Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war - We Are The Mighty
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Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.


“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”

Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.

The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Russian S-400 Triumph medium-range and long-range surface-to-air missile systems at the Victory Day parade in Moscow. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Aleksey Toritsyn

Additionally, Russia has moved three warships to Syria’s coast, further complicating the US’s options should it launch another strike.

US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.

Related: Islamic State terrorists launched a chemical attack in Mosul

Igor Sutyagin of the Royal United Services Institute an expert on Russian missile defense systems and strategic armaments, told Business Insider that the presence of Russian defenses didn’t guarantee the safety of Syria’s planes.

“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”

To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
A US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in January 2016. | US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook

Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.

In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.

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Wounded warrior to get first US penis transplant

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital have said that an American soldier wounded by an explosion will be the first person in the U.S. to receive a penis transplant. They also said that up to 60 more injured veterans may undergo the procedure.


For privacy reasons, the hospital has not identified the patient beyond describing him as “a soldier injured by an explosion.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Photo: Department of Defense Kristopher Radder

IEDs do a lot of damage to lower extremities, including the penis. The New York Times reported in Dec. 2015 that almost 1,367 men were wounded in the genitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. The team at Johns Hopkins hopes to pioneer the treatment for them.

The donor organ will be taken from a recently deceased man with similar skin color and age to the patient, according to Business Insider. After the surgery, the patient will need a few months before they have full use of the organ. Sensation, urination, and sexual arousal are all possible over time.

Only one successful penis transplant has ever been performed. A South African team worked for nine hours to complete the surgery, and the patient was able to conceive his first child less than a year later.

Since the testicles are not transplanted, any baby conceived by a penis transplant patient would be the biological child of the patient, not the donor.

While the testicles will not be transplanted, other parts of the body may have to be. Blast patients may need scrotum, groin, abdominal, and inner thigh tissue transplanted, Business Insider reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tensions high as NATO and Russia drill their militaries

British, French, Italian, and German jets have simulated flight interceptions over Western Europe as part of NATO maneuvers to deter Russian planes from entering alliance airspace.

The NATO drills on Sept. 12, 2018, came at the same time that Russia was showing off its most sophisticated air-defense system as it practiced fighting off a mock attack during military maneuvers of its own, the largest it has ever conducted.

The activity comes amid persistently high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.


In the NATO drills, fighter pilots from alliance members simulated the interception of a Belgian military transport plane en route to Spain. Visual inspections were made by flying off the wings at speeds of 900 kilometers an hour.

NATO has some 60 jets regularly on alert to defend its airspace. A record 870 interceptions were recorded of Russian aircraft in the Baltic region in 2016.

“NATO is relevant. This is not theoretical,” Spanish Air Force Lieutenant General Ruben Garcia Servert said aboard the Belgian plane.

As he spoke, Italian Eurofighters flew close to the cockpit to simulate interceptions, later joined by British Typhoons and French Mirages.

The European members of NATO are looking to display their commitments to their defense in the face of criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump that alliance members are not contributing enough financially to the alliance.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The Western alliance is currently negotiating an agreement that would have each member’s air force defend any other’s airspace under a “single sky” concept.

Currently, each country defends its own airspace, although other members help defend the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have enough fighter jets of their own.

NATO is planning to hold its biggest maneuvers in 16 years when it conducts the Trident Juncture drills in Norway in October and November 2018.

The drills will feature more than 40,000 troops, including some from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.

Meanwhile, Russia is conducting massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, weeklong war games the Defense Ministry said would involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.


Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the drills in eastern Siberia on Sept. 13, 2018, and insisted that they were not targeted at any country.

“Russia is a peaceful nation,” Putin said at a firing range in the Chita region. “We do not and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he added.

On Sept. 12, 2018, the war games involved Russia’s newest S-400 surface-to-air defense system, which NATO considers a threat to its aircraft.

In 2017 Moscow signed a contract to sell the S-400 system to Turkey, angering NATO and particularly the United States, which threatened to suspend delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Ankara.

The drills simulated a “massive missile attack” by an “unnamed enemy,” military official Sergei Tikhonov said.

The exercises, which also involve Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, will run through Sept. 17, 2018.

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

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7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history turned more than a few ordinary Americans into heroes.


Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on Sep. 11, 2001, after al Qaeda hijackers flew airplanes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York. More than 6,000 were injured.

Tens of thousands of people typically worked in the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and most were able to escape. While all who endured that terrible day can be considered brave, there are some who went above and beyond in trying to save lives, and ultimately prevented the tragedy from becoming even worse.

1. A 24-year-old equities trader helped at least a dozen people get out, and then he went back in with firefighters to save more.

Just a few minutes after United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, 24-year-old Welles Crowther called his mother and calmly left a voicemail: “Mom, this is Welles. I want you to know that I’m ok.”

Crowther was an equities trader at Sandler O’Neil and Partners on the 104th floor. But after that call, the man who was a volunteer firefighter in his teens made his way down to the 78th floor sky lobby and became a hero to strangers known only as “the man in the red bandana.”

