How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

In the mid-1990s, U.S. oil company Unocal attempted to secure a gas-pipeline deal with the Taliban, which had seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, after a devastating civil war.


It was the United States’ first attempt to forge a partnership with the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was not recognized by the international community.

Unocal even flew senior Taliban members to Texas in 1997 in an attempt to come to an agreement.

Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as a State Department official when Ronald Reagan was president, worked as a consultant for the now-defunct company.

Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban members in the city of Houston, publicly voiced support for the radical Islamists at the time. The “Taliban does not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran — it is closer to the Saudi model,” Khalilzad wrote in a 1996 op-ed for The Washington Post. “The group upholds a mix of traditional Pashtun values and an orthodox interpretation of Islam.”

Negotiations over the pipeline collapsed in 1998, when Al-Qaeda bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. By then, the terrorist group, led by Osama bin Laden, had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where it was offered safe harbor by the Taliban.

Suddenly, the Taliban went from a potential U.S. economic partner to an international pariah that was hit by U.S. sanctions and air strikes.

Three years later, the United States invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime after Al-Qaeda carried out the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But now, after waging a deadly, nearly 19-year insurgency that has killed several thousand U.S. troops, the Taliban has regained its status as a potential U.S. partner.

On February 29, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement aimed at ending the United States’ longest military action. The deal lays out a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for various security commitments from the insurgents and a pledge to hold talks over a political settlement with the Afghan government — which it so far has refused to do.

The deal — signed before a bevy of international officials and diplomats in Doha, Qatar — has given the Taliban what it has craved for years: international legitimacy and recognition.

Meanwhile, the agreement has undermined the internationally recognized government in Kabul, which was not a party to the accord.

The architect of the deal was Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, who secured a deal following 18 months of grueling negotiations with the militants in Qatar. The Afghan-born Khalilzad had served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq in the intervening years since working as a Unocal adviser.

“There’s a 20-year bell curve, from 1998 to 2018, when the Taliban went from partner to peak pariah and now back to partner,” says Ted Callahan, a security expert on Afghanistan. But the “changes that have occurred have been less within the Taliban movement and more based on U.S. instrumentalism and war fatigue.”

The extremist group’s transformation to a potential U.S. ally was considered unthinkable until recently.

During its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban oppressed women, massacred ethnic and religious minorities, and harbored Al-Qaeda.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban has killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, fueled the illicit opium trade, and sheltered several terrorist groups.

“U.S. officials are selling the Taliban as a partner when it is anything but,” says Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at a Washington-based think tank, the Foundation for Defense Of Democracies, and editor of the Long War Journal. “This is a fiction made up by U.S. officials who are desperate for a deal that will cover the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Radicalized In Pakistan

The Taliban, which means “students” in Pashto, emerged in 1994 in northwestern Pakistan following the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The predominantly ethnic Pashtun group first appeared in ultraconservative Islamic madrasahs, or religious schools, in Pakistan, where millions of Afghans had fled as refugees. Funded by Saudi Arabia, the madrasahs radicalized thousands of Afghans who joined the mujahedin, the U.S.-backed Islamist rebels who fought the Soviets.

The Taliban first appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. Infighting among mujahedin factions fueled a devastating civil war that killed more than 100,000 people in Kabul.

The Taliban promised to restore security and enforce its ultraconservative brand of Islam. It captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country.

Neighboring Pakistan is widely credited with forming the Taliban, an allegation it has long denied. Islamabad was among only three countries — including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to recognize the Taliban regime when it ruled Afghanistan.

The Taliban was led by its spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed cleric who was a mujahedin. Omar died of natural causes at a hospital in Pakistan in 2013, with the group’s leadership covering up his death for two years. He was believed to be leading the Afghan Taliban insurgency from within Pakistan.

War-weary Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban, which cracked down on corruption and lawlessness and brought stability across much of the country.

But the welcome was short-lived. The religious zealots enforced strict edicts based on their extreme interpretation of Shari’a law — banning TV and music, forcing men to pray and grow beards, making women cover themselves from head to toe, and preventing women and girls from working or going to school.

The Taliban amputated the hands of thieves, publicly flogged people for drinking alcohol, and stoned to death those who engage in adultery. Executions were common.

Besides its notorious treatment of women, the Taliban also attracted international condemnation when in 2001 it demolished the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, a testament to the country’s pre-Islamic history and a treasured, unique world cultural monument.

‘We Were All Scared’

Orzala Nemat is a leading women’s rights activist in Afghanistan. Under Taliban rule, she risked her life by creating a network of underground girls schools across the country. Classes were held secretly in living rooms, tents, and abandoned buildings. The teachers were often older girls or educated women.

Girls attending the classes would often come in twos to avoid suspicion and carry a Koran, Islam’s holy book, in case they were stopped by the Taliban.

“We were all scared,” says Nemat, who now heads a leading Kabul think tank. “They would probably flog us, put us in prison, and punish us [if we were caught].”

Under the Taliban, Isaq Ahmadi earned a living by playing soccer for one of the dozen teams created and funded by various Taliban leaders in Kabul. While the Taliban banned many sports and other forms of public entertainment, soccer and cricket thrived.

“It was a very difficult and dark time,” he says. “There were no jobs, food shortages, and no public services.”

During Taliban rule, the United Nations said 7.5 million Afghans faced starvation. Even then, the Taliban restricted the presence of aid groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban regime generated most of its money from Islamic taxes on citizens and handouts from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, its only allies. The Taliban failed to provide basic needs and Kabul lay in tatters after the brutal civil war of 1992-96.

U.S.-Led Invasion

The Taliban attracted the world’s attention after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The regime had harbored bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders responsible for the terrorist attacks. But the Taliban steadfastly refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for prosecution and, in October 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan.

By December, the Taliban regime was toppled with help from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. Most Taliban leaders, including Al-Qaeda founder bin Laden, evaded capture and resettled in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the southwestern city of Quetta, where its leadership is still based.

By 2005, the Taliban had reorganized and unleashed a deadly insurgency against foreign troops and the new democratically elected government in Kabul. Despite U.S.-led surges in troops and an escalation in air strikes, international and Afghan forces were unable to stop the Taliban from extending its influence in the vast countryside.

The Taliban enjoyed safe havens and backing from Pakistan, a claim Islamabad has denied. The insurgency was also funded by the billions of dollars the group made from the illicit opium trade.

Today, the militants control or contest more territory — around half of the country — than at any other time since 2001.

Meanwhile, the Kabul government is unpopular, corrupt, bitterly divided, and heavily dependent on foreign assistance. Government forces have suffered devastatingly high numbers of casualties against the Taliban.

