A top U.S. military official has said that U.S. intelligence agencies believe Russia may be conducting low-yield nuclear testing that may be violation of a major international treaty.
Lieutenant General Robert Ashley said in a speech on May 29, 2019, that Russia could be doing tests that go “beyond what is believed necessary, beyond zero yield.”
The problem, he said, was that Russia “has not been willing to affirm” they are adhering to the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Asked specifically whether U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded Russia was conducting such tests in violation of the treaty, Ashley, who is director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said, “They’ve not affirmed the language of zero yield.”
U.S. Accuses Russia Of Conducting Low-Level Nuclear Tests
“We believe they have the capability to do it, the way that they’re set up,” Ashley said during an appearance at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
The Defense Intelligence Agency is the Defense Department’s main in-house intelligence organization.
There was no immediate comment by the Kremlin or the Russian Defense Ministry about the conclusions, which were first reported on May 29, 2019, by The Wall Street Journal.
But Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, called Ashley’s statement “irresponsible.”
“It would be impossible to make a more irresponsible statement,” Interfax quoted Shamanov as saying.
“These kinds of statements reveal that the professionalism of the military is systemically falling in America,” said Shamanov, a retired colonel general and a former commander of Russia’s Airborne Troops. “These words from a U.S. intelligence chief indicate that he is only an accidental person in this profession and he is in the wrong job.”
The U.S. assertion comes with several major arms-control treaties under strain, largely due to the toxic state of relations between Washington and Moscow.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump’s administration announced it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, an agreement that eliminated an entire class of missiles.
Another treaty, New START, is due to expire in 2021 unless the United States and Russia agree to extend it for five years.
Militaries and private companies around the world are developing new technologies that turn war fighters into supersoldiers. Jet-powered suits that allow the wearer to hop between boats moving at 20 knots and flying hoverboards are just the start of it.
The Russian military is developing motorized body armor that looks like it belongs on Boba Fett from “Star Wars.” And the hoverboard isn’t just something from “Back to the Future,” it’s a real invention that France’s Franky Zapata successfully used to cross the English Channel.
The Russian military, as well as the US, France, and Great Britain, are all developing futuristic technologies that seem like something straight out of a Marvel blockbuster. But these technologies aren’t far off in the future; many are already in testing phases — or in use on the battlefield.
Read on to see some of the most wild futuristic military tech out there.
Jet-powered flyboard steals the show at Bastille Day celebrations
1. The French inventor Franky Zapata’s high-flying hoverboard made it all the way to France’s Bastille Day celebrations this year. French President Emmanuel Macron was so enamored that he tweeted a video of it, suggesting that the French military might use them in combat one day.
“Proud of our army, modern and innovative,” Macron tweeted during the Bastille Day festivities.
Zapata’s Flyboard Air can fly at speeds up to 190 kph (118 mph), according to The Guardian.
2. The US Army is in the final testing stage for its Enhanced Night Vision Goggles-Binocular (ENVG-B), which will allow soldiers to accurately shoot from the hip and around corners. They also provide improved situational awareness, thermal imaging, and better depth perception.
The new goggles have dramatically improved marksmanship, Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress.
The goggles can display the weapon’s aim point and can be linked to see video or virtual feeds from other positions, allowing troops to accurately shoot around corners without exposing their heads.
An armored brigade combat team deploying to South Korea will be the first to use the new goggles, according to Army Times.
3. The FLIR Black Hornet III is a pocket-sized drone that will perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in combat. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, already has the drones, which come in a pair — one for daytime and one enabling night vision. The drones are about 6 inches long and can fit on a soldier’s utility belt. The Army hopes to equip every soldier with the drones in the future.
Paratroopers of the 83rd Airborne Brigade preparing for jump drills in 2017.
4. According to Russian state media, the Russian military is developing the D-14 Shelest parachute system, which will allow soldiers to access their weapons and begin firing immediately after they jump out of a plane.
Russia’s Tass news agency reported the parachute system would allow paratroopers to have small arms strapped to their chests and that the new technology would be tested at the Research Institute of Parachute-Making soon.
5. Russia’s infantry could soon be wearing the Ratnik-3 armor that reportedly allows soldiers to fire a machine gun with one hand. It has integrated electric motors — an improvement over the Ratnik-2 version, which was not motorized. It’s in testing.
