The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.
The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.
The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.
The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.
“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”
The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields
The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.
The attempt by the Japanese to take Midway Island and seize control of it resulted in one of the most decisive naval battles in military history, with the Japanese losing four aircraft carriers and the United States gaining the upper hand in the Pacific. But a diversionary effort by the Japanese during the campaign marked the only ground fighting on U.S. home soil during World War II.
The Japanese attack on the Aleutian islands off Alaska in June of 1942, a mere six months after Pearl Harbor and shortly after a series of disastrous U.S. defeats in Asia, was meant as a feint to draw away American forces while the Japanese invaded Midway island. It would also threaten any U.S. attempts to attack Japan using the chain as a base. The archipelago of over 150 islands reached to within just 750 miles of Japanese territory and was seen as a real threat to their homeland. The occupation of U.S. soil, even that as remote as the Aleutian islands, also served as a blow to American morale.
U.S. intelligence was alerted of the impending invasion, but despite sightings of the approaching Japanese fleet, terrible weather made tracking it impossible. The Japanese carriers with the fleet bombed U.S. positions at their Dutch Harbor island base, inflicting heavy damage. American attempts to counterattack and destroy the fleet were consistently foiled by bad weather. The islands of Attu and Kiska in the chain were both occupied by June 7, 1942, though again severe storms and fog led to canceling the seizure of other islands.
The conquest of U.S. soil, even that as remote as the Aleutian islands, came as a severe shock to the American public. There was widespread speculation that the islands would be used as a jumping off point for attacking Alaska, or more fantastically the American mainland. Much of this apprehension was relieved by the destruction of the main Japanese carrier fleet at the Battle of Midway, defeating much of the purpose of the invasion. The Japanese forces found themselves practically marooned in some of the most hostile conditions imaginable.
With no logistical ability yet available to retake the islands, the U.S. could only harass the Japanese garrisons and the convoys resupplying them. U.S. air raids and submarine attacks took a heavy toll on Japanese shipping, but it was not until March of 1943 and after the naval surface action at the Battle of the Komandorski Islands that much headway was made. After the battle, the Japanese were reduced to using submarines to resupply their troops on the islands.
When the joint U.S.-Canadian operation to retake Attu began in May 1943, the Japanese soldiers retreated to high ground rather than contest the landing. The following bloody battle, with both sides plagued by chronic supply shortages, frostbite, and disease, dragged on for over two weeks. The Japanese garrison, starving and running out of ammunition, launched a massive banzai charge that penetrated all the way to U.S. rear echelon before being stopped. Over 2,000 Japanese dead were counted afterward, along with a minuscule 28 survivors. More than a thousand Americans died in the battle.
The assault on Kiska on August 15, 1943, was much more anti-climatic. A huge American-Canadian force landed there after weeks of bombing, but after much searching found the island deserted. The Japanese had used the cover of fog to bring in ships to evacuate two weeks earlier. The bombing and infantry attack had all been against a barren rock, and the only allied casualties were from friendly fire in the fog, frostbite, and disease. The Japanese withdrawal marked the end of the first and last foreign occupation of U.S. soil since the War of 1812.
The reality was that the remote, sparsely populated volcanic islands with notoriously bad weather and terrain would never serve as a major invasion route for either side. Though the Japanese garrisons managed to maintain themselves in the harsh conditions, they had nowhere near the numbers or the support to launch an invasion onto the mainland, and their primary goals were crushed by the disaster at Midway. U.S. plans to use the island chain as a launchpad for invading Japan never materialized beyond some bombing raids on Japan’s northern Kuril islands.
In the end, the atrocious weather and remote location turned what seemed such a promising strategic theater useless for everyone.
Melissa Stockwell has another busy day at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she’ll swim, run, bike, and go through strength training for hours on end.
Then, like most moms, it’s a rush to fit in as much family time with her husband and 2- and 4-year-old children as the clock allows: pick up the kids, take them to swim lessons, grab dinner, read them a story, and get them tucked into bed.
In between, she might send an inspirational photo or tweet to her 7,000-plus social media followers.
It’s not just the mom-athlete thing that makes Stockwell special.
She does it all with one leg.
Stockwell was an Army officer in Iraq when she lost her left leg in a roadside bomb. She competed in swimming in the 2008 Paralympic Games, won the bronze medal in triathlon for the 2016 Games, and is currently training with hopes of making the U.S. team for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.
And people think she’s pretty rad.
