The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria - We Are The Mighty
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The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

The United States is making a push at the United Nations to set up a new inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria, three months after Russia killed a previous UN inquiry.


The U.S. ambassador to the UN said on March 1, 2018, that she wants the UN Security Council to create a new investigative team charged with determining who is behind chemical attacks in Syria following several reports of the use of chlorine gas in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks.

Also read: US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she hopes the council will vote on the measure in early March 2018. The initiative comes days after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child suffocated to death and 13 other people fell ill from a suspected chlorine gas attack over the weekend.

A previous UN inquiry ended in November 2017 after Russia vetoed efforts to renew its mandate. Russia maintained that the investigative team, which had attributed most of the chemical attacks it investigated to the Syrian government, was biased against its ally. Damascus insists it has renounced all use of chemical weapons.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Russia, in January 2018, offered its own plan to create a new inquiry but has never put it to a vote before the council. The Russian plan was opposed by the United States and other Western countries, which said it gave Syria too much influence over investigations.

“When the Russians put their mechanism forward, that’s a non-starter, and so that’s why we’re coming back out with another one,” Haley told Reuters. “We’ve been working on it since the [previous inquiry] was killed.”

“We’ve taken into account certain things that [Russian diplomats] thought were an issue, but if they want no mechanism at all, they’ll veto it,” Haley said.

U.S. diplomats said their draft resolution to set up a new one-year inquiry was discussed at a UN meeting on March 1, 2018, but Russian diplomats did not attend.

A council diplomat said it was unlikely Russia would back the measure, which calls for investigators to operate in “an impartial, independent, and professional manner.”

Russia criticized the previous UN investigative team for reaching conclusions about who perpetrated a chemical attack sometimes without visiting the place where the attack occurred or collecting evidence firsthand.

More: US launches over 50 cruise missiles at Syrian airfields over chemical attack

Russia and Syria fiercely rejected a final conclusion reached in the previous inquiry, which found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an attack April 2017 that killed nearly 100 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun.

Russian diplomats vetoed efforts to renew the inquiry after that incident, complaining that the UN investigative team never visited the site of the attack or the Syrian airbase from where the attack was allegedly launched.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These troops are slowly being poisoned by lead in their bones

A number of U.S. troops with unexplained symptoms such as impaired concentration, anger, irritability and impulsivity, as well as physical problems such as high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy and low sex drive, have chronic lead poisoning, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times Magazine’s At War Blog.

Thirty-eight troops — mostly from Special Forces units — have gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York for a special test that measures the level of lead in one’s tibia bone. Of those, a dozen registered bone lead levels higher than normal, with four having roughly twice the expected amount.


The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Two-ton “Super sacks” like this one contain lead bullets removed during a reclamation project at a former firing range at Camp Withycombe, Ore. Approximately 300,000 thousand pounds of bullets were removed from the soil in an effort to return the land to its original condition.

Dozens of other service members sought treatment at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine for lead and other metal poisoning, including those tested at Mount Sinai.

While the numbers are small compared with the 1.3 million active-duty personnel currently serving, the diagnosis is significant for these troops, who have wrestled for years with symptoms that mimic traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but who also have physical manifestations.

One of the those diagnosed, Steve Hopkins, a former Special Forces major who is now retired, called receiving the test results “a big deal.” After bouncing from doctor to doctor and being told by Army physicians that he likely had depression or PTSD — or was malingering — Hopkins was grateful to put a name to his debilitating illness.

“It was a big weight off my shoulders and off my family,” he said. “I mean, we were in crisis.”

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, demonstrate how to operate a M-4 carbine during a training exercise with troops from the 341st Romanian Infantry battalion during a cross-training event at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Hopkins was diagnosed in 2012 after falling severely ill and traveling to Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center, Maryland, where he was seen by NavyCapt. Kevin Dorrance, also now retired. Like Hopkins’ physicians at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Dorrance originally thought Hopkins’ issues were mental health-related. But he noticed that one medical test, an erythrocyte porphyrin test, consistently came back as elevated.