Via Mic:

Amid the smoke, chaos and debris, Crowther helped injured and disoriented office workers to safety, risking his own life in the process. Though they couldn’t see much through the haze, those he saved recalled a tall figure wearing a red bandana to shield his lungs and mouth.
He had come down to the 78th-floor sky lobby, an alcove in the building with express elevators meant to speed up trips to the ground floor. In what’s been described as a “strong, authoritative voice,” Crowther directed survivors to the stairway and encouraged them to help others while he carried an injured woman on his back. After bringing her 15 floors down to safety, he made his way back up to help others.

“Everyone who can stand, stand now,” Crowther told survivors while directing them to a stairway exit. “If you can help others, do so.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWKPjSirbcU

“He’s definitely my guardian angel — no ifs, ands or buts — because without him, we would be sitting there, waiting [until] the building came down,” survivor Ling Young told CNN. Crowther is credited with saving at least a dozen people that day.

Crowther’s body was later recovered alongside firefighters in a stairwell heading back up the tower with the “jaws of life” rescue tool, according to Mic.

2. A group of strangers teamed up to take back United Flight 93, preventing the plane from killing untold numbers of people in the U.S. Capitol.

At approximately 9:28 a.m. on Sep. 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was hijacked by four al Qaeda terrorists. After the terrorists had stabbed the pilot and a flight attendant, the passengers were told that a bomb was onboard and the plane was heading back to the airport.

But this was after two planes had already hit the World Trade Center, and the passengers on United 93 — huddled in the back of the plane — were beginning to find out what the real plan was. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., several passengers made phone calls to their loved ones.

“Tom, they are hijacking planes all up and down the east coast,” Deena Burnett told her husband Tom, a passenger on United 93, in a cell phone call at 9:34 a.m. “They are taking them and hitting designated targets. They’ve already hit both towers of the World Trade Center.” In another phone call, Tom learned from his wife that another plane had hit the Pentagon.

“We have to do something,” Burnett told his wife at 9:45 a.m. “I’m putting a plan together.” Other passengers, including Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick, and Todd Beamer, were learning similar details in their own phone calls, as the plane was barreling towards Washington, D.C.

The passengers voted on whether to fight back against the hijackers. Led by the four man group, the passengers then rushed the cockpit, with Beamer rallying them in his last words: “You ready? Okay, let’s roll.”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Photo: US Air Force

From The Guardian:

From 9.57, the cockpit recorder picks up the sounds of fighting in an aircraft losing control at 30,000 feet – the crash of trolleys, dishes being hurled and smashed. The terrorists scream at each other to hold the door against what is obviously a siege from the cabin. A passenger cries: ‘Let’s get them!’ and there is more screaming, then an apparent breach. ‘Give it to me!’ shouts a passenger, apparently about to seize the controls.

Instead of the plane hitting its intended target — believed to be The White House or the Capitol Building — it crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 passengers onboard.

3. Two former U.S. Marines put their uniforms back on and searched through rubble that could have collapsed at any moment. They found two survivors.

While the planes were hitting the World Trade Center, 27-year-old Jason Thomas was dropping off his daughter to his mother in Long Island. When Thomas heard what had transpired, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform he had sitting in his trunk — he was a former sergeant who had been out of the Corps for a year — and sped toward Manhattan.

“Someone needed help. It didn’t matter who,” Thomas told AP. “I didn’t even have a plan. But I have all this training as a Marine, and all I could think was, ‘My city is in need.'”

Around the same time in Wilton, Connecticut, Dave Karnes was working in his office at Deloitte watching the attack unfold on TV. “We’re at war,” the former Marine staff sergeant said to his colleagues, before telling his boss he might not be back for a while, according to Slate. He went and got a haircut, changed into his Marine uniform, and drove toward New York City at 120 miles per hour.

Once both Marines reached the collapsed towers — the site now covered in ash and debris — they began searching for survivors, but first, they found each other. They had little gear with them besides flashlights and a military entrenching tool, AP reported.

Along with other first responders, the pair climbed over the dangerous field of metal, concrete, and dust, calling out, “United States Marines! If you can hear us, yell or tap!”

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Staff Sgt. Dave Karnes (Photo: USMC)

According to Stripes:

When they reached a depression in the rubble of what had been the south tower, he said, “I thought I heard someone. … So I yelled down and they replied back that they were New York Port Authority police officers. “They asked us not to leave them.” Karnes told Thomas to get to a high point to direct rescuers to the site, then called his wife and sister on his cell phone and told them to phone and give the New York police his location.

The two officers, William Jimeno and John McLoughlin, were on the main concourse between the towers when the South Tower began to fall, but made it into a freight elevator before the collapse. They were alive but seriously injured, trapped approximately 20 feet below the surface.

According to USA Today, once they heard the voices of the Marines, Jimeno began shouting the code for officer down: “8-13! 8-13!” After they were located amid the unstable mountain of debris, it took rescue workers roughly three hours to dig out Jimeno, and another eight to reach McLoughlin, who was buried further down.

