Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

On a cold January day in Virginia, men and women of the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) engineering department stood at attention both somber and quiet. The bitter cold chills of the wind broke the silence of their awards-at-quarters on the ship’s flight deck. While most service members eagerly await receiving awards, this was certainly not true for Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class John Chavez-Sanchez. This was the day he did not anticipate — being awarded for his bravery and assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000.

“You figure my first NAM [Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal] is that one that I am most excited for, but I didn’t smile,” said Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez-Sanchez, from Bay Shore, New York, now assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department. “Nobody smiled. Nobody clapped. Myself and the crew from the Cook didn’t want any type of praise. We played a key role, but we didn’t want to take any credit.”


On that fateful day, Cole pulled pierside in Aden, Yemen to begin refueling. It was mid-day when two suicide bombers pulled a small boat along Cole’s port side and detonated explosives leaving a 40 foot-by-60 foot hole at the waterline of the ship. Seventeen sailors died and another 39 were injured.

While on its maiden voyage, a mere two nautical miles away, USS Donald Cook got word on the events that had took place.

“We got sent to GQ [general quarters] and no one knew why at first,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I was going through my checklist as the repair locker electrician when the CO [commanding officer] came on the 1MC and announced that the Cole was attacked. He told us, ‘This is what we train for. Get ready for war’.”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez sanches and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Mcbrayer, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), tests the weapons elevator’s diagnostic server during a routine equipment check.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Ruiz)

Chavez-Sanchez said a quick prayer. Shortly after, the CO announced Cook’s air-wing was going to provide air support. A few more hours passed, now he and the engineering department were to muster on that same flight deck in which he was awarded his first NAM.

“We were asked to volunteer to be a part of the first group to help assist with damage control efforts,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “Everyone raised their hand. Everyone wanted to help. It was the single most example of camaraderie I had ever seen.”

Ten hours after the attack Chavez-Sanchez was on the first rigid-hull inflatable boat to be sent to aid the vulnerable Cole.

“The waters were clear; there was no debris,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “You couldn’t tell an attack just happened until we passed right by the hole. I could see clear into the ship. That’s when I smelled it — the rotting, decaying, foul smell of death.”

Aboard Cole, Chavez-Sanchez and his group were asked if they could handle the situation. Again, everyone raised their hands in agreement. Some grabbed a flash light or a radio, but all of them applied a small amount of vapor rub right under their noses to combat the smell.

“We were making our way around to assess what we needed for the damages,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “The only light or ventilation in the ship came through that hole where the blast happened. We knew we were by the galley; it looked like crumpled up aluminum foil. Then I saw bodies, that’s when everything hit me.”

At that sight, the 21-year-old Chavez-Sanchez realized the magnitude of the situation. He responded with a sense of duty by volunteering for anything he could do — fighting fires, dewatering flooded spaces, standing shoring watch, and security watch. However, his primary mission as an electrician’s mate was to bring up the generators and restore power to the ship.

“Throughout the day and night, there was constant flooding,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We were getting woken up to combat the flooding. It was hard to sleep most nights.”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole prepares to moor in Faslane, Scotland.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lacordrick Wilson)

Chavez-Sanchez and the many who volunteered from the Cook began a watch rotation of 48-hours on, 48-hours off, serving time and standing watch on both missile-guided destroyers.

A week into his new watch rotation, Chavez-Sanchez and his engineering team restored power and ventilation aboard Cole. Two more weeks passed and Chavez-Sanchez and his Cook team finished their damage control efforts and headed back to the Cook permanently.

The Norwegian semi-submersible dry-dock ship Blue Marlin came to transport the Cole back to the United States after the on-site repairs. Alongside the Blue Marlin, Cook was again tasked to aid the ship — this time escorting Cole back to the U.S.

“The day we heard ‘USS Cole, underway’ was emotional for our crew,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We all celebrated because we knew we did our job for the ship to be ready to make her way back to the states.”

Once the Cole was home she began her intensive repairs and eventually became deployable again.

“After 18 years, I still remember that day, that time period,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I carry that story with me. It became a motivation to stay in the Navy and I continue to train everyone around me. ‘Train how you fight’ became personal to me.”

Within the same year of the 18-year anniversary, Chavez-Sanchez’s story came full circle.

“While in Norfolk, the Cole was moored on the same pier [as the Ford],” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I froze for about two minutes. In that time everything rushed back — the memories, the emotions. I saw it and I prayed. I didn’t want to tell my story because I didn’t want the recognition, so I had to keep moving.”

While Chavez-Sanchez may never forget, he is now ready to share his story so that it may inspire his newest shipmates on the Ford with the camaraderie and brotherhood he formed with his former shipmates in the wake of the Cole tragedy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy just fired more commanders connected with ship collisions

The US Navy has fired two senior commanders in the Pacific region in connection with recent deadly collisions of Navy ships, as part of a sweeping purge of leadership in the Japan-based fleet.


The announcement comes a day before the top US Navy officer and the Navy secretary are scheduled to go to Capitol Hill for a hearing on the ship crashes.

Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of the Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet, fired Rear Adm. Charles Williams and Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, citing a loss of confidence in their ability to command. Williams was the commander of Task Force 70, which includes the aircraft carriers, destroyers and cruisers in the 7th Fleet, and Bennett was commander of the destroyer squadron.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Capt. Jeffrey Bennett (left) and Rear Adm. Charles Williams. Photos from US Navy.