Negotiating An End To War

In the fall of 2010, U.S. officials secretly met a young Taliban representative outside the southern German city of Munich. It was the first time the Taliban and the United States showed they were open to talks over a negotiated end to the war.

But in the intervening years, meaningful U.S.-Taliban talks failed to take off, hampered by mutual distrust, missed opportunities, protests by the Afghan government, and the deaths of two successive Taliban leaders.

For years, U.S. policy was to facilitate an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process between the Kabul government and the Taliban. But with the Taliban refusing to negotiate with state officials — whom they view as illegitimate — the peace process was deadlocked.

Controversially, U.S. policy changed in 2018 when Khalilzad was appointed as special envoy for peace and he opened direct negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar without the presence of the Afghan government. Eighteen months later, the sides signed the landmark deal aimed at ending the war.

“The U.S. has been sidelining the Afghan government for years, first by refusing to allow it to be involved with negotiations, then by signing the deal without the Afghan government as a partner,” Roggio says.

“The Taliban maintains the Afghan government is merely a ‘puppet’ of the U.S,” he adds. “The U.S. has done everything in its power to prove this point.”

Road Map For Afghanistan

The prospect of the Taliban returning to the fold as part of a future power-sharing agreement has fueled angst among Afghans, many of whom consider the militants to be terrorists and remember the strict, backward societal rules they enforced when they were in power.

More than 85 percent of Afghans have no sympathy for the Taliban, according to the Asia Foundation’s 2019 survey. Urban respondents (88.6 percent) were more inclined than rural respondents (83.9 percent) to have no sympathy for the militants.

But the Taliban’s adherence to ultraconservative Islam and the Pashtun tribal code has struck a chord with some currently living under the movement’s thumb in rural Afghanistan, which has borne the brunt of the war and where life has improved little. But those ideas are largely alien in major urban centers that have witnessed major social, economic, and democratic gains over the past 18 years.

“The main difference is that the Taliban of today, like Afghans generally, are more worldly in terms of their exposure to media, their increased engagement with various international actors and, at least for the leadership, the greater wealth they command, both individually and as a movement,” Callahan says.

But the Taliban’s “fundamental approach to governing, which is very maximalist and involves the imposition of a uniform moral order, stands in stark contrast to the more liberal norms that have evolved since 2001, mainly in urban areas.”

Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, millions of girls have gone to school and continue to study, women have joined the workforce in meaningful numbers, and dozens of women are members of parliament and work in the government or diplomatic corps.

Afghanistan also has a thriving independent media scene in an area of the world where press freedoms are severely limited. Under the Taliban, all forms of independently reported news were banned.

There was only state-owned radio, the Taliban’s Voice of Sharia, which was dominated by calls to prayer and religious teachings.

The independent media have come under constant attack and pressure from the Taliban and Islamic State militants, which have killed dozens of reporters. The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.

The Taliban has been projecting itself as a more moderate force, pledging not to monopolize power in Afghanistan. But few believe that the militants have changed.

“There is little difference between the Taliban of 1994 and the Taliban of today,” Roggio says. “If anything, the group has become more sophisticated in its communications and negotiations. Its ideology has not changed. Its leadership has naturally changed with the deaths of its leaders [over the years], but this hasn’t changed how it operates.”

Red Lines

The Taliban has said it will protect women’s rights, but only if they don’t violate Islam or Afghan values, suggesting it will curtail some of the fragile freedoms gained by women in the past two decades.

Many Afghan women fear that their rights enshrined in the constitution will be given away as part of a peace settlement with the Taliban. The constitution guarantees the same rights to women as men, although in practice women still face heavy discrimination in society, particularly in rural areas.

But the Taliban has demanded a new constitution based on “Islamic principles,” prompting concern among Afghan rights campaigners. As an Islamic republic, Afghanistan’s laws and constitution are based on Islam, although there are more liberal and democratic elements within it.

Farahnaz Forotan launched an online campaign, #MyRedLine, in March 2018. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women have joined the campaign to speak about the freedoms and rights they are not willing to give up in the name of peace with the Taliban.

Forotan, a journalist, says she wanted to let Afghan decision-makers know that peace cannot be achieved at the expense of the rights and freedoms of the country’s women.

“Almost everything has changed from that time,” she says, referring to Taliban rule. “We have made a lot of progress. We have a civil society, an independent press, and freedoms. People are more aware of their social and political rights.”

Many Afghans support a negotiated end to the decades-old war in Afghanistan, but not at any price.

“I support the peace process with the Taliban, but only if women’s freedoms are safeguarded,” says Ekram, a high-school student from the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, a relatively peaceful and prosperous region near the border with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

“Under no circumstances do we want a peace deal that sacrifices our freedoms and democracy,” Ekram says. “That wouldn’t be peace at all.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Red Arrow soldier laid to rest 75 years after death in WWII

A Wisconsin National Guard soldier was buried in his final resting place Sept. 29, 2019, in Monona more than 75 years after his death in New Guinea during World War II.

Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was a member of the 32nd Infantry Division’s Company C, 128th Infantry Regiment, when he was killed Dec. 2, 1942, during the Battle of Buna.

Bainbridge’s remains since 1947 rested unknown at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. The military recently identified him and his family asked that he be buried at Monona’s Roselawn Memorial Park, where his sister is buried.


“It was like time stood still for one second as 77 years of waiting, hoping and wondering came to a glorious halt,” said Bainbridge’s niece, Nancy Cunningham, who was 2 years old at the time of his death.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge of Sheboygan was laid to rest Sept. 29, 2019 in Monona after his remains were identified more than 75 years after his death during the Battle of Buna in World War II.

(Courtesy of Nancy Cunningham)

Born in 1919 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bainbridge grew up in Sheboygan before graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He worked as a store clerk when he enlisted as a cook in the Wisconsin National Guard with Sheboygan’s Service Battery, 120th Field Artillery, 32nd Infantry Division. The unit left Sheboygan Oct. 17, 1940, for a year of training in Louisiana to increase military readiness of the U.S. Army.

Bainbridge trained with the 120th in Louisiana and was discharged in November 1941 due to family hardship. But the Army rescinded his discharge after the U.S. declared war on Japan and he rejoined the 32nd Infantry Division in time for its deployment to Australia in July 1942. He had been promoted by this time to technician 5th grade and assigned to Company C, 128th Infantry. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the 32nd to the New Guinea jungle in November 1942 to halt the Japanese approach to Australia.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Natives unload new white crosses from trailer to be used in the cemetery for American Forces at New Guinea, May 11, 1943.

(Pvt. Paul Shrock)

His remains were hastily buried on the battlefield and could not be positively identified when he was reburied in early 1943 at a Buna cemetery. Bainbridge’s remains were designated “Unknown X-135” when he was reinterred in 1947 in the Philippines at the Manila American Cemetery.