An exhausted Thomas, who never gave his first name, left the site after Jimeno was rescued, but returned to Ground Zero for the next 2 1/12 weeks to help. His identity was a mystery until after Oliver Stone’s 2006 film “World Trade Center” chronicled the rescue of the officers, and Thomas emerged from the shadows.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Sgt. Jason Thomas at Ground Zero (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Karnes also left after Jimeno came up, but helped at the site for another nine days. After he returned to Connecticut, he went to his reserve center and reenlisted, and later served two tours of duty in Iraq.

4. Two flight attendants on American Airlines Flight 11 calmly relayed information on the hijackers that would help the FBI determine the perpetrators were al Qaeda.

Fifteen minutes after takeoff from Boston, American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked by five al Qaeda terrorists and sharply changed its flight path away from Los Angeles to New York City. With the group leader Mohamed Atta at the controls and some flight attendants and passengers stabbed, the terrorists pushed the remaining passengers toward the back of the plane.

Using crew telephones, flight attendants Betty Ong and Amy Sweeney calmly relayed information to their colleagues on what was unfolding that morning. “Okay, my name is Betty Ong. I’m number 3 on Flight 11. And the cockpit is not answering their phone, and there’s somebody stabbed in business class, and there’s — we can’t breathe in business class. Somebody’s got mace or something.”

Speaking with an American Airlines reservation center, Ong explained that some of the crew had been murdered and hijackers had infiltrated the cockpit. She shared information on the men, including their seat numbers and what they looked like. Her colleague Amy Sweeney did the same.

The New York Observer has more:

Sweeney slid into a passenger seat in the next-to-last row of coach and used an Airfone to call American Airlines Flight Service at Boston’s Logan airport. “This is Amy Sweeney,” she reported. “I’m on Flight 11 — this plane has been hijacked.” She was disconnected. She called back: “Listen to me, and listen to me very carefully.” Within seconds, her befuddled respondent was replaced by a voice she knew. “Amy, this is Michael Woodward.” The American Airlines flight service manager had been friends with Sweeney for a decade, so he didnt have to waste any time verifying that this wasn’t a hoax. “Michael, this plane has been hijacked,” Ms. Sweeney repeated. Calmly, she gave him the seat locations of three of the hijackers: 9D, 9G and 10B. She said they were all of Middle Eastern descent, and one spoke English very well.

Those on the other end of the line were astonished at their calm demeanor and professionalism at the time, according to ABC News. At least 20 minutes before the plane crashed into the North Tower, American Airlines had the names, addresses, and other information on three of the five hijackers, details that would help the FBI get a jumpstart on the investigation.

Nydia Gonzales, an operations specialist with American, later testified to the 9/11 Commission about the calm demeanor of Ong, who asked her to “pray for us.”

5. Rick Rescorla was responsible for saving more than 2,700 lives, and he sang songs to keep people calm while they evacuated.

Rick Rescorla was already a hero of the battlefields of Vietnam, where he earned the Silver Star and other awards for his exploits as an Army officer. Rescorla — once immortalized on the cover of the book “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” — would often sing to his men to calm them down while under fire, using songs of his youth while growing up in the United Kingdom.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Many more in the South Tower would hear his songs on Sep. 11, where Rescorla was working as head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley. When American Flight 11 hit the tower next to him, Port Authority ordered Rescorla to keep his employees at their desks, according to San Diego Source.

“I said, ‘Piss off, you son of a bitch,'” Rescorla told Daniel Hill, a close friend who was trained in counterterrorism, in a phone call that morning. “Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it’s going to take the whole building with it. I’m getting my people the fuck out of here.”

Rescorla, who had frequently warned the Port Authority and his company about the World Trade Center’s security weaknesses, had already issued the order to evacuate. He had made Morgan Stanley employees practice emergency drills for years, and it paid off that day: Just 16 minutes after the first plane hit the opposite tower, more than 2,700 employees and visitors were out when the second plane hit their building.

During the evacuation, Rescorla calmly reassured people. singing “God Bless America” and “Men of Harlech” over a bullhorn as they walked down the stairs.

During the evacuation Rescorla called his wife, according to The New Yorker:

“Stop crying,” he told her. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”

Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor of the South Tower, heading upward to look for any stragglers. His body was never found.

6. Two unarmed F-16s scrambled to stop any other hijacked airliners and the pilots were prepared to give their lives to stop them.

With scant detail of what was happening and no time to do pre-flight checklists, two D.C. Air National Guard pilots quickly scrambled to intercept United 93 after two other planes had hit the World Trade Center.

Except there was a twist: They were unarmed. Via NBC News:

In the days before Sept. 11, there were no armed aircraft standing guard in Washington, D.C., ready to scramble at the first sign of trouble. And with a Boeing 757 aircraft speeding in the direction of Washington, D.C., Penney and her commanding officer, Col. Marc Sasseville, couldn’t wait the dozens of minutes it was going to take to properly arm their respective jets.