Melissa Stockwell shows her Purple Heart certificate while still recovering in the hospital. She said there were others in the hospital worse off than her, so she didn’t feel sorry for herself.
“To the mailman who yelled out ‘you’re an American badass’ as I was on #6/10 of my hill repeats, thank you. You sure lit that fire for the last 4,” she tweeted out Aug. 16, 2019.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days. I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.” — Melissa Stockwell, discussing her recovery after losing her leg in Iraq
Stockwell is just as likely to post a video of herself training in the gym, a poolside photo with her prosthetic leg, or a poignant goodbye letter to her service dog, Jake, she lost last year. Plus, there are plenty of posts about her children and mom life.
“I just saw a mom grocery shopping with 2 sets of twins, and another boy who all looked to be under 6 years old. If I ever get overwhelmed with momming for two, I’ll remember her. Her and my sister with 5 kids. Ah, perspective… ” she tweeted recently.
Or this inspirational burst first thing in the day: “This morning I took a moment to look around and just appreciate being alive. Take some time to do that today, it’s a day changer.”
Army Veteran Melissa Stockwell typically posts photos of herself and her love of the American flag on her Twitter feed. “This is me,” she said. “This is the beauty of America.”
“I’m proud of our country, that’s all,” she said. “This is me. This is the beauty of America. We all get to think and choose what we want, whether or not we agree on what everyone says or how they express it. I’m going to choose to express myself this way, but that’s the beauty of our country.”
Whatever she posts, she said, it’s not for ego.
“I do the things in my life because I enjoy them,” Stockwell said. “I like to be busy. I like having dreams. I don’t do anything to impress anybody. I guess I do it so I can inspire someone else — if not for those who came before me, but those who came after who can think, ‘I can do this, also.’
“Look, I have hard days, too,” she added. “Not everyone is perfect. I post pictures of my kids and dreams because that makes it more real. If someone is having a hard day and sees my posts, maybe they’re a mom, maybe they’re having trouble with their kids, I want to inspire them that there’s always tomorrow.”
That’s pretty much been her attitude since April 13, 2004, when she lost her leg.
“There weren’t a lot of ‘poor me’ kind of days,” she said. “I did my rehab at Walter Reed, and was surrounded by a lot of soldiers who lost a lot more than I did. It almost wasn’t fair to feel sorry for myself. I chose to accept my leg early on.”
Melissa Stockwell fits a lot into her day between family life and training. She posts regularly about her life for more than 7,000 followers on Twitter.
Getting into adaptive sports
Despite countless surgeries and infections, she took her first steps on her prosthetic leg 52 days after getting injured. Stockwell started adaptive sports and hasn’t looked back. She focused on the Paralympics after meeting fellow athlete and veteran John Register in 2005. She made the 2008 team, but didn’t medal.
“I learned that in life, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination,” she wrote on her web site. “And as I carried that American flag into that sold out Bird’s Nest Stadium at the closing ceremony, I had never been so proud. A proud American. And a proud Paralympian.”
Her friend, Keri Serota, said the Melissa Stockwell people see online, is the same in person.
“You know, I think what she does is amazing,” Serota said. “It’s hard not to be motivated, moved and inspired by Melissa. I always considered myself a proud American, but I learned more about what that means from Melissa. She makes you pause and realize what it means to be an American and why we have that freedom.
“But she’s also my best friend and I get to spend a lot of time with her and she has no ego. It’s this relatability. She has been in the room with all the living presidents, but she doesn’t take that for granted or have an ego about it. It’s very much Melissa. She can be with President Bush one day and buying ice cream for her kids the next day. She shares all of it — the highlights, lowlights, successes and losses. People, whether they know her or not, have that relationship with her because she is so impressive and exciting, but humble and grateful.”
She first met Bush after he invited her and other wounded Veterans to his ranch, and got to dance with him, a moment caught in an iconic photo shared around the world. She also gave the Pledge of Allegiance at his library opening.
“He’s amazing,” she said of the former president. “He is accountable for the actions taken while he was in office, and he has always gone above and beyond to show he has not forgotten the lives he impacted. I think that’s wonderful. That’s a pretty great man.”
Besides training, she also started the nonprofit Dare2Tri along with Serota and another friend, and signed endorsement deals with Toyota and Under Armour.
Back on the home front, beyond the training center and social media spotlight, Stockwell focuses on raising her son, Dallas, born in 2014; and daughter, Millie, born in 2017.
