The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Special Forces roots of Acting SECDEF Christopher Miller

As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.

But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.

When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.

Christopher Miller as a major in Afghanistan (Image found in Eric Blehm’s book “The Only Thing Worth Dying For.”)

A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.

At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.

So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.

Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.

Green Berets from the 5th Special Forces Group talking with General Tommy Franks, the commander of CENTCOM, in the early days of the war in Afghanistan (U.S. Army).

In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)

Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).

Now, after almost two decades, Miller is still advocating for the unconventional warfare approach, remaining a true believer.

Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.

On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.K. charges 2 alleged spies with infamous nerve poisonings

Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.

Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.


Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.

“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”

Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Skripal previously worked as a military-intelligence colonel at the GRU but was recruited by British spies to pass on state secrets. He was later arrested and imprisoned but was pardoned and released to the UK by the Russian government in 2010.

May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.

The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.

The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.

Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.

(London Metropolitan Police)

Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.

Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.

Poison in a perfume bottle

A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.

It resulted in the death of Dawn Sturgess, who fell ill after applying the substance to her wrists. The other victim, Charlie Rowley, was discharged from a hospital about two weeks after collapsing.

Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.

The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.

Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.

“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.

The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.

Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”

Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Russia suffered after London accused Moscow of being behind the Skripals’ poisoning. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied knowing about the attack.

Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.

(London Metropolitan Police)

The suspects’ whereabouts

The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:

  • March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
  • 5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
  • 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
  • March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
  • 2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
  • 4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
  • March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
  • 4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
  • 10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.

Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Army veteran & ‘Seinfeld’ actor Jerry Stiller dies at age 92

“Jerry Stiller’s comedy will live forever,” shared Jerry Seinfeld of the late Gerald Isaac “Jerry” Stiller, who was perhaps best known for his Emmy-nominated role of George Costanza on the iconic television sitcom Seinfeld.

Stiller’s son, actor Ben Stiller, tweeted the news of his father’s passing early on Monday May 11, 2020, writing that his father had died of natural causes.


I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad.pic.twitter.com/KyoNsJIBz5

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“He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed,” the actor wrote.

Stiller was born in Brooklyn on June 8, 1927 to Bella and William Stiller. Long before he would play the quick-tempered father of Festivus Frank Costanza, Stiller served in the Army during World War II.

After the war, Stiller utilized the G.I. Bill to attend Syracuse University, graduating with a degree in speech and drama in 1950. Shortly after, he returned to New York City where, in 1953, he met his future wife, Anne Meara.

“I really knew this was the man I would marry,” Meara told People in 2000. “I knew he would never leave me.”

She was right. The couple tied the knot in 1954. Stiller and Meara would go on to become a successful comedy team starring in everything from television variety programs to radio commercials to the 1986 television sitcom The Stiller and Meara Show. They were married for over 60 years, until her death on May 23, 2015. They had two children together, Ben and actress Amy Stiller.

For his role of Frank Castanza, Stiller was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997 and garnered an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series in 1998.

Jerry Stiller on being cast on Seinfeld – TelevisionAcademy.com/Interviews

www.youtube.com

Stiller nearly turned his Seinfeld role down. In the entertaining video above for the Television Academy, Stiller shared how he won the iconic role — and turned it into one of the most memorable parts in TV history.

Though he had reportedly intended to retire after Seinfeld, Stiller joined the cast of The King of Queens in order to play the cranky father figure Arthur Spooner from 1998 until 2007.

“This was an opportunity for me, for the first time, to test myself as an actor because I never saw myself as more than just a decent actor,” said Stiller of the role.

Stiller’s robust career expanded beyond television, from Broadway to the big screen to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he also shared with his wife, Anne. After his passing, those who knew him took to social media to share fond memories of their time together.

The rest of us will always remember him as a man who could make us laugh. Rest in peace, Soldier.

The truth is that this happened all the time with Jerry Stiller. He was so funny and such a dear human being. We loved him. RIP Jerry Stiller.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2LdHH0hmHY …

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MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most important rules for setting an ambush

If you’re looking to punch the enemy in the gut and demonstrate just how much better you are than them, an ambush is your tactic of choice. In fact, that punch-to-the-gut scenario can be more literal than figurative — if you have some solid intelligence on enemy patrol or supply routes and you want to strike fear in their hearts, surfacing from the shadows to deliver a swift punch from the hand of justice is a good way to do it.

But ambushes are also a delicate strategy. If you screw it up and expose your position before you’re ready, things can take a turn for the worst. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you out. These are some of the most important rules to follow when conducting an ambush — ones that will help you avoid becoming the ambushed.


