A U.S. Coast Guard crew based in Astoria, Oregon, returned after a 2.5-month deployment that yielded the seizure of $11 million in cocaine and marijuana, officials said.
The Steadfast, which earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco,” or the white shark in English, returned April 23 after seizing 700 pounds of cocaine and 170 pounds of marijuana. The cutter’s deployment included a 69-member crew, plus helicopter personnel from the Air Station Humboldt Bay and a law enforcement team, said spokeswoman Senior Chief Rachel Polish.
The crew patrolled the eastern Pacific Ocean and seized the drugs from two smuggling incidents off the Central American coast, according to a news release. The crew unloaded the drugs April 20 during a port call in San Diego.
Polish said she could not disclose, for security reasons, the specific locations and general trajectory taken by the Steadfast for those operations. However, the crew traveled 12,000 miles that began with a training stop at a U.S. naval station in Washington before heading south, according to the news release. The crew also stopped in Mazatlan, Mexico, with $2,500 in supplies and equipment, and guardsmen helped repair and paint a classroom and exterior of a school.
Polish said the deployment was part of the broader Operation Martillo — Spanish for hammer. Since its launch in 2012, the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies have seized 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in cash, and hundreds of vessels and aircraft, and they have arrested 1,863 people, according to the U.S. Southern Command website.
Drug smugglers off the Florida coast called the Steadfast “El Tiburon Blanco” when she was based in St. Petersburg, according to the news release. The vessel’s reputation for busting up smugglers made her the first cutter to be awarded the “gold marijuana leaf, indicating one million pounds of marijuana seized,” officials said.
The 49-year-old Reliance Class Cutter made her home in Astoria in 1994.
Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.
China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?
Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.
At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.
Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.
The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.
In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.
A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.
(Vietnam News Agency)
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.
Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.
So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.
Big Slick is giving away a Tesla in support of Children’s Mercy Kansas City.
If you haven’t heard of Big Slick, it’s a fundraiser designed to raise support for the cancer center at Children’s Mercy, one of the nation’s top pediatric medical centers. In 2010, U.S. Marine Rob Riggle teamed up with Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis to host a poker tournament, raising over $120,000 in their first event.
Since then, they’ve recruited more help and raised over $8 million through sponsorships, a live auction, and online fundraising campaigns like this one, hosted by Prizeo.
Here’s how to win:
Win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 plus “Junk in the Trunk”
Win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 plus “Junk in the Trunk”
For only a donation in support of Children’s Mercy Kansas City, you can win a Midnight Silver 2019 Tesla Model 3 with celebrity “junk in the trunk” (surprise goods from David Koechner, Eric Stonestreet, Rudd, Sudeikis, and Riggle himself).
The more money you donate, the more entries you get in the raffle.
And this isn’t one of those things where you have to pay taxes on your new amazing car — it’ll be delivered to your (CONUS) door with all sales tax and delivery fees covered.
As reported in our conversation with Riggle, “for a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.”
So it’s no surprise that in addition to working on his professional career as an entertainer, Riggle devotes his time to helping others.
As a Military Working Dog handler in the US Marine Corps, I got to work with some of the best trained dogs in the world.
These dogs can sniff out bombs that have been buried underground, sniff out drugs that are hidden in ceiling tiles, take down a man three times their size, and track a person long after they’re gone to find criminal suspects or lost kids.
As a handler paired up with an explosive detection dog, my job was to train him, maintain his skills, keep him healthy, make sure he got exercise, and make sure he was healthy. After graduating from dog handling school, I was paired with my first dog, Kuko.
As a new handler with an experienced dog, I had to get up to his level before we could be an effective team. Once I got there, I could start teaching him new things to take our team to the next level.
While you may not be training your dog to find bombs buried in mud or drugs hidden in a car bumper, there are some keys to training dogs that will apply no matter what skills you are trying to teach.
Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)
1. You have to build a relationship.
The first thing you do upon meeting your new MWD is begin to build rapport. If you take home a brand-new puppy, you begin training by establishing a relationship with the dog. With so many dogs in a unit’s kennel, handlers take turns dropping food pans for the dogs twice a day.
However, when a handler partners with a new dog, it’s a good idea to let that handler drop their dog’s food for a few days to establish a good bond. The dog begins to associate the handler with good things.
This was particularly important with our, shall we say, “crankier” dogs. While our dogs weren’t trained to be mean, they aren’t the friendliest dogs either. They have a serious job to do, and they are serious dogs.