Melissa Stockwell posted a tweet of thanks to Barbie after her daughter got a doll with a prosthetic leg for her birthday.
“Sometimes I forget she is an amputee,” said her husband, Brian Tolsma. “She doesn’t let it define her, and she is so driven and motivated. She does a lot of things people with two legs can’t do.
“But it always goes back to the kids for me,” he said. “I know the regiment she does during the day, beating up her body daily to get faster, to reach that goal. Then she comes home and it’s just an abundance of energy and patience with the kids. She’s always going, and always has time for the kids, always coming up with new activities. That’s the most impressive thing about her.”
Millie recently celebrated her 2nd birthday. She received a Barbie Doll with a prosthetic leg from Serota, which also made its way to Stockwell’s Twitter page.
“It just shows kids we are just like anybody else,” she said. “Why can’t we have parties and dolls? Kids can play with them and see we are normal, no different,” Stockwell said.
And that’s why she doesn’t mind posting photos online or showing off her red, white and blue, American-themed prosthetic in public.
“If I can educate, I will,” she added. “I am proud to have worn the uniform. I’m proud of how I lost my leg. Plus, it’s really cool to look at. Technology has come so far, even in the past 10, 15 years. Veterans are coming back home and they’re young, they’re active.
“They’re going to continue to help advance the field of prosthetics because they aren’t going to take no for an answer.”
His background was a little different than most who join the military at the age of eighteen, but his warmth, love of country and drive to serve made him a leader respected up and down his chains of command.
Service members who worked with former President George H.W. Bush, first as Ronald Reagan’s vice president and, later, during his presidential term, spoke of the way he remembered their names and would ask about their families. They were loyal to him and he was loyal right back.
Bush himself said it best in his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1989: “We are not the sum of our possessions. They are not the measure of our lives. In our hearts we know what matters. We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.
“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”
Bush, who died last night at age 94, was born June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, on his 18th birthday in 1942 and immediately joined the Navy. With World War II raging, Bush earned his wings in June 1943. He was the youngest pilot in the Navy at that time.
George H.W. Bush seated in a Grumman TBM Avenger, circa 1944.
(U.S. Navy photo)
Flew Torpedo Bombers
The future president flew torpedo bombers off the USS San Jacinto in the Pacific. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for a mission over Chichi Jima in 1944. Even though his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire, he completed his bombing run before turning to the sea. Bush managed to bail out of the burning aircraft, but both of his crewmen died. The submarine USS Finback rescued him.
On Jan. 6, 1945, Bush married Barbara Pierce of Rye, New York. They had six children: George, Robin (who died of leukemia in 1953), Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy Bush Koch.
After the war, Bush attended Yale and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1948. He and his wife moved to Texas, where he entered the oil business. Bush served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1966 to 1970.
In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon named Bush as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where he served until becoming chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. In October 1974, President Gerald R. Ford named Bush chief of the U.S. liaison office in Beijing, and in 1976, Ford appointed him to be director of central intelligence.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist administers the Presidential Oath of Office to George H. W. Bush during his Jan. 20, 1989 inauguration ceremony at the United States Capitol.
Vice President, Then President
In 1980, Bush ran for the Republican presidential nomination. Ronald Reagan won the primaries and secured the nomination, and he selected Bush as his running mate. On Jan. 20, 1981, Bush was sworn in for the first of two terms as vice president.
The Republicans selected Bush as presidential nominee in 1988. His pledge at the national convention — “Read my lips: no new taxes” — probably got him elected, but may have worked to make him a one-term president.
Bush became the 41st president of the United States and presided over the victory of the West. During his tenure, the Berlin Wall – a symbol of communist oppression since 1961 – fell before the appeal of freedom. The nations of Eastern Europe withdrew from the Warsaw Pact and freely elected democracies began taking hold.
Even more incredible was the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself. Kremlin hard-liners tried to seize power and enforce their will, but Boris Yeltsin rallied the army and citizens for freedom. Soon, nations long under Soviet domination peeled away and began new eras.
President Bush participates in a full cabinet meeting in the cabinet room.
(U.S. National Archives photo by Susan Biddle)
In 1989, Bush ordered the U.S. military in to Panama to overthrow the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega. Noriega had allowed Panama to become a haven for narcoterrorists, and he subsequently was convicted of drug offenses.
But Bush is best remembered for his swift and decisive efforts following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. The Iraqi dictator claimed that Kuwait historically was his country’s “19th province.” His troops pushed into Kuwait and threatened to move into Saudi Arabia.
