Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent pledge to pull U.S. troops out of Syria “very soon” now that the Islamic State (IS) militant group has been largely defeated there.

Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on April 2, 2018, that Russia had recently seen what he called “worrisome” signs that U.S. troops were “getting deeply entrenched” in areas east of the Euphrates River that they recently helped liberate from IS.


Trump’s statement late March 2018, shows that “he is committed at least to the previous promises the United States will leave Syria after victory over the Islamic State,” Russian state-run news agency TASS quoted Lavrov as saying.

Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been urging the United States for months to pull its 2,000 or so troops out of Syria, maintaining that their presence on Syrian territory is a violation of international law.

Assad frequently points out that he did not invite U.S. troops to join the seven-year civil war like he did when he invited Russian forces in 2015, and Iranian forces and militias since the beginning of the war in 2011.

In response to Russia’s calls to leave Syria, top U.S. officials have said they intended to keep U.S. troops there as long as needed to protect U.S. allies in the war-torn country and ensure that IS does not make a comeback in its former Syrian strongholds.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump fired in March 2018, citing significant policy differences, argued in January 2018, that U.S. forces must remain engaged in Syria not only to prevent IS and al-Qaeda from returning, but to deny Iran a chance to “further strengthen its position in Syria.”

Pentagon leaders have made similar statements. Defense Department spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on April 2, 2018, that “our mission has not changed… We are continuing to implement the president’s strategy to defeat [IS].”

But Trump’s statement on March 29, 2018 — telling supporters in the U.S. state of Ohio that “we’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now” — suggested Trump may be thinking differently about Syria than some of his top advisers.

In another sign Trump may be mulling a pull-out, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that he is holding up $200 million in U.S. funding earmarked to go toward stabilizing areas of eastern Syria recaptured from IS.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Lavrov’s comments welcoming Trump’s eagerness to leave Syria come as Russia and Syria have been clearing out the last remnants of armed rebel groups that once largely controlled the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta through a series of negotiated pull-outs.

The Russian military and Syrian state media reported on April 2, 2018, that the largest rebel group, Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), has started evacuating from the area’s last holdout town, Douma.

The SANA news agency said two buses carrying the rebels left Douma heading for Jarablus, a town in north Syria shared between rebels and Turkish forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, also reported that the last rebels are leaving Douma, handing Syria and Russia their biggest potential win since they regained control of Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 sensor successfully tracks ballistic missile in Hawaii test

The F-35’s Distributed Aperture Sensor (DAS) has performed airborne identification and target tracking of a ballistic missile in a test off the coast of Hawaii as part of ongoing development of the 5th-generation aircraft’s ability to conduct airborne ballistic missile defense missions.


Northrop Grumman and the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency conducted a demonstration, using a ground-based DAS and a DAS-configured gateway aerial node to locate a ballistic missile launch and flight path. Target tracking information was sent using advanced data links to relay information between the aerial gateway and ground-based command and control locations.

According to Northrop engineers and weapons developers involved with the test, a sensor on the ground transmitted its tracking information to the DAS-equipped Airborne Gateway, which formed a three-dimensional space track which could be transmitted to San Diego.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sean Sweeney

“DAS can perform its mission whether airborne in an F-35 or other aircraft, as well as on the ground or in a ship. In this case, the two DAS sensors in the air and on the ground, respectively, were able to individually recognize the ballistic missile event and generate a two-dimensional track,” Northrop experts told Warrior.

Described as multi-function array technology, the DAS system uses automated computer algorithms to organize and integrate target-relevant data from missile warning systems, radar, night vision and other long-range sensors; the array is able to track a BMD target from the air at distances up to 800 nautical miles. Such a technology, quite naturally, enables a wider sensor field with which to identify and track attacking missiles.

“DAS communicated precise BMD data from Pacific Missile Range in Hawaii to a test-bed location in San Diego. Seconds after launch, the DAS sensor categorized the rocket and located a ballistic missile launch,” said John “Bama” Montgomery, 5th Generation Derivatives and Improvements, Northrop Grumman. “This re-organizes, re-imagines and re-shapes the battlespace.”

