Russian military aircraft — everything from long-range bombers to advanced fighters to spy planes — have ventured close to Alaska three times in one month, twice prompting US F-22 stealth fighters to intercept the aircraft.
Two pairs of unidentified Russian maritime reconnaissance aircraft flew past northern Alaska Sept. 21, 2018, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced in a statement, noting that while the surveillance aircraft entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, they remained in international airspace.
The flight follows an alarming incident Sept. 20, 2018, in which two unresponsive Russian Tu-160 bombers approached the British coastline, causing France and the UK to scramble fighters to intercept the supersonic aircraft.
“Russian bombers probing UK airspace is another reminder of the very serious military challenge that Russia poses us today,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement, adding, “We will not hesitate to continually defend our skies from acts of aggression.”
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160.
Japan encountered similar problems on Sept. 19, 2018, when it sent fighters to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching Japanese airspace. The same thing happened in early September 2018.
Two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers accompanied by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets approached western Alaska on Sept. 11, 2018, leading the US to dispatch two F-22s in response.
A similar incident occurred on Sept. 1, 2018, when two of the same type of bomber entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone south of the Aleutian Islands. Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighters were sent out to deal with that situation as well.
Following the first incident early September 2018, American defense officials speculated that the Russian bombers may have been practicing for possible cruise missile strikes on US missile defense systems in Alaska, although the true purpose of the flights is difficult to discern.
While seemingly disconcerting, Russia does this sort of thing fairly regularly. Russian Tu-160 bombers flew past Alaska in August 2018, and another pair of bombers did the same in May 2018. These flights come at a time in which tensions between Moscow and Washington are on the rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.
Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.
Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.
The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.
“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.
A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.
“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”
The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.
Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.
“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.
In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.
A UH-1N Huey helicopter.
The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.
The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.
The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.
The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.
The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Video posted on YouTube and numerous social media sites appears to show a Kilo-class attack submarine in very close proximity to a raging fire with thick black smoke.
The footage was filmed in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, home of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. Five submarines and a number of vessels are seen moored in close proximity to one another. Two submarines are very close to the blaze, with the fire possibly touching at least one submarine.
The Pacific Fleet’s press service released a statement saying that the fire was part of “damage control exercises,” which seems unlikely given the intensity of the blaze.
The Kilo-class submarine is one of Russia’s main non-nuclear attack submarines. Designed and first fielded in 1980, the sub has been sold to and is used by a number of countries, including China, India, Iran, and Vietnam.
Kilo-class submarines based out of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were recently used to launch cruise missiles into Syria.
The Kilos have had a history of accidents, especially in India. In 2013, a fire erupted on the INS Sindhurakshak, which caused an explosion that killed 18 crew members and sank the sub. In 2014, a fire started on the INS Sindhuratna that killed two Indian Navy officers. That fire was blamed on malfunctioning batteries.
In 1998, Steven Spielberg put forth what’s considered one of the best war movies of all time, Saving Private Ryan. The filmmaker brings audiences inside the life of an infantry squad as they maneuver through the bloody battlefields of World War II.
Saving Private Ryan follows a squad of Army Rangers whose sole mission is to locate one soldier and bring him home after his brothers were discovered to be killed in battle.
Despite the film’s title, the movie doesn’t center around the eponymous Pvt. Ryan, but rather the men who bear the struggles of war to find him.
So, check out five reasons why we think Saving Private Ryan should have been about Pvt. Ryan.
5. The Ryan brothers getting separated
After the audience learns that 3 of the 4 Ryan brothers have died in battle, General Marshall is informed that they were all separated due to the Sullivan Act.
Watching the Ryan brothers as they get split up, knowing it might be the last time they would ever see one another, would’ve been an exceptionally powerful scene.
These Army officers discuss the news of Pvt. Ryan’s dilemma and formulate a plan to get him out. (Image from DreamWorks Studios)
4. The paratrooper’s perspective
At one point in the film, Capt. Miller learns about all of the mis-drops that affected airborne soldiers, including Pvt. Ryan. How awesome would the footage have looked with Spielberg behind the camera, capturing the paratroopers’ perspectives on inaccurate drops?
Lt. Colonel Anderson informs Capt. Miller of his new and incredibly difficult mission — find one man in the whole damn war. (Image from DreamWorks Studios)
3. The first battle over the bridge
Cpl. Henderson debriefs Capt. Miller on their bloody encounters with the Germans while babysitting the bridge. Some of us would have rather seen that intense footage as opposed to watching one of our favorite medics pass away as a result of an avoidable firefight.