He consulted with a colleague at the Uniformed Services University for the Health Sciences who, according to Dorrance, immediately suspected lead exposure. Dorrance then sent Hopkins to Mount Sinai for the K X-ray fluorescence, or KXRF, test to measure his bone lead levels.

Hopkins, then 42, had levels two-and-a-half times what is typical in a man his age.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Spc. Justin Dreyer from the Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is instructed how to fire a rocket-propelled grenade launcher by a Soldier in the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion at the Bardia Firing Range near COB Adder, Iraq.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Terence Ewings)

Other service members followed Hopkins to Mount Sinai, including Master Sgt. Geoff Dardia, a Special Forces training instructor who has deployed to combat zones seven times. Dardia’s results were 30 percent higher than normal.

Lead exposure in the U.S. military can occur on firing ranges, during military operations and while working and living in environments where lead is common — on military bases in cases of lead abatement and repair work and in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, which continue to use leaded gasoline.

Troops can inhale lead or ingest it by firing weapons or eating, drinking, smoking or chewing tobacco on ranges. If lead is absorbed, it is present in the bloodstream for up to a month, where it can be detected by a blood test, and it remains in soft tissue for up to 90 days.

It is then absorbed into the bones, where levels can increase with additional exposure. But the medical community and government agencies that study environmental exposures say once it is in the bone, it leaches back into the bloodstream only under certain medical conditions, such as a broken bone, pregnancy, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

Affected veterans, along with Dorrance and Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, say this isn’t correct — and they’d like to see more physicians considering the possibility of chronic lead exposure in cases of unexplained symptoms in troops, rather than dismissing their patients as mental health cases.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“Here you are dealing with a group of men, highly trained, highly skilled, emotionally stable individuals who want to work. These are not wackadoodles,” Hyman said.

Dorrance, Hopkins and others want to call attention to the issue of lead poisoning in the U.S. military and have pressed the Defense Department for broader testing and treatment — for acute and long-term exposure. They want the Pentagon to purchase a KXRF machine and conduct mandatory baseline screening and ongoing testing for troops who work in environments where they face chronic exposure.

They also would like to see more acceptance in the medical community for diagnosing and treating lead in bones. Chelation is an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for acute lead exposure, but both Hopkins, who took an oral chelation medication, and Dardia, who used both oral and intravenous chelation agents, say it worked in their cases.

They say troops deserve to have the general medical community understand what a handful of physicians — those who treat civilian workers often exposed to lead in jobs such as smelting, soldering, bridge repair, and foundry work — understand. That chronic lead exposure can make a person sick.

“The fact that we have a lack of intellectual curiosity about a condition that likely is pervasive in the U.S. military is criminal,” Hopkins said.

“The reason it’s being sidelined is it’s not understood,” added Dorrance. “There’s this discomfort with not knowing that’s the problem with doctors.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the F-35 can succeed where US anti-missile defenses fail

The F-35, the most expensive weapons system in history that boosters say can do just about anything in aerial combat, could have a new mission: shooting down intercontinental ballistic missiles.


Ballistic missiles, like the kind North Korea has been perfecting with the goal of being able to reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, pose a huge threat to the U.S. as they reenter the atmosphere at over a dozen times the speed of sound.

The U.S. uses advanced radars and ground-based missile interceptors without explosive charges to “hit to kill” incoming missiles. This method has been compared to hitting a bullet with a bullet, and it has really only been successful against unsophisticated, short-range targets or test dummies.

But there’s plenty of reason to doubt the U.S.’s missile defenses against North Korea would work. And advanced ICBMs with multiple warheads or decoy warheads could most likely confuse missile defenses and render them useless.

But as an ICBM takes off the launchpad and lurches up to speed, the entire missile, warhead and all, is a single target.

At that point, why not shoot it down with an air-to-air missile from an F-35?

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

The F-35 as a missile interceptor

The US Air Force has, for decades, had air-to-air missiles that lock on to hot, flying targets, and an ICBM in its first stage is essentially that.

In 2007, Lockheed Martin got $3 million to look into an air-to-air hit-to-kill missile system. In 2014, a test seemed to prove the concept.

But the F-35 program, usually not one to shy away from boasting about its achievements, has been hushed about the prospect of using it to defeat one of the gravest threats to the U.S.