Last month, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, who previously led 7th Fleet, was relieved of duty.

The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided in Southeast Asia last month, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five injured. And seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

The latest dismissals bring the number of fired senior commanders to six, including the top three officers of the Fitzgerald.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart/Released)

Navy Capt. Charlie Brown said Sept. 18 that 7th Fleet ships have completed the one-day operational pause ordered for the entire Navy to make sure crews were conducting safe operations. And Pacific Fleet is in the process of carrying out a ship-by-ship review of its vessels, looking at navigation, mechanical systems, bridge resource management, and training.

Rear Adm. Marc Dalton is now commander Task Force 70, and Capt. Jonathan Duffy, who was deputy commander of the destroyer squadron, took over as commander.

Articles

The making of ‘Range 15’ is even crazier than ‘Range 15’

“Nothing’s off limits.”


That’s a quote from one of the actors in Range 15, but it’s also the way the creators of the film live their lives.

And before you start getting all teary-eyed over it, know that it’s also the attitude they bring to their dark, effed up, and glorious comedic projects.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

For people who can relate to military humor, it doesn’t get much better than the veteran-produced zombie flick “Range 15”…until you find out they also made a behind-the-scenes documentary.

For those who haven’t seen “Range 15” (it’s for sale as a digital download at Amazon.com), it’s about some military buddies who have a wild party and find themselves tossed into the drunk tank. They wake up to the realization that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing.

Think of what follows as a threesome between “Team America,” “Zombieland,” and “The Hangover.”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

According to a report by the Military Times, the documentary made its debut on June 30, 2017. The video, dubbed Not a War Story, details the making of the movie, which was filmed in 13 days — a balls crazy pace. The 80 vets who made the film, some of them amputees, had very little (if any) experience shooting feature films, but they didn’t let that stop them.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

In the trailer, William Shatner, who plays an attorney in the film, strikes a very poignant tone as he recognizes the sacrifices many of these veterans have made. “You’re the fellows who altered your life to do the job,” he says.

Oh, and good news for Range 15 fans: Military Times mentioned that a sequel is reportedly in the works.

In the meantime, check out the trailer for Not a War Story and check out the film on iTunes Nov. 7, 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China has a railgun, but it doesn’t seem useful in combat

China claims it’s winning the race to bring long-range superguns to its growing fleet, but experts say that even if these weapons work, they won’t make a difference in high-end conflict.

China announced it will “soon” be arming its warships with railguns, a technology which uses electromagnetic energy rather than explosive charges to fire rounds farther than conventional guns and at seven or eight times the speed of sound. The US Navy has spent more than a decade pursuing this technology, but naval affairs experts contend that even the best railguns have huge problems that make them a poor substitute for existing capabilities.


“You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former US Navy officer, told Business Insider.

The Chinese navy made headlines when images of a Chinese ship equipped with a suspected railgun first surfaced in January 2018. Photos showed the vessel, initially nicknamed the “Yangtze River Monster,” docked on the Yangtze River at a shipyard in Wuhan. That same ship — the Type 072III Yuting-class tank-landing ship “Haiyang Shan” — reappeared in late December 2018, having possibly set sail for sea trials.

“This is one of a number of interesting developments that indicates that the [People’s Liberation Army] is quite enthusiastic about emerging capabilities,” Elsa Kania, an expert on the Chinese armed forces at the Center for a New American Security, told Business Insider.

The Chinese PLA is actively looking at the military applications of cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. China actually launched the first quantum communication satellite, which is said to be unhackable. For the Chinese navy, this means research into electromagnetic railguns, among other capabilities.

China says it has made major ‘breakthroughs’ with railguns

“Chinese warships will ‘soon’ be equipped with world-leading electromagnetic railguns, as breakthroughs have been made … in multiple sectors,” China’s Global Times reported recently, citing state broadcaster CCTV. The notoriously nationalist tabloid proudly asserted that “China’s naval electromagnetic weapon and equipment have surpassed other countries and become a world leader.”

China is expected to begin fielding warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles as early as 2025, CNBC reported in summer 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest intelligence reports on China’s railgun development.

Chinese military experts expect the new Type 055 stealth destroyers to eventually be armed with electromagnetic railguns.

‘It’s not useful military technology’

While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic force to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at incredible speeds.

China is not the first country to take an interest in railgun technology. The US Navy took a serious look at the possibility of arming warships with the gun, which promised the ability to strike targets as far as 200 miles away with relatively inexpensive rounds traveling at hypersonic speeds.

During the development process, the US military discovered problems that make the gun more of a hassle than an asset.

“The engineering challenges that the US is seeing with railguns are fundamental to the technology,” Clark, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told BI. “Any railgun is going to have these problems.”

While still cheaper than a missile, the rounds are more expensive than previously expected, as they require more advanced guidance systems to ensure that a simple GPS jammer doesn’t render them inoperable.

The rounds are more powerful than standard 5″ gun projectiles, but still lack the destructive power of missiles, making them less effective in strike missions. Missiles are also able to can chase down targets.

Even if each railgun shot packs a punch, its limited rate of fire — maybe eight rounds per minute — means it has little use for air and missile defense against fast-moving targets.

