With the help of his buddy from Team Red, White Blue and a motorized surfboard from WaveJet, triple-amputee Bryan Anderson hits the waves in Malibu the only way he knows how: #BryanStyle.
The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.
Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.
Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).
At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.
Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)
In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.
There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.
“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”
McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.
He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.
“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.
Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.
“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.
Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.
The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.
McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.
Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.
Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
This post is sponsored by Easterseals.
When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.
With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.
While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.
The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.
That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.
“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”
Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”
Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.
Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.
The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.
Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.
The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.
The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.
Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.
“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”
On the first day of the Mosul offensive in Iraq, a Russian fighter came close to colliding with a U.S. warplane in a “near miss” over northeastern Syria, U.S. military officials said Friday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, told NBC News that the nighttime incident Oct. 17 was a “near miss” but said he tended to believe the Russians’ explanation that their pilot simply did not see the U.S. aircraft in the dark.
However, Harrigian said similar close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria have increased in the past six weeks amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria’s civil war and now occur about every 10 days.
In a later statement on the incident, Air Force Central Command said that the Russian fighter was escorting a Russian surveillance aircraft and inadvertently flew across the nose of the U.S. aircraft.
The close call was the result of a “mistake” by the Russians and the U.S. believed that it was “fully unintentional,” the statement said.
“The Russians cooperated by looking into the incident, calling back, and explaining themselves and their pilots actions as an error,” it said.
In a separate briefing to the Pentagon, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Russian fighter came within a half-mile of the U.S. aircraft, but “we don’t believe there was any nefarious intent” on the part of the Russians.
Dorrian did not name the types of aircraft involved, saying only that the Russian aircraft was a fighter and the U.S. plane was a “larger aircraft.” He said the Russian fighter “passed close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” but “no one declared an in-flight emergency or anything of that nature.”
Immediately after the incident, the Russians were contacted over the “deconfliction” hotline set up by the Russian and U.S. militaries to avoid close calls by aircraft on missions in the region.
Harrigian, speaking from a U.S. base in the Mideast, said that, in some cases, U.S. and Russian aircraft flying in close proximity are “not a big deal,” but added, “I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention.”
“We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned,” Harrigian said. “They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”
When asked why the Oct. 17 incident wasn’t disclosed until Oct. 28, Dorrian said, “There wasn’t anybody playing ‘I’ve got a secret.’ ”
He said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the task force commander, was immediately informed of the close call but did not feel that it merited being disclosed as a “breaking news event.”
In this latest episode of Vets Get Real, WATM talks to a group of veterans about the ups and downs of dealing with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the important lessons they learned from transitioning out of the military.
And be sure to keep an eye out for other episodes of Vets Get Real where WATM hosts discussions with vets on topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.
Editor’s note: If you have questions that you’d like to see Vets Get Real about, please leave a comment below.
Under Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, completed a three-day partnership-building visit to Norway, Dec. 12, 2018.
Modly met with senior military and civilian officials to discuss security and stability issues and efforts along with touring some of the Norwegian assets and facilities.
Meetings were held with the U.S. ambassador, State Secretary of Defense, Chief of Royal Norwegian Navy, Commander of Norwegian Defense Liaison Office, members from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Army, Navy, and U.S. Marines on rotation to Norway.
“The U.S. and Norway share a very close military relationship and collaborate on many global, regional and bilateral issues,” said Modly. “Being able to see it first hand was impressive and helped underscore the enduring value of investing in cooperative security relationships.”
During his visit, Modly toured a Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold class Corvette and Fridtjof Nansen class frigate and the facilities at the Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway (MCPP-N).
Royal Norwegian army Lt. Col. Stein-Arlid Ivarrud, left, commanding officer of the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organization-Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly shake hands after a briefing on Norway’s continued support to the U.S. Marine Corps Pre-Positioning Program-Norway.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Paul Macapagal)
“By working together with one of our closest allies, we create force multipliers that enhance our capabilities and build a better understanding of each other,” said Modly. “I look forward to fostering this relationship through our Navy and Marine Corps team.”
On his final day, Modly had the opportunity to have lunch and a discussion with some of the U.S. Marines from the Marine Rotational Force — Europe.
Royal Norwegian Navy Cmdr. (SG) Iris Fivelstad, right, commanding officer of the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup (F312) explains bridge operations to Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during a tour of the ship.
“Marine training in Norway improves cold weather and mountain readiness in Artic conditions,” said Modly. “It also enhances interoperability between U.S. And Norwegian forces. Our marines are getting great training and building enduring relationships with their Norwegian partners.”
