at that point. And so we got a report that there were six to eight, possibly 10 bad guys in a little neighborhood block. And we were clearing all these different buildings out and nothing. I mean, we’d get blood, or you’d see a weapons caches, but you just missed the guys, and we finally end up in the last house, and that’s when it all went down.
And then your soldiers get trapped inside?
DB: Yeah. So I’m on one side of the house, the other guys are on the other side, and basically, these guys are shooting belt-fed machine guns through a door. We have to break contact. My two guys outside with 240 Bravos that were John J. Rambo firing those things from the shoulder. Those rounds are coming in, the PKM rounds are coming out. No one can move. If anything that night that really took the most intestinal fortitude, it was standing in that door with that SAW because, again, I don’t know how many people there are. I just know that there’s fire coming out. And I got to be honest with you, you come up with a plan, and then you’re going to execute the plan, and then you just want to stall because your legs won’t walk, your body won’t move.
So you grab a M-249 SAW and charge inside? What were you thinking? What was going through your head at this point?
DB: I remember thinking to myself, “I want to hook my finger around this trigger, not the way we’re trained to do, which is to three-second burst. But if I get hit, I want to just hold it down and just get enough fire.” And as soon as I get in that door frame, I’m looking at these guys [and] they’re not intimidated at all. The SAW was a runaway. On the range, you would break the links, point it to a safe direction. But here it’s just, “Well, I’ll just keep it on them.” I’m not hitting anything, I’m not hitting them, and I just clunk out on ammo. Those 200 rounds went like nanoseconds. It felt like far too quick. So I’m like, “could I have shot 200 rounds at like five feet and missed every single person?” I just found my body just running out of the house. And as I’m doing it, you hear, and you feel rounds everywhere, and you’re just like, “Man, that was worthless.” And so I was upset. I was angry.
And you traded the SAW for an M-4 and went back inside the house?
DB: Well, it was me, [and] Scott Lawson, who died in 2013, but he went in with me, and I had three SAW gunners. I was worried that these [insurgents] were going to run out of the house and we’re going to lose them and then they’re going to kill someone or we’re going to get killed by them down the road. So I set up the SAW gunners around the courtyard, and I was just going to run in there like an idiot and try to push them out. And again, I had no real idea how many were in there. I like my chances against wounded guys that we’ve been shooting at repeatedly. So I figured me and Lawson could at least ding them up and then the next wave of Americans could finish them off.
And you did finish them off. Five to be exact. I have one specific question. There’s a moment that I read about that. Did you smoke a cigarette during the fight?
DB: I did. I did. So, okay, understand that when you’re in [the house] … your night vision works like a cat’s eye, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’ve never been in this building before. And after this guy jumps out of a wardrobe and I hit him five times, I was just like, “Man, I need a smoke.” I don’t have my helmet, my IBA is open, I don’t … my rifle is somewhere in the smoke. And I just am like, “You know, I need a smoke right now.”
With the enemy still in the house?
DB: I’m an infantryman. I know how to smoke at night. I’m well-rehearsed at cupping the hands and holding. And so my biggest fear was that my guys were going to come in the building and because I was just around the enemy, I was going to get popped. So I just tried to hug a wall where I knew I couldn’t be hit by anything and just have a quick smoke and that’s when this guy jumps off the roof right in front of me and breaks his leg or does something horrible to himself. But it was just, yeah, it was stress level … that’s the weird thing about that close quarter proximity. You’re super confident. “I’m Thor, I could do all of this, America.” And then you slip and fall and almost get your head blown off, and you’re like, “What am I thinking? I’m an idiot. This was a horrible idea.” And then you see fear in the [enemy’s] eyes, and you’re like, “Oh, they’re scared, I got this, everything’s great.”
That’s the most badass smoke break that I’ve ever heard of.
DB: In the moment, grab a smoke.
Let’s move into afterward. You got out of the Army. What have you been doing since you left?
DB: So I came home right during the whole political soccer ball of Iraq. So I started a group with a bunch of other Marines called Vets for Freedom, and we just went out there and said, “Hey, don’t send us to fight unless you want us to finish it. Right? I mean, we didn’t vote for this thing. We’re the ones adjudicating this fight. You want to defund it. I mean, we lost our buddies out there. This is more important than some political soccer ball.” And so in order to become apolitical, we became uber-political, and I just hated it. That’s not what we wanted to do. So I started focusing more on just veterans in normal life.
Do you think Veterans can find some kind of “normal” in civilian life?
DB: We’re not walking around with high and tights, we’re not wearing camouflage to work, but the type of men and women who served this country are special, and we’re volunteering to do it. And when we come home, we would like to make America as great as we did serving it in uniform and we want to be teachers and we want to be coaches, and we want to lead at home the way we did in battle.
What was it like taking off the uniform and leading in a different way?
DB: The first thing I learned right off the bat is that no civilian wants to know when you’re going to the bathroom. Right? Because I’m accustomed to being like, “Hey, I’m going to go to the bathroom. I’m going to go take a leak.” No civilian ever wants to hear that. So I learned some tough lessons right off the bat.
And now, as a business owner, what do you tell other veterans when you see them?
DB: When I wore the veteran thing on my sleeve, I found that I was a bigger spectacle. And so I just decided to just compartmentalize that. Let it go, move on with your life, tell them, “Oh yeah, I served too,” and most people, especially the Vietnam generation, they didn’t get any of this reflexive love. They didn’t get free tickets to Bush Gardens. They didn’t get applause when they walked through the airport. So I’ve been really appreciative of that Vietnam generation protecting us from what they went through, and also their ability to kind of do a victory lap for our generation when we come home. And these guys in the workplace, what they’ve been able to accomplish. I love that. When I find out someone’s a vet, it’s like a Christian in the Catacomb, a little wink. You do the secret handshake, and that resume goes right to the top. I want that … I don’t care what you did.
You’re also a family man now, what do you tell your kids about courage and service?
DB: I tell them that the United States Army is the greatest … we’ve been fighting bullies since 1775 right? I’ve always told my kids, “I will never … if you come home with a fat lip because you were defending someone who couldn’t defend themselves, I don’t care what the school does, I don’t care what the law does. You will defend people who can’t defend themselves. That is why we’re on this earth.” We’re there to take care of our weaker brother. We’re there to take care of our weaker sister.
You also co-wrote a best selling memoir about your experience in Fallujah called House to House. Can you tell me briefly about the book?
DB: Well, yeah I’ve been going through that for a while. When I came out, there were very few memoirs written but, I don’t know if I would’ve made that choice again because I didn’t want to write [about me]. I wanted to write about my soldiers. My soldiers were the greatest men I’ve ever met in my life. They still are. And what we did together, we weren’t SEALs, we weren’t Green Berets [or] Recon. We were just knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers. That’s what we were, just average soldiers doing above average things because we found ourselves in those situations.
One last question. Do you still smoke?
DB: I am a recovering smoker. I do some tobacco products here and there and nicotine lozenges, a little dip. But I’m trying to beat that. But now the smoking is definitely gone. I’ve graduated.
Dave, this has truly been an honor. Anything else I missed?
DB: No, you got it.
Click HERE to read more about Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s actions which, earned him the distinguished role as the first and only living Medal of Honor recipient of the Iraq war.