The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

The U.S. military is still holding the Mother of All Bombs over the Taliban’s heads like 21,600-pound GPS-guided sword of Damocles.


In April 2017, a U.S. aircraft dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb on a cave complex being used by the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, marking the first time the weapon had been used in combat.

Although U.S. forces in Afghanistan have not used the MOAB again since then, “It’s there if we need it,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker, commander of coalition air forces in Afghanistan.

“We never take anything off the table,” Hecker told reporters at the Pentagon. “Right now, we don’t have a use for it, but if we do, it’s there for us.”

The bomb was rapidly designed and built between November 2002 and March 2003, ahead of the initial invasion of Iraq. It was designed to be a replacement for the massive BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter,” according to the Air Force. When it was first tested on March 11, 2003, the explosion created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away.

Also read: Mattis does not intend to discuss MOAB damage estimates

By the time the MOAB arrived in theater, coalition forces were close to Baghdad. It would be 14 years before the weapon would make its debut when it was dropped in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province following the death of a Special Forces soldier fighting ISIS-Khorasan.

News that the bomb had finally been used created a media sensation that made Hecker’s mother concerned about him.

“Quite honestly, after only being here a week and my mom heard that a MOAB was dropped, she immediately sent me a note and asked if I was OK,” Hecker said. “I let her know that we won’t drop on ourselves. This is meant for the enemy.”

With ISIS fighters going underground in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command has made Afghanistan the priority for air operations.

Related: This bomb is heavier than the MOAB

U.S. forces in Afghanistan now have 50 percent more MQ-9 Reaper drones to find targets, as well as an A-10 squadron to provide close air support, Hecker said. A combat search and rescue squadron is also being deployed to the country.

On Feb. 4, a B-52 dropped a total of 24 precision-guided bombs — a new record — during three airstrikes against Taliban and East Turkestan Islamic Movement training camps in northeast Afghanistan, Hecker said. Previously, B-52s only had room for 16 precision-guided bombs, but in late November, the bomber was modified for an increased payload at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Meanwhile, the Afghan air force is dropping or launching weapons at the enemy at nearly double the rate of U.S. aircraft, Hecker said. However, he clarified, most of those strikes come from the Afghan fleet of 25 MD-530 helicopters, which are equipped with laser-guided rockets and machine guns.

Hecker conceded that strikes from a light attack helicopter and a B-52 don’t exactly make for an apples-to-apples comparison. “But I wouldn’t say it’s apples to oranges either,” he said.

More: That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

“If you’re on the other side of that rocket and you’re a Taliban, you probably don’t care if it’s a rocket or if it’s a [precision-guided munition] that’s hitting you in the forehead,” Hecker said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A camera can now grab facial expressions from miles away

Here’s the brief story of an obscenely large picture.

It’s the brainchild of a company called Jingkun Technology, or BigPixel, taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

What it is not, contrary to chatter on social media this week, is some evil new Chinese satellite “quantum technology.”

It’s just a very, very big picture, and according to the company, more than 8 million people have explored it.

The company said the photo’s resolution is a mind-blowing 195 gigapixels.


Articles

An Army Reserve officer and pole vaulter just took bronze in Rio

Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks took bronze in the men’s pole vault in the XXXI Olympic Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil on Aug. 15 with a successful vault of 5.85 meters, about 19.2 feet.


Kendricks took the top spot in Olympic qualifications as the first competitor to hit 5.7 meters, about 18.7 feet. But all top nine jumpers hit 5.7 meters in the qualifications, including Kendricks’ top rivals, Renauld Lavillenie from France and Shawnacy Barber of Canada.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
U.S. Army Reserve 2nd Lt. Sam Kendricks vaults over a bar in Oxford, Mississippi, on July 27, 2016, while training for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. (Photo: U.S. Army Reserve Franklin Childress)

Lavillenie is the world record holder and took home the gold in the London Olympics in 2012 while Barber was ranked second worldwide.

