The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range - We Are The Mighty
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The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan, Oct. 10, 2010.(ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford/released) Members of the 82nd Airborne Division, Delta 1-321 Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, fire a 155mm Howitzer during a training mission at Forward Operating Base Andar, Afghanistan. | ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph Swafford


On March 19, U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant Louis Cardin, a field artilleryman assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, died during an attack on Fire Base Bell outside of Makhmur, Iraq. Coincidentally, the U.S. Army is hard at work developing a farther-firing howitzer that could help keep artillery troops out of range of enemy forces.

The Army is cooking up a suite of improvements could double the range of the existing M-777 howitzer. Right now the 155-millimeter gun, in service with the Army and Marines, can lob shells at targets up to 18 miles away.

The M-777ER version the Army is working on “will be able to reach out and hit targets … before the targets can reach them,” David Bound, the lead engineer on the project at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, told Army reporters. Troops “won’t have to worry about coming into a situation where they are under fire before they can return fire.”

The modifications add fewer than 1,000 pounds of extra weight onto the older howitzers. The updates include improvements that will help gunners fire more accurately plus a mechanism to automatically load rounds into the gun.

The biggest change is the addition of new barrel that’s six feet longer. The longer M-777ER should be able to hit enemy forces more than 43 miles away. And with more powerful propellant charges and rocket-assisted shells, crews might be able to increase that range even more in the near future.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
The Army’s M-777ER prototype. | U.S. Army photo

While the changes to the M-777 might sound simple, the new gun’s extra length actually complicates its employment. Unlike older towed howitzers that hitch up to cargo trucks with their stabilizing legs, the lightweight M-777 has its tow loop right at the end of its barrel. Folded up for travel, the new version will still be more than 35 feet long.

In combat, troops could end up taking the guns off-road, up hills and over uneven terrain. With six more feet between the truck and the howitzer’s own two wheels, there’s greater potential for the barrel to flex if it isn’t sturdy enough to withstand the shock.

A bent barrel would throw off where the shells fall. A broken barrel might simply explode.

So, the project’s biggest challenge might be just convincing soldiers and Marines that the guns work. “The visual prejudice we are up against is that it looks like it may tip over with all that extra cannon,” Bound noted.

With help from engineers at Benet Labs, the Army plans to run “mobility” demonstrations to prove that the gun and its new features are ready for combat. The ground combat branch also plans to install the longer barrel on the new M-109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
Marines hitch an M-777 up to a truck. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Farther-firing cannons would no doubt help in the fight against Islamic State. Since the summer of 2015, the Army has lobbed hundreds of 227-millimeter rockets at militant forces from bases in Iraq and Jordan.

Launched from the back of a six-wheel truck, these GPS-guided projectiles can hit targets up to 43 miles away — the same range the Army expects of the M-777ER. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launcher can shoot one rocket every five seconds. But the vehicle can only fire six rockets in total before the crew needs to reload.

So to provide protection for … advisers in Makhmur, we realize that we need some fire support, we need some artillery to provide great protection,” Army colonel Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s main spokesman for the campaign against Islamic State, told reporters on March 21. “We scratched out a fire base there, placed the guns.”

Rocket and gun artillery have the benefit of being less vulnerable to air defenses and the weather than fighter-bombers or gunship helicopters can be. Depending on where aircraft are during an attack, these weapons might take far less time to get into action.

The trainers and Marines at Fire Base Bell are backing up the Iraqi government’s offensive to liberate Mosul. But in their current configuration, the Marine Corps’ guns can’t reach the outskirts of the terrorist-controlled city.

“The Marines fired upon the enemy infiltration routes in order to disrupt their freedom of movement and ability to attack Kurdish and Peshmerga forces,” the military stated. In short, at the moment the gunners at Fire Base Bell are mainly harassing Islamic State’s fighters. But with the M-777ER’s extra range, they should be able to hit the militants’ main defenses in Mosul’s suburbs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Warrior culture: America’s class of warfighters

There exists a population within America’s bravest. A culture of warriors who heard and answered the call throughout history- American warfighters.


The military is an expansive network, full of various roles and professions. While any service is honorable, there’s no arguing that some join for the battle- to run as fast as possible toward the danger.