Although the test was in 2014, it has only now been determined that the F-35 can perform BMD – due to years of analysis and test data examination, Northrop developers said. Such a defensive technical ability is of great relevance currently, as many express concern about North Korea short and medium range ballistic missile threats.

Also Read: Hawaii just released a guide on how to survive a nuclear attack from North Korea

An airborne DAS, networked with ground-based Patriot and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) weapons, could offer a distinct tactical advantage when it comes to quickly locating incoming missile threats. Air sensors in particular, could be of great value given that, in some envisioned threat scenarios, it is unclear whether there would be enough interceptors to counter a massive North Korean ballistic missile barrage into South Korea. Accordingly, air based detection and target tracking, it seems, could go a long way toward better fortifying defenses – as they might increase the time envelope during which command and control could cue interceptors to locate and destroy attacking enemy missiles.

Using early applications of artificial intelligence, computers and aircraft relied upon advanced algorithms to organize sensor information – which was then transmitted to a pilot.

As a key element of the F-35s much-discussed “sensor fusion technology,” the DAS draws upon a 360-degree sensor field of view generated by six cameras strategically placed around the aircraft. The sensor autonomously fuses data from all of the sensors into a single field of view for the pilot.

“With an automated picture, we can get the pilot everything he needs without him needing to go through every step,” Bama said.

Using F-35 DAS sensor technology, emerging technology can perform BMD sensing functions without needing to rely purely upon space-based infrared systems. Using LINK 16 and other data-link technologies, an F-35 can relay targeting data to other 5th and 4th-Generation aircraft as well as ground stations. Montgomery explained that MDA laboratory-generated detection, tracking and discrimination algorithms were able to provide 3-D tracking information.

An MDA statement said program officials have been evaluating system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
The first of two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors is launched during a successful intercept test.

As part of this emerging technical configuration, it has been determined that the F-35s DAS can perform a wide range of non-traditional ISR functions to include not only BMD but other kinds of air or ground-fired enemy weapons. This includes an ability to detect artillery fire, enemy fighter aircraft, incoming air-launched missiles and, of course, ground launched rockets and missiles.

“DAS provides imagery. Instead of looking through a tube, this is a broader perspective of the combat environment, allowing a pilot to act more decisively. It provides a protective bubble to ensure that no aircraft can approach an F-35 without the F-35 knowing it is there,” Montgomery added.

Weapons developers describe this technical advance in terms of something entirely compatible with ship-based Aegis radar, which is also configured to perform BMD functions. Aegis radar was used to track the ballistic missile target as well.

In fact, F-35 BMD sensor technology aligns closely with the Navy’s now-deployed Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air (NIFC-CA), an integrated system which uses ship-based Aegis radar, an airborne platform relay sensor and an SM-6 missile to track and destroy approaching enemy cruise missiles at distances beyond the horizon.

The concept is to give commanders a better window for decision-making and countermeasure applications when faced with approaching enemy fire. The Navy’s layered ship defense system, involving SM-3s, ESSMs, SeaRAM, Rolling Airframe Missiles and closer-in systems such as Close-in-Weapons System using a phalanx area weapon, can best track and destroy targets when a flight path of an attacking ballistic missile can be identified earlier than would otherwise be the case.

The Navy and Lockheed have specifically demonstrated this system using an F-35 as an airborne sensor relay platform. NIFC-CA can be used both offensively and defensively, as it draws upon the SM-6s active seeker which can discern and attack fast-maneuvering targets.

The Navy is already building, deploying and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with NIFC-CA – as a way to bring an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Demonstration shows capability to extend the battlefront using Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA). (Image via Lockheed Martin)

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; it has also been successfully tested from a land-based “desert ship” at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. from an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Should the Navy’s future plans materialize, the system would expand further to include the F/A-18 and F-35C.

NIFC-CA gives Navy ships the ability to extend the range of an interceptor missile and extend the reach sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system, Navy developers told Warrior.