I’ve seen handlers get bit by their own dogs more than a few times. Two of the best dog teams in my first unit had scars from their dogs. Training too hard, too fast with a dog that doesn’t trust you yet can lead to frustration on both sides and usually doesn’t lead to good results.
US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Eliot Fiaschi takes a moment to brush his partner Meky’s teeth during a break while on duty at the Djibouti Pier, April 23, 2009.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)
2. Groom your dog every day.
Grooming your dog helps build the relationship, keeps the dog clean and healthy, and lets you check them over from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail for any problems. With hair covering most of them, dogs can have serious issues developing that you can’t see until you brush them.
If your dog is running around in wooded areas, check in their ears, their paws, and in between their paw pads for ticks. Even with preventative medication, ticks can bite dogs and infect them with multiple diseases that can be devastating or deadly. Even a small cut on the paw can turn into something bigger if not treated properly, and dogs that don’t feel good aren’t good students.
One of our dogs contracted a tick-borne disease that nearly killed him. While we never found the tick, the dog tested positive for Babesia. He only survived because his handler had noted that he seemed more and more lethargic over the course of about three days.
Because she was watching him closely, she noticed when his gums and tongue went pale, indicating a serious problem. He was rushed to the vet, where aggressive treatment saved his life. His recovery was long and difficult and led to his retirement, but the vets and vet techs care about the dogs and will save them if possible.
Airman 1st Class John Fountain, a military working dog handler, with MWD Deny on the Obedience Obstacle course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, April 24, 2019.
(Air Force photo by Airman Jesse Jenny)
3. Consistency is key.
During this rapport-building time, start laying the foundations for the training that you want to do with your dog.
Don’t let them get away with things that you won’t accept later. Reward good behavior with praise, attention, play, or treats. Once training begins, consistency is going to be key to getting good results.
If you are training the dog to sit, set the dog up to succeed by training in the same area every time. Keep your voice the same. Don’t change the way you say the command. Don’t give the command unless you are prepared to reward.
A military working dog team completes a detection training scenario in Southwest Asia, Jan. 10, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tyler Woodward)
4. Training takes time.
You can’t rush dog training. Some dogs pick things up faster than others. MWDs are trained for four to seven months in basic skills before they are officially called an MWD. If your dog isn’t grasping basic tasks, you can’t move on to the more advanced. Basic obedience, (the sit, down, and stay) is the foundation of all further training.
Take your time to master the basics, and refresh them from time to time. MWDs are professionals with years of experience, and they get obedience refresher training almost every day. It’s much easier to maintain proficiency than it is to fix a problem that you have let slide for too long.
US Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Stone, a military working dog handler, braces for impact as military working dog, Cola, attempts to detain him during a K-9 demonstration exercise, Aug. 17, 2017.
(US Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider)
5. Dogs have bad days too.
Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.
Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.
During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the good rapport between dog and handler.
Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.
US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Victor Longoria shares a playful moment with his partner, Timmy, after a training session, April 16, 2009.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Dawn Price)
6. Dogs need to have fun.
Recognizing that dogs are living, breathing creatures, they need to have fun. If the dog only ever sees you for training, you are missing a big part of the relationship.
Take your dog out and let him run, play with toys, lay in the sun, take a break, and just be a dog. It will make for a happy dog that wants to please you by doing the right thing when training. In a strong dog team, the dog’s desire to please the handler provides as much motivation as the toy or the treat.
My first dog was not especially affectionate, and I wouldn’t say that he ever loved me in the way that a pet loves its owner. He had handlers before me, and he would have more after me, but we still had a strong bond, which made us an effective team.
I took him out, let him play, tossed a ball for him, let him lay in the sun, and took him for long walks with no commands. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to play, and he trusted that if he did what I asked and made me happy, good things would come to him.
Staff Sgt. Cody Nickell, a military working dog handler, works with Topa to get him accustomed to being in a Huey helicopter, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, July 26, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
7. Not every dog is going to be able to learn every task.
Between buying carefully selected dogs from Europe and breeding their own at Lackland Air Force Base, the military goes through a lot of dogs. Not every dog makes it as an MWD. They fail out for a variety of reasons, from health issues to behavioral issues. Some dogs just aren’t cut out for the type of work that MWDs do.
We had a dog that didn’t want to bite people. She was sent after a decoy wearing the bite sleeve, and she faked a leg injury instead of chasing him down. The vet determined that nothing was wrong with her, she just didn’t want to bite.
