Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called OperationTenzing Nepal.
The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.
Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.
Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.
Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.
Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.
Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.
Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.
In a little-known personnel policy, members of the armed forces can take a so-called “intermission” from their service contract if they feel that the military is holding back their personal development.
The Air Force is launching its third iteration of the “Career Intermission Program,” or CIP, which allows airmen to take a sabbatical from their Air Force career while they pursue what Air Force Times calls “personal goals.”
“Some women leave the Air Force because they want to start a family,” Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox told the Times in 2014. “So why don’t we have a program that allows them, in some cases, to be able to separate from the Air Force for a short period, get their family started and then come back in?”
The Air Force does not consider the reasons for wanting to take time off when deciding who to admit into the new program, which has been in development for a few years. While starting a family was one of the primary ideas for implementing the pilot program, higher education quickly became the primary motivation.
In the first year of the CIP program, 70 percent of airmen opted to go back to school with the remainder leaving to start families or take care of ailing relatives.
The Marine Corps started its program in 2013 with the Army following suit in 2014. The Navy program offered retention of full health and dental coverage, continued commissary and base shopping privileges and a payment of a small reserve stipend. Other branches used that as a guide for their own programs.
In 2015, 59 airmen — 22 officers and 37 enlisted — applied to the Air Force program. The application window for the second round closed at the end of August 2015, and a panel convened at the end of September to choose who will begin those sabbaticals. The program is limited to 20 enlisted and 20 officers per service.
Congress may potentially extend the program to 400, again, at the Navy’s request. Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey thinks the caps in place are there for a reason.
“You don’t want to punish people for doing it, but you don’t necessarily want to sell it, either, because not everybody can do it,” Dailey told the Army Times. “There’s always going to be a limit to those things.”
Troops in critical functions or accepting critical skills retention bonuses are not considered for the CIP, although exceptions can be made for hardship situations. It’s also important to check the service-specific guidelines for application. The Army’s CIP is limited to NCOs. Acceptance and benefits to the program are at the discretion of the individual service secretaries.
On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.
9/11 changed them.
In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.
Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.
On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.
The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.
But he didn’t stop.
Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.
He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.
In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.
On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.
On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.
Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”
Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of MARSOC, told Military.com the command has already received several requests from female Marines to enter the assessment and selection pipeline to become a critical skills operator. While Osterman could not specify how many women had applied, he said the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.
“The very first week of January … we had one female applicant on the West Coast,” Osterman said. “Unfortunately, there was something in the prerequisite stuff she didn’t have, a [general technical] score or something. It was, ‘get re-tested and come on back,’ that kind of thing.”
Osterman said MARSOC is actively soliciting and recruiting qualified female Marines to join the command’s ranks. The command does not have, as Osterman put it, a “street to fleet” recruiting program; rather, it recruits from within the ranks of the Marine Corps.
To qualify for MARSOC critical skills operator assessment and selection, a Marine must be a seasoned corporal or a sergeant, or a first lieutenant or captain. The Marine must also have a minimum GT score of 105 and a minimum physical fitness test score of 225 out of 300, and be able to pass a command swim assessment and meet medical screening criteria.
“We’ve actively identified all the females in the Marine Corps writ large who meet all the prerequisites just like with our normal screening teams,” Osterman said. “We’ve notified or contacted every one of them and let them know, ‘it’s open, you’re eligible.'”
MARSOC submitted its broad implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense at the beginning of January after receiving input from the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, Osterman said. In terms of training and job skills, he said, the command does have an advantage over the Marine Corps in that there were already clear gender-neutral physical standards in place for critical skills operators, while the Corps has only recently created such standards for infantry jobs.
MARSOC’s training pipeline is notoriously grueling. After a three-week initial assessment and selection period that tests physical fitness and a range of other aptitudes, Marines enter a second, 19-day assessment and selection training phase. Applicants who make it through both AS phases can then begin a nine-month individual training course that covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and many other skill sets.
Osterman said Wednesday that 40 percent of Marines who enter the MARSOC pipeline go on to become critical skills operators.