NIFC-CA was previously deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf.

Operating NIFC-CA from an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; previous tests have also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A report from earlier this year from the U.S. Naval Institute news quoted Lockheed officials saying an “at-sea” assessment of this NIFCA-CA/F-35 pairing is planned for 2018.

NIFC-CA has previously operated using an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane as an aerial sensor node; the use of an F-35B improves the sensor technology, reach, processing speed and air maneuverability of the system; the test also assessed the ability of the system to identify and destroy air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. A multi-target ability requires some adjustments to fire-control technology, sensors and dual-missile firings; the SM-6 is somewhat unique in its ability to fire multiple weapons in rapid succession. An SM-6 is engineered with an “active seeker,” meaning it can send an electromagnetic targeting “ping” forward from the missile itself – decreasing reliance on a ship-based illuminator and improving the ability to fire multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously.

Unlike an SM-3 which can be used for “terminal phase” ballistic missile defense at much farther ranges, the SM-6 can launch nearer-in offensive and defensive attacks against closer threats such as approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles. With an aerial sensor networked into the radar and fire control technology such as an E2-D Hawkeye surveillance plane or F-35, the system can track approaching enemy cruise missile attacks much farther away. This provide a unique, surface-warfare closer-in defensive and offensive weapons technology to complement longer range ship-based ballistic missile defense technologies.

Once operational, this expanded intercept ability will better defend surface ships operating in the proximity or range of enemy missiles by giving integrating an ability to destroy multiple-approaching attacks at one time.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
The guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke DDG 51, left, approaches the guided missile destroyer USS James E Williams DDG 95. (Image U.S. Navy)

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

Developers said integrated air and missile defense provides an ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time countering air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea.

The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.

Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could. The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

Also Read: The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology was the USS John Finn or DDG 113. The ship previously went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

The very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades as well.

NIFC-CA technology is also being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. This involves the integration of new cabling, computers, consoles and data distribution systems.

Existing destroyers and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
A DDG 51 destroyer, which was bought instead of the CG(X). | U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Patrick Reilly

 

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, developers said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system.

The new radar, called the SPY-6, is said by Navy officials to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy exploring artificial intelligence for warfare network

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.


The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).

CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.

Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) patrols the Pacific Ocean during flight operations in the 7th Fleet area of operation. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineers successfully completed the restrained firing test of the Longbow Hellfire missile for the Littoral Combat Ship Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, the Navy announced on Oct. 6, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer Second Class Michaela Garrison)

“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”

Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing, and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.

“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship, or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomalous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.

Also Read: Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship destroys swarming boat attack in test

Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing, and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.

The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.

Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers and computing functions.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Jeremy Seltzer monitors the installation of a Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Service cables on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson is currently pierside in its home port in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class D’Andre L. Roden/Released)

“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.

Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.

CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.

Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase onboard automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.

Along these lines, Navy engineers recently completed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) Pre-Installation Test and Check Out (PITCO) technicians Diana Burnside and Arnel Franswells perform acceptance testing on Consolidated Afloat Ships Network Enterprise Services (CANES) racks in SPAWAR’s Network Integration and Engineering Facility. As the Navy’s information warfare acquisition systems command SPAWAR develops, delivers, and sustains communications and information capabilities for warfighters. (U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt)

“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network (LAN) drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.

The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyber-attacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.

“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.

Articles

US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “a war criminal” and that the United States would not accept that he could again run for election again in the war-torn country.


Haley on April 3 told a news conference that Assad has been “a hindrance to peace for a long time” and that his treatment of Syrians was “disgusting.”

“We don’t think that the people want Assad anymore,” she said. “We don’t think that he is going to be someone that the people want to have.”

Assad’s future has been the key barrier in negotiations aimed at ending the six-year civil war in Syria.

In August 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama said Assad must leave power. In 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad must go, but that the timing of his departure could be a subject of negotiation.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Putin with president of Syria Bashar al-Assad. This should tell you all you need to know. (Russian government photo)

Haley on March 31 said the Trump administration was not pursuing a strategy to push Assad out of power, echoing comments made by other U.S. officials who said the focus for now is ending Syria’s six-year civil war and defeating Islamic State (IS) militants.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 30 said that Assad’s future was up to the Syrian people.