Kendricks just missed his first attempt at 5.65 meters and his only one at 5.75. He hit his second attempt at 5.65 and then crossed 5.85, making his 5.75-meter struggles immaterial. Barber failed three times to clear 5.65, which knocked him out of the competition.

Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion and holder of the world pole vault record since 2014, entered the competition at 5.75 meters and cleared the bar easily, putting the pressure back on Kendricks.

Kendricks fought his way to 3rd with an impressive series of jumps, but he failed to beat the 5.93-meter bar to stay in the running for gold. Kendricks personal best is 5.92 meters.

Rio’s hometown hero, Brazilian pole vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva, traded Olympic records with Lavillenie. When the dust settled, Silva was on top with a 6.03-meter jump, about 19.78 feet, for the gold while Lavillenie left at 5.98 meters for silver.

Kendricks made it to the podium partially in thanks to the assistance of his coach and father, Scott Kendricks, a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps.

Another military pole vaulter, Air Force 1st Lt. Cale Simmons, was knocked out during the qualifiers after a disappointing 5.30-meter jump, not good enough for a berth in the Olympic finals.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 awesome posters that motivated your grandfather in World War II

Not everyone joins the military right after hearing a news report about Pearl Harbor attacks, after seeing the Twin Towers fall, or after hearing a speech by President Polk talking about “American blood” shed “on American soil.” No, most troops who will join a war make the decision slowly, over time. These are the posters from World War II that might have helped your (great) grandpa or grandmother decide to contribute to the fights in Europe, the Pacific, and Asia.


The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)

This iconic poster from 1942, “Man the Guns,” encouraged men to join the Navy and do their bit for victory on the open ocean.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.S. Army Military History Institute)

World War II saw the first use of paratroopers and other airborne commandos in combat. Germany kicked off airborne combat history during its invasions of Western Europe, but all of the major Allied and Axis powers fielded some sort of airborne force.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(Flickr/Marines)

“The Marines have landed” was a World War II recruiting poster that capitalized on the expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps. It was first completed in 1941 but was aimed at 1942 recruiting goals. The Marines focused on the Pacific Theater in the war, chipping away at Japan’s control of Pacific islands until the Army Air Forces were in range of the home islands.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(United States Army Air Forces)

The air forces of the world saw huge expansions in World War I and then the inter-war years. By the time World War II was in full swing, thousands of planes were clashing over places like the English Channel and the Battle of Kursk. American air forces launched from bases in the Pacific, England, Africa, and more in order to take the ultimate high ground against the Axis forces.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.K. National Archives)

This poster from England referenced a Winston Churchill speech in 1941 that reminded the English people of their great successes in late 1940 and early 1941. Hitler’s planned invasion of the British Isles had been prevented, and Churchill was hopeful that continued English resistance would pull America into the war. He finished the speech with this passage:

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.
The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

American men who joined the Army started at a bare a month, equivalent to about 0 today. Joining the Airborne forces could more than double that pay, but it was still clear that fighting the Nazis or the Japanese empire had to be done for patriotism, not the insane pay.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

This poster by J. Howard Miller became an iconic image of wartime production and is thought to be the prototype that led to the “Rosie the Riveter” campaign and the accompanying image by Norman Rockwell on The Saturday Evening Post. Women entered the workforce in record numbers in World War II to help the country keep up with wartime demand while a large portion of the male workforce was sent overseas.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(Flickr/Boston Public Library)

Not everyone could serve on the front lines. Whether restricted because of age, health, or some other factor, people who wanted to serve their country’s defense in the states could join the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense. If it sounds like busy work to you, understand that America’s coasts were being regularly attacked by submarines while the occasional raid by planes or balloons was an ever-present threat.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(U.K. National Archives)

England took some of the worst hits from Germany in World War II, so British propagandists found it important to remind a scared English public that they’d been here before, that they’d survived before, and that Germany had been turned back before. It might have been cold comfort after France fell so quickly in World War II after holding out for all of World War I, but even cold comfort is preferable to none.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian destroyer sails into the line of fire during shooting drills

During a US and Ukrainian-led multinational maritime exercise, a Russian destroyer created a “dangerous situation” by sailing into an area restricted for live-fire drills, the Ukrainian Navy said in an statement.