We call upon these warriors in times of conflict, to utilize their fighting spirit, ready to charge into any battle without hesitation. During times of peace, this subculture faces rejection when the focus shifts to training for a mission in the unknown future instead of the dependable cycle of deployments during surges. To the warrior, who gains self-worth in their ability to live through combat, the blank space where a deployment slot belongs destroys the mind and soul. War rages on within them, awaiting the time when they can again serve to their true potential.

“I don’t have an answer for why I keep going back, why ‘getting into it’ is what I feel I need to do. There’s nothing else to do with the intensity or specific skillset I’ve acquired, so I guess it’s more like- why not” explains Staff Sergeant Bradford Fong, Army Infantryman and aptly known warfighter to those who served with him.

With several combat deployments, he is among a rare breed of active-duty leaders today – those who embarked on combat deployments to remote combat outposts.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

“Yes, I’m intense, but I have a good damn reason for it. Training soldiers now is frustrating, to be honest. I was ‘raised’ through a lineage of leaders who when things varied slightly from the books, you knew it was due to their fresh combat experience.” The aggravation was clear in his tone when he explained how this once invaluable knowledge has become borderline unwanted and potentially misunderstood by leadership and peers without the same background.

“The Army has this tremendously valuable crop of soldiers- as we age, we clearly aren’t the fastest, but we damn sure have a lot to offer mentally, developing other combat leaders and the kind of knowledge you won’t find in any FM guide” he states. “I wish there was a space where that’s all I could do because anything less feels a bit meaningless.”

Training those in his command specifically for combat as an Infantryman is a conversation that brought an audible smile to his face. “I’m not here to train them into textbook soldiers,” he says. The training of his men clearly means a great deal to Fong, who has no problem with discussing the blunt reality of the job.

On his second deployment to Afghanistan, Fong was one of the only members of his platoon that had seen combat before. While the other Soldiers awaited their own baptism by fire and showered him with questions about combat and how to react, Fong knew what was coming. The men around him naively prayed for a chance to prove themselves. Toward the end of their tour, they got their wish.

“I’d been there already (Afghanistan), seeing and experiencing what this new platoon had waited ten months for. After it happened, there were a lot of them who didn’t come back mentally,” said Fong while recalling his 2010-2011 deployment.

Operational tempo changes during times of drawdown or withdrawal pose a significant risk to the warrior culture. Schedules are intense but intently purposeful with a clear goal in mind- to remain a highly capable and rapidly deployable unit. The aftermath of coping with what is witnessed in war remains a struggle, one which Fong admits he’s put away, but not packed neatly enough to never surface.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

“A lack of empathy is required to remain in this profession. It’s not nice to say, but it is true.” Fong explains how shutting off parts of himself for his job has become slightly problematic with the new dynamic of adding a family in the last few years.

Stories like Fong’s remind us all of the reality of what’s being asked of soldiers. We sound the horn for these men and women to rush in when we need it most. We will always need true warriors, unafraid and unapologetic of their calling. And now, during a new era, we must find an honorable space for them to thrive, for their purpose to continue to feel fulfilled within the ranks- creating the next line of warriors within.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas Military community saves Green Sea Turtles during catastrophic winter storm

Although the nation remained devastated over the winter storm which severely impacted Texas in particular, it wasn’t just Americans in harms way. It was catastrophic for animals on land in the water, too. 

The Washington Post caught up with Will Bellamy, a veteran of the Army and Marine Corps who is a resident of the Corpus Christi area in Texas. In his interview, he reported how he and his son saw some sea turtles in distress after rescuing a few injured birds. Bellamy immediately reached out to Captain Christopher Jason who is in command of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. 

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
William Bellamy, left, and his son Jerome helped rescue dozens of cold-stunned sea turtles at NAS Corpus Christi. (Navy Capt. Christopher Jason)

Jason used his own paddleboard to rescue a few of the cold-shocked sea turtles, only able to fit three in his lap. Sadly, they weren’t the only ones. The next day, it was apparent to both Jason and Bellamy the situation was far more urgent than they originally thought. During his phone interview, Bellamy told the Washington Post, “It was like an apocalypse of turtles littered on the beach.” 