Reporters asked Haley at the April 3 news briefing if that meant Washington would accept that Assad could again run for the presidency in elections.

“No, it doesn’t mean that the U.S. will accept it,” she said.

UN-brokered talks in Geneva have failed to make progress toward ending Syria’s civil war, which began in March 2011 when protests broke out against Assad’s government.

Since then, at least 300,000 people have been killed and millions of others have been displaced.

The United States and Turkey support various groups fighting the government, while Russia and Turkey back Assad.

Islamic State fighters have also entered the conflict and are opposed by both sides.

With reporting by AFP and AP.

Articles

Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.


Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.

It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.

His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.

“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”

As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.

That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.

“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.

Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.

“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.

He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.

“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.

Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.

Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.

Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.

The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.

Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.

When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.

Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.

But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a  senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”

But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”

It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
Photo: Courtesy of Santiago Leon

“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through  VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.

Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”

Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.

“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”

Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

This trainee just earned a perfect ACFT score

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie came to Fort Jackson with the same hope as many others — to start his Army career on the right path by excelling at Basic Combat Training.

On Oct. 21, 2019, he became the first Basic Combat Training trainee to record a perfect score of 600 points on the Army’s new physical fitness test.

Ritchie maxed all six events on Army Combat Fitness Test, making him the third soldier in the Army to earn a perfect score. The San Antonio native, is assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, the “River Raiders.”


The battalion is one of two on Fort Jackson participating in the Army’s ‘field test’ where trainees take the ACFT during the ninth week of training.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Spc. Benjamin Ritchie, a trainee with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment conducts the sprint drag event as Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera watches.

(US Army photo)

Ritchie, an 09S — Officer Candidate, said what ultimately brought him success was his personal dedication to physical fitness and the consistent guidance and support of his unit leadership.

“We didn’t do anything special,” Ritchie said about his preparations. “I trusted my drill sergeants and did my best.”

Ritchie was unable to max his initial diagnostic Army Physical Fitness Test, the soon to be legacy fitness test. For the following nine weeks, he performed regularly scheduled physical readiness training according to the BCT program of instruction and ate the regular meals provided by the dining facility and by the end of basic training, he was able to max both the APFT and ACFT.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Delgado, a senior drill sergeant in Ritchie’s company, said the training was the same as every other cycle.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Cabrera with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment, observes Spc. Benjamin Ritchie conduct an Army Combat Fitness Test event.

(US Army photo)

“There were no special fitness coaches, diets, or focused ACFT workouts,” Delgado said. “Hard work and motivation — that’s our ‘special sauce.’ Once you get the trainees to buy-in to what you’re doing, they will achieve whatever you put in front of them.”

The company and battalion focused on creating an environment for the trainees to excel. They placed pull-up bars in easily accessible locations; encouraged trainees to conduct physical training in their free time; planned time to familiarize trainees with the ACFT in the evenings; and encouraged friendly, peer-to-peer competition.

The results speak for themselves as Ritchie maxed the test while two other trainees in the battalion scored above 590.

Lt. Col. Randall Wenner, 3-60th commander, said he is excited about the new direction of the ACFT and the work the battalion has put into its implementation.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Brig. Gen. Milford H. ‘Beags’ Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander and Post Command Sgt. Maj. Jerimiah C. Gan, pose with Spc. Benjamin Ritchie from 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment after his graduation.

(US Army photo)

“There are naysayers out there about the new test, specifically due to injury,” he said. “We have tested over 2,800 trainees with zero injuries. Ritchie’s performance along with the performance of other trainees also sends a message — excellence in the ACFT is attainable for everyone. The Army needs adaptable soldiers. A fit soldier is an adaptable soldier.”

“We proved that when we asked trainees, who have been focusing on the APFT for graduation, to take the ACFT in week nine,” he added. “Focusing on fitness gives soldiers the tools to excel, regardless of the test.”