Bainbridge’s remains were exhumed Feb. 22, 2017, and sent to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification using mitochondrial DNA technology and other procedures. The agency sought out Cunningham and other relatives to provide DNA samples to assist the investigation.

Bainbridge’s funeral was conducted with full military honors. Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews, Wisconsin’s deputy adjutant general for Army, presented the U.S. flag to Cunningham on behalf of the entire Wisconsin National Guard.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

The Dec 29, 1942 issue of the Sheboygan Press reported the death of Army Tech 5th Grade John E. Bainbridge at the Battle of Buna in New Guinea.

“Every time I present a flag, I am full of emotion, but this one seemed different not only because of the soldier’s incredible service and sacrifice but because the family had been waiting so long for positive identification,” Mathews said. “What made it even more special was that he was a Wisconsin National Guard and 32nd Division soldier.”

Bainbridge’s name is recorded on the Walls of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery along with other soldiers designated Missing in Action from WWII. A rosette will be carved next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Division was formed on July 18, 1917, for World War I from the Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard. The Red Arrow reorganized after the war in the National Guard of both states and entered active service in 1940 to improve national military readiness during WWII. The Battle of Buna lasted from Nov. 16, 1942, to Jan. 23, 1943, and was the 32nd’s first WWII battle. Its 654 days of combat in New Guinea and the Philippines were the most of any American division during the war.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans tell stories of Berlin Airlift for 70th anniversary

The trio shuffled into the small room with canes and walkers to record their testimonies of the first confrontations of the Cold War and how the allies prevailed without firing a shot, saving a former enemy from oppression.

The Royal Air Force Museum American Foundation celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of Berlin Airlift at their annual “Spirit of the Battle of Britain” banquet October 2019 to honor these veterans for their contributions to the alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The trio retold their stories of using soft air power to deter Soviet aggression in post-World War II Berlin, and current U.S. Air Force and RAF airmen were honored for continuing to further the partnership between the two nations.

Prior to the dinner, the trio transported family, listeners and caregivers back to 1940s Germany.


“I remember the war,” said Mercedes Wild, who was seven years old at the start of the Berlin Airlift. “They (Allied bombers) destroyed Berlin. It was a hard time for the kids in West Berlin. Berlin is a destroyed city. We will never forget the sound of the bombers.”

After WWII, the German capital was divided with Soviet Russia controlling East Berlin and British, French and American Allies responsible for the west. The city was located more than 100 miles inside the Russian controlled portion of Germany. On June 24, 1948, the Russians implemented a blockade of West Berlin to prevent food and supplies, such as coal, from entering the town. The effort attempted to break the spirit of the West Berlin people to reject democracy and embrace communism.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

A C-54 Skymaster piloted by retired Col. Gail Halvorsen drops candy with attached parachutes to children during the Berlin Airlift. Halvorsen earned the nickname “Candy Bomber” for his operation Little Vittles candy drops. Note the parachutes below the tail of the C-54.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

Enter, veterans and the Berlin Airlift.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, widely known as the “Candy Bomber,” described volunteering for the mission that changed his life and the lives of millions in West Berlin. Halvorsen, a 28-year-old lieutenant at the time, grew up on a farm in Utah, where helping a neighbor in need was a way of life.

“My dad was an example to me,” he said. “He had plenty to do himself, but when a neighbor, a farmer, needed help and couldn’t get enough help, my dad would drop some of the things that weren’t so important on our farm to help the next-door neighbor.”

Halvorsen saw his first aircraft flying overhead on the farm while he was working the fields. He was hooked and signed up for a non-college pilot training program. Soon he received his flight training and was flying cargo aircraft in Mobile, Alabama. When the word came of the attempts by Russia to stomp out freedom in West Berlin by starving its residents, there was no doubt of his next step.

“I volunteered to fly supplies in early,” Halvorsen recalled.

At first, the citizens of West Berlin didn’t know what to think of hearing heavy aircraft over their heads again.

“The noise of the airplanes during the airlift in the beginning I feared, because it was the same noise while bombing Berlin,” Wild said.

They would soon learn the aircraft were not carrying bombs but food and supplies to keep them alive. The logistics of flying 2.3 million tons of goods and equipment was not without risks. In total, 101 airmen from around the world perished in the Berlin Airlift.

“Two hundred meters from our house, there was the first airlift airplane crash in the night,” Wild remembered. “The next morning I went with my mother. It was destroyed. The two pilots were dead. The people were very sorry about this … They feared that the west allies would now stop the airlift.”

A hard winter already made food in short supply, Wild explained. The only meal she might get would come from school and she would sneak part of this food to her mother, who was sick. She also took care of the family chickens, whose eggs she would trade on the black market for meat or shoes. Still, none of these hardships compared to the fear of the Russians returning to West Berlin as they had done in the final days of the war.

“The normal West Berliner did not want to become Soviet,” she said. “The Soviet regime was near the same as Nazi time and they feared the Russians. They remembered the Russian soldiers.”

As Halvorsen flew food and coal into the city of Berlin, a 19-year-old RAF pilot flew gasoline into Berlin.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Then-Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“The Halifax aircraft was a converted bomber,” said Dereck Hermiston. “The bomb racks had been taken and we flew, I think it was 40 or 41, 45-gallon tanks of gasoline. They had wooden beams, and they (used them) to roll these drums up. Quite unstable, and it stank to high hell.”

The son of a WWI pilot, Hermiston was among the youngest airmen to participate in flying the airlift. Yet, even as a teenager, the reversal of roles did not escape him.

“I realized, as a British officer, that we had bombed, and bombed, and bombed Berlin with the Americans, and it was a reversal,” he said. “We were now trying to save the Berliners from what was quite an oppressive regime from the Russians. I met a few Russian officers, and they were very sure they wanted to stop Germany from growing ever again.”

There was always worry of an international incident turning the Cold War operation hot, as Hermiston told.

“We were buzzed by a Russian MiG-9 one morning,” Hermiston, very much still a kid at heart, said with a chuckle. “I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning. It was just getting daylight. There was this great shudder, and this fighter aircraft flew underneath us … and looped around us. As he came down, I had no room to maneuver. I suppose he missed us by about 200 to 300 feet. It was enough to make the aircraft shudder. Little things like that I remember because I was frightened.”

Despite the harsh weather conditions and aero acrobatic antics of the Soviets, the Allies continued to do what was needed to feed and fuel a city. In some cases this involved evacuating Berliners in need of medical attention.

