REVIEW: 'Once a Warrior' is one from the heart - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Within a decade after graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison, the author serves as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq, co-founds the nonprofit Team Rubicon — and writes his first book.

His Take Command, Lessons in Leadership: How To Be a First Responder in Business was published in 2014 as a “tool kit” and is a fast read from the “evolving leader.”

A year after, Jake Wood is one of two veterans profiled in Joe Klein’s book about post-military service, Charlie Mike. Since then, Wood has fared better than the other subject, former Navy SEAL, founder of The Mission Continues, and author Eric Greitens, who resigned ignominiously as governor of Missouri.

Half a dozen years later Wood is back in hardcover. This time, in Once a Warrior, he writes about developing Team Rubicon — and, rewardingly, about becoming Jake Wood. (That’s his rear side on the front of the book jacket, although he is not identified. The book has his back, so to speak.) 

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

By now the disaster-response organization and its CEO Wood are familiar names. Their mutual success is regularly lauded, and in 2018 Wood received the ESPN-ESPY Pat Tillman Award for Service, named for the soldier and former NFL player killed in Afghanistan in 2004. 

Given Wood’s established public image, is there anything else to know about him?

Plenty, and Once a Warrior is valuable for its intimacy. The 37-year-old’s memoir is about leading from the heart. From his and, ultimately, to yours.

“Coming home from war is a lifelong process. Sometimes we try to fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve made it back, but that’s never the case.” The book “explores both the harrowing cost of military service” and the subsequent search for healing.

On one level, you get Rubicon rigor and resilient Wood, whose proposal for this publication was rejected 37 times six years ago. “On a higher level, this is the story of America’s veterans and the battles they continue to fight. Some prevail; others do not.”

His persistence gives him and his story power. The Iowa-born, 6-foot-6, college football-playing guy in an American-English “gray” (not the book’s British-English “grey”) Team Rubicon T-shirt is open about complexities, such as:

What makes a warrior: “I once drank whiskey until the sun rose with two men that were on the Osama bin Laden raid. […] But if they are the yardstick by which warriors are measured, then maybe I wasn’t one.”

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Ill-heeled boots: Nine months after returning from Iraq, his battalion deploys to Afghanistan. “The Pentagon threw a thousand Marines into the bloodiest province of Afghanistan, told them to hold the line, and wished them luck.”

Intimations of mortality: “I’m amazed at the ease with which violence was normalized. I don’t say that with regret. I’m not sure I would have survived Iraq and Afghanistan if I hadn’t become comfortable with death.”

Reasons to return: “My urge to go back to war was not born of patriotism or idealism or a defense of good versus evil. It was driven by guilt and fear. Guilt that I’d come home unscathed. Fear that I would never be able to honor and make sense of my friends’ deaths.” 

Being invisible: Wood describes a traumatic “recurring dream” that is a full-fledged nightmare: He is in the back seat of a car, in dress blues “with rows of shiny medals adorning my chest.” In the front seat are two men “in crisp green Marine Corps uniforms” and on death-notification duty, and they ignore him. Wood finally realizes the vehicle is arriving at his childhood home, and his parents are at the door. “I scream but hear no sound.” 

Emerging from guilt: His fellow sniper and “smart and handsome” friend Clay Hunt killed himself in 2011, and he remains a beacon to Wood and Team Rubicon — but with an emotional toll. Might Wood have done more to keep Hunt alive?

“I was carrying Clay’s lifeless body with me through life, no differently than if I had slung him over my shoulder on the battlefield. 

“I sought the weight because the weight brought pain. I wanted the pain because pain was the price I needed to pay for letting him down” in a “self-imposed sentence of guilt.” 

Only “when I’d forgiven myself for Clay’s death,” Wood writes, is he “able to love [his wife], or anyone, again.”

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
Jake Wood, author of Once a Warrior, with Team Rubicon. Photo courtesy of Team Rubicon.

Wood work: The book ends during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when Rubicon volunteers “gutted 1,078” damaged homes in Houston. One of the houses is Hunt’s family’s, and Wood finds the folded flag he handed to Susan Hunt during her son’s memorial service six years earlier. 