“I can tell you that the F-35 is a multi-mission fighter,” Cmdr. Patrick Evans of the Office of the Secretary of Defense told Business Insider when asked about the program. “It would be inappropriate to speculate on future capabilities or missions of the weapon system.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was more open to speculating about why the Pentagon hadn’t gone through with missile-intercepting planes.

Also Read: This is how North Korea’s new missile can strike the US

“Very simple — what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Hunter said during a November meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.

Hunter also pointed out that in some places North Korea is just 75 miles across — well within the F-35’s missile range, Aviation Week noted.

Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for not picking up the air-to-air intercept sooner while spending $40 billion on ground-based missile interception.

“There’s not a retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”

An F-35 missile intercept over North Korea may be an act of war

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
An F-35 Lightning II fires a missile while inverted. (Photo from F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office)

The present crisis with North Korea may demand some expediency from the Pentagon regarding the F-35.

The F-35, with its all-aspect stealth, is ideal for breaking into North Korea’s protected airspace. It can already use the air-to-air missile in question, and its sensor fusion would make it the best plane for the job.

The drawback, though, is that the F-35 would need to get close to the target missile as it’s leaving the launchpad, which could mean firing interceptor missiles over enemy territory — something North Korea could see as an act of war.

If North Korea were to actually threaten the U.S. or its allies with a missile, an F-35 intercept could be a game-changer. The U.S. reportedly knew about North Korea’s latest launch three days in advance, despite the North’s efforts to hide preparations. In a similar situation, the U.S. would have plenty of time to get the F-35s in place.

But the F-35 was already a nightmare for North Korean defenses before the prospect of using it to intercept a missile came up, and it’s unclear how Pyongyang would react to the stealth plane going anywhere near its borders.

For now, at least one member of the House Armed Services Committee seems to think the F-35 is the best bet for giving the U.S. an advantage over North Korea’s nuclear program.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army war hero pleads guilty to million-dollar smuggling attempt

A highly decorated Army Special Forces soldier pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking conspiracy, admitting he attempted to smuggle nearly 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida aboard a military aircraft in August 2018.

Master Sgt. Daniel Gould first smuggled 10 kilograms of the narcotic in early 2018, according to the US Attorney’s statement. A co-defendant in the trial traveled to Colombia with the payment for the first load, which Gould then placed in a gutted-out punching bag.


According to a report by the Panama City News Herald, Gould had a driver transport the cocaine to Bogota, where it was placed on a military aircraft and transported to the US. The cocaine was then distributed in northwest Florida, according to the US Attorney’s statement. Gould was assigned to 7th Special Forces Group, an Army command garrisoned at Eglin Air Force Base in the same region.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria

Master Sgt. Daniel Gould.

(US Army photo)

The conspirators reinvested the money from the first load, sending about ,000 back to Colombia on another military aircraft. Then, in early August 2018, Gould returned to Colombia to retrieve the second load of cocaine.

Using the same method, Gould hid 40 kilograms — nearly 90 pounds with a street value over id=”listicle-2625024194″ million, according to US attorneys — in the punching bags. The cocaine was discovered at the US Embassy in Bogota on August 13, 2018, when the bags went through an X-ray. Gould had already departed Colombia when the drugs were discovered, and was waiting in Florida to retrieve them.

Gould recently separated from the Army, according to the Herald. The Green Beret received the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest military award for valor, for combat action in Afghanistan in 2008.

One of Gould’s co-defendants, 35-year-old Henry Royer, pleaded not guilty to the same charges of drug trafficking, according to the Herald. A third man, Colombian national Gustavo Pareja, has also been indicted.

Gould will be sentenced on March 12, 2019; he faces 10 years to life on each count of conspiracy.

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

Articles

Navy LCS deck-launched HELLFIRE missile to be Operational by 2017

The Navy plans to have an operational ship-launched HELLFIRE missile on its Littoral Combat Ship by next year, giving the vessel an opportunity to better destroy approaching enemy attacks –such as swarms of attacking small boats — at farther ranges than its existing deck-mounted guns are able to fire.