2. Humanizing Pvt. Ryan
Let’s face it, Pvt. Ryan isn’t our favorite, but we understand why he didn’t want to leave the only brothers he had left. But, a few minutes before the Germans show up to fight, Pvt. Ryan tells Capt. Miller a funny story of the last night he and his brothers were together.
Actually seeing the Ryan brothers all together, causing a ruckus, would bring some comic relief to an otherwise dark film.
Toward the end of the film, Capt. Miller brings Ryan in close and tells him to “earn this.” These simple words have a significant impact on Pvt. Ryan’s life moving forward. But, outside of bringing his family to Capt. Miller’s grave, we don’t know how Ryan lived out his days.
Centering the film around Pvt. Ryan and showing a montage his successful, post-war life could help give us closure.
Citing military sources with knowledge of the J-20’s development, the South China Morning Post reported that the jets that entered service didn’t feature the engine China custom-built for the platform but used an older one instead.
The Posts’ sources pinned the jet’s troubles on a test in 2015 in which the custom-built engine, the WS-15, exploded — something they attributed to China’s inability to consistently build engines that can handle the extreme heat of jet propulsion.
“It’s so embarrassing to change engines for such an important aircraft project several times … just because of the unreliability of the current WS-15 engines,” one of the sources told the Post. “It is the long-standing core problem among home-grown aircraft.”
How an old engine makes the J-20 fight like an old fighter
The older engine, the WS-10B, is basically the same kind used in the J-11 and J-10 fighters in 1998 and 2002.
Without the new engine, the J-20 can’t supercruise, or fly above the speed of sound, without igniting its afterburners like the U.S.’s F-22 and F-35 can.
“Afterburners do make any fighter much easier to detect, track, and target using Infrared and Electro-Optical systems at closer ranges when in use,” Justin Bronk, a combat-aviation expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Experts have assessed that the goal of the J-20 platform is to launch long-range missiles at supersonic speeds, but they won’t perform as well if they can’t fire at such speeds, Bronk said.
“The major drawback from not having the ability to supercruise in this case would be having to choose between using a great deal of fuel to go supersonic or stay subsonic and accept shorter effective range from the fighter’s missiles and an inferior energy position compared to a supercruising opponent,” he said.
A senior scientist working on stealth aircraft who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of their work previously told Business Insider that the J-20’s design had a decent stealth profile from the front angle but could be exposed from others.
According to Bronk, the older engine may exacerbate that problem.
Did they even really deploy the thing?
A U.S. Air Force affiliate researching the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force told Business Insider that an analysis of imagery suggested the service’s 9th Brigade traded its Russian-made Su-30s for J-20s, but they disputed whether the jet was operational in the way Western militaries use the word.
“The aircraft and its pilots and maintenance group need to master the type before it can be sent on a ‘real’ mission, not a training mission,” said the researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity because their employer’s report has not been released.
The researcher said that even for planes that aren’t stealth and as radically different as the J-20, that could take up to a year, adding that the new WS-15 engines most likely won’t be added until 2020.
So while China claims it has become the only nation other than the U.S. to field a fifth-generation stealth jet, at the moment it looks as if it’s hardly stealth, hardly fifth-generation, and a long way from the field.
Marine veteran James P. Connolly (Sirius/XM Radio, Comics Unleashed) hosted the 6th Annual Veteran’s Day Benefit Comedy Show “Cocktails Camouflage,” at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, California in early November.
All funds raised were donated to Veterans in Film Television (VFT), a non-profit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in film and television and offers the entertainment industry the opportunity to connect with and hire veterans.
In this video, we get to laugh with Navy veteran Steve Mazan, who talks about his foolproof plan to have a celebrity emergency contact.
Leonid Rogozov was one of 13 scientists and researchers on the Soviet Union’s sixth expedition to Antarctica from 1960 to 1962. One morning in 1961, he woke up feeling general malaise, weakness, and feverish along with pain in his abdomen. He soon understood what was happening. His appendix needed to be removed. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could do it.
So he did.
If movies and television taught us anything during the Cold War, it’s that Russians are amazingly strong superpeople who punch with the force of a full ton, can train even the worst armies to become special operators, and seem to know everything about everyone. In this case, movies and television were absolutely right. Rogozov was the only medical doctor on the team of Soviet scientists at Novolazarevskaya Station, almost 47 miles from the Antarctic Coast, separated by the Lazarev Ice Shelf. On April 29, 1961, the morning he woke up with pain in his abdomen, the average daily temperature would have been around 13 degrees Fahrenheit.
