The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

The Pentagon has ordered an independent federal auditor to stop providing the public with key information about US war efforts in Afghanistan, accelerating a clampdown on data, such as the size of the Afghan military and police forces, that indicate how the 16-year-old stalemated war is going.


The crackdown on information comes just months after President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy aimed at breaking a battlefield stalemate by accelerating Afghan-led operations against the Taliban and other insurgent groups in the country. Trump railed against the recent string of attacks in Afghanistan, and ruled out any US discussions with the Taliban as part of the effort to seek peace talks between the Afghan government and the insurgents.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan
US soldiers, including some from the 101st Airborne, in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. (ResoluteSupportMedia/Flickr)

The auditing agency, established by Congress and known as the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, revealed the new gag order in its latest three-month assessment of conditions in Afghanistan. The restrictions fly in the face of Pentagon assertions over the past year that it was striving to be more transparent about the US war campaigns across Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Also read: How troops use a combat scythe in Afghanistan

Over the years, the SIGAR auditing effort has revealed many dubious practices by the US, including instances of contractor fraud. Since January 2016 it had published data on the number of governing districts controlled by Kabul, the number controlled by the Taliban, and the number that are contested.

John F. Sopko, head of the auditing organization, expressed disappointment that the Pentagon had forbidden release of the data on relative control of the governing districts.

“This development is troubling for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this is the first time SIGAR has been specifically instructed not to release information marked ‘unclassified’ to the American taxpayer,” Sopko wrote.

“Aside from that, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the Afghan government had been one of the last remaining publicly available indicators for members of Congress — many of whose staff do not have access to the classified annexes to SIGAR reports — and for the American public of how the 16-year-long US effort to secure Afghanistan is faring,” he added.

In response, the Pentagon said the US-led coalition of NATO and allied nations in Afghanistan made the decision to restrict the public release of the information.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan
Hospitalman Stephen Wescott, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, provides security during a census patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, January 10, 2011. (Flickr/Official U.S. Navy Page)

The Defense Department told SIGAR that it doesn’t “have the authority to overrule the classification determination made by NATO Resolute Support,” said Lt. Col. Michael Andrews. He said that similar information was included in the department’s December 2017 semi-annual report to Congress, and the Pentagon encouraged SIGAR to use that data.

More reading: Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

The Defense Department report said the Afghan government has control or influence over 60% of the population, while insurgents had control or influence over approximately 10 percent of the population, with the remainder contested.

In November 2017 Gen. John Nicholson described the Afghan government control during remarks to reporters at the Pentagon. He said it remained “roughly the same” as in 2016. “About 64% of the population is controlled by the government, about 24% live in contested areas, and the Taliban control the remaining 12%,” he said. He did not reveal the number of districts held by each side.

Sopko wrote that historically, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the government has been falling since his office began reporting on it, while the number controlled or influenced by the insurgents has been rising — “a fact that should cause even more concern about its disappearance from public disclosure and discussion.”

Related: The top general in Afghanistan says he needs more troops for the President’s war plan

The war effort has sometimes faded from US public attention, even though the US has invested about $120 billion in reconstructing Afghanistan since 2002.

Sopko said in his report that the Pentagon also classified or otherwise restricted information that his organization had previously reported publicly, including such “fundamental metrics” of the Afghan military and police performance as Afghan casualty figures and most measurements of the battlefield capabilities of the Afghans military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan elections suffered record levels of violence

The United Nations says attacks and intimidation by the Taliban against October 2018’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan resulted in a record number of civilian casualties.

In a Nov. 6, 2018 report, the UN said militants had waged “a deliberate campaign intended to disrupt and undermine the electoral process.”

It said at least 435 civilian casualties were recorded — 56 people killed and 379 wounded — during the Oct. 20, 2018 election and subsequent days when delayed polling took place.