The US had a similar suit in development, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. However, we’re not likely to see the TALOS in combat anytime soon, Task Purpose reported earlier this year.
6. The inventor and former Royal Marine Richard Browning tested his jet suit over the English Channel, using the five-turbine suit to move back and forth with ease between Royal Navy boats.
7. “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Rocket Man! Inventor, pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning, along side HMS Dasher, tested his jet-powered body suit over the water of the Solent for the very first time,” the Royal Navy tweeted on Tuesday.
7. The Army is developing a 50 kilowatt laser cannon, the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), to be mounted on Stryker combat vehicles. It’s designed to shoot drones and explosives out of the sky, and the Army plans to roll it out in the next four years.
The Army accelerated the development and deployment of the MMHEL. “The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition, said in a statement.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller using a HoloLens.
(US Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)
8. The Army is testing goggles that employ facial recognition, as well as technology that translates written words like road signs. The goggles may even be able to project visual data from drones right in front of soldiers’ eyes. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is a modified Microsoft HoloLens technology and is expected to go into wide use in the mid-2020s.
“We’re going to demonstrate very, very soon, the ability, on body — if there are persons of interest that you want to look for and you’re walking around, it will identify those very quickly,” Col. Chris Schneider, a project manager for IVAS, said at a demonstration of the technology recently.
It’s probably a tale as old as the military itself, but even the anonymity of the online marketplace couldn’t keep these alleged military conspirators from getting nabbed by the feds for pinching combat gear for resale on the outside.
The United States Attorney’s Office for Middle Tennessee indicted six Fort Campbell soldiers Oct. 6 for allegedly selling more than $1 million worth of military equipment they’d stolen from the base to buyers on eBay. The feds say the soldiers stole sensitive items, including body armor, sniper optics and flight helmets and sold them to anonymous bidders — some they say were in foreign countries.
“Homeland Security considers the national security interests of our nation among our top priorities,” said Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer, who helped with the investigation. “It’s especially disturbing when we identify corrupted members of our military who undermine the welfare of this this country, so we, along with our law enforcement partners, shall continue to aggressively investigate this type of criminal activity.”
The indictment charges each defendant with conspiring to steal or receive U.S. Army property and to sell or convey U.S. Army property without authority. The civilian defendants were charged with additional counts of wire fraud, money laundering and violating the Arms Export Control Act. One was also charged with three counts of selling or conveying U.S. Army property without authority.
“Those who compromise the safety of the American public and our military personnel in the interest of greed will be held accountable for their actions,” IRS investigator Tracey D. Montaño said.
The Justice Department says each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy charge. The civilians face up to 20 years for each for wire fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act and an additional 20 years on the money laundering charges. The defendants also face forfeiture of the proceeds of their crimes.
Roger Deakins has dazzled moviegoers for decades with visuals that have gone on to become the most memorable in modern film history.
The frigid vistas in “Fargo,” the dreamy Western plains in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” the gritty underground world of drug cartels in “Sicario,” and the washed out future in “Blade Runner 2049” (which finally earned him his first-ever Oscar), all came from Deakins.
It’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would top this legendary body of work.
But he has with “1917.”
Marking Deakins’ latest collaboration with Sam Mendes (the two worked together on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Skyfall”), the story follows two British soldiers during World War I who have to travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop 1,600 of their allies from walking into a trap. And in telling that story, Deakins makes it feel like the entire movie is done in one continuous shot.
The hugely ambitious idea paid off. The movie, currently in theaters, has found critical acclaim, box-office glory, and award-season praise as it won three Golden Globes (including best director for Mendes and best drama) followed by 10 Oscar nominations.
“Blade Runner 2049” is the only movie for which Roger Deakins has won an Oscar.
Among them was Deakins for best cinematography, the 15th time he’s been nominated.
If you were looking for a sure bet this Oscars, it’s that Deakins will take home his second Oscar when the awards are handed out on February 9. But don’t count on the man himself to get too excited.
The 70-year-old Englishman has been the frontrunner too many times before, only to leave empty-handed, to listen to any Oscars handicapping. In fact, he’s so modest it’s hard to get many details out of him on how he actually pulled off the ambitious shooting technique that has become the biggest draw of the movie.