The doctor recognized his symptoms as indicative of appendicitis, an inflammation affecting the appendix that can cause it to burst. Without any kind of treatment, this condition can kill in a matter of a few days. Rogozov had to act fast because his condition was only getting worse. He was beginning to vomit and believed his appendix might soon burst. With the help of two fellow scientists holding mirrors, he used a novocaine solution to numb the direct area and then went to work.
No big deal.
The doctor made a 12-centimeter incision and began looking into his own abdomen and the organs within. He noticed his appendix was discolored with a dark stain and estimated it was about to burst. For two hours, he poked around, resected his appendix, and battled bouts of nausea and the weakness caused by his condition. He sometimes even had to work by feeling alone, being unable to see from the angle he was sitting. But the operation was a success.
Four days later, his digestive system began functioning normally. After five days, his fever receded, and after a week, the incision was completely healed. In two weeks, he was back to duty and after a month, back to heavy labor in Antarctica as if he hadn’t just cut out his own appendix.
One thousand service members from around the U.S. are set to call Tyndall Air Force Base’s “Tent City” their temporary home while supporting base recovery efforts.
In just over two weeks since Hurricane Michael made landfall along the base’s coastline, a blend of civil engineering airmen have worked around the clock and successfully brought basic necessities to the installation, which was heavily damaged in the storm.
Master Sgt. Angela Duran, 49th Civil Engineering Squadron team lead, arrived on Tyndall AFB Oct. 13, 2018, just a few days after the storm hit. She and her team of 27 from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, landed in a C-17 Globemaster III filled with equipment.
“When we came in, we had to build our tents first to house us,” she said. “We didn’t really have anything. We brought everything with us so we were able to start tent city.”
The team has since grown to 41, and what started as a 60-tent project has now expanded to 80.
“We put up the first 60 in three and a half days,” said Master Sgt. Jeremie Wilson, 49th CES team lead. “The new 20 will be done in two days.”
Tents aren’t their only task. They have also put in latrines, showering facilities and air conditioning units for the tents – bringing comfort to the city’s inhabitants.
Airmen from the 23rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron, Holloman AFB, N.M., add to the dozens of housing tents they have helped construct on Tyndall AFB, Fla., Oct. 25, 2018.
“It is so rewarding to see people actually be able to go in and use the showers and have a climatized environment to sleep in after their hard day of work,” Wilson said. “They are able to come home, a deployed home, and have some kind of normality.”
Being able to help is especially important to Wilson, who is from New Orleans.
“When Katrina hit, I was deploying and a lot people did a lot of great things for my community and family,” he said. “It feels good to be paying it back, since I have been on the other side.”
For the other members of the team who may not have such strong emotional ties, the work is still rewarding, Wilson said..
“It can be trying work and repetitive,” Wilson said. “They are constantly counting parts and operationally checking equipment, but they are getting the opportunity to actually see the equipment working and being used for a purpose. Everyone is taking a lot of pride in that.”
Duran echoed his sentiment.
“They enjoy it,” she said. “They get to say, ‘this is what we do and what we do it for and we are helping these people out.’ They are getting fulfillment and satisfaction. For some, it is their first time putting training to work.”
The Navy is getting ready to launch its now 56-percent complete second next-generation America-Class Amphibious Assault ship with specific built-in modifications designed to accommodate the emerging Marine Corps variant of the Joint Strike Fighter – the F-35B.
The future USS Tripoli will formally launch sometime next year, Christianne Witten, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior in a statement.
The Tripoli, now called LHA 7, is a follow on ship to the USS America – the first in a fleet of planned new America-Class amphib; the Tripoli is slated to deliver in 2019.
“The super modules have been integrated,” she added.
After delivery of LHA 6 (USS America), a group of changes to the ship’s flight deck structure and equipment were necessary to accommodate the Joint Strike Fighter (F-35B) aircraft, Witten explained.
“These improvements are being incorporated into the basic build of LHA 7, which is expected to yield a better overall technical solution at reduced cost. Additionally, the LHA 7 design will incorporate the Consolidated Afloat Network and Enterprise Services (CANES) and will address fact-of-life and obsolescence instances identified throughout construction of LHA 6 and LHA 7,” she said.
Thus far, the Navy and Marine Corps have made progress with a series of extensive preparations on board amphibious assault ships in order to ensure that their flight decks, sensors and weapons systems can accommodate the first ever deployment of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter slated for 2018.