“Both the 30mm guns and the Longbow HELLFIRE are designed to go after that fast attack aircraft and high speed boats coming into attack LCS typically in a swarm raid type of configuration,” Capt. Casey Moton, LCS Mission Modules Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview. said.

The 30mm guns will be fired against close-in threats and attacks – and the HELLFIRE is being engineered to strike targets farther away out toward the horizon. The concept is to increase ship Commander’s target engagement targets against fast-maneuvering surface targets such as remotely controlled boats and fast-attack craft carrying pedestal mounted guns, Moton explained.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Raytheon

“We are taking the Army’s Longbow HELLFIRE Missile and we are adapting it for maritime use. We are using a vertical launcher off of an LCS,” Moton added.

Moton said the Navy has been conducting live-fire test attacks with a HELLFIRE missile launching from a deck-mounted launcher aboard a service research vessel. The ship-launched HELLFIRE is engineered a little differently than current HELLFIREs fired from drones and helicopters.

“With a helicopter, HELLFIRE often locks onto a target before launch (RF guidance). With LCS, the missile turns on its seeker after launch. We did 12 missile shots in the last year and had successful engagements with 10 of them,” Moton explained.

The LCS-fired HELLFIRE uses “millimeter wave” guidance or seeker technology, a targeting system described as “all-weather” capable because it can penetrate rain, clouds and other obscurants.

An upcoming focus for the weapon will be designing integration within the LCS’ computers and combat system.

“We did tests to push the boundary of the seeker so we could get data for seeker modifications. We tweak the seeker based on this data,” Moton explained

Part of the conceptual design for an LCS deck-mounted HELLFIRE is to enable coordination and targeting connectivity with Mk 60 Navy helicopters operating beyond-the-horizon.

“A helicopter can track an inbound raid as it comes in off of the horizon – allowing us to shoot the Longbow HELLFIRE missiles,” Moton said.

In these scenarios, the HELLFIRE would be used in tandem with 30mm and 57mm guns. Also, the Longbow Hellfire weapon is intended to be used in conjunction with helicopter-like, vertical take-off-and-landing drone launched from the LCS called the Fire Scout. This Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, ISR, platform can help identify targets and relay real time video images back to a ship-based targeting and command and control center.

Previously, the Navy had considered a now-cancelled Army-Navy program called the Non-Line-of-Sight missile and a laser-guided Griffin missile for the LCS attack mission. With Griffin missiles, a laser-guided weapon, there is a limited number of missiles which can fire at one time in the air due to a need for laser designation. A Longbow HELLFIRE, however, is what is described as a “fire-and-forget” missile which can attack targets without needing laser designation.

The integration of a HELLFIRE missile aboard an LCS, which has been in development for several years, is considered to be a key element of the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy implemented to better arm the surface fleet with improved offensive and defensive weapons.

Alongside the HELLFIRE, the Navy is also looking to integrate an over-the-horizon longer range weapon for the LCS and its more survivable variant, a Frigate; among the missile being considered are the Naval Strike Missile, Harpoon and an emerging high-tech weapon called the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM.

HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms

In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.

In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.

These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Army’s Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Army’s AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.

The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance – referred to as “fire and forget” – or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or “painted” by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.

There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses what’s called a “tandem warhead” with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.

The “Blast-Frag” warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.

The “Metal Augmented Charge” warhead improves upon the “Blast-Frag” weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The “Metal Augmented Charge” is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.

The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to “lock-on” to a target before or after launch.

The AGM-114R warhead is described as a “Multi-Purpose” explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.

The AGM-114R or “Romeo” variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.

The “Multi-Purpose” warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse “blast-effects” with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.

“The “Romeo” variant is an example of how these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, told Scout Warrior.

Additional HELLFIRE Uses

Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.

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This vet is warning lawmakers about PTSD scams

The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony June 7  that was both encouraging and disturbing about PTSD programs and allegations that some vets are faking symptoms to get a disability check.


The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly expanded its treatment programs for mental health problems overall, and for post-traumatic stress disorder in particular, said Dr. Harold Kudler, acting assistant deputy under secretary for Patient Care Services at the VA.

In fiscal 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 1.6 million veterans, up from 900,000 in 2006, Kudler said. Of the overall figure, 583,000 “received state-of-the-art treatment for PTSD,” including 178,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.