Modly is on a multination visit to the European region focused on strengthening partnerships and cooperation in support of the second line of effort of the National Defense Strategy: Strengthening Partnerships and Alliances.
This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.
One of America’s closest allies is preparing to put China’s claims to the test in the South China Sea.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson revealed at a high-level meeting in Sydney, Australia, that the UK will be sending its new aircraft carriers into the region to uphold freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order. Australia has been hesitant to act, fearing increased tension with Beijing.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built,” Johnson explained, “is send them on a freedom-of-navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
The UK’s new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is undergoing maiden sea trials and is expected to be commissioned into the Royal Navy later this year.
British Defense Secretary Sir Michael Fallon confirmed the deployment without providing any real details. “We haven’t mapped out the initial deployments yet but, yes, you would expect to see these carriers in the India Pacific Ocean, this part of the world because it is in this part of the world we see increasing tension, increasing challenges,” Fallon told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.
Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne hinted that Australia might also step up its activities in the area.
“Importantly today, we also discussed developments in our region, particularly with respect to freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight which is a global issue and countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have a shared interest in those global freedoms,” Payne said, adding, “We agreed today that we would identify opportunities to conduct, where possible, cooperative activities in the region when we have assets that are in the area at the same time.”
There still appears to be a certain hesitancy to make the same commitment as the Americans and the British.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, asserting its dominance through the illegal development of artificial islands, the construction of military outposts, and regular naval and bomber patrols in the area. Beijing’s claims were discredited by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague last year, but China rejected both the authority and ruling of the arbitration tribunal, declaring its sovereignty over massive swaths of the ocean to be indisputable.
The Trump administration has started putting increased pressure on China, which has so far failed to rein in North Korea, a major point of concern for the new administration. The US Navy has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations and two bomber overflights in the South China Sea, angering Beijing.
China is building a new space station — the latest move in what some experts see as a brewing space race between China and the US.
China’s UN ambassador, Shi Zhongjun, recently invited the whole world to participate in the new space station.
“CSS belongs not only to China, but also to the world,” Shi told Xinhua, a state news agency. “All countries, regardless of their size and level of development, can participate in the cooperation on an equal footing.”
The new space station could become operational as soon as 2022, according to documents released by the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The US has barred China’s space agency from using the International Space Station (ISS) or sharing any technology over security concerns.
But the ISS may come to an early end. President Donald Trump has said his administration is considering ending the US’s involvement in the space station by 2025, which is three years ahead of the previously accepted schedule.
That change in plans is part of the Trump administration’s larger push to privatize much of the US’s space operations.
NASA has already spent about $100 billion to keep the space station — which functions like an orbiting laboratory for astronauts and scientists — in top shape. The space agency pumps around $3-4 billion per year into the program, but those funds may dry up sooner than anticipated.
Meanwhile, many of the partners behind the ISS are already being courted to invest in China’s new space station, according to hotel billionaire Robert Bigelow, who has his own plan to build an inflatable space station more than twice as big as the ISS.
Europe’s space agency, the ESA, has agreed to a partnership in which European astronauts would be able to use China’s new station throughout the 2020s, reports Ars Technica.
China hopes its future space station can be operational for around a decade and support up to six astronauts for 180-day stays, during which they would conduct research.
Parts of the Chinese space station are already complete, including the core module, dubbed Tianhe-1 or “Harmony of the Heavens.” That module is expected to be sent into orbit as early as 2020, with the rest of the station expected to be completed by 2022.
China is planning to send a probe to study the dark side of the moon as well, in another move to expand its presence in space. The country is building a Mars simulation base deep in the Tibetan desert, too, where it hopes to train astronauts for a potential Mars mission.
China plans to launch a Mars probe in 2020.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the military, we love to crack jokes at every branch’s expense — even our own. The comedic rivalry is real as it gets, but it’s always in good fun.
So, let’s use these memes to create as many humorous wounds as possible.
1. When your level of saltiness is off the f*cking charts
2. Old-school sailors have the best freaking stories about fist fights, drinking, and women — not necessarily in that order.
3. Just when you thought Navy ships couldn’t get any more hardcore, they go and do this.
4. The level of his “boot” has officially gone overboard.
5. This is what your recruiter conveniently left out of their pitch
6. Every sailor’s career has a different origin story
7. You might want to head the restroom afterward and check your trousers for brown eggs
Boot stress level: over 9000. (via navymemes.com)
8. The only thing that a hardworking sailor wants is to get off work on time and drink a beer.
9. You can piss off a lot of people without repercussions, but a chief is not one of them.
10. Lies, lies, and more lies… Okay, it’s kind of true.
11. No one can ever outdo this dick joke. This aircrew won.
As the Coronavirus continues to dominate media coverage and outbreaks keep all of us on edge, I’m reminded of the effects pandemics have had on history –specifically how they shaped history.