The Taliban, fighting to force foreign troops out of Afghanistan and defeat Kabul’s Western-backed government, issued a series of threats against the elections that included three separate warnings in the days leading up to the vote.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

(Flickr photo by Todd Huffman)

There also were several attacks on voter-registration centers in the months before the election, some claimed by the Islamic State group.

The UN said attacks by antigovernment elements, mostly the Taliban, were carried out with rockets, grenades, mortars, and improvised explosive devices.

The United Nations also noted to a campaign of threats, intimidation, and harassment, including abductions before the election.

Featured image: Task Force Southeast hosts an elections security shura for Afghan government and military leaders in the southeast zone of Afghanistan at Advisor Platform Lightning, April 11, 2018. The group discussed the importance of secure and credible elections in Afghanistan.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Mars close-ups of Opportunity’s last panorama are crazy

Over 29 days in spring 2018, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavour’s rim to its floor.


The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”

The trailblazing mission ended after nearly 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. Opportunity’s scientific discoveries contributed to our unprecedented understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, laying the groundwork for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Visit Nasa to interact with the image.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

This image is an edited version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The version of the scene is presented in approximate true color.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The panorama appears in 3D when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This view combines images taken through three different Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).

A few frames remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to record those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Taken on June 10, 2018 (the 5,111th Martian day, or sol, of the mission) this “noisy,” incomplete image was the last data NASA’s Opportunity rover sent back from Mars. Click here for full image and caption.

The gallery includes the last images Opportunity obtained during its mission (black-and-white thumbnail images from the Pancam that were used to determine how opaque the sky was on its last day) and also the last piece of data the rover transmitted (a “noisy,” incomplete full-frame image of a darkened sky).

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

These two thumbnail images, with the ghostly dot of a faint Sun near the middle of each, are the last images NASA’s Opportunity rover took on Mars. Click here for full image and caption.

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU)

After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Opportunity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/.

For more information about the agency’s Mars Exploration program, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/mars

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the US’s new battle-proven Iron Dome destroys rockets

The US Army has purchased two Iron Dome defense systems, Defense News reports. The missile defense systems are short-range counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons systems that have been repeatedly tested by Hamas rockets fired into Israeli territory. The system’s radar detects incoming projectiles and tracking them until they get in range for one of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to strike.

Israel has said the system intercepted 85 percent of the rockets fired in a 2012 Gaza operation. One expert assessed that Iron Dome is effective, but not as high as Israel has claimed.

It’s unclear how or where the US is planning to deploy these systems, but Defense News reported that they’ll be used in the military’s interim cruise missile defense capability. A delivery date — and the cost of the system — are not yet known.

Read on to learn more about the Iron Dome system.


  • The Iron Dome is a counter-rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) weapons system that can also defend against helicopters and other aircraft, as well as UAVs at very short range, according to its Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Ten of the systems are currently in use in Israel.
  • Iron Dome has different variants — the I-DOME is fully mobile and fits on a single truck, and the C-DOME is the naval version of the system. The US version, called SKYHUNTER, is manufactured by Rafael and Raytheon.
The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

A rocket is launched from the Iron Dome.

(Israel Defense Forces)

Sources: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Raytheon

  • Iron Dome can operate in all weather conditions and at any time; one launcher holds 20 intercept missiles at a given time. The system uses a radar to detect an incoming projectile. The radar tracks the projectile while also alerting the other system components — the battle management and weapons control (BMC) component and the launcher — of the incoming threat. It also estimates where incoming projectiles will hit and only focuses on those threats that will fall in the area the system is meant to protect. Rafael boasts that this strategic targeting makes the system extremely cost-effective.
  • The system only targets rockets predicted to land in the protected zone, allowing ones that miss to pass by.
The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Trails are seen in the sky as an Iron Dome anti-missile projectile intercepts a rocket.

Source: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

  • Rafael Advanced Defense Systems builds the Israeli Iron Dome defense system; the two US systems will be built by Rafael and Raytheon. Many of the components of Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles are made by Raytheon in the US.

