The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.


By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.

The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.

The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Two new MD-530 Cayuse Warrior helicopters, still with protective wrap on them. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.

“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.

Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.

“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 Cal machine guns. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston.

Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.

This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.

He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.

The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Jay Leno give a wounded soldier a brand new car


Jay Leno is well-known for his incredible collection of upwards of 200+ cars and motorcycles, but he’s now one short: A 707 horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

That beast of a muscle car is now in the hands of a soldier named Cpl. Ethan Laberge, an infantryman who was wounded by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, according to a video aired on The Today Show.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Leno and Cpl. Laberge taking a ride in the Hellcat. (Photo Credit: Today Show)

Also Read: This Dying Vietnam Veteran Is Giving Away Everything He Owns To Charity

Leno picked Laberge at random out of a number of wounded soldiers to show his appreciation for those who serve. The former late night host may not be able to do something for everyone in uniform, he said, but he wanted to introduce the world to just one of them.

“Hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all soldiers,” Leno said.

In the video, Leno takes Laberge and some of his fellow soldiers out and shares some common ground around cars. Then, he takes him for a ride in the insanely fast Hellcat. As you would imagine, it was a pretty fun ride.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

 

But the drive doesn’t end there. Over lunch, Leno talks with Laberge about what led him to join the Army, and how his recovery is going. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like,” Leno said.

And then, the best part. Getting out of the vehicle, Laberge comments that he wouldn’t mind having the Hellcat, to which Leno responds: “It’s yours. It’s yours.”

“Really?” the shocked soldier asks. “Oh man. That is awesome. Thank you.”

“America loves you,” Leno tells him. “Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”

Watch the video:

 

NOW: This Project Is A Real And Raw Look At How Military Service Affected Veterans

OR WATCH: This Navy Veteran Is Raising Awareness For Veteran Causes Through Skydiving And Car Racing

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part three

The one thing that seems to be a constant in Saigon is the delicious smell of food cooking – from the street vendors, open air cafes, coffee shops, and bakeries – it was that way in the late 60’s and remains so today. The first time I came to the city I remember walking to the headquarters with an officer I’d served with in Ban Me Thuot and stopping at a small coffee shop for a coffee and croissant – both were delicious and the whole event seemed surreal given what was going on in the rest of the country at the time.


This time, when I arrived at Tan Son Nhat airport in Saigon the first thing I saw were customs officials wearing what I remember as North Vietnamese Army uniforms – a bit of a flashback. Stepping out of the terminal I breathed deeply of the humid tropical air – a familiar scent that almost seemed comforting. Driving through the city on the way to the hotel I noticed the beautiful French inspired architecture which added a touch of grace to the cityscape.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

In 1969 Saigon was a multi-faced city, bustling with the business of war. The people were pursuing their livelihood as best they could, while hip deep in the middle of a war zone. They were trying as hard as they could to make life tolerable and better for their families. Today, later generations of those families are doing that same thing, less the war, making life better and succeeding on a grand scale.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

Revisiting Saigon and Vietnam after forty some years reaffirmed my faith in humanity – it doesn’t matter who won or lost, doesn’t matter who is in power – it’s all about the people. The Vietnamese people have always been entrepreneurs, caring for their families and their country and have made it a powerhouse in Southeast Asia. It gladdened my heart and closed a circle for me in a most positive way.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

Also Read:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Kurdish female militia refuses to stop its hunt for ISIS terrorists

A Kurdish female militia that took part in freeing the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State group said on Oct. 19 it will continue the fight to liberate women from the extremists’ brutal rule.


In a highly symbolic gesture, Nisreen Abdullah of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, made the statement in Raqqa’s Paradise Square — the same place where ISIS fighters once carried out public killings.

She said the all-women force, which is part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces battling ISIS, lost 30 fighters in the four-month battle to liberate Raqqa.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Nisreen Abdullah, spokesperson of the YPJ. Photo via hawarnews.com

Under the rule of the Islamic State group, women were forced to wear all-encompassing veils and could be stoned to death for adultery. Hundreds of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority were captured and forced into sexual slavery.

Raqqa was center stage of ISIS’ brutality, the de facto capital of the militants self-proclaimed “caliphate.”