Bush drew “a line in the sand” and promised to protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait. He put together a 30-nation coalition that liberated Kuwait in February 1991. Operation Desert Storm showed Americans and the world the devastating power of the U.S. military.
At the end of the war, Bush had historic approval ratings from the American people. But a recession – in part caused by Saddam’s invasion – and having to backtrack on his pledge not to raise taxes cost him the election in 1992. With third-party candidate Ross Perot pulling in 19 percent of the vote, Bill Clinton was elected president.
Bush lived to see his son – George W. Bush – elected president, and he worked with the man who defeated him in 2006 to raise money for millions of people affected by an Indian Ocean tsunami and for Hurricane Katrina relief.
President Bush visits troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving Day 1990.
In his inaugural address, the elder Bush spoke about America having a meaning “beyond what we see.” The idea of America and what it stands for is important in the world, he said.
“We know what works: freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state,” he said.
“We must act on what we know,” he said later in the speech. “I take as my guide the hope of a saint: in crucial things, unity; in important things, diversity; in all things, generosity.”
China and Russia are sending aircraft and naval vessels into Japanese territory, and the two countries show no sign of slowing down.
China’s aggressive activity in the South China Sea is well documented. It has disputes with five different countries over a number of islands and waters that they claim to control. Comparatively, the East China Sea — where this conflict with Japan has been unfolding — has been much more calm.
At the center of China and Japan’s feud is the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands under Japanese control, but claimed by China, who call them the Diaoyu Islands.
Richard Weitz, a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, told Business Insider that the Chinese “want to enforce their claims” by forcing foreign planes to acknowledge China’s capability to control airspace and the waters of contested territory.
Weitz said Russia is more interested “in monitoring US military activity in the country.” Its conflict with Japan also concerns the Kuril Islands, which were historically part of Japan and were taken by the Soviet Union in the last days of World War II.
For now, there does not appear to be any coordination between China and Russia as they flex their muscles in the Pacific. That could change, Weitz warned, if the US interferes and drives the two powers closer together.
With a resurgent Russia to its north, a nuclear-armed North Korea to its west, and an increasingly capable and powerful China to its Southwest, Japan could become boxed in.
China wants ‘to change the status quo’
A Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 054 frigate and a Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine were used in the operation, distinguishing the incident from prior incursions in two ways.
The frigate was an official PLAN vessel instead of a more commonly used Coast Guard ship. Additionally, China had never sent a submarine into the contested waters before.
Japanese government data that was translated for Business Insider by Dr. Nori Katagiri, an assistant professor of political science at Saint Louis University and the inaugural visiting research fellow for the JASDF Air Staff College, shows that China has dramatically increased its naval and aviation activity since 2012 — prior to which there was virtually no activity.
PLAN aircraft were responsible for 51% of JASDF scrambles from April 1 to September 30, according to data from the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Some of these intercept missions showed an increasing aggression on the part of the Chinese.
In August 2017, China flew H-6K bombers — aircraft that carry nuclear weapons — across the Pacific toward Japan’s Kii Peninsula on Japan’s mainland for the first time. When Japan sends complaints of air violations, the Chinese government responds aggressively, telling Japan to “get used to it.”
The overall rise in Chinese activity may stem from the country’s recent military modernization efforts.
“China is much more active about wanting to change the status quo,” Weitz said.
Zack Cooper, a senior fellow for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider that two things are preventing China from being more bold — the US-Japan alliance, and the superiority of the JSDF.
The U.S. is obliged to defend Japan if it were ever attacked by a foreign nation. Because of this, China has stopped just short of large provocative actions.
“If the U.S.-Japan alliance did not exist, the Chinese would be pushing much much harder,” Cooper said.
However, Cooper said that “both countries know that given the scale and pace of China’s military modernization, it’s just a matter of time before China is able to outclass Japan in most areas of the military competition.”
Until then, China will likely keep trying to push the boundaries, just short of drawing in the U.S.
“[China’s] current strategy makes a lot of sense,” Weitz said. The Chinese will “keep on building up their capabilities, keep on putting pressure on Japan.”
The goal, he said, is to “slowly, over time, change the underlying situation in their favor.”
Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distance of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map.
Additionally, Russia plans on sending its newest Yasen-class attack submarine to the Pacific as soon as it is completed and fully integrated. It will be only the second such submarine in the Russia Navy.