If your dog just isn’t getting it, it might be the dog.
While you probably (hopefully) aren’t training your dog to bite people, you might find that your dog won’t sit, won’t drop the ball, or won’t stay for longer than a second. Keep in mind that some breeds of dogs are known for their willingness to learn, and others are not.
Don’t adopt a working dog breed and keep it inside all day without exercise. That’s how houses get destroyed. Do your research and adopt a dog that is going to fit in with your lifestyle and not a dog that you saw in a movie and you think looks cool.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Trained snipers are some of the most dangerous warfighters ever to hit the battlefield. The history books have been inked with the legends of the most talented, deadliest snipers. Their methodical, near-surgical approach is the stuff of nightmares for the enemy and many live in constant fear of being placed in their crosshairs.
Snipers will lay still for hours as they stalk their target, waiting for that perfect shot. When you look through a scope for hours at a time, it’s hard not to entertain your brain by coming up with some dark humor. So, we’re here to show the world the humorous side of snipers.
Iraqi forces “swiftly and thoroughly” ejected ISIS fighters from Al Qaim — a city at the western edge of Iraq’s Anbar province and the terrorist group’s last stronghold on the Iraq-Syria border — in early November.
ISIS has lost most of the land it once held and has largely disappeared as an organized fighting force. All that’s left of the group’s so-called caliphate, which once stretched from northwest Syria to the edges of Baghdad, is chunks of territory along the Euphrates River in Iraq and Syria.
For the close to 1,000 US Marines assisting Iraqi forces in the area, the campaign has led them back to familiar terrain to continue the fight against an enemy that appears set to evolve into a different kind of threat.
“Marines, in particular, understand western Iraq,” Marine Corps. Brig Gen. Robert Sofge told Marine Corps Times this month — an area Sofge called “old stomping grounds” for US Marines.
“We spent most folks’ career there and there are relationships there that endure,” Sofge said. “Even while priorities may shift in and around [US Central Command], that doesn’t make what’s going in Anbar [province] less important.”
ISIS fighters have mostly withdrawn from Iraqi cities, Sofge said, but a Marine Corps task force is still in the area assisting Iraqi forces around Al Qaim with airstrikes and artillery support, as well as with intelligence and surveillance. But the expanse of empty desert in Anbar presents its own challenges in a new phase of the anti-ISIS effort.
Clearing and holding territory recaptured in Anbar will be “much more challenging,” said Marine Corps Col. Seth Folsom, commander Task Force Lion, which oversaw fighting in Al Qaim.
Folsom told the Associated Press that it was easy to motivate troops to fight to regain their country. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints,” he said.
Added to that challenge is the potential for a shift to irregular warfare.
“We believe that the enemy is in the deserts and also fading into the civilian population,” Sofge told Marine Corps Times. “There’s still a great deal of work to be done, even if it’s not against traditional formations in the cities.”
Sofge said the remnants of ISIS in the area have yet to adopt insurgent tactics that Al Qaeda, the group’s predecessor in Iraq, used against US personnel and Iraqis in the mid- and late-2000s. Marines on the ground there are not advising Iraqi forces on counterinsurgency tactics because such operations are not being conducted.
‘It’s quiet before the storm’
Resources in Anbar are stretched increasingly thin among a growing number of coalition troops stationed in the area.
Marines in Al Qaim ration water, according to the AP, while water-shortage notices adorn bathrooms and showers at Al Asad, the coalition’s main base in the province. Weather conditions and a lack of Iraqi escorts often delay supply convoys dispatched to outposts in Anbar.
Unlike coalition forces in northern Iraq, forces in western Iraq now also face the “tyranny of distance” as a complicating factor for their operations, Folsom told the AP.
A Marine staff sergeant who was in Anbar in 2007 told the AP that while mood among US personnel after ISIS’ ouster was one of accomplishment but not of finality. He said that while he initially didn’t think he’d be back, he now expects US forces to be there for generations.
“When my son joins the Marines, he’ll probably be deployed to Iraq,” he said with a laugh.
Some Iraqis in the area are anxious about things to come.
In Fallujah, a city in eastern Anbar that became a flashpoint for sectarian tensions and insurgent fighting during the US occupation in the 2000s, the mood remains tense, as Sunni-Shiite tension simmer.