On July 10, 2019, the Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy purposefully sailed into an area reserved for naval gunfire exercises, part of the latest iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze, the Ukrainian Navy said in a Facebook post.


“The Russian Federation once again showed its true face and provoked an emergency situation in the Black Sea, ignoring international maritime law,” the post explains, according to a translation by Ukrainian media.

The Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy attempted to communicate with the Russian ship, but the latter is said to have feigned communication problems.

The Russian military, which has been conducting drills in the same area, says that the Ukrainian Navy is lying.

“The Ukrainian Navy’s claim that the Black Sea Fleet’s Smetlivy patrol vessel has allegedly entered a closed zone where Sea Breeze-2019 drills are held is not true,” Russia’s Black Sea Fleet said in a statement carried by Russian media. “Smetlivy acts in strict compliance with the international law.”

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy.

A US Navy spokesman told Defense One that the Russian ship was present but declined to offer any specific details on the incident. “The presence of the Russian ship had no impact to the exercise yesterday and all evolutions were conducted as scheduled,” Lt. Bobby Dixon, a spokesman for the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, told the outlet.

He added, without elaborating, that “it can be ill-advised to enter an area given the safety hazard identified in a Notice to Mariners.”

The 19th iteration of Exercise Sea Breeze began on July 1, 2019, and will conclude July 19, 2019. The drills involved around 3,000 troops, as well as 32 ships and 24 aircraft, from 19 different countries and focused on a variety of training areas, including maritime interdiction operations, air defense, amphibious warfare, and more.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Angry frustrated veteran shot in VA clinic altercation

A man said to be a military veteran seeking mental health care was shot by a security officer at a Veterans Affairs clinic in southern Oregon on Jan. 25 after an admissions area altercation in which authorities said the man became combative.


The man was flown to a hospital after the shooting in the southwestern community of White City with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, the Jackson County sheriff’s office said in a statement.

Shawn Quall, an Army veteran of the first Gulf War who is from Bend, Oregon, said he heard the man shouting before the situation escalated.

“I was walking down the main hallway when I overheard a veteran yelling at intake people that he was here for the fifth time trying to get healthcare, and was upset at what he thought was a runaround,” Quall told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin (right) has been steadily working to reform the VA.

Quall kept walking down the hall, but when the yelling got louder, he started running back and heard someone yell, “He’s got a knife!”

“Then boom, a loud shot. I saw the guy holding his stomach and then fall to the ground,” Quall said. An officer told onlookers to leave, saying there was nothing to see.

Sgt. Julie Denney of the sheriff’s office said she could not confirm that a knife was involved.

“The details of the events leading to the shooting are still under investigation,” she said in a text message.

Also Read: VA watchdog is reviewing Shulkin’s 10-day trip to Europe where he attended Wimbledon, went on cruise

VA police responded “after reports of a combative patient in the admissions area. An altercation ensued between the man and VA Police officers, resulting in the discharge of a firearm,” the sheriff’s office statement said. The man and the officers involved were not identified.

Veterans at the clinic receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues expressed shock about the shooting.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

Outpatient Joel Setzer, a U.S. Army veteran who also served in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf, said, “this is the type of incident that should have never happened out there.”

The VA Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center Clinics says on its website that it “offers a variety of health services to meet the needs of our nation’s Veterans.”

Quall said it’s not unusual to hear veterans arguing with the center’s staff.

“Often you hear guys yelling,” he said. “It’s dealing with the federal government, and it is frustrating at times.”