“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” Maj. Heather Penney recalled to The Washington Post in 2011. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.” Before they took off, Penney and Sasseville both planned to ram the aircraft with their F-16s.

Instead, the passengers on United 93 made the intercept unnecessary, ultimately fighting back against the hijackers and downing the aircraft into a Pennsylvania field 20 minutes outside of Washington.

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

7. A tour guide at the Pentagon gave medical aid to the injured outside, then went back in to the building while it was still in flames.

Army Spc. Beau Doboszenski was working as a tour guide on the opposite side of the Pentagon when the building was struck by American Airlines Flight 77, and didn’t even hear it. But Doboszenski, a former volunteer firefighter and trained EMT, responded after a Navy captain asked for anyone with medical training, The Army News Service reported.

“Specialist Beau Doboszenski was a tour guide that morning, on the far side of the building,” Vice President Joe Biden said on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “So far away, in fact, he never heard the plane hit. But he shortly felt the commotion. He could have gone home — no one would have blamed him. But he was also a trained EMT and came from a family of firefighters.”

Doboszenski ended up running around the building to try to get to the crash but was stopped by police. Eventually he went around the barricades to reach a medical triage station, and helped give first aid to numerous victims. Afterward, he joined a six-man team that went back in to look for survivors, while the building was still in flames.

“When people started streaming out of the building and screaming, he sprinted toward the crash site,” Biden said. “For hours, he altered between treating his co-workers and dashing into the inferno with a team of six men.”

NOW: Never-before-seen photos show Bush administration officials right after 9/11

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These are the 6 things that happened when the commander started Pokemon Go

First, the augmented reality game swept the barracks, and that was all right. But then it started filtering into the command suites and company headquarters.


When Pokemon Go got its claws/talons/hands/vines/paws/etc. into the commander, these 6 things happened:

1. Rare Pokemon delayed formations

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
(Photo illustration: WATM Logan Nye)

Sure, he told all of you to be formed up behind the company headquarters at 1730 for release formation, but that was before he found out a Charizard was hiding in one of the training areas.

Once that happened, he and his driver were jetting through the backwoods trying to get to it before its timer ran out. Meanwhile, the platoon leaders were left trying to find enough rocks for everyone to paint until he got back.

2. There were a lot more ruck marches and company runs

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Only another 3 miles until the next egg hatches. (Photo illustration: WATM Logan Nye)

It starts to seem like your commander has more eggs than the dining facility. And each of those eggs needs a nice, short run before it will hatch. Unfortunately, the runs aren’t so short when he has nine eggs stored up because his dog will no longer run with him.

Then there are the rucks. If some eggs still need love after the run, you can bet everyone is heading out for land nav or a long march.

3. Range operations gained a strange, new dynamic

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
New company policy: If a Tauros appears on a nearby hill, everyone is done firing. (Photo illustration: WATM Logan Nye)

Everyone is used to stopping range ops when wildlife appears, but it’s a whole other thing to have to cease fire because the commander spotted an Eevee and wants to try catching it and naming it “Rainer” to get a Vaporeon.

If you don’t understand that last sentence, it just means you haven’t played Pokemon Go much. If you did understand it and have an Eevee, then try renaming it before it evolves. It usually works.

4. The unit kept getting volunteered for missions to obscure places

Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war
Kangaskhan is not impressed by your cobra blood rituals. (Photo illustration: Logan Nye)

You can get any Pokemon in an egg, but amid all the rumors that trainers can only catch Mr. Mime in Europe and Kangaskhan only wanders the plains of Australia, the commander started volunteering us for every overseas trip he could find.

Sure, he said that we were “voluntold,” but the company orderly room folks overheard first sergeant’s shouting match with him after the battalion planning meeting.

5. The ‘E4 Mafia’ taught him to cheat

Luckily, the local cell of the E4 mafia stepped in to salvage the situation. They hosted a secret meeting in the motor pool and invited the commander. Rumors circulated about the negotiations, but the final result was that the commander stopped his rampant volunteering, and the Joes in S6 borrowed the commander’s phone for a while.

When he got it back, the old Android had been rooted and hacked, and the commander could travel around the world with just his imagination and a GPS spoofing program.

6. Once the E4 Mafia owned the commander, everything got … topsy turvy

Of course, the E4 Mafia got plenty out of the deal. A few connexes fell off the property books and are now home to a shamming lounge and skating rink. The commander moved out of his office and the supply sergeant, a long supporter of the Mafia, is enjoying his new digs with the view.

But it worked out for the rest of us.

Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

www.youtube.com

The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

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US intelligence before World War II was basically nonexistent

U.S. intelligence before World War II was fragmented and ad hoc, comprised of numerous government and military entities all loath to share their information with each other. With the events transpiring across the globe in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt became concerned about the United States’ deficiencies in the intelligence field. Enter William Donovan.


