A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.
But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.
The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.
Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.
The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.
FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.
Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.
Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.
According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.
The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.
According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.
The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).
The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.
The CIA has released a trove of unclassified files related to unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Comprising more than 700 documents dating back to 1976, the CIA files reveal information about worldwide sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, which is the government term for UFOs.
The cache of documents is available for download at The Black Vault, an online archive that for years has been publishing declassified government UFO files, along with other declassified documents.
The Black Vault’s founder, John Greenewald Jr., has been filing Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests with the CIA since 1996 — when he was only 15 years old — to gain access to the full sweep of the intelligence agency’s secret UFO files. The CIA ultimately compiled what it claimed was the sum total of its declassified UFO files onto a CD-ROM. Greenewald received a copy and posted it all online.
“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenewald said in a statement posted on his website.
An online clearinghouse for US government records, The Black Vault has reportedly filed some 10,000 FOIA requests to amass a total of 2.2 million pages of material for its archives. Those records cover a broad range of topics, spanning the gamut from the CIA’s UFO files to military programs, law enforcement investigations, and political correspondence. The site even includes a repository of US government documents related to cloning and mind control.
The CIA allegedly opened up its complete UFO archive last year, adding to the number Greenewald had already collected. The Black Vault’s online archive now includes all the CIA UFO files Greenewald has amassed over his years of research. Despite the mountain of material now available for free public download, Greenewald has speculated that there’s still more the CIA has not yet declassified.
“Although the CIA claims this is their ‘entire’ collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that,” Greenewald wrote in a post on The Black Vault’s website. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”
A 2009 CIA response to one of Greenewald’s FOIA requests stated that there were still classified documents related to UAPs that could not be publicly released. In the letter, the CIA cited the need to protect its intelligence collection methods and the identity of its personnel.
Online publication of The Black Vault’s UFO archive comes ahead of a June deadline for the Pentagon to release all of its UFO files to Congress — a provision attached to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December.
The mandate requires the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to compile an unclassified report on UAPs for congressional intelligence and armed services committees. In an addition to the unclassified portions, the report will include a classified annex — a provision that likely means any explosive information will remain hidden from public view.
While many of Greenewald’s CIA files mention the terms UFO or UAP in passing or out of context, there are, buried within the reams of photocopied pages, some interesting clues about the US government’s longstanding interest in the matter. For example, an April 1976 report cites a request by an unknown CIA official (the name is redacted) for the CIA’s assistant deputy director for science and technology to “see if he knew of any official UFO program and also to answer some of the questions posed by [name redacted].”
Regarding UFO research, the CIA document says that the assistant deputy director for science and technology “feels that the efforts of independent researchers…are vital for further research in this area.”
“At the present time, there are offices and personnel within the agency who are monitoring the UFO phenomena, but again, this is not currently on an official basis,” the 1976 CIA document states, adding: “Any information which might indicate a threat potential would be of interest, as would specific indications of foreign developments or applications of UFO research.”
A Sept. 23, 1976, document includes the subject line: “To immediate director – with personal request to investigate UFO sighted in Morocco.” Another file recounts Russian news reports about UFO sightings at the time of a “mysterious blast” in the Russian town of Sasovo in 1991. According to the CIA document, which includes an English translation of the Russian news report, some residents of Sasovo observed a “fiery sphere” in the sky prior to a “highly powerful explosion” that ripped off roofs and broke windows.
In April, the Department of Defense released three videos — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — taken by US Navy pilots showing what the military defines as UAPs.
The revelation of these unexplained aerial encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, lawmakers in Washington are more concerned that these events could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting advanced new weapons into action — including over US soil.
A group of US senators has drafted an order for the director of national intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among US agencies. The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
The report also calls for the director of national intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”
Russia is looking to expand its amphibious assault capability by building two ships comparable to the large-deck, amphibious vessels common in Western navies.
According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the first of these vessels will begin construction in 2020, the second in 2022. The plan is for both ships to be in service by 2026. While the exact details of the ships are not yet available, this isn’t the first time that Russia has sought to add powerful amphibious assault capability to their arsenal.
Russia had hoped to acquire two such vessels from France, which built three Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in the 2000s. However, the deal was canceled when the ships were nearly ready for delivery in the wake of Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Egyptians later bought the vessels with some help from the Saudis.
Most of these big-deck amphibious assault ships are capable of carrying a battalion of troops (usually marines) in addition to at least a dozen helicopters. In the case of the Russian vessels, the onboard helicopters will likely be a mix of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters as well as Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, Ka-29 Helix troop-carrying helicopters, and Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning helicopters.