The Marine Corps short-take-off-and-landing variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B, could be the first ever fifth-generation aircraft in the world to deploy when they serve on board several amphibs in 2018, Marine Corps and Navy leaders told Scout Warrior.
The technological modifications are already complete on the USS Wasp, an operational Navy amphib; they are now underway aboard the USS America and USS Essex while also being built into the USS Tripoli, Navy officials said.
“We have one ship that is fully modified (USS Wasp). LHA 6 (USS America) has received many of the upgrades and is receiving the rest of the upgrades now. USS Essex upgrades are beginning in 2016 and we will phase the other LHD (Navy amphibs) through these modifications in coming years,” Maj. Gen. Christopher Owens, Director of Expeditionary Warfare, told Scout Warrior in an interview last year.
Navy engineers and shipbuilders are doing extensive work on board the USS America, the lead ship in a series of 11 planned America-class big-deck amphibs. The USS America, or LHA 6, was commissioned by the Navy October of 2014 and has completed a trail period known as “post-shakedown availability” and gone on missions to South America to connect with key allies. The ship is slated for full operational deployment with the F-35B in the future.
The USS America will undergo a series of intense modifications in order to ensure that the weapons and sensors and synchronized with the Joint Strike Fighter and that flight deck can withstand the heat of the F-35B vertical take-offs-and-landings.
Navy engineers are installing a new heat-resistant thermally sprayed non-skid, which is designed to prevent long-term heat damage to the flight deck and underlying structure, adding intercostal structural members below landing spots seven and nine. This reduces stress on flight deck, and integrating the flight deck with support equipment, sensors and weapons.
“With the added structure, these two landing spots will provide the capability to perform closely timed cyclic flight operations with the F-35B without overstressing the flight deck,” a Navy official said.
Also, some of the modifications may involve re-adjusting some of the ship’s antennas in order to allow for a clear flight path for the JSF.
Once operational on Navy amphibs, the F-35B will conduct a wide range of missions to include support for amphibious ship-to-shore operations, ground operations, close-air support and what’s called “suppression of enemy air defenses,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Scout Warrior in an interview.
At the same time, the advanced sensor suite and computers on the Joint Strike Fighter will allow for a greater range of missions compared to traditional fighter jets, Burns explained.
“The F-35B will also be used as a C2 (Command and Control), limited offensive and defensive counter air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance,” she added.
Some of these sensors include the F-35s Distributed Aperture System, which places 360-degrees worth of cameras around the aircraft, and a high tech targeting sensor called EOTS, or Electro-Optical Targeting System. The aircraft’s computers also allow for something called “sensor fusion,” a technology which integrates information from a host of different sensors on-board a single screen for pilots to view.
Sensors, combat systems, radars and weaponry on board amphibs are also being upgraded to better integrate with the F-35.
America-Class Amphibious Assault Ships
Much of the effort with the USS America is going inside the ship and dropping lighting and ventilation and piping wiring and everything down far enough so new material can be installed and welded in place, senior Navy officials said.
“The America class is intended to operate for sustained periods in transit and operations in an Amphibious Objective Area to include embarking, transporting, controlling, inserting, sustaining and extracting elements of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force and supporting forces by helicopters and tilt rotors supported by Joint Strike Fighters F-35B,” Witten added.
The LHA 7 design will incorporate a high-tech Navy ship-based computing network called Consolidated Afloat Network and Enterprise Services, or CANES, Navy officials said.
Overall, the USS Tripoli will be 844-feet long and 106-feet wide and have a weight of more than 44,000 tons. A fuel-efficient gas turbine propulsion system will bring the ship’s speed up to more than 20 knots, a Huntington Ingalls statement said.
The ship will be able to carry a crew of 1,204 and 1,871 troops, meaning the ship is being engineered to carry a Marine Expeditionary Unit, the statement added.
America class ships are outfitted with a group of technologies called a Ship Self Defense System. This includes two Rolling Aircraft Missile RIM-116 Mk 49 launchers; two Raytheon 20mm Phalanx CIWS mounts; and seven twin .50 cal. machine guns, Navy officials said.
Unlike previous amphibious assault ships, the first two America-class big deck amphibs are being built without a well deck in order to optimize the platform for aviation assets such as the MV-22 Osprey and F-35B. The ship is configured with more deck and hangar space for aircraft and is designed to maximize the technological advantages provided by the F-35B and Osprey.