Susan approaches Jake. They pause. They think about Clay. They go on. “Come on,” he tells her, “we’ve got a job to finish.” 

His Rubicon job is perhaps a mission in making sense. His losses are “no less tragic. The aching no less dull. But they were buoyed by a new sense of purpose and hope for a better tomorrow.”

What? A “hope for a better tomorrow”? The cliche is superfluous in a book whose strength is in its exposing wounds, not decorating them. Such a lapse into truism (“service was in their blood” is another) muddies the message. May his next book resist profundity’s temptation and rely on Wood’s personable style, evident here:

After a deadly firefight in Anbar province another Marine offers Wood a cigarette. His first. 

Wood puffs, and the combat-tested, blood-stained cigarette “whispered sweet nothings and my body relaxed.” 

He laughs. What’s so funny in a combat zone?

“I never smoked before,” he tells his buddy, “because this shit will kill you.” 


 Once a Warrior: How One Veteran Found a New Mission Closer to Homeby Jake Wood, Sentinel, 320 pages, $27

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the trailer for Clint Eastwood’s new Spencer Stone movie

In August 2015, on a high-speed train in France, three American friends, two of them off-duty members of the US military, thwarted a terrorist attack after a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons tried to open fire in the train. Four people were injured, but there were no fatalities.


The three Americans instantly became heroes and wrote a book about their ordeal, which has now inspired a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

This all sounds like standard protocol for an incredible act of bravery like this, but it gets more interesting: Eastwood cast the three real-life friends who stopped the attack to be the leads in the movie.

“The 15:17 to Paris,” which is also the title of the book about the attack, is Eastwood’s latest based-on-a-true story movie (American Sniper, Sully), and in telling this one he has Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler reenacting their heroics (Stone sustained injuries while taking down the gunman).

The trailer was released Dec. 13 and looks beyond the acts on that August day, showing how the friends got to that moment in their lives through flashbacks of their childhood and Stone and Skarlatos’ military service.

Watch the trailer below. It’s quite inspiring. Warner Bros. will release the movie on Feb. 9.

 

(Warner Bros. Pictures | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite last minute reprieve, US and Iran still on the brink of war

President Donald Trump called off airstrikes last minute against Iran, but the reprieve is likely only temporary from a clash that has brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.

Iran’s economy is sputtering under mounting US sanctions that it’s called “economic war” and said it will start enriching uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limits set by the nuclear treaty, which the Trump administration walked away from a little over a year ago.

Experts largely believe Iran’s military and its proxy forces, which Tehran supplies and trains, will continue to seek confrontations against the US and its allies across the region due to the sanctions that are damaging Iran’s economy.


“The enemy (Iran) believes it’s acting defensively in light of economic strangulation, which it views as an act of war,” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, wrote on Twitter. “That doesn’t justify its acts but makes deterrence via one-off strikes harder perhaps counter-productive.”

Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which the US has blamed on Iran. The incident prompted anxiety from the UN and US allies, who’ve all preached restraint.

Iran has denied striking the tankers, in the face of a US military video showing what appears to be an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded limpet mine, and claims the downing of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came after warnings it had entered Iranian airspace.

The Iranian attacks aim to raise the political costs of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran, and Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute previously told INSIDER she expected Iran to “up the ante” against the US, even by kidnapping Americans in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly told Iran that the US will respond with military force if Iran kills any Americans, and so it is unclear how the US would respond to a kidnapping.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

With the US taking no action against Iran for the drone attack other than condemnation, and possibly added sanctions, many experts think Iran has little reason to abandon its attacks.

“Unfortunately it sends a dangerous signal to Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter. “US aversion to escalation doesn’t deter Tehran from escalating. And they have every incentive to continue until they get what they want: sanctions relief.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Obama, told INSIDER.

Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told INSIDER, “Conflict between Iran and US can erupt at any time.”

Wolfsthal said he’s not aware of any new guidance given to military officials to “de-engage or avoid possible actions that could lead to provocations.”

“In fact, I expect drones are flying the same course today,” Wolfsthal added.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to hostilities remains elusive.

Trump warned Iran of the impending, and ultimately halted, military strike via Oman on June 20, 2019, Reuters reported. The president also extended yet another offer to hold talks with Tehran.