An aerial starboard bow view of the Soviet amphibious assault transport ship Ivan Rogov underway. (U.S. Navy photo)
During the Cold War, Russia did develop three unique amphibious vessels. However, these ships, Ivan Rogov-class amphibious vessels, have since been removed from active service. GlobalSecurity.org notes that these vessels could carry a battalion of Russian Naval Infantry and 25 tanks. We expect the new ship to have equal, if not greater capacities.
Watch the video below to learn more about Russia’s planned amphibious ship:
Army scientists have been working on a canine-like robot that’s designed to take commands from soldiers, much like real military working dogs.
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation (LLAMA) robot is an Army Research Laboratory effort to design and demonstrate a near-fully autonomous robot capable of going anywhere a soldier can go.
The program is distinctly different from an effort the Marine Corps jointly undertook with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in 2010 to develop a four-legged mule robot to take equipment off the backs of Marines in field, officials from the Army Research Laboratory said.
It’s much more similar to Marine Corps research efforts around Spot, a four-legged hydraulic prototype designed for infantry teaming.
“We wanted to get something closer to a working dog for the soldier; we wanted it to be able to go into places where a soldier would go, like inside buildings,” Jason Pusey, a mechanical engineer at ARL, told Military.com.
(CCDC Army Research Laboratory)
“It’s supposed to be a soldier’s teammate, so we wanted to have a platform, so the soldier could tell the robot to go into the next building and get me the book bag and bring it back to me. That building might be across the battlefield, or it might have complex terrain that it has to cover because we want the robot to do it completely autonomously.”
The LLAMA effort began more than two years ago through the Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, a research effort intended to study concepts for highly intelligent unmanned robots.
“In the beginning we had a lot of wheeled and tracked systems, but we were looking at some unique mobility capabilities … and toward the end we decided we wanted something that we could incorporate a lot of this intelligence on a [robot] that had increased mobility beyond wheels and tracks,” Pusey said.
Army modernization officials have been working to develop autonomous platforms, but one of the major challenges has been teaching them how to negotiate obstacles on complex terrain.
“We picked … the legged platform, because when we get to an area where the soldier actually has to dismount from the vehicle and continue on through its mission that is the point where the legs become more relevant,” Pusey said.
Working with organizations such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Institute for Human Machine Cognition, ARL has developed a LLAMA prototype that’s able to take verbal commands and move independently across terrain to accomplish tasks, Pusey said.
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Command Army Research Laboratory developed the Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, as part of the lab’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
“We wanted it to be very intelligent, so the soldier’s head doesn’t have to be down and looking at a screen,” Pusey said. “Similar to a working dog, we wanted it to be able to go across the way, get into the building, grab the bag and bring it back.”
“Right now, when we tell it to go across the rubble pile and to traverse the path, we are not joy-sticking it. It does it by itself.”
Program officials have been working to input automatic thinking into the LLAMA. With that capability, it wouldn’t have to think about the mechanics of running or avoiding an obstacle in its path any more than a human does.
Digital maps of the terrain the robot will operate on, along with specially identified objects, are stored in internal controllers that guide the dog’s thinking, said Geoffrey Slipher, chief of the Autonomous Systems Division.
“You can say, ‘go to the third barrel on the left,’ and it would know what you mean,” Slipher said.
If the map doesn’t have objects identified, operators could tell LLAMA to go to a specific map position.
“It would go there and it would use its sensors as it goes a long to map the environment and classify objects as it goes, so then you would have that information later on to refer to,” Slipher said.
“As a research platform, we are not looking at it maximizing range and endurance or any of these parameters; the objective of the design of this vehicle was to allow it to perform the functions as a research platform for long enough so we could answer questions, like how this or other autonomous systems would perform in the field.”
The Legged Locomotion and Movement Adaptation, or LLAMA, is the embodiment of the program’s research efforts in the area of advancements in autonomous off-road mobility.
(U.S. Army photo by Jim Nelson)
Pusey tried to relate the effort to trying to teach instinctive human reactions.
“If you slip on a step, what do you do? You normally will flail out your arms and try to grab for railings to save yourself, so you don’t damage a limb,” he said. “With a robot, we have to teach it that it’s slippery; you have to quickly step again or grab something. How do you kind of instill these inherent fundamental ideas into the robot is what we are trying to research.”
The LLAMA is also battery-powered, making it much quieter than Marine Corps’ Legged Squad Support System, Pusey said.
“One of the problems with the LS3 in the past was it … had a gas-powered engine, so it was loud and it had a huge thermal signature, which the Marines didn’t like,” he said, describing how the LLAMA has a very small thermal signature.
Despite the progress, it’s still uncertain if the LLAMA, in its current form, will one day work with soldiers since the research effort is scheduled to end in December.