“I flew out something like 220 people in my aircraft from Berlin that were sick or were children needing operations,” Hermiston said. “My aircraft was a tanker aircraft, so they had to sit on these wooden beams that were going up the fuselage in stinking conditions. It stank of petrol oil from all the gasoline. Yet, they were all so very grateful — very, very grateful. I found the people extremely grateful.”

The British pilot was not the only person struck by the grateful nature of the people of Berlin. In a previous interview, Halvorsen recalled how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” after a trip to Berlin, seeing children line up along the fence line outside the flightline of the Templehof airport.

“I had been to other countries where the kids had chocolate,” he said, recalling that moment nearly 70 years later. “When George Washington visited his troops, he had little hard candies in his pocket for the kids. That was nothing new. But these kids had not had chocolate for a couple of years. Not one out of the 30 broke ranks and said, ‘do you got candy?’ When I realized that, it just hit me like a ton of bricks — black and white. I just could not believe that quality of character called gratitude. They were so grateful. They were thankful for their freedom. When I realized that, I thought I got to do something. I reached in my pocket, and all I had was two sticks of gum.”

Convinced that everyone deserved a treat or no one did, Halvorsen took about three more steps and the little voice came clear as a bell directing him back to the fence.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

“Boy, when I stopped and started back, those kids came to attention,” he said. “I pulled out two sticks of gum and broke them in half and passed it to the kids doing the translating. I couldn’t believe what I saw. The other kids didn’t push or shove or try to grab it. The kids that got half a piece of stick of gum tore off the wrapper and passed it. The kids that got a strip of paper, put it up to their noses, smelled it and their eyes got big. They were dumbfounded. They clutched it in their hands to go home and show their parents, if they had any.”

An idea came to Halvorsen — return the next day.

“I will be flying overhead, and I will drop enough chocolate for all of you,” he announced to the children. “When that translated to everybody, there was a celebration going on.”

Halvorsen made one demand of the children. They must share the candy. They agreed, but another question arose. With planes arriving every few seconds, how would the children know which one was Halvorsen’s?

“When I would fly over the farm (back home), I would wiggle the wings back and forth. So I said, ‘kids, you watch the airplane. When I come over the center of Tempelhof, if it is clear, I will wiggle the wings.’ That is how it began.”

The “Candy Bomber,” with his parachutes of chocolate, was born, and the act would soon be named operation Little Vittles.

One little girl never caught one of the treats — the 7-year-old Wild.

“I was never quick enough,” she said.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

To make matters worse, the chickens whose eggs brought a fortune on the black market had stopped laying because of the noise from the aircraft landing every few seconds over head.

“Therefore, I decided to write a letter because I was so sad about the situation, and I cried,” she said. “My grandmother told me don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t weep, do something. I decided to write a letter.”

The letter was addressed to her “Chocolate Uncle,” and she asked him to aim his parachute for the garden with the white chickens.

No parachute ever came, despite nearly 20 tons of candy being dropped from the C-54 Skymasters flown by the Americans.

A letter from her “Chocolate Uncle” did come, with two special treats — a lollipop and peppermint-flavored stick of gum. Between the war and the blockade, the smell of peppermint was unknown to the child.

“I exchanged it on the black market, this peppermint gum, for a glass marble; I have this glass marble,” Wild said, pulling the smooth glass toy from her pocket and placing it on the table with as much pride as any seven-year-old. “This is the same glass marble.”

The lollipop was saved for a Christmas treat, but the greatest gift that day was not the candy.

“The most important was the letter; the letter changed my whole life,” she said.

Offered a chance to join an aunt in Switzerland where food and supplies were not held hostage by the Soviets, Wild turned it down with the hopes of one day meeting her “Chocolate Uncle.”

Around-the-clock supplies continued flying into Berlin as British and American pilots made three round trips a day. After nearly a year, the Soviets lifted the blockade, reopening the transportation routes on the ground.

“The Soviets gave up,” Halvorsen said. “They said we can’t compete with that. They got red-faced and backed off. The airlift was the reason they had to do that; it broke the blockade. I was proud to be a part of that.”

With the blockade lifted in May 1949, British and American aircraft continued to fly supplies into Berlin to rebuild the stocks. On Sept. 23, 1949, the last RAF aircraft landed in Berlin with supplies.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Time passed, and in 1970, Halvorsen returned to Germany, now as a colonel and the commander of Tempelhof. A now grown and married Wild decided now was the time to meet her “Chocolate Uncle.”

“First, we went to airport Templehof, and I took the letter with me,” Wild said. “Then I invited him to our home for dinner with the family.”

The two families have remained close all these years.

Seventy years later, these veterans of the Berlin Airlift travel the world telling the story of how the gratitude of the Berlin Airlift shaped their lives and the world.

“We must give the good spirit to the kids to have good society and future…” Wild said. “This was a very good thing that Colonel Halvorsen decided to have those candy droppings because I think he is the best ambassador for mankind–for humanity. It is not only Col. Halvorsen, but the other pilots and the people of Great Britain, South Africa, Canada and USA. The people were standing behind the airlift.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons why ‘Platoon’ should have been about Sgt. Barnes

There are so many war movies out there, but few come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the Vietnam war was strongly opposed in his film Platoon.

Although the film was excellent, did you ever wonder how different it would have been if Sgt. Barnes — the film’s villain — was the star?

Related: 7 reasons ‘Top Gun’ should have been about Iceman

Well, we did and here are six reasons why we think the movie should have been about him.

6. We would have gotten the back story on how he got his epic scar. Just look at that thing and tell us you don’t want to know more about it. Is it from a hand grenade or did he knife fight someone or what?

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
We’re betting it’s from a gunshot wound. (Source: Orion)

5. Remember when he shot that woman? We’re not condoning executions, but seeing Sgt. Barnes interrogation methods a few more times could have been cool.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
This interrogation scene was power. (Source: Orion)

4. Besides the scene where Barnes threatens Chris with that cool looking blade, that knife doesn’t make another appearance. If that film were about him, we probably would have seen Barnes use in on the enemy troops once or twice in hand-to-hand combat.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
You could slice and dice the enemy with this sharp and badass looking blade — no problem. (Source: Orion)

3. Pvt. Taylor (Charlie Sheen) would have just been a whiny boot replacement — which he was in the beginning — that no one cares about since the film would have been in Barnes’ perspective.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
You just murdered the star of our fictional version of the film — you better cry. (Source: Orion)

2. Sgt. Barnes is a pretty lethal killer, but we could’ve gotten a glimpse of what made him that way. Although we discussed his epic scar earlier, it would be cool to get a flashback or two focusing on some of this bloody missions he was on before Taylor showed up.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
You know those eyes have seen some sh*t. (Source: Orion)

1. Barnes would have eventually snapped and put his non-alpha male platoon leader Lt. Wolfe in his place — and audiences would have loved to see that sh*t go down.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
It’s about to go down — if the movie was about Barnes. (Source: Orion)

Can you think of any more? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS ripped off ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in its latest propaganda video

The self-styled Islamic State is trying to lure people to fight for the terror group with a scene from “The Lord of the Rings.”