Maintenance and electricity generation are also huge problems. The gun requires an enormous amount of power to fire and the shear force of firing hypervelocity projectiles tends to wear out the barrel quickly. The barrel would likely need to be replaced after every few dozen shots, a problem that likely limits the gun to one short battle.

“They’re not a good replacement for a missile,” Clark said. “They’re not a good replacement for an artillery shell.”

“It’s not useful military technology,” he added.

Facing a handful of difficult-to-overcome challenges inextricably linked to railgun technology, the US Navy has slow-rolled its railgun development.

But, work continues.

High-Tech Railgun Promises New Military Advantage

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Railguns could be useful someday

The US Navy has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and more than a decade researching railgun technology, and research continues despite development setbacks.

“They are thinking that down the road they will eventually get some technological breakthroughs that would enable it to be more militarily useful,” Clark explained. “That is why they are continuing to invest in it rather than dropping it entirely.”

During 2018’s Rim of the Pacific exercises, the Navy successfully test-fired hypervelocity projectiles meant for electromagnetic railguns out of the Mk 45 five-inch deck guns that come standard on cruisers and destroyers. The Army is looking at using the same high-speed rounds for its 155 mm howitzers.

So far, it appears the most beneficial thing to come out of US railgun research is the round.

For China, it’s a PR victory

China, which will likely encounter issues similar to those the US Navy has run into, is potentially continuing its railgun development for another purpose entirely.

“This is a part of China’s strategic communication plan to show that it is a rising power with next-generation military capabilities,” Clark told BI. “It is always in the details that they sometimes fall a little bit short.”

“It’s a useful prestige thing for them, which is similar to other military systems they’ve fielded recently where it looks cool but it maybe isn’t all that militarily useful,” he further remarked, comparing China’s railgun pursuits to the J-20 stealth fighter, which lacks some of the features required to make it a true fifth-generation aircraft.

“The US has found that a working railgun, even if it met all the promise of a railgun system, is going to have very limited utility in strike or air defense,” Clark concluded, explaining that this technology is a tool which advances the narrative that China is a formidable force.

The Chinese military wants to demonstrate that it is on the forefront of next-level technology.

The Chinese military, like the US, may also derive new capabilities from its railgun research

One other program the Chinese are very interested in are building modern aircraft carriers. The Chinese navy has one carrier in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third mystery carrier in development.

While the first and second rely on ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, their is speculation that the third aircraft carrier could employ the much more effective electromagnetic catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system.

“The same program that’s working on railguns at the naval engineering university has also been involved in their development of electromagnetic catapult system for their next-generation aircraft carrier,” Kania told Business Insider.

“The Chinese military has often intended to explore advanced technologies, including those that the US has deemed less relevant operationally because there is enthusiasm about next-generation capabilities and it wants to understand the art of the possible,” she added.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships are getting hellfire missiles

The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship will be armed and operational with deck-launched HELLFIRE missiles by 2020, a key step in a sweeping strategic move to expand the attack envelope across the entire fleet of surface ships, senior service officials said.


Current HELLFIRE LCS testing and development, described as an integral part of the ship’s Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, has resulted in 20 successful hits out of 24 total attempted missile shots, Capt. Ted Zobel, Program Manager, PEO LCS, said recently at the Surface Navy Association symposium.

Testing and integration, which embarked upon LCS 5 in August of 2017, is slated to continue this year as a lead into to formal production; The complete procurement of SSMMs will complete in 2023, Zobel said.

Integrating the HELLFIRE onto the LCS is a significant strategic and tactical step for the Navy as it accelerates its combat posture transition toward the prospect of near-peer warfare.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
The littoral combat ship the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) passes underneath the Coronado Bridge as the ship transits the San Diego Harbor to the ship’s new homeport, Naval Base San Diego. Littoral Combat Ship the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) arrives at its new homeport, Naval Base San Diego. Omaha will be commissioned in San Diego next month and is the sixth ship in the LCS Independence-variant class. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Miranda Williams/Released)

This kind of confrontation, naturally could span a wide envelope of mission requirements for the LCS, calling upon littoral, coastal patrol, surveillance and countermine mission technologies as well as anti-submarine operations and a fortified ability to wage “blue” or open water maritime warfare with longer-range strike weapons.

While not quite the scope of the now-in-development over-the-horizon missile currently being fast-tracked for the emerging Frigate and, quite possibly, the LCS – a HELLFIRE offers a much wider offensive attack range to include enemy aircraft, helicopters, drones, small boats and even some surface ships.

Furthermore, the HELLFIRE, drawing upon Army-Navy collaboration, is engineered with different variants to widen potential attack methods. These range from blast-frag warheads to high-explosive rounds or even missiles with an augmented metal sleeve for extra fragmentation.

While the LCS does not have Vertical Launch Systems, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven that the HELLFIRE fires from canisters beneath the surface of the ship.

Often fired from helicopters, drones and even ground-based Army Multi-Mission Launchers, the Longbow HELLFIRE can use Fire-and-Forget millimeter wave radar with inertial guidance; millimeter wave seeker technology enables adverse weather targeting. Many HELLFIREs also use semi-active laser homing targeting.

