The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.


Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.

One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.

The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.

Releasing of cremains

Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.

Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.

Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.

The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.

“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.

Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

Custody of the fallen

The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.

For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.

If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.

Also Read: The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.

Crew connection

The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.

Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.

“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5-year-old grandson gets veteran to quit smoking

United States Army veteran Tony Fife-Patterson started smoking when he was 17 because “the cool guys in the neighborhood were doing it, and I wanted to fit in.” Eventually, he settled in to a pack a day habit, and never considered that he might be addicted to nicotine. Occasionally, someone would tell him he ought to quit, but it only made him want to smoke more.

A couple of years ago, Tony’s daughter called him about his 5-year-old grandson who was crying after watching a “Truth Ad” on television. The ad is part of a national campaign to eliminate teen smoking. Tony’s grandson never liked how smoking made Tony smell, but the advertisement made him worry about how smoking could hurt his grandfather’s health.


Although Tony began contemplating his cigarette smoking, he still didn’t think he had a problem. Yet a few days later, after lighting a cigarette, Tony had an epiphany.

“At that moment, I realized I really was getting tired of this habit,” Tony said. “It had become something that no longer was fun.”

At his next VA appointment, Tony asked his provider about quitting and learned about Truman VA’s “Thinking About Quitting?” program.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

(Photo by Paweł Czerwiński)

“This really DOES control me!”

Tony agreed to attend the program’s orientation class. At first, he had doubts; however, once he learned that his smoking was an addiction, he knew he didn’t want tobacco to control him.

“Wait a minute,” Tony thought. “This really DOES control me!”

The realization that he was controlled by cigarettes offended him and he was determined to do something about it.

Tony enrolled in Truman VA’s Quit program with other veterans who wanted to quit tobacco. The first three classes helped Tony develop a personal plan to manage the physical, psychological and habit parts of his smoking addiction. He also learned how to get through urges to smoke without giving in. On the program’s “Quit Day,” Tony found it was helpful to quit with other motivated veterans. The final three classes focused on lifestyle changes to help him remain tobacco-free and avoid a relapse.

In the photo above, proud “Thinking About Quitting” graduate Tony poses with Joseph Hinkebein, Ph.D., Truman VA psychologist and tobacco cessation coordinator.

It’s now a year-and-a-half since Tony’s “Quit Day,” and he remains tobacco-free.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

(Photo by Gilles Lambert)

Tracks progress…and SAVINGS…with app

As part of his success, Tony uses a quit smoking smart phone app to track how long he has been tobacco-free and how much money he has saved since quitting. He’s saved almost id=”listicle-2641557022″,400 so far.

More importantly, Tony loves the tobacco-free lifestyle. His sense of taste and smell has improved, and he no longer gets complaints from his grandson about smelling like smoke.

“I didn’t realize how bad I smelled, but now I get it,” Tony said.

Most of all, he is proud to no longer be controlled by cigarettes. While the thought of smoking still crosses his mind every now and then, when stressed, he reminds himself, “I don’t need a cigarette to cope with stress anymore!”

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Tony tries to lead by example and never “lectures or nags” those who still smoke. He just wants other veterans to know that they can quit when they are ready to do it for their own reasons. He encourages veterans to attend the “Thinking About Quitting” orientation class to learn how to successfully quit. The program provided education and support to help him be successful, but Tony gets all the credit.

“I never thought I could do this,” Tony said. “But I did it. It is something I am immensely proud of!”

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

Intel

The military’s best air combat exercise is getting a new twist

Red Flag is legendary among fighter pilots. This exercise, held several times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, located near Las Vegas, is where American combat pilots have gone to hone their skills since the end of the Vietnam War.

“Red Flag-Nellis was originally created to give fighter pilots their first 10 combat missions in a large force exercise before deployment to contingency operations,” Lt. Col. Christopher Cunningham said in an Air Force release. “Vietnam War analysis had proven that pilot survivability increased dramatically after surviving 10 combat missions.”