For some, this epidemic probably brings to mind the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. Others who read books such as the Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry are reminded of an even more devastating contagion from the last century.
But we can go back even further to learn how pandemics have shaped society and the outcomes of conflict.
So, let’s go back over 2400 years ago….
Pericles had the perfect plan! The Athenians moved behind the walls of the city, letting the Spartans attack across land. They would wait them out in a Fabian Strategy. Food would not be an issue because Athens could rely on its maritime imports to keep them fed. Money wasn’t a problem, because they had plenty in the bank. Meanwhile, their fleet projected combat power into Spartan territory, raiding coastal cities and shaming the Spartans. Not only would Pericles avoid fighting the Spartans on their terms, he would also sew doubt of Spartan superiority among the Peloponnesian League by attacking the “home front.” As Athens and Sparta finished the campaigning season in the first year of the war, Athens believed their strategy was working as evidenced by Pericles’ Funeral Oration.
As the second year of the war began, disease struck in Athens. The plague caught everyone by surprise, and as Thucydides points out, “there was no ostensible cause; but people in good health were all of a sudden attacked by violent heats in the head…” The plague swept through Athens killing men, women, and children, and with it came devastating effects on society. Thucydides wrote that lawlessness broke out as men watched others die and private property came up for grabs. The unforeseen disease affected Athenian will; they questioned the value of Pericles’ strategy and the war itself, ultimately sending envoys to Sparta to seek peace.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fproxy%2FSEnsy2M07sPLg7PPi1Y1-foWDEtPVT8aOVKZg21lQ-W0I6-zm2Chdlpwq_54XFR2GeIZnzDlRq9aQeYH0lEHxeI6lNJ5NBeoQDJbi2B0wzw8k_dFVLKM_4c–FQJD-h2dlSY4b48VLjM3SyeTpvMaToGWUVGupJ485HD35oHhSG2v8ctU7qnbRhgin2r_9FW7A&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=452&h=340c9ff1170e791d2838af4d9a7fc631d1a3235ae252846e8ff97202a0af15f9&size=980x&c=3349880684 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fproxy%252FSEnsy2M07sPLg7PPi1Y1-foWDEtPVT8aOVKZg21lQ-W0I6-zm2Chdlpwq_54XFR2GeIZnzDlRq9aQeYH0lEHxeI6lNJ5NBeoQDJbi2B0wzw8k_dFVLKM_4c–FQJD-h2dlSY4b48VLjM3SyeTpvMaToGWUVGupJ485HD35oHhSG2v8ctU7qnbRhgin2r_9FW7A%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D452%26h%3D340c9ff1170e791d2838af4d9a7fc631d1a3235ae252846e8ff97202a0af15f9%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3349880684%22%7D” expand=1]
The Athenian experience with the plague should remind us of the power of the unseen. Disease can reshape society. It can influence the outcome of war. And although we have not experienced the devastating effects of contagion on a mass scale in modern times, we may only be standing in the proverbial eye of the storm.
One can argue that microscopic parasites could be placed on equal footing with geography, war, and migration in shaping the world that we know today. In Plagues and Peoples by William H. McNeill, the author traces the history of mankind, pointing out how disease proved a major factor in the trajectory of our species. First, he points out that disease served to break down communities of people, enabling them to be absorbed by larger groups. He writes that,
“Such human material could then be incorporated into the tissues of the enlarged civilization itself, either as individuals or families and small village groupings… The way in which digestion regularly breaks down the larger chemical structures of our food in order to permit molecules and atoms to enter into our own bodily structures seems closely parallel to this historical process.”
He observes that the plague led to changes in European society in the 14 and 15 centuries. In England, the Black Death of 1348-1350 led to changes in the social fabric of society, increasing wages and quality of life for serfs. McNeil even suggests that diseases in Europe created enough social upheaval that it successfully set the conditions for Martin Luther’s Reformation.
