Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it's still dicey - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

The National Guard commander of the U.S. state of Iowa has cancelled a visit to Kosovo over Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj’s refusal to cancel 100 percent tariffs on goods from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Pristina confirmed on Feb. 11, 2019, that Major General Timothy Orr’s visit was canceled “in connection to tariffs of Serbian and Bosnian goods.”

The spokesman added that the embassy had no comment on further visits or scheduled training.


Kosovo Security Forces commander Rahman Rama said he had been told the visit had been scrapped, and then informed Kosovo President Hasim Thaci of the decision in a letter.

“This is a consequence of the fees imposed on Serbia, which prompted the decision of the U.S. government,” Rama told RFE/RL.

Orr was scheduled to arrive for a three-day visit on Feb. 16, 2019, during celebrations for Kosovo’s 11th birthday.

The Iowa National Guard has worked with the Kosovo Security Force as part of the State Partnership Program since 2011.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

Kosovo President Hasim Thaci.

Rama said that cooperation with the National Guard was one of the best partnerships the country has with the United States, not only for its military benefits, but also in the areas of culture and education.

Both Brussels and Washington have pressed Kosovo to repeal the tariff on imported Serbian and Bosnian goods, which has strained international efforts to broker a deal between the former foes.

Kosovo imposed the import tax in November 2018 in retaliation for what it called Belgrade’s attempts to undermine its statehood, such as spearheading a campaign to scupper Pristina’s bid to join Interpol.

Belgrade has not recognized the independence of its former province, proclaimed in 2008 after a 1998-99 guerrilla war.

More than 10,000 were killed in the war, which prompted NATO to launch an air campaign in the spring of 1999 to end the conflict.

The possibility that Serbia and Kosovo might end their long-running dispute through a land swap was briefly floated in 2018.

But the proposal was immediately abandoned following a firestorm of criticism from rights groups as well as Haradinaj, who is against ceding any territory to Serbia and recently said the fate of the tax shouldn’t be linked to relations with Belgrade.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Block leave is coming up and you’re standing outside the orderly room praying that your request gets approved. Fingers crossed, bud. In the meantime, enjoy these 13 memes:


1. How admin. folks remember their training:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

2. Did you know less than 1 percent of dogs will ever serve in uniform?

(via Military Memes)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Here’s to the good boys.

SEE ALSO: The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

3. Because wrecking a vehicle is an awesome profile pic (via NavyMemes.com).

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

4. The most adorable puddle pirate in history:

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Admit it, you’d pay to see that dog wearing an eye patch and tiny sword.

5. Moses knew how to police his troops (via Team Non-Rec).

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

6. And you guys think annual training is a joke (via Air Force Nation).

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
There’s a reason everyone has to be green across the board before they go home for the holidays.

7. That gnawing uncertainty:

(via Team Non-Rec)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Don’t worry, you locked it. Maybe. I’m sure it’s fine. Probably.

8. Are they haze gray heroes in the Coast Guard?

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
They got their own little raft and everything.

9. When your section chief is Mickey Mouse and your skipper is Yensid (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Just don’t use magic for the mopping. It never ends well.

10. Airborne problems:

(via Do You Even Airborne, Bro?)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Airborne: total bad-sses as long as they have 800mg ibuprofen.

11. The Air Force reminds everyone who the fighting-est general of all time was:

(via Air Force Nation)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Few service chiefs openly supported a nuclear first-strike policy.

12. They get you with the candy and swag …

(via Team Non-Rec)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
… then hold you there with your contract.

13. “Where’s your cover? Or pants? I see you didn’t shave today.”

(via Team Non-Rec)

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
These stolen valor morons are getting lazier and lazier.

popular

Who is ‘Roger?’ Military lingo explained

Between colloquial humor and slang, the military says some weird stuff (don’t even get me started on acronyms), but some of the lingo has origins in so-called “voice procedure” and actually kind of makes sense.


Voice procedure is a set of techniques, protocols, and phrases used in two-way radio communications to reduce confusion and maximize clarity.

Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Roger

Saying “Roger” over the radio is shorthand for “I have received your message or transmission.”

If you’ve ever tried spelling your last name over the phone with someone, you know that the English alphabet has letters that sound the same, so phonetic or spelling alphabets were created to convey letters.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

In the ’50s, this alphabet was standardized to the alphabet NATO militaries use today (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc), but when the radio use in the military became prevalent, the word ‘Roger’ was used for “R.”