A spokeswoman for the clinic did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US officials blame Iran for using child soldiers

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.

“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.

Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).


“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”

The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.

The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.

“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.

The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.

Iran’s reaction

Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.

Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.

“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.

Measures welcomed

Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.

“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”

A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.

Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.

“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.

Effects of sanctions

But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.

“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.

He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”

Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.

“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.

“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.

Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”

“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new ‘Snowflake’ recruitment ads for the British Army are actually ingenious

The British Army has had many iconic recruitment ad campaigns over the years. From Lord Kitchener’s, “Your Country Needs You” that became the basis of nearly every other recruitment poster to WWI’s famous, “Your chums are fighting. Why aren’t you?”

Today, the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom are at some of the lowest numbers in centuries. Now, they’re trying out a new recruitment strategy:


The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

(British Army)

On the surface, it might seem belittling to potential recruits and, to be fair, that’s how most people are interpreting it. But if you take a step back and read the full poster and evaluated the entire campaign as a whole, it’s actually brilliant.

The poster above is a part of the British Army’s “This is Belonging” campaign, which also includes TV ads that showcases young people who feel undervalued in their jobs. Other posters also call for “me me me millennials” and their self-belief, “binge gamers” and their drive, “selfie addicts” and their confidence, “class clowns” and their spirit, and “phone zombies” and their focus.

It’s a call to action to a younger generation that may not believe they’re right for anywhere. The TV ad for the binge gamer shows the person being scolded for playing too many games, but he keeps pushing himself after every “Game Over.” Next, the commercial cuts to this same gamer as a soldier, and he’s pushing himself further and further. At its core, that’s what this campaign is really about.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

I don’t want to be the guy to point it out, but… the oldest millennials are now 37 and the youngest are 25. Let’s not get them confused with Gen-Z, the 17 to 24 year olds that are more commonly associated with these stereotypes. Just sayin’…

(British Army)

British Army recruiters have long labelled service as a means to better one’s self. Sure, it’s patronizing to call a potential recruit a “me me me millennial,” but it’s also breaking conventional by attributing a positive quality, “self-belief,” to that same person — a quality desired by the military.

The reception has been, let’s say, highly polarizing. One side is complaining that it’s demeaning and desperate while the other is complaining that the British Army doesn’t need snowflakes. The bigger picture is that it’s a marketing strategy geared towards getting the attention of disenfranchised youth who just happen to be the perfect age for military service.

Since it was just released, only time will tell whether it’s effective in bringing in young Brits. But it has certainly gone viral and everyone is talking about it, which was definitely the objective.

Articles

This vet group says the Pentagon is disclosing private data on millions of troops

A veterans organization is suing the Pentagon for exposing private details about troops’ military service on “a truly massive scale” due to lax security on one of its websites.


The lawsuit filed by Vietnam Veterans of America says a Defense Department website “is currently exposing private details about the military service of millions of veterans to anybody at all, anonymously, for any purpose.”

The shoddy security measures allow virtually anyone to access sensitive data about veterans’ records by typing in a name and date of birth, which are easily available on the internet.

This gives “easy access to information about essentially all veterans or service members in the system” and thus violates the Federal Privacy Act, alleges the suit filed last week in federal court in New York.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Photo under Creative Commons license.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act website, which according to the Pentagon receives more than 2.3 billion searches a year, is mean to be used by authorized institutions like banks to confirm the active duty status that entitles service members to certain protections.

Instead, the information is available to con artists and scammers who can use it to impersonate government or other officials and gain veterans’ trust by discussing details of their service that only authorized organizations would have.

Thomas Barden, a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the US Air Force for 21 years, found that out firsthand.

The plaintiff in the suit received a call from someone supposedly affiliated with Microsoft in March 2016. Since the caller knew details about Barden’s military service, Barden thought the government backed it. The scammer sold him software to “protect” his computer and nine months later used it to lock him out and demanded ransom.