“We had a lot of prep and we could just work through all the problems,” he said in a laid-back tone to Business Insider hours after the Oscar nominations were announced on Monday.
But finally he let out something that did scare him. It was something that even a legend like himself, who has come across seemingly every scenario behind the camera, could not control: the weather.
“That was a bit tricky,” he said, with just the hint of dry English humor.
Most of “1917,” which takes place over two days, is shot over grey skies. The gloom adds to the despair of the story’s war-torn surroundings. But Deakins said it was also a choice he kept pushing for early on in preproduction.
“Just practically we had to shoot in cloud,” he said, looking back. “Either you shoot it in real time, at the right time of day, which you never do unless you have months and months of time. Or you shoot in cloud and time it to look that way.”
Knowing most of the filming would be done at Shepperton Studios in Scotland, the movie’s production office looked up what the weather was in the area the year before at the time they were going to shoot. Deakins was disappointed in the answer: “Apparently it was gorgeous.”
But the movie moved forward, which included Deakins and his team rehearsing the shots constantly with the small, light-weight cameras made especially for the movie from Arri Alexa.
Everyone was ready when the first day of shooting came in April of last year, but there was one problem.
“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” Deakins said. “It certainly made me anxious.”
While producers were on the phone explaining to the studio, Universal, and financiers why they couldn’t begin production because the weather was too nice, Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of the actors and crew were back to rehearsing in the trenches made for the movie.
Thankfully, the second day was a cloudy one and production was able to get back on track as they also made up the previous day’s shooting. Deakins said that’s how it was for most of production. If clouds weren’t in the forecast, everyone waited around until the day came when there was — and then everyone doubled their efforts to stay on schedule.
“We would literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud to come by,” Deakins said. “I had five different weather apps on my iPhone. Every radar I could get. You look at them and try to find the one that will tell you what you want.”
Shooting a scene from ‘1917.’
(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)
Then the day came when he wanted some sun. At the end of the movie, for a shot where the movie’s lead, Schofield (George MacKay), is sitting by a tree, Deakins said he wanted the shot to show some rays of sunlight in the sky.
“There was this little cloud coming over the sun so before we shot that section we called everyone over and said, ‘Let’s shoot it, we might get lucky,’ and sure enough when it got to the end of the take the sun came out,” he said.
“That was the first take,” Deakins continued, with a certain pride he didn’t show earlier in our conversation. “We shot it another fifteen or twenty times, but Sam liked that first one. And it was the only one where the sun came out. We never got that again.”
Looking back on the experience, Deakins said he would be up for shooting a movie again like this — though he wonders if anyone would want to.
“I don’t think many directors would want to tell the story in that way,” he said. “But it doesn’t scare me off at all. It would be quite fascinating to do it on something else.”
It’s good to see that even a legend has dreams for what the future could hold.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Major H.G. Duncan of the United States Marine Corps once defined a grunt as, “a term of affection used to denote that filthy, sweaty, dirt-encrusted, footsore, camouflage-painted, tired, sleepy, beautiful little son of a b*tch who has kept the wolf away from the door for over two hundred years.”
While this is true, we often think of the term as being synonymous with infantryman — you know, the guy who kicks in the doors and blows things up — but the fact of the matter is that terms like this and ‘POG’ have relatively unknown origins. If you were to ask a service member about these terms, the response is typically a definition, not a history lesson.
Some say the term started in Vietnam when POGs needed their own term to describe the dirty, smelly infantrymen who made fun of the troops who sat in air-conditioned buildings all day instead of getting stuck in the jungle. Legend has it that the first POG to use the term was making a reference to the same term as used in the early 1900s to describe those who performed the less desirable jobs, which were typically physically demanding but not mentally stimulating. In this story, the first grunt to hear the term was unfamiliar with its history and instead took it as a compliment.
But, much like the term ‘POG,’ ‘grunt’ can also be thought of as an acronym. This origin story takes us back to the second World War when infantry united sustained extremely high casualty rates, forcing troops from rear-echelon units (often referred to as rear-echelon motherf*ckers or REMF) forward they were quickly trained, often in-theatre, to be foot soldiers. These troops were categorized as “General Replacement Unit, Not Trained,” or GRUNT.