In a propaganda video published on May 22, 2018, bearing the terrorist group’s watermark, the group’s chapter in Kirkuk, Iraq, used four seconds of footage from the trilogy to encourage followers to “conquer the enemies.”


The clip was taken from the third LOTR movie, “The Return of the King.” It shows the riders of Rohan charging an orc army at the Battle of The Pelennor Fields, but seems to be in the video more as a generic medieval battle scene.

Here’s the scene. The part that ISIS repurposed comes around the 2 minute 30 second mark:

The ISIS video, which Business Insider has reviewed, then cuts to footage of soldiers on horseback fighting each other, with the voice of an Arabic-language narrator — which was also taken from a Hollywood movie.

That scene was from “Kingdom of Heaven,” a 2005 film starring Orlando Bloom as a French blacksmith joining the Crusades to fight against Muslims for the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The medieval scenes are spliced inbetween images of ISIS fighters in the field, and news footage showing Donald Trump and various news anchors talking about ISIS.

The terror group is fond of crusader imagery, and often frames its battle with the west as a new-age crusade. Its official communications describe routinely describes people from western nations, especially victims of terror attacks, as “crusaders.”

ISIS’s use of Hollywood films in the propaganda video was first pointed out by Caleb Weiss, an analyst at the Long War Journal, on Twitter.

The Ride of the Rohirrim scene appears to be popular among jihadis. It was also used by the Turkistan Islamic Party, an extremist group founded in western China, Weiss pointed out in 2017.

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

Articles

Here is the heroine who was as awe inspiring as Wonder Woman

Warner Brothers will showcase the courage and will of the comic book hero “Wonder Woman” this weekend in her big screen debut.


But it might be worth taking a look at the military exploits of Milunka Savic — a real-life Wonder Woman. Savic fought in both Balkan Wars and World War I to become the most-decorated woman of military history.

Savic took her brother’s place to fight for Serbia in 1912, cut her hair and took his name. She earned the rank of corporal and was shot in the chest at the Battle of Bregalnica. It was only during treatment that physicians discovered that she was a woman.

That per her commanding officer into a bit of a predicament — punish such a skilled soldier or risk this young woman’s life. They sent her to a nursing unit instead. She stood at attention requesting to return to her old infantry regiment. The commander said he would think about it and get back to her with an answer.

Savic simply stood at attention until they allowed her to serve in the Infantry.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
Milunka Savic was a total badass. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Soon after, Austro-Hungarian troops invaded her homeland, beginning World War I.

Vastly outnumbered at the Battle of Kolubara, Savic entered no-man’s land throwing a bunch of grenades then jumped into an enemy trench and took 20 Austro-Hungarian soldiers prisoner — all by herself.

For her valor, she earned the highest honor of the Kingdom of Serbia — The Order of Karadorde’s Star with Swords. She did the same thing in later battles, capturing 23 Bulgarian troops.

Savic was wounded seven more times in various skirmishes. Few in numbers, her unit continued the fight under the French Army where she fought in Tunisia and Greece. In one instance, a French Officer refused to believe that a woman could be a capable fighter.

He placed a bottle of cognac 40 meters away. If she could hit it, another 19 bottles were for her. She proved him wrong with one shot.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
Via History Click

Savic’s story lives on in Serbia as a true heroine. Her military honors include two Orders of Karadorde’s Star with Swords, two French Legions of Honor, Britain’s Order of St. Michael and St. George, and she is the only woman to be awarded the Croix de Guerre — The French Cross of War.

Youtube, The Great War

MIGHTY HISTORY

A cartoonish look at how an epic airlift prevented World War 3

Everyone knew in the closing days of World War II that the Soviet Union was destined to clash with the rest of the Allies. But when it attempted a blockade of West Berlin that amounted to a siege in 1948, it still took the world by surprise and threatened World War III. Luckily, President Harry S. Truman was able to call on Western air forces to resupply Berlin by air for over a year.


Berlin Airlift: The Cold War Begins – Extra History

youtu.be

The Berlin Blockade, as it was known, was in reaction to Western Power attempts to re-stabilize the German economy and currency after World War II. Both the Soviet Union and the West wanted Germany to lean toward them in the post-war world because it would act as a buffer state for whichever side won.

But, beyond that, Russia wanted to ensure that Germany would never again be strong enough to invade the Soviet Union. Remember that the German military under the Kaiser had invaded Russia only 30 years before the Germans under the Fuhrer invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviets didn’t want to suffer that again.

So Soviet Premier Josef Stalin sabotaged the first attempt to overhaul the German economy, and when the Western Powers attempted to introduce the new German Deutsche Mark behind his back, Stalin instituted a total blockade of West Berlin.

Germany had been split up after the war, with America, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union all taking control of one section of the country. But each Allied power also got control of a section of Germany’s capital, Berlin, even though Berlin sat entirely within the Soviet Sector of the country.

So the Soviets could choke off the ability of France, America, and Britain to resupply their troops simply by closing the roads and rails that fed into the city, and they did.

This left those countries with a serious problem and only crappy choices. Do nothing, and the troops are starved. Pull the troops out, and the Soviets take control of the entire capital. Try to resupply them in force, and you’ll trigger a war, for certain.

So the senior advisers to Truman suggested that he simply give in, and pull the troops out. Better to lose the city than fight another war, and allowing the troops to starve to death was no option at all.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

A C-54 flies into Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport in 1948 as part of the Berlin Airlift.

(U.S. Air Force Henry Ries)

But Truman, a veteran of the front lines of World War I, and the man who decided to drop the atom bombs was not one to shy away from a confrontation. He ordered the city held and required his generals to find a way to get supplies in.

Their best plan was an audacious airlift called Operation Vittles. Experts from Britain estimated that it would take 4,000 tons of supplies per day to keep the city going. Carrying that many supplies via plane would be tough in any situation, but the task was made worse by the limited amount of infrastructure in Berlin to receive the supplies.

Berlin only had two major airports capable of receiving sufficiently large transports: Tempelhof Airport and Royal Air Force Station Gatow. These stations would need to receive well over 1,000 flights per day if the mission were to be achieved with the planes immediately available, mostly old C-47s.

But in the early days of the airlift, the air forces would fall well short of 4,000 tons per day. Instead, they would hit more like 70 and 90 tons per day, slowly growing to 1,000 tons per day. But, after a few weeks when it became clear that the airlift would need to continue indefinitely, the U.S. Air Force brought in an airlift expert to increase the throughput.

