This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.


One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.

Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.

“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.

After answering the door, he ran into the street.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
U.S. Airmen assigned to the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department extinguish a fire during a live fire training scenario at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., June 27, 2017. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado)

“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”

To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.

“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”

Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.

“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.

They immediately jumped into action.

Related: How 10k soldiers helped out during Hurricane Irma

“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”

The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.

“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”

The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
A burned out car lies in front of the remains of a house that was destroyed by the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires destroyed more than 15,000 homes and caused more than $3 billion in damages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”

The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.

The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.

“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.

They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.

“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”

So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.

“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
Camp Guernsey Fire Department and Wyoming Air Guard firefighters train together at the Wyoming Airport Rescue Fire Fighting Training Facility in Casper. (Wyoming Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire)

The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.

“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”

In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.

“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”

Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.

“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”

But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.

Read Also: 16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”

Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.

“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”

Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.

“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, surveys the remains of his family’s home after the California wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Oct. 31, 2017. The recent wildfires consumed more than 15,000 homes, and caused at least $3 billion in damage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps)

The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.

“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”

Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.

“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”

Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.

“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”

“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the US wants to take down Iran

Early reports suggest National Security Advisor John Bolton presented a plan that called for 120,000 U.S. troops to counter Iran, just in case the Islamic Republic ups the ante by attacking American forces or starts building nuclear weapons again.



Tensions in the region are reaching a fever pitch as the United States sends more warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf and the Saudis accuse Iran of attacking oil tankers using armed drones. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s plan does not include a ground invasion force. But John Bolton is no moderate when it comes to regime change, and there’s no way his plan for the United States toppling the Iranian regime precludes a ground invasion.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

The guy who openly admits he joined the National Guard because he didn’t want to die in a rice paddy in Vietnam has no problem sending your kids to die in Iran.

Bolton has openly advocated for the U.S. to use military power to foment regime change everywhere from Syria and Iran to North Korea and Venezuela. Bolton even backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and still maintains it was a good idea, despite everyone else, from historians to President Bush himself, admitting it was a costly, bungled pipe dream. President Bush soon learned from his mistakes and Bolton’s career was wisely kicked back into the loony bin where it belongs.

Also: Here are 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

But there’s a new President in office, one who has elevated Bolton and his hawkish sentiment to the post of National Security Advisor. While Bolton may have presented a plan without an invasion force, it’s very likely he has one somewhere that does include an invasion, and 120,000 troops will not be enough.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

John Bolton is a mouth just begging for a sock.

The extra seapower is likely just the beginning of the overall plan to topple the Islamic Republic. A complete naval blockade in the Persian Gulf would be necessary to cut Iran off from outside supplies, help from the Revolutionary Guards Corps forces, and protect international shipping lanes. This sounds like it should be easy for the U.S. Navy, but Iran’s unconventional naval forces could prove difficult to subdue without American losses.

Now Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military – and won

That would be a significant escalation, perhaps even enough to subdue the Iranian regime for the time being. But that’s not John Bolton’s style, as cyber attacks would work to cripple what military, economic, and physical infrastructure it could while U.S. troops deploy inside Iran. The Islamic Republic is firmly situation between Iraq and a hard place, both countries where American troops are deployed and have freedom to move.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

The worldwide demand for white Toyota pickups is about to skyrocket. Or land rocket. Because of Javelins.

Then the ground game will begin. Tier one forces from the U.S. Special Operations command will conduct leadership strikes and capture or destroy command and control elements. Other special operators will have to engage Iranian special forces inside Iran and wherever else they’re deployed near U.S. troops, especially in Iraq and Syria. It’s likely that Army Special Forces would link up with anti-regime fighters inside Iran to foment an internal uprising against the regime.

Meanwhile, the main ground invasion force will have to contend with some 500,000 defenders, made up of Iran’s actual army, unconventional Quds Force troops, Shia militias like those seen in the Iraq War and the fight against ISIS, and potentially more unconventional forces and tactics.