Worried about data theft, Barden broke the hard drive into pieces and was so concerned about his privacy he threw them into different trash cans over several days.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Since then, he has continued to receive harassing phone calls from the same scammers, causing him “significant anxiety and stress,” according to the lawsuit.

Impostor fraud and identity theft aside, the group says Vietnam veterans in particular want to keep details of their military record private, having “experienced the sting of rejection and public scorn on account of their service.”

Since they draw a steady, guaranteed income from the government, veterans are an attractive target for scammers. The numbers have increased in recent years, from 58,175 complaints by veterans in 2014 to 69,801 in 2016, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.

“Veterans are disproportionately targeted by scammers and identity thieves,” Vietnam Veterans of America President John Rowan said in a statement.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Image courtesy of USMC.

The Pentagon “is fueling the problem by leaving veterans’ private information easily accessible on the internet (and) has refused to properly secure veterans’ information,” he said. “We are asking a court to order them to do so.”

The Defense Department has refused to make any changes since being alerted about the problems with the site, the suit says. It points out that the Defense Department could implement a strict user registration or online verification system, which are used by the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

The challenges of protecting the massive databases containing military records are not new. The Department of Veterans Affairs in particular has struggled with privacy issues.

In 2014, a joint Pentagon-VA benefits site had recurring issues with private information about veterans being disclosed to random visitors. The VA was also sued over a serious privacy breach in 2006, after an employee’s laptop was stolen that contained the private data of 26 million soldiers and veterans. The VA settled for $20 million for failing to protect their sensitive data.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston

In other cases, veterans expecting to receive their own health care records opened their mail only to receive hundreds of pages of someone else’s private data.

“I got 256 pages of another person’s extremely confidential, extremely explicit mental health records,” Anthony McCann, a veteran in Tennessee, told a VA town hall in 2014.

The VA is the health provider with the most privacy complaints in the country, racking up 220 complaints between 2011 and 2014 according to a ProPublica analysis. In one case, an employee accessed her husband’s medical records more than 260 times. Another employee shared a veteran’s private health information with his parole officer. In yet another case, a VA employee posted details of a patient’s health records on Facebook after opening them 61 times, according to documents posted by ProPublica.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US says North Korea used VX in an assassination

The United States has determined that North Korea used chemical weapons, an apparent reference to the killing of leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in 2017.


The State Department did not provide justification for the finding publicized March 2, 2018. But it comes nearly one year after Kim Jong Nam died at an international airport in Malaysia in an attack, authorities said, that used VX nerve agent.

The determination, made by the department’s international security and nonproliferation bureau, carries restrictions on U.S. foreign aid and financial and military assistance that North Korea’s heavily sanctioned government is already subject to.

Also read: Kim Jong Nam might have been plotting to overthrow his brother

It was posted on the website of the Federal Register and takes effect March 5, 2018.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has previously referred to Pyongyang’s use of chemical weapons. He told reporters in January 2018, “we know they’ve been used by the North Koreans.”

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

According to the Pentagon, North Korea probably has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and likely possesses a chemical weapons stockpile that could be used with artillery and ballistic missiles.

Experts say the Feb. 13, 2017, death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport is the only confirmed North Korean use of chemical weapon agents. North Korean defectors have charged that such chemicals have been used against prisoners and disabled people inside the authoritarian nation.

Related: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

North Korea is believed to have provided chemical defensive equipment and technology to Syria and Libya in the past, and an upcoming report by a United Nations panel that monitors sanctions against the North says that in August 2016, the North transferred special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical-weapons programs in Syria.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Kim Jong Nam. (Photo from The Asahi Shimbun)

North Korean technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities in the war-ravaged Mid-east nation, according to details of the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas of the country, which the government denies.

North Korea, on March 1, 2018, denied it was cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons. In a statement circulated by its diplomatic mission at the U.N. in New York, the North’s foreign ministry said it “does not have a single record of developing, producing, and stockpiling a chemical weapon.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.