An Iranian official told Reuters that a decision on whether to speak to the US would be made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has so far rebuffed Trump’s proposals to hold talks.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Rudy Reyes’ new mission might be his coolest yet — which is saying something

If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.

Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.

Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.

And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.

It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.

According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”

Check out the rest of the trailer right here:


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”

www.instagram.com

Watch the trailer:

On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.

“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.

Also read: You don’t know the real Rudy Reyes

That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.

“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.

Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”

That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Check out Resilience on Facebook, premiering Aug. 15 at 8:00pm EDT and be sure to follow FORCE BLUE’s efforts and deployments on social media.

Anyone who wants to get involved can spread the word, check out cool gear straight from the FORCE BLUE Special Operations dive locker, or sponsor veteran training recruitment.

Articles

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2010.(ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford/released) Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan. | ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford


On March 19, U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant Louis Cardin, a field artilleryman assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, died during an attack on Fire Base Bell outside of Makhmur, Iraq. Coincidentally, the U.S. Army is hard at work developing a farther-firing howitzer that could help keep artillery troops out of range of enemy forces.

The Army is cooking up a suite of improvements could double the range of the existing M-777 howitzer. Right now the 155-millimeter gun, in service with the Army and Marines, can lob shells at targets up to 18 miles away.

The M-777ER version the Army is working on “will be able to reach out and hit targets … before the targets can reach them,” David Bound, the lead engineer on the project at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, told Army reporters. Troops “won’t have to worry about coming into a situation where they are under fire before they can return fire.”

The modifications add fewer than 1,000 pounds of extra weight onto the older howitzers. The updates include improvements that will help gunners fire more accurately plus a mechanism to automatically load rounds into the gun.

The biggest change is the addition of new barrel that’s six feet longer. The longer M-777ER should be able to hit enemy forces more than 43 miles away. And with more powerful propellant charges and rocket-assisted shells, crews might be able to increase that range even more in the near future.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
The Army’s M-777ER prototype. | U.S. Army photo

While the changes to the M-777 might sound simple, the new gun’s extra length actually complicates its employment. Unlike older towed howitzers that hitch up to cargo trucks with their stabilizing legs, the lightweight M-777 has its tow loop right at the end of its barrel. Folded up for travel, the new version will still be more than 35 feet long.

In combat, troops could end up taking the guns off-road, up hills and over uneven terrain. With six more feet between the truck and the howitzer’s own two wheels, there’s greater potential for the barrel to flex if it isn’t sturdy enough to withstand the shock.

A bent barrel would throw off where the shells fall. A broken barrel might simply explode.

So, the project’s biggest challenge might be just convincing soldiers and Marines that the guns work. “The visual prejudice we are up against is that it looks like it may tip over with all that extra cannon,” Bound noted.

With help from engineers at Benet Labs, the Army plans to run “mobility” demonstrations to prove that the gun and its new features are ready for combat. The ground combat branch also plans to install the longer barrel on the new M-109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
Marines hitch an M-777 up to a truck. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Farther-firing cannons would no doubt help in the fight against Islamic State. Since the summer of 2015, the Army has lobbed hundreds of 227-millimeter rockets at militant forces from bases in Iraq and Jordan.

Launched from the back of a six-wheel truck, these GPS-guided projectiles can hit targets up to 43 miles away — the same range the Army expects of the M-777ER. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher can shoot one rocket every five seconds. But the vehicle can only fire six rockets in total before the crew needs to reload.

So to provide protection for … advisers in Makhmur, we realize that we need some fire support, we need some artillery to provide great protection,” Army colonel Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s main spokesman for the campaign against Islamic State, told reporters on March 21. “We scratched out a fire base there, placed the guns.”

Rocket and gun artillery have the benefit of being less vulnerable to air defenses and the weather than fighter-bombers or gunship helicopters can be. Depending on where aircraft are during an attack, these weapons might take far less time to get into action.

The trainers and Marines at Fire Base Bell are backing up the Iraqi government’s offensive to liberate Mosul. But in their current configuration, the Marine Corps’ guns can’t reach the outskirts of the terrorist-controlled city.