Ritchie, Co. A., 3rd Battalion 60th Infantry Regiment, and Fort Jackson have shown proper training and motivation produce outstanding results.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy’s newest aircraft carrier finally gets long-missing gear

The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first-in-class aircraft carrier that’s been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators on Dec. 21, 2018, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said in January 2019.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has promised the elevators would be ready by the end of the carrier’s yearlong post-shakedown assessment summer 2018. Spencer staked his job on the elevators, which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal.


Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer being briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.

The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a news release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.

The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.

The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviewing safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman)

The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.

The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.

James Geurts, the Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in November 2018 that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”

The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”

“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines)

That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.

The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on Dec. 8, 2018, he told President Donald Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performing an arrested landing aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford on July 28, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson)

The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.

Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.

“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.

“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,'” Spencer said at the event in January 2019, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”

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

Articles

21 of the strangest weapons people have tried to sneak past the TSA

Most travelers have a number of things to worry about during the holiday season.


For TSA agents at the country’s airports, there’s also a variety of things to worry about — knives, fake grenades, swords hidden in canes, knives hidden in guns, throwing stars, and all sorts of other contraband.

The TSA has taken to documenting some of the weapons and other prohibited items it encounters at security checkpoints, posting them on the agency’s Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers and rave reviews.

“I knew it would be popular and I knew we’d have a never-ending source of content,” Bob Burns, who runs the Instagram account, told The Washington Post. “But I didn’t know how popular we’d be.”

Below, you can see a selection of strange weaponry or look-alike weaponry that the TSA has come across and put on its Instagram, which Rolling Stone recently ranked as the fourth-best account on the social-media site.

“We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).”

“Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI).”

“This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.”

“Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?”

“Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.”

“While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”

“While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH).”

“You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).”

“This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull”

“This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”

“Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags.”

“This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags.”

“This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”

“Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.”

“Your trailer hitch hand grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. So what’s the big deal if it’s inert? First off, we don’t know it’s inert until explosives professionals take a closer look, and that takes time and slows down the line. It can even lead to a complete shutdown and evacuation. Also, imagine the person sitting next to you on the plane pulling this out of their carry-on. For these reasons, anything resembling a bomb or grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. #TSATravelTips This inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag recently at the SBP airport.”

“And yet, another confounded #batarang has been discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was discovered at the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO). Batarangs, along with most other items on your utility belt must be packed in your checked bag. #Bam #Kapow #Zok #Biff #Zowie”

“These swords and throwing knives were discovered recently in a carry-on bag at the William P. Hobby Airport Houston (HOU). You guessed it! Swords and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags. It perfectly acceptable to pack them in your checked bags, though.”

“This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.”

“#TBT November, 2007 – These knives were discovered concealed in a PC/DVD-ROM game case at Gulfport (GPT). Knives are prohibited, and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. You may pack knives, swords, machetes and other bladed items in your checked bags.”

“It’s a cane. It’s a sword. It’s a cane sword, and it’s prohibited from being packed with your carry-on items. Cane swords may be packed in your checked bag. This cane sword was discovered at LaGuardia (LGA).”

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Last Full Measure’ is the must-see film that honors one of America’s finest

On April 11th, 1966, three companies of the 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Mud Soldiers,” were pinned down by Viet Cong forces outside of Cam My, Vietnam. Pararescuemen of the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron were dispatched to evacuate the wounded. The battle raged and the soldiers were taking a heavy beating.

As if an angel were descending from the heavens, Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger, lowered onto the battlefield to tend to the wounded. When given the opportunity to fly back to base, he elected to stay and care for the men he didn’t even know that remained in harm’s way.

He did all he could to save his fellow troops before paying the ultimate price. Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice ensured at least nine men made it home. It took him 34 years to be recognized fully for his incredible actions.

The Last Full Measure faithfully and honestly retells this story — and it’s something that our military community must see and support.