The “R” in “received” was conveyed with “Roger” — and even though today “Romeo” stands for “R,” good ol’ “Roger” stuck.

2. Mayday

“Mayday” is a signal word used to convey distress. It was deliberately chosen for this purpose in 1923 by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio official in England.

At the time, much of the radio communication was between French and English speakers, so Mockford needed a word that would be understood in both languages and wouldn’t be commonly spoken.

“Mayday” is a rather unique phrase in English, but is also similar to the French word for “help me.”

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still diceyThis is an appropriate time for the use of ‘Mayday.’ (Painting by Pierre Dénys de Montfort, 1801)

To further reduce confusion, “Mayday” is used three times in the beginning of a distress call. It is reserved for incidents where loss of life or craft is imminent — misuse is considered a serious crime.

3. Copy

“Copy” has its origins in Morse Code communications. Morse Code operators would listen to transmissions and write down each letter or number immediately, a technique called “copying.”

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
(Image via Public Domain)

Once voice communications became possible, ‘copy’ was used to confirm whether a transmission was received. Today it still means “I heard what you said” or “got it,” similar to “roger.”

4. 10-4

10-4″ does not actually have its roots in military-speak. Then ten-codes are used primarily by law enforcement to communicate common situations with brevity. For example:

10-4 Message Received

10-9 Repeat

10-10 Fight In Progress

10-32 Person With Gun

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Be careful: ’10-4′ has…alternative meanings…according to Urban Dictionary. (Image via imgflip)

What are your favorite or most baffling military terms?

Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan forces lose key base after failing to resupply

The Afghan Army prioritized transporting captured ISIS fighters to Kabul over re-supplying one of its bases in the northern Faryab province that the Taliban had been besieging for weeks, according to a New York Times report.

The Taliban overran the base on Aug. 13, 2018.

Despite peace talks planned for September 2018 with the US State Department, the Taliban has racked up a string of victories in August 2018 against ISIS and the Afghan military.


In early August 2018, more than 200 ISIS fighters surrendered to the Afghan government after suffering a brutal defeat to the Taliban in the northern Jawzjan province.

Then, the Taliban launched several assaults on cities and Afghan military bases across multiple provinces. The most deadly assault was launched on the strategic city of Ghazni, about 50 miles from Kabul, where more than 100 Afghan security forces were killed along with at least 20 civilians.

Despite contradictory reports from the ground and US and Afghan authorities over the weekend, the fighting in Ghazni appears by Aug. 15, 2018, to have been quelled, with Operation Resolute Support saying on Aug. 14, 2018, that US aircraft had killed more than 200 Taliban fighters from the air.

But there was no help for the approximately 100 Afghan soldiers and border officers at a remote base in the northern Faryab province called Chinese Camp, which about 1,000 Taliban fighters had been attacking for three weeks before mounting heavier attacks in concert with the other assaults it launched across the country, the Times previously reported.

“Since 20 days we are asking for help and no one is listening,” one Afghan officer at Chinese Camp, Capt. Sayid Azam, told the Times over the phone. “Every night fighting, every night the enemy are attacking us from three sides with rockets. We don’t know what to do.”

Azam was killed on Aug. 12, 2018, the Times reported.

Before his death, Azam was apparently irate over the Afghan Army’s decision to use three helicopters to transport the ISIS captives from Jawzjan province to Kabul instead of re-supplying his base, the Times reported.

Azam said that one Army helicopter brought Chinese Camp “three sacks of rice” on Aug. 3, 2018, one day after the ISIS captives were taken to Kabul.

“Can you imagine? For 100 men?” he added.

Afghan politicians had also been taking military helicopters for their own use instead of re-supplying Chinese Camp, which angered Azam as well, the Times reported.

The Times reported that it was difficult to glean if the ISIS captives were being treated as “Prisoners or Honored Guests of the Afghan Government.”

“We lost everything to Daesh, and now the government sends helicopters for them from Kabul and brings them here and gives them rice and meat and mineral water, and provides them with security, and we are not even able to find food,” a resident of Jawzjan province, Abdul Hamid, told the Times in early August 2018.

Chinese Camp finally folded to the Taliban on Aug. 13, 2018, after dozens of Afghan soldiers and border officers were killed and several more surrendered to the Taliban.