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
Navy Capt. Christopher Jason, commanding officer of NAS Corpus Christi, rescued three sea turtles in his kayak, (Navy Command Master Chief Eric Kinnaman)

When the water temperature goes below 50 degrees fahrenheit, green sea turtles become lethargic. This causes them to stop moving and float to the surface, leaving them vulnerable to being hit by boats or even washing ashore, like they did in Texas. 

The green sea turtle is Texas’ most common sea turtle. The area along the gulf’s coast is where around 87% of them lay their nests during mating season each year. Sea Turtle Inc, based out of South Padre Island, has been working around the clock to save the cold-shocked green sea turtles washing up on the shores of Texas. In a statement the organization wrote, “Cold-stun events happen when the water gets too cold for sea turtles to maintain their body temperature.”

In an interview with Military Times, Jason said although he was aware of cold-stunning among sea turtles, this was unlike anything he’d ever seen since taking command in 2019. It truly was a military team effort. The Navy base community was also joined by Coast Guardsmen and soldiers. Flight students, military spouses, family members and veterans all dove in to support rescue efforts. 

Between all of them, they’ve rescued around 1,100 sea turtles and the numbers continue to grow. Only 20 have perished.

According to National Geographic, nearly 5,000 green sea turtles have been rescued throughout the coast of Texas since the unprecedented winter storm hit. Texans and members of the military community have been bringing them in by the carload, banding together to save the threatened species. In a Facebook post, Sea Turtle Inc. wrote “This is the biggest sea turtle cold-stunned event in south Texas.”    

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
Photo taken by Navy Capt. Chrisopher Jason and provided to Military Times.

Despite handling challenging times of their own with loss of power and water, these military members and their supporters went all in to save the turtles. Without their dedicated efforts, it’s apparent the Texas green sea turtle population would have been decimated. It’s a powerful reminder of how working together even during the hardest of times can truly make all the difference in the world.

popular

The CIA declassified these 11 Russian jokes about the Soviet Union

In January 2017, the CIA release a large number of newly-declassified documents about information collected on the Soviet Union. One of those documents included two pages of Russian jokes about the Soviet Union.


Headed “Soviet Jokes for the DDCI” (Deputy Director of Central Intelligence), the jokes make reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, so they date from at least as late as the 1980s. The jokes are surprisingly directed at all Soviet leaders, from Lenin to Brezhnev.

It’s good to know there were chances for levity behind the Iron Curtain. One thing’s for sure, people didn’t love Communism as much as the Russians led us to believe.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

A worker standing in a liquor line says, “I have had enough, save my place, I am going to shoot Gorbachev.” Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line. His friends ask, “Did you get him?” “No,” he replied. “The line there was even longer than the line here.”

Q: What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek*?

A: Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.

*(Alexander Dubcek led the Czech resistance to the Warsaw Pact during the Prague Spring of 1968, but was forced to resign)

Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition class essay: “My cat just had seven kittens. They are all communists.” Sentence from the same boy’s composition the following week: “My cat’s seven kittens are all capitalists.” Teacher reminds the boy that the previous week he had said the kittens were communists. “But now they’ve opened their eyes,” replies the child.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

A Chukchi (a tribe of Eskimo-like people on Russia’s northwest coast) is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he responds: “So I wouldn’t get trampled in the stampede out!” Then he is asked what he would do if the U.S. border is opened. “I’d climb the highest tree,” he says, “so I can see the first person crazy enough to come here.”

A joke heard in Arkhangelsk has it that someone happened to call the KGB headquarters just after a major fire. “We cannot do anything. The KGB has just burned down!” he was told. Five minutes later, he called back and was told again the KGB had burned. When he called a third time, the telephone operator recognized his voice and asked “why do you keep calling back? I just told you the KGB has burned down.” “I know,” the man said. “I just like to hear it.”

A train bearing Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev stops suddenly when the tracks run out. Each leader applies his own, unique solution. Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around and exhorts them to build more track. Stalin shoots the train crew when the train still doesn’t move. Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and relaid in front. Brezhnev pulls down the curtains and rocks back and forth, pretending the train is moving. And Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive, where he leads a chant: “No tracks! No tracks! No tracks!”