The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

The success of the original Red Flag has left Air Force pararescue personnel, like those taking part in a 2016 demonstration, little to do.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

In terms of military exercises, Red Flag has been a blockbuster hit. The first major conflict since Vietnam, Desert Storm, saw very few pilot losses. While new technology certainly contributed, Red Flag played a vital part as well, giving pilots their first taste of “combat” over the course of two weeks. Other countries, like Israel and the Netherlands, have come up with their versions of this exercise. One of the unintended consequences of this improved readiness, however, is that it has made combat search-and-rescue missions less frequent. Less real-world experience means an increased need for specific training exercises.

To address that need, a spin-off of Red Flag was created. Red Flag Rescue took place last month at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. This exercise replaced Angel Thunder, a program for Air Force pararescue personnel (along with foreign air forces) who are responsible for carrying out the combat search and rescue mission.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Red Flag Rescue was not just for the Air Force. Army personnel, like this soldier taking part in a 2017 demonstration, also took part, as did the Marines and Navy.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brian Calhoun)

Red Flag Rescue brings together Air Force pararescuemen and the other armed services for fifteen days to practice combat search and rescue in contested, degraded, and operationally-limited environments. While Air Force pararescue personnel — and others who handle combat search-and-rescue — have gained much from this, the ultimate beneficiaries will be the pilots saved from dire circumstances in the real world.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why spears are the most common historical weapon ever

There’s a very good reason why you can find spears in the history of every civilization and tribe on Earth. It’s not just because they’re simple, be it a common pointy stick or an elaborately engineered and weighted one. And it’s not only because they were relatively cheap, compared to other weapons that could be mass-produced at the time.

No, spears were everywhere because spears work.


The men and women who practice HEMA, or Historical European Martial Arts, are extremely adept at swordplay, but Nikolas Lloyd (known online as Lindybeige) wanted to see if they could hold their own with history’s most ubiquitous weapon. He equipped sword experts with spears and some with swords, and pitted them against each other to determine which is better, once and for all.

None of the people fighting in the video above are experts with spears and shields, but all are familiar with swordplay. They would be fighting against their favorite weapons.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

For the swordsman to have a chance at the spearman, he must be extremely fast, but even speed may not be enough. As Lloyd points out, the head of the spear can move very, very fast itself. There is very little chance of a swordsman closing against an eight-foot spear from any kind of distance – and keep in mind; this is not an expert spearman. In the hands of an expert, there is even less likelihood that the sword will hit its target.

When up close, the spear’s length becomes a drawback, so using a shield to get closer might be the obvious solution. Shields did raise the effectiveness of the sword against the spear, but not by much. When adding to the length of swords, the spear still came out on top. Check out the video to see the which weapon ends up being the most effective in medieval combat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

New details about Israel’s boldest rescue mission of the 1980s

Israeli secret service agents ran an entire fake luxury beach resort in Sudan as a front for its operations in the 1980s, according to a BBC investigation.

A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.

And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.

An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:

“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.

“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”

Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.

The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Satellite imagery of a plot of land roughly where the Arous resort used to be.

Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.

An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.

Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.

Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.

Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”

He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”

The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
The resort was keen to showcase its proximity to the sea and water sports equipment.

The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.

They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.

After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.

The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.

The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.

“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”

The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.

Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”

Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

UFOs, aliens, and the Navy—oh my!

A recent increase in UFO sightings has caused the Navy to revamp guidelines with which to report a UFO sighting officially. This comes on the heels of a 2018 sighting that was reported by the Washington Post and then seemingly disappeared back into the national never-before-truly-confirmed zeitgeist alongside bigfoot and infants that don’t cry on airplanes.


The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

“advanced aircraft” is a farcry from the traditional UFO explanation of weather balloons (pictured)

(assets.rebelmouse.io)

Politico has reported that the Navy is developing a formal process, with pilots and military servicemen, to report UFO sightings.

This move is directly related to the recent spike in what has been referred to by Navy officials as “a series of intrusions by advanced aircraft on Navy carrier strike groups.”

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

B-2 Bombers have been the subject of many a “UFO” sighting

(assets.rebelmouse.io)

A Navy spokesperson told Politico, ” There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years […] For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”

The current process has led to some gridlock and complications with reporting ‘unidentified flying objects’ so the format is being streamlined by the Navy to make sure that “such suspected incursions can be made to cognizant authorities.”