“We have achieved our goal, which was to pound the strongholds of terrorism in its capital, liberate women, and restore honor to Yazidi women by liberating dozens of slaves,” Abdullah said.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of several factions including the YPJ, said on Oct. 17 that military operations in Raqqa have ended and that their fighters have taken full control of the city.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, Col. Ryan Dillon. Photo by CJTF-OIR.

The spokesman for the US-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, tweeted on Oct. 19 that the SDF has cleared 98 percent of the city, adding that some militants remain holed up in a small pocket east of the stadium. Dillon added that buildings and tunnels are being checked for holdouts.

Even as the guns have gone quiet, preparations for a reconstruction are underway.

In Saudi Arabia, a state-linked news website said a high-level Saudi official was in Raqqa to discuss the kingdom’s “prominent role in reconstruction” efforts. The Okaz site quoted unnamed Saudi sources as saying that Thamer al-Sabhan met with members of Raqqa’s city civil. The website said the United Arab Emirates will also play a role in rebuilding.

The report included a photograph of al-Sabhan, apparently in Raqqa with Brett McGurk, the top US envoy for the coalition battling the ISIS. Saudi Arabia is a member of the coalition. Al-Sabhan was previously ambassador to Iraq, but left amid threats from Iranian-backed militias.

The SDF is expected to hold a news conference in Raqqa on Oct. 20 during which the city will be declared free of extremists, for the first time in nearly four years.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

The fall of Raqqa marks a major defeat for IS, which has seen its territories steadily shrink since last year. ISIS took over Raqqa, located on the Euphrates River, in January 2014, and transformed it into the epicenter of its brutal rule.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad met with a visiting Iranian army commander on Oct. 19 to discuss bilateral relations, the state news agency SANA said. The Iranian general also conveyed a message from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

SANA said Assad and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri focused on military cooperation, “which has witnessed a qualitative development during the war that Syria and its allies, mainly Iran, are waging against terrorism” in Syria.

Iran has been one of Assad’s strongest supporters since the country’s crisis began more than six years ago and has sent thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen to boost his troops against opponents.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Syrian President Bashar Assad. Photo courtesy of Moscow Kremlin.

SANA quoted Bagheri as saying that the aim of his visit is to “put a joint strategy on continuing coordination and cooperation at the military level.” He also stressed Iran’s commitment to help in the reconstruction process in Syria.

Bagheri met with several Syrian officials on Oct. 18, including Defense Minister Fahd Jasem al-Freij, and Syrian army commander, Maj. Gen. Ali Ayyoub.

Meanwhile the al-Qaeda linked Levant Liberation Committee released a rare video of its leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani, showing him speaking with his fighters. The release comes two weeks after Russia said it seriously wounded him in an airstrike.

The video appears to have been shot before an al-Qaeda offensive on a central government-controlled village on Oct. 6. Two days before the attack, Russia’s military claimed that al-Golani was wounded in a Russian airstrike and had fallen into a coma. The military offered no evidence of al-Golani’s purported condition.

The al-Qaeda-linked group subsequently denied al-Golani was hurt, insisting he is in excellent health.

Articles

The first American air-to-air kill in 20 years wasn’t a manned aircraft

On June 8, 2017, an American pilot scored one of the first American air-to-air kill since the 1999 Kosovo War, shooting down an armed drone being used by the Syrian government. Details of what plane scored the kill and how it was executed were not immediately released.


According to a statement released by the headquarters of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the drone — said to be similar in size to the MQ-1B Predator — had “dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS” prior to the coalition aircraft downing it.

Previously, a U.S. aircraft reportedly shot down an Iranian surveillance drone in 2009 over Iraq.

The statement also reported that in an incident earlier that day, two “armed technical vehicles” were destroyed after entering a “de-confliction zone” and approaching coalition troops.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
A MQ-1B Predator from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron takes off in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom here July 9, 2008. Through the use of advanced capabilities, focused doctrine and detailed training the predator provides integrated and synchronized close air combat operations, to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sabrina Johnson)

“Coalition forces have been located at At Tanf for more than a year. The garrison is a temporary coalition location to train vetted forces to defeat ISIS and will not be vacated until ISIS is defeated,” the allied statement added.

