His team spotted by insurgents and forced to take cover in an abandoned compound, Marine sniper Joshua Moore went against his instinct when two grenades landed next to him, throwing one of them back at the enemy and holding off insurgent fire until help could arrive.
Moore, at the time a lance corporal, was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions.
Moore was part of a scout sniper platoon during a mission in Marjah, Afghanistan, in March 2011, when insurgents targeted his team.
As the U.S. Navy crews of two riverine command boats were being held on Iran’s Farsi island by members of the Revolutionary Guard, their captors began to interrogate the group, demanding to know where the Navy “mothership” was.
The ten crew members insisted on the truth — that there was no mothership, and the 50-foot boats were making a transit of 250 nautical miles from Kuwait to Bahrain on their own.
Reportedly, the captors were incredulous, telling the group they didn’t believe the boats could make the distance on their own.
“Yeah,” at least one of the Navy crew members reportedly laughed. “I wish you could tell my people that, because we told them these boats can’t do that.”
This exchange, revealed for the first time in a Navy command investigation made public Thursday, highlights many of the key findings regarding the circumstances that led to the 15-hour detention of the ten sailors Jan. 12.
The 170-page probe found shoddy training, poor preparation, communication gaps and leadership failures all were to blame for the international incident, which was manipulated into a propaganda victory by the Iranians.
Among other discoveries, the investigation found that members of the riverine boat crews had been up all night before the planned transit attempting to repair the poorly maintained boats, a violation of policies requiring ample rest before journeys of that length.
They determined that the sailors had unknowingly passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before accidentally entering Iranian territorial waters. And they found the sailors had committed multiple code-of-conduct violations while detained, demonstrating a lack of understanding of policy and insufficient training.
In all, the investigation recommends that eight Navy officers and petty officers be held accountable for leadership and conduct failings in the incident.
Transit gone wrong
According to the investigation, the transit of the two riverine boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 began in the afternoon Jan. 12. The boats were ordered to transit from Kuwait to Bahrain to support an upcoming military exercise, a longer distance than the crews, or anyone from the squadron, had ever covered before in the vessels.
The boats planned to meet up with the Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy before sunset to refuel, and altered their course as soon as they got underway to reach the cutter faster, but without notifying anyone of their plans, according to the investigation.
From the outset, communications were a problem. The second riverine boat, 805, eventually established satellite communication with officials from the parent unit, Task Force 56.7, in Bahrain. The lead boat, 802, never established satellite communication.
Shortly into the journey, just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the boats unknowingly entered and passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters. Just after 3:45 p.m., they entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Monomoy, monitoring the journey, notified task force officials that the boats appeared to be in Iranian territorial seas.
Fewer than 30 minutes after the boats entered the region, boat 802 discovered a loss of lube oil pressure. The two boats decided to go “dead in the water” to investigate the engine issue, just 1.5 nautical miles south of Farsi island.
Minutes later, two small Iranian boats approached, crew-mounted weapons pointed at the riverine boats. Some of the riverine crew members went to man their own crew-mounted weapons, but the captain of the lead boat, a Navy lieutenant and the only officer in the group, waved them off in an attempt to de-escalate.
As Iranian troops racked their weapons and pointed AK-47s and .50-caliber guns at the sailors, the officer made another attempt to extricate the boats from the worsening situation, ordering the lead boat’s coxswain to accelerate through the Iranian boats in a getaway attempt. But the coxswain disregarded the order, telling investigators later that he thought members of the crew would be killed if he followed it.
Two additional Iranian boats arrived, and members of the guard boarded the riverine boats, tearing down the American flags they were flying and hoisting Revolutionary Guard flags in their place. They blindfolded the sailors, taking their personal belongings and tying their hands together with pieces of Iranian flag, according to the report.
Then the guided the two riverine boats to Farsi island, where the sailors would spend their brief period as detainees.
The ten sailors were kept together in a room, where they were first interrogated together, then one-by-one, in sessions ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. Iranian captors would bring in food and attempt to film the sailors with a video camera as they ate. The lead boat captain resisted these efforts to film the crews, but ultimately told the sailors they should eat because it wasn’t clear when their next meal was coming.