While ISIS’ ouster has brought Iraq together in some ways, the success of the campaign has allowed old divisions to resurface in some parts of the country. At an military outpost in Fallujah, Iraqi Col. Muhammad Abdulla said the local population, largely Sunni in a Shiite-majority country, remained wary of the central government, which has been dominated by Shiite officials in the post-Saddam era.
Some in the area were still sympathetic to extremists, while others doubt US or Iraqi forces can protect them, leading most to not cooperate, Abdulla said.
“We say it’s quiet before the storm,” Sheikh Talib Hasnawi Aiffan, head of the Fallujah District Council, told Ben Kesling, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was stationed in Fallujah as a Marine lieutenant in 2007.
“We are scared,” Aiffan told Kesling. “We have experienced it before.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the platform would allow its users to turn off political ads.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content,” Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed article. “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads.”
“We’ll still remind you to vote,” he added.
Facebook will begin implementing the feature for some users Wednesday and plans to make it available to all users over the next several weeks, a company representative told CNBC.
Users will be able to turn off ads about political, social, and electoral issues from political candidates, super PACs, and other organizations that have a political disclaimer indicating an ad is “paid for by” a certain entity, CNBC reported.
Zuckerberg also announced in his op-ed article that Facebook would seek to boost voter registration, voter turnout, and marginalized voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election and that the platform hoped to help 4 million people register to vote.
To that end, he said Facebook would create a Voting Information Center with information about registration, early voting, and voting by mail. The center will also include details on how and when to vote, Zuckerberg said, adding that the company expected 160 million people in the US to see “authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”
Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue working to combat foreign interference on its platform by tracking and taking down “malicious accounts.”
The company removed 3.3. billion fake accounts in 2018 and 5.4 billion last year as of November.
Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as Facebook continues facing scrutiny over its decision to show political content to users even if that content contains misinformation or false claims.
The social-media network has been under the microscope particularly in the past few weeks after it refused to follow Twitter’s lead in flagging President Donald Trump’s misleading statements on its platform.
Shortly after Twitter shared links debunking two of Trump’s tweets spreading conspiracy theories about voting by mail, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Fox News interview.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.
Dorsey hit back at Zuckerberg, tweeting: “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
Zuckerberg appeared to allude to the recent strife over Trump’s tweets in his op-ed article, writing, “Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.”
“We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” he wrote. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”
Zuckerberg added that he believes the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.
“I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” he wrote. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”
The focus of the operation, “was to go after al-Qaida-related targets in the area, and there was an indication that there may have been a hostage being held with them,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen Charles Cleveland told the AP. “So it was a nice surprise to get that.”
Gillani and his father are members of the Pakistan People’s Party, a group which has sponsored and led several major offensives aimed at Islamic militants.
Gillani was originally kidnapped in May 2013 while campaigning for the Punjab provincial assembly. Pakistani leaders are often threatened or attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, especially if the leaders are perceived as likely to threaten the Taliban.
The kidnappers had been attempting to negotiate the release of several high-profile al-Qaeda prisoners in exchange for Gillani’s safe return.
Gillani was flown to Bagram for medical evaluation and is scheduled to return to Pakistan once cleared by doctors.
Remington Model 1100 Sporting 28 (Remington Arms Co.)
On July 28, 2020, the Remington Arms Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an Alabama federal court. Seeking to restructure amid legal and financial hardships, this is the second time since 2018 that Remington has filed for bankruptcy.
At 204 years old, Remington bills itself as America’s oldest gun maker and claims to be America’s oldest factory that still makes its original product. Remington has also developed and adopted more cartridges than any other firearm or ammunition manufacturer in the world.
During its long history, Remington has churned out classic sporting shotguns like the Model 31 slide-action, Model 1100 autoloading and the Model 3200 over/under. Remington rifles have also been the favorites of familiar names like George Armstrong Custer, Buffalo Bill and even Annie Oakley.
Remington has also had a long history of manufacturing military weapons under contract. In addition to the famous M1903 and Rolling Block rifles, Model 10 trench shotguns and 1911 pistols, Remington was contracted in WWI to make .303 British Pattern 14 rifles for England and Mosin-Nagant rifles for Russia. For the United States, Remington also made modified U.S. Model 1903 rifles with Pedersen devices.
A soldier takes aim with an M1903 Mark I fitted with a Pedersen device (U.S. Army Ordnance Department)
During WWII, Remington continued to manufacture the M1903 rifle, including the 1903A4 sniper rifle variant, the first mass-produced sniper rifle manufactured in the United States. The company also produced nearly 3 million rounds of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition.