Kudler said the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans receiving VA treatment for PTSD has doubled since 2010, while VA services for them have increased by 50 percent.

In addition, the VA is increasingly open to alternative treatments for PTSD, including the use of hyperbaric chambers and yoga, but an Army veteran who went through VA treatment for PTSD said the expansion and outreach leave the program open to scams by veterans looking to get a disability check.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
A Veterans Affairs benefit advisor briefs 910th Airlift Wing reservists on their VA benefits following a long-term deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)

Brendan O’Byrne, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served a 15-month tour in the remote Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, told the committee he was overwhelmed by “crippling anxiety, blinding anger” compounded by drinking when he left the service in 2008.

After four years, he was given a 70-percent disability rating for PTSD and was immediately advised by administrators and other veterans to push for 100 percent to boost his check, O’Byrne said.

“Now, I don’t know if they saw something that I didn’t but, in my eyes, I was not 100 percent disabled and told them that,” O’Byrne said. But they continued to press him to go for a higher rating. His arguments for a lower rating went nowhere, he said.

In VA group counseling sessions, “I realized the sad truth about a portion of the veterans there — they were scammers, seeking a higher rating without a real trauma. This was proven when I overheard one vet say to another that he had to ‘pay the bills’ and how he ‘was hoping this in-patient was enough for a 100-percent rating.’ I vowed never to participate in group counseling through the VA again,” O’Byrne said.

“When there is money to gain, there will be fraud,” he said. “The VA is no different. Veterans are no different. In the noble efforts to help veterans and clear the backlog of VA claims, we allowed a lot of fraud into the system, and it is pushing away the veterans with real trauma and real PTSD.”

Committee members, who are accustomed to hearing allegations of fraud and waste within the VA but rarely about scamming by a veteran, did not directly challenge O’Byrne’s allegations, but Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., told him he was unique. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of a vet wanting to reduce the amount of benefits they’re receiving,” Bost said.

O’Byrne was a central figure in the book “War” by author Sebastian Junger, who also testified at the hearing on “Overcoming PTSD: Assessing VA’s Efforts to Promote Wellness and Healing.”

Junger said society must share the blame for the prevalence of PTSD. “Many of our vets seem to be suffering from something other than trauma reaction. One possible explanation for their psychological troubles is that — whether they experience combat or not — transitioning from the kind of close communal life of a platoon to the alienation of modern society is extremely difficult.”

Then there is politics. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause, and that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity,” Junger said.

“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he said.

“And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — the commander-in-chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” Junger said. “For the sake of our military personnel — if not for the sake of our democracy — such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party.”

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
U.S. Air Force illustration by Alex Pena

The allegation that some veterans are bilking PTSD programs is not a major concern for Zach Iscol, a Marine captain who fought in Fallujah and now is executive director of the non-profit Headstrong Project.

“If there are people taking advantage of us, that’s OK, because we have a bigger mission,” Iscol said, but he also noted that Headstrong does not give out disability payments.

In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the project’s goal is to provide free assistance with experienced clinicians to post-9/11 veterans for a range of problems, from PTSD to addiction and anger management.

Iscol said Headstrong currently has about 200 active clients, and “on average it costs less than $5,000 to treat a vet.” He cautioned there are no panaceas for treating PTSD, and “there’s no simple app that will solve this problem. I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all for mental health.”

The witnesses and committee members agreed that PTSD is treatable, but disagreed over the types and availability of treatment programs and whether the VA is adequately funded to provide them or should rely more on non-profits.

The issue of the estimated 20 suicides by veterans daily came up briefly when Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., a retired Marine lieutenant general, questioned Kudler on VA programs to bring down the rate.

VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin has made combating veteran suicides a major priority and has focused on making treatment available for veterans with less than honorable discharges.

Kudler said there is a “counter-intuitive” involved in addressing the veteran suicide problem. About 14 of the 20 daily suicides involve veterans who never deployed and experienced combat trauma, he said. “It would be premature to say we know why.”