It seems like the obvious choice, but it may not be the best one…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Will Lathrop)

Don’t initiate with an open-bolt weapon

This is mostly a rule for Marine Corps infantry, but the idea is that open-bolt weapons are more likely to jam and the last thing you want when initiating an ambush is for the enemy to suddenly hear the bolt clicking on a misfire. It’s better to leave the initiation to someone with a standard rifle, preferably someone who keeps their weapon clean, so you know the first thing the enemy hears is a gunshot.

Move silently and cautiously.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl Justin Updegraff)

Maintain noise discipline

If the enemy hears you rustling in the bushes and you’re not a squirrel, you’re exposing yourself. An ambush is designed to allow you to capitalize on the element of surprise. You lose that when the enemy figures out where you’re hiding.

Keep quiet.

Seriously, don’t be that guy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt Marco Mancha)

Have trigger discipline

Typically, your leader will determine who’s to shoot first (a designated Han Solo, if you will) and, if you aren’t that person, your finger better stay off the trigger until you hear that first shot go off. The gunshot is an implicit command for the rest of the unit to open fire and, once they hear that, it’s open season until your leader calls for a ceasefire.

Don’t be that guy.

Ask your subordinates questions to make sure they know.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl J. Gage Karwick)

Ensure everyone knows their role

Once you’re set into the ambush position, you have to remain silent until it’s time. So, if you’re the leader, make sure everyone knows what their role is and where they’re going to be firing. That way, when the shooting starts, you don’t have to call out many commands.

Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Have a solid egress plan

Ambushes have to be quick, which means you have to spring the trap and leave before anyone really knows what’s happened. You want to hit the enemy hard and fast enough to disorient them, but you want to get out of there before they can muster reinforcements. Otherwise, your short ambush just turned into a lengthy firefight that you’re likely under-equipped for.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine black belt judges Vladimir Putin’s judo moves

Russia is no stranger to carefully crafting military propaganda for Western audiences. From “doomsday” submarines to missiles with “unlimited range,” the Kremlin has a knack for the dramatic when they know it’ll capture the world’s digital attention span. If I’m honest, that’s why I clicked on the link for a recently uploaded video of Russian president Vladimir Putin training with the Russian Judo team.

I expected to see a carefully crafted bit of propaganda meant to hide Putin’s advancing age. Instead, I was surprised to find that the 66-year-old man actually does seem rather spry and capable. Moreover, despite some rust on the joints, he genuinely does appear to know what he’s doing on those mats.


Most real martial arts training looks like this: two people working on techniques at 50% intensity.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

It’s worth noting that despite years of training in multiple forms of martial arts, I’m no expert in Judo. My background began with scholastic wrestling and led to a passionate pursuit of martial arts throughout my time in the Marine Corps. I secured multiple waivers to earn my black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by the time I was a corporal, and then proceeded to join the Corps’ first formal mixed martial arts team, Fight Club 29, under the tutelage of (then) Sergeant Major Mark Geletko. During my time there, I trained largely in American boxing, Muay Thai, and Pankration, before transferring to a unit near Boston, where I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu for a time under Rickson Gracie Cup Champion Abmar Barbosa. Since then, I’ve gotten out of the Corps and moved to Georgia, where I’ve focused largely on Filipino martial arts systems.

I went undefeated in my short semi-pro fighting career, but I left the world of competition behind when I took a solid right hook in sparring and lost much of the vision in my right eye (since repaired). I’m not the toughest or baddest fighter in the world, the country, or probably my state – but I have been around long enough that I can usually pick the real fighters out of a crowd when I see them.

If I were to sum up my expertise, I’d call myself a jack of multiple martial arts trades, but certainly a master of none. I’ve had the good fortune to train with a number of masters though, and it’s not a title I take lightly.

Putin trains with Russian judo champions

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Despite Vladimir Putin holding a black belt in Judo, this video suggests that he’s no master either, though he could have been close once. Coming back to a discipline you’ve left stagnant for years is a lot like riding a bike: you may never forget how to do it, but when it’s been a while, you still look a little foolish. And Putin does indeed seem a bit silly executing the agility drills at the opening the video.

From there, the video moves to what I expected to see: a young man with a black belt serving as Putin’s training dummy and doing a fine job of allowing himself to be thrown, rolled, and balled up, meaning the former KGB agent didn’t need to execute any judo techniques with the requisite form or intensity necessary to actually take down an opponent in a real fight. Putin’s footwork and use of leverage does, however, suggest an active awareness of his body and what it’s supposed to be doing as he executes throws and leg sweeps. Form and leverage are integral to the proper execution of these types of techniques, and while the intensity is lacking, the form does largely seem present.