“We are in the mode of this program is ending and what are we going to do next,” Pusey said. “There are multiple directions we can go but we haven’t quite finalized that plan yet.”
Currently, the Army has no requirement for a legged robot like LLAMA, Slipher said.
“One of the objectives of the follow-on research will be to study concepts of operation for these types of vehicles to help the senior leadership understand intuitively how a platform like this might or might not be useful,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Reports emerged in late July that the Pentagon has devised a plan to arm Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists with defensive weapons, such as Javelin missiles.
But many Ukrainian soldiers on the ground believe the plan would give them more of a psychological edge than anything, according to The Daily Signal.
“The weapons themselves will not have a decisive impact on the course of combat operations,” Andrei Mikheychenko, a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, told The Daily Signal. “Deliveries of lethal weapons, in my opinion, will primarily have psychological significance for both the Ukrainian army and the terrorists it fights.”
The war in eastern Ukraine started shortly after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 when pro-Russian Ukrainians proclaimed parts of the Donbas as independent states known as the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
And since then, both sides have been engaged in a full-fledged psychological war.
In an effort to intimidate and vex their enemies, Ukrainian troops have at times pretended to be members of US Navy SEAL Team 6 and give orders over the radio in English, The Daily Signal said. Other times, they’ve even raised American flags above their lines.
In 2015, Ukrainian troops changed the name of a street in the village of Krymske, which is on the front lines near the LPR, from some old Soviet hero to “John McCain Street,” The Daily Signal said.
A few months ago, one journalist with Ukrainian troops received a text message, as did all the soldiers with whom she was embedded, saying “Ukrainian soldiers, they’ll find your bodies when the snow melts,” according to the Associated Press.
“Leave and you will live,” other text messages will say, or “Nobody needs your kids to become orphans.”
Russian-backed separatists have also been known to use more brutal psychological tactics.
A Ukrainian soldier is forced to eat his own army badge by Russian-backed separatists. Screenshot from YouTube user PavelDonbass
In early 2015, videos emerged of rebel commanders forcing captured Ukrainian troops to kneel on the ground and eat their own army badges.
While many Ukrainian soldiers believe that the US supplying them with defensive weapons would help them in the psychological war, they also believe it will give them a combat edge and help deter attacks, The Daily Signal said.
Russian-backed separatists currently have about 478 working tanks, The Daily Signal said, and most of these can be taken out by the Javelin.
However other European nations, such as France and Germany, are worried that supplying Kiev with such lethal weapons would only increase the fighting.
While fighting slightly increased in July, the three-year old war, for the most part, has ground to a stalemate in which the two sides lob mortars and grenades from afar and trade sniper fire.
At least 10,090 people — including 2,777 civilians — have been killed, and nearly 24,000 have been wounded, through May 15, according to the UN. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced.
President Donald Trump has yet to approve the weapons deal, and is expected to make a decision in coming months.
Amid growing calls for an end to the seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan, the President of the embattled country is looking for a political solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Reuters reports the terror group will refuse to participate in any peace talks until after a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.
American officials call this refusal, “unacceptable.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)
“Frankly, it’s Taliban leaders who aren’t residing in Afghanistan who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, a top State Department official in Afghanistan.
In June, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani successfully negotiated a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the most important religious holiday for Muslims worldwide. It’s a three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which the devout fast during the day. Ramadan is important to the worldwide Muslim community as one of the five pillars of Islam.
It was the Taliban’s first-ever agreement to any ceasefire since the 2001 start of the war in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams)
The ceasefire actually lasted longer than three days and was “98 percent successful.” Reports say Afghans across the country, both military and civilian, were “jubilant.” Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters alike hugged each other and took selfies together in scenes reminiscent of the “Christmas Truce” of World War I, during which German and British troops spontaneously left the trenches to celebrate Christmas together in peace.
But, in both cases, the party had to end. In 1914, British and Germans were shooting at each other again the next day. In Afghanistan, the truce lasted 18 days, but fighting soon resumed.
Still, the ceasefire gave many civilians in the country the hope that a negotiated peace may soon be at hand. That includes President Ghani, who says the jubilation and happiness surrounding the ceasefire is proof that the country is ready for peace.
“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.
The Taliban ordered its fighters back to the trenches. The group says a negotiated peace is playing into the hands of the U.S. In response, President Ghani ordered his troops back to the fighting as well.
The wreckage of a World War II US Navy aircraft carrier was found on the floor of the South Pacific Ocean more than 76 years after it sank.