Syria puts jets under Russian protection, raising risk of war

Col. William “Wild Bill” Donovan was a well-respected lawyer and veteran of the First World War, in which he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and three Purple Hearts. Between the wars, he traveled extensively and met with many foreign dignitaries, however, his chief concern was on establishing the American equivalent of Britain’s intelligence services, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive. His extensive travel and ideas earned him the respect and friendship of President Roosevelt, and when the President established the Office of the Coordination of Information he named Donovan the director.

Donovan immediately set to work untangling the bureaucratic mess that was the American intelligence services. It was much more complicated than he anticipated. He met hostility over jurisdiction with numerous people, most notably J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI. During this time, the majority of intelligence for the Office of the Coordination of Information came from the British, as did the training for the new operatives. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it became clear that the United States needed a greater intelligence capacity. To accomplish this, President Roosevelt issued a presidential military order on June 13, 1942 creating the Office of Strategic Services with the mission of collecting and analyzing strategic information for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to conduct special operations not assigned to other agencies. William Donovan was reactivated in the U.S. Army at his World War I rank of Colonel and put in charge of the organization.

Now that Donovan had his intelligence agency, he needed to fill the ranks. With no prior experience to draw on, he and those he recruited would be starting essentially from scratch. However, Donovan was given just the right man for the job in one Lt. Col. Garland Williams, a successful law enforcement officer and officer in the Army Reserve. Williams took Donovan’s intent to create an American intelligence service based on the British models and made it uniquely American – though he would require British help to get started. It was decided the OSS would be responsible for intelligence and counter-intelligence, psychological warfare, and guerrilla and irregular warfare, to include sabotage and most importantly coordinating resistance movements with each area of responsibility handled by a specialized branch. Once the training areas, National Parks outside Washington, D.C., were established and trainers were in place Williams set about creating a curriculum to train the new operatives.

Williams broke down the training into three phases; preliminary, basic, and advanced. Preliminary training was what Williams called a “toughening up” phase and included PT, obstacle courses, road marches, hand-to-hand combat and weapons skills that were designed to weed out the unqualified and to help identify the particular skills of those who passed for their branch assignment within the OSS. The basic phase introduced many special topics for students such as intelligence gathering, target identification, and sabotage. But most importantly, according to Lt. Col. Williams, in these phases the students “will also be physically and mentally conditioned during these two courses for the aggressive and ruthless action which they will be called upon to perform at later dates.” A park superintendent who monitored the OSS training area referred to the training as “a stomach-turning roughhouse” and was thoroughly appalled by what he witnessed.

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Donovan conferring with OSS agents in China

Once the students had passed preliminary and basic operator training they moved on to the advanced training. This training involved what Lt. Col. Williams referred to as “schemes” – mock attacks on real targets in the U.S. Teams of students would be assigned missions against bridges, railroads, and plants in areas such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh in which they were instructed to infiltrate secure locations and plant fake explosives or to recover some kind of sensitive data. Most of these missions were completed successfully however a few teams were arrested by local police or the FBI.

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OSS classroom training.

Throughout the operators’ training, the emphasis was always on independent thinking, initiative, resourcefulness, personal courage, and building confidence. Military discipline took a back seat to the need for candidates to become individual fighters and guerrilla warriors as opposed to soldiers who needed orders to operate. Col. Donovan even stated, “I’d rather have a young lieutenant with guts enough to disobey an order than a colonel too regimented to think and act for himself.”

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OSS paratrooper training

Once the operatives completed training they were shipped to war zones all over the world where they conducted irregular warfare, sabotage, and direct action missions behind enemy lines in Operational Groups, a predecessor to modern Special Forces ODA’s, or in the more famous Jedburgh Teams. However, despite the support of Gen. Eisenhower, President Truman disbanded the Office of Strategic Services in October 1945 but its legacy and missions would live on.

Two years after the dissolution of the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed to take up many of its former missions and to establish their training curriculum the CIA used everything the OSS has created. A short time later the U.S. Army formed the Special Forces which took up the missions of irregular warfare and foreign internal defense. There are still visual cues that persist in the military today too such as the U.S. Special Operations Command shoulder sleeve insignia, nearly identical to the OSS patch, as well as the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife emblem on Delta Force’s shoulder sleeve insignia. Though the OSS was a fledgling intelligence service at the outset of World War II, it set the stage for the strongest clandestine services in the modern world.

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Here are the US troops that are fighting on the ground (and in the air) for Mosul

Iraqi security forces began the effort to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oct. 17, with a combined force of Kurdish Peshmerga to the east aided by coalition troops from Germany, Canada and the U.S.


Obama Administration officials have admitted that American troops are “in harm’s way” despite being in “support” roles. So, which units are actually there?

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A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) escorts Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, Command Sgt. Maj. of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, during his visit to Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, September 2016. The mission of Operation Inherent Resolve is to defeat Da’esh in Iraq and Syria by supporting the Government of Iraq with trainers, advisors and fire support, to include aerial strikes and artillery fire. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

Perhaps the most obvious are the Air Force, Navy, and Marine aviation units flying missions against ISIS. One notable unit taking part is the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group. The carrier’s air wing includes two squadrons of F/A-18E Super Hornets (VFA-86 “Sidewinders” and VFA-105 “Gunslingers”), one of F/A-18C Hornets (VFA-131 “Wildcats”), and one of F/A-18F Super Hornets (VFA-32 “Swordsmen”).