And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.

The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”

The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.

The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.

More: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.

The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.

US competition in the region and around the world put on notice

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. (US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

Related: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.

China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.

North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.

Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:

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Guantanamo’s funniest detainee is single and ready to mingle

Ladies, a high-value al-Qaeda detainee at the U.S. prison facility in Guantanamo Bay is looking for love. Check out his profile on Match.com, because he can’t get on Tinder from his cell and Plenty of Fish asks too many questions.


“This is terrible news about Ashley Madison,” he writes. “Please remove my profile immediately!!! I’ll stick with Match.com, even though you say it is for old people. There is no way I can get Tinder in here.”

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
(International Red Cross via Rahim family)

Muhammad Rahim al-Afghani was captured in Pakistan in 2007 and held by the CIA before his transfer to the prison. He keeps a robust sense of humor despite being tortured while detained by the CIA. Afghani actually does maintain a Match.com profile and comments on the latest news, trends, and pop culture in the United States through letters to his lawyer.

“Donald Trump is an idiot!!! Sen. McAin [sic]is a war hero. Trump is a war zero,” he wrote in a letter acquired by Al-Jazeera. “He bankrupted the USFL, and now he wants to bankrupt the U.S. At this rate, Hillary has a chance.”

Afghani was the last prisoner sent to Guantanamo Bay, arriving in March 2008.

He has access to news, magazines, and international television inside the facility. Referring to Caitlyn Jenner, the transgender reality personality who caused an online stir when she received ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award, he said he is “happy for her because people are born how they are.” He did question her political views, however. “How is she a Republican? They want to take her rights away.”

He had one bit of advice for Ms. Jenner: “Tell her to use spray tan for her legs.”

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan

Afghani has never been charged with a crime. Retired General and former CIA director Michael Hayden says Aghani is detained because of his past and his continued threat to American interests. Afghani believes his high-value status comes because he was tortured in custody. He was sleep deprived for 138 hours in 2007, standing while wearing a diaper, and given only liquid ensure to eat.

He advised his civilian lawyer, Carlos Warner, a federal public defender, to take Obama “straight to the post” if he ever had the chance to play with the President. Afghani is an avid basketball and Cavaliers fan. He is happy about LeBron’s return to Cleveland.

“Miami is a good place to visit, but no one wants to live there. It’s too greasy and hot. But I feel this way: As the great Bret Michaels once said — ‘Although the wound heals, the scar Remains!!!”

While Afghani has access to news, the events he discusses may not always be current. Afghani once asked Warner if he could do the Gangnam Style dance for him, but needed some help first.

“I like this new song ‘Gangnam Style,'” he wrote. “I want to do the dance for you but cannot because of my shackles. Please ask to have this changed.”

In all seriousness, he repeats the need for a military lawyer, which may be why he enjoys displaying his knowledge of American popular culture, in an effort to stay relevant.

“Give me a trial. Let me be free,” he wrote to his civilian lawyer. Afghani request a military lawyer “How can I get justice without a military lawyer?” He had a military lawyer but that lawyer retired and was not replaced. When wikileaks released documents about the detainees left in Guantanamo, there were none about Afghani.

Afghani will likely be rejected by ChristianMingle and eHarmony.

 

NOW: 6 Reasons why the Korengal Valley was one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan

OR: The 13 best insults from military movies

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This is the multi-million dollar dance of the ‘Yellow Shirts’

Flight deck operations on an aircraft carrier have often been compared to a ballet. Sailors at work on a flight deck wear an assortment of colored jerseys to specify their job. The yellow shirt is one of the most coveted.


After watching how the flight deck operates for a while, it is clear the yellow shirts are in charge of the big dance, and those jerseys are worn by aviation boatswain’s mates.