In more recent years, Remington has continued to supply the U.S. military with firearms like the Model 870 shotgun, Model 700/M24 rifle, MSR, and even the first batch of M4A1 carbines.
A U.S. Navy SEAL with a Remington 870 during a training exercise in the early 1990s (U.S. Navy)
In March 2018, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, having accumulated over 0 million of debt. In May of that same year, Remington was able to exit bankruptcy thanks to a pre-approved restructuring plan that was supported by 97% of its creditors.
In 2019, the Supreme Court denied Remington’s bid to block a lawsuit filed by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington as the manufacturer and marketer of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting.
In June 2020, the FBI reported that it conducted 3.9 million firearms background checks, eclipsing the previous March record of 3.7 million. Despite a surge in firearms sales across the nation, Remington has found itself in financial hardship. According to its bankruptcy filing, the company owes its two largest creditors, St. Marks Powder and Eco-Bat Indiana, a combined total of .5 million. The filing also listed the states of Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri, as well as the city of Huntsville, as creditors with undetermined claims since the company took development incentives in each jurisdiction.
As the company tries to find a buyer to keep it alive, its future remains uncertain. Whatever its fate, the Remington name will continue to stand as one of America’s most iconic and prolific manufacturers of firearms.
US Navy destroyer USS Porter with other ships during exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, July 25, 2020. (US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy)
The long-awaited announcement about the redeployment of thousands of US troops currently in Germany finally came at the end of July.
US officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Tod Wolters, who heads US European Command, outlined the moves and the strategic reasoning behind them. President Donald Trump immediately undercut their remarks, but their references to the Black Sea reflect how the region is a growing point of tension with Russia.
“We’re moving forces out of Central Europe, Germany, where they had been since the Cold War,” Esper said. “We’re following, in many ways, the boundary east [to] where our newest allies are, so into the Black Sea region” as well as Poland and the Baltics.
The shift means European Command will “now be able to rotate units in perpetuity in multiple locations,” including the Black Sea, which “dramatically improves our operational capability,” Wolters said.
‘The Kremlin sees that’
Moscow, the most powerful Black Sea state, invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008. Tensions have remained high since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
“The Black Sea region is what the Kremlin uses launch its operations in Syria and Libya and the Eastern [Mediterranean],” Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe between 2015 and 2017, told Insider. “It’s how they influence everything that goes on in the Balkans and the Caucuses as well as obviously Ukraine and Moldova.”
Hodges is one of many who criticized the redeployment of European Command forces, arguing it doesn’t improve readiness and that the manner in which it’s being done hurts NATO.
“Having said that, I always welcome any additional focus on the Black Sea region, because I think that … needs to be a much higher priority,” Hodges said, adding that Esper’s suggestion that a Stryker brigade could be deployed to the region was “a very good idea.”
“Increasing [NATO] naval presence in the Black Sea region really is even more important,” as the Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian navies are “still not a match for the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” Hodges said.
Hodges cautioned that the coming months — with an ongoing drought in Crimea, US and Ukrainian elections, and Moscow’s major Kavkaz-2020 military exercise in southwestern Russia — could see more Russian action.
But the combination of factors creates an opening, Hodges said.
“Given the inconsistent response by this administration in the United States, and other than EU sanctions on Russia there hasn’t been that much in the way of real, firm response in the region” to Russian actions, Hodges said. “I think the Kremlin sees that.”
Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. (US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy)
‘The increasingly important Black Sea’
In June, Adm. James Foggo, outgoing commander of US naval forces in Europe, said eight US ships spent about 120 days patrolling the Black Sea last year and “routinely” conduct “complex exercises” like Sea Breeze with allies and partners.
The US military has increased its presence in the area in recent years, and the 20th iteration of Sea Breeze, a Ukrainian-US exercise with other Black Sea and NATO nations, was the latest example.
“Every visit to the Black Sea encompasses working together with our partners and growing our interoperability,” Cmdr. Craig Trent, commanding officer of Navy destroyer USS Porter, told Insider. “Together, we executed a complex, multi-warfare exercise all without stepping foot ashore for face-to-face planning due to COVID mitigations.”
US sailors conduct simulated small boat attacks from USS Porter during Sea Breeze, July 22, 2020. (US Navy/Interior Communication Electrician 2nd Class Jeffrey Abelon)
This year it included more than 40 ships and aircraft from eight countries. The Porter was there on its third Black Sea patrol in five months.