He further argues that disease set the conditions for European expansion into the New World. For example, Hernando Cortez, who had less than 600 soldiers, was able to conquer an Aztec empire of millions in the early 1500s with the help of contagion. Within fifty years of his landing, the population of central Mexico shrank to a tenth of its size. This catastrophic drop in population levels had significant impacts on religion, defense, and their society in general, paving the way for European growth in the region.McNeill is not alone in his argument. In Bacteria and Bayonets: The Impact of Disease in the American Military History, David R. Petriello argues that contagion played a major factor in the successful colonization of North America and the American experience with war. Smallpox and other illnesses depopulated the regions surrounding the colonies, giving the settlers the space to grow.
Most Americans have heard the story of how an Indian named Squanto helped save the Plymouth settlers by teaching them planting techniques and guiding them through the peace process with surrounding tribes. However, it was disease more so than goodwill that saved the Pilgrims. The author writes, “When Squanto wandered into the Pilgrim’s’ world he did so as an exile. Had it not been for the epidemic visited his tribe…Squanto himself would not have been seeking out kindred human company.”
While the U.S. military responds to the threat of the Coronavirus, this isn’t the first time it’s battled contagions. Long ago, before we stood in lines to get way too many shots before deployments, commanders dealt with smallpox, influenza, dysentery, and venereal disease, as it affected 30% of armies up through World War I. These outbreaks, more than likely, had an impact on the outcome of key campaigns.
In the Revolutionary and Civil War, disease took important leaders out of important battles the eve of engagements. And it caused commanders to hold off on taking advantage of fleeting opportunities in both conflicts, as they had to wait for replacements to arrive. It has only been in recent history, that we have brought disease’s impact on war under control.
Vaccinations didn’t become common practice until World War II. As Petriello observes, “Whereas there were 102,000 cases of measles in World War I with 2,370 deaths, there were only 60,809 cases in World War II with only 33 deaths reported.”
Thanks to technological advances in medicine, it has been almost a hundred years since disease sat in the front row of a national security conversation. However, things are changing. We’ve seen how the Coronavirus is affecting markets, diplomacy and even troops serving abroad. Maybe it’s time we reexamined our preparedness for these outbreaks.
In the end, Pericles succumbed to the plague, and Athens lost an important leader. Those who came after him chose a different strategic path for the city, which ultimately proved costly for the Delian League. This incident during the Peloponnesian War is worth making us pause and think about the role of contagions in human history and conflict. It has wiped out cultures and set the conditions for the successful expansion of others. It has served as a significant factor in wars of the past. Finally, it may yet play a major role in world affairs again.
While the Coronavirus may pass without any long-lasting effects, it’s worth asking military leaders an important question, “Are we really prepared?”
Just shy of twenty years ago, Florent Groberg was getting ready to graduate from high school. He was a newly-minted American, an immigrant from France. Like many Americans, he went on to college and studied things he was passionate about while playing college sports in his spare time.
Unlike many Americans, Groberg didn’t go off to work in the civilian sector after graduating. Groberg joined the U.S. Army and became an officer in 2008. That decision would alter the course of his life forever.
President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to retired U.S. Army Capt. Florent Groberg
Since entering the Army in 2008, Groberg has had some 33 surgeries and was retired from the service. His time in the Army was, of course, consequential for many, not just himself. His second tour in Afghanistan would be the defining event of his service.
He was a Personal Security Detachment Commander for Task Force Mountain Warrior in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province in August 2012. One day, while escorting high-ranking senior American and Afghan leaders to the provincial governor’s compound, Groberg noticed one person making a beeline for their protected formation. Noticing a significant bulge in the man’s clothing, the Army officer didn’t just shout at the man, he ran toward him.
Before anyone else could react, Capt. Groberg used his body to push the would-be suicide bomber away from the formation, not once but twice before he could detonate his vest. The blast killed four members of the formation but it could have been a lot worse – Groberg managed to push the man well outside the formation’s perimeter, limiting the damage to the group, while taking the brunt of it himself. The blast detonated a second vest nearby, which blew up almost harmlessly.
For Groberg, the first explosion was anything but harmless. The blast took off half of his calf leg muscle while damaging his nervous system, blowing his eardrums, and delivering a traumatic brain injury – but it could have been a whole lot worse.
As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.
For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog. Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.
Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.
In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.
“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”
As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.
When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”
“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.
The battle for Mosul kicked off Oct. 17, and ISIS is falling back faster than anticipated. Iraqi, Kurdish, and various small militias have moved a force of over 100,000 soldiers against the estimated 1,000 to 6,000 ISIS fighters in the “crown jewel” of the terror group’s territory.
The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.
Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.
Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.
— Peshmerga News (@PeshmergaNews) October 18, 2016
The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.
The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.
The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.
All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.