 

The aviation boatswain’s mates who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz are directly responsible for the handling and maneuvering of aircraft as well as the safety of all personnel during flight operations. Any mistake or lack of better judgment can cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel on the flight deck.

 

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
USMC photo by Sgt. Christopher Q. Stone.

 

“At first being a yellow shirt was scary, but now that I have some confidence, I would say there is a sense of pride,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melanie Cluck, an aviation boatswain’s mate. “On the flight deck, we are not only responsible for directing aircraft, but also for directing people. Normally, anyone who needs guidance on the flight deck looks for a yellow shirt. Safety of all the personnel on deck is a big part of our job as well. So we don’t only need to know our job, but everyone else’s as well.”

Blue Shirts 

Before donning the sought-after yellow jersey, aviation boatswain’s mates wear blue jerseys to indicate that they are in a more junior status. These sailors are normally newer airmen who have yet to acquire all of the necessary qualifications. Their main responsibilities during flight operations include chocking and chaining, running elevators, and tractor operation.

“Being a blue shirt is hard work, but it makes you tough,” said Seaman Michael Lothrop. “It’s hot up there right now, and we work long days, but you have to be on alert at all times and ready to get the job done whenever you are needed.”

 

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Kinkead

 

Blue shirts are normally covered in grease and always carrying something heavy, whether it be a chain, tractor bar, or chock. They play a big part in the maneuvering of aircraft on the flight deck because they do most of the hands-on work. During their time wearing blue, they learn the ins and outs of properly directing aircraft, which helps build the foundation of a high-performance yellow shirt.

The job requires attention to detail and an extreme amount of knowledge to be performed well. The training and the number of hours a sailor needs to put in to become a yellow shirt is impressive.

“There are two main qualifications you get as a blue shirt, but from there, it’s all about if your chain of command sees you have the initiative to take on being a yellow shirt,” Cluck said.

Earning the Yellow Shirt

 

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

Sailors must qualify as flight deck observers and learn directing and handling in addition to the qualifications all sailors are required to attain when they report to Nimitz. The requirements take roughly 12 weeks to complete. Sailors then take a written and oral test administered by the flight deck leading petty officer, assistant LPO, and any other yellow-shirt-qualified chief petty officers or first class petty officers who decide to attend.

Once sailors earn the right to wear the yellow jersey on the flight deck, they enter an apprenticeship period called “under inspection.” This means they need an experienced yellow shirt to help them along the way toward becoming an expert at their new job on the flight deck.

UI yellow shirts are always accompanied by a seasoned mentor who is observing every signal and decision they make.

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Fenaroli

“It’s a case-by-case basis on how long the UI process takes,” Cluck said. “The process is just there to make sure you fully understand what you are doing on the flight deck. It’s extensive work to say the least, but it helps you build character. The goal of the process is just to build you up to be the great yellow shirt you are supposed to be.”

Yellow shirts have to communicate through hand signals with pilots and other personnel working on the flight deck to safely move aircraft onto the catapults and off of the landing area.

“You have to be able to really get control of your aircraft and understand the pilot,” Cluck said. “It’s a gut feeling that you develop during your training. If you feel you need to slow the aircraft down, you can, and you start to learn when exactly to turn it. We have hundreds of hand signals we can use to take control of the aircraft on deck. The people in the pilot seats are officers, so you have to be professional, and every motion you make has to be crisp and precise to prevent accidents.”

The Mother of All Bombs awaits an encore in Afghanistan
Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Sheldon Rowley

The working environment of a yellow shirt is unlike anywhere else on the ship. The yellow shirt locker, or crew area, is on Nimitz’ flight deck. The tight-knit group of men and women spends their time out of the scorching heat joking, laughing, and preparing to launch multi-million dollar aircraft into the sky. It is here where the instructors of the world’s most dangerous ballet reside. It is here where the yellow shirts dwell, mentally preparing themselves to launch aircraft as their ship sits at the tip of the spear.

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