In the air, Russia was responsible for 48% of JASDF air scrambles from April 1 to September 30, the second most behind China. They actually increased the number of flights to Japan, sending 87 more flights to the Japanese Islands than 2016, the year before.
Like China, the majority of Russian jets flying near Japanese territory are a combination of bombers like Tu-96/142, and spy planes like the Russian Il-38. A number of Chinese and Russian fighters and interceptors have been seen by the JASDF as well.
Japan is building up its military and may change its constitution
Most of Japan’s response has been geared towards Japan’s acquisition of more military equipment and systems.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe just recently approved the installation of two Aegis Ashore missile defense systems by 2023 — a move Russia has already criticised.
Japan also produced its first domestically-built F-35 stealth fighter last June, which could soon play an important role for the country.
Japan’s F-35 is the most advanced aircraft in its inventory and may be used on refitted versions of the country’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier, effectively giving Japan full fledged aircraft carriers- something China has warned against.
The Japanese government also approved a record increase in defense spending — focused primarily on ballistic missile defense.
Japan has a pacifist constitution, however, and is governed by what Katagiri called a “defensive defense doctrine.” Central to this are two paragraphs in Article 9 of Japan’s constitution that renounce war as a means of settling international disputes, and forbids Japan from having war potential.
“Even if Japan has a lot of equipment, there are serious legal issues that make it difficult for the Japanese to use them,” Dr. Katagiri said.
A German-born rapper who traded in the life of a MC for a life of terror with ISIS was killed earlier this month in a U.S. airstrike in Syria, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.
The Daily Beast, citing two U.S. officials, reported that Denis Cuspert, aka Deso Dogg, was killed Oct. 17 while traveling in a car with two other people. The website reported that Cuspert was the target of the strike, though he was not considered to be a high-value member of the terror group.
Reuters, citing a U.S. official, reported that airstrike was believed to have taken place on Oct. 16. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
In February, Cuspert was formally designated as a terrorist by the State Department, a rare step against a European citizen, after he appeared in numerous grisly propaganda videos on behalf of ISIS. In one particularly gruesome video, dating from this past November, Cuspert was seen with other fighters who shot one person and beheaded another. Cuspert was not shown killing anyone, but holds the severed head and announces that the dead were enemies of ISIS.
“That’s why they’ve received the death sentence,” Cuspert announced in German on the video.
In this screengrab from a video believed to have been shot in November, Cuspert holds the severed head of a victim of ISIS (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently)
German law enforcement and intelligence officials had long marked Cuspert out as a leader of ISIS’ German-speaking contingent.
“Denis Cuspert stands in the focus of security circles because of his essential role for Islamic State,” a German law enforcement official told FoxNews.com in February. “He is propagandist of IS.”
The son of a Ghanian father who left Cuspert’s German mother, he recorded three albums for a Berlin-based gangsta rap label, toured with American rapper DMX and scored a minor hit with “Willkommen in meiner Welt” (Welcome to my World) in 2010.
“Welcome to my world full of hate and blood,” went part of the song. “Children’s souls weep softly when the black angels sing.”
Even the dark lyrics Cuspert wrote as a rapper did not foreshadow the butchery he embraced as a member of ISIS.
According to a Vice.com report, he converted to Islam in 2010 following a near-fatal car accident. It was then that his music began advocating violent jihad.
In 2011, Berlin prosecutors charged him with illegal possession of weapons after Cuspert appeared brandishing weapons as “Abou Maleeq” in a YouTube video. A police raid on his home yielded weapons and ammunition, and although it did not result in jail time, he was squarely on the radar of German counter-terrorism investigators.
In 2012, Cuspert left Germany for Egypt, before eventually making his way to Syria where he joined Al Qaeda. When Islamic State broke away from the terror group behind 9/11, Cuspert pledged his loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Cuspert is emblematic of the type of foreign recruit ISIL seeks for its ranks,” the State Department, using another acronym for the terror group, wrote in February, “individuals who have engaged in criminal activity in their home countries who then travel to Iraq and Syria to commit far worse crimes.”
Fox News’ Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this report.
It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.
Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.
Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Salty Soldier)
(Meme via USAWTFM)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Five Bravo)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.
It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.
According to a report by the New York Post, the troops have taken to calling their new helmets “Boba Fett” helmets, after the famous bounty hunter who first appeared in “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. The helmets are already used by special operations personnel in the United States, including Navy SEALs and Delta Force.