Maj. Gen. William H. Tunner was a top operations officer for the Military Air Transport Command, and he took over in order to make the operation much more professional and precise. Under Tunner, the military brought in new planes that would max out the reception capability of Tempelhof and Gatow.

The C-54s could carry more supplies, but they also over-stressed the landing surfaces. Workers rushed out between landings to spread sand to soften the damages to the landing surface. And, as winter set on, an entirely new landing strip was constructed at Tempelhof.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Almost 1.8 million tons of supplies were delivered by the time the operation was over.

(U.S. Air Force)

And the miracle worked. Tunner got the daily total to over 4,000 tons, then set record days at 4,500 tons, 5,000 tons, and beyond.

Eventually, the Soviet Union had to admit that the blockade had failed. The German people had rallied around the Western powers, and the West was in a better position after 15 months of airlift than it had been before the start. The western sections of Berlin and Germany became decidedly pro-American and British, and the Soviet Union had to use the force of arms to retain control of the Soviet sections.

This should have been predictable. After all, there are few sights that might make a government more popular than its planes flying overhead, dropping candy and delivering food and fuel, for over a year as you’re barely able to stave off starvation.

The Cold War was on, but Western logistics had achieved the first great victory with no violence. But, approximately 101 fatalities were suffered in the operation.

Articles

Air Force wants to 3D-print ‘Baby MOABs’

The next “Mother of All Bombs” will probably be smaller, leaner and lighter but will still pack a punch.


It’s what scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab are working on as part of their next-generation munition concept.

Part of the Advanced Ordnance Technologies program, the bomb could be structured to be lighter by using 3D-printed reconstructed loads within the bomb instead of in the casing — plus distributed blast yields, said Dr. John Corley, the core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.

“We’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years,” Corley said Thursday during a Defense Department Lab day in the Pentagon courtyard.

Corley and colleagues were showcasing a prototype one-seventh the scale of a bomb the lab is working on (not pictured), along with various fuse technologies.

One of the key enablers to prototyping the bomb is through 3D printing. “Right now, most of your penetrator munitions have two-inch case walls,” Corley said, which actually prohibits a larger blast and creates more debris.

Related: Here is the video of MOAB’s combat debut

Instead, the lab has begun printing casing prototypes — with steel — that moves the load from the case to within the bomb itself (the vertical loads look very similar to a DNA double helix within the bomb).

Furthermore, the lab is using distributed embedded fusing in the bomb “so not only do we have all these other features we’re relocating the fireset for the bomb into the explosive, so you can distribute that around different places [with]in the bomb to improve survivability,” Corley said.

In current penetrating munitions, the ways in which the fuse is hardwired to the case is limiting, Corley said. By separating the fuse from the case could make the bomb more flexible of when it hits and how it hits.

The fuse prototypes are also being 3D printed at this time.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
The guided bomb unit-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb prototype is shown moments before impact. The detonation created a mushroom cloud that could be seen 20 miles away. | US Air Force photo

The next step for the advanced future bomb will be to incorporate these various “selectable effects,” as Corley called them.

“In a selectable effects, on any given day you might want it to be the same weapon to give you a small blast footprint, or a large blast footprint, and right now we can control this …height of burst,” he said.

The burst height controls the range of damage. The succeeding shockwave — just like the 21,600-pound, GPS-guided GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or MOAB, uses to penetrate its target — could very well be controlled to be smaller or larger depending on which selectable effect is used.

Thus, how much or how little yield the bomb exerts could be determined for whatever the mission may be — so for once, size (of the actual bomb) doesn’t matter.

Looking past MOAB-style bombs, Corley also noted the military aircraft of today are becoming smaller, so weapons too need to adapt — and, of course, fit.

“Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions, but we’d like to get to a 100 pound munition for instance that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb,” he said.

Corley said whether the Air Force will make the bombs in-house — much like the MOAB — is still to be determined. Tail kits on bombs, for example, are more likely to be constructed by defense industry companies than the bombs themselves, which “the government owns,” he said.

Physical bombs being worked on through the AOT program are still a “few years off” because most are still in the concept stage, Corley said.

 

Articles

Russia fires sub-launched cruise missiles at ISIS fighters

Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group’s positions in Syria, the Russian defense ministry said on May 31.


The announcement came as Syrian government troops pushed ahead in their offensive against IS and militants in central and northern Syria.

Moscow said in a statement that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient town of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched.

Syrian troops have been on the offensive for weeks in northern, central and southern part of the country against IS and U.S.-backed rebels under the cover of Russian airstrikes, gaining an area almost half the size of neighboring Lebanon.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
Hmeymim airfield in Syria. | Photo via Russian Ministry of Defense

Most recently, Syrian troops and their allies have been marching toward the IS stronghold of Sukhna, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Palmyra.

The strategic juncture in the Syrian desert aids government plans to go after IS in Deir el-Zour, one of the militants’ last major strongholds in Syria. The oil-rich province straddles the border with Iraq and is the extremist group’s last gateway to the outside world.

Russia, a staunch Damascus ally, has been providing air cover to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive on IS and other insurgents since 2015. Moscow had fired cruise missiles from warships in the past, as well as from mainland Russia against Assad’s opponents.

Also read: Israeli air strike hits huge Hezbollah weapons stockpile in Syria

As the fighting against IS militants is underway near Palmyra, Syrian troops clashed with U.S.-backed rebels in the country’s south on May 31, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Mozahem al-Salloum, of the activist-run Hammurabi Justice News network that tracks developments in eastern Syria.

The fighting came days after the United States told Syrian government forces and their allies to move away from an area near the Jordanian border where the coalition is training allied rebels.

The warning comes less than two weeks after the Americans bombed Iranian-backed troops there after they failed to heed similar warnings.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said on May 30 that the U.S. dropped leaflets over the weekend telling the forces to leave the established protected zone.

In the northern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of IS, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition destroyed the main telecommunications center in the city, the IS-linked Aamaq news agency said. The Sound and Picture Organization, which documents IS violations, said land telecommunications were cut in most parts of the city after the center was hit.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syrian airfield while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

The bombing came a day after U.S.-backed Syrian fighters reached the northern and eastern gates of Raqqa ahead of what will likely be a long and deadly battle. The city has been subjected to intense airstrikes in recent days.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia that is fighting IS in northern Syria had struck a deal with the IS offering it a safe corridor out of Raqqa. He added that soon after the Russian Defense Ministry had spoken about the agreement, some IS fighters started moving toward Palmyra.

The SDF has denied reports that it allowed IS fighters to leave the city.