Other aircraft have taken part, including the A-10 Thunderbolt (courtesy of the 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing), the B-52H Stratofortress (From the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron), and the F-15E Strike Eagle (from the 4th Fighter Wing).

On the ground, the major United States forces have been the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, usually consisting of a medium tilt-rotor squadron with MV-22 Ospreys and a company of Marines. These units also can have attached air assets, including the V-22 Osprey, the AV-8B+ Harrier, and the AH-1Z Viper.

A battalion from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the Screaming Eagles, is also on the ground, slated to be replaced by troops from the 1st Infantry Division. The United States Army has also sent AH-64 Apache gunships to the theater.

Naturally, there are also special operations forces, including the Green Berets, SEALs and British SAS. It can also be safely assumed that Air Force Combat Controllers are also on the scene.

The Green Berets will likely be helping Iraqi security forces, advising Peshmerga troops and helping direct coalition air support. These units have in the past also carried out direct action missions. In 2015, one such mission, a prison break, lead to one of three American KIAs — a member of the United States Army’s Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force, Master Sergeant Joseph Wheeler.

The other two American KIAs are Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV, who was killed in a firefight with ISIS thugs, and Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, who was killed in a rocket attack on a base used by coalition forces.

The fight for Mosul is continuing, with the word at this writing indicating that the Iraqi advance has slowed.

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How going to war brings out the best and worst in people

Sebastian Junger is not a military veteran. He makes that clear, but he sure sounds like one. Maybe it’s because he’s covered conflict zones from Sierra Leone to Nigeria to Afghanistan as a journalist. It’s safe to say he’s seen more conflict than many in the United States military.

If there’s an expert on modern warfare and the long-term effects of those who live it, that person is Sebastian Junger.


He sees war and its effects through the lens of an anthropologist. This not only gives him the perspective to look back on his homecoming—and the homecomings of U.S. troops—to see the problems and abnormalities with how societies deal with their combat veterans, it allows him to put those ideas into words. Some words returning and transitioning veterans may not have ever known to use.

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“We try hard to keep combat at a distance,” he says in the new PBS documentary Going to War. “But when we talk about war, we talk about what it means to be human.”

In Going to War, Junger and fellow author Karl Marlantes (Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War) examine the paradox of fighting in combat: how the brotherhood and sense of purpose contrast with the terror, pain, and grief surrounding the violence and destruction. It starts with the training. Whenever young men (and now women) are placed in a situation where they would be fighting for their lives, the training would diminish perceptions of the individual in favor of the group.

“If you have people acting individualistically in a combat unit, the unit falls apart and gets annihilated,” Junger says. “So you need them to focus on the group. The training, beyond firing a weapon, is an attempt to get people to stop thinking of themselves.

This is not just the U.S. military. This is every military around the world.

The United States is “orders of magnitude” more capable than most. What the U.S. is having trouble dealing with is what comes after its veterans return home and then to civilian life. For returning vets, sometimes the problem is returning to an unearned hero’s welcome.

Only about ten percent of the military will ever see combat. Those who don’t still get the welcome home, but feel guilty for feeling like they never did enough to earn that accolade.

For those who were in combat, the experience of being shot, shot at, and watching others get killed or wounded is a traumatic experience that our increasingly isolated society doesn’t handle well.

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When veterans leave the military, separation becomes a more apt term than we realize. Our wealthy, individualistic modern society rips military veterans from their tribal environment while they’re in the military and puts them back into a cold, unfamiliar and far less communal world.

Junger thinks a fair amount of what we know as PTSD is really the shock of a tribal-oriented veteran being put in an individualized environment.

Going to War did a fantastic job of capturing the experience of fighting in a war and then coming home,” Junger says. “For me one of the most powerful moments wasn’t even on the battlefield.

Junger goes on to describe what, for him, is the most poignant story out of a slew of emotional, true stories of men fighting nearly a century of wars:

“A young man, a Marine describing his final training, a ruck march. They had heavy packs and the guy had an injury so he couldn’t walk very well. Another guy comes along and carries his pack for him, so the second guy is carrying 160 pounds maybe, and says ‘If you’re not gonna make it across the finish in time, then neither will I. We’re gonna do it together or fail together.’ And that is the central ethos to men in combat in the military.”

For more of Sebastian Junger and his thoughts on war and the men and women who fight it, be sure to download or listen to this podcast. If you still can’t get enough Junger (and we totally get understand), check out his amazing books or our previous podcast with him where we talked about his latest book, Tribe.

Going to War airs on PBS on Memorial Day at 9 p.m. Eastern. Check your local listings.

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World War II ended 70 years ago — here’s the planned US invasion of Japan that never happened

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On August 14, 1945, US President Harry Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japanese Emperor Hirohito, thereby ending World War II.