“When [Marines] go into assessment and screening, it’s a very holistic psychological profile. It’s swim, it’s physical fitness, but we don’t even count the PFT as part of the evaluation. It’s much more comprehensive than that,” Osterman said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated standardization system which is nice in that, again, we already had this and it’s gender-neutral already.”
MARSOC is also making plans to prepare its leadership for the advent of female trainees and operators, Osterman said.
Acknowledging the study, Osterman said he planned to hold a town hall meeting for MARSOC leadership to discuss the implementation of Carter’s gender integration mandate and to discuss thoughts and concerns.
“The tone and tenor from my perspective is, the concern was mostly about standards,” Osterman said of the Rand report. “Our standards are as they’ve always been and we’re not changing them.”
On a personal note, Osterman said he could see benefits to having female operators downrange.
“There are things that women can do, as I’ve seen many times in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there’s a lot of value added in the combined arms kind of approach,” he said.
Before he was a U.S. senator, and later a presidential candidate, John McCain was a naval aviator over the skies of Vietnam. But the 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy is probably known less for his flying skills and more for what he did on the ground, as a prisoner of war for more than five years.
“I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison,” McCain wrote in a post on Quora, in response to the question of what it was like to be a P.O.W.
When he was shot down, McCain was on his 23rd mission: A bombing run over Hanoi. “A Russian missile the size of a telephone pole came up — the sky was full of them — and blew the right wing off my Skyhawk dive bomber,” he recalled in U.S. News World Report.
With his jet traveling at roughly 575 mph, he was able to eject. But when he landed in enemy territory, he had broken his left arm, his right arm in three places, and his right leg near the knee. He was captured soon after, and taken to the infamous Hỏa Lò Prison, better known by its prisoners as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
In his Quora post and in his book “Faith of my Fathers,” he recounted his poor treatment and very limited contact with the outside world. But there were two big things McCain learned:
“I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough,” he wrote. “And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.”
In the Kontum Province of Vietnam, near the borders with Laos and Cambodia, there were many reports from U.S. troops on patrols of a strange, not-quite-human but not-quite-ape creature the locals call Nguoi Rung, or “The people of the Forest.” In other words: Bigfoot.
Gary Linderer was on a six-man patrol with the 101st Airborne’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols. While struggle through the underbrush, he ran into “deep set eyes on a prominent brow… five feet tall, with long muscular arms.” The creature “walked upright with broad shoulders and a heavy torso.” His battle buddies told him he just saw a rock ape, but Linderer had seen Rock Apes before. This was no Rock Ape.
Like the Yeti in the Himalayas, and the Sasquatch sightings all over North America, the Nguoi Rung is a oft-told tale in the area, but despite endless the sightings and folklore attached to the semi-mythical creature, no concrete evidence exists. Linderer wasn’t the only witness, either. Army Sgt. Thomas Jenkins reported his platoon was attacked by these apes throwing stones.
Toward the end of the war, Viet Cong and NVA soldiers reported so many sightings of the reddish-brown hair-covered Nguoi Rung the North Vietnamese communist party secretariat ordered scientists to investigate.
Dr. Vo Quy, a respected ornithologist and environmental researcher from Hanoi, discovered a Nguoi Rung footprint on the forest floor and made a cast of it. The cast was wider than a human foot and too big for an ape.
In 1982, another Vietnamese scientist, Tran Hong Viet discovered more footprints, which led zoologist John MacKinnon to investigate the region. MacKinnon called the area a “tiny, pristine corner of the world unknown to modern science.”
In 1969, MacKinnon discovered manlike footprints in Borneo’s jungles, which the locals called Batatut. While much of the evidence surrounding the existence of these apes is anecdotal, MacKinnon, known for his discovery of new mammal species in Vietnam, believes there is a possibility the existence of a previously unknown ape species is real.
We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:
1. Commit petty theft
“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.
This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.
2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail
It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.
But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)
3. Lie on federal forms
Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.