The USS Hornet sank during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on Oct. 26, 1942, killing about 140 of its 2,200 sailors and crew members. It lay on the seabed until January 2019, when it was discovered more than 17,000 feet (5,000 meters) below the ocean’s surface.
An F4F Wildcat aircraft with its wings folded was discovered with the wreckage of the USS Hornet.
(Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
Robert Kraft, Vulcan’s director of subsea operations, said in a statement that the mission to find the Hornet was in honor of Allen.
“Paul Allen was particularly interested in aircraft carriers, so this was a discovery that honors his memory,” Kraft said.
He added: “We had the Hornet on our list of WWII warships that we wanted to locate because of its place in history as a capitol carrier that saw many pivotal moments in naval battles.”
The RV Petrel deployed its autonomous underwater vehicle in the search for the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
The Hornet was commissioned in October 1941, launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, and played a key role in the US victory in the Battle of Midway with Japan in 1942, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers.
But the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, one year after it was commissioned, was its last fight. On the first day, it was hit by four bombs and two torpedoes in 10 minutes. Most crew members were transferred to another ship, while others tried to repair the damage.
It was attacked again with a torpedo and two bombs, and the rest of the crew abandoned it. It sank the next morning.
Richard Nowatzki, a gunner on the ship who survived the battle, told CBS News that when enemy planes left, “we were dead in the water.”
“They used armor-piercing bombs,” he said. “Now when they come down, you hear ’em going through the decks … plink, plink, plink, plink … and then when they explode the whole ship shakes.”
Damage on the hull of the USS Hornet.
(Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.)
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
A 10-person crew on the 250-foot Petrel found the wreck on the first mission of its autonomous underwater vehicle by using data from national and naval archives, Vulcan said.
Featured image: Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Deployments are a staple of military life. But often, military spouses and significant others are left to go-it-alone, especially if they do not live near a military installation. This year, two women are looking to change that with an online retreat headlined by huge names in the military community and outside of it, including keynote speakers Dr. Gary Chapman and Jacey Eckhart.
Joanna Guldin-Noll, a veteran’s spouse and writer behind popular military spouse lifestyle blog Jo, My Gosh!, and Becky Hoy, a military spouse and creator of deployment subscription box Brave Crate, believe that good can come from deployments when approached with intentionality.
“We want to create a place where military spouses and significant others can access resources, best practices, and camaraderie to help them prepare for deployment,” Hoy said.
Held November 8-10 and completely online, PILLAR gathers more than 20 military spouses and experts for a three-day event. Among the line-up of speakers and panelists is Dr. Gary Chapman, bestselling and world-renown author of The Five Love Languages series. Using an interview-style format, Chapman and Hoy will discuss relationships, the military and how to make the Five Love Languages work during deployment. Chapman will answer questions sourced directly from PILLAR attendees.
Including the needs and wants of attendees is important to the duo. “The idea of a wife pining over her husband for a year and doing nothing but waiting while he’s away just isn’t the lived reality of military spouses,” Guldin-Noll said. “Military spouses are finding opportunity in deployment. We are honoring that by incorporating a diversity of voices, military branches, backgrounds and experiences into the retreat.”
Sessions include actionable financial information provided by the retreat’s presenting sponsor, USAA, yoga instruction from Bernadette Soler, and how to ask for and accept help from therapist E.J. Smith. While the retreat will have a schedule, attendees will be able to view sessions and access resources whenever they are able. The flexibility is a nod to the very real demands of military families during deployment as well as the hope to make the retreat as accessible as possible, regardless of where attendees live.
“Military family life can be viewed as being so difficult, but when we reprogram our mindset, we can see there is so much joy to be found along the military life journey,” Jessica Bertsch said, a PILLAR speaker who has experienced multiple deployments. “PILLAR is taking a hard topic like deployment and bringing hope and solutions for military spouses.” The president of Powerhouse Planning and Coast Guard spouse will speak on finding joy in deployment.
PILLAR is free to military spouses and significant others. Registration is open at pillardeploymentretreat.com until November 8; however, if you want to submit a Five Love Languages question, you’ll need to sign-up before September 10 — the deadline for question submissions.
The Civil War Marine Corps usually had just a little over 3,000 men but manned the guns at vital points in the Union war machine, helping usher in the victory.
First, in the immediate aftermath of the Articles of Secession, Marine detachments were sent to reinforce federal garrisons in seceding states, including Fort Sumter. While the Marines were unable to reach Sumter, they did reinforce Fort Pickens in Florida which, though threatened by Florida secessionists throughout the war, never fell from Union control.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Marines to the war effort was their manning guns on Navy ships and guarding Union positions on America’s rivers, helping ensure the success of the Anaconda Plan, which called for the Confederacy to be split in two and starved for supplies.