The surrender came after months of bombing raids across the Japanese countryside, two atomic bombs, and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on the island nation.

The iron resolve of the Japanese was a major factor the US anticipated while planning the invasion of mainland Japan. The culture known for literally putting death before dishonor with practices such as hara-kiri would not, by any stretch of the imagination, go softly into surrender.

By the time the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, 500,000 Japanese had already died during bombing raids, not just in Tokyo, but in smaller towns too.

This badly hurt Japanese morale as Yutaka Akabane, a senior-level civil servant, observed: “It was the raids on the medium and smaller cities which had the worst effect and really brought home to the people the experience of bombing and a demoralization of faith in the outcome of the war.”

But despite several bombing raids a week in the beginning of 1945, and the resulting displacement of 5 million people, the Japanese remained resolute.

And as US forces prepared a ground invasion, they were acutely aware of the challenges they faced against an iron-willed Japanese population.

The planning committee for the US invasion expected that “operations in this area will be opposed not only by the available organized military forces of the Empire, but also by a fanatically hostile population.”

Nevertheless, the Allied forces prepared to send 42 aircraft carriers, 24 battleships, and 400 destroyer ships and escorts to Japan’s coast. The Allies expected 456,000 deaths in the invasion of Japan’s military stronghold at the island of Kyushu alone.

In preparation for what everyone expected to be a bloody, prolonged clash, the US government manufactured 500,000 Purple Hearts to be awarded to troops wounded in the invasion.

At the same time, 32 million Japanese braced for war. That figure includes all men ages 15 to 60, and all women ages 17 to 45. The US anticipated them to bear whatever weapons they could muster, from bamboo spears, to antique cannons, to machine guns.

Children had even been trained to act as suicide bombers, strapping explosives to themselves and rolling under Allied tank treads.

But on July 16, 1945, the US secretly and successfully carried out the world’s first atomic-bomb detonation, giving the US another option in the war against Japan.

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, where 140,000 lost their lives, on August 8, the USSR then declared war on Japan as well, and on the next day they attacked Japanese-occupied Manchuria, China. On that same day, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000 instantly.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Hohum

Japan had previously been presented the Potsdam Declaration, or terms for an unconditional surrender, but the country had refused it.

Even after the two atomic bombs, Japan would not surrender for fear of how Emperor Hirohito would be treated after the war.

Emperor Hirohito was not merely a constitutional monarch, but a living god in the eyes of the Japanese. They would not see him treated as a war criminal by Allied forces — and after Pearl Harbor and 20 million or so Asian lives lost to Japanese imperialism, the Allies would accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender.

Japan and the Allies spent mid-August arguing over the exact language of the surrender, but on August 15, Emperor Hirohito addressed his nation via radio for the first time ever to announce the country’s surrender. Because of a difference in time zones, this anniversary is remembered on August 14 in the US.

Just last month, Japan officially released the master audio recording of Hirohito’s surrender. A version of this recording can be heard below:

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This famous guerrilla leader captured the general hunting him

Confederate Col. John S. Mosby was one of the world’s greatest guerrilla leaders, deploying cavalry against Union forces in lightning raids. In one impressive raid, he even managed to kidnap the Union general who commanded forces sent to stop him.


The engagement took place in March 1863, when Mosby was new to his command. He and his men were interrogating prisoners when a Union deserter laid out the location of the brigade’s picket lines and other defenses.

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John S. Mosby and his Rangers. (Photo: Public Domain)

As it turned out, the Union 2nd Vermont Brigade had moved camps, but its general decided to stay at a local doctor’s house about three miles from his closest regiment. It was the 2nd Vermont that had so often sent its cavalry forces to try and catch Mosby — and Mosby saw an opportunity to end the harassment.

Mosby created a daring plan to slip through the nearby picket lines and kidnap both Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton, the commander of 2nd Brigade, as well as the colonel who commanded the brigade’s cavalry regiment.

The Confederate forces launched their operation on the night of March 8. Mosby and 29 others followed the Union deserter through the picket lines, then cut carefully though the forest toward Fairfax Courthouse. They arrived without incident and went into action.

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Union Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton with other Union soldiers. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

They cut the telegraph wires and captured the operator as well as most of the guards in the area. They attempted to grab the cavalry colonel but learned that he had been called to Washington.

But the general was there — and he was woken by Mosby spanking his back.

“There was no time for ceremony, so I drew up the bedclothes, pulled up the general’s shirt, and gave him a spank on his bare back, and told him to get up,” Mosby later wrote.

As the general tried to understand what was going on, Mosby asked him, “Do you know Mosby, General?”

The General replied, “Yes! Have you got the rascal?”

“No,” said Mosby. “He’s got you!”

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Union Brig. Gen. Edwin Stoughton was captured by Confederate forces before his commission could be voted on by the Senate. (Photo: Matthew Brady, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Stoughton was captured with three other officers, a number of enlisted men, and at least 55 horses. When President Abraham Lincoln was told of the event, he supposedly said that he could always make a new brigadier general in five minutes, “but those horses cost $125 apiece!