It is accurate to call it a short-to-medium-range weapon which can reach relevant combat distances beyond the most close-in threats – while stopping short of being an over-the-horizon weapon.

Its targeting options open up various airborne interoperability options, meaning an MH-60R ship-based helicopter – or even a drone – could function as a laser designator for the weapon should it seek to target enemy ships on-the-move.

Also Read: McCain takes aim at Littoral Combat Ship, wants new fleet

The Navy has made particular efforts, in fact, to integrate HELLFIRE technology, sensors and fire control with other assets woven into the LCS. Not only could an MH-60R offer a laser spot for the ship launched weapon, but the helicopter can of course fire the HELLFIRE itself.

A ship launched variant, however, would need to further integrate with ship-based layered defense technologies to optimize its attack options against enemy aircraft and ships, particularly in a maritime combat environment potentially more difficult for helicopters to operate in.

LCS-launched HELLFIREs are engineered to operate as part of a broader ship-wide technical system connecting things like variable-depth sonar, deck guns, vertical take-off drones such as the Fire Scout and small boat mission capabilities such

as 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.

As part of this, the LCS is equipped with a 57mm gun, .50-cal Machine Guns and a defensive interceptor missile called SeaRAM.

Arming the LCS to a much greater extent is also likely to bear upon the longstanding discussion regarding the ship’s survivability. While many advocates for the LCS champion its 40-knot speed and technical attributes such as its integrated mission packages, adding more substantial weapons clearly impacts the debate by massively increasing the ship’s survivability and combat capability.

The anti-submarine mission package includes an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, light weight towed torpedo decoy system, Multi-Function Towed Array and several kinds of submarine-hunting sonar. The LCS utilizes waterjet propulsion and a combined diesel and gas turbine engine.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 approaches the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard during flight operations. Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Capt. Daniel Dusek, is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious ready group and is currently operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Operations.

Some of the features and technologies now being developed for the Navy’s new Frigate could be back-fitted onto the existing LCS fleet as well; these include an over-the-horizon offensive missile as well as a survivability-enhancing technique called “space armor,” which better allows the ship to function if it is hit by enemy firepower.

A strengthened LCS, as well as the new Frigate of course, offer a key component of the Navy’s widely discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, which aims to better arm the fleet with offensive firepower and position the force to be able to defeat technologically-advanced near-peer adversaries.

This includes an emphasis upon open or “blue” water combat and a shift from some of the key mission areas engaged in during

the last decade of ground wars such as Visit Board Search and Seizure, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.

Many LCS are already in service, and the platform is cherished by the Navy for its 40-knot speed, maneuverability and technological versatility.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

The US is reportedly talking about expanding crackdowns on North Korean ships, along with allies such as Australia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.


North Korea currently uses ship-to-ship transfers of sanctioned materials — sometimes in ports and sometimes in international waters — to evade sanctions from the international community. The UN Security Council has passed at least nine resolutions that imposed sanctions on North Korea, and Australia, the EU, Japan, South Korea, and the US have all placed additional sanctions on the country.

Also read: The US is seeking wide authority to hunt down North Korean ships and board them

Russian and Chinese ships have recently been caught exchanging goods and resources in ship-to-ship transfers, as has a ship registered in the Maldives.

The new efforts would expand the scope of the interceptions to possibly include searching and seizing North Korean ships in international waters. Currently, nations only have the authority to conduct these operations within their own waters, where North Korean ships that break sanctions rarely travel through.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
North Korean cargo vessel Dai Hong Dan. (Photo from US Navy)

“There is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un we mean business,” a senior American official recently told Reuters.

But the effectiveness of such operations is likely to be limited, Richard Weitz, the Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis and the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider.

Related: Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“The problem is the legal complexity,” Weitz said. “Just stopping every ship that leaves North Korea is too far for countries like Russia and China.”

If any maritime operation were to succeed, Russia and China would likely need to be physically involved, conducting joint patrols and interdictions on the Korean Peninsula with US and other regional navies.

Limited effectiveness of maritime interdictions

China’s cooperation would be particularly important, as Donald Rauch, a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer and former Commanding Officer of USS Independence, recently argued in Foreign Policy.

“Such a move would convince North Korea that its sole ally and biggest trading partner had reached the end of its strategic patience,” Rauch writes.

However, the likelihood that China would be part of this kind of operation is low, given that China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the West.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
The North Korean vessel Kum Un San 3 conducts a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, with the Panama-flagged Koti in an effort to evade sanctions, December 9, 2017. (US Department of the Treasury)

Still, more aggressive maritime interdictions, conducted in cooperation with partners in the region, could help with sanctions enforcement and could possibly slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ICBM ambitions.

“I’d imagine that you could supplement it with good satellite intelligence, good espionage in the countries that are receiving the materials, and intercepted communications,” Weitz said.

More: North Korea now has 7 missiles that can strike the US

“It will be useful and it will certainly adapt and its an area that needs to grow, but unless China and Russia were really going all the way in, it’s going to be imperfect.”

Weitz also pointed out that North Korea will likely find another way to continue to get the materials and money it needs.

“Insofar as the maritime interdiction becomes more effective, the more North Korea will then turn to other means of smuggling material in and out,” he said. “Whether it be by air, through China, or other methods.”