Source: Raytheon

  • Israel uses the Iron Dome to intercept rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It’s had the system in place since 2011.
  • The US is purchasing two Iron Domes, called Skyhunter in the US, for its interim cruise missile defense capability. It’s unclear when the systems will be delivered, and how and where they will be deployed, but Defense News reported that parts of the system may be integrated into the Indirect Fires Protection Capability program.

Source: Defense News

  • The Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS) is comparable to the Iron Dome, but instead of missiles, it rapid-fires bullets against incoming threats at sea and on land. The system is manufactured by Raytheon and employs a radar-guided gun that’s controlled by a computer and counters anti-ship missiles at sea. On land, the Phalanx is part of the Army’s C-RAM system. It’s used on all Navy surface combatant ship classes.
The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

A Phalanx close-in weapons system (CIWS) fires from the fantail of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Atlantic Ocean, June 7, 2016.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anderson W. Branch)

Source: Raytheon

  • The Iron Dome is used in conjunction with David’s Sling, which provides medium-range air defense and is produced by Rafael and Raytheon.

Source: Raytheon

  • Defense News reported on Aug. 12, 2019, that the US had purchased two Iron Dome systems, although it’s unclear how much the Department of Defense paid for them, or where or how they will be deployed.
  • While the system has been very useful for Israel against more rudimentary Hamas- and Hezbollah-launched projectiles, it would be less so against weapons like hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver midflight.

Source: Defense News

  • The Tamir missiles, which Iron Dome uses in its launchers, are mostly manufactured from parts made in the US and can attack targets anywhere from 4 to 70 km away.

Source: Raytheon

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

Articles

This is why the Green Berets wear a green beret

It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.


In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.

But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.

The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan
Vietnam-era 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers participate in 5th SFG(A)’s flash changeover ceremony at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, March 23, 2016. During the ceremony, 5th SFG(A) reinstated the Vietnam-era beret flash, adding a diagonal yellow stripe with three red stripes to the existing black and white background. The stripes pay homage to the Group’s history in the Vietnam War and its crucible under fire.

So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.

The beret was later adopted by 1st Lt. Roger Pezelle and worn by his Operational Detachment Alpha team with the 10th Special Forces Group based in Germany.

The SF troopers were reportedly not authorized to wear the berets, but being unconventional warriors, they basically gave Big Army the middle finger and wore them anyway.

“The berets were only worn in the field during exercises,” according to retired SF Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Lupyak. “The Army would not allow the wearing of berets in garrison.”

But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.

In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.

Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”

Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”

The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.

Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US veterans are adopting this amazing creed of continued service

Eleven veterans organizations have adopted a “Veteran’s Creed” that acknowledges pride of service and a continuing shared commitment to values that strengthen the nation.

The fourth tenet of the creed states that “I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans.”

The creed, which was adopted on Flag Day 2018, at an event at the Reserve Officers Association, was the result of extensive discussions among veterans groups that began last fall at Georgetown University.


“The creed will help prepare veterans for their productive civilian lives,” said Dr. Joel Kupersmith, Director of Veterans’ Initiatives at Georgetown University.

Retired Army Gen. George W. Case, Jr., the former Army chief of staff and commander of Multi-National Force Iraq, said the creed may motivate veterans to continue to give back.

“I believe the Veteran’s Creed could remind veterans of what they miss about their service and encourage them to continue to make a difference in their communities and across our country,” he said. “We need their talents.”

The Veteran’s Creed, similar to the Army’s Soldier’s Creed, was intended to underline the “altruistic ethos of veterans themselves.”

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan
World War II veteran Zane Grimm.
(Photo by Frank Schulenburg)

It also purports to “remind Americans that the principles and values veterans learned in the military — integrity, leadership, teamwork, selfless service — can greatly benefit our country,” according to the veterans groups.

“In the Army I lived both the Soldier’s Creed and the NCO Creed,” said John Towles, Director of National Security & Foreign Affairs for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“As veterans, we must realize that our service does not stop simply because we take off the uniform,” he added. “Many of us struggle to find our place once we leave the military, but now we have a new set of watchwords to guide and remind our brothers and our sisters in arms that our mission is far from over.”