It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.
4. Abuse prescription medication
Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.
And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).
Aircraft carriers are symbols of American military might, and, recently, a Chinese military professor caused a stir by calling for China to sink two of them to crush America’s resolve.
That’s certainly easier said than done.
The US military conducted a “Sink Exercise” test in 2005, using the decommissioned USS America for target practice to test the defensive capabilities of US carriers in order to guide the development of future supercarriers. The ship was bombarded repeatedly and hammered in a variety of attacks.
The carrier withstood four weeks of intense bombardment before it was finally sunk, according to The War Zone.
These leviathans of the seas are beacons of American power for a reason. China could knock one of the US’ 11 carriers out of the fight, but sinking one of these 100,000-ton warships is another thing entirely. That’s not to say it can’t be done. It’s just no simple task, experts told Business Insider.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits the Pacific Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kenneth Abbate)
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” said retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who previously served as an aircraft engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers.
At 1,100 feet long, carriers are floating nuclear power plants, fuel tankers, bomb arsenals, and an airfield stacked atop each other like a layered cake. They are then surrounded by cruisers and destroyers to defend them from missiles, fighters, and torpedoes — even if that means sacrificing themselves.
China can bring a lot of firepower to a fight.
The Chinese military has a lot of different weapons it could throw at a US carrier in a war.
China has its “carrier killer” anti-ship ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21D and the DF-26, which are capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, as well as a variety of anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes.
China would likely use missiles to suppress the carrier, using ballistic missiles to damage the air wing’s planes and wreck the flight deck, where planes launch and land. Weapons like cruise missiles, which can strike with precision, would likely be aimed at the hangar bay, superstructure, and maybe some of the airplanes, Bryan Clark, a former US Navy officer and defense expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), told Business Insider.
These targets are all far above the carrier’s waterline and are meant to knock the carrier out of the fight.
“If they really wanted to sink the carrier, they might have to turn to a torpedo attack,” he added. “Torpedo defense is hard, not really perfected, and so [torpedoes] actually end up being the more worrying threat.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the South China Sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Jasen Morenogarcia)
US carriers are behemoths that are built to take a hit.
Displacing more than 100,000 tons, the US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest warships ever built. Their ability to take a beating “is a function of both their size and the compartmentalization of the carrier,” Clark explained.
“In the case of the USS America, the size alone resulted in it being pretty survivable,” he said before calling attention to some other aspects of the powerful ships.
Each carrier has a number of main spaces, which the crew would try to seal off should the carrier take a hit below the waterline, say from a torpedo. The ship is so incredibly large that it would take a number of these compartments filling up with water for the ship to sink.
The type of steel used on the ships also makes them difficult to penetrate, Manvel said. “It has an underbottom and side protection of several layers of steel.” There are also “voids that allow for warhead gas expansion.”
The extra armoring is also designed to keep damage from detonating the ship’s weapons magazines, where bombs and missiles are stored.
Additionally, the US Navy pays attention to how it moves weapons around the ship, keeping these bombs and missiles as protected as possible. And steps have been taken to reduce the number of hot surfaces that could ignite.
There are also a lot of redundant systems, which means that critical systems can be rerouted, making it hard to take out essentials, such as the propulsion system, which would leave the ship dead in the water if destroyed. As long as the ship can move, it can retreat if necessary.
“Given enough time and weapons, you can sink a carrier. But, if you have defenses, people doing damage control, and propulsion, the carrier can take damage and drive away to eventually come back,” Clark told BI.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” Manvel, who taught at the US Naval Academy, said.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) launches a rolling airframe missile (RAM).
US carriers and their escort ships are armed to the teeth.
Carriers and their escort ships are armed with sonar and torpedoes to prevent the stealthy boats from getting close enough for a torpedo attack. And the battle group is also armed with electronic countermeasures and kinetic interceptors for missile defense. They also have various close-in weapons systems to strike at incoming threats as a last resort.