In perhaps the most significant misstep during this period of detention, the lead boat commander agreed to read scripted remarks on camera in front of an Iranian “news crew” in which he apologized for the mistake of ending up in Iranian water and said the incident was “our fault.” He did this in exchange for the promise of release, the investigation found, against military code of conduct rules for such situations. Unbeknownst to him, the release of all the sailors had already been secured by the U.S. government and their departure from Farsi island was imminent.
Because of unit upheaval and reorganization in previous years, Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and its parent unit, Coastal Riverine Group 1, found themselves undermanned and overtasked. The crews of the two command boats had missed key skills training periods due to operational commitments, the investigating officer found, and were lacking navigation training as well as training needed to prepare them to operate in the Middle East during their deployment.
Poor communication meant that the then-commander of Task Force 56, Capt. Kyle Moses, didn’t realize the units were inadequately prepared for deployment, the investigator found. On top of that, the investigation determined, the task force fostered a “can’t say no” command climate, meaning that lower-ranking troops fell in line rather than raising important concerns.
Neither Moses, nor the commander of Task Force 56.7 in Bahrain, nor the Kuwait detachment officer-in-charge, understood the poor condition of the riverine command boats, neither of which was fully operational, the investigation found. Neither task force had a sense of ownership of the boats, officials said.
This lack of leadership and training was considered by investigator to be an extenuating factor in the conduct of the riverine boat crews, which made a series of bad choices starting with “blindly” deviating from course at the outset.
The two boat captains did not understand proper procedure for addressing an engine failure underway. They failed to keep their weapons manned while dead in the water to guard against a surprise attack. Both captains failed to exercise self-defense when the Iranians demonstrated hostile intent, the investigation found, due to a lack of understanding of how to do so. The lead boat captain surrendered both boats to the Iranian authorities, the probe found. While the military code of conduct acknowledges that troops may be captured, it forbids surrender if they have the means to resist.
And while detained, the crews showed some confusion about what they were permitted to say. The investigator found some volunteered pieces of information apart from name, rank and serial number, including the top speed of the riverine boats and the fact that the parent command owned a third boat. The sailors’ comment about telling their command the boats couldn’t make the journey demonstrated lack of trust in their chain of command to the detaining forces, the investigator said, and could have been used for propaganda purposes.
Discipline and recommendations
Despite the missteps of the captain of the lead boat, the investigating officer accounted for his junior rank and lack of fleet experience and oversight, recommending only that a copy of the investigation be forwarded to his commander for appropriate oversight.
“He was placed in a difficult position, albeit one in which his own actions placed him and nine other sailors in danger,” the investigating officer wrote. “His deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of operations lacked any form of oversight and he lacked basic mentorship and development from his entire chain of command. Left to his own devices, he emulated the poor leadership traits he witnessed firsthand within his own chain of command.”
The report also recommends discipline for the commander of the second boat and the coxswain who disobeyed the order to accelerate away, asking that the investigation be forwarded to their chain of command for action.
Discipline is also recommended for Task Force 56 Commander Moses, the Task Force 56 chief staff officer, the commanding officer and executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and the Kuwait officer-in-charge at the time of the transit.
The Navy announced that CRS-3 executive officer Cmdr. Eric Rasch had been relieved from his post in May. Moses was relieved earlier this month. Actions regarding the other officers have not been made public to date.
The investigating officer also recommended an immediate operational training and readiness stand-down for Task Force 56 to ensure adequate training and readiness, as well as the implementation of monthly live-fire training and a review of policies and procedures for maritime operational centers.
In view of the confusion surrounding who was in charge and the chain of command once the riverine boats got underway and the lack of familiarity with the boats’ capabilities, the investigator recommended developing a career track “specifically for the competitive selection and detailing of post-department head surface warfare officers to officer-in-charge billets at the coastal riverine squadrons.”
The report casts a strongly unfavorable light on the actions of the Iranian guards, who the investigating officer found accosted and detained U.S. sailors in an innocent passage through territorial waters, against international norms. The riverine boats were inappropriately searched and communications wires cut, the probe found. And many of the sailors who were interrogated had their personal space invaded during periods of questioning as Iranian interrogators sought to intimidate them into giving up information.
These findings appear to run somewhat counter to remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the sailors’ release and thanked Iranian authorities for their quick response.
“All indications suggest that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet,” Kerry said Jan. 13.