This was not the first incident near the base. A statement released the day before the strike by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters reported that pro-Assad forces in Syria had sent troops toward the temporary coalition base at At Tanf that included a tank, artillery, and 60 personnel. After repeated warnings via an emergency communication line were ignored, coalition forces carried out strikes that destroyed two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft gun, while damaging a tank.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

“As long as pro-regime forces are oriented toward Coalition and partnered forces the potential for conflict is escalated,” the statement by the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve said.

Despite the incidents, the release from the headquarters did not seek a fight with the Assad regime or those backing it. However, the statement declared said Syrian army probes “continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

MLB prospect starts military commitment

Noah Song did not enroll at the Naval Academy to become a professional baseball player.

First and foremost, he was focused on his education and becoming an officer. Improving his pitching repertoire was nice but not the primary goal. Like all Midshipmen, a military commitment awaited him upon graduation. Being drafted in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox in 2019 altered that timeline only slightly.


From ballplayer to Marine

“It was supposed to be four years and done with baseball,” Song said. “Everything after graduation has really just been a plus.”

Song, 23, reported to flight school in Pensacola in June, leaving behind an abbreviated stint last season for the Red Sox’s Class A short-season, minor-league affiliate in Lowell, Massachusetts. Song put away his glove without complaint, not surprising considering his family’s priorities.

His younger brother, Elijah, recently completed the Marines’ Officer Candidates School in Virginia and is one year from graduating from Cal Maritime. Song’s father, Bill, and older brother, Daniel, work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and his sister, Faith, is a nurse.

“It seems like all the kids are gravitating to public service and servicing the country,” Bill Song said. “They’ve really fulfilled everything that I would want from a child.”

Elijah, 20, decided to become a Marine as a college freshman. He was interested in the military before Noah chose Navy but was impressed by watching how his brother matured there.

“To see him go through his transformation, just from a normal kid in high school to this refined military officer, … it made me tell myself, ‘Man, I want to be that squared away, that professional,”’ Elijah said.

Baseball wasn’t always on this Navy grad’s mind

Noah was not always that squared away, especially on the baseball field.

Navy was his only offer to play baseball after he graduated from high school in Claremont, California, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles. Scouts started paying attention during his junior year at Navy, and then Song blossomed as a senior, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

He was among four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in the United States.

“I never really thought about [getting drafted] so much, because the mindset was just on becoming an officer,” Noah said. “I completely agree with that. That’s the complete reason we’re there, so [the attention was] kind of weird.”

While awaiting his flight-school orders, Noah was allowed to begin his professional career last summer. In seven games for Lowell, he allowed two earned runs in 17 innings for a 1.06 ERA.

“When he first got here, I don’t think he was overly confident in who he was,” Navy baseball coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “He went from this kind of nervous, internal person to being a confident man, so to speak. It’s always great to see.”

Elijah was different.

He played golf in high school but was not that interested in sports. He enjoyed tinkering, once learning to load ammunition by researching it online and watching videos.

But mainly he loved flying. Aboard a Cessna 150, Elijah sat in the pilot’s seat for the first time as a high school junior.

“Feeling the pedals and feeling the yoke and feeling the plane actually move from my control, that was just a life-changing experience,” Elijah said.

Noah, whose future in baseball is uncertain, cherishes that view from the air as well.

He said his relationship with Elijah was tight-knit as children, but they were typical brothers. They argued. They fought. They made up.

“Looking back, it’s all just fond memories,” Noah said. “This military experience has definitely brought us a little bit closer than we used to be, just because we share a bond. We get to have that commonality between us, which is pretty cool.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

Satellites show N. Korea is amping up nuke program

In a revelation that has strategic implications for Japan, analysis of satellite imagery shows the existence of North Korea’s second submersible test-stand barge — a sign that the nuclear-armed country could be ramping up development of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program.


According to the analysis released May 1 by the 38 North website, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the barge was identified in commercial satellite images taken April 19 of the Nampo Naval Shipyard on the country’s west coast.