In the aftermath of the battle, Pitsenbarger was awarded the Air Force Cross. However, his fellow PJs and the Mud Soldiers he fought with continued to advocate for the award to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that he was finally bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor for giving, what President Lincoln said during his Gettysburg Address, his last full measure of devotion.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Keep an eye out for Jeremy Irvine. His portrayal of William Pitsenbarger will catapult him far in Hollywood.

(Roadside Attractions)

Written and directed by Todd Robinson, The Last Full Measure follows Scott Huffman, a jaded Pentagon lawyer (played by Sebastian Stan) as he is tasked with upgrading Pitsenbarger’s Air Force Cross to the Medal of Honor at the behest of Pitsenbarger’s fellow pararescueman veteran (played by William Hunt) and father (portrayed by Christopher Plummer).

The story unfolds as Huffman pieces together the gallantry of Pitsenbarger by interviewing the soldiers who had been saved back in Vietnam. Samuel L. Jackson, the late Peter Fonda, Ed Harris, and John Savage each portray the Mud Soldiers and give fantastic performances as they crawl through painful memories. The audience watches the fateful day in Vietnam through flashbacks as the veterans recall being saved by Pitsenbarger (portrayed by Jeremy Irvine).

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Pictured left to right: Kimberly Breyer, producer of Last Full Measure, Sidney Sherman, and Kimberly’s husband Sean Breyer

(Photo by Eric Milzarski)

Kimberly Breyer, the niece of William Pitsenbarger, was in attendance of the world premiere of The Last Full Measure. She told We Are The Mighty,

“This film means people get to hear the very important true stories of my uncle Billy Pitsenbarger, Frank, Alice, and all the people who fought with him. We want as many people who possibly can so these stories keep being told and retold.”

She also noted how true-to-life Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of her grandfather, Frank Pitsenbarger, felt. “When we saw it, especially my grandma Alice, the hair went up on the back of her neck and she started to cry. He makes me miss Frank so much. We’re very grateful to him for how beautifully he portrayed our grandfather on screen and how hard everyone worked for so many years to get this project to come together because it’s so unique in so many ways.”

I

(Photo by Eric Milzarski)

The production covers two key time periods, from the jungles of Vietnam to the halls of the Pentagon. The star-studded cast filmed in the United States and Thailand to portray the retelling of Pitsenbarger’s sacrifice. The film stays away from typical action movie tropes and instead dives deep into the psyche of the troops who returned home. It gives an accurate depiction of what goes on behind-the-scenes when a Medal of Honor is to be awarded. The film helps us understand the excruciating lengths (and sheer volume of bureaucratic red tape) that stands between valor and recognition — and leaves you wondering how many heroes haven’t been given the credit they deserve.

Dale Dye, USMC veteran who served in the Vietnam War and military advisor for many of the greatest war films, played a large role in ensuring the film was as accurate as possible. It’s all the perfectly-captured, little moments that help set the stage.

Dye tells We Are The Mighty,This is a film that goes directly to my heart and soul. And the reason is because it talks about the selfless nature of veterans and the dedication we have towards each other. This is a story of veterans who go to extraordinary lengths to get recognition for one of their own. And that’s the nature of every combat veteran.”

The writer and director of the film, Todd Robinson, tells We Are The Mighty, The military was very bullish about this film. It promotes a career field called pararescue, which promotes saving lives. So it wasn’t hard for them to get behind this film.

The Last Full Measure is a beautiful film that is rare in Hollywood. It’s not an action-packed film made with set pieces for the trailers. It’s not an overly played-out drama that uses war as backdrop. It’s the real-life story of a man who gave his all for his fellow troops and those men fighting tooth-and-nail to get him the honor he deserved.

I can’t recommend this film enough for every veteran, active duty troop, their family, and anyone who’s life has been touched by the actions of these brave men and women.

See it in theaters now.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon says everyone who watches terrorist video helps ISIS

The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.


According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.

Also read: New photos may show ambushed US troops killed in Niger

“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”

The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.

The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.

Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.

When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.

“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”

Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.

More: This is the general demanding answers for the families of the soldiers who died in Niger

AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.