Also: The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

Conventional American troops will seal the country off along its borders, especially the porous ones next to Iraq and Afghanistan, where significant numbers of American combat troops are already deployed. The combined squeeze of American troops from the East and West along with the naval blockade of the Persian Gulf would be akin to Winfield Scott’s Civil War-era Anaconda Plan, which crippled Confederate supply lines while strangling the South. American forces would move from the northern areas to southern Iran in a multi-pronged movement.

The first prong would be a thrust from the northwest into the southern oil fields and into the Strait of Hormuz, securing Iranian oil and shipping infrastructure. The second prong would move right into northern Iran, cutting it off from its northern neighbors. The final thrust would likely cut Tehran off from the outside while keeping an eye on the border with Pakistan.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Kinda like this except in the desert… and the Indians are very different.

While Iran’s borders with Iraq and Afghanistan make moving U.S. troops to the Iranian combat zone easier, it also leaves America’s supply lines vulnerable to attack. These would need to be reinforced and protected at every opportunity and are vulnerable to sympathetic forces that could be exploited by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Quds Forces, as all routes into Afghanistan pass through Iranian neighbors or their allies, which include Pakistan.

How long this would take is anyone’s guess, but the United States managed to build up its forces and topple Saddam Hussein’s Iranian regime in less than a year, though CIA operatives had been in-country with opposition forces for longer. If the CIA or American special operations troops are already inside Iran, then the invasion has already begun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers share marksmanship tips with Iraqi forces

For soldiers worldwide, rifle marksmanship is one of the most basic skills each and every soldier must possess.

Iraqi soldiers are learning how tedious the training can be and what it takes to become an expert marksman.

Mississippi Guard members of Task Force India Bravo instructed Iraqi army soldiers assigned to the Supply and Transportation Regiment on basic marksmanship in a weeklong primary marksmanship instruction class.


The Iraqi soldiers were fully engaged with the essential training.

“Training like this is going to give knowledge to the soldiers. In this way he can know everything he needs and that will make him a better soldier,” said one Iraqi company commander with the Supply and Transportation Regiment.

Though the soldiers may not be infantry, marksmanship skills are important to them.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Garner, right, security forces platoon sergeant assigned to Task Force India Bravo, teaches an Iraqi army primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“Each and every soldier is supposed to know how to be a soldier first, so anything that he could learn is important,” he said. “When we do our jobs we face many things, mechanical problems, casualties, and even death. If we can prepare our soldiers for this, they will be better.”

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Driskill, left, a cavalry scout assigned to Task Force India Bravo, assists an Iraqi soldier with a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

Though marksmanship is a basic skill universal to all services, the evaluation of marksmanship skill varies.

“Their weapons qualification is completely different than ours, but that doesn’t matter when we teach basic marksmanship fundamentals — it is universal,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Garner, security forces platoon sergeant assigned to Task Force India Bravo.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Driskill, left, a cavalry scout assigned to Task Force India Bravo, assists an Iraqi soldier with a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

The training was tailored to the needs of the Iraqi soldiers.

“Prior to beginning training we assessed them on their skills, then we developed our training course based on a NATO Primary Method of Instruction,” he said.

The course layout mirrored the way the U.S. Army trains its soldiers.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

An Iraqi soldier conducts a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“We taught a course including both classroom and practical exercises and we went from less than 10 percent to more than 75 percent being able to demonstrate weapons proficiency,” said Garner.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

An Iraqi soldier conducts a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course held at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“We saw a drastic change in their accuracy of their marksmanship, after teaching the class,” he said. “There was a 75 percent improvement from pre- to post-assessment.”

“To date we have trained approximately 500 soldiers,” said Garner. “In the near future we will teach courses on advanced marksmanship techniques.”