The destroyer “conducted surface action group tactical maneuvering, over-the-horizon surface targeting, air defense, and anti-submarine operations,” Trent said.
The Porter worked with a US P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “to share a common tactical maritime picture” and “with Ukrainian tactical aircraft during the air-defense exercises,” Trent said.
The P-8A worked with ships and aircraft, including Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets, on undersea warfare and air-intercept training, Cmdr. M. Trever Plageman, head of Patrol Squadron 47, told Insider. (Russian planes frequently intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea, including during Sea Breeze.)
USS Porter and an Air Force MC-130J exercise together during Sea Breeze, July 20, 2020. (US Navy)
The Black Sea “provides complex training opportunities, which enhance aircrew proficiency for littoral undersea warfare,” Plageman said. “Of equal importance was the cooperative interaction with allies and other partner nations, which improved our squadron’s interoperability within the increasingly important Black Sea region.”
The Porter also worked with the US Air Force on “air defense and surface-to-air integration of systems,” Trent said.
During Sea Breeze, US Air Forces Europe led a one-day mission with Navy and Space Command assets “to train US forces to integrate, operate, and communicate while executing all domain operations,” according to a release.
It included F-16s that “conducted training scenarios” using Joint Air-to-Surface Missile cruise missile tactics. The JASSM is a long-range “precision standoff missile” designed “to destroy high-value, well-defended targets.” US Special Operations Command Europe also sent an MC-130J aircraft “to exercise special operations forces insertion.”
Sea Breeze concluded on July 26, but on August 2, the Navy and Air Force conducted a similar exercise in the area — with live weapons.
Early August 2018, a decorated US Army Special Force soldier was arrested and charged in relation to an attempt to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida, but he may just be one player in a multimillion-dollar operation.
Army Master Sgt. Daniel Gould was arrested in Florida on Aug. 13, 2018, in connection with an attempt to bring 90 pounds of cocaine into the US on a military aircraft, defense officials told NBC News early August 2018. That haul would be worth several million dollars on US streets.
Gould was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. The group’s area of responsibility is Latin America south of Mexico and the waters surrounding Central and South America. The unit is heavily involved in counter-drug operations in the region.
Gould is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he earned a Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest award, for fending off an ambush in late 2008.
His arrest came after US Drug Enforcement Administration agents found more than 90 pounds of cocaine in two backpacks aboard a military airplane that was bound for Florida. A military official told NBC News that a service member found the drugs and alerted authorities while the plane was still in Colombia.
A US sniper team assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group competes in an unknown-distance event in Colombia during the Fuerzas Comando competition, July 26, 2014.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea)
Gould had been on vacation in the city of Cali in southwest Colombia the week prior to his arrest. He was already back in the US when the drugs were discovered. Officials told NBC News that someone else put the two backpacks on the plane in Colombia but could not say whether that person was complicit in the smuggling attempt.
Now the investigation has reportedly turned to finding out what Gould was doing in Colombia during that vacation, whether others were involved in the smuggling attempt, and if this plot was undertaken by a larger network that has previously been linked to US military personnel.
According to an Aug. 26, 2018 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, DEA investigators in Colombia are focusing on establishing who may have helped Gould acquire and transport the cocaine and whether military personnel involved in getting the drugs onto a plane knew what was going on.
Gould reportedly planned to leave Colombia on a commercial flight on Aug. 12, 2018, connecting through Miami before arriving at Fort Walton Beach, which is just a few minutes’ drive from Eglin Air Force Base.
However, according to El Tiempo, he changed his plans abruptly, switching his final destination to Pensacola, about an hour’s drive from his original destination — which may indicate he was aware the drugs had been discovered.
Investigators in Colombia are also trying to establish whether Gould had any connection to a trafficking network uncovered after the Oct. 2011 arrest of Lemar Burton, a US sailor caught with 11 pounds of cocaine in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Colombia to Europe.
Burton, assigned to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily at the time, was in Colombia on personal leave, the US Embassy in Bogota said after his arrest. His arrest prompted an investigation that uncovered an international smuggling ring operating out of airports in Cali and Bogota, moving drugs to Europe.
The ring relied on couriers, mainly foreigners, to carry drugs in parcels like suitcases with false bottoms. In the months after Burton’s arrest, arrests were made in the US and Colombia. Several other US citizens were involved.
A Blackhawk helicopter supports the US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and Naval Special Warfare members during an exercise at in El Salvador, Dec. 2, 2016.