The Afghan Defense Ministry, Resolute Support and Pentagon didn’t immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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

Articles

US launches practice bombing runs along North Korean border

The US military dispatched several powerful strategic military assets to the Korean Peninsula Aug. 31 in a “show of force.”


Two Air Force B-1B Lancers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four Marine Corp F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from US Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan drilled alongside four South Korean F-15 fighters, practicing bombing North Korea’s core facilities, according to US Pacific Command.

The B-1 carries the largest conventional payload of any Air Force bomber, and the F-35 is one of America’s top stealth fighters.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Republic of Korea F-15K fighters drop munitions over Pilsung Range during operations alongside US F-35B stealth fighters and B-1B Lancer bombers. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners, and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, US Pacific Air Forces, said in a statement. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

The display of allied military power comes just days after North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan and fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, raising alarms. North Korea called the second launch a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” a reference to its early warnings of possible strikes around the Pacific territory.

The US has sent B-1B bombers ripping across the peninsula before, typically after major provocations by the North. While these aircraft are no longer nuclear-capable, as the necessary components were removed years ago, North Korea often refers to these aircraft as “nuclear strategic bombers,” and they make North Korea extremely uncomfortable.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Weapons dropped from US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II practicing attack capabilities impact the Pilsung Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force.

The North perceives Guam as a forward base for a preemptive/preventative strike on its territory, so for Pyongyang, bomber overflights are disconcerting. North Korea actually cited the B-1B Lancer flights over the Peninsula as one of the reasons it plans to fire missiles around Guam in its own display of power. North Korea revealed earlier this month it is considering launching a salvo of four Hwasong-12 IRBMs into waters around Guam to send a message to President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration has been pursuing a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” which involves using economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table for a diplomatic solution. Trump, however, said Aug. 30 that “talking is not the answer” with North Korea, while stressing that “all options are on the table.”

Secretary of State James Mattis later said, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

US policy is unclear as the Trump administration confronts a problem that has puzzled presidents for decades and is now more complex and dangerous than ever, given that two decades of failed North Korea policy have allowed the reclusive regime to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to distant targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the continental US.

Articles

White House predicts another chemical attack in Syria

The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on June 26 as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.


In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women, and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo from White House YouTube.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.

Assad had denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and pupil constriction.

Days later, President Donald Trump launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base where US officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president months before.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

Syria maintained it hadn’t used chemical weapons and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory. Russia is a close ally of Assad.

The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.

Earlier on June 26th, Trump had dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier that day about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups, and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Asaad, but also on Russia Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”

MIGHTY TRENDING

President is considering a permanent U.S. presence in Poland

U.S. President Donald Trump has said his administration was considering a request for a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland.

Trump made the comments in Washington on Sept. 18, 2018, before a meeting at the White House with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said, adding that “we’re looking at it very seriously.”


Poland has requested the deployment several times and has offered up to billion in funding for a base. U.S. forces currently serve in Poland as part of NATO’s back-to-back rotation program.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

President Donald J. Trump and President Andrzej Duda.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Poland has said a permanent U.S. presence is needed to counter Russian military activity in the region.

Russia has objected to the proposal, saying it views NATO expansion toward the east as a threat to stability in Europe.

Featured image: President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Andrzej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland, and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s new autonomous refueling drone flies for the first time

The U.S. Navy and Boeing announced on Sept. 19, 2019, the first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray test asset from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, which is adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. The drone is set to be the first carrier-launched autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to be integrated in a Carrier Air Wing.

The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1 (Tail 1) and sporting the civilian registration N234MQ, completed the autonomous two-hour flight under the supervision of Boeing test pilots operating from their ground control station. The aircraft completed an FAA-certified autonomous taxi and takeoff and then flew a pre-planned route to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations with the ground control station, according to the official statement.


Capt. Chad Reed, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation (PMA-268) Program Manager, stated: “Today’s flight is an exciting and significant milestone for our program and the Navy. The flight of this test asset two years before our first MQ-25 arrives represents the first big step in a series of early learning opportunities that are helping us progress toward delivery of a game-changing capability for the carrier air wing and strike group commanders.”

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

The MQ-25 unmanned carrier-based test aircraft comes in for landing after its first flight Sept. 19 at MidAmerica Airport in Mascoutah, Ill. The Boeing-owned test asset, known as T1, flew two hours to validate the aircraft’s basic flight functions and operations.