The isolated nation already operates one barge on the country’s eastern coast, at the Sinpo South Shipyard, from where it has conducted at least four — but as many as six — test-launches of the Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM since 2014, when that barge was first seen.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

According to the report, the newly detected barge appears to be identical in size and layout to the original. Such barges are used by navies to test underwater new and modified submarine missile launch tubes and systems, and to conduct initial test-launches before the systems are installed in submarines.

“The discovery of a second missile test barge may have a number of implications for the future of North Korea’s SLBM program that appears to be an important priority for Kim Jong Un,” the report said, adding that the timing of the barges’ acquisition could help reveal the direction of the program.

Also read: The tension between North Korea and the US is not good

If both were acquired at the same time, the report said, it would imply that Pyongyang is planning a more extensive test program than it has conducted so far.

It is unclear if the new barge was acquired or manufactured by the North, but since there have been no indications of barge construction work at the North’s west coast naval shipyards over the past year, that suggests the vessel had been acquired from abroad.

“Since the second barge seems to have been acquired three years after the first, this could mean that North Korea is planning to accelerate its SLBM test program to include a west coast component or develop new SLBM designs, or that it may deploy a ballistic missile submarine with the West Sea Fleet,” the report said. “None of these possibilities are mutually exclusive.”

The Pukguksong-1 would give the reclusive state a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent since the threat of a retaliatory second-strike would throw a wrench into any scenario where the U.S., South Korea, and Japan attempt to preemptively destroy North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Related: US pushes ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach to North Korea

According to David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Pukguksong-1 has a maximum range similar to the North’s Rodong missile of about 1,250 km, allowing it reach most or all of Japan from a submarine located near the Korean coast.

However, the North’s submarine fleet remains limited in range as it is undergoing a modernization revamp, and would currently be easily detectable by superior U.S., South Korean, and Japanese anti-submarine warfare technology.

Experts say any scenario involving an attempted firing of a Pukguksong-1 from the Sea of Japan by submarine would effectively be a suicide mission for the North.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman awarded Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in Afghanistan

Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.

From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.


Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”

Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.

“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”

Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.

“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.

Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.

“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How US PsyOps lured an African warlord to defect using his mother’s voice

A team of Fort Bragg soldiers set their sights on one of the top officials within warlord Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army late last year.


The soldiers, working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations, tracked down the family of the official — communications chief Michael Omona.

He played a key role in the Ugandan warlord’s cultish militant group, which was built on the backs of former child soldiers abducted from their homes in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Fort Bragg soldiers – part of a regional psychological operations team deployed to Africa – weren’t targeting Omona with firepower. Instead, it was a campaign fueled by facts and meant to counter the misinformation Kony spread across his force.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army in Washington, Col. Bethany Aragon, the commander of the 4th Military Information Support Group at Fort Bragg, described what happened next.

“If you can envision yourself walking through this dense jungle,” she said. “… As he’s walking through the jungle, he hears his mother’s voice begging him to come home.”

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Michael Omana, the communications chief for Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, walked for two weeks to defect after hearing his mothers voice piped through the jungles begging him to come home.

The voice came from a U.S. Army loudspeaker team, piping voices into the countryside.

A little while later, leaflets dropped from the sky. On them, images of Omona’s uncle, who raised him as a father, and his daughter; both pleading for Omona to turn himself in to authorities.

“We targeted him,” Aragon said. “And in January 2017… he walked for two weeks to defect.”

Omona’s defection gave authorities key information in the search for Kony and the LRA. He provided access to codes used by the group and inside information on the higher workings of the LRA.

It was one of the highest profile defections in the long-running effort to dismantle the LRA. And Aragon used the example to show the value psychological operations soldiers played in those efforts.

“For over two decades, they abducted over 60,000 children, massacred tens of thousands of civilians, displaced two million people and then really destabilized a region the size of California,” she said of the LRA.

Today, Aragon said the LRA has been rendered irrelevant. And a generation of stolen Uganda children have been returned to their homes as the LRA has dwindled from an army of thousands to less than 100 members.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Students walk in front of a recently constructed building before a dedication ceremony at St. Theresa secondary school in Lira, Uganda, Feb. 23. Service members from the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa attended the ceremony, marking the the completion of a $500,000 project funded by CJTF-HOA. In October of 2002, regional instablitity forced the school’s students and faculty away from its current location in the village of Alanyi. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel force, attacked civilians and attempted to seize control of villages throughout northern Uganda.