For plenty of 66-year-olds, this stretch is death defying enough.

(Image released by the Kremlin)

These drills aren’t meant to be street fights, they’re meant to develop the muscle memory required to execute these movements with little or no thought, and in that regard, Putin shows a level of competency in the footage that suggests that at least some of the martial arts awards and honors bestowed upon him may have been legitimately earned.

Of course, I’ve read pieces like this one in the Washington Post where “tough guys” have accused Putin of lacking real chops, since the only footage one tends to find of him are in training environments such as this, but in truth, these claims are largely foolish grabs for attention rather than legitimate criticisms. Training of the sort shown in this video is not only completely normal, it would make little sense for a 66-year-old man to climb in the ring and spar at 100% with anyone just to silence an internet troll–even for someone as bravado-based as Putin.

Putin may not look like a spring chicken in this video, but he does appear to harbor a level of martial arts competency that, while rusty, is certainly more impressive than I’ve seen out of other celebrity martial arts “masters” like Steven Seagal. Is Putin as dangerous as he wants the world to believe? Probably not–but for a Bond villain on the downward slope of his 60s, he doesn’t appear to be a pushover either.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Hurricane Hunters assist with search and rescue

Members of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron assisted the U.S. Coast Guard with a search and rescue mission Sept. 11, 2018, locating a white 41-foot Bali sailing catamaran after completing their mission for Hurricane Florence.

The vessel was making a trans-Atlantic voyage from Portugal to the Bahamas, and was not responding.

The U.S. Coast Guard asked the aircrew to locate, make contact with the missing vessel via VHF radio frequencies, and provide information about the vessel, the number of passengers, safety, and emergency equipment.


“After receiving the request from the U.S Coast Guard to assist with locating a sailboat, I forwarded the information to the aircraft commander to gather information about their intentions due to the storm, the vessel’s capability and equipment,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Moffatt, 53rd WRS navigator. “This isn’t the first time we have conducted a search and rescue mission, because as aviators and even mariners, we have a duty to render assistance.”

After traveling toward the last known location of the vessel, members of the crew hailed the boat, and received a reply. The Hurricane Hunters then turned to the new coordinates obtained from the sailboat crew in order to locate them.

Hurricane Florence approaching the United States on Sept. 12, 2018.

Members of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard, who occasionally fly with the 53rd WRS, assisted the Hurricane Hunters by searching the ocean below for the sailboat, which was located within 10 minutes of arriving at the location.

Once the sailboat crew was located, the aircrew circled the area and continued gathering information, which was relayed to the Coast Guard. The sailboat crew was notified about Hurricane Florence and after their destination and intent was received, the Hurricane Hunters headed back to Savannah, Georgia.

Maj. Brandon Roth, 53rd WRS pilot said, “Although our primary mission is to gather data from storms, we are trained to render assistance in emergencies that occur in the open waters, and often times, we are the only ones available to assist because of that mission.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why the battle buddy system was secretly brilliant

Soldiers of the post-9/11 generation have been part of a social experiment aimed at preventing them from doing dumb things. The idea was to pair each troop with an assigned “best friend” — a battle buddy — and that each pair would keep an eye on one another. Troops have to make sure their comrade is doing the right thing and, if they aren’t, say something before both of them make the blotter.

At its worst, soldiers end up in trouble because their Blue Falcon of a squadmate decides to throw caution to the wind and do whatever’s on their mind. But, as much as soldiers bemoan always having someone by their side — and the system’s goofy name — it’s actually brought about plenty more benefits than downsides.


Even if that means you’re now forced to take that guy into less-than-pleasant situations.

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Robert Taylor)

It makes sure no one is left out

Let’s call the “battle buddy system” what it truly is — a forced-best-friend system. Everyone from the social butterfly specialist to the dorky private is forced to at least talk to each other after they join the unit.

Granted, you’ll eventually either become actual friends through the process — or you’ll swap to someone you’re cooler with — but it opens the social gates for some of the shier soldiers in the barracks.

If your squad leader is happy, everyone’s happy — or you should be terrified. Depends on the squad leader…

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Keeler)

It eliminates much of the stress of being an NCO

Specialists and below often miss the bigger picture when they’re at the lowest rungs of the totem pole, but taking any kind of weight off their shoulders is a blessing. When you’ve got to watch over six soldiers, things get missed and mistakes happen.