“The Marines fired upon the enemy infiltration routes in order to disrupt their freedom of movement and ability to attack Kurdish and Peshmerga forces,” the military stated. In short, at the moment the gunners at Fire Base Bell are mainly harassing Islamic State’s fighters. But with the M-777ER’s extra range, they should be able to hit the militants’ main defenses in Mosul’s suburbs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US has no defense for hypersonic weapons

US Air Force General John E. Hyten, the Commander of US Strategic Command, made a worrying admission on March 20, 2018, about the state of US defenses against hypersonic weapons: They don’t really exist.


While hypersonic weapons are still largely in either the conceptual or testing phase, Russia and China have been making headway on their respective programs.

China tested a functional hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) in November 2017, and Russia tested a hypersonic weapon only a few weeks after President Vladimir Putin boasted that he has an “invincible” hypersonic missile in early March 2018.

Also read: Why hypersonic weapons make current missile defenses useless

Both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities,” Hyten said at a Senate Armed Services hearing on March 20, 2018. “We’ve watched them test those capabilities.”

When asked by Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, the committee chairman, what kind of defenses the US had against such weapons, the general responded, “our defense is our deterrent capability.”

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Hyten said.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
A screenshot from a video from the RAND Corporation about hypersonic missile nonproliferation showing the two kinds of hypersonic weapons. (Photo by TheRANDCorporation YouTube)

The general said that the only “defense” the US had was the threat of nuclear retaliation, adding, “our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the Triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.”

More specifically, Hyten said that low-yield submarine-based nuclear weapons were the primary defense.

Hyten added later in the hearing, responding to a question from Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, that the US needed to “pursue improved sensor capabilities” in order to “track, characterize, and attribute the threats wherever they come from.” Detection of ICBMs is mostly done through satellites orbiting the earth.

Related: These 5 hypersonic weapons are the future of military firepower

The General acknowledged that there are still issues, primarily due to lack of resources and aging equipment. “Right now we have a challenge with that, with our current on-orbit space architecture and our limited number of radars that we have around the world,” Hyten said.

Hypersonic weapons can be destabilizing. HGVs and hypersonic cruise missiles can travel Mach 5 and above (340 miles every 6 minutes), can maneuver to avoid ICBM defenses, and can impact a target just minutes after being detected.

The RAND Corporation published a report that predicts that hypersonic weapons will be deployed to the battlefield in the next 10 years. At that point, the primary defense against ICBMs and nuclear missiles could no longer be kinetic or proximity interception of the missiles themselves, but the Cod War-era concept of mutually assured destruction.

Articles

Watch the Army test its upgraded Stryker vehicles armed to destroy Russia’s best tanks

Army personnel recently traveled from Germany to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland for testing and training on new variants of the Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.


The soldiers tested out Strykers armed with a 30mm cannon as well as with a common remote-operated weapons station that allows soldiers inside the vehicle to fire Javelin antitank guided missiles.

Twelve of the Stryker variants — six with 30 mm cannons and six with Javelin missiles — will head to Germany in January for more evaluation by US troops before the Army hopes to deploy them to a forward position in Europe next summer.

Troops from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, who took part in the testing in Maryland, spoke highly of the new features on the vehicle, which has been nicknamed “Dragoon” after the regiment.

(Army News Service (ARNEWS) | YouTube)”It’s doing a lot more damage and you’re getting better effects,” Staff Sgt. Randall Engler said.

Previous variants of the Stryker have been armed with either an M2 .50-caliber machine gun or an MK19 grenade launcher. The request for more firepower came in response to recent military operations by Russia.

“This capability coming to [2nd Cavalry] is directly attributable to Russian aggression and we are actively working with our foreign partners in how to help shape our formation,” said Lt. Col. Troy Meissel, the regiment’s deputy commanding officer, according to the Army.

The new armaments don’t make the Stryker a fighting vehicle, but Meissel said the search for heaftier weapons stems from the reduction in manpower in Europe from 300,000 during the Cold War to about 30,000 now.

“How do we, as an Army, make 30,000 soldiers feel like 300,000?” Meissel said. “This new ICV-D is one of the ways that can help us do that.”