Whichever piece of history you find to be more believable, the fact remains that infantry soldiers and Marines really do a lot of grunt work. These days, you might find infantrymen who have spent just as much time with a mop or broom than with their own rifles. Being just as accustomed to the smell of Pine-Sol as spent brass.
No matter the case, infantrymen tend to see their nickname as a compliment — unlike those uptight POGs.
President Donald Trump has stated several times his desire to acquire Greenland, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to its beauty and natural resources, Greenland is located between the US and Russia, making it strategically important in a Cold War-like conflict between the two.
Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, with its own government that handles domestic issues. On Aug. 16, 2019, Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “We’re open for business, not for sale.”
The US has operated Thule Air Base in Greenland’s high Arctic since the 1950s. While the mission of the base has changed over time, the base is now charged with warning North America about incoming intercontinental ballistic missles (ICBMs).
Read on to learn more about Thule Air Base.
A sunny view of the ramp at Thule Air Base, Greenland, shortly after the NASA P-3B research aircraft arrived on Mar. 18, 2013.
(NASA photo by Jim Yungel)
Thule Air Base is 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and midway between New York and Moscow. The base is home to the 12th Space Warning Squadron, which detects ICBMs headed toward North America with its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
1st Lt. Ariel Torgerson (left), 821st Support Squadron Communications Flight commander, issues the oath of enlistment to Staff Sgt. Eric Jennings, 821st SPTS.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darrell Kinsey)
The orientation letter for new Thule Airmen welcomes them to “The Top of the World.” It also stresses just how remote the installation is: “There is no ‘local town.’ The closest Inuit (native Eskimo) village, Qaanaaq, is located 65 miles away. There is no ‘off-base’ except for the bay, the ice cap and what appears to be thousands of miles of rocks and/or ice.”
Thule is located on Greenland, the world’s largest island. Construction was completed in 1953. Thule’s population is about 600 military and civilian personnel — 400 Danes, 50 Greenlanders, 3 Canadians, and 140 Americans.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) visits units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019.
(Preston Schlachter / North American Aerospace Defense Command)
Thule is locked in by ice nine months each year. A Canadian Icebreaker ship comes in during the summer to clear a path for cargo ships from the US, Canada, and Denmark to replenish the base’s supply of fuel, construction supplies, cargo, and food.
A seasoned Greenlandic hunter and his dog sled racing team speeds into the home stretch toward the finish line March 30. Thule Air Base celebrated Armed Forces Day March 30-31 by inviting native Greenlandic residents to the base, some of whom traveled up to three days across the extremely cold environment by dog sled to attend the celebration.
(U.S. photo by Master Sgt. Robert Brown)
In the summer months, Thule sees 24 hours of sunlight. Flowers like poppies bloom, and cotton and moss grow. Birds like peregrine falcons fly in, and mosquitos proliferate — to the extent that locals refer to them as the “Greenlandic Air Force.”
Storm conditions at Thule can be extreme, and are divided into five categories: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, with Delta being the most threatening. Under Delta storm conditions, personnel are required to shelter in place, and no travel is allowed at all, with the exception of emergency vehicles.
The NASA P-3B research aircraft is being prepared outside the hangar at Thule Air Base for a science mission across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska.
(NASA photo by Michael Studinger)
While there is limited internet and opportunities for outdoor activity during the summer months, there’s a lot Thule doesn’t have: A bank or ATM, paved roads or sidewalks, or a clothing store. It also doesn’t have a view of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights — it’s too far north.
With most troops learning hand-to-hand combat in the military, it’s not surprising that some would end up getting really good at it.
UFC legend Randy Couture is a former 101st Airborne Division soldier, while Brian Stann was a decorated Marine Corps platoon commander before entering the Octagon. As it turns out, veterans have a history of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Former Marine Sgt. Liz Carmouche has a 10-5-0 record in mixed martial arts and famously fought Ronda Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight title in 2013. Rousey admitted before the fight that fighting Carmouche would be different.
“She’s a Marine, I’m not going to be able to intimidate this girl,” Rousey said in an MMAFighting.com interview. “The prefight intimidation stuff won’t work.”