Obviously, one possible knee-jerk public reaction is going to use this as military confirmation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life or “aliens” on earth. However, the Navy has made no such comment on the matter, as it is far more likely that these “UFOs” are either allied/enemy covert aircraft.

Ex-UFO program chief: We may not be alone

www.youtube.com

This is not to say that the possibility hasn’t been explored in a military context. In fact, the Department of Defense established a program entirely dedicated to further investigation of UFO sightings: The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

However, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) only ran from 2007-2012. Its eventual folding in 2012 was because it was “determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”

Former military intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who apparently led the AATIP, is in favor of ramping up UFO sighting efforts.

He describes the paradox with military sightings in relation to civilian UFO sightings, “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something” he said.

“With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something. … What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”

Chris Mellon, an associate of Elizondo’s and a co-contributor to the upcoming docuseries “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” piggybacked on Elizondo’s comments.

“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he told Politico. He continued on saying that it is a common occurrence that military personnel “don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3.”

It is unclear what military officials believe these anomalies could be, but one thing is for certain now—they’re on the radar.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President joked about the US leaving NATO but no one laughed

During a private meeting with President Donald Trump in March 2018, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven explained that while his country was not a member of NATO, it regularly partnered with the defense alliance.

Trump, who has clashed with NATO leaders since taking office, responded by saying that was the kind of relationship with NATO that the US should consider, a European diplomat told Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.


A senior administration official told Rogin that the remark was a joke, but the comment is one of many before and since that hint at disinterest, and, in some cases, hostility from the US president toward the trans-Atlantic alliance of which the US was a founder and is the largest member.

The US is the most powerful military in the 29-member alliance, and US withdrawal would dramatically reduce NATO’s power to deter potential adversaries like Russia at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is using cyberattacks and his military to threaten European neighbors.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Russian President Vladimir Putin

Trump’s criticisms have centered around financing, and he has often rebuked NATO members for falling short of the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level to which alliance members have agreed.

He reiterated that criticism in letters sent to some of the NATO members that fell short of that spending threshold in the weeks ahead of the organization’s summit on July 11 and July 12, 2018.

The only one to be made public was sent to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The June 19, 2018 letter, published by Norwegian newspaper VG, said Norway was “the only NATO Ally sharing a border with Russia that lacks a credible plan to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.”

In the letter, Trump said he “understand[s] domestic political pressures,” having faced them in the US, but it would “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.”

The letter followed a general template, tailored with language specific to the recipient country, US and foreign officials told Foreign Policy. The officials said the letter sent to Germany contained some of the harshest language —Trump himself has directed some of his most withering scorn at German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Concerns about Trump’s commitment to the alliance have grown during his second year in office, especially as he continues to criticize NATO leaders and pursue rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many of the Trump administration officials who tried to reassure NATO allies have departed.

NATO officials are also worried by what seems to be the increasing isolation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is regarded as one of the administration’s steadier hands and a vocal NATO proponent.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Julianne Smith, director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told The New York Times that Trump questioned other leaders about their opinions of Mattis during the G7 meeting in Canada in May 2018.

Smith, who was deputy national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, said the exchange was “awkward” for those leaders, who felt praise “might be the kiss of death” for Mattis. “So they said deliberately that he is being so tough on us on 2% defense spending, to try to save the guy.”

“There’s overwhelming anxiety, and it’s been punctuated with very specific concerns. That has a profound impact on what our Europeans friends think he thinks about them,” Biden told Rogin. “The consequence is disastrous for our national security and economic interests.”

The US continues to back NATO and its initiatives, particularly the alliance’s efforts to counter Russia.

The US remains an active participant in NATO military exercises, leads one of the multinational battle groups now deployed to Eastern Europe, and has volunteered to host NATO’s new Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Virginia, to oversee operations in the northern Atlantic.

The bloc also recently agreed to the NATO Readiness Initiative, a plan pushed by Mattis requiring NATO to have 30 land battalions, 30 fighter aircraft squadrons, and 30 warships ready to deploy within 30 days of being put on alert.

But continued cooperation doesn’t mean the ties established between North America and Europe since the end of World War II will endure, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in June 2018.