The Creed is backed by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, HillVets, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Reserve Officers Association, Student Veterans of America, Team Rubicon Global, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Wounded Warrior Project.

The Creed states:

1. I am an American veteran

2. I proudly served my country

3. I live the values I learned in the military

4. I continue to serve my community, my country and my fellow veterans

5. I maintain my physical and mental discipline

6. I continue to lead and improve

7. I make a difference

8. I honor and remember my fallen comrades

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US calls on Russia to allow access to Marine charged with espionage

The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”

Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.


“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.

“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.

Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.

If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.

Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.

Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.

Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

VA Clinic renamed in honor of two World War II Veterans

The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.

Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.

The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.


Honored heroes

Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.

Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.

A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.

www.blogs.va.gov

Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.

The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s scared off 587 enemy aircraft in ‘combat surge’ over Syria

US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets just completed their first “combat surge” in operations over Syria, and in doing so it backed down almost 600 enemy aircraft in the crowded skies there that see Syria, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft on a regular basis, the Pentagon said.

F-22s, which combine both stealth and top-of-the-line dogfighting abilities, functioned as both fighter jets and bombers while defending US forces and assisting offensive missions against heavily armed foes.

F-22 pilots from the 94th Fighter Wing completed 590 individual flights totaling 4,600 flight hours with 4,250 pounds of ordnance dropped in their deployment to the region in the “first-ever F-22 Raptor combat surge,” the Pentagon said.


The Pentagon said the F-22 “deterred” 587 enemy aircraft in the process, suggesting the jet commands some respect against older Russian-made models often in operation by Russian and Syrian forces. This surge saw F-22 operations maximized over a three-day period.

Unlike any other battle space today, US forces on the ground in Syria have come under threat from enemy airpower.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

F-22s on this deployment escorted US Navy F/A-18s as part of their mission. In June 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Mike “MOB” Tremel, an Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot scored the US’s first air-to-air kill in years after downing a Syrian Su-22 that threatened US forces in the country.

The stealth fighter pilots defended US forces against enemy bomber aircraft and also backed up US, UK, and French forces when they struck Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime in the country’s west in response to chemical weapons attacks.

The F-22s flew “deep into Syrian territory, facing both enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile systems,” the Pentagon said.

While no US or allied aircraft went down, photos from the most recent US attack on Syria’s government show the country’s air defenses firing blindly into the night sky as the F-22s worked overhead.

The F-22 has encountered enemy fighter jets above Syria before, but the Pentagon has only reported relatively safe interactions and intercepts.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran’s Last Patrol honors veterans in hospice. Here’s how you can, too

In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.

“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.


The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.

This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.

The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.

“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.

“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.

This year the goal is 10,000.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.

Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.

Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?

Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to:
Veteran’s Last Patrol
140B Venture Blvd
Spartanburg, SC, 29306

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan


MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army’s venerable Kiowa helicopter is taking flight again

The distinctive and venerable OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, mothballed and grounded in the dry desert of Arizona, after being retired from US Army service with almost 50 years of service, is finding its wings again in Greece.

For an Army aviator, this was also a chance to get back into the seat of a historic platform and to share his knowledge and flying skills to a new generation of Hellenic pilots.

“I lucked out with this (foreign military sales) case as I was an instructor pilot in the Kiowa prior to switching to the Apache,” Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, a military aviation trainer from the US Army Security Assistance Command, said of his selection.


Chief Meadows is assigned to USASAC’s Security Assistance Training Management Organization at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is the team lead for the initial Greek OH-58D training program as well as the first OH-58D Technical Assistance Fielding Team deployed to Greece.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Thirty-six aircraft wait to be loaded onto the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

A total of 70 Kiowa Warrior aircraft were granted to Greece in early 2018 under the foreign military sales program administered by USASAC.