The Ranger and Sapper-qualified infantryman currently serves as a combatives instructor in Fort Hood, Texas, but has said he’s interested in a special operations assignment soon.
4. Tim Kennedy
Like Colton Smith, Tim Kennedy began his UFC career while on active duty. The Ranger-tabbed Green Beret was a sniper before he transitioned from active duty to the Texas National Guard to focus on his MMA career. He currently serves as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant, and holds an 18-5-0 record in mixed martial arts.
There’s no shortage of media featuring the good, bad, and ugly aspects of life at war or in the military. In fact, as we come out of the biopic zeitgeist and set our sights toward the digital era, the number of films, television shows, movies, and other forms of content featuring these elements is only growing. But not all depictions of combat are created equal.
It’s easier to make a film about war than it is to stay true to its source — so, which movies treat its combat with the most respect and realism? We asked some veterans, and here’s what they had to say.
While Christopher Nolan didn’t take home the 2018 Oscar for this particular war blockbuster, “Dunkirk” has gained universal acclaim as one of the best World War II films to date. It tells the story of trapped British and French forces attempting to evacuate a war-torn beach in May 1940, while German forces closed in. The clean-shaven soldiers may not be a testament to the details, but “Dunkirk” thrives on its atmosphere and closed cinema, which is used to communicate the overall gravity of the battle.
“‘Dunkirk’ succeeds in recreating the plight of tending to your fellow soldier while being under constant threat of bombardment,” said Tan Vega, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. With gritty visuals and stellar performances, the film uses tight angles and extreme close-ups to create and emanate panic, desperation, and fear to its audience. In moments of true cinema, we can examine the bonds forged between the troops, as well as the intense pressure they’re under to survive.
With Empire Magazine lauding the Omaha Beach landing as “the best battle sequence of all time,” this entry should come as no surprise. “Saving Private Ryan” uses its artistic license to enrich its characters and depict realistic events of war in a way that had never been done before. The movie focuses on the personal journey of a few soldiers venturing behind enemy lines to save fellow soldier Private James Ryan.
“The most realistic thing about ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is nothing is off the table,” said Gay Dimars, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “The water’s bloody, the soldiers are nauseous, and as an audience, we’re there with them.” However, Steven Spielberg did sacrifice historic authenticity in favor of dramatic effect — the film’s climax is strewn with inaccuracies, but with top-notch performances depicting the effect of war and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the film solidifies its place among the best war movies ever made.
Platoon 1986 Final battle scene with Charlie Sheen
“Platoon” is the first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a veteran of the Vietnam War. The script capitalizes on Oliver Stone’s experiences in various combat units to expertly depict the severity of combat as well as the rippling effects of war. As such, the toughest critiques of the movie come from Stone’s former platoonmates, some of whom say they felt too exposed after the film’s release. “Platoon” was shot on location in the Philippines and utilizes long lenses, careful lighting, and talented actors to craft the atmosphere of the Vietnam War and inform the audience of the confusion, psychological trauma, and deep-seated violence Vietnam veterans endured.
Black Hawk Down Battle Scenes 2001 NO FINAL BATTLE
The film “Black Hawk Down” has faced criticism for wavering from the highly accurate book upon which it was based. “The combat is realistic, but many details miss the mark,” said Sharm Ali, a U.S. Air Force veteran. “What it does really well is explain how a noble cause could go south really quickly.”
“Black Hawk Down” tells the story of the Battle of Mogadishu, during which U.S. service members were sent to kill or capture Somalia’s key warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, in a broader effort to stabilize a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. However, Somali forces shot down their helicopters and effectively trapped them on the streets of the foreign country, forcing them to fight their way out. The film is most impressive in its depiction of the harsh realities of urban combat that soldiers were forced to endure during the Somali conflict, and was notable in that it lifted the curtain on the types of operations the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) were conducting at the time.
Walking the show floor of the 2017 Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran saw a lot of fast-developing technology that impressed him.
He didn’t see the one thing he wants, even though it’s a technology that first appeared in 1974, “where you walk into a room and you were in a virtual environment and you could do almost anything,” Moran said Dec. 27 during a panel discussion at the conference, known by the acronym I/ITSEC.