 

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Air Force officials: F-35 is the ‘Burger King jet’

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
USAF photo


Although the F-35 Lightning II regularly makes headlines for all the wrong reasons, Air Force pilots at Edwards Air Force Base in California have begun weighing in on the jet’s capabilities, and it’s good news.

US Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari, director of the F-35 integrated test force and commander of the 461st Flight Test Squadron, said that the F-35’s automated systems free up the pilot to focus on mission planning in an interview with Defense News.

“Each plane is its own command and control platform,” said Chari, who also has experience flying a legacy platform, the F-15.

“You don’t have to do as much stick and rudder, just getting to and from, because there are so many automated modes to use on the F-35 … [It] is almost as easy as breathing.”

US Air Force Maj. Raven LeClair, also of the 461st flight test squadron, raved about another unique aspect of the Joint Strike Fighter, the “glass” or dual touch-screen display which is highly customizable by individual pilots.

“It’s the Burger King jet,” Chari said of the F-35’s versatile setups. “You can have it however you want, your way.”

Combined with the F-35’s helmet, which employs six infrared cameras positioned around the plane to allow pilots to see through the jets’ airframe, F-35 pilots have an unprecedented awareness of the entire battle space.

“In this plane it’s 360 degrees and a much larger range of stuff that you are looking at so that you are not just thinking about what your particular jets doing, but now you are looking at other elements in a national strike package,” said Chari.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
An F-35 flies at a high angle of attack relative to the US Air Force Thunderbird F-16s on either side of it. | USAF photo

“So whether that’s looking at ground targets or emitters or air targets, you are building a much bigger picture than the traditional planes.”

Chari also spoke highly of the F-35’s ability to fly at a high angle of attack, or with its nose pointed up, saying that pilots are learning to use this quality to perform close-in flight maneuvers.

Though the F-35’s dogfighting ability has been questioned before, Chari says the eventual integration of the AIM 9X missile with the plane’s systems will be a “dogfighting game-changer.”

Not only are pilots touting the F-35’s next-gen capacities, maintainers are big on the plane’s internal diagnostic system.

Though critics have claimed that the Joint Strike Fighter’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS), a system that internally tracks and diagnoses problems with each part of each plane worldwide, could be wiped out by a single server failure, maintainers told Defense News that the claim is ludicrous.

“We’ve had that happen multiple times, and we can still use ALIS,” said RJ Vernon, supervisor of the Third Air Force about server failures affecting the F-35. In the event of a long-term server failure, the worst-case scenario would be that maintainers have to track the parts manually, which they already do with legacy fighters.

On the whole, Lockheed Martin contractors and Air Force technicians agree, the ALIS is a big help.

“It tells you everything you need to know instantly,” Vernon said. “ALIS reduces our troubleshooting drastically, it makes my job very easy.”

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Big and Little Brother: An F-35A sits in a run station on the Fort Worth, Texas, flight line, while an F-16 Fighting Falcon, also produced at the Fort Worth plant, takes off in the background. Learn more about F-35 production. | Lockheed Martin photo

Air Force Staff Sgt. Cody Patters, who as worked on the A-10 and F-16s, said the F-35 was far easier to work on. His only complaint was waiting on the computer to load new tasks.

“We could teach you in 15 minutes,” Patters said of the user-friendly interface.

Additionally, the F-35 was built with maintainers in mind. The time they save working on the plane will translate to millions of dollars in savings over the life of the program.

For example, the panels of the plane allow easy access to maintainers, like the nose that comes off in a single piece. Also, the weapons bay doesn’t require cleaning, because the missiles are launched with air pressure instead of explosives that leave behind residue.

“Our jobs are drastically easier because of the way the jet takes care of itself,” concluded Patters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump opts out of a visit to Korea’s DMZ

President Donald Trump is not planning to visit the border between North and South Korea known as the Demilitarized Zone when he visits Asia next month.


The White House says Trump instead plans to visit Camp Humphreys, a military base about 40 miles south of Seoul. The White House says time constraints would likely not permit Trump to do both, although plans could still change.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Camp Humphreys. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jaesang Ma)

Most US presidents have visited the border as a signal to South Korea and other allies that the US will not stand for any aggression from the rogue North Korean regime. Vice President Mike Pence visited the DMZ earlier this year.