In a largely damning report, there are a few commendations. The investigating officer recommended that the No. 2 gunner aboard the second riverine boat — the only female sailor among the ten detained — be recognized for her quick thinking in activating an emergency beacon while “kneeling, bound and blindfolded” at Iranian gunpoint, in a brave but ultimately thwarted attempt to call for help.
The commanders and crews of the cutter Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, which coordinated to track the captured sailors and provided assistance on their return, were also recommended for special recommendation.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was expected to discuss the findings of the investigation on Thursday.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you use the Marine Corps’ iconic eagle, globe and anchor to try and make a buck, you’re gonna hear about it real fast.
In fact, almost any use of an official government seal, logo or name will usually result in a cease and desist letters. The same goes for using insignia, symbols, phrases, and mottos from any branch of the military.
Except maybe the new Space Force. That cease and desist letter might come from Netflix — because the Department of Defense didn’t quite get to it in time.
The new Netflix show from Greg Daniels and starring Steve Carrell is stealing the spotlight from the military’s sixth branch, almost everywhere, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Netflix snagged the trademark in many countries around the world before the branch could actually stand up, according to The Hollywood Reporter. While the Air Force’s trademark application for rights in the United States is still pending, Netflix is winning the race in Europe, Australia and Mexico.
It’s first come, first serve at the Patent Office, and Netflix was much faster, applying for the trademark rights in January 2020, even though President Trump ordered the Pentagon to create an independent Space Force as far back as 2018.
Could the show be confused with the actual branch of the military by those seeking it out? The Air Force says no.
“At this time, we are not aware of any trademark conflicts with the fictional program ‘Space Force’ produced by Netflix,” an Air Force spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. “We wish Netflix and the show’s producers the best in their creative depiction of our nation’s newest branch of the military.”
On the internet, however, “Space Force” the show continually overshadows Space Force the military branch. Press releases get confused and then buried in Google search results. On Twitter, the show has the handle @realspaceforce while the real Space Force has to settle for @SpaceForceDoD. Even the Space Force recruiting commercial can’t compare to a “Space Force” teaser trailer – in viewership, anyway.
There’s one area where the military’s Space Force might best the Netflix show: reviews. The show has not gone over well with critics and viewers.
He’s had triple bypass surgery, two leg amputations, gallbladder removal and eye surgery.
So how does Jim Jacobi feel?
“I feel healthier now at (age) 75 than I did at 50,” said the U.S. Army Veteran. “I’ve had a lot of things done to me, but I feel healthier now (because of) my attitude and the (Milwaukee) VA.
“I just have a positive attitude about everything.”
For many, the ravages of disease and age take their toll mentally as well as physically. But Jacobi, a Milwaukee native who served one year in Vietnam after being drafted in 1965, has chosen a different path.
“It’s better to be happy and friendly,” he said. “When I was 50, I said, ‘You gotta be happy. Don’t let things bother you.'”
And he has stuck by that philosophy, tackling his various physical ailments with determination and fortitude that belie his age.
“He’s unique, he’s an outlier,” said Milwaukee VA prosthetist Justin Heck. “He’s an inspiring guy.”
Sarah Mikesell, Jacobi’s physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA, agreed.
“Statistically, he’s an anomaly, being as old as he is and being able to walk with bilateral prostheses. That’s definitely against the odds.
“Jim is really super motivated. He does a good job taking care of himself and following through on recommendations. And he tries to share his good, positive attitude with everybody else.”
Jim Jacobi, a U.S. Army Veteran, stands with the help of physical therapist Sarah Mikesell at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after putting on his new prosthetic leg.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacobi was just a few months out of high school when his number came up.
His job in the Army was ordering food for the troops — 150,000 when he arrived and 200,000 by the time he was discharged.
“Me and the captain were the two people that ordered all the food for the II Corps,” he said. “When I left, the captain and I got replaced by a whole company.”
His job took him to the front lines, and he remembers being shelled by mortar fire his very first day in the country.
Somewhere along the way – he’s not sure when or how – he was exposed to Agent Orange. And that is what led to the disease that has gnawed away at him – diabetes.
Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to the disease. And while heredity is also associated with diabetes, Jacobi said he’s the only member of his family to develop it.