Submarines are their gravest threat to sinking. Russian subs, for instance, are often armed with 1,000-pound torpedoes that were designed to destroy carrier groups, and it’s conceivable that enough fired at once and on target could sink a carrier.
For just this reason, the US has put a lot of effort into anti-submarine warfare, so US carrier strike groups have “the ability to put weapons on submarine contacts very quickly,” Clark told BI. Escort ships can launch torpedoes or rocket-fired torpedoes, and SH-60 helicopters can drop torpedoes or sonobuoys to track submarines.
The US has also put a greater emphasis on electronic warfare to prevent US carriers from being actively targeted by enemy missiles. The Chinese could “launch a weapon, but it may not be accurately targeted enough to actually hit” a moving carrier from 1,000 miles away, Clark further explained.
There is also a keen interest in improved missile-defense capabilities. “There are lots of ways to shoot it down with kinetic interceptors, like the SM-6, SM-2, Rolling Airframe Missile,” he added.
Of course, there is also the air wing, which could include up to sixty fighters, as well as a number of jammers, helicopters, and early-warning aircraft. “We have a pretty robust air wing that can go hundreds of miles out to provide a buffer for incoming stuff. It would take a lot to get through that,” Manvel said.
Ships with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group transit the Philippine Sea during dual carrier operations.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
American carriers are never alone in hostile waters.
“It’s important to put the carrier where it is least at risk … surrounded by the battle group,” Manvel said.
US aircraft carriers are surrounded by smaller ships, known as escorts. They sail in carrier strike groups consisting of at least one carrier, one cruiser, and one or two destroyers and are capable of unleashing a lot of firepower when needed.
They are exceptionally well defended. “You have to launch hundreds of weapons at the carrier strike group to even get a few of them through,” Clark explained. That doesn’t mean a strike group can’t be overwhelmed, though.
There’s a good chance China has the ability to do that. At a recent talk at The Heritage Foundation, Clark explained that China could hurl around 600 missiles downrange at a carrier group, which could, on a good day, down roughly 75% of the incoming Chinese weapons.
This, however, creates a dilemma for the Chinese military. The People’s Liberation Army has to make the hard decision on how many weapons it will throw away just to knock a carrier out for a few weeks, assuming it has merely been damaged and not sunk.
“Those weapons are gone. They don’t have them for some other part of the fight,” Clark said. “Maybe that is worth it to them. Maybe it’s not.”
And it’s likely in a war that the US would destroy these missile batteries with bombers and long-range missiles before it sends a carrier into their range.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) pulls alongside the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), during a fueling at sea.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila Peters)
To strike a killing blow, China has to get close, really close.
China has decent torpedoes, and their submarines are increasingly capable. But whether or not they are good enough to slip past the defenses of a carrier strike group to deliver the kill shot to a US carrier is debatable.
In 2006, a Chinese Song-class submarine reportedly managed to skirt the defenses of the USS Kitty Hawk strike group, surfacing within firing range of the carrier as it sailed through the East China Sea, according to a report by The Washington Times, some details of which have been called into question. The incident reportedly caused the US Navy to reevaluate its approach to Chinese subs.
The US Navy can put a lot of fire on a submarine very quickly, and because submarines tend to be rather slow with limited defenses, the enemy submarine could retreat only once it was spotted.
“Once a submarine has been detected and you start throwing weapons at it, it pretty much has to leave because it is too slow to evade, it doesn’t have a lot of self-defense, and it doesn’t have the sensors necessary to stand and fight,” Clark told BI.
The big question is: Will the US Navy strike group be able to spot an enemy submarine before it manages to get a shot off?
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.
The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.
Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.
The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.
The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.
The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.
The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.
The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.
SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.
The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.
On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.
Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.
Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.
Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.
The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.
On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.
The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.
The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.
Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.
The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.
US Senator John McCain today applauded the US Department of Veterans Affairs’ proposed Veterans Coordinated Access and Rewarding Experiences Act, which would bolster the Veterans Choice Program and consolidate the VA’s community care network.