Articles

This Air Force officer and his son bonded on Civil War battlefields

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online


Music from a fife and drums rang in the ears of a father and son as they sat around the campfire. Brian E. Withrow and his 14-year-old son, Josh, talked with fellow re-enactors, also clad in Union blue, the night before their first re-enactment at the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Now and then, the discussion turned to times on the battlefield when the re-enactor could almost feel as if he was actually walking in the boots of a Civil War Soldier.

Fifteen years later, the Withrow duo are back in camp at the same Virginia battlefield, except the son is now a 29-year-old re-enactment veteran, and the father plays a commanding general’s assistant chief of staff . What hasn’t changed is their shared love of history, and the one thing that has kept them returning to re-enactment battlefields is the search for those special times when they feel almost transported back in time. They call those times “Civil War moments.”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

“An example was at the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, and we were doing the battle through the cornfield,” said Brian, a retired lieutenant colonel and munitions officer. “It was early morning, still dark, with just the glimpses of light coming up. There was a mist over the field. The artillery was firing, and I could see the blasts from their muzzles.

“In front of me, the very first wave of federal soldiers was given the command to go into the cornfield. For that brief moment, there were no telephone poles, no vehicles. There was just the cannon fire and musketry fire with one of the just-right conditions and glimpses that give you that moment of, ‘Wow! That must have been what it was like.'”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

An interest in U.S. history from his youth led Brian to consider the re-enactment hobby when he was stationed at the Pentagon in 1997, with the numerous Civil War battlefields in Maryland and Virginia. Josh shared the love of history, so the two attended re-enactments together as spectators until his father asked him if he would like to try the hobby with him. They watched the 136th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia in 1999, and after talking to re-enactors in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, Company B, they decided to join the unit.

Josh was still two years away from his 16th birthday, so he wasn’t able to carry a weapon at their first re-enactment at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park later that year, but as it turned out, he was right where the action was. In the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864, forces led by Gen. Jubal Early over-ran federal forces, although Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan later made his famous ride to lead a rout of the Confederates, which helped the Union crush the resistance in the Shenandoah.

“I was too young to carry a gun, and I didn’t have any shoes that would fit me, so I had to stay in the tent while my dad went to take the field,” Josh said. “But, of course, the battle came to me. I was sitting there inside the tent, while there were two rows of infantry firing at each other around me, and it’s lighting up with the gunpowder. It was so dark outside, and all you could see were the flashes of the muzzles of the guns. It was just one of the coolest things I’d ever seen, and we were thinking, ‘We are going to keep on doing this.'”

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

Brian’s interest in re-enacting began with a question about his ancestors’ role in the Civil War. Through his research and participation in re-enactments, he was able to correct what the family believed about an ancestor who fought and died in the war. For years, the family’s oral history showed that George Dugan, a private in the 10th Illinois Infantry, died in a Confederate prison in Andersonville, Georgia. By the time he’d participated in the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, Brian had learned he actually died in action there, a fact he didn’t know when he attended the same battle as a private 10 years earlier.

“I now have a personal connection,” Brian said. “Not only had he died there, but fortunately for my family line, he had a son who ended up being my great great-grandfather.”

A glance at the uniforms in a closet in the family home in Stafford, Virginia, shows the variety of ranks Brian portrays in his hobby. He plays the role of Union Soldiers, as well as those from the Revolutionary War, from the ranks of private all the way up to the commanding general of the Union Army. After he retired from the Air Force, Brian let his beard grow, which coupled with the cigar he often has in his mouth in camp, gives him a resemblance to a U.S. history legend, Gen. (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

While on the board of directors that created the Stafford Civil War Park, Brian portrayed a colonel in the 55th Ohio Infantry at the grand opening in 2013, and spectators saw the beard and cigar and mistook him for Grant. The mistaken identity kept happening at subsequent reenactments and historical events, even to the point where Confederate re-enactment forces “captured” him, thinking they’d caught the overall Union commander. He was eventually asked to portray Grant for the 150th anniversary re-enactments in 2011 and 2012.  Brian impersonates the famous general for the Civil War Impressionists Association in annual events at the National Mall in Washington and at numerous Civil War historic sites.

“I’m still a private in Company K of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, so I still go out and do events as an infantry private,” Brian said. “Then again, I can put on three stars, and I can be the commanding general. I can play a private or the general-in-chief with equal enthusiasm.”

When he began the hobby, Brian had no interest in portraying an officer. He was still on active duty, and he wanted to experience a taste of a Union private’s daily life. However, after his Air Force retirement six years ago, he had an opportunity to join the Army of the Potomac headquarters staff as a guidon bearer for the command officer, which was appealing to him because of his love for horses, and in the past year he’s served as the commander’s assistant chief of staff.

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Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

The night before the re-enactment at Cedar Creek, Brian was also promoted to brigadier general and will transition into the role of the staff’s commanding officer.

Serving as an officer in a Civil War re-enactment unit is obviously completely different from an active-duty career. For example, there is no Uniform Code of Military Justice to keep them bound to the unit or to commander’s orders. Still, Brian has found common ground between the two. Safety, self-aid and buddy care, and survival training, as well as his logistics knowledge from a career in munitions, have all come into play at different times in the field. Also, Soldiers in the 19th century operated on a code that wasn’t too different from the Air Force Core Values.