Never mind that this virtual room made its debut on “Star Trek: The Animated Series.”
“I want a holodeck,” Moran said, referring to the room where Star Trek characters are able to interact with virtual, holographic environments, people and objects. “And we’re kind of getting there. You put on some [virtual reality] goggles downstairs [on the show floor], I tried on a few of those, and since I was here a couple years ago, it is fascinating how quickly that is becoming a reality.
“Now, if we could just get rid of the goggles and just have a room.”
Neither did Moran find what he asked industry leaders for two years ago at the 2015 I/ITSEC-a Conex shipping container where a trainee can walk inside and have training scenarios rendered on virtual reality panels.
“Torpedo room, engine room, bridge room,” he said. “It knows when you were there last, it knows how effective you were, what you’re performance levels were, how much experience you have, and it starts to test you.”
“That same box could take a team-bridge team, combat team, maintenance team-that has to do a project together, and it could set up the scenario virtually,” Moran continued. “That’s the holodeck of the future, that’s what we need. I challenged some folks in here two years ago, and everybody ran off and wanted to get there. I’ve only been on maybe 10 percent of that floor, but I haven’t found a holodeck or the Conex box yet.”
Still, despite the lack of holodecks or virtual-reality shipping containers, Moran was encouraged by the progress he did find on the floor of the convention.
“It’s just amazing how fast things are moving,” he said.
Naval Aviation took “the baby step into this world of live-virtual-constructive” last year with the opening of the Air Defense Strike Group Facility at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, said Rear Adm. Daniel Cheever, commander, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center.
The ADSGF currently houses integrated simulators for the F/A-18E-F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, E-2 Hawkeye and AEGIS air defense system but Cheever said it will eventually comprise all Navy aviation simulators, integrated and connected so that they can communicate securely with outside locations.
While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.
After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.” He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”
The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.
Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.
Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.
JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.
Gutierrez was part of a night time raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.
The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.
“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.
“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”
Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.
“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.
“Less than 10 meters.”
Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.
Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.
The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.
After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.
To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.
The United States says it is canceling a decades-old friendship treaty with Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court case against Washington’s sanctions policy.
“I’m announcing that the US is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Oct. 3, 2018, referring to the year of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After the announcement, Tehran slammed the United States as an “outlaw regime.”
The U.S. move came after the top UN court ordered the United States to ease sanctions it reimposed on Iran following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in early 2018.
The 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights called for “friendly relations” between Iran and the United States, encouraged mutual trade and investment, regulated diplomatic ties, and granted the International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction over disputes.
It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, long before the 1979 revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.
In August 2018, Washington slapped a first round of punitive measures on Iran after President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The U.S. moves sent Iran’s economy into a downward spiral with the national currency, the rial, hitting record lows.
Iran challenged the reinstatement of sanctions in a case filed in July 2018 at the ICJ in The Hague, arguing that it breaches the friendship treaty between the two countries and accusing the United States of “economic aggression.”
U.S. lawyers responded by saying the reimposition of the sanctions was legal and a national security measure that cannot be challenged at the UN court.
In a preliminary ruling in the case, the ICJ said earlier on Oct. 3, 2018, that exports of “humanitarian” goods such as medicines and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities” should be allowed, as well as aviation safety equipment.
It said the U.S. sanctions on such goods breached the 1955 treaty between Iran and the United States.
Announcing the decision, the court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”
Sanctions on aircraft spare parts, equipment, and associated services have the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users,” he also said.
The ruling is a decision on so-called provisional measures ahead of a final decision on the matter, which may take several years, according to experts.
Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said the ruling “marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He also said the United States was “disappointed” that the ICJ “failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests.”
The secretary of state said that Iran’s claims under the treaty were “absurd,” citing Iran’s “history of terrorism, ballistic-missile activity, and other malign behaviors,” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.”
Pompeo added that the United States will work to ensure it is providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.
“Today US withdrew from an actual US-Iran treaty after the ICJ ordered it to stop violating that treaty in sanctioning Iranian people. Outlaw regime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later tweeted.
Earlier, Zarif called the court decision “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. government and “victory for rule of law.”
And the Foreign Ministry said the ruling “proved once again the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel.”