South Korea is one of five nations Trump will visit during 12-day Asia trip in early November.

Articles

Female WWII pilot finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Terry Harmon, the daughter of Women Airforce Service Pilot 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, receives the American flag from a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard during her late-mother’s interment ceremony at Alrington National Cemetery, Va., Sept. 7, 2016. Harmon died in 2015 at the age of 95. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alyssa C. Gibson


In 1943, Mabel Rawlinson, a Women Airforce Service Pilot, died in an aircraft crash. The government would not pay for her remains to be sent back to her family, nor allow her to have a flag draped over her casket.

Her fellow WASPs passed around a hat, pitching in to have her casket shipped back to her family – flag-draped in defiance, and escorted home by her service sisters.

She was one of 38 WASPs to die in service to her country.

More than 70 years later, as the last of “the greatest generation” dwindles and the WASPs’ male counterparts are laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with befitting honors, a WASP is at last also being honored for her service. During a military funeral service Sept. 7, Elaine Danforth Harmon’s ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Along with Rawlinson, Harmon was one of 1,074 women to serve as a pilot during World War II, fulfilling what the Air Force Historical Research Agency called a “dire need” to train male pilots and ferry aircraft overseas.

She is the first WASP to be buried in Arlington since the passing of HR-4336, a bill introduced by Arizona Representative Martha McSally to ensure WASPs eligibility for interment at Arlington National Cemetery. When Harmon passed away April 21, 2015, her family applied for her interment at Arlington per her final wishes. The request was denied based on a legal decision that “active-duty designees,” such as the WASPs, did not meet eligibility requirements for the cemetery, which is quickly running out of burial space.

Since then, her ashes had remained in the black box provided by the funeral home, sitting amidst folded sweaters, old photos and hanging clothes in her granddaughter’s closet.

“Gammy doesn’t belong on a shelf,” said Tiffany Miller, Harmon’s granddaughter.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Terry Harmon and Erin Miller, daughter and granddaughter of 2nd Lt. Elaine Harmon, Women Airforce Service Pilot, hold a portrait of her in Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Jan. 31, 2016. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Katherine Tereyama

Since her death, her family fought to secure a place for the WASPs in Arlington, aided by members of the self-proclaimed “Chick Fighter Pilot Association,” female pilots who owe their success to the trailblazing efforts of the WASPs.

Also read: Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

After the passing of the bill, several of the female aviators proudly flew the burial flag during their missions. They documented the flag’s travels in a journal read during the memorial service.

The flag “went on a journey worthy of a WASP,” according to Lt. Col. Caroline Jensen, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who aided the family’s campaign.

“Because of the legacy of the WASPs and the service of women like Elaine, I stand before you,” she said. “I’m a reservist on active duty, 22 years in the Air Force, 3,500 hours flying fighters, 1,700 in an F-16, 200 in combat, three years as a right-wing pilot for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and eight of those while being a mom. So we owe a lot to Elaine and the women like her.”

Jensen was joined by McSally and retired Maj. Heather Penney, each of whom credited their success as female pilots to the WASPs. They gave their remarks alongside beaming photos of Elaine – decked out in her flight suit at the ages of 22 and 85, demonstrating her continued love of flying.

“You could tell that the time they were WASPs was one of the best times of their lives and they were very proud to have served their country,” Elaine’s daughter, Terry Harmon said.

Retired Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold once spoke to a class of graduating WASP and said that initially he hadn’t been sure “whether a slip of a girl could fight the controls of a B-17 in heavy weather. Now in 1944, it is on record that women can fly as well as men.”

“It was a man’s world, but we did something really great that was needed for the war effort,” Elaine had said during an interview for Library of Congress historical archives.

Elaine wanted people to remember that effort, and in her handwritten will, beseeched her family to place her ashes in Arlington National Cemetery.

“To her, Arlington is more than a cemetery, it’s a memorial for all the people that have served their country,” said her granddaughter, Erin Miller.

Seventy-two years after her fellow WASP died in service of country and was denied military honors, Elaine Harmon died among her family. More than a year later, her children and grandchildren, her fellow WASPs and her service daughters escorted her home.