“From my research, I can’t say that they had what they called core values,” he said. “But clearly, in particular, the Soldiers who had been trained formally through the military academies during that time period, had a value system based on personal honor and morality. I think those attributes defined what it meant ideally to be a good Soldier then, and those traditions from our early American military experience are what evolved into what we call our core values now.”

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Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee | Airman Online

For just a few days, re-enactors like the Withrows not only try to help re-create historic battles, but also get a taste of the living experiences Soldiers on both sides endured in the Civil War. Along with the bonding experiences when they swap war stories and glimpses of their lives with fellow re-enactors, they also sometimes experience some harsh conditions. They faced below freezing weather at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek in April, and there was the other extreme, where they faced temperatures above 100 degrees with elevated humidity at the 150th Battle of First Manassas in July 2011.

“We got just a little taste of some of the environmental conditions these Soldiers went through,” Brian said. “The difference was we came out and may experience some of those conditions for a weekend. That gives you an appreciation for the fact that these guys did this week on end, month on end, on forced marches of 10 to 15 miles, summertime and wintertime. Again, we get this little glimpse, just a little taste of what they may have experienced.”

These days, it is difficult for both father and son to make every battle as they were able to do when Josh was younger. He’s not able to attend most re-enactments because of his schedule as a legislative affairs manager for Freedom Works in Washington. Since his father retired, his schedule as a government employee at Fort Belvoir also keeps him busy. But their love of the hobby remains as strong as it was around that campfire 15 years ago. Hearing the fife and drums still sounds sweet to their ears.

Articles

This is how Army snipers train to be one-shot killers

During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.


To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.

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Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian and co-trainer Tarrol Peterson look for snipers during the 10-day sniper training course at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.

The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.

Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.

XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.

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Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, move to a new location for a training scenario during the XCTC Exercise on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”

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Staff Sgt. John Brady, a sniper instructor at the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighter School at Fort Drum, New York, explains why a sniper from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was spotted.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.

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US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”

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Brady instructs snipers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on hasty scope maintenance.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.

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US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack
US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Scotty Bob went from Marine combat cameraman to pro base jumper

Veteran U.S. Marine Corps combat cameraman Scotty Bob loves to jump out of perfectly safe aircraft. He got his first taste of what would become his career at age 19 when his attachment to Marine Force Recon sent him to U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“That’s kind of where I bit the bug,” Bob told Coffee or Die. He now lives in Southern California as a professional base jumper working with Squirrel Wingsuits. He also works with Kavu, maker of the well-known Rope Bag.


BRCC Presents: Scotty Bob

www.youtube.com

Back in the Marines, Bob didn’t get to jump very often. He deployed to Iraq twice, in 2007 and 2009, and spent most of his time with line infantry units. “Once we get deployed, we’re kind of property of the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force),” he said. “I think I was the only combat cameraman with jump wings.”

For anyone unfamiliar with the role of a combat cameraman, Scotty said that “if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ it’s the exact same job. The guy who wrote the manuscript of that movie for Stanley Kubrick, he was my MOS (military occupational specialty).”

After his five-year stint in the Marines, Bob left in 2010 and soon realized that college was “not really my thing.” So he began his skydiving and base-jumping career in Virginia.

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(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)

As with many career paths, Bob said, one starts in the skydiving industry with “entry-level jobs, and you tend to work your way up the ranks. And for me it started as a parachute packer.” He worked long hours and did not get to jump very often, but his foot was in the door.

After spending a while working in Virginia, where he grew up, Bob decided to head west. He said that once “you spend a couple years skydiving on the East Coast, you realize you need to move West. In California, we can jump year round.”

By 2013, he had earned tandem instructor certification, and Bob was well on his way to living his dream.

He has jumped everywhere from Virginia to Alaska, where he jumped out of de Havilland Beavers. He described the Alaskan experience as “just flying down mountains.” He even jumped Pioneer Peak, one of the most iconic mountains of the western Chugach range, not far from Anchorage.

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(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)

In his day-to-day life, Bob tests new wingsuits for Squirrel Wingsuits and coaches people in wingsuiting.

“I do that basically seven days a week,” he said, adding that “the base-jumping community especially has a massive veteran community, it’s pretty scary. When we have events, at least in the States, you can throw a rock and hit three Marines.”

As for the future, Bob says that he is happy where he is. “I’ve reached the holy grail of jobs,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Top general says US still vulnerable to North Korean missiles

The head of the Missile Defense Agency has expressed concerns about America’s long-term ability to defend the homeland in the face of growing threats from North Korea.


The U.S. military conducted a successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) intercept test in May. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. The results of the test have boosted the MDA’s confidence, but there is still much more work to be done.

The test involved a new exoatmospheric kill vehicle and a faster target, although perhaps not as fast an actual incoming ICBM.

Vice Admiral James Syring, the director of the MDA, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the recent intercept test was an “exact replica” of what the U.S. would face in the event of a North Korean missile strike.

“The scenario that we conducted was maybe more operationally realistic than not,” he explained.

Although the recent test was successful, Syring expressed concerns about the North Korean ballistic missile threat.

North Korea has tested multiple new ballistic missile systems this year. The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile and Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile could be the technological predecessors to liquid and solid-fueled ICBM systems.