At AUSA, Aragon and other special operations leaders presented case studies on the value of their forces during a panel led by Lt. Gen. Kenneth E. Tovo, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

Often working with foreign partners, conventional forces and other government agencies, Tovo said the Army’s special operations forces provide a set of unique capabilities that can’t be easily reproduced.

They are complementary skills, Tovo said, that when mixed with other capabilities and forces form a “symbiotic whole” to fuel national objectives.

“To quasi-quote Tom Cruse in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” he said. “We complete each other.”

Tovo said there are about 4,300 special operations soldiers deployed around the world in 78 countries. That includes Special Forces, psychological operations, civil affairs, Army Rangers and other special operations troops.

While the more violent aspects of special operations tend to make the most headlines, Tovo’s panel largely focused on the more unheralded aspects of the force – what he called an “indigenous approach” to operations around the world.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force and the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) Soldiers deployed to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa stand for a class photo after the UPDF graduated from the third of a four-phase psychological operations training held at the Uganda Junior Command and Staff College, Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 15, 2017. The training was part of the U.S. mission of strengthening partner nation defense forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

“We live among, train with, advise and fight alongside people of foreign cultures,” Tovo said. “We think this indigenous approach provides a low-cost, high-impact option.”

Joining Tovo on the panel were Aragon; the former ambassador to Ukraine and current ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt; Brig. Gen. David Komar, director of the requirements integration directorate at the Army Capabilities Integration Center; 75th Ranger Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier; and Lt. Col. Tom Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.

Tegtmeier discussed how the Rangers are working with Afghan partners. And Craig, who left Northern Syria about a week ago, discussed the task force comprised of Special Forces A-teams, special operations and conventional troops working to train and support Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State.

“The indigenous approach is absolutely working,” he said, explaining how special operations forces are uniquely suited to the ongoing fight against ISIS.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Hurst, 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) noncommissioned officer in charge, deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, serves as an observer, controller and trainer to members of the Uganda People’s Defense Force during a four-phase course that trains the UDPF to secure objectives through influencing attitude and behaviors. The training took place at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College in Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 14, 2017. As the region continues to contend with multiple VEOs, a sustained international working relationship will only further efforts of global stability. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Craig said his Special Forces soldiers have language skills and cultural understanding built up over multiple deployments that allow them to have influence on the nation’s Syrian partners.

“In Syria, it’s important to note,” he said. “We are advising a partner who is in the lead.”

He said the relatively light footprint of U.S. forces in Syria allow them to be agile and flexible, while also providing important support.

Craig said troops are training, equipping, advising and providing air support and intelligence to their partnered forces.

Pyatt said that in a world of diffuse power and shifting threats, most challenges to American national security will happen in so-called “gray areas” between diplomacy and hard power.

Those are the areas in which special operations forces thrive, officials said.

Pyatt said the relationships between SOF and diplomats were critical.

“There’s a very, very high return on investments,” he said. “They don’t cost a lot of money, but they get a lot done.”

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Lance Cpl. Denis Nokrach and Capt. John Robert Mwonge, both Marines in the Uganda People’s Defence Force, review a psychological operations plan during training with the 346th Tactical Psychological Operations Company (Airborne) who are deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, at the Uganda Senior Command and Staff College in Jinja, Uganda, Aug. 14, 2017. As a subordinate unit of U.S. Africa Command, CJTF-HOA uses the primary tool of military-to-military programs and operations, coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, to assist African nations strengthen their defense capabilities and build partnerships. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Komar said the conventional force was beginning to model some of its reforms after the SOF community, specifically with the creation of security force advise and assist brigades.

At the same time, he said the days of deconflicting between SOF and conventional forces were largely over. Instead, the Army has embraced and integration between the two types of units.

In addition to ongoing operations and recent case studies, the panelists discussed ways the special operations community was preparing for future fights.

Tovo said each special operations specialty has different skillsets, but complement one another.

Whether serving as a crisis response force or working alongside State Department personnel, special operations forces are able to provide unique perspectives and insight.