After Vietnam, Jacobi worked in manufacturing for a number of years before opening a gas station. That eventually led to a job with a company that oversaw 13 convenience stores.
The work played to Jacobi’s strengths of being friendly and outgoing.
“I realized that in a factory, you see the same people every day,” he said. “When I was working for the convenience stores, I would be going to different stores. I had a lot of people working for me, and I got to know some of the customers. I’m more of a people-oriented person.”
It wasn’t long after Jacobi’s retirement when the diabetes began to take its toll.
He remembers getting an infection in the big toe on his right leg. A month later, all of his toes on his right foot had to be amputated.
“Since I’ve had this, I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling — I do all of that.”
— Jim Jacobi, talking about how his life changed after losing his first leg.
Three years later, the leg had to be amputated. Jacobi was fitted with a prosthetic, and within months he was walking again. But that wasn’t all. Besides hooking up with the Walk a Mile or More group of Veterans at the Milwaukee VA, Jacobi also became involved with recreation groups through the Spinal Cord Injury center.
“Since I’ve had this,” he said, pointing to his first prosthesis, “I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. “We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling – I do all of that.”
He found a “great bunch of guys” at the SCI and WAMM, which gathers three days a week at Lake Wheeler on the Milwaukee VA campus not only to walk for exercise but also to socialize.
“You meet such wonderful people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also went on outings to Harley-Davidson and organized bicycle rides on the Hank Aaron Trail. He and his buddies would also serve free coffee once a week at the hospital’s South Entrance.
But diabetes wasn’t done with Jacobi yet.
A familiar scenario began last summer when the little toe on Jacobi’s left leg had to be amputated. The remaining toes were taken in succession within months.
In February, he was back in the hospital, having his remaining leg amputated.
During his recovery, his friends would drop by his room every day, doing what they could and bringing him anything he needed.
“The nurses on the seventh floor, they were amazed I would have about 10 guys visiting me before the virus shut it down,” he said. “They’re great buddies… They’re always there to help you. And I’m the same way – I’ll do anything I can to help them.”
In June, Jacobi was fitted with his new prosthesis, and physical therapy began again.
He hasn’t been able to take it home yet – it’s still being tweaked. Meanwhile, the remainder of his left leg continues to heal after the amputation.
As is his nature, Jacobi has not seen this latest amputation as a roadblock, but merely a hurdle to get over.
“My goal is to walk without any device – no walker, no cane – by the end of the summer,” he said.
And according to the experts, he’s likely to do it.
“I think he’s on track,” Mikesell said.
“It’s all him. He wants to do it,” Heck said. “How positive he is – that’s the hardest part.
“Physically, we know people can walk or stand with the prosthetics. That’s fairly simple. To do it well and stay positive and work at it every day – that’s the hard part.”
Diabetes threw Jacobi another curveball in June.
He woke up one Sunday morning and noticed his vision was impaired.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring. I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complaint about VA.”
— Jim Jacobi talks about the care he receives at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
“It was like hair was hanging in my eye,” he said. “But I don’t have any hair.”
After talking with his primary care physician’s nurse on Monday, Jacobi walked into the eye clinic at the Milwaukee VA the next day and had laser surgery on the spot.
As Jacobi explained it, the diabetes led to the formation of blood vessels in the back of his eye.
“It looks like hair, but it’s actually blood,” he said.
Jacobi has one more procedure for the eye, scheduled in August.
Through all of this, Jacobi has continued to maintain his positive, upbeat attitude while lauding the care he has received at the Milwaukee VA.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complain about the VA.”
His health care providers at the Milwaukee VA are equally as appreciative of Jacobi.
“Jim’s a really good advocate for himself and other amputees,” Mikesell said, noting that Jacobi annually volunteers to work with students in training to be physical therapists. “He’s willing to share his knowledge and wisdom.”
“He has been an advocate for other Veterans as well as for the workers here,” Heck said.
Jacobi has a theory about people, saying 25% have “wonderful attitudes,” 50% have “normal” attitudes and the remaining 25% have “negative” attitudes.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I wish we could get to that 25% who are angry.
“I see patients when I’m in the hospital, and some guys are so grumpy and negative. That’s a shame to see,” he said.
“It’s better to have a positive attitude. You make everybody else feel positive too.”