The new helmets feature protection against a number of small arms rounds (up to Dirty Harry’s favorite, the .44 Magnum), infra-red goggles for night operations, communications technology, and a GPS system that can project a map for the operator.
However, the helmets in question aren’t new — or at least, they had been widely used in a very different sector than the military. According to PopularAirsoft.com, the Ronin had been a highly sought-after mask used by people involved in Airsoft, an action sport in which participants use guns that fire 6mm BBs made of hard plastic at speed of 350 to 500 feet per second. The guns in question are replicas of actual firearms like the M9 pistol and M4 carbine.
Best left unsaid is just what happened to Boba Fett in “Return of the Jedi.” Hopefully, special operations troops will fare better than the most famous bounty hunter in the Star Wars movies. I mean, taken out by a blind guy is a pretty embarrassing way to go.
While nuclear weapons usually get the big, scary headlines when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, the whole triad is a serious threat. Chemical and biological weapons are easier for rogue states to produce and deploy and any WMD can cause severe damage to American warfighters.
Beyond the immediate threat as the weapons rain down, weapons of mass destruction leave agents that can persist for anywhere from minutes to years, leaving vehicles, buildings, and even the ground lethal for soldiers.
Of course, the U.S. can’t just avoid their equipment or the battlefield for years. Instead, they send specialized troops in to spearhead decontamination efforts.
1. After a chemical attack, the U.S. is left with few good options. Decontaminating takes time and resources, but leaving the chemicals in place could result in dead troops.
2. Typically, specially trained crews will rush with their gear into a staging area and prep for decontamination.
3. Once all gear and personnel are certified ready-to-go, the troops get to work.
4. Teams have to wade into the target area, assessing what areas have been affected by the weapon, whether chemical, biological, or nuclear.
5. Of course, these teams face the chances of follow-on attacks and have to be ready to defend themselves.
6. These teams will report to their headquarters what areas have been affected and specialists will assess how long it will take for the threat to dissipate on its own (if ever).
7. Any equipment in the affected area, whether present at the time of the attack or that entered during combat operations or decontamination efforts, has to be thoroughly decontaminated.
8. Chemical, biological, and nuclear threats are all broken down and removed using different techniques, but soap and water help in nearly all cases.
9. Depending on the type and extent of contamination, the cleaning process may be completed by special teams or by the vehicle’s normal crews.
10. Many biological and chemical agents spread throughout all the nooks and crannies of the vehicles, making them a nightmare to clean.
11. And any mistakes could be lethal. If the wrong biological agent is left behind, it could get into someone’s system and doom them, possibly triggering an epidemic.
12. Some positions, like aircrews, require especially challenging decontamination efforts. Their personal gear includes everything from g-suits to breathing gear.
13. And each crewmember and pilot has to be kept separate until they can be decontaminated, leading to hilarious photos like this one.
14. One of the more common powders used is the specialized resin in M291 Chemical Decontamination Kits. It absorbs many agents and facilitates their destruction.
15. One of the most important things about personnel decontamination is preventing recontamination, so troops are washed in a set process, typically top to bottom.
16. And protective gear has to be switched out at set intervals, so this process has to be repeated multiple times per day.
All in all, WMDs are terrifying at worst and a hassle at best. Let’s hear your MOPP gear stories.
North Korea’s involvement in major hacking offensives appears to be growing.
The country has been linked to a recent attack on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, according to cybersecurity experts.
Researchers from the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future say a new hacking campaign targeting South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinlink employed the same malware code used in the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and last year’s global WannaCry attack.
Beginning in late 2017, hackers attempted to collect the passwords and emails of employees at Coinlink, but were unsuccessful.
Recorded Future released a full report on Jan. 16 analyzing the methods used in the recent Coinlink attack versus methods used in previous cyberattacks. The firm found what it called strong evidence that a cybercrime unit called the Lazarus group was behind the Coinlink attack, as well as several previous large-scale campaigns, based on the type of code they have used in previous attacks.
According to the report, the Lazarus group operates under a North Korean state-sponsored cyber unit.
The group has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when they launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom, the report said. The group has mainly targeted South Korean, U.S. government, and financial entities, but has also been linked to the major attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.
In recent years, researchers noticed a change in North Korean cyber operations as they began to shift their focus to attacking financial institutions in order to steal money to fund Kim Jong Un’s regime, the report said.