Surprisingly, both the men of the 2nd Brigade and officers in nearby units had predicted that Stoughton would be captured if he didn’t move his headquarters, and Stoughton himself expressed concern about the thin manning of the picket lines.

The deserter stayed with Mosby’s Rangers for a year before he fell in combat.

Stoughton’s fall was, for obvious reasons, very quick. His capture was an embarrassment for the nation and his rank had not yet been confirmed by the Senate as a brigadier general. Lincoln withdrew his nomination. When Stoughton was traded back to Union lines two months later, he found that he had no military rank or position.

He left the military and died within a few years.

Mosby would go on to become a legend and survive the war. He later supported the Republican Party and was made consul to Hong Kong by President Ulysses S. Grant.

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Here Is The Army’s Secret File On The Leader Of ISIS

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Relatively little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). However, newly declassified military documents obtained by Business Insider on Wednesday reveal several new details about the ISIS leader.

The records come from time Baghdadi spent in US Army custody in Iraq. They were released through a Freedom of Information Act request. In these files, Baghdadi was identified by his birth name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry.

There have been conflicting reports about the time Baghdadi spent as a US detainee. These files identify his “capture date” as Feb. 4, 2004 and the date of his “release in place” as Dec. 8, 2004. According to the records, Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah and held at multiple prison facilities including Camp Bucca and Camp Adder.

In the book “ISIS: Inside The Army of Terror,” Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan relay an account of Baghdadi’s capture from ISIS expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi. In the interview, al-Hashimi said Baghdadi was captured by US military intelligence while visiting a friend in Fallujah named Nessayif Numan Nessayif.

“Baghdadi was not the target — it was Nessayif,” said al-Hashimi, who consults with the Iraqi government and claims to have met the ISIS leader in the 1990s.

Baghdadi’s detainee I.D. card lists him as a “civilian detainee,” which means he was not a member of a foreign armed force or militia, but was still held for security reasons. His “civilian occupation” was identified as “ADMINISTRATIVE WORK (SECRETARY).” As of 2014, he was listed as being 43 years old though his birth date was redacted. Baghdadi’s birthplace was identified as Fallujah.

These records also provide some details about Baghdadi’s family. His file identifies him as married and his next of kin was an uncle. The names of his family members were redacted from the records.

View the Baghdadi files below. According to Army Corrections Command, some of the records requested by Business Insider remain classified. We are working to obtain all possible files from Baghdadi’s detention.

Baghdadi Detainee File

Baghdadi Detainee File 2

Baghdadi Detainee File 3

Baghdadi Detainee file 4

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New Call of Duty Battle Doc Pack is giving 100% of proceeds to vets

The military’s favorite game might be “Hurry Up and Wait” but our favorite games are the Call of Duty series. When troops, especially infantrymen, are told to stand by, the first thing we do is turn on our consoles. This month Activision Blizzard is raising money and awareness to an issue that awaits all of us post service: veteran employment. The Call of Duty Endowment has announced a new Battle Doc Pack with 100% of the proceeds going to fund veteran employment efforts.

Throughout the month of May on both Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Warzone plays can by a new Operator Skin. It was created with the help of Army Veteran Combat Medic Timothy Hobbs Jr. who is also a recipient of the Endowment’s aid. He is one of the 5,800 veterans the #CODEMedicalHeroes Campaign aims to place with jobs in the medical field.

Civilians are doing their part, too

We often hear “Only veterans help veterans’ but I’m glad that this time we’re wrong. Call of Duty players, veterans and civilians, are raising $3 million by purchasing the Battle Doc Pack. $1 million can be raised by participating in an in-game Revival Challenge in Warzone. Players who revive five others while playing will unlock the Call of Duty Endowment calling card. Players have to hurry though, the Calling Card event ends this weekend on May 9th. One player commented, ‘Let’s get that revive challenge done in WZ bois time to donate that bread and give back to the vets’ on the Xbox YouTube channel.

If one million players complete the challenge, a double-XP Day will be given to all Call of Duty: Warzone players. Additionally, Activision Blizzard will donate $1 to the Endowment for each player that completes the challenge, up to $1 million.

Activision Blizzard

The pack also contains Easter eggs

The pack retails for $9.99 and 100% of all the proceeds will go to the Endowment’s mission of aiding veterans. It is available for a limited time until $2 million has been raised for the Call of Duty Endowment. Combined with the Revival Challenge, it will total $3 million if players are successful. The Pilot Company — another company putting their money where their mouth is — is donating $100,000 to the Endowment. Their contribution will change the lives of nearly 200 unemployed veterans to have a fighting chance at attaining a high-quality job. SFC Tim Hobbs, Jr. also describes other Easter eggs on the Operator Skin itself. When he helped design the pack, he also paid homage to his unit, his brothers in arms, and his service branch.

You can also track the progress the endowment is making in placing these veterans in gainful employment by following them on their social media pages.

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