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

MIGHTY MONEY

FEMA says counties near military bases eligible for disaster assistance

Widespread devastation from Hurricane Matthew has prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency to designate residents from a total of 55 counties as eligible for individual disaster assistance. States like Florida; South Carolina; Georgia; and North Carolina were hit hard by the storm — both in coastal communities and further inland past Fort Bragg.


This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
Specialist Jerimyha Pectol, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, stages humanitarian aid intended for victims of Hurricane Matthew at Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, October 17th.

As the damage is assessed, FEMA has added counties from all four states where individual residents may apply for disaster relief funding.

Hurricane Matthew made its first landfall by slamming into Haiti on Oct. 4, resulting in over 800 casualties in that island nation. Matthew tore over Cuba and the Bahamas, before impacting the southern Atlantic states. By the time Matthew made its way back out to sea, the death toll had reached nearly 1,400.

The United States Southern Command released a statement Oct. 18 that the command had deployed more than 2,000 personnel and 11 helicopters aboard the USS Iwo Jima to deliver over 223 metric tons of aid and supplies to Haiti. SOUTHCOM expects that the military involvement will recede once “more experienced experts arrive” on the ground in Haiti.

President Obama declared a state of emergency in the four states Oct. 7, opening up federal financial aid. Each of the states’ governors declared states of emergency, and the National Guard was activated to several locations.

According to Newsy, Moody’s Analytics reported that the financial damage from Hurricane Matthew could surpass the $70 billion price tag of Superstorm Sandy.

As a direct result of the damage and the expected cost, FEMA has been quick to update its systems to open up aid to individuals in the stricken areas. There are several ways to request disaster relief funding. Individuals may visit the FEMA website, or call FEMA directly at 800-621-3362.

FEMA also recommends that those affected by the storm call their insurance company to make claims, document the damage with photographs, and complete a proof of loss. Insurance companies can help individuals with this process.

Currently, the list of counties that FEMA has approved for individual disaster relief includes:

  • Flagler County, Putnam County, St. Johns County, and Volusia County in Florida
  • Bryan County; Bulloch County; Chatham County; Effingham County; Glynn County; McIntosh County; and Wayne County in Georgia
  • Beaufort County; Bertie County; Bladen County; Columbus County; Craven County; Cumberland County; Dare County; Duplin County; Edgecombe County; Gates County; Greene County; Harnett County, Hoke County; Hyde County; Johnston County; Jones County; Lenoir County; Martin County; Nash County; Pender County; Pitt County; Robeson County; Sampson County; Tyrrell County; Washington County; Wayne County and Wilson County in North Carolina
  • Allendale County; Bamberg County; Barnwell County; Beaufort County; Colleton County; Darlington County; Dillon County; Dorchester County; Florence County; Georgetown County; Hampton County; Jasper County; Lee County; Marion County; Orangeburg County; Sumter County and Williamsburg County in South Carolina
Articles

The military pay raise for 2017 might be a bit underwhelming

The U.S. military has a reputation for being overworked and underpaid.


But we all knew that going in.

The virtue of service and pride of wearing the uniform makes up for much of the disparity in pay compared to the civilian market. Still, it’s nice to get that bump in our paychecks every year.

Yet, the pay increase for 2017 won’t be so big. In an August 2016 letter to Congress, President Obama announced a 1.6 percent raise for the armed forces, consistent with the budget he sent to The Hill earlier in the year.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
(White House photo)

Across-the-board pay increases for other federal employees will be 1 percent.

“These decisions will not materially affect our ability to attract and retain a well-qualified Federal workforce,” Obama said in his letter to Congress.

Pay raises for the military peaked in 1983 when President Reagan instituted a 14.3 percent pay raise. Since then, the increase hovered steadily between 3 and 5 percent, with an average of 4.2 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
Military pay raises since 1977.

According to Military.com’s Brendan McGarry, the Senate backs the President’s proposed numbers, but the House of Representatives was looking for a 2.1 percent raise.