In 2017, the group began targeting cryptocurrencies, and their first offensive was aimed at Bithumb, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges. Lazarus hackers stole $7 million in the Bithumb heist at the time, according to the report.
The WannaCry attack in 2017, which affected computer systems at schools, hospitals, and businesses across 150 countries, also used malware code that was linked to Lazarus.
Additionally, a December attack on the South Korean bitcoin exchange YouBit reportedly mirrored previous North Korean offensives, leading experts to suggest that groups associated with the North were behind that attack as well.
Recorded Future’s report comes amid recent allegations that North Korea has begun mining and hacking cryptocurrencies in order to sidestep crippling economic sanctions.
“This is a continuation of their broader interest in cryptocurrency as a funding stream,” Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic-threat development at Recorded Future, told the Wall Street Journal this week.
The U.S. has released statements blaming North Korea for several recent attacks. North Korea still denies any involvement, despite mounting evidence.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… Enemy artillery and bayonet duels and concentrated machine gun fire are all terrifying and all, but those are to be expected, and most people can develop fears of those things after watching a few movies about Vietnam. But actual service members have a lot of fears that aren’t exactly intuitive.
These are the little things that make their lives crappy, and usually for dumb reasons.
Believe it or not, getting smaller, more efficient, and easier-to-handle batteries is actually a big deal for soldiers. We know it sounds boring.
(USARDEC Tom Faulkner)
Changing batteries can be the end
It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain to civilians, or really even to explain to troops that have never relied on radios in the field. For all of you, here’s the footnotes version: SINCGARS is a radio system in wide use with the U.S. military that relies on a bunch of information that has to be uploaded from another device. But if you take too long to change batteries in combat, it will drop all that information and it will need to be re-uploaded.
Re-uploaded from a device you probably don’t have in the field. This can make a low battery embarrassing in exercises, but terrifying in combat. You’re essentially faced with, “Hey, if you screw up this battery swap, you will spend the rest of this battle cut off from the comms network, incapable of receiving timely orders and warnings or calling for help. Good luck.”
Radio operators have to practice this skill like the world’s highest-stakes game of Operation.
Aw, crap, did someone leave the tent poles off of packing list v9.3?
(U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Camacho)
Is this version of the packing list really the final one?
No matter how many times you check whether something is on the final packing list, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re going to end up in the field at some point and be asked for a piece of equipment only to find it missing. That’s because you had packing list v7.2 but the final one was v8.3, but your platoon went with v6.4 because the company XO said you have special needs.
If you’ve been around a while, you know the real essentials to bring, so whatever you don’t have will probably result in a slap on the wrist and won’t affect the mission. But new soldiers are always sweating that something they didn’t know to bring will be essential. Forgot your protractor, huh? Well, you’re now nearly useless for land nav. Good work.
There’s a 20 percent chance this heartwarming moment will be broken up when a junior airman gets his junk stuck in the wall of a local bar because he thought it was a glory hole.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)
This is a good weekend. Someone is definitely going to ruin it.
Even when you’re relaxing on the weekends or holidays, there’s always a serious risk that everything is about to go sideways with one phone call. Someone gets too drunk and fights a cop? You’re getting recalled into formation. Too many cigarette butts outside the barracks? Come on in. Someone isn’t answering their phone because they’re worried about all the recall formations? Guess what company is being called back in?
Seriously, this whole deal is like the monster from It Follows, except you can’t even delay it with sex.
This is a photo of an airborne operation briefing that we swapped in because, legally, we can’t risk showing you pictures as boring as SAEDA briefings when some of you might be operating heavy machinery.
(U.S. Army Spc. Henry Villarama)
Surprise formation? Crap, here’s a new training requirement.
The worst nightmare comes when you’re just minding your own business, carving phallic symbols into old equipment behind the company headquarters. That’s when you’ll get the mass text that you have to report to the chapel/base theater.
And if you’re not due for training on the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Program, Suicide Awareness, Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the US Army, Anti-Terrorism Level 1, or Citibank Annual Training for Cardholders, then you probably have a new annual training requirement you have to show up for (By the way, every one of those is real.)
Good luck in Magnetic North Pole Drift Awareness Training. Be sure to sign the attendance roster.
Yay, getting to stand around in squares in a different country! So exciting!
(U.S. Army Spc. Gage Hull)
Any acronym that ends in X probably sucks (Cs aren’t great either)
CSTX, MRX, CPX, they all suck. ENDEX is cool. But if you get called into SIFOREXs or NATEXs, forget about it. There goes weeks or even months of your life. SINKEXs will monopolize your time, but at least there’s usually a nice, big explosion you get to see.