U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.
Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.
The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.
New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
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“I was confused,” said Shirron, who was a sergeant at the time. “I asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I thought there must be a mistake.”
The terrorist attacks that day — Sept. 11, 2001 — would change the course of Shirron’s career, and that of countless other troops, and have lasting implications for Fort Bragg and the military.
Almost immediately, Fort Bragg tightened security to its highest level. Training, typically a year-round affair, stopped. Instead, soldiers and airmen were readied to respond to the attacks.
The first soldiers would leave Fort Bragg in the weeks following the attacks. Since then, they have been continuously deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror.
Shirron, stationed in Germany in 2001 with the 1st Infantry Division, said he didn’t fully learn what was happening until several hours after the attacks.
First, his convoy was turned around and ordered to report to the closest US military installation. When they arrived at Wurzburg, then the home of the 1st Infantry Division, they were greeted by soldiers in full body armor with loaded weapons.
The entire installation was on lockdown. Shirron and others were given space in an empty mailroom to rest and wait for orders.
Across the hall, he found about 40 soldiers gathered around a television, watching the news of the attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania
“Everything changed,” he said. “The Army gained a much greater purpose. And service became about something much greater than yourself.”
Shirron joined the Army in 1997, starting out in the Arkansas National Guard. He was a student at the University of Central Arkansas, still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
In the Army, he found the purpose he was lacking. And less than a year later, he transferred to active duty as a fires support specialist.
“I liked what it taught me, not only about myself but about what the Army was,” Shirron said of his decision.
He served at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before transferring to Germany.
In those years before the attacks, Shirron said, Army life was very different from what it was today.
“The worst part was that every six months or year, you were going to be gone for about 30 days for training,” he said. “That’s what everyone dreaded.”
Training was less urgent and more monotonous, he said. Soldiers prepared for “Russian hordes” and other threats that didn’t seem real.
But after the attacks, training changed.
It was more focused and efficient. There was an urgency, a realism that had lacked before.
“The tempo picked up,” Shirron said. “We were grasping a new type of warfighting. Leaders understood the gravity of the situation and our methods were changing.”
Those who once dreaded month-long exercises now recognized that deployments would become part of life. They would serve for a year or more in countries they knew little about prior to the attacks.
Shirron said that prospect didn’t scare many out of the force. Instead, it created new resolve.
“Now, training was real,” he said. “Now, deployments were eminent.”
Shirron was approaching the end of a three-year enlistment when 9/11 happened. He soon would re-enlist for a six-year tour.
He said he wanted to serve his country when he joined, fueled by patriotism and a sense of duty. Things were different for those who joined in the days and weeks after the attack.
“The soldiers that came in after 9/11 — they knew immediately that they were going to fight,” Shirron said. “They joined because of 9/11. They wanted to do their part.”
Others in the military today were too young to join in the wake of 9/11.
First Lt. Andrew Scholl, a member of the brigade staff for the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade, was in fourth grade in Proctorville, Ohio, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
“I can remember there were some teachers being taken out of class and talked to in private,” Scholl said. “Next thing I knew, they came in and told us our parents would be picking us up.”
Scholl’s father arrived in full uniform. He was a lieutenant colonel serving as a professor of military science at Marshall University, and he did his best to explain to his son what had happened.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around that as a fourth-grader,” Scholl said.
Soon, his father was off to meetings at the Pentagon. Two deployments would follow — one for a year and another for six months.
Scholl said he never had thought much about serving in the military.
“Teachers would ask, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ I never really had an answer before,” he said. “But after that day, it was ‘I want to be in the Army.’ Ever since that day, it’s all I wanted to do.”
Scholl said most young soldiers today don’t remember the attacks. They don’t remember a peacetime military. And that makes their service all the more impressive.
“They were born in 1997 and were growing up,” he said. “We’re still at war. There’s no clear end in sight.”
“If anything, I think that shows what kind of people are joining today,” Scholl added. “It speaks volumes for their character.”
Shirron has deployed three times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He served 15 months and 14 months in Iraq, and 11 months in Afghanistan.
In 2008, he attended the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate School. He’s now assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as a lethal targeting officer.
He said the Army has changed much over the last 16 years, but that focus is still there.
“We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long,” Shirron said. “But the burden on the individual soldier is only increasing.”