The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.

Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.

Related: 9 places where ISIS is still a major threat

News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.

One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.

“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”

For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.

More reading: Here’s how to get real about the ISIS threat

Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.

“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How a U.S. troop pled guilty to murder but got off scot-free

The most interesting thing about pleading guilty to a capital crime in a military court is the defendant needs to be able to convince the presiding judge that he or she is actually guilty of the crime, and not just taking the deal to avoid the death penalty. Another interesting tidbit is that defense lawyers can only allow the defendant to make such a plea if they truly believe he or she is guilty.

So when Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez offered to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty for murdering two of his officers in Iraq, you’d think that would be a gift to the prosecution. You’d think that, you really would.


Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Lt. Allen left behind four children with his wife.

Martinez convinced his lawyers of his guilt and offered to plead guilty to premeditated murder, convince the judge, and avoid the death penalty. He was willing to testify that he threw a claymore mine into the window of a CHU occupied by his commanding officers, Capt. Phillip T. Esposito and First Lt. Louis E. Allen on a U.S. military base near Tikrit, Iraq in 2005.

The claymore exploded and tore the two sleeping officers to shreds, as it was designed to do. It was the first fragging accusation of the Global War on Terror. Witnesses told the 14-member jury that Esposito derided Martinez for his lax operation of the unit’s supply room. Another witness testified that she had delivered the murder weapon to Martinez a month prior. Another witness said Martinez simply watched the explosion happen, unconcerned about a follow-on attack. It was a well-known fact that Martinez and Esposito did not get along.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

A temporary memorial for US Army officers Phillip Esposito and Louis Allen erected in Tikrit, Iraq in June 2005 after both officers were killed in an alleged fragging incident at Forward Operating Base Danger on June 7, 2005.

(US Army)

Martinez was arrested and transferred to Fort Bragg for trial. A New York Times investigation revealed that Martinez offered the guilty plea two full years before his trial ever took place – but the offer was rejected by the prosecution, who wanted to send Martinez to death row.

“This offer to plea originated with me,” Martinez wrote in the plea offer. “No person has made any attempt to force or coerce me into making this offer.”

If the defense offered it to the prosecution, it means they truly believed their client was guilty, as per Army regulations. Then Martinez would have to convince the judge of his guilt. The judge could then accept or reject the plea. Martinez never made it to the judge. The Army took it to trial and lost their case against Martinez in just six weeks.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria

Esposito with his daughter Madeline before deploying in 2005.

The defense argued that all the evidence and witness accounts were purely circumstantial and since no one took receipt of the claymores, which was usual for the Army then, it can’t be proven that Martinez had access to them or even knew the rarely-used mines were available.

Martinez was cleared of the charges, released from prison, and honorably discharged from the Army. He died in January 2017 of unknown causes, and no charges have ever been filed for the deaths of Capt. Esposito and Lt. Allen.

Articles

US sets up ballistic missile defense system in South Korea

U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula.


Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
U.S. Pacific Command has deployed the first elements of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as THAAD, to South Korea, implementing the U.S.-South Korean alliance’s July 2016 decision to bring the defensive capability to the Korean Peninsula. (DoD photo)

North Korea’s accelerating program of nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, Pacom officials said, adding that the THAAD ballistic missile defense system deployment contributes to a layered defense and enhances the alliance’s shield against North Korean missile threats.

“Continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy THAAD to South Korea,” Navy Adm. Harry Harris, Pacom commander, said. “We will resolutely honor our alliance commitments to South Korea and stand ready to defend ourselves, the American homeland and our allies.”

The THAAD system is a strictly defensive capability, and it poses no threat to other countries in the region, Pacom officials said. It is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.

Pacom joint military forces remain vigilant in the face of North Korean ballistic missile threats and provocations and are fully committed to working closely with South Korea to maintain security in the region, officials said.

Articles

An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.

Russia will be happy to see US troops leave Syria
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.

FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.

Earlier this month, a F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed near Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The pilot ejected from the aircraft.

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