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
You try finding photos of Russians laughing.

Ivanov: Give me an example of perestroika*.

Sidorov: (Thinks) How about menopause?

* The literal meaning of perestroika is “restructuring” – usually referring to economic liberalization by Gorbachev.

An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom* with a question, but by the time she gets to the official’s office she has forgotten the purpose of her visit. “Was it about your pension?” the official asks. “No, I get 20 Rubles a month, that’s fine,” she replies. “About your apartment?” “No, I live with three people in one room of a communal apartment, I’m fine,” she replies. She suddenly remembers: “Who invented Communism? –– the Communists or scientists?” The official responds proudly, “Why the Communists of course!” “That’s what I thought,” the babushka** says. “If the scientists had invented it, they would have tested it first on dogs!”

* Gorispolkom is the local political authority of a Soviet city.

** A babushka is another term for older woman or grandmother.

An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free he can stand in front of the White House and yell “To hell with Ronald Reagan.” The Russian replies: “That’s nothing. I can stand in front of the Kremlin and yell, ‘to hell with Ronald Reagan’ too.”

A man goes into a shop and asks “You don’t have any meat?” “No,” replies the sales lady. “We don’t have any fish. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”

A man is driving with his wife and small child. A militiaman pulls them over and makes the man take a breathalyzer test. “See,” the militiaman says, “you’re drunk.” The man protests that the breathalyzer must be broken and invites the cop to test his wife. She also registers as drunk. Exasperated, the man invites the cop to test his child. When the child registers drunk as well, the cop shrugs and says “Yes, perhaps it is broken,” and sends them on their way. Out of earshot the man tells his wife, “See, I told you is wouldn’t hurt to give the kid five grams of vodka.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army is developing exoskeletons that will save your knees

David Audet, chief of the Mission Equipment and Systems Branch in the Soldier Performance Optimization Directorate, at the Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Soldier Center, is gearing up his team for the next User Touch Point activities to explore exoskeleton options in late January 2019.

“As we explore the more mature exoskeleton options available to us and engage users, the more we learn about where the possible value of these systems is to Army operations,” said Audet.


“Before the Army can consider investing in any development above what industry has done on their own, we need to make sure that users are on board with human augmentation concepts and that the systems are worth investing in. The Army is not ready yet to commit. NSRDEC [RDECOM Soldier Center] has a lead role in working with PEO-Soldier and the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, to determine whether or not a longer-term investment in fielding new technologies is justifiable. But this is what we do best. We find the options and create the partnerships to help us figure it out.”

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Soldiers from Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York, were able to get hands on and try two of the current human augmentation technologies (pictured here) being pursued by the RDECOM Soldier Center. The soldier on the left is wearing the ONYX and the soldier on the right is wearing the ExoBoot.

(RDECOM Soldier Center)

Recent media has brought a lot of attention to the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Controls, or LMMFC, ONYX, a Popular Science award recipient for 2018.

As innovative as it is, and with all the attention on the Soldier Center’s .9 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) award, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose perspective of the overall work the Soldier Center is actually doing.

Out of the 48-month phased effort, roughly 0K has been put on the LMMFC OTA — currently focused on having enough systems to take to the field for operational evaluation. Although performing, the technology has yet to prove itself in a full operational exercise before moving forward. And while LMMFC is highly confident in their product and continues to invest their funding on further developing the system for commercial use, the Soldier Center is also looking at other technologies.

Located in Maynard, Massachusetts, Dephy, Inc.’s ExoBoot is another entrant in the program. The Dephy ExoBoot is an autonomous foot ankle exoskeleton that was inspired by research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under collaboration with the Army. It is currently under consideration for evaluation during the third and fourth quarter of 2019. Brigadier General David M. Hodne has worn the ExoBoot during Soldier Center program updates and is quite intrigued by the capability. User feedback will determine if both systems move forward and under which considerations.