“The Russian military spotted the movement and struck the convoy so it never reached Palmyra,” Lavrov said. “And so it will be in all situations when the IS is spotted anywhere on the Syrian territory. It’s an absolutely legitimate target along with all its facilities, bases, and training camps.”

“The current situation shows gaps in coordination between all those who are fighting terrorism in Syria,” Lavrov added, voicing hope that the U.S.-led coalition wouldn’t allow the IS to escape from Raqqa.

Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes captured Palmyra in March 2016 and Moscow even flew in one of its best classical musicians to play a triumphant concert at Palmyra’s ancient theater. IS forces, however, recaptured Palmyra eight months later, before Syrian government troops drove them out again in March 2017.

Russia’s defense ministry said its statement that the strikes successfully hit IS heavy weapons and fighters whom the group who had deployed and moved to Palmyra from the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Sunni militant group and its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Related: US special ops are trying to figure out how to counter Russia’s new way of warfare

Moscow said it had notified the U.S., Turkish, and Israeli militaries beforehand of the upcoming strike. It added that the Russian strike was promptly executed following the order, a testimony to the navy’s high readiness and capabilities.

Russia has been busy mediating between Assad and Turkey and the West who seek his removal. Earlier this month Russia, Iran, and Turkey agreed to establish safe zones in Syria, signing on to a Russian plan under which Assad’s air force would halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country. Russia says maps delineating the zones should be ready by June 4.

Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 10 most popular US states for off-the-grid living, according to HomeAdvisor

HomeAdvisor has identified the 10 most popular US states for living off the grid.

The home improvement site used an algorithm to comb through Instagram posts tagged #offgridliving, focusing on posts with location data, to identify where off-gridders are congregating.

Off-grid living involves disconnecting from the electric grid and pursuing an independent lifestyle without relying on municipal services like water supply.


Not all off-gridders are showcasing their life on social media, HomeAdvisor acknowledges, but the #offgridliving hashtag is a good place to go “hunting for signs of life” in the off-grid community, the company said.

Motivations of casual off-gridders vary but generally include wanting to “get away from it all for a while” and lead an “eco-conscious life,” HomeAdvisor wrote.

Here, in ascending order, are the 10 most popular US states for off-grid living, according to HomeAdvisor.

Editor’s note: The legality of living off-grid can vary by county within a given state, so be sure to check local laws if you’re thinking of going off-grid.

10. New York

ercentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.46%

Off-grid tip: Diane Vuković, an author and writer for the blog Primal Survivor who regularly updates a list of off-grid laws relating to water, electric, and waste in each of the 50 states, deemed New York “one of the strictest” when it comes to regulations.

“However, this does not mean it is impossible to go off-grid in New York,” she said. “It just means that you will likely have to do a lot more research to find a place where off-grid living is allowed and get numerous permits, licenses, and inspections.”

Source: HomeAdvisor

9. New Mexico

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.71%

Off-grid tip: The Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico, is an off-grid community that has made headlines over the years for its eye-catching designs. Founded by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, it consists of self-sufficient, solar-powered homes and buildings made with upcycled material like car tires and glass.

Source: HomeAdvisor

8. Utah

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 3.73%

Off-grid tip: Utah Homestead Properties, a brokerage specializing in self-sufficient homes, highlights Utah’s vast wilderness, affordable real estate prices, and “independent, self-sufficient mindset” as reasons why the state is a great place to set up an off-grid life. The arid climate and extreme temperatures require off-gridders to get creative about heating and cooling, but there are “lots” of builders in the state that understand how to work around these challenges, the company writes on its website.

Source: HomeAdvisor

7. Alaska

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.14%

Off-grid tip: Alaska’s microgrid laws are “very progressive,” Vuković wrote for Primal Survivor. “However, off-grid solar may not be feasible in many areas of the state where there isn’t much daylight during winter,” she added.

Source: HomeAdvisor

6. Florida

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.24%

Off-grid tip: Reports of a woman who was evicted from her off-grid home in Cape Coral, Florida, back in 2016 have contributed to the belief that off-grid living is illegal in Florida, according to Vuković and the blog Off Grid World.

“Many people have exaggerated on a story going around the internet that Florida doesn’t allow off grid living, but the story is completely false,” Off Grid World wrote in a recently updated post.

In reality, living off-grid in Florida is legal: Residents can set up off-grid solar power systems, collect rainwater, and with permission, install compost toilets, Vuković wrote.

Source: HomeAdvisor

5. Hawaii

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 4.46%

Off-grid tip: “Although unplugging from public utilities isn’t practical everywhere, the mild temperatures; abundance of sunshine, wind, and rain; and fertile soil make Hawaii an attractive place to go off grid,” LiAnne Yu wrote for Hawaii Business magazine in November 2017.

The Big Island, or Hawaii Island, is home to several established off-grid communities. “Living off the land here is a way of life,” Sean Jennings wrote of the Big Island on his blog Homesteadin’ Hawaii.

Source: HomeAdvisor

4. Oregon

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 7.37%

Off-grid tip: One of Oregon’s notable off-grid communities is the gated Three Rivers Recreation Area. Spanning 4,000 acres near the Metolius River arm of Lake Billy Chinook, it comes with its own marina and airstrip. It is home to 600 properties and between 75 and 80 full-time residents, according to Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty.

Source: HomeAdvisor

3. Arizona

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 8.64%

Off-grid tip: In 2019, early retirees Steve and Courtney Adcock settled down at an off-grid home in the Arizona desert powered by solar. “Residential solar energy systems aren’t cheap, but they are game-changers,” Steve wrote in a blog post. “Solar power systems save money in the long run, include a tax credit in the US and, of course, it’s clean energy. We love not having an electric bill.”

Source: HomeAdvisor

2. Colorado

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 9.57%

Off-grid tip: A popular Colorado destination that draws a steady steam of novice and veteran off-gridders is San Luis Valley in Alamosa County, Tom McGhee reported for The Denver Post. “Mountains carve the sky in all directions, and the promise of cheap land and life beyond the confines of civilization lures many. It is dream land beyond the reach of electricity and other infrastructure considered necessary by most,” he wrote.

Source: HomeAdvisor

1. California

Percentage of #offgridliving posts: 12.91%

“If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, you may well have an off-gridding Instagram-user right next door,” HomeAdvisor wrote of the most popular state for off-grid living, according to its report.

HomeAdvisor describes the #offgridliving asethetic as a happy medium between a plugged-in life and homesteading. “You’ll still find baskets of eggs, but they’re surrounded by bushcraft knives, off-road vehicles, and ornate water filtration systems,” the company said.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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


Articles

Here’s the real story about how the Air Force’s MC-130J got its name

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
MC-130J operating from desert airstrip. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.

On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.