The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, said it was “a meritless case over which the court has no jurisdiction.”
He added that the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested, saying the court “issued a narrow decision on a very limited range of sectors.”
The ICJ rules on disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no mechanism to enforce them.
Both Washington and Tehran have ignored ICJ decisions in the past.
Later in the day, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the administration was pulling out of an amendment to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that gives the ICJ jurisdiction to hear disputes between states.
Bolton also told a White House briefing that Washington will review all international agreements that “may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction, dispute resolution” in the ICJ.
“We will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,” he said.
The buzz of the crowd had Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro on edge. Then a loud bang made him look around nervously.
He knew the noise came from a Zamboni machine, yet its exhaust made him think of the aftermath of a roadside bomb.
All his stress melted away immediately, however, as soon as he stepped out onto the ice.
“When I’m on the ice, no matter what happened before, everything dissipates,” he said. “It’s like a fresh start.”
Former Army Spc. Matt Holben, Capital Beltway Warriors assistant team captain and defensive player, hits the puck up ice during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional Hockey Challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Vaccaro is one of the co-founders of the Capital Beltway Warriors, a hockey team of veterans with disabilities founded two years ago.
Veterans on the team open up to each other and talk about how they cope with injuries, stress and other issues, said retired Maj. David Dixon, another co-founder of the team.
“It’s like a giant support group,” he said, “or therapy on ice, as we like to call it.”
Many of the players have some level of post-traumatic stress disorder from service in Iraq, Afghanistan or other hot spots, Dixon said. He personally survived four deployments to Iraq, where he was shot in the back and shaken up by three different improvised explosive devices.
Retired Maj. David Dixon, president and executive director of the Capital Beltway Warriors, makes game notes while coaching players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Dixon and a number of the other veterans also coach youth hockey teams and a few of them help with a local blind hockey team, the Washington Wheelers.
“Giving back to the community often gives them a sense of purpose,” Dixon said of the veterans, adding that it helps minimize depression and PTSD.
Dixon puts in more than 20 volunteer hours a week managing the Capital Beltway Warriors as president and executive director of the team. He helps solicit sponsors, run meetings, apply for grants, recruit players and schedule games.
“In a sick kind of way, I enjoy all the hard work,” he said. “You go from commanding troops to working in a cubicle,” he said about retiring from the Army and beginning a civilian job.
He explained that managing the hockey team gives him a renewed sense of purpose.
“You find that niche in life that gives you purpose and whether it has a monetary award or not, that’s what you’re supposed to do,” he said.
He helps make the games special for the warriors with lights, music, an announcer and filling the stands with veterans. Local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion in northern Virginia help bring veterans from retirement homes to the games, Dixon said.
Vaccaro also spends several hours per week helping the Capital Beltway Warriors and other veteran hockey teams. He spends a week every year helping run the USA Hockey camp in Buffalo, New York, where they select the national sled hockey team.
He serves as a referee for blind hockey and sled hockey. He helps stand up other Warrior division hockey teams. In November, he spent a few days in Philadelphia helping the Flyers start a warrior team.
“This is my therapy,” he said of the volunteer work. “This is what keeps me going.”
Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joey Martell, Capital Beltway Warriors team captain, takes a shot during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
Spreading the word
Just over two years ago, Vaccaro met up with Dixon who was interested in starting a Warrior hockey team in Virginia.
They met in the Pentagon food court in December 2016. “We sat down and started sketching stuff out on napkins,” Dixon said.
They laid out plans for a team that would play in rinks across Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland.
They found players by word of mouth. They showed up at “stick and shoot” sessions and asked if anyone was a military veteran with a disability rating.
Now they have 76 veterans with disabilities on the team and they play other warrior clubs. A game in Ashburn Dec. 22, 2018, pitted the USA Warriors from Maryland against the Capital Beltway Warriors. The teams also play in annual tournaments.
There are now 16 warrior teams across the United States. The minimum requirement to play on one of the teams is a 10 percent VA disability. Some of the players are 100 percent disabled and play with prosthetics.
Some of the veterans, like Vaccaro, have been playing hockey since they were 3 years old. Dixon, however, did not pick up the sport until he was 40.
Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Michael Vaccaro serves as referee for the charity exhibition game between the Capital Beltway Warriors and a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by EJ Hersom)
In 2006 and 2007, Vaccaro was an advisor to an Iraqi Army unit in Ramadi. He and two Marines were on patrol when they were pinned down by machine-gun fire. Then an insurgent fired a rocket-propelled grenade.
“It hit the wall in front of me and knocked me back. Next thing I remember, I heard this really loud ringing in my ears and there was a Marine dragging me back into the courtyard. They were calling for air support.
“We finished the patrol,” Vaccaro said, explaining aerial medical evacuation was not available. A doctor patched him up, and a couple of days later, he was back out on patrol.
After his tour in Iraq, he came back to Virginia, where he had been a reservist with the 80th Training Division. But he had PTSD issues. He decided to go to Liberia in western Africa as a contractor to help put about 2,000 Liberian soldiers through basic training.
“I thought that would help, but I just ended up coming back with the same issues,” he said. “That’s another thing: You can’t hide from this.
“Everybody handles PTSD in a different way. I tried the group therapy stuff and it just didn’t work.”
He received treatment and medication from Veterans Affairs, but the issues persisted. When he smelled fresh bread, for instance, it reminded him of the flatbread Iraqi soldiers baked every morning.
“That’s a good smell,” he said. But then his mind would continue to remember until he imagined the smell of an IED.
“You’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to face your issues,” he said. “I was trying to hide from it and hockey has helped me open up and talk about it.”
About 10 years ago, he became involved in the first-of-its-kind USA Warrior hockey team stood up by a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“When I’m on the ice, things slow down; things are different,” Vaccaro said.
Both he and his family noticed the difference in him after playing hockey.
“It really helped me,” he said. “The first thing I said to myself when I started realizing that is, ‘I’ve got to get other veterans involved in this.'”
So he became the national representative for USA Hockey in its Warrior division to help stand up teams. He does that in his spare time when he is not working as a civilian employee for the Army Corps of Engineers or on duty as an Army Reserve NCO.
David Dixon, coach of the Capital Beltway Warriors, provides tactical advice to players between periods during a holiday exhibition game with a Congressional hockey challenge team at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
Dixon was coaching little league baseball when he was approached by his son’s hockey coach, Bobby Hill.
“He said he really liked the way I worked with the kids and he could use my help on the ice coaching,” Dixon recalled.
Dixon told him he did not skate, but Hill said he could take care of that. He got Dixon out on the ice and taught him the basics of hockey.
Dixon went to adult learn-to-play sessions Wednesday evenings at Ashburn Ice House. He participated in adult pick-up games after helping coach his son’s youth team.
He eventually took over as head coach of the Ashburn “Honey Badgers” peewee hockey team.
In the meantime, however, he heard of the USA Warriors hockey team and the effects it was having on disabled veterans in Maryland. He thought it would be great to bring the same benefits to veterans in northern Virginia.
Matt Holben (No. 19) of the Capital Beltway Warriors, and Joey Martell (No. 21) take the puck down ice with three members of a Congressional hockey challenge team not far behind, during an exhibition game Dec. 16, 2018 at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
(Gary Sheftick, Army News Service)
The warrior hockey program aims to provide purpose, education and camaraderie that veterans miss after they separate from the service, Dixon said.
The team creates an environment that in some ways simulates being back around a military unit, said Matt Holben, alternate team captain for the Capital Beltway Warriors.
“It feels good, because you’re back with the guys, you’re back with the unit,” he said.
“We’ve got members with both physical and mental disability,” he added. “It’s hard for them to share their story, but when you talk to them, it’s just that little bit of relief they get when they’re in the locker room and on the team.”
“We’re helping each other,” Vaccaro said. “And half of the guys don’t even realize we’re helping each other, but that’s what we’re doing.”
The help is not limited to the rink either, Dixon said.
There is another part to the program that informs veterans of benefits available to them and helps with issues.
Anything from service dogs to getting help building a house, to loans, and more is available, Dixon said.
“We don’t do it all ourselves. We reach out to other veteran service organizations to get the help and education these guys need,” he said. “We have a whole network of VSOs that we can tap into.”
Vaccaro summed it up: “It’s veterans helping veterans.”