“Today, we are ahead” of the threat, Syring explained in his testimony, “We need to stay ahead.”

“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat; I would say we are addressing the threat that we know today,” Syring testified. “The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea.”

North Korea does not yet have an ICBM, but it appears to be moving in that direction at an accelerated pace. While the North may still be several years from developing this kind of technology, defense officials believe that it is necessary to assume that North Korea can “range” the U.S. with a long-range ballistic missile.

In the wake of the recent test, the Department of Defense upgraded its assessment of the capabilities of the U.S. missile shield. For years, the U.S. has maintained “limited capability” to defend against North Korean missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system has “demonstrated the capability to defend the U.S. homeland from a small number of intermediate-range or intercontinental missile threats with simple countermeasures,” the Pentagon said in a recent memo, according to Reuters.

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During a test of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system on May 31, 2017, the U.S. successfully intercepted an intercontinental ballistic missile target. Photo by U.S. Missile Defense Agency

Nonetheless, the system needs improvements. “It’s just not the interceptor, the entire system,” Syring said June 7, “We are not there yet.”

“We have continued work with the redesigned kill vehicle. We have continued work with the reliability of the other components of the system to make it totally reliable,” he said. “We are not done yet.”

Some expert observers have suggested that the recent intercept test may not have been as realistic as the MDA claims, leaving something to be desired.

“I think Syring was overstating the case,” Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and senior research associate in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The DCNF. “A real situation involving ICBM attack could include such unpleasant circumstances as multiple, simultaneous launches on different trajectories; decoys and chaff; intercepts in the shadow of the Earth (not illuminated by sunlight); and attacks on the [Ballistic Missile Defense] system itself by various means.”

“The intercept geometry, as depicted by MDA, in no way, shape or form resembles a [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] ICBM attack against [the continental U.S.],” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program in the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted Wednesday. “To be fair, MDA was right to walk before trying to run. A (sic) easy test is totally fine, but Adm. Syring appears to be over-claiming a bit.”

The range of the mock ICBM was 5,800 kilometers, which would give the missile a much slower closing speed than a real North Korean ICBM covering a distance of 9,000 to 11,000 kilometers would have. Faster closing speeds, according to Laura Grego, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, “give the interceptor less time to make course corrections, and are therefore more stressing for the interceptor.”

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A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. (Photo by Flickr)

The head-on engagement trajectory of the May test is also inconsistent with the likely conditions of a North Korean strike.

“This test approximates many aspects of an intercept against an ICBM launched from North Korea, but the target and intercept geometry would be very different in a real attack,” Lewis told TheDCNF. “The missile would be launched closer to the interceptor site, would have a significantly longer range, and (in the case of an attack on DC) moving away from the interceptor site at a much greater angle.”

“MDA is limited by the existing test infrastructure and the very high cost of tests, so we should be reasonable about how realistic MDA can make any test,” he added. “But, in exchange, MDA needs to be reasonable in making claims about what has been demonstrated.”

Other scholars, however, believe the recent intercept test was a big breakthrough.

“This is a good day for homeland missile defense and a bad day for Kim Jong-un,” Thomas Karako, the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in response to the test.

During the June 7 congressional hearing, Syring said that in an actual combat scenario, the U.S. would fire off a salvo of interceptors to better address the threat.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Articles

US Army may have handed $1 billion in weapons to ISIS

The US Army has failed to monitor over $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq, Amnesty International said in a report citing a 2016 US government audit.


The now-declassified document by the US Department of Defense audit was obtained by the rights group following Freedom of Information requests.

The audit reveals that the DoD “did not have accurate, up-to-date records on the quantity and location” of a vast amount of equipment on hand in Kuwait and Iraq.

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A U.S. Army HMMWV in Saladin Province, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Some records were incomplete, while duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and the lack of a central database increased the risk for human error while entering data.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the US army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” stated Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher in the report.

The rights group stated in its report that its own research had “consistently documented” lax controls and record-keeping within the Iraqi chain of command, which had resulted in arms winding up in the hands of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

“After all this time and all these warnings, the same problems keep occurring,” Wilcken said.

‘Irresponsible arms transfers’

The military transfers were part of the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, a program that appropriated $1.6 billion to provide assistance to military and other security services associated with the government of Iraq, including Kurdish and tribal security forces.

The transfers included small arms and heavy weapons, machine guns, mortar rounds, and assault rifles.

“This effort is focused on critical ground forces needed to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL in Iraq, secure its national borders, and prevent ISIL from developing safe havens,” the DoD said in a report justifying ITEF.

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An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round in Mosul, Iraq. (Photo: US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske)

“If support is not provided American interests in the region would be undermined.”

In response to the audit, the US Army has pledged to implement corrective actions.

“This occurred during the Obama administration as well, and groups such as Amnesty International repeatedly called on irresponsible arms transfers to be tackled, as the weapons were not only falling into the hands of groups like ISIL but also pro-Tehran Shia jihadists fighting for the Iraqi government,” Tallha Abdulrazaq, Security Researcher at the University of Exeter told Al Jazeera via email.

“While ISIL certainly needs to be fought, if this is achieved by hurling arms at groups that are just as extreme as the militant group, how does that resolve the situation?”