“It is not written in stone that the trans-Atlantic bond will survive forever,” Stoltenberg said in London. “But I believe we will preserve it.”

“We may have seen the weakening” of some of those bonds, Stoltenberg said. He added that differences had been overcome in the past and said maintaining the partnership “is in our strategic interests.”

“We must continue to protect our multilateral institutions like NATO, and we must continue to stand up for the international rules-based order,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 2 edition)

Late for morning muster? No problem. You can still stay informed interweb-style. Here are the stories that you need to know about right now:


  • Navy Yard on lock down as police respond to reports of an active shooter. Reuters has the first word here.
  • Engine failure may have caused Indonesian Air Force C-130 crash right after takeoff. Fox News has the story here.
  • Retired military working dogs find new purpose as they help take down meth labs. Associated Press has the skinny here.
  • Military morale hitting ‘rock bottom’ according to a report posted by our partners at Business Insider. Check it out here.
  • The mighty EA-6B Prowler has made it’s final flight. Our partners at Military.com have the story here.

Now read (and watch) this: We asked civilians to name the five military branches. This is the hilarious result.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

“Ain’t war hell?”

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

See!

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

He was the guest of honor.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Neither game has a winner…

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

Now that’s a war face.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. releases more details about MiG-29s, Su-24s it says were flown to Libya

The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.

The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.

The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.


The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.

In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”

After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”

AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.

The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.

Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.

Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”

“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.

Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.

The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.

But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.

But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.

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

Articles

A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.


The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.

Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.

“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
George Ybarra during his time as a US Marine. Photo from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.

Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.

An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.

The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.

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Attorney Luis Parra. Image from Tucson Sentinel.

Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.

Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.

His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.

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Photo courtesy of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”

Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”

A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”

When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.

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Image from Department of Homeland Security.

“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.

A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.

Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.

“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US B-52 bombers upgraded to carry even more bombs

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers — America’s longest-serving bomber aircraft — are expected to get an upgrade that will allow them to drop bombs like never before.

The service is currently testing a major upgrade for the decades-old bombers, as well as the revolutionary Conventional Rotary Launchers (CRLs). The upgrade will increase the number of munitions a single B-52 bomber can drop at one time, the Air Force revealed in a recent statement.


CRLs are rotating munition systems located inside the bomb bay that allow the heavy, long-range bombers to carry a larger and more varied payload of conventional smart bombs and other guided munitions.

“Before these launchers, the B-52 was not capable of carrying smart weapons internally,” Air Forces Strategic (AFSTRAT) Armament Systems manager Master Sgt. Adam Levandowski said when the first CRLs were delivered to the service in November 2017. “Now each CRL allows for internal carriage, which adds an additional eight smart bombs per aircraft,” he further explained.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Gerald R. Willis)

The addition of the new CRLs increased the B-52’s smart weapon carrying capacity by 67 percent.

B-52 bombers flew into battle with the new launchers for the first time in December 2017, setting a new record for largest number of bombs ever dropped from the airframe, Military.com reported at the time.

A long-standing issue with the CRLs has been that power could only be supplied to four munitions at a time. The planned upgrade will provide full power to all internal munitions at once. In the past, aircrews could only power four munitions on one pass, as anything more might risk blowing the circuit breakers mid-flight.

“Now, a B-52 going into a war zone has the ability to put 20 munitions on a target area very quickly,” Senior Master Sgt. Michael Pierce, 307th Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament superintendent, said, referring to the eight internal weapons and the 12 additional munitions stored under the wings.

These figures refer to the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) used in testing. The bombers can carry potentially larger quantities of other munitions.

“The entire effort to modify the CRL moved pretty quickly,” Pierce said. “The bottom line is yesterday we had the capability to deliver 16 weapons at one time and today we can deliver 20 of them.”

The Air Force is expected to upgrade all B-52s once testing is complete.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘indomitable determination’ of John Paul Jones lives on in the Navy

April is a great month to remember the namesake of one of our Pearl Harbor guided-missile destroyers, USS John Paul Jones, named for a founding hero of our Navy and proudly known by the crew and their families and friends as “JPJ.”