The helicopters were unloaded at the Greek port of Volos on May 16, and then flown by US and Greek crews to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio where pilot and maintainer training is being conducted.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Loading of one of the six flyable aircraft into the transport ship at the port in Jacksonville, Florida.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

“The procurement of the Kiowa Warrior helicopters by Greece helps build partner capacity by covering an immediate gap in Greece’s attack or observation helicopter requirement,” said Andrew Neushaefer, USASAC’s country program manager for Greece.

The Kiowa helicopters had been invaluable to the Army as a light observation and reconnaissance aircraft since it was first received in 1969 and saw immediate action supporting the US war efforts in Vietnam.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Five OH-58D aircraft sit on Greek military ramp ready for training at the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.

(John Zimmerman/Army Futures Command)

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

(US Army)

In 2013 almost 350 aircraft were retired under an Army-centric effort to modernize their aviation fleet. The newer and more complicated AH-64 Apache was chosen to fulfill the Kiowa’s role until a future vertical lift aircraft could be fielded.

According to Bell Helicopter, as of 2013, the OH-58 airframe had more than 820,000 combat hours in its decades of service. During the wars following 9/11, the OH-58D version, known as the Kiowa Warrior, accounted for nearly 50% of all Army reconnaissance and attack missions flown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the highest usage rate of any Army aircraft.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

(US Army)

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

(US Army)

Greece saw an opportunity to upgrade its defensive capabilities and acquired the helicopters at a reduced cost as it was only required to pay for packing, crating, handling and transportation, as well as any refurbishments, if necessary.

But bringing any new aircraft into a military’s service, even as seemingly uncomplicated as a 60’s-era helicopter, requires a well-trained and highly qualified team of aviators and maintainers to fly and manage the aircraft.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

After serving faithfully for more than 40 years, the OH-58 Kiowa Warriors assigned to 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, took to the skies for the last time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, April 15.

(US Army/Sgt. Daniel Schroeder)

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Meadows, left, stands with the battalion commander of the Greek Army helicopter training unit at the Greek port of Volos, before flying the newly arrived helicopters to the Hellenic Army Aviation air base at Stefanovikio, Greece.

(US Army Security Assistance Command)

Chief Meadows was involved with the Greek’s OH-58D case from the early stages and has had many challenges to overcome in bringing the program together.

“I made frequent drives to Fort Eustis in Virginia to assist in the regeneration of the Kiowas and began flying them again in order to support the training mission,” Meadows said.

Although assigned initially as a Contracting Officer Representative and the government flight representative, Meadows had the skills and experience to do much more and was selected to be an instructor as well.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.

(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)

Once Meadows and his team got the program on the ground in Greece they faced a number of challenges, mostly associated with maintenance and logistics.

“The Greek system of maintenance and logistic support, although effective, is very different than the US systems,” Meadows said. “If we had something break, and it wasn’t a common issue, any parts needed had to be shipped from the US to Greece, which adds substantial time from parts demand to replacement. That being said, the Greek maintainers are excellent. They are doing a superb job at learning this aircraft and maintaining it.”

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

An OH-58D Kiowa flies off at dusk over an AH-64 Apache at Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 9, 2015.

(US Army/Capt. Joe Bush)

Meadows also knew that providing this aircraft to Greece would greatly contribute to their national security interests.

“Seeing Greece gain this capability and being part of it is amazing,” said Meadows. “The mission set of the Kiowa and the pilots it produces will greatly complement the already robust Hellenic Army.”

To date, under the FMS program, at least 10 countries have OH-58s in their inventory with Croatia, Tunisia and Greece being the latest.

Editor’s Note: The OH-58 is a single-engine, single-rotor military helicopter used primarily for observation, utility, and direct fire support. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior version is primarily used as a light attack and armed reconnaissance helicopter to support troops fighting on the ground.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the Pentagon’s missile defense strategy

James H. Anderson, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, spoke about the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Jan. 29, 2019. He noted that the strategy covers the Defense Department’s three lines of effort: lethality, partnership and reform.