Amnesty International has urged the US to comply with laws and treaties to stop arms transfers or diversion of arms that could fuel atrocities.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian businessman likely died of natural causes

A Russian businessman who was found dead in southern England six years ago likely died of natural causes, a British inquest has found.

Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London in November 2012, and there have been suspicions that he might have been murdered by poisoning.

“I am satisfied on the evidence I have heard I can properly and safely conclude that it was more likely than not that he died of natural causes, namely sudden arrhythmic death syndrome,” Nicholas Hilliard, who led the inquest into Perepilichny’s death, said on Dec. 19, 2018.


“There really is no direct evidence that he was unlawfully killed,” Hilliard added.

Perepilichny, a Russian tycoon and Kremlin critic who sought refuge in Britain in 2009, had been helping a Swiss investigation into a massive Russian money-laundering scheme. He also provided evidence against Russian officials linked to the 2009 death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

While police said at the time that there was nothing to suggest foul play, suspicions were fueled when an expert told a hearing that traces of a rare, deadly poison from the gelsemium plant had been found in his stomach.

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Aleksandr Perepilichny collapsed while out jogging near his home south of London.

His stomach contents were flushed away during the first post-mortem investigation, making further testing difficult, but scientists concluded the unidentified compound had no link to the gelsemium plant species and was found in cheese and meat.

Perepilichny had eaten soup containing sorrel for lunch the day he died, a fact that stoked speculation it had been replaced with gelsemium. But his wife Tatyana also ate the soup, and told the inquest she did not believe her husband was murdered.

Hilliard said that he could not totally rule out the use of poison, but that none of the evidence pointed to it.

Hilliard said that London police contacted him in December 2018 to confirm they were not conducting an investigation into Perepilichny’s death and that there was no evidence of “any hostile state actor” being involved.

He also said that he had considered the case in the context of the killing of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko who was poisoned in London in 2006 with radioactive polonium-210.

A 2016 inquiry concluded Litvinenko’s murder was carried out by two Russians and was probably ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

In September 2018, Hilliard ruled that material about possible links between Perepilichny and British spy agencies would remain secret.

He said the material was “marginal” to resolving the question of how the businessman died and that releasing documents from British spy agencies MI5 and MI6 relating to Perepilichny could harm national security.

The British government earlier said police had completed a review of the Perepilichny case and 13 other deaths linked to Russia following the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018.

It concluded there was no need to reopen any investigation.

Britain blames the Russian government for the poisoning of the Skripals with the nerve agent Novichok. Moscow denies any involvement.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pakistani military allegedly hacked US and partner phones

The Pakistani military allegedly coordinated a surveillance operation which collected data from US, UK, and Australian officials and diplomats.

Researchers from US mobile-security company Lookout found Western officials were unintentionally caught up in a data-gathering operation which used surveillanceware tools dubbed Stealth Mango (for Android) and Tangel (for iOS).


In a report released in May 2018, Lookout researchers said they believe Pakistani military members were responsible for hacks targeting civilians, government officials, diplomats, and military personnel in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the UAE.

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US military hardware
(Lookout photo)

“These tools have been part of a highly targeted intelligence gathering campaign we believe is
operated by members of the Pakistani military,” the report read. “Our investigation indicates this actor has used these surveillanceware tools to successfully compromise the mobile devices of government officials, members of the military, medical professionals, and civilians.”

According to Lookout, which analyzed 15gb of compromised data, perpetrators largely targeted victims via phishing messages which linked to a third-party Android app store.

Once a surveillanceware app was downloaded it was able to access text messages, audio recordings, photos, calendars, contact lists for apps including Skype, and the phone’s GPS location. It also had the ability to detect when a victim was driving and turn off SMS and internet reception during that time.

On at least one occasion the app store URL was sent via Facebook messenger which, according to Lookout, suggests “the attackers are using fake personas to connect with their targets and coerce them into installing the malware onto their devices.”

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A letter from the Pakistan High Commission to the US Ambassador.
(Lookout photo)

The individuals targeted in this campaign unknowingly gave hackers access to pictures of IDs and passports, the GPS locations of photos, legal and medical documents, internal government communications, and photos of military and government officials from closed-door meetings.

Officials and civilians from the US and Iran, as well as British and Australian diplomats, were not targeted in the operation but their data was compromised after interacting with Stealth Mango victims.

Some of the victims’ compromised data included:

  • A letter from the United States Central Command to the Afghanistan Assistant Minister of Defense for Intelligence
  • A letter from the High Commission for Pakistan to the United States Director of the Foreign Security Office Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by Australian Diplomats
  • Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by German Diplomats
  • Photos of Afghan and Pakistani military officials

It’s unknown when Stealth Mango was launched, but its latest release was made in April 2018.

Lookout believes it was created by freelance developers with physical presences in Pakistan, India, and the United States, but actively managed by actors in Pakistan who are most likely members of the military.

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Australian diplomat’s travel details in Pakistan.
(Lookout photo)

The main developer is thought to be a full-time app creator. Lookout suspects he once worked for a company based in Sydney, Australia. On LinkedIn, most of the company’s employees are based in Pakistan.

When contacted by Lookout, Google said the apps used in this operation were not available on the Google Play Store, but “Google Play Protect has been updated to protect user devices from these apps and is in the process of removing them from all affected devices.”

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

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