“For generations to come, when they come to these hallowed grounds that honor our heroes and educate people about their service and sacrifice … these women will be in that history book on their own merit, on their own right,” McSally said.

Another trailblazer was laid to rest among her brothers and sisters-in-arms. Her urn was placed in a niche of the columbarium wall between her fellow veterans, she left her final mark on the white marble: “Elaine Danforth Harmon, WASP.”

Articles

Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.


Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Kurdish Peshmerga near the Syrian border (photo by Enno Lenze)

The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.

The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.

The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.

“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.

He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”

Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.

Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.

The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
Kurdish Peshmerga forces shelling ISIS positions near Mount Sinjar.

The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.

Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.

“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.

In Damascus, meanwhile, officials denounced new U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. The move was part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Khaled Abboud, a member of parliament, said the center is “purely a research center, mostly for agricultural studies.”

“The sanctions are new attempts by the U.S. administration to put pressure on the Syrian state,” he told The Associated Press, adding that the center is a “peaceful research center.”

The U.S. has blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in the rebel-held northern Idlib province. Syrian officials strongly deny the charges.

An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.

Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A 64-year-old Frenchman accidentally ejected himself from a fighter jet because he was stressed out by the ride

A 64-year-old man in France accidentally ejected himself from a fighter jet flying at 2,500 feet aboveground after pressing a button in panic because he was stressed out by the ride.

According to a recently published report from a French government agency, translated by CNN, the man’s company had organized the surprise ride in a Dassault Rafale B jet as a gift in March 2019.

Investigators with France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety, who published their report in early April, found that once the man was in the air, he became so stressed by the ride that he pressed the ejector button in panic and was thrown from the aircraft, where he then parachuted down to the ground.


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His parachute in the air, far from the aircraft.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety

According to the investigation, the man, whose name has been withheld in the report, had no experience with military aircraft and had no interest in flying in a Dassault Rafale B jet before his company surprised him with the ride.

He was wearing a smartwatch at the time of the flight, which allowed investigators to record him having a heart rate between 136 to 142 beats per minute just before taking flight. A normal heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

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The man safely landing on the ground.

France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety

The man then got in the jet, which took flight in a three-plane exercise. It was 2,500 feet above the ground when he pressed the eject button.

His helmet wasn’t properly attached, according to the report, and went flying in midair. But he landed on the ground with no serious injuries and was taken to a nearby hospital to be evaluated.

The pilot landed the plane safely, too, and experienced minor facial injuries in the incident.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Eagles of Death Metal rock out at Hollywood American Legion

In the first-ever Stand Up and Rock Out benefit event, American Legion Post 43 in Hollywood, California, got a heavy dose of comedy and heavy metal; attracting celebs, rockers, and plenty of vets. Held in the new, beautifully remodeled theater at The Legion, the sold-out event featured sets from Bill Burr, Jeff Ross, and Bob Saget and a performance by Eagles of Death Metal.


Rounding out the show was Joe Derosa with American Legion member Jon Stites hosting the whole event.

Jon is no stranger to comedy, having made the rounds all over LA and abroad. Before becoming a professional standup comedian, Jon was a grunt in the Army and even spent a little time as a college language professor. Now, he helps the iconic Hollywood American Legion get the street cred it deserves by bringing them acts like Bill Burr and Eagles of Death Metal. Check out the video above for a taste of the epic jam session and stay tuned for news about more rock shows coming to a Legion near you.

If you want to check out more Jon Stites, catch Mandatory Fun, where he breaks down the most hilarious clips from across the military.

MIGHTY HISTORY

15 photos of the first black Marines in US history

The U.S. Marine Corps didn’t allow black men into its ranks until 1942, months after America joined World War II and decades after the Army and Navy began accepting black troops. But that delayed start means that cameras were common when the first black Marines earned their Eagle, Globe, and Anchors. Here are 15 photos from those first pioneers.


(Writer’s note: These images come from the National Archives which have a whole section dedicated to black troops in World War II with over 250 images. The captions below were updated for language and clarity, but the information contained comes from that archive. You can find more images and historical context by visiting them here.)

The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
The new US push to investigate chemical attacks in Syria
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