One of these strategic advantages, among other things, is described as vertical maneuver – the ability to use the range and speed of the Osprey to forward project mobile units deep into hostile territory possibly behind enemy lines, Navy and Marine Corps units have described.
The third America-class amphib, called LHA 8, will feature the return of the well deck.
Advance Procurement funds for the third America-class ship, LHA 8, were competitively awarded to Ingalls Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), in June 2016, Witten explained. The Construction portion of the contract will be awarded in 2017.”Using Advance Procurement funds, HII has commenced planning as well as initiated the process to procure long lead time materials, she added.
“Using Advance Procurement funds, HII has commenced planning as well as initiated the process to procure long lead time materials, she added.
F-35B Will Change Tactics and Procedures on Amphibs
Part of the challenge to F-35B integration is recognizing how its technologies will change concepts of operations, tactics and procedures; the F-35B is a very different aircraft than the Harrier jets it is replacing, Navy officials said.
Harrier jets, which also have the ability to conduct vertical take-off-and-landings, are multi-role jets primarily designed for light attack missions – such as quickly flying over land locations where Marines are forward deployed and providing close air support.
While the F-35B can perform these missions as well, the new Joint Strike Fighter brings a wide range of new sensors, weaponry and aviation technology to the Corps.
The C5I (command, control, communications, computers, collaboration) requirements for the F-35B will be very different than how the Navy operated the Harrier.
Navy officials also said the service is upgrading the seeker on various ship defensive systems such as the Rolling Air Frame missile and NATO Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile to an active seeker.
Enough Ghurkas accepted the offer and the British set up the Gurkha Brigade. Over 200 years later, Gurkhas continue to serve in the Brigade of Ghurkas, and British officers are still sent to Nepal each year to grade potential recruits and decide which young Himalayan men will be allowed to join the brigade.
The selection process includes interviews and exams, but it focuses on endurance, drive, and physical health. According to the documentary below, thousands of men will come out to compete for positions in the Gurkha units — most of them aiming for the about 230 slots open in the British Army each year.
To get a slot, they have to pass physical tests, math and English exams, and outcompete their peers in races — sometimes with heavy loads on long paths up the Himalayan mountains.
This award-winning documentary from Kesang Tseten follows a group of potential Gurkha warriors through the selection process, showing how they deal with the stress as well as what they must do to even enter training. Check it out below:
A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.
David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.
“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”
Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.
“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.
A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.
Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.
“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.
“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.
Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.
Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.
Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.
Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.
Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.
The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.
“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”
In a bid to dispel Western fears about planned war games by Russia and Belarus, the Russian military said Aug. 29 the maneuvers simulating a response to foreign-backed “extremists” won’t threaten anyone.
The maneuvers, to be held Sept. 14-20 in Belarus and western Russia, have raised NATO concerns. Some alliance members, including the Baltic states and Poland, have criticized Moscow for a lack of transparency and questioned its intentions.
Amid spiraling tensions over fighting in Ukraine, Western worries about the planned maneuvers have ranged from allegations that Russia could keep its forces in Belarus after the drills, to fears of a surprise attack on the Baltics.
Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen. Alexander Fomin, rejected what he described as Western “myths about the so-called Russian threat.”
“The most improbable scenarios have been floated,” he said at a briefing for foreign military attaches. “Some have reached as far as to claim that the Zapad 2017 exercises will serve as a ‘platform for invasion’ and ‘occupation’ of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.”
Fomin said the Russian military will invite foreign observers to the maneuvers, which will involve 5,500 Russian and 7,200 Belarusian troops, about 70 aircraft, up to 250 tanks, 200 artillery systems, and 10 navy ships.
Moscow’s assurances, however, have failed to assuage Russia’s neighbors, which expect the drills to be far greater in scope than officially declared.
Estonian Defense Minister Juri Luik said last month that Moscow could deploy up to 100,000 troops for the maneuvers. Poland’s Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk also questioned Russia’s official claims, saying that Warsaw expects many more Russian soldiers and equipment to be deployed.
Speaking Aug. 28 on Polish state Radio 1, Dworczyk expressed hope that the exercise “will not include any aggressive scenarios” and won’t cause any incidents, adding that “operations on this scale always run this risk.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that the alliance will send two observers to the maneuvers, but noted that access offered by Belarus does not constitute real monitoring. He said NATO is seeking “a more thorough way of observing” the drills.
NATO has rotated military units in the Baltics and Poland and held regular drills in the region — activities that Moscow has criticized as a reflection of its hostile intentions.