The proposal also includes several measures Senator McCain has strongly advocated to expand quality and timely care for veterans in their communities, such as eliminating the current 30-day/40-mile limit to permit all eligible veterans to use the VA Choice Card.
It would also offer patients access to a network of walk-in clinics for minor health issues. This is modeled on a path-breaking partnership in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows Phoenix’s nearly 120,000 veterans to visit dozens of local CVS MinuteClinic locations for care.
Senator McCain released the following statement supporting the VA’s new proposal:
“The VA’s proposed Veterans CARE Act would improve access to health care by developing a consolidated community care network that places veterans first. I am especially pleased to see the VA’s proposal incorporates some of the major reforms I have long advocated, such as eliminating the 30-day/40-mile restriction in the Veterans Choice Program, and expanding the successful pilot program in Phoenix, Arizona, that allows veterans to visit local walk-in clinics nationwide.
“Over the last few years, demand for community care through the Veterans Choice Program has grown considerably. Millions of veteran appointments have been made with quality community health care providers around the country. Today, veterans no longer have to wait in long lines or drive hundreds of miles to receive care. Unfortunately, the Veterans Choice Program has also been a victim of its own success, and has outpaced the VA’s ability to accurately predict growing demand for the program. Until the VA can accurately assess demand for care in the community, Congress’ efforts to create an integrated and efficient VA health care system will continue to face difficulty.
“Those efforts must reflect the lessons learned through the Veterans Choice Program. We must set standards for care that are easy to use and understand. We must require the VA to accurately assess demand for care in the community. And we must produce a standardized and transparent system that integrates community and VA services.
“I look forward to working with Secretary Shulkin, my colleagues on the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, and veterans service organizations to build on the proposed Veterans CARE Act and deliver our veterans the timely, quality, and flexible health care they deserve.”
Hunkered down in sniper positions on the top floor of an abandoned building in the Syrian city of Raqqa, two Americans and a British volunteer face off against Islamic State snipers on the other side of the front line. The trio, including two who were battle-hardened by experience in the French Foreign Legion and the war in Iraq, have made the war against IS in Syria their own.
They are among several US and British volunteers in the decisive battle against the Islamic State group for Raqqa, the city in northeastern Syria that the militants declared the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate in parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq.
The men joined US-allied Syrian militias for different reasons — some motivated by testimonies of survivors of the unimaginable brutality that IS flaunted in areas under its control.
Others joined what they see as a noble quest for justice and a final battle with the “heart of darkness,” in a belief that violence can only be met with violence.
Taylor Hudson, a 33-year old from Pasadena, compares the fight for Raqqa to the 1945 Battle of Berlin in World War II that was critical to ending the rule of Adolf Hitler.
“This is the Berlin of our times,” said Hudson, who doubles as a platoon medic and a sniper in the battle against the militants. For him, IS extremists “represent everything that is wrong with humanity.”
Syria’s war, now in its seventh year, has attracted foreign fighters to all sides of the complicated conflict.
Islamic extremists from Europe, Asia, and North Africa have boosted the ranks of the Islamic State group, as well as rival radical al-Qaeda-linked groups. Shiite Iranian and Lebanese militias have sided with the Syrian government, deepening the sectarian nature of the conflict that has killed over 400,000 people and displaced over 11 million, half of Syria’s pre-war population.
On the anti-IS side — though far less in numbers than the thousands of foreigners who swelled the IS ranks — most Western foreign volunteers have been drawn to the US-allied Kurdish militia known as The People’s Protection Units, or by their Kurdish initials as the YPG. The US military has developed a close relationship with the YPG and its extension, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the war against IS.
Some Western volunteers have died in battle — earlier in July the YPG announced that 28-year-old Robert Grodt, of Santa Cruz, California, and 29-year-old Nicholas Alan Warden, of Buffalo, died in the battle for Raqqa.
Since launching the push on Raqqa on June 6, the US-backed forces have conquered a third of the city.