(Boeing)

This first test asset is being used for early development before the production of four Engineering Development Model (EDM) MQ-25s under an USD $ 805 million contract awarded in August 2018 in a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition (MAA) program, which aims to deliver mission-critical capabilities to the U.S. Navy fleet as rapidly as possible.

According to Boeing, T1 received the experimental airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month. Testing of this first development asset will continue over the next years to further early learning and discovery that advances major systems and software development, ahead of the delivery of the first EDM aircraft in FY2021 and in support of a planned Initial Operational Capability (IOC) for 2024.

MQ-25A Stingray Takes First Flight

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The MQ-25 Stingray will be the first operational carrier-based UAV, designed to provide an aerial refueling capability and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and the second UAV to operate from an aircraft carrier, after the Northrop Grumman X-47B Pegasus that was tested both alone (2013) and alongside manned aircraft (2014) from the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The integration of the Stingray into the Carrier Air Wing will ease the strain on the F/A-18E Super Hornets that currently perform buddy-tanker missions in support of the aircraft carrier’s launch and recovery operations, leaving them available for operational taskings.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s What Life Is Like For US Army Tankers

With a 68-ton armored vehicle packing a 120mm cannon, U.S. Army tankers can take the fight to the enemy in just about any environment.


Tankers consider themselves part of a brotherhood with roots in World War I. Now driving the M1 Abrams tank, these soldiers continue that legacy today. Here is a taste of what their life is like.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt Sarah Dietz

Also Read: These Crazy Photos Show 30+ Ton Tanks In Flight 

The Abrams can fire different rounds for different purposes, and tank crews have to train in a variety of environments. That means they get a lot of time on the range.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt. Kim Browne

The crews are tested at twelve different levels, referred to as tables. The tables demand crews prove they can drive, fire, and coordinate together in battle in a variety of conditions.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Caldwell

The main gun is what most people think of when it comes to tanks, but crews also have to certify on the machine guns mounted outside, as well as the M9 pistols and M4 carbines they’re equipped with.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo Credit: Gertrud Zach/US Army

Crews generally have four members. There is a tank commander, a gunner, a driver, and a loader.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

 The inside of the tank can be a little cramped with equipment and crew.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Spc. Luke Thornberry

The driver sits in a small hole in the front of the tank. His control panel is located immediately in front of him.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tankers sometimes bring their family to see the “office.”

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ruth Pagan

Much of the maintenance for the tank is done by the crew.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

Considering everything the M1 is designed to withstand, it can be surprising that tanks sometimes break down because of soft sand or loose soil pushing a track out of place.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

When tanks break down and have to be towed out, it takes specialized equipment. The main recovery vehicle for an Abrams tank is the M88. Here, an M88 rolls up the tread from a damaged Abrams before towing the Abrams to a maintenance area.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: Us Army Sgt. Richard Andrade

Transporting tanks can also be problematic due to the tank’s weight. Crews will generally take their tanks to railways …

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Spc. Marcus A. Floyd

… or Naval ports for transport for deployments or exercises. Here, an Abrams tank is driven off of a ship.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Navy

When the mission calls for it, M1 tanks can also be flown on the Air Force’s largest planes.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Air Force Courtesy Photo

Air Force C-17s, like the one in the following photo, can carry one tank while C-5s can carry two.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley

While on deployment, tankers can end up working for 20-hour days.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army

U.S. tank crews are commonly called on to train foreign allies. Recently, the Iraqi Army got a large number of Abrams tanks and U.S. soldiers provided training.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt. Chad Menegay

Sometimes the mission calls for tankers to operate on foot or from other vehicles. Here, tank crews conduct a patrol in Humvees.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt. Eric Rutherford

The tanker tradition dates back to WWI when the first combat cars and tanks took to the battlefield with tank crews leading the way into mechanized warfare.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: Poster by J.P. Wharton, Public Domain

 Today, US crews continue the tradition, carrying armored combat into the future.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
Photo: US Army Sgt. Aaron Braddy

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Bush’s shoe assailant is running for parliament

Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi achieved international recognition after he threw both of his shoes at President George W. Bush. Now, Iraq’s most well-known political activist is running for the office of Parliamentary member.


He first grabbed the media’s attention in December 2008 when then-President George W. Bush was at a farewell press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.