(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Kerri Spero)
The drugs Burton and Gould were attempting to transport were sourced to Buenaventura and Tumaco, two main drug-producing regions on Colombia’s Pacific coast that are part of the area in which Gould’s unit was supporting anti-drug operations, according to El Tiempo.
A source with knowledge of the case told El Tiempo that Colombian authorities had not been given information about the investigation and that the military aircraft in question did not leave from a Colombian base. A military source told the paper that it was not clear which US plane in Colombia was involved.
A DEA spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said the office had no public information to offer about the case.
A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 7th Special Operations Group, said a service member was being investigated and that the DEA was leading the probe but declined to comment further. The command has said it was cooperating with law-enforcement on the case.
The investigation is ongoing and the nature of Gould’s involvement remains uncertain, but US military personnel getting involved in drug smuggling, particularly in Colombia, is not unheard of.
“It’s not unusual for servicemen to take advantage of the drug trade to make a lot of money,” said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for DEA.
They “have access to these foreign countries. They have contacts, and a lot of times they actually smuggle the drugs on military aircraft,” Vigil added, pointing to cases he was involved in during the 1970s in which US service members smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to the US, often carrying it in their personal luggage.
Authorities are trying to determine the timeline, the source of supply, and other people who may have been involved, Vigil said, adding that Gould may have gotten involved through his official duties or may have been connected with criminal groups, like remnants of the Cali or Valle de Cauca cartels, through personal contacts.
The smuggling attempt uncovered this month seemed “very sloppy,” suggesting those involved were “just getting into the business,” Vigil said.
“Anybody with a great knowledge [of trafficking] would’ve used a different transportation method or covered their tracks a little better.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps is offering some former Reserve pilots lucrative bonuses to get them back in the cockpit.
Former captains and majors qualified to fly certain aircraft who are willing to rejoin a Marine Corps squadron can pocket up to a $30,000 lump-sum bonus if they agree to a three-year term in the Active Reserve. Those willing to serve two years in the Reserve are eligible for a $20,000 payout.
It’s called the Active Reserve Aviator Return to Service Program, and it targets six types of fixed-wing, rotary and tiltrotor pilots “in order to fill critical aviation shortfalls,” a service-widemessage on the bonuses states.
Top priority will be given to former F/A-18 Hornet and MV-22B Osprey pilots, along with KC-130 Hercules aircraft commanders, according to the message. But the program is also open to former AV-8B Harrier, UH-1Y Venom and CH-53E Super Stallion pilots.
Capt. Christopher Prout with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing shoots an AIM-7 Sparrow missile from an F/A-18C Hornet airplane
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Capt. Christopher Prout)
“The retention incentive is distributed as a lump sum of 20,000 dollars for the 24 month service obligation or a lump sum of 30,000 dollars for the 36 month service obligation, less any applicable taxes,” the message states. “Lump sum payment will not be paid out until the member is joined to the [Active Reserve] program.”
The incentives will be paid out on a first-come, first-served basis “until funds are exhausted,” it adds.
Only aviators who previously qualified for — or had not yet applied for — career designation are eligible. Those who applied for but were not offered career designation in the Active Reserve are ineligible, the message states.
Pilots who were already career designated on the Active Reserve will automatically be career designated upon re-accession. Those who hadn’t previously applied for career designation will be able to do so once they rejoin.
Top assignments will involve flying operations at the squadron level across several Reserve units in the continental U.S., including California, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Maryland or New Orleans. Assignments aren’t limited to those squadrons though, the message adds.
Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 232, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing fly F/A-18C Hornet airplanes.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gregory Moore)
Captains who served more than 10 years of active-duty service who weren’t previously considered for major on an Active Reserve promotion board are eligible to apply. So are majors who weren’t previously considered for O-5 who served more than 12 years on active duty, and those who were considered for lieutenant colonel who served more than 15 years.
Earlier this year, the Marine Corps announced it would be offering big bonuses to active-duty pilots as well.
Top bonuses targeted Marines in the grades and communities with the biggest pilot shortages. Active-duty pilots were eligible to earn up to 0,000 bonuses if they agreed to keep flying for eight more years.