“Under ideal conditions, we would favor a full development effort,” said Audet. “However, given the push for rapid transition and innovation, we can save the Army a lot of time and money by identifying and vetting mature technologies, consistent with the vision of the Army Futures Command, or AFC.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

(David Kamm, RDECOM Soldier Center)

“In order to achieve the goal of vetting and providing recommendations, NSRDEC [the Soldier Center] and PEO-Soldier are strong partners, teamed up to work with third party independent engineering firms such as Boston Engineering out of Waltham, Massachusetts. The engineering analysis of systems will provide an unbiased system-level analysis of any of the technologies under consideration, following rigorous analysis of the capabilities as they exist, the operational parameters provided by users and assessment of how humans will use and interact with the systems.”

“We are confident products will succeed or — at a minimum — fill a gap we have not been able to address by any other materiel or training means,” said Audet.

“We will be prepared to transition, but we know there is a road ahead before we get there. We aren’t committing to anything more than to bring the systems to a demonstration and educate the community at large on what these preliminary technologies can offer. In the meantime, we add a layer of third party independent analysis as a reassurance policy that we are mitigating bias and staying laser focused on user needs and meeting the demands of the future warfighting landscape.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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US-backed Syrian rebels are advancing on the ISIS capital

The Syrian Democratic Forces coalition (SDF) launched a new campaign to advance toward the ISIS capital at Raqqa, the SDF commander announced on Twitter today:


 

The SDF is comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters and Syrian militia groups and is the primary partner for the U.S. effort against ISIS. This new offensive has taken them within 40 miles of the ISIS stronghold. U.S. and coalition aircraft are supporting the effort with airstrikes in and around Raqqa.

SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), will not advance on the capital city itself. The Kurdish leadership believes Raqqa should be captured by Arab militias. Thirty thousand SDF troops moved to retake vast areas northwest of the city, but the assault on Raqqa will have to wait until the Arab militias have the strength.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Sommerville reports ISIS fighters are literally digging in for Raqqa’s defense. Earthworks and defensive structures are going up around the area. There are even rumors of an extensive network of tunnels.

Fox News reported a state of emergency was declared by ISIS in Raqqa. The city’s defenders number anywhere from three to five thousand fighters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian forces are ready to coordinate with the SDF and the U.S. coalition to provide any support necessary to capture the ISIS capital.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
Kurdish fighters of the YPG, flash victory signs as they sit on their pickup on their way to battle against the Islamic State, near Kezwan mountain, northeast Syria. Drawing on thousands of fighters from Syria’s mix of religious and ethnic groups, a U.S.-backed alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces is the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group in Syria. (Kurdish YPG photo)

SDF forces celebrated a string of victories against ISIS in recent months, including liberating a number of villages and 4,000 square miles of territory under ISIS control, capturing militants, and cutting off ISIS supply lines into neighboring Iraq. Raqqa fell to ISIS in 2013, the first Syrian provincial capital to fall to forces in open rebellion against the Asad regime in Damascus.

 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force vet reunites with daughter for the first time in 36 years

Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.

She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.

“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”


The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.

Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.

When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.

“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”

Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.

“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”

“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.

“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.

“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”

Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”

“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”

Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.

Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.

“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.

The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range

Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.

“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”

Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”

Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.

And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.

“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’

“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”

Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.

“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”

She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.

Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.

In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.

“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”


Reunion at the Games . . .

www.facebook.com

This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…

Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”

Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”

The two e-mailed back and forth all day.

Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.

“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!

Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.

“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”

They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.

“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”

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

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Mexican cartels may have used a ‘homemade cannon’ to fire drugs over the border

Earlier this week, Mexican federal police in Sonora came across a panel van with modifications and additions that allowed it carry a “cannon” possibly used to launch drugs over the border into the US.


The U.S. Army is about to double its Howitzer range
According to a release from the federal police, officers came across the van while it was parked in northwest Sonora state’s Agua Prieta municipality, which borders Arizona and Texas. The van was found without license plates and its doors were open.

Inside the vehicle, authoritiesfound “an air compressor, a gasoline motor, a tank for storing air and a metallic tube of approximately 3 meters in length (homemade bazooka).”

The “unit,” as the release referred to it, also had a cut in the end that could have allowed the metal tube to be hooked up to launch projectiles, possibly across the border.

The vehicle in question was linked to a car theft in Hermosillo, Sonora, according to an investigation dated July 1 this year.

Days before, authorities in the same area reportedly found a vehicle with similar additions.