Partway through the conference, al-Zaidi stood up and shouted, “this is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog!” and threw the first shoe. He shouted, “this is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq” when he threw the second. Both missed. He was quickly arrested for attacking a head of state.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki argued that he should face 15 years in jail or execution. Al-Zaidi alleges he was tortured by the Prime Minister’s security detail. Eventually, he was sentenced to three years for the incident because of his age and clean criminal record, had it reduced to one year, and was released in nine months for good behavior.

During his imprisonment, crowds called for his release and a monument was erected to the shoes that lasted a whole day before being torn down by the Iraqi central government.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey
At least from an artistic perspective, it was kinda clever.
(Screengrab via YouTube)

Ever since the incident, President Bush has taken it in stride saying, “I’m not angry with the system. I believe that a free society is emerging, and a free society is necessary for our own security and peace.” Al-Zaidi, meanwhile, went to Geneva where he announced that he started a humanitarian agency to build orphanages and children’s hospitals in Iraq.

Now, Al-Zaidi is running for one of the 328 seats of parliament on May 12th, making this the first open election since the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS last December. His goals include efforts to rebuild Iraq after the country’s tumultuous recent history.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syria withdrawal under fire after ISIS attack kills US troops

Top Republicans on Jan. 16, 2019, warned President Trump against embracing “retreat” in Syria after an ISIS-claimed attack killed two US soldiers and two other Americans, pointing to the deadly attack as yet another sign the president should back down on his plan to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Trump ally who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggested Trump’s Syria pullout had bolstered ISIS’ resolve.


“My concern by the statements made by President Trump is that you have set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting,” Graham said in impromptu remarks as he chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Graham made it clear he hopes Trump will take a careful look at his policy toward Syria following Jan. 16, 2019’s attack.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. As they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help become more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Graham said in an apparent reference to the rise of ISIS in the years that followed the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011.

Graham said he understood people’s frustrations at the ongoing presence of US troops in Syria, and that “every American” wants them to “come home.” But he suggested that keeping troops in Syria is a matter of ensuring America’s safety.

“We’re never going to be safe here unless we’re willing to help people over there who will stand against this radical ideology,” Graham said.

“To those who lost their lives today in Syria, you were defending America, in my view,” the South Carolina senator added. “To those in Syria who are trying to work together, you’re providing the best and only hope to your country. I hope the president will look long and hard about what we’re doing in Syria.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed Graham’s sentiments.

“[ISIS] has claimed credit for killing American troops in [Syria] today,” Rubio tweeted on Jan. 16, 2019. “If true, it is a tragic reminder that ISIS not been defeated and is transforming into a dangerous insurgency. This is no time to retreat from the fight against ISIS. Will only embolden strengthen them.”

Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a US Air Force veterean who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, also warned of the dangers of “retreating” in Syria.

“Retreating from a fight against ISIS is only gonna send the wrong message and frankly, pour fuel on the recruiting efforts of ISIS,” Kinzinger told CNN on Jan. 16, 2019.

The deaths of the four Americans were a result of an explosion in Manbij, Syria. Three other troops were also injured in the incident.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” Operation Inherent Resolve tweeted Jan. 16, 2019.

In a statement on the incident that made no mention of ISIS, the White House on Jan. 16, 2019 said, “Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria. We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country.”

Jan. 16, 2019’s lethal attack came exactly four weeks after Trump tweeted, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria.” This came as Trump abruptly announced a plan to withdraw the roughly 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, prompting alarm in Washington due to the ongoing, well-documented presence of ISIS in the region.

In the days that followed, Trump flip-flopped on his claim ISIS is defeated as he scrambled to justify the controversial, hasty plan.

The president has faced criticism from the military and politicians on both sides of the aisle over the pullout and the opacity surrounding it. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned a day after Trump made the announcement. Mattis had disagreed with Trump on an array of issues, but the Syria pullout seemed to be the final straw.

The White House has offered little in the way of specifics about the pullout which has led to confusion in the Pentagon and beyond. No US troops have been pulled out of Syria yet, but the military has started withdrawing equipment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA offers mental health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.

One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.


Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.

The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.

You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who

  1. Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
  2. Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.

The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.

Yes, we are still deploying to Kosovo and yes, it’s still dicey

In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.

There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.

Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.

You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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