When Congress agrees on how much it will be, the military pay raise will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Articles

The battle to retake this ISIS stronghold in Syria is getting ugly

The battle to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror group is a fight increasingly without front lines.


The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have breached the old city and control about a quarter of the terror group’s de facto capital, say American officials, but holding what has already been seized is proving a struggle.

Disputes between the SDF and some Free Syrian Army militias who have started to participate in the battle isn’t helping the advance, but the biggest obstacle remains the determined defense of IS fighters, who are using similar urban warfare tactics seen in the past nine months in the terror group’s fight to delay the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi security forces.

A month into the Raqqa assault, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and the use of an elaborate network of tunnels to mount ambushes — as well as exploiting civilians as human shields — are all being deployed by the militants. IS militants have also been using drones to drop explosives on SDF militiamen.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle. (Photo from Voice of America.)

A watchdog rights organization says in the assault’s first month it has documented 650 deaths — 224 of them civilians.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based group that relies on a network of activists for its reporting, 311 IS fighters, including a handful of commanders, and 106 fighters of the American-backed “Euphrates Wrath” forces have died so far.

“In addition, airstrikes left hundreds of civilians injured, with various degrees of severity, some of whom had their limbs amputated, some were left with permanent disabilities and some are still in a critical condition, which means that the death toll is still likely to rise,” the observatory says.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
SDF fighters among the rubble Raqqa. (Photo from Voice of America.)

Long battle ahead

Despite being only a tenth the size of Mosul, US officials say they expect the house-to-house fighting to last several weeks. Estimates on how many militants remain in the city range from between 2,000 to 3,000. Most of them are thought to be from eastern Syria or foreign fighters drawn mainly from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

According to local activists, some Raqqa-born IS fighters have defected and are providing intelligence to the SDF. Hassan Hassan, an analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, a Washington-based think tank, and co-author of the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” says local fighters have proven less than committed in the battle.

“The Islamic State will likely have to rely on the city’s still likely large population of foreign fighters as well as a new generation of young fighters brainwashed by the group’s ideology who typically fight viciously to the end,” Hassan argues in the current issue of CTC Sentinel, a publication of the West Point military academy.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
YPJ and YPG forces work together. (Photo from Flickr user Kurdishstruggle (CC by 2.0)

Despite the participation of experienced, battle-hardened Kurdish fighters, private security advisers say the SDF doesn’t have the same capabilities and training as the elite Iraqi units who have been confronting IS militants in Mosul since August.

“They are spread much thinner,” one European security adviser told Voice of America. “They are also not as well equipped and lack the armor the Iraqis have been able to use,” he added.

Keeping the advance going, and trying to pin the militants into smaller and smaller pockets, is proving grueling, he said.

On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to declare his security forces had wrested the wrecked city from the Islamic State, despite some continued fighting in at least one west Mosul neighborhood. Some US officials are reckoning IS fighters may be able to hold out in Raqqa for up to three months.

In a bid to disrupt the SDF momentum, IS is now more regularly using suicide bombers driving reinforced vehicles packed with explosives — although not to the same degree as seen in the battle for Mosul. Last week, one suicide bomber managed to destroy a forward HQ used by the SDF.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook.)

Civilian casualties

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled, braving mines and savage IS sniper fire. Local activists estimate the number of civilians remaining in the city at about 60,000. They fault the international coalition for failing to have prepared for the handling of large numbers of displaced families.

Civilians have been gathering in nearby camps lacking basic amenities such as healthcare, clean drinking water, and food,” says the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The group has accused the attacking forces of using a scorched-earth strategy, utilizing indiscriminate aerial bombardment in order to force militants to withdraw. US officials admit there have been civilian deaths but say they are doing all they can to minimize casualties among non-combatants.

Articles

This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZRLvbgaIHs

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

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Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return from deployment just in time for Thanksgiving

The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.


During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”

11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.

Articles

Air Force advances new A-10 requirements

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An A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft sits on the flight line at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey | U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush


The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.

Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.

Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.

The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.

Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.

Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.

This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.

Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.

“We are developing that draft requirements document.  We are staffing it around the Air Force now.  When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, recently told reporters.

Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.

As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.

Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.

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A-10C aircraft from the Maryland Air National Guard stationed at Warfield Air National Guard base in Baltimore, Maryland flying in formation during a training exercise. | U.S. Air Force photo

“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be.  We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.

Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.

Holmes added that Congress expects the Air Force to operate about 1,900 A-10s or A-10-like close-air-support aircraft.

Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.

Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.

“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.

Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army might have weaponized ticks and released them in the US

Ticks are some of the dirtiest disease-carrying bugs on Earth. They can carry any number of pathogens, bacterias, and viruses – a single tick bite can infect a human with more than one of those at any given time. The point is ticks don’t need any help to be terrible disease vectors.

But you couldn’t tell that to the U.S. Army, who apparently doesn’t have an off switch.


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“… and that’s how I made cancer airborne and contagious. Go Army, beat Navy.”

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to require the Pentagon’s Inspector General to tell the public if the Army weaponized disease-ridden ticks and then released them into the continental United States between 1950 and 1975. The vote came as part of a vote on amendments related to the 2020 defense authorization bill, which was passed the next day.

A very important aspect of the request is finding out if the military released the ticks on purpose or if the release came as an accident. Congress also required the Pentagon to provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a detailed report on the scope of the experiment.

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How would you vote on this measure?

Ticks can cause Lyme Disease, Typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Meningoencephalitis, Hemorrhagic Fevers, paralysis, and even an allergy to meat. The House vote was only to force the Pentagon to acknowledge and deliver a report on whether or not the military released weaponized ticks, despite a ban on such experiments implemented by the Nixon Administration. The vote, however, would not require the Pentagon to reveal what the ticks were carrying, though advocates of the bill are primarily interested in the spread of Lyme Disease, which affects 300,000 to 400,000 new people every year.

The Senate bill did not have the weaponized ticks amendment and it remains to be seen if the reconciled bill bound for the President’s desk will include it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

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Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

This Airman and his wife rushed to help wildfire victims

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy drops $72 million for new, low-band electronic jammers

The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.

The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.


NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.

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Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)

“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”

Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.

PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.

This article originally appeared on NAVAIR News. Follow @NAVAIRNews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea will release 3 American prisoners

North Korea has released three US citizens detained there, the Financial Times reported May 2, 2018, citing a South Korean activist who campaigns for the release of detainees.

The releases would meet some of the US’s demands for North Korea to demonstrate sincerity before a historic meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — something that John Bolton, Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, reiterated during an interview on Fox News on April 29, 2018.


The three citizens— Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song — have been released from a labor camp and given health treatment and ideological education in Pyongyang, the Financial Times report said.

“We heard it through our sources in North Korea late last month,” Choi Sung-ryong told the news outlet. “We believe that Mr. Trump can take them back on the day of the US-North Korea summit or he can send an envoy to take them back to the US before the summit.”

The Financial Times report said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Kim about the detainees during the pair’s secretive meeting in April 2018.

In June 2017, Otto Warmbier, an American university student who was detained in North Korea, died days after being returned to his family in the US while in a coma.

The South Korean newspaper Dong-a Ilbo said the three Americans might be being coached to say that human-rights abuses did not occur while they were in North Korean custody.

North Korea operates several prison camps that have been compared to Auschwitz, the former Nazi concentration camp.

If North Korea has indeed released the three Americans and is preparing to give them to the US, it would represent the latest concession Pyongyang has agreed to make ahead of a summit with Trump.

North Korea has signaled a commitment to denuclearization and said it would stop its nuclear and missile tests, though it has dropped a demand for the withdrawal of US forces from the Korean Peninsula and avoided calling for an end to the US’s annual military exercises with South Korea as a condition for giving up its nuclear program.

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

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