When those six soldiers are keeping to themselves and keeping each other in check, there’s a better chance that they’re doing the right thing.

Worst case scenario: You’ve got another person to help you win a fist fight against some overzealous douchebag.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Charles Highland)

It ensures someone will always watch your back

Soldiers stationed overseas in Korea or Germany know this all too well: You can’t even leave post without a battle buddy by your side. Drunk, American GIs being tossed into a foreign city without any means of figuring out how to get back in time for formation is actually pretty common.

Sure, now you run the risk of leaving two soldiers more lost than a butterbar on the BOLC land nav course, but the odds are better that they’ll at least be safe while they’re trying to find their way back.

Hopefully, at least one of you listened to the safety brief.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Johnston)

It’s been proven that dumb stuff happens less frequently

As with everything in the Army, there have been studies upon studies that have analyzed the efficacy versus the cost of telling your squad to be friends with one another. Because, you know, even the Army can make something as simple as drinking a beer with your friend into a PowerPoint slideshow.

It’s simple, really. Soldiers who have a person that’ll say, “what are you doing, you friggin’ idiot?!” are less likely to end up in the commander’s office.

Everyone needs a good, steady shoulder every now and again. It’s the least you can do for someone who’ll do the same for you.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tyler Kingsbury)

It gives soldiers at least one person to talk to when it gets rough

Those studies also point to why the battle buddy system was implemented to begin with — to help decrease the alarming number of self-inflicted deaths and injuries within the ranks.

Everything else on this list is all fine and dandy, but if just a single soldier is saved because they had just one person to talk to, the program is a success. If hundreds of soldiers were talked out of that darkness because their squadmate became their best friend, I’ll forever argue its merit, no matter how goofy it sounds calling another grown-ass warfighter my “battle buddy.”

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 12 edition)

Here’s your Hump Day news lineup:


Now: 5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.


In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.

The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.

The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.

The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.

Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.

Syrian civil war map, showing control by city. Size of circle is proportional to population (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.

Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.

The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.

Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”

Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”

Also Read: A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.

Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.

The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.

Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.

In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.

“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.

ISIS in Syria.

Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.

“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”

Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.

Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.

McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Subpoenaed former Boeing official is pleading the Fifth Amendment

A former Boeing official who was subpoeaned to testify about his role in the development of the 737 Max has refused to provide documents sought by federal prosecutors, according to the Seattle Times, citing his Fifth Amendment right against forcible self-incrimination.

Mark Forkner who was Boeing’s chief technical pilot on the 737 Max project during the development of the plane, was responding to a grand jury subpoena. The US Justice Department is investigating two fatal crashes of the Boeing jet, and is looking into the design and certification of the plane, according to a person familiar with the matter cited by the Seattle Times.

The Fifth Amendment provides a legal right that can be invoked by a person in order to avoid testifying under oath. Because the amendment is used to avoid being put in a situation where one would have to testify about something that would be self-incriminating, it can sometimes be seen by outsiders as an implicit admission of guilt, although that is not always the case.


It is less common to invoke the Fifth to resist a subpoena for documents or evidence. According to legal experts, its use by Forkner could simply suggest a legal manuever between Boeing’s attorneys and prosecutors.

Forkner left Boeing in 2018, according to his LinkedIn page, and is currently a first officer flying for Southwest Airlines.

The Justice Department’s investigation into the two crashes, which occurred Oct. 29, 2018, in Indonesia, and March 10, 2019, in Ethiopia, is a wide-ranging exploration into the development of the plane. The investigation has also grown to include records related to the production of a different plane — the 787 — at Boeing’s Charleston, South Carolina plant, although it is not clear whether those records have anything to do with the 737 Max.

Preliminary reports into the two crashes that led to the grounding — Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 — indicate that an automated system erroneously engaged and forced the planes’ noses to point down due to a problem with the design of the system’s software. Pilots were unable to regain control of the aircraft.

The system engaged because it could be activated by a single sensor reading — in both crashes, the sensors are suspected of having failed, sending erroneous data to the flight computer and, without a redundant check in place, triggering the automated system.

Grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in China following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The automated system, the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), was designed to compensate for the fact that the 737 Max has larger engines than previous 737 generations. The larger engines could cause the plane’s nose to tip upward, leading to a stall — in that situation, MCAS could automatically point the nose downward to negate the effect of the engine size.

The plane has been grounded worldwide since the days following the second crash, as Boeing prepared a software fix to prevent similar incidents. The fix is expected to be approved, and the planes back in the air, by the end of this year or early 2020.