US authorities have said since 2012 that drug traffickers have made use of such cannons. Cans and packets of marijuana, cocaine, and crystal meth have been discovered on the US side of the border, and, according to Mexican newspaper Reforma, those projectiles can be launched from 200 meters inside Mexican territory.

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Mexican federal police with a homemade cannon and other components found in a van near the US border in mid-September 2016. | Mexican national security commission

The area around Agua Prieta has been the location of both high- and low-tech smuggling attempts. In the late 1980s, the Sinaloa cartel, under the direction of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, built one of its first “narco tunnels” there, running about 200 feet between a home in Agua Prieta and a cartel-owned warehouse in Douglas, Arizona.

“Tell [the Colombians] to send all the drugs they can,” Guzmán ordered after the tunnel’s completion.

More recently, in 2011, would-be smugglers a few miles west of Agua Prieta made a more humble effort to get drugs over the border: They were observed setting up a catapult just south of the border fence. Mexican authorities moved in and seized the catapult and about 45 pounds of marijuana.

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Famed P-51 Mustang ‘Berlin Express’ is returning to Europe

A World War II-veteran North American P-51B Mustang restored to look like the P-51B that flew through the Eiffel Tower during a dogfight in 1944 will soon make a tour through the United Kingdom.


According to a press release about the flight, the Mustang, dubbed “Berlin Express,” is currently making a 5,470-mile voyage to the airshows that will include stops in Maine, Greenland, Iceland, and Scotland before arriving at Duxford Airfield in England on July 4.

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P-51B parked at an air base. (DOD photo)

The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.

“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”

Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.

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P-51B Mustangs with the 361st Fighter Group. (DOD photo)

The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.

The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.

Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.

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William Overstreet, Jr., who flew a P-51 through the Eiffel Tower to get a kill. (DOD photo)

In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How China plays it both ways in disputes over sea territory

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.

China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”


The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.

In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.

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According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.

“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.

“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.

Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.

Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.

In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.

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US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)

The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.

In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.

Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.

“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is suspicious of a huge multinational naval force near Guam

US, Japanese, and Indian warships converged in Guam for the 22nd iteration of Exercise Malabar, an annual exercise focused on developing coordination and training to counter maritime threats.

2018’s version of the exercise, which is the first to take place around Guam, runs from June 7 to June 16, 2018, but as the ships involved gathered beforehand, the Chinese navy was keeping an eye on the proceedings.


Indian ships sailing to Guam were shadowed by Chinese warships in the South China Sea, breaking off only when the Indian ships entered the Philippine Sea.

“We had good, polite conversation. They were there for some time, and then broke off,” Rear Adm. Dinesh K. Tripathi, commander of India’s Eastern Fleet and head of India’s delegation to Malabar 2018, told The Economic Times. “The moment we entered the Pacific across the Philippines Sea, they went back. It was interesting.”

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Ships of the United States, India, Japan,u00a0Australia, and Singapore in the Bay of Bengal.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Stephen W. Rowe)

Surveillance by Chinese ships, which Tripathi said was “not surprising,” comes a few weeks after Indian warships spotted a Chinese ship “tailing them at a safe distance” as they left Vietnam, following the first joint exercise between those two countries.

“We knew we were being tailed, but we were on international waters or global commons, and therefore took evasive measures,” sources told India Today of the incident.

That exercise, which ran from May 21 to May 25, 2018, attracted Chinese ire, with a Global Times op-ed calling it “a futile attempt to flex muscle.”

‘Distance actually does not matter’

Malabar started in 1992 as a US-India bilateral exercise. It has been done annually since then — with the exception of 1998 through 2002, after India’s 1998 nuclear tests — expanding to a trilateral exercise with Japan’s addition in 2015.

Other countries have participated in the past, though Indian has declined Australia’s request to take part for the past two years. (Observers suspect Chinese pressure is behind Canberra’s exclusion.)

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US, Japanese, and Indian personnel aboard Japan’s Hyuga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise during Malabar 2018, June 7, 2018.
(Indian Navy / Twitter)

Malabar 2018 consists of on-shore and at-sea portions. The former ran from June 7 to June 10, 2018, involving expert and professional exchanges on carrier strike group, maritime patrol, and reconnaissance operations as well as on surface and anti-submarine warfare. The latter portion lasts from June 11 to June 16, 2018, in the Philippine Sea, and will include military-to-military coordination, air-defense and surface-warfare exercises, and replenishment while underway.