“When bad things happen in any part of the world and we’ve got SOF there,” he said. “… We provide the nation a suite of tools applicable across the full range of military operations.”

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
A force reconnaissance Marine goes over threat detection methods with a group of Ugandan soldiers, Feb. 28. Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 sent a small team of Marines into Uganda, Feb. 3, to train Ugandan forces for the fight against al-Shabaab in Somalia and the hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord’s resistance army.

Aragon said the campaign against the LRA was the most effective psychological operations campaign in Africa to date.

She said the groundwork was laid in 2011, when a team of just four psyops soldiers from Fort Bragg deployed to the continent.

Aragon said Omona and other members of the LRA lived in dense jungle and worked for an unhinged leader. Most, like Omona himself, were former child soldiers abducted from their homes years ago.

“He’s susceptible,” she said. And so were others within the LRA.

The goal was to use radio, leaflets and area loudspeakers to reach disaffected members of the group.

Key to those efforts were buy-in from the Ugandan government, which offered amnesty for defectors, she said.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Students sit in a classroom during a music a rehearsal before a dedication ceremony at St. Theresa secondary school in Lira, Uganda, Feb. 23. Service members from the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa attended the ceremony, marking the the completion of a $500,000 project funded by CJTF-HOA. The project provided two new student dormitories to house 300 students, a staff house, new latrines, three water-harvesting tanks, and new solar panels for a computer laboratory.

Early successes gave the psyops team additional weaponry – the voices and stories of former LRA members who could speak to the fair treatment they received.

The first mass defection came in 2013, Aragon said, when 19 combatants defected.

Omona’s name came up in latter conversations, identified through a nonprofit group dedicated to the reintegration of former child soldiers in Africa called Pathways to Peace.

Omona had been kidnapped by the LRA when he was 12. Twenty-three years later, he was personally in charge of Kony’s communications.

Aragon said soldiers enlisted the aid of Omona’s family. His defection helped the soldiers end their mission against the LRA earlier this year.

But for the next fight, potentially against a more advanced enemy force, Aragon said officials must begin their efforts now.

“We cannot wait until the deployment to find the next Michael Omona,” she said. “We have to be doing that persistently if we are to be ready and relevant.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis doesn’t care about Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ weapons

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said he sees no change in Russia’s military capability in light of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent speech in which he said Russia has nuclear weapons capable of attacking the United States.


The secretary called Putin’s remarks “disappointing, but unsurprising.”

Mattis spoke with reporters aboard a plane bound for Oman as part of an overseas trip designed to strengthen relationships.

“I looked at President Putin’s speech, and like many of us, I focused on the last third of it,” Mattis said. “The first two-thirds [was] clearly about domestic issues, but also opportunities in that first two-thirds, as I was reading it. And I tried to forget that I … knew what the last third was about — that you would actually see opportunities there to reduce the tensions between the NATO countries, the Western countries, the nations that want to live by international law, maintain sovereignty and territorial integrity of everyone, and the Russian Federation.”

Strategic assessment

The secretary said his role is to make strategic assessments, and that he saw no change to the Russian military capability in Putin’s remarks. The systems the Russian president talked about “are still years away,” the secretary said, adding that he doesn’t see them changing the military balance.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Vladimir Putin.

“They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrent posture, which would be certainly an indication I registered this assessment with something that was changing,” Mattis said.

Moscow’s cancellation of scheduled strategic security talks shows a Russia that’s not even acting in its own best interests, he added.

Ceasefire

Russia signed up with the United Nations Security Council for a ceasefire in Homs, Aleppo, and East Ghouta in Syria, Mattis noted. “Their partner proceeds to bomb, at best, indiscriminately, at worst, targeting hospitals,” he said. “I don’t know which it is — either they’re incompetent or they’re committing illegal acts, or both.”