Here are his main points:


The threat

China and Russia are developing advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic weapons that can potentially overcome United States defenses. North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of reaching the U.S. and could be armed with nuclear warheads. And, Iran’s space program could accelerate development of an ICBM system that might be able to reach the U.S.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

2019 missile defense review goal

Diplomacy and deterrence are the primary strategies to protect the nation, deployed forces and U.S. allies from missile attacks. Should that fail, the U.S. is developing a layered missile defense system as well as offensive capability.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

The ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee gold crew returns to its home port at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Jan. 11, 2019, following a strategic deterrence patrol.

(Photo by Bryan Tomforde)

Lethality strategy

• Upgrade existing radars and sensors

• Increase the number of ground-based interceptors by 20 to 64, along with developing a new kill vehicle for the GBI

• Develop small, high-energy lasers that can be fitted on unmanned aerial systems

• Arm F-35 Lightning II aircraft with tracking capabilities and possible missile intercept at the early boost stage

• Increase the Navy’s fleet of Aegis-equipped destroyers from 38 to 60

• Improve space-based sensors to detect and track missiles

• Conduct a feasibility study of space-based missile intercept capability

• Conduct a Standard Missile-3 Block IIA test against ICBMs by 2020

• Leverage the SM-6 for both defensive and strike operations.

The Pentagon will restrict information about the 16-year war in Afghanistan

A Standard Missile 3 Block IIA launches from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, Dec. 10, 2018, during a test to intercept an intermediate-range ballistic missile target in space.

(Photo by Ryan Keith)

Partnership strategy

To address regional threats and protect partners, Anderson said the U.S. will deploy additional terminal high altitude area defense, Patriot and Aegis Ashore platforms.

In turn, partner nations are building up their air and missile defenses, with the possibility of integrating them with U.S. systems. For example, he noted that NATO has an operational Aegis Ashore site in Romania. A second site, to be operational in about a year, is being built in Poland, which will house SM-3 Block IIA missiles. Denmark and the Netherlands have sea-based radar systems that can locate missiles.

Reform strategy

DOD must adopt processes and cultures that enable development and procurement of missile defense systems in a streamlined and cost-effective manner, Anderson said.

“We must not fear test failure, but learn from it and rapidly adjust,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New memo confirms: COVID-19 diagnosis a permanent disqualifier for military service

As the nation grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the military community and those wishing to join are feeling the effects. A recent memo released by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM) states that recruit candidates with a diagnosis of COVID-19 — even after a full recovery — will now be permanently disqualified from joining the military.

“During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads.

Military Times reached out to a Pentagon spokesperson to verify the accuracy of the MEPCOM memo which began circulating on Twitter on May 4, 2020. The Times confirmed the memo was accurate. This disqualifier for serving impacts not just new potential recruits walking in but also those already in the processing phase. According to the memo, once a potential recruit tests positive they must wait 28 days to return to MEPS. Upon return, they will be labeled “permanently disqualified.”


twitter.com

The military does allow medical waivers in certain cases where there is a disqualifier, so initially the assumption was that this would be the case with COVID-19, as well. This appears to not be the case. With COVID-19 being a new virus and little known about the after-effects of surviving it, there is no current guidance in place to inform those who’d be reviewing potential waivers.

When Military Times asked the Pentagon spokesperson why COVID-19 was being labeled a permanently disqualifying diagnosis when other similar acute illnesses weren’t, they declined to answer the question.

Medical professionals are currently racing to research this virus and compile data to understand it. Research institutes all across the world are doing the same to develop a vaccine. But without reliable information on long-term effects or the potential to have a relapse with the virus, too much is unknown. It may be with this in mind that the DOD is implementing this disqualifier, with the potential for it to be lifted later.

In the meantime, survivors of COVID-19 will be turned away and disqualified from serving this country. The Pentagon has not issued any guidance for active duty service members who contract the virus and recover.

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