Hudson, who has been fighting in Syria for the past 13 months, said he was moved to tears by stories in the media of Iraqi Yazidi women who were enslaved by IS militants and looked for a way to help. A pharmacy student who learned combat medicine in the field, he said he had treated some 600 wounded ahead of the march onto Raqqa.
The presence of Western anti-IS volunteers in Syria has created something of a conundrum for their governments, which have often questioned them on terrorism charges.
“I am not a terrorist,” said Macer Gifford, a 30-year former City broker in London, who came to Syria three years ago to volunteer first with the Kurdish militia. Now he is fighting with an Assyrian militia, also part of the US-backed forces battling IS militants.
“I am here defending the people of Syria against terrorists,” he added.
Gifford has been questioned by both his British government and by the US government. At home, he has written and lectured about the complex situation in Syria, offering a first-hand experience of IS’ evolving tactics.
He believes the militants can only be defeated by sheer force.
“The Islamic State (group) is actually an exceptional opponent,” Gifford said. “We can’t negotiate them away, we can’t wish them away. The only way we can defeat them is with force of arms.”
For Kevin Howard, a 28-year old former US military contractor from California who fought in Iraq in 2006, the war against the Islamic State group is more personal.
A skilled sniper who prides himself in having killed 12 IS militants so far, Howard said he is doing it for the victims of the Bataclan Theatre in France, where the sister of one of his best friends survived. The Nov. 13, 2015 attacks claimed by IS killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the national stadium, and the Bataclan, where 90 died.
“This is a continuation of that fight, I think if you leave something unfinished, it will remain unfinished for a lifetime,” he said, showing off his 1972 sniper rifle.
On his forehead and neck, he has tattooed the “Rien N’empêche” — or “Nothing Prevents”— words from the song of the French Foreign Legion in which he served, and “life is pain.”
“For me this is a chance to absolutely go to the heart of darkness and grab it and get rid of it,” he added.
From his sniper position on Raqqa’s front line, he peeked again through the rifle hole. For Howard, the orders to march deeper into the IS-held city can’t come soon enough.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
Soldiers and United States Air Force Airmen unload an AH-64 Apache helicopter, for the soon to be activated 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, from a C-5 Galaxy at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Aug. 20, 2015. TheU.S. Army Alaska battalion will receive a total of 24 Apaches by April 2016.
Soldiers, assigned to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, secure a landing zone after exiting UH-60 Black Hawks, from 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Official Page), during a training exercise at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, Republic of Korea, Aug. 20, 2015.
A Soldier, assigned to the The 75th Ranger Regiment, conducts a simulated assault during Exercise Swift Response 15 at JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 23, 2015. Swift Response 15 is aUnited States Army Europe – USAREUR-led, combined airborne training event with participation from more than 4,800 service members from 11 NATO nations.
PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2015) Sailors receive cargo in hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an underway replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187). The John C. Stennis Strike Group is undergoing a composite training unit exercise and joint task force exercise, the final step in certifying to deploy.
ARABIAN GULF (Aug. 26, 2015) An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Sea Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22 delivers cargo from the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8) to the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during a vertical replenishment.
PORT HUENEME, Calif. (Aug. 24, 2015) Chief Utilitiesman Philip Anderton, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, musters his platoon as his daughter hugs him before departing on a scheduled deployment to the Pacific region. NMCB-3 will support construction operations throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet, sustain interoperability with regional governments, and provide fleet construction support.
INDIAN OCEAN (Aug. 25, 2015) Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class Alyssa Wynn fires the forward .50-caliber machine gun during a surface warfare live-fire exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96).
Lance Cpl. Noah Soliz fires his M240-B medium machine gun during a live-fire squad attack course August 22, 2015, during Exercise Crocodile Strike at Mount Bundey Training Area, Northern Territory, Australia.
Marines assigned 1st Marine Division, run along hills during the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 20, 2015. The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the San Mateo area.