Also read: This is Mattis’ response to skepticism about ISIS plans

Though he doesn’t have evidence to show them, the secretary told reporters, he is aware of reports of chlorine gas use and of the bombings taking place in Syria. “It’s almost like a sickening replay of what we’ve seen before, in Aleppo for example, and before that in Homs,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley worked with the U.N. Security Council to reach a cease-fire in Syria, and “Russia’s partner immediately commenced violating it,” Mattis said. “We’re working through diplomatic means; continuing to work,” he emphasized. “We don’t give up.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Royal Navy updated a famous WW2 poster to warn its sailors about tweeting

The Royal Navy has revamped one of the most famous wartime propaganda slogans to warn its sailors to be careful what they tweet.


It issued an updated version of the 1943 “loose lips sink ships” poster, tweaked to refer to social media instead, and featuring the new HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier going down in flames.

The message was posted on Twitter Jan. 11 by the official account of HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with a reminder that “OPSEC [operational security] isn’t a dirty word!”

As the images show, the new, Royal Navy-branded poster is an homage to a well-known 1943 propaganda poster distributed by the United States Office of War Information.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
(Image from Royal Navy)

Instead of the 40s-style battleship shown sinking in the original poster, the 2018 version shows the Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, which is identifiable from the trademark “twin islands” design of its flight deck.

The message the poster is designed to convey is the same as in the ’40s, though the media are different.

In WWII, commanders were worried that people with access to military information could carelessly share it in conversation, which could eventually be picked up by hostile intelligence services and used against the U.S. military.

Also Read: 8 military acronyms that will make you cringe

Today, the concern is that sensitive information could inadvertently be posted in public by somebody on board who did not realize the significance of what they were sharing.

It’s easy to find images taken by people on board the ship on social media who tagged their location, though there’s nothing obvious in them to suggest they could risk the ship’s security.

 

Business Insider went aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in December and spoke to sailors on board, including one who talked about social media.

Able Seaman Callum Hui, the youngest member of the ship’s company, said that he uses networks like Snapchat to post photos to his friends back home — but that there are sensitive areas on board he knows not to document.

In a statement to Business Insider, the Royal Navy declined to elaborate on the specific poster campaign, but said it was part of a “robust” operational security plan.

It said: “The Royal Navy takes operational and personal security very seriously and robust measures are in place to ensure the security of the ship and the ship’s company is not compromised.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Veteran who spent 421 days as a prisoner of war turns 100

Bob Teichgraeber grew up under the dark shadow of the Great Depression. When World War II came to America, he signed up for the Army Air Corps to earn a better living and serve his country.

He never dreamed he’d end up a prisoner of war.


Assigned to a B-24 within the 445th Bomb Group as a Gunner, Teichgraeber found himself stationed outside of London, England. It was February 24, 1944, when he and his crew joined 25 other planes headed for Germany. Their mission: bombing a factory responsible for building Messerschmitt fighters. Unfortunately, Teichgraeber’s group missed the meet up with a large wing of 200 planes. Rather than wait, their group leader pushed to continue on without fighter protection.

The Germans shot down 12 of their 25 planes down before they ever hit the target. “They were all around us like bees shooting,” Teichgraeber explained. Despite the constant barrage of bullets, their plane managed to drop their bomb on the factory. They also shot down enemy fighters in the process. Not long after that, they were attacked head on by an enemy fighter plane.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

“They hit our oxygen system in the bomb bay and the plane caught on fire and went down,” Teichgraeber shared. Although he broke his foot and ankle in the crash, a well-timed jump saved him from being torn in two by the horizontal stabilizer. When he looked around, he realized only six of them had made it through the crash.

As they exited the plane, the Germans were waiting for them. “We were captured and brought to a prison camp in East Prussia, which is Lithuania now. They handcuffed us to each other and made us run up a hill with German police dogs at our heels and throw our Red Cross parcels away,” Teichgraeber said. It was so dark that he was soon separated from his crew. “It was the end of February of ’44 and we tried to wait patiently for D-Day, which we knew was coming.”

Some of the men were unable to cope with the waiting, though. “Some of us tried but we really didn’t have the ability to help these guys,” he said sadly. They were taken away and he never saw many of them again.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

A few months after being captured, he heard the Russian guns coming closer to their prison camp. The threat of the Russians forced the Germans to evacuate the prison camp and move everyone up the Baltic sea on a coal ship. “We were put down in the bottom of the hull — it was darker than an ace of spades and we didn’t see anything for three days,” Teichgraeber said. The Germans unloaded them in Poland, but the prisoners weren’t there long… soon, they could hear the Russian guns getting closer once again.