“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”

The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
A 71st Special Operations Squadron, CV-22 Osprey, is refueled by a 522nd Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Combat Shadow II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bell)

Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.

With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”

The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.

More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.

A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.

So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.

Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.

“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”

Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.

Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.

Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
A modified MC-130J awaits its next mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The aircraft has been fitted with vertical fins on each wing, called winglets. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”

Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.

The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.

As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.

The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.

Back at Wright-Patterson, the officials in charge of names balked at the idea of two names for one plane. Air Force Materiel Command ultimately approved Combat Shadow II for all MC-130Js.

This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”

Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.

On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.

Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.

With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”

The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.

Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Turkey just unveiled new stealth-fighter concept

Turkey unveiled a full-scale mock-up of a new indigenous stealth-fighter concept on June 17, 2019, at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

The unveiling of the new TF-X, which is expected to be Turkey’s first homegrown fifth-generation fighter, comes as the US prepares to kick its ally out of the F-35 program in response to the country’s planned purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.


“Our machine is a mock-up, but in 2023 there will be a real machine, and first flight is in 2025, and [it will be in] service in 2028,” Temel Kotil, the president and CEO of Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc. (TAI), the company behind the model and new fighter concept, revealed at the event, Defense News reported.

The TF-X program was launched to replace the Turkish Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16s. The fighter was intended to be interoperable with other Turkish Air Force assets, including the F-35, TAI said on its company website.

The mock-up TAI showed off at the air show is the twin-engine version, one of three different variations the company has explored in recent years, The War Zone reported, adding that the aircraft shares design similarities with the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35.

A promotional video highlighted some of the potential capabilities of the new TF-X. For example, the aircraft is said to be capable of flying at Mach 2 and have a combat radius of roughly 600 nautical miles. Kotil told reporters that it would be able to carry the Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile in the internal weapons bay.

Milli Muharip Uçak

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TAI is involved in the fuselage production for the F-35, which gives it the knowledge and skills necessary to develop a homegrown fifth-generation fighter, the company said. “Hopefully, this will be also a good fighter for NATO and the NATO allies,” Kotil said, according to Defense News.

This aerospace program may be taking on new urgency as the US takes steps to remove its NATO ally from the F-35 program, a direct response to Ankara’s unwavering decision to purchase the S-400 despite US objections.

“Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 will hinder your nation’s ability to enhance or maintain cooperation with the United States and within NATO,” Patrick Shanahan, the acting Pentagon chief, recently wrote in a letter to Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, CNN reported.

The US has said the F-35 and S-400 are incompatible because the latter could be used to collect intelligence on the US fighter. The US has given Turkey until July 31, 2019, to reach an agreement.

If Turkey fails to do so, the US will block its ally from purchasing the F-35 and permanently halt the training of Turkish pilots on the advanced fighter. The training program has already been suspended.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Revamped training curriculum will develop ready and resilient airmen

After listening to feedback from the field, a few changes to the Air Force Basic Military Training curriculum will transform trainees into more combat-ready airmen.

The changes, which began Sept. 4, 2018, are entirely focused on readiness and lethality, airmanship, fitness, and warrior ethos.

“The future of BMT focuses on creating disciplined, warrior-airmen who are ready to support our joint partners in conflicts around the globe,” said Col. Jason Corrothers, former 737th Training Group and BMT commander who spearheaded the modifications. “These changes to refine the basic training experience are about increasing our readiness and lethality while simultaneously instilling airmanship and core values from the very beginning.”


Restoring readiness is one of the Air Force’s top priorities. The changes address readiness through a revamped expeditionary skills and weapons training curriculum, said Lt. Col. Jose Surita, 326th Training Squadron commander, who has overseen the development of the revamped curriculum.

Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training which previously took place in week five of training, is resequenced to the final training week as the culminating event of BMT. Air Force recruits will also experience a beefed up Self-Aid/Buddy Care regimen, called the Tactical Combat Casualty Course.

“We need highly trained and ready airmen,” Surita said. “Readiness is the central theme across the BMT curriculum as we deliver trained and committed airmen capable of delivering 21st century airpower.”

There is also an increased focus on weapons handling and familiarization, said Surita.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Air Force Basic Military Training trainees prepare for a log climb and rope walk obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Airmen’s Week, which was focused on a values-based “Airmanship 100” curriculum, was taught the week after trainees completed basic training. Airmen’s Week lessons, which are not being changed, are now incorporated throughout 8.5 weeks of BMT.

This change gives end-to-end ownership of the training to the military training instructor corps, delivering a continuous immersion that accelerates “mind to heart” adoption of the Air Force core values and warrior ethos principles

“Our airmen need to be technically capable, but they also need to be motivated,” said Master Sgt. Robert Kaufman, military training instructor. “Airmanship 100 lessons focus on their resilience and challenge recruits to commit to holding each other accountable to our core values.”

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

An Air Force Basic Military Training trainee attacks a dummy during an obstacle during the Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

With an emphasis on improving human performance, BMT will also see a bump up in the overall number of fitness sessions, increasing from 31 to 44 periods throughout training. Workouts will be a balanced mix of cardio, strength, and interval training.

“Physical fitness is a critical component of readiness,” said Master Sgt. Andrea Jefferson, military training instructor. “By increasing the number of physical training sessions, we build fitness habits that will help recruits perform both in the military environment, and in their personal lives.”

BMT curriculum changes also includes a purpose built heritage program that introduces recruits to Air Force heroes, and weaves heritage and warrior ethos throughout training.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

An Air Force Basic Military Training Instructor watch an Air Force Basic Military Training (AFBMT) graduation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We will be introducing warrior identity, as well as Air Force history and heroes, every week throughout training,” said Master Sgt. Richard Bonsra, military training instructor. “Those topics will then be reinforced during all training events, such as naming physical training sessions after a fallen airman to cement the experience.”

Future changes to how heritage and warrior ethos are ingrained into BMT will include naming obstacles on the “Creating Leaders, Airmen, Warriors” Course after Air Force heroes, said Bonsra.

How the Taliban went from international pariah to U.S. peace partner in Afghanistan

Air Force Basic Military Training Instructors train drill and ceremony movements at Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“Over the last 70 years, we have become the most dominant Air Force the world has ever known, but there is no doubt we must be, and can be better in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lee Hoover, 737th TRG superintendent, “The next generation of airmen will take us there, so it’s critical we start them on the right foot. These changes ensure we move in that direction.”

Headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, the 737th TRG is the Air Force’s largest training group, comprised of nine squadrons and more than 900 permanent-party personnel. BMT, with an average daily load of 7,000 trainees, graduated more than 37,314 airmen in fiscal year 2017 and BMT instructors are postured to increase that number to more than 40,200 graduates in fiscal year 2019.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

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