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle-Dragoon fires 30 mm rounds during a live-fire demonstration at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2017. Army photo by Sean Kimmons

Advancements in Russian armor have been cause for concern among military planners in the West. Moscow’s new Armata tank will reportedly be outfitted with an active-protection system, which uses radar and projectiles to detect and counter antitank and anti-armor weapons.

The US Army is also looking at APS for the Stryker and its Abrams tank, though the latest variant of the RPG is rumored to have an APS countermeasure.

Relations between Russia and US allies in Eastern Europe have grown more contentious in recent months, particularly in the run up to Russia-Belarus military exercises in September that will reportedly see 60,000 to 100,000 Russian troops deployed to Belarus and western Russia.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

Countries in the Baltics have warned of more ambitious Russian espionage efforts, and NATO aircraft have tangled with their Russian counterparts numerous times in over the last year.

The US has done several military exercises with partners in the region this year and increased deployments, including of Patriot missile air-defense systems, to NATO member-states in Eastern Europe.

Military.com has more footage of the new Stryker variants in action.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea offers rare inside look at its latest nuclear bomb technology

North Korea unveiled a remarkably powerful bomb in its latest nuclear test, one with the ability to level entire urban centers.


In the wake of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, state media claimed that the rogue regime had successfully tested a staged thermonuclear weapon – a hydrogen bomb. Explosive yield estimates range are around 150 kilotons, orders of magnitude larger than any bomb the North has tested before. While the international community has been trying to figure out what to do about this alarming development, Pyongyang has been celebrating its entry into the elite thermonuclear weapons club.

When North Korea’s nuclear scientists and engineers returned home, they were given a heroes welcome in Pyongyang. Similar celebrations were held after the successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, on which Kim Jong Un plans to mount his newest bomb.

Officials held another celebration Saturday to honor the individuals who contributed to the development of the latest addition to North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal. During Saturday’s celebratory concert, images of North Korea’s achievements were presented on the big screen, a not uncommon pastime for the regime.

The North revealed images of the nuclear bomb tested last Sunday at the celebration this weekend.

The bomb used in the test appears to be a slight variation of the warhead North Korea presented just hours before its shocking nuclear test. The shape suggests that the device may very well be a thermonuclear weapon, with one chamber for the fission reaction and another for the fusion reaction to produce a substantial explosive yield.

In the wake of the country’s sixth nuclear test, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new ICBM, which can effectively strike parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. While it is difficult to know for certain, it would appear that the North is “locked and loaded” for intercontinental strikes if it needed to do so.

“The recent test of the H-bomb is a great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period,” young North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said at the banquet Saturday, referring to North Korea’s success in the face of tough international sanctions and mounting pressure.

Articles

Senator says the $400 million payment to Iran ‘put a price on the heads of Americans’

Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.


REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart
Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Geneva. (Photo: U.S. Mission/Eric Bridiers)

Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”

Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.

The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”

Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

Despite persistent power shortages, North Korea is reportedly selling electricity to China for cash.


The deal, which reportedly began on Feb. 9, 2018, will see China pay between $60,000 and $100,000 a month for power generated by a hydroelectric dam close to the border between the two countries, according to Seoul-based news outlet Daily NK.

“The Supong Hydroelectric Generator in Sakju County is providing the energy to a Chinese factory that produces fire proofing materials. The [North Korean] authorities are accepting payments in the form of cash,” a source in the local North Korean province told Daily NK.

The source also said the export project has been named “The January 8 Fund,” after the birthday of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. His father, Daily NK reported, also had a similar project that earned foreign currency named after his birthday on Feb. 16.

Also read: China tests missile defense system after North Korean nuke test

According to Daily NK, North Korea’s usual priority is to first power “idolization sites” for the country’s two previous leaders, government organizations, and munitions factories, before civilian homes or buildings.

Fewer than one-in-three North Koreans have access to electricity, the World Bank estimates, and nighttime satellite images show what that looks like for most of the country.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Sakju generator doesn’t provide electricity for ordinary citizens, rather it reportedly usually powers a munitions factory, meaning military production could be affected by the power sale to China.

The desire to reroute electricity away from a munitions factory indicates how desperate sanctions have made Pyongyang to earn foreign currency.