One of the most stunning naval battles the Marines took part in was the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first clash of iron vessels in the history of naval warfare. The Marines manned guns on the Union Navy ships USS Cumberland, USS Congress, USS Minnesota and others.
The Cumberland fought bravely against the ironside CSS Virginia, pumping cannon rounds through open portholes on the Virginia, destroying two cannons and killing 19 of the crew. But the Cumberland was eventually doomed by a ram strike from the Virginia. The USS Monitor, also an ironside, arrived and drove off the Virginia from the other wooden-hulled ships.
The next month, Marines took part in Navy Capt. David Farragut’s attack on New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Farragut led his flotilla through a gauntlet of Confederate guns and gunships and captured the city. At one point in the naval battle, Marines stabbed Confederate sailors through the gunports on two ships jammed together and exchanging cannon fire.
Marines later stood guard as the state banner in New Orleans was cut down and the American flag raised.
The Marines under Farragut’s command distinguished themselves again when then-Vice Adm. Farragut sent his ships past Confederate torpedoes and Fort Morgan to threaten Mobil Bay, Alabama. It was in this battle, with Marines firing their muskets into enemy portholes, that Farragut uttered his famous curse, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The attack was ultimately successful.
Finally, the Marines helped close the Confederacy’s last major port through which it received supplies from blockade runners. Fort Fisher held open the port at Wilmington, North Carolina. In January 1865, a naval brigade of sailors and 400 Marines assaulted the fort under heavy fire. While their attack was easily beaten back, it served as a diversion for a second attack by the Army.
The Army was able to take the fort in large part due to the sacrifice of the Marines and sailors. The fall of Fort Fisher closed Wilmington’s port and shut down the last major supply route into the Confederacy. The surrender of Confederate units came faster after this loss of supplies and Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia at Appomatox Court House only three months later.
The head of America’s Africa Command, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, has expressed concern over China’s growing military presence in Djibouti.
He said that China’s claim that it was building logistical facilities in Djibouti was not correct because Beijing was actually creating a full-fledged military base that would sit alongside U.S. and French bases in the strategic Indian Ocean country.
It would be the first time that NATO allies — France and the U.S. — would have to contend with a military base under the command of a competing nation in the same location.
“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser said. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”
“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to us because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes [it],” he told Breaking Defense.
In January 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told journalists in Beijing that the facilities were to back up China’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and would not lead to a military base.
He explained: “Vessels have been sent by China to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast for escort missions in recent years. In fulfilling escort missions, we encountered real difficulties in replenishing soldiers and resupplying fuel and food, and found it really necessary to have nearby and efficient logistical support. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.”
“The nature of relevant facilities is clear, which is to provide logistical support to Chinese fleets performing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast,” the Spokesman said,
But Gen. Waldhauser told journalists in Washington at the end of March, “You would have to characterize it as a military base. It’s s first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”
Speaking to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee early in March, Gen. Waldhauser said, “Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same. Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.”
“These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish U.S. influence — a message we must continue to share with our partners,” Gen. Waldhauser added.
President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti has been steering a new course as he strengthens relations with China at the apparent expense of long-time allies, France and the U.S..
The U.S. now has Special Forces members in Djibouti under its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to counter the increased activities of al-Shabaab in East Africa.
The French and American military dominance in Djibouti was whittled down in February 2014 when China’s Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, signed a security and defense strategic partnership agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Defense, Hassan Darar Houffaneh.
Under the agreement the country offered military facilities such as the use of Djibouti’s port by the Chinese navy.
Mr. Houffaneh said that in exchange Djibouti had asked for military co-operation to be expanded in order that the operational capacities of the country’s armed forces could be built “in order to safeguard security in the country and help consolidate peace and security in the sub-region”.
But an analyst in Nairobi, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in 2014, wondered how this arrangement would work, given that the U.S. and France more or less had entrenched security roles in Djibouti.
“The American and the French governments have interests in Djibouti that are completely different from China’s,” he said. “This could lead to contestations between France and the U.S., on the one hand, and China, on the other, which could compromise the security of East Africa. Djibouti is a crucial member of the East African Standby Force, which will dovetail with the African Union’s African Standby Force, and as such President Guelleh should ensure that his country remains steadfast to the ASF’s mission of maintaining peace and security in the region.”
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. had skirted round the issue of a Chinese military base in Djibouti, but now under Donald Trump and his hard-line stance on Beijing’s global influence, the issue of the Djibouti base has taken center stage.
From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.
Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.
The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.
Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.
Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.
Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.
In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.
When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.
Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.
It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.
Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.
Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.
Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.
After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.
Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.
It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.
To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.