The Germans forced them to march.

It was winter and hovering around 15 degrees and the only scarce food available was bread and potatoes, but not all the time. After that first night of marching away from the Russians, Teichgraeber and the other prisoners (mostly airmen) were forced to sleep on the frozen ground. He shared that they all dreamt about those Red Cross parcels they were forced to throw away, which were filled with things like spam, candy bars and soap – a feast they’d give anything to have right then.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

The marching didn’t stop, even in the snow. “Sometimes all you could see was the guy marching in front of you, it was so white out,” Teichgraeber said. He described the horrific scenes of constant frostbite, diarrhea and starvation. Sometimes they’d get lucky and find barns to sleep in, instead of the ground. But those were filled with lice and fleas. “Guys began dropping out,” he admitted.

After a couple of months, the marching finally stopped. Their group arrived at another prisoner of war camp, this one much more crowded. Teichgraeber and a friend found a barracks building and slept on the floor, trying to recuperate. Five days later, the entire camp was forced to evacuate and march once again. This time, to avoid the British.

“They would do a headcount every morning and we were close to a barn. Our guard got distracted so once they did the headcount, my buddy and I went back into the barn,” Teichgraeber said. They hid, trying not to make a sound as they waited, praying they wouldn’t be found. Eventually, they heard the sounds of the camp moving and marching again. Soon there were no sounds at all.

They were free.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

“The next day, the British came through and rescued us,” he said with a smile. Teichgraeber and his fellow airman were given new clothes, which was a relief after wearing the same ragged clothes for months. “They got us cleaned up and in one of their uniforms – which was very unusual as you’d normally never see an American service member in another country’s uniform, but it was clean.”

Normally around 135 pounds, Teichgraeber found himself hovering at 90 pounds after his rescue. He shared that they were all so hungry that after chow was served, he and the other airman went back and raided the garbage cans for food. “An officer found us and told us we didn’t have to do that anymore,” he said. “But we were so used to it at that point.”

After a few weeks, he and the others rescued were put back into American hands and sent home. Although faced with torture and other unimaginable horrors while he was a prisoner of war, Teichgraeber said he never lost hope. When he returned to his hometown in Illinois, he went back to work at his old job and met his wife, Rose, not long after. They’ve been married for 68 years.

On August 22, 2020, the former prisoner of war turned 100. When Teichgraeber was asked the secret to his longevity, he got a twinkle in his eye and said with a laugh, “Just don’t die.” He still loves to sit in his riding lawn mower and take care of his own grass. Sometimes he even drives if he’s feeling up to it, although there is a caregiver who comes to help with errand running these days. After surviving 421 days a prisoner of war, he said his life has been continually filled with beauty and joy.

And he’s not done yet.

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
MIGHTY TRENDING

TrueCar is partnering with DAV to give cars to wounded vets

TrueCar and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) just launched their second annual DrivenToDrive program, which is aimed at helping disabled veterans by retrofitting vehicles to accommodate their injuries. Last year, TrueCar gave their first-ever recipient the keys to a brand-new and modified cargo van.


The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
DAV has been serving veterans since 1920.

And now it’s time to give away another car.

The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke in a March 15 press release, “DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”

“Driving is an expression of freedom and independence,” said Lucas Donat, Chief Brand Officer at TrueCar. “Helping injured veterans, those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom, to drive again is a cause close to our heart. Last year we had such an incredible response that we are excited to open up the contest again, and we’re honored to be working with DAV.”

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters
Vehicle awarded may differ from Vehicle shown.

Applicants are selected by a panel based off criteria to determine who will receive the vehicle. The program is only giving one deserving member of the military community a new vehicle. Active duty, veterans, and immediate family members are eligible to enter by visiting the link here. While there, visitors will be asked “what drives you” and how they would use the new vehicle to help them reach their goals.

Entrants must act fast as the submission period ends Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9PM (PST.) Up to five finalists will be notified on or about March 26 and the Grand Prize winner will be notified on April 9. The official announcement will take place on or about May 21, 2018.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information