During the certification process, Forkner recommended that MCAS not be included in the pilots manual, according to previous reporting, since it was intended to operate in the background as part of the flight-control system, according to previous reporting.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the only combat jumps US troops have made since 9/11

It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.

Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.


It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.

The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.

Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)

Objective Rhino

Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.

There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.

​Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.

(U.S. Army)

Objective Serpent

The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.

The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.

If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)

Operation Northern Delay

In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.

This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.

Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!

(U.S. Army)

Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan

Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.

RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.

This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.

We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vladimir Putin celebrated his re-election this weekend

Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”


A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.

Also read: Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.

While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.

Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.

The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.

“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.

Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.

She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.

The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”

Foreign reactions

Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.

 

 

Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”

More: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.

But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.

 

 

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.

Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.

“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.

“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.

Putin: ‘No new arms race’

The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”

Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.

Putin — who warned the West on March 1, 2018, that Russia had deployed or developed formidable new nuclear arms — vowed to decrease defense spending but said there will be no problem finding money for weapons and national defense.

The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.

Related: 10 hilarious times Russia trolled the West on Twitter

Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.

“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”

Putin and the seven dwarves

Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”

Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.

The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.

The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.

One of the other four Russian candidates, Grigory Yavlinsky.

Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.

But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”

Reports of fraud

With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.

But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.

Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.

Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.

They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.

More: The NSA chief is unauthorized to fight Russian cyber attacks

Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.

While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.

Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.

Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 next-level ways to celebrate Independence Day

With the Fourth of July nearly upon us, let’s consider how we go about celebrating the independence of the United States. American-as-f*ck movies, barbecues, and brews (before we go ahead and start our own explosive light show) are the most popular ways to go about it.

But there’s nothing wrong with upgrading a few of those ideas.

Beware of going Full Veteran.

Related: 8 veteran AF ways to celebrate Independence Day

Right now, everyone is thinking of celebrating July 4th in the same way you are — and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with however you want to celebrate independence; that’s the beauty of it. But there’s also nothing wrong with constantly trying to outdo each other in a race to create the best party either.

It’s time to Manifest Destiny all over your backyard with these simple ways to upsell everyone on American democracy.


“Yeah, spruce ale. Prove me wrong.” – Ben Franklin

1. Upgrade your brew to something an American Patriot might drink.

Since Budweiser is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian transnational conglomerate, it’s hard to call it the official beer of America’s independence. And while there are many more American beers not yet owned by other countries, we might as well drink what the Founding Fathers drank. Now we just need to find out what this was…

Luckily for us, Yards Brewing Company already did. Using letters and other documents written by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin, the brewers recreated a golden ale, porter, and spruce ale, each of which were once brewed by the Fathers themselves.

2. Upgrade those movies.

I know, the story of a Maverick fighter pilot who plays by his own rules gives you a massive bard-on. But did you know there are other movies that make Top Gun look a high school kid’s fevered daydream while dropping some real knowledge on you?

For example, First Blood, while fictional, has all the same badassery of Top Gun without being so over-the-top that it’s laughable. And it comes with a real message at the end.

Philadelphia, home of Benjamin Franklin, has to use sparklers.

3. Take advantage of state laws when buying fireworks.

The great thing about these United States is that powers not reserved for the Federal government are delegated to the States — and the Feds don’t give a damn about fireworks. So, just because it might be illegal to purchase in one state doesn’t mean you can’t drive to another to pick up your 4th of July Arsenal of Democracy ammunition.

Sorry, Pennsylvania.

Even if you prefer the hot dog, you can even expand those flavors, like with Chicago-style dogs.

4. The meats.

Burgers and hot dogs are classics. No one will argue with you there. But that doesn’t mean that’s all you have to make. There are a lot of crowd-pleasing ways to use those coals you got fired up: brisket, pork chops, steaks, chicken, ribs… the list is endless.

And while the meat is where good BBQ starts, remember the many flavors of America. There’s the tangy mustard-based sauce of the Carolinas (try that with some cole slaw). Or maybe you’re into a heavier, smoky Kansas City-style sauce. There are many to choose from — don’t skimp out.

“We already have Tim Hortons. Next stop, Ottawa.”

5. Succeed where the Revolutionaries failed.

In 1775, Col. Benedict Arnold tried to capture Quebec and free the Canadians from the British yoke. Outnumbered, cold, and outgunned, he was turned back in a rout. It ended the American excursion in Canada during the Revolution — but it doesn’t have to be forever. Arnold tried to invade Canada in November.

SAD.

This is July and they’ll never expect it.