Related: China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Sanctions currently bar North Korea from exporting coal, steel, minerals, food, wood, and textiles, as well as ending the practice of sending foreign labor overseas to earn funds for the regime.

South Korea’s government currently estimates the North’s hard currency reserves, which are believed to be about $3 billion, will dry up by October 2018.

MIGHTY TRENDING

94-year-old World War II veteran finally receives his medals

A 94-year old World War II veteran received his long overdue medals during a ceremony at the Louisville Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 23, 2018.

Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, former Program Executive Officer for Submarines, awarded William Edward Gilbert, a Kentucky native, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and American Campaign Medal during Louisville Navy Week.

In his opening speech, Jabaley spoke about the importance of honoring our surviving World War II veterans.


“There are not many of them left and the ones that are, we need to treasure, and we need to take every opportunity to make sure they get the recognition that they so richly deserve,” said Jabaley.

Gilbert was drafted into the U.S. Navy from Jan. 6, 1943, until his honorable discharge in Jan.11, 1946. He served as a Steward’s Mate aboard the South Dakota-class battleship USS Indiana (BB 58) in the Pacific Theater, earning the medals he would receive 72 years later.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

The U.S. Navy battleship USS Indiana (BB-58) in a South Pacific harbor, December 1942.

(US Navy photo)

“He put in a lot of work,” said Bruce Coleman, Gilbert’s son. “I feel really good that they finally recognized him as a veteran.”

VA psychologist, Gina Salisbury, learned about the issue on her initial visit with Gilbert and helped him take action. Salisbury consulted with VA geriatrics and extended care social worker, Tina Strobel, who worked with the National Archives to retrieve the medals.

“It’s probably the coolest day at the VA that I’ve ever had, and I’ve worked here for over 10 years,” said Salisbury. “It just really makes my job meaningful, being able to give back to veterans that have served our country.”

Friends and family were at the ceremony to share in this moment, including his son, Bruce and daughter-in-law, Wanda.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Wanda. “I wish all my children could’ve been here to witness this. I wish that everybody that I know could witness this. I’m just overjoyed.”

After the awards, Gilbert addressed the audience, expressing his feelings at finally receiving the medals and the value of perseverance.

“Never give up,” said Gilbert.

The Navy Office of Community Outreach uses the Navy Week program to bring Navy Sailors, equipment and displays to approximately 14 American cities each year for a week-long schedule of outreach engagements designed for Americans to experience firsthand how the U.S. Navy is the Navy the nation needs.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

REVIEW: ‘Once a Warrior’ is one from the heart

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain has upgraded their Typhoons with awesome missiles

The Royal Air Force’s Typhoon jets have been successfully upgraded with enhanced sensors, better software, and the ability to use a new missile according to releases from military contractors and the Royal Air Force. The upgrades have taken three years and cost approximately $200 million, but the upgraded planes have already proven themselves in combat in Iraq and Syria.


All You Need To Know About The Typhoon Upgrade | Forces TV

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The biggest change to the Typhoon was its integration with the Brimstone 2 missile. The Brimstone is an air-launched, anti-tank missile similar to the American Hellfire. It’s been developed specifically for its ability to hit fast-moving objects in cluttered environments, something that has been invaluable as it has already been deployed against ISIS and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria.

But the plane upgrades have also made other missiles work better. Software changes made the jet work better with the Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Meteor, and ASRAAM. The Storm Shadow and Paveway IV are air-to-ground missiles while the Meteor and ASRAAM are air-to-air missiles.

Because the Typhoons were needed for missions in the Middle East and the Baltics, Typhoons that were upgraded were quickly pressed into operational missions. So the government and the contractors worked together to train pilots up in classrooms and simulators before units even received the new planes.

That’s what allowed British pilots in Typhoons to drop Brimstone 2s on targets in Syria and Iraq just a few months after their planes were upgraded, and it’s what allowed their counterparts in the Baltics to use these planes for patrols.

The completion of the upgrades, known as Project Centurion, was timely as the British Tornado is officially retiring. Typhoons will fly with British F-35s in a pairing of 4th and 5th-generation fighters, similar to America’s F-35s flying with F-18s and F-16s.

Britain’s future fighter, already in the early stages of development, will be the Tempest.

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