The bonuses targeted captains and majors who fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8 Harrier, MV-22 Osprey, C-130 Hercules, UH-1 Huey, AH-1 Cobra and CH-53 Stallion.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the opening days of WW1, Unterseeboots, better known simply as U-boats, proved to be a potent and constant threat to Allied ships, with one U-boat identified as SM U-9 infamously killing nearly 1,500 British sailors in less than an hour by sinking three armoured British cruisers on Sept. 22, 1914. That same U-boat would go on to sink over a dozen British ships during its naval career, with targets ranging from small fishing boats caught in open water to the Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The reason for the U-boat success in the early going of the war was, in part, due to the fact that when they were submerged they were undetectable by technology of the day.
Another factor that played into German hands is that the Allies, especially the British, consistently downplayed the danger posed by submarines and their value in combat. In fact, at first British Naval brass simply refused to acknowledge that U-boats were sinking ships. For example, the aforementioned actions of U-boat SM U-9 were initially attributed to mines.
In short, British Naval officers had little faith in the potential of submarines and wrote them off as a mere fascination that had no real potential in combat beyond novelty. Thus, they did little at first to try to come up with viable ways to combat them.
Things got real, however, when U-boats like SM U-9 began targeting British supply ships, almost bringing the country to its knees when it found itself unable to secure even basic provisions for its citizens and factories.
A solution was needed. But how to take out a target that is capable of disappearing at will?
It was quickly noted that one weakness of the U-boat was that it needed to use its periscope to mark its target before attacking. This presented a brief, but exploitable window of opportunity to attack the craft in some way. But how?
Up until the introduction of depth charges in 1916, while mines and large nets were utilized to protect certain areas with some minor effect, the conclusion of the Admiralty Submarine Attack Committee was that the best thing to do was simply for ships to either run away from or try to ram the U-boats when the periscope was spotted.
Naturally, beyond risking damage to your own vessel, getting closer to the thing that’s about to shoot you with an otherwise somewhat unreliably accurate torpedo isn’t ideal, nor is necessarily trying to run away when you’re already a marked target. However, it is at least noted that with the periscope up, U-boats couldn’t go faster than about 6 knots and, as stated, torpedoes of the age weren’t terribly accurate or reliable so the more distance you could get between you and the U-boat the better. In the end, these two methods weren’t totally ineffective, but a better solution was still needed.
German submarine, U-9, on return Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
(Illustration by Willy Stöwer)
This all got the wheels turning among the military think tanks, with the result being some rather humorous proposals as to how to solve the U-boat problem, with particular emphasis put on somehow taking out the periscope. After all, without the periscope, the U-boat’s only way to target a foe would be to completely surface, making it a relatively easy target for more traditional and accurate weaponry. With proper escorts for the supply ships, this could easily solve the U-boat problem.
But how to take out the periscope?
A suggestion by the British Board of Invention and Research was to train seagulls to fly at the periscopes, which would both make the presence of the periscope more apparent and potentially obscure the vision of the person looking through the periscope long enough to take action… To do this, it was suggested that they feed seagulls in certain regions they wanted protected through periscope like devices.
Next up, there was a suggestion to simply put a type of paint in the water with the hopes that it would get on the periscope lens, blinding the operator.
Going back to animals, a sea lion trainer called Joseph Woodward was hired to look into the possibility of training sea lions to detect U-boats and then hopefully alert the British of their presence. Unfortunately it isn’t known whether this method was effective, though the Royal Society does note that the training of at least some sea lions was performed. We presume given that the program wasn’t expanded beyond trials that it wasn’t terribly effective or perhaps not practical.
As you might imagine, none of these methods went anywhere. But this brings us to the rather absurd method that does seem to have been put into practice.
In the early days of the war, sailors were put on small patrol boats, all equipped with the latest and greatest in anti-submarine technology — large hammers and bags.
They were thus instructed that if they saw a periscope popping up to the surface, they were to try to get close to it, then have one person place a bag over the periscope while another got their Whack-A-Mole on in an attempt to destroy it, hopefully all before any target could be identified and a torpedo launched.
Exactly how effective this tactic is isn’t clear but we do know that it was popular enough for at least one senior officer aboard the HMS Exmouth to enlist the help of burly blacksmiths with extra large hammers to patrol with sailors aboard the smaller boats. With their amazing hammering abilities, both in strength and blow accuracy, presumably it was hoped they’d do a better job than your average sailor at quickly taking out a periscope.
Of course, as more sophisticated technologies were developed, this tactic, sadly, became obsolete. But never forget for a brief, but glorious time in history, there was a guy who could claim his job was to hunt submarines with a giant hammer, no doubt giving a cry of “For Asgard!!!” before smiting his foe.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.