The alliance has watched Russian military moves with utmost concern following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Russia had leased a naval base in Crimea prior to its seizure, and used troops deployed there to quickly overtake the Black Sea peninsula.
Speaking in Moscow, Fomin said next month’s exercise will simulate a military response to foreign-backed extremist groups and aren’t directed against anyone in particular.
“Despite the fact that the bulk of it will be held on the territory of Belarus, we had in mind an imaginary adversary unrelated to any specific region,” he said. “According to our estimates, the situation envisaged in the maneuvers’ scenario could develop in any part of the world.”
Dworczyk, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said Warsaw is particularly worried about the possibility that Russia could keep some of its forces in Belarus after the maneuvers.
“Obviously, this would negatively impact the region,” he said.
Belarus has maintained close political, economic, and military contacts with its giant eastern neighbor. Its authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, has relied on cheap Russian oil and billions of dollars in loans to keep the nation’s Soviet-style economy afloat.
But relations between the two allies often have been mired in disputes, as Lukashenko has accused the Kremlin of trying to strong-arm Belarus into surrendering control over its most-prized industrial assets.
Belarus hosts a Russian military early warning radar and a navy communications facility, but Lukashenko has resisted Kremlin pressure for hosting a Russian air base. Some in Belarus voiced fears that the base could provide a foothold for Moscow if it decides to annex its neighbor, like what happened in Crimea.
The flamboyant Belarusian leader has hailed bilateral military cooperation and criticized NATO’s moves, but he has refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia. He also failed to follow suit when Moscow acknowledged Georgia’s breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after a brief 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based independent military analyst, said that while Moscow would certainly like to permanently station its forces in Belarus, Lukashenko will strongly oppose such a move because that could put his nation in cross-fire in case of a conflict between Russia and NATO.
“The possibility of a permanent Russian military deployment in Belarus appears unlikely,” Golts said.
Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst in Minsk, agreed.
“Lukashenko is involved in a delicate balancing act, trying to show his loyalty to the Kremlin without damaging ties with the West,” he said.
The chief of the Belarusian military’s General Staff, Oleg Belokonev, pledged Aug. 29 that all Russian troops involved in the maneuvers will leave Belarus by the end of September.
Peggy Harris was married for six weeks when her husband went missing in action over France during World War II. No one ever tried to tell her about her husband’s fate. A fighter pilot, Billie Harris’ last mission came in July 1944. That’s when the confusion started, a confusion that is much more circuitous than the regular fog of war.
Billie Harris was listed as Missing in Action when he failed to come home from a mission over northern France that day in 1944. Then, the Army Air Forces informed his wife that he was alive and coming home. They then rescinded that as well. To her horror, he was killed and buried in a cemetery in France. And then they told her he was in a different cemetery. Then she was informed by the War Department that they weren’t even sure if the remains they had were Billie’s.
His devoted wife waited and waited, for years and decades, waiting for news about her husband. Until she finally decided to write her Congressman about the issue. Over and over for decades she waited and wrote to members of Congress – all the way through 2005.
In 2005, she got an answer from the Representative from the Texas panhandle, Mac Thornberry. His office informed Peggy that Billie was still listed as MIA, according to the National Archives and Records Administration. Billie’s cousin took it upon himself to look for Billie’s remains personally, to give Peggy some peace. His first stop was requesting the service and medical records for his missing cousin. The records that came back actually revealed his final resting place: Normandy.
First Lieutenant Billie D. Harris died July 17, 1944, the day he went missing. His headstone is one of the hundreds of bright white crosses that adorn the grounds of Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. So what happened? A CBS report found that Thornberry’s office never searched for the record. When CBS did the search, they found Harris listed as KIA.
Thornberry would later send Peggy an apology for bungling the search.
Ever since discovering her husband’s final resting place, she sent his grave a bouquet of flowers ten times a year. Cemetery officials say Peggy Harris is the last widow of World War II’s killed in action who still visits the grave of her departed husband. But that’s not the only news the family discovered in their investigation.
His plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small French town and he was a legend among the locals of the town – Billie D. Harris managed to avoid crashing into the village and instead went down in the nearby woods. The villagers buried him in their local cemetery, so grateful for his sacrifice. Ever since, the residents of the small town have walked down the main street of Les Ventes every year – a street called Place Billie D. Harris – to remember his sacrifice.
Ever since Peggy discovered her husband’s final hours and gravesite, she’s visited the cemetery and Les Ventes every year to celebrate her husband’s life and talk to the people who remember Billie D. Harris as a fallen hero.