On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord lit the match of Revolution against British tyranny. At the time Great Britain had more than 250 warships with nearly half having 50 or more guns – cannons. Our tiny naval force consisted of a few ragtag privateers and some humble sailing vessels. Even before our nation began, the founders commissioned 13 frigates and recruited warfighters, including immigrants like John Paul Jones.


In April 1776, Jones was aboard the large converted merchant ship Alfred, taking the fight against the British with a contingent of Continental Marines. On April 6 the colonial mariners attacked and heavily damaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, which had been harassing the colonies’ shipping. It was our Navy’s first sea battle.

After that victory Lt. Jones was awarded with an assignment to captain of the Providence. A year later he was assigned to the sloop Ranger. Jones bristled at the state of readiness and combat capability of his new ship. Throughout his career he demanded the best, deadliest and fastest; he trained, equipped and operated with precision and rigor.

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Depicting the capture of the HMS DRAKE by the Continental ship RANGER after a sea battle off Cerrick-Fergus in the Irish Sea on 24 April 1778. The RANGER was under command of Captain John Paul Jones.

On April 24, 1778, Jones, aboard Ranger, captured HMS Drake after thunderous fusillades of cannons and muskets and bloody close combat with cutlasses and boarding pikes.

We remember John Paul Jones for his courage and tenacity against all odds. His heroism aboard Bonhomme Richard and his bold attacks against the British homeland are well-known. He owned the fight, willingly going in harm’s way.

That legacy continues.

On April 5, 1956, the Navy commissioned USS John Paul Jones (DD-932), which made a shakedown cruise to Europe. The Forrest Sherman-class destroyer was re-designated DDG-32 and served our navy for more than 25 years.

Our current JPJ, DDG 53, was launched in October 1991, and ten years later – less than a month after 9/11 – fired the first Tomahawk missiles in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

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PEARL HARBOR (Aug. 15, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) prepares to moor at her new homeport, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, following a homeport swap with the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro)

JPJ is the first Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer to be stationed in the Pacific Fleet, and in the summer of 2014 became one of our go-to Ballistic Missile Defense System supporting ships in Hawaii, with the latest SM-3 missiles and updated, advanced Aegis capabilities.

During JPJ’s four years home ported in Pearl Harbor, the ship has participated in numerous operations and exercises, working closely with our Pacific Missile Range Facility test and training range, and cooperating with the forces of key allies like Japan and Republic of Korea. Here in Hawaii we are uniquely able to put new innovation to the test so our fleet can have proven, effective weapons systems.

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The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Japan Ministry of Defense, and U.S. Navy Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jonesu00a0successfully conducted a flight test.
(U.S. Navy photo by Leah Garton)

JPJ helps the Navy determine the accuracy of weapons systems, detect potential system anomalies and demonstrate advances in surface force lethality and defensive capabilities. At the same time, JPJ, along with our other nine gray hulls in Pearl Harbor, conducts effective community outreach.

Back in 2006, Sailors of USS John Paul Jones and USS Preble (DDG 88) participated in the 99th Rose Festivalin Portland Oregon. One imagines gentlemanly Capt. John Paul Jones, who was known for writing poetry, being pleased to be part of the festival.

As with many of our Navy’s namesakes, Capt. John Paul Jones was not without his flaws. He was a complicated man with conflicting personality traits, both sensitive and tough, reflective and extremely vain, paranoid and exceptionally self-assured.

In the words of Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, writing about Jones, “I challenge you to show me someone flawless who has made a significant contribution to history. It is not perfection that characterizes greatness. It is, rather, the ability to achieve great things in spite of ourselves.”

In many ways resilient warfighting John Paul Jones serves as a namesake for our entire Navy.

One final April reference: On April 24, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt spoke at Annapolis at a re-interment ceremony commemorating John Paul Jones:

“Every officer in our Navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones. Every officer in our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.”

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson addresses the crew aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones during their 240th Navy birthday celebration.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey)

Today our men and women of JPJ, along with their shipmates everywhere, continue to emulate their namesake’s resilience and willingness to fight, with the ability to survive and return, and with the commitment to adapt and overcome. Our Sailors are able to go in harm’s way, if necessary, with indomitable determination and the will to win.

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