The US Navy has sent the USS Ronald Reagan, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

India’s participants include stealth frigate INS Sahyadri and the first-in-class antisubmarine-warfare corvette INS Kamorta, which was trailed by a Chinese ship while leaving Vietnam May 2018. India’s fleet tanker INS Shakti and a P-8I Neptune, the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, are also taking part.

Japan sent its Hyunga-class helicopter carrier JS Ise as well as two destroyers, JS Suzunami and JS Fuyuzuki.

As in years past, Malabar 2018 includes a focus on submarine and antisubmarine warfare, a capability that has grown in importance as Chinese submarine activity has increased in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

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US Navy Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11, watches the end of Exercise Malabar 2017 from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, in the Bay of Bengal, July 17, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Holly L. Herline)

A number of countries in the region have been investing more in their submarine forces — India in particular is seeking to add submarines and Neptune maritime-patrol aircraft.

2018’s version of the exercise is also the first since the US Defense Department renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command— a shift that has been interpreted as both a rhetorical swipe at China and an adjustment to the growing interconnectedness of the Pacific and Indian ocean regions.

Chinese spy ships have been spotted lurking near US naval exercises with partners in the region in the past, and such activity is expected again during Malabar 2018.

For India, basing the exercise in Guam reflects the country’s willingness and ability to project power.

“Distance actually does not matter. Wherever Indian maritime interests are, that is our area of operation,” Tripathi told The Economic Times. “Wherever national interest takes us, we will deploy if needed.”

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

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ISIS militants are faking illnesses to get out of fighting

There’s a term US soldiers give to one of their own who tries to shirk duty by making constant medical appointments: Sick call commando.


It looks like ISIS has the same problem.

Documents seized last month by Iraqi forces at a former ISIS base in Mosul, Iraq reveal that, despite its ability to recruit religious fanatics to the ranks, the so-called Islamic State has its fair share of “problem” fighters who don’t actually want to fight, The Washington Post reports.

Also read: ISIS is about to lose its biggest conquest in the Middle East

The Post found 14 fighters trying to skate their way out of combat, to include a Belgian offering a note about having back pain, and a Kosovar with “head pain” who wanted to be transferred to Syria.

Another, a recruit of Algerian descent from France, told his superiors he wanted to return home and offered two suspicious claims: I’m sick, and if you send me home, I’ll continue to work remotely.

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The line for ISIS sick call.

“He doesn’t want to fight, wants to return to France. Claims his will is a martyrdom operation in France. Claims sick but doesn’t have a medical report,” one note reads, according to The Post.

Of course, there are plenty within the ranks of ISIS who are still fighting on the front lines. But to see that at least some are trying to get out while they still can seems to suggest that the USand Iraqi military is doing something right.

Iraqi forces captured all of eastern Mosul late last month, and preparations are currently being made to start hitting the western side of the city. The top US general in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, is confident that both Mosul and the ISIS capital of Raqqa will fall “within the next six months.”

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The US just tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile

An unarmed Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile has been launched from a U.S. Air Force Base in California on a flight to a target in the Pacific Ocean.


The missile lifted off at 12:03 a.m. April 26 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

An Air Force statement said the mission was part of a program to test the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system.

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Another unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched during an operational test Dec. 17, 2013 and again on Sep. 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales)

The 30th Space Wing commander, Col. John Moss, said Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of the U.S. nuclear force and to demonstrate the national nuclear capabilities.

In a Minuteman test, a so-called re-entry vehicle travels more than 4,000 miles downrange to a target at Kwajalein Atoll near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“Team V is once again ready to work with Air Force Global Strike Command to successfully launch another Minuteman III missile,” Moss said. “These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities. We are proud of our long history in partnering with the men and women of the 576th Flight Test Squadron to execute these missions for the nation.”

The 576th Flight Test Squadron will be responsible for installed tracking, telemetry, and command destruct systems on the missile.

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