Oh, quick translations — those are Combat Support Training Exercise, Mission Readiness Exercise, End of Exercise, Silent Force Exercise, National Terrorism Exercise, and Sink Exercise. Basically, if you hear an acronym with an X in it that you’ve never heard before, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend a few weeks in the field practicing something you know how to do.
This message was brought to you by the letter ‘C.’ ‘C’ is just glad that you hate it a little less next to ‘X,’ because ‘C’ usually gets the blame thanks to things like JRTC, NTC, and JMRC (the Joint Readiness Training Center, National Training Center, and Joint Multinational Readiness Center, respectfully).
Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.
She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.
“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”
The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.
Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.
Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.
When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.
“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”
Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.
“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”
“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.
“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.
“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”
Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”
“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”
Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.
Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.
“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.
Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.
“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”
Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.
“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”
Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.
And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.
“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’
“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”
Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.
“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”
She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.
Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.
In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.
“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”
This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…
Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”
Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”
The two e-mailed back and forth all day.
Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.
“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!
Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.
“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”
They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.
“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Dog people have had their day in the sun with the celebrations of the brave service of military working dogs across the web, including this site. But what about cat people? Where are the stories for them?
No need to take your frustrations out on the scratching post. Here are the tales of 7 felines who have proved their mettle under fire:
1. “Acoustic Kitty”
Acoustic Kitty is not the name of the cat itself, but the name of a $20 million CIA project intended to spy on the Kremlin and Soviet Embassies. A microphone was implanted into the ear canal of a cat, with a small radio transmitter implanted at the base of its skull. The first cat was thought to have been immediately hit by a taxi. CIA researchers concluded there were too many issues involved in training the cats and the project was discontinued.
2. Mourka, Stalingrad War Cat
Not just present at the most pivotal battle of World War II’s Eastern Front, Mourka was an active participant. Nicknamed the Battlecat of Stalingrad, Mourka belonged to the Soviet 124th Rifle Brigade. He delivered messages about German positions form Soviet scouts and carried propaganda leaflets to German troops.
3. Félicette the Space Cat
Felicette, sometimes mistakenly referred to as Felix, was featured on French postage stamps.
In October 1963, the year after the U.S. put John Glenn into orbit around the Earth, the French medical research center CERMA launched a black and white female cat 97 miles from Earth’s surface, not quite reaching orbit. Félicette was the only cat ever in space and flew for fifteen total minutes before returning to Earth alive via capsule.
4. Mrs. Chippy, Polar Cat
Mrs. Chippy was a tabby who met an unfortunate end during Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. The expedition endeavored to be the first overland crossing of Antarctica. Carpenter Harry McNish’s cat earned the respect of the crew after they watched in amazement as the cat walked the ship’s inch-wide rails, even in the roughest ocean days. When the ship was destroyed, Shackleton ordered the cat and all the ships dog’s shot. McNish never forgave Shackleton and told him so. Even though McNish built the boats that would return the crew home, Shackleton would deny McNish the medals awarded every other crewman because of his insubordination. A bronze statue of the cat was placed on McNish’s grave in 2004.
5. “Unsinkable Sam”
A veteran of the German battleship Bismarck, the HMS Cossack, and the HMS Ark Royal,a cat named Oscar survived three sinking ships during World War II. After his sea service ended, he served the governor of Gibraltar before moving to Northern Ireland after the war. He died in Belfast in 1955.
6. Simon, Hero of Nanjing
The ship’s cat on the HMS Amethyst, Simon was brought on board by a 17-year-old sailor in Hong Kong. The cat proved adept at catching rats (and leaving them as gifts for his fellow sailors). As Amethyst steamed up the Yangtze River to support British citizens during the Nanjing Incident, Simon was wounded when Chinese Communists opened up on the ship. Simon recovered and returned to duty, having earned the Dickin Medal for Animal Gallantry and the rating of “Able Seacat.” He died in 1949.
7. Faith, the cat with the stiff upper lip
Another British cat who served in World War II, Faith was the church cat at the Church of St. Augustine and St. Faith’s in London’s Watling Street during the Blitz in WWII. In September 1940, the church was hit by the Luftwaffe and completely destroyed. Faith protected her kitten, Panda, in the church basement and was found by rescuers the next day. The story of the cat who saved her kitten in the basement became a well-known symbol for the “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude on Londoners during the Blitz.