Today, the military juggles old and new threats, he said. There’s increased uncertainty in the Pacific, where North Korea continues to rattle sabers. And there’s budget uncertainty hanging over much of the force.
Shirron said he often looks back at how the Army and his own career was affected by Sept. 11.
“If 9/11 hadn’t have happened, I can’t say I would be here,” he said. “The world changed that day. I’m here now because of what happened that day. And definitely the military changed that day.”
In this episode of No Sh*t There I Was, Nye sets off on a fools-errand with a bunch of high brass and a very stressed out guy charged with detecting IEDs. When they hear a call on the radio that a potential insurgent is fleeing a checkpoint, they take off running to intercept — leaving the metal detector behind.
“Pass the guy protecting us from IEDs…because there are too many probable IEDs on the ground…?” Nye’s inner monologue reflects that of everyone who has ever had to deal with an overly-enthusiastic boss.
Luckily, the rag-tag group of heroes didn’t encounter any IEDs that day, but they did stumble upon something else much more…groovy? Check out the video at the top to see what it was.
Oh, and to my fellow officers out there, let’s try to get in the way of the experts a little less, shall we?
The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Sherman unloaded roughly 11 tons of cocaine in San Diego on August 18. The haul was the result of seizures performed by USCG Cutters Alert, Reliance, Sherman, Tampa, and Vigorous in the eastern Pacific from mid-June through July.
The drug shipments were intercepted in international waters off the coast of South America, which is a major cocaine production area, and of Central America, which has become a major drug transshipment point in recent years.
The eastern Pacific Ocean has become an important thoroughfare for illegal narcotics produced in South America and headed for the US and points elsewhere.
Latin American criminal organizations often coordinate to move shipments north from the Pacific Coasts of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia (which produces the most coca in the world), to destinations in Central America, particularly Guatemala, and parts of Mexico’s west coast.
Mexico’s Pacific ports and other coastal areas have also become areas of competition for that country’s drug cartels, driving violence up.
In March this year, Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of US forces operating in Central and South America, told lawmakers that US forces were ill-prepared to meet the goal of interdicting 40% of the illegal traffic moving from the region toward the US.
“I do not have the ships; I do not have the aircraft, to be able to execute the detection-monitoring mission to the level that has been established for us to achieve,” Tidd said at the time.
The US’s F-35, from the Joint Strike Fighter program, is the most expensive weapons system of all time and a fighter jet meant to revolutionize aerial combat, but Turkey, a US NATO ally, looks poised to let Russia destroy the program from within.
Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program, has long sought to operate the fighter jet and Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile-defense system at the same time.
But experts have told Business Insider that patching Russia through to NATO air defenses, and giving them a good look at the F-35, represents a shocking breakdown of military security.
On March 5, 2019, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea was as bad as it sounds.
“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti said.
“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” NATO Allied Air Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said in July 2018.
NATO worries about “how much, for how long, and how close” the F-35 would operate near the S-400s. “All those would have to be determined. We do know for right now it is a challenge,” he continued.
Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”
Russia wouldn’t just sell Turkey the radars, batteries, and missiles and then walk away, it would actively provide them support and training. Russian eyes could then gain access to NATO’s air defenses and also take a good look at the F-35.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The F-35’s fate in Turkey’s hands?
Because NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, allowing Russia to learn information about its air defense would defeat the purpose it and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.
But the US has little choice now. Turkey has pivoted away from democracy and has frequently feuded with its NATO allies since a 2016 attempted coup prompted the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to consolidate power.
Turkey holds millions of Syrian refugees and has helped stem the number of refugees entering Europe. Turkey has expressed fury at the White House for years over the US support of Kurds in Syria and Iraq during the fight against ISIS. Turkey brands the militant Kurdish units “terrorists.”
The F-35 holds advantages besides stealth, including a never-before-seen ability to network with other fighters, but the S-400 remains a leading threat to the fighters.
Russia, if it spotted an F-35 with its powerful counter-stealth radars, would still face a steep challenge in porting that data to a shooter somewhere that could track and fire on the F-35, but nobody in the US military wants to see Russia looped in to the F-35’s classified tactics and specifics.
Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.
“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.
First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.
Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.
Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.
A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.
Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.
Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.
Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”