Lance Cpl. Riley Remoket, with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fills a water bull at a water distribution site during typhoon relief efforts in Saipan, Aug. 19, 2015. The Marines and sailors of the 31st MEU were redirected to Saipan after the island was struck by Typhoon Soudelor Aug. 2-3.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone meets Lt. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, 3rd Air Force commander and 17th Expeditionary Air Force commander, upon his arrival to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Aug. 24. 2015. Stone, along with childhood friends, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, were recently honored by French President François Hollande for subduing an armed gunman when he entered their train carrying an assault rifle, a handgun and a box cutter.
An F-22A Raptor from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., flies over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev., July 31, 2015.
Maj. Jason Curtis, Thunderbird 5, and Capt. Nicholas Eberling, Thunderbird 6, fly back from Minden, Nev., Aug. 25, 2015.
Paratroopers assigned to 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment descend after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 374th Wing from Yokota Air Base, Japan, over the Malemute drop zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 24, 2015.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay is preparing for heavy weather this weekend. The coastal forecast is calling for 10-15 ft swells and winds up to 45 knots on Saturday. The Coast Guard defines heavy weather as seas greater than 8ft and winds greater than 30 knots.
Coast Guard Station Yaquina Bay has two 47 foot motor life boats. These boats have the ability to roll over and return to the upright position in 8-12 seconds.
The U.S. Army‘s chief of staff said Thursday that if he had his way, he’d abandon the bureaucratic Modular Handgun System effort and personally select the service’s next pistol.
Speaking at the Future of War Conference 2016, Gen. Mark Milley said he has asked Congress to grant service chiefs the authority to bypass the Pentagon’s multi-layered and complex acquisition process on programs that do not require research and development.
“We are not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon, right?” Milley said. “This is a pistol. And arguably, it is the least lethal and important weapon system in the Department of Defense inventory.”
The Army launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August to replace its Cold War era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the MHS effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.
Gunmakers had until Feb. 12 to submit proposals to the Army.
Milley used the program as an example of the bureaucratic acquisition system that often makes it overly complicated to field equipment to soldiers in a timely manner.
“We are trying to figure out a way to speed up the acquisition system,” Milley said. “Some of these systems take multiple years, some of them decades to develop.”
As the service chief, Milley said he should be able to say “here is your purpose; here is the end-state I want to achieve … if you succeed, you are promoted and I give you a medal. If you fail, you are fired. You hold people accountable.
“I’m saying let me and then hold me accountable,” he added. “Let me figure out what type of pistol we need and let me go buy it without having to go through nine years of incredibly scrutiny.”
The program has a “367-page requirement document. Why?” Milley asked. “Well, a lawyer says this and a lawyer says that and you have to go through this process and that process and you have to have oversight from this that and the other.”
Milley also criticized the lengthy testing process for MHS that’s slated to cost $17 million.
“The testing — I got a briefing the other day — the testing for this pistol is two years,” Milley said. “Two years to test technology that we know exists. You give me $17 million on the credit card, I’ll call Cabelas tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine with a pistol and I’ll get a discount on it for bulk buys.”
That calculation appears off, though, since the handguns under consideration retail between $400 and $700 apiece and the military may purchase nearly a half million firearms as part of the program.
Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 full-size handguns and 7,000 compact versions, officials maintain. The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.
MHS is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a more potent pistol caliber, sources said.
The request for proposal calls on gun makers to submit packages that include full-size and compact versions of their handgun as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds for testing.
In a break from tradition, the Army is also requiring competing firms to prove that they are capable of delivering millions of rounds of pistol ammunition per month in addition to delivering thousands of new handguns per month, according to the request.
The competition will also evaluate expanding or fragmenting ammunition, such as hollow-point bullets, that have been used by law enforcement agencies for years. The Army’s draft solicitation cited a new Defense Department policy that allows for the use of “special purpose ammunition.”
“We are not figuring out the next lunar landing,” Milley said. “This is a pistol.
“There is a certain degree of common sense to this stuff and that is what I am talking about — empower the service chiefs with the capability to go out and do certain things. Speed the process up.”