On Oct. 22, 2017, more than 30,000 people hit the pavement to run one of the largest marathons in the world. For 26.2 miles, runners tested their mental and physical fitness. A marathon forward was held for those deployed in the Middle East unable to run the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon in the nation’s capital. Among the people running the marathon were three Marines and a Sailor from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command.
According to a Greek fable the first marathon ran was more than 2,500 years ago when Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce the victory against the Persians. In 1896, the marathon was added to the Olympics and now more than 800 marathons are held worldwide each year, with one of the most popular being the Marine Corps Marathon. Today, runners compete in marathons for many different reasons.
“Setting a goal of a physical achievement, making a plan of how to reach that goal, then putting that goal into action is fulfilling in itself and makes for a great excuse to keep oneself active,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Cook, force surgeon, SPMAGTF-CR-CC.
The mobility officer for SPMAGTF-CR-CC, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Eaton, ran the Marine Corps Marathon because he wanted to inspire his Marines. He wanted to show them that every Marine should maintain a level of physical fitness to where they can wake up any day and run a physical fitness test.
Capt. Michael Nordin, the SPMAGTF-CR-CC adjutant, trained about two days a week for six weeks working up to the marathon.
“I’ve run a marathon every year since 2014 and didn’t want to miss a year. Half marathons and marathons are my hobby,” said Nordin. “There’s nothing like getting to mile 18-19 and hitting the wall and pushing yourself through and over it, discovering another part of you that you didn’t think you had a couple miles ago.”
Whether running it to be a good example for fellow Marines or running it as a hobby, the Marine Corps Marathon challenges each participant – and not everyone can say they ran it while deployed. It is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, only the chance to demonstrate personal honor, courage and commitment. Despite the demands of deployment, runners with the SPMAGTF-CR-CC made the time to run the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon.
“I love to run marathons and what a great opportunity not just to run any marathon while deployed, but the ‘People’s Marathon,’ the Marine Corps Marathon,” said Cook.
A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.
Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.
“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”
“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.
It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”
Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.
“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”
Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.
“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”
As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.
Troops go through seemingly endless amounts of training that can be expensive, boring, and even dangerous. In an effort to make training cheaper, safer, and more effective, the service branches have turned increasingly to video games and simulators.
Possibly the most immersive system in use today, the VIRTSIM system from Raytheon allows users to operate in an open area the size of a basketball court. Trainees wear a set of sensors and feedback gear that records their every action and feeds it into the simulator. Virtual reality goggles show them a simulated world that they move through as a team.
Similarly, the Army’s Dismounted Soldier Training System allows troops to train as a squad in virtual reality. The system allows for customizable missions and incorporates all of a trainee’s movements except for actually walking. Because of the high cost of treadmills, each soldier stands on a rubber pad and moves through the environment with a controller mounted on their weapon, meaning they can’t train the muscle memory of leaping to cover or learn as well to operate with muscle fatigue.
Still, the DSTS provides the chance for soldiers to respond to a mortar attack, react to a near ambush, or any number of dangerous situations that are impossible to train on in the real world.
One of the older simulators, the Engagement Skills Trainer 2000, has even more limitations. Troops are confined to a room and can’t move their character through the simulation at all. Instead of looking through goggles to see the virtual world, a projection of the simulated battle is displayed on one or more walls and trainees engage targets in it.
The EST 2000 does have weapons that closely simulate actual M4s, M9s, and other commons systems. The weapons keep track of how the soldier aims and fires, catching even small actions like trigger squeeze. This allows marksmanship trainers to collect detailed information about what a service member is doing right or wrong.
The military branches use simulators similar to the ESTS 2000 to train pilots and vehicle crew members. While not being able to walk limits training opportunities for ground troops, people in vehicles don’t have to worry about that. Warrior Hall at Fort Rucker allows new Army pilots to train on different helicopter airframes. The Navy and Air Force have similar programs for jet pilots.
While the simulators are great, the goal isn’t to replace the standard training but to augment. Troops can use the simulator to practice rifle fundamentals before heading to the range, experience hitting a building with their squad before their first visit to a shoot house.
And the military still has even more ambitious plans for simulations. The Future Holistic Training Environment Live Synthetic program would tie together different simulations and allow players to participate in massive exercises. Pilots training in New Mexico could fly support for infantrymen training in California while battle staff commanded from North Carolina.
The Army plans to start distributing its new Modular Handgun System, the Sig Sauer P320, to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, this fall.
The rollout would come less than a year after the Army awarded the $580 million contract to Sig Sauer to produce the gun, also called the XM17.
And Marine Corps officials have said their personnel may soon adopt a more compact version of the pistol, called the XM18.
Chief Warrant Office 5 Christian Wade, the small-arms expert for the 2nd Marine Division, told Marine Corps Times that the service would perform a review in the near future to learn which positions need the new weapon.
“We prefer our pistol be as compact as possible without loss of capability,” Wade said. “After all, it’s a pistol.”
Earlier this month, the Army assembled soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to put the new handgun through a round of testing, using it alongside the M4 rifle and cold-weather gear.
The Army-led training mainly featured soldiers from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Army officials have not said what other units were present.
Earlier this year, an official from the Marine Corps Capabilities Development Directorate’s Maneuver Branch said the Corps was taking part in the Army’s Modular Handgun System selection effort in order facilitate its own search for a new sidearm.
The official also displayed a chart showing the Marine Corps’ current side arms, the Beretta M9 and Colt M45A1, in service until 2025, overlapping with the XM17, which would come into service in 2023 and stay through 2035.
“As soon as the U.S. Army is ready to sell them to us,” Wade said of the XM18, “we will begin this program.”
A new handgun is not the only change that may come to the Army and Marine Corps arsenals.
Both service branches are considering setting aside the M16/M4 rifle platform in favor of a new rifle that offers more range and stopping power, potentially firing a different caliber bullet as well.
The Corps is considering replacing the M4 carried by most of the branch’s infantry riflemen with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 and currently carried by one member of each Marine infantry fire team.
The M27 was brought in to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, though some officials have touted intermediate-caliber weapons as a potential replacement for the infantry rifle and squad automatic weapon, with one size bullet catering to a family of weapons.
Col. Mike Manning, the chief of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems, also said this week that the service would soon send a request for weapons suppressors from the arms industry, according to Marine Corps Times.
Manning didn’t talk numbers — noting only that the suppressors would be used “across the forces” — or say whether the suppressor would be designed for the M4 or the M27, but he did say commercial suppressors were already being tested and suggested suppressors built into weapons would be preferred.
The Army and the Marine Corps have been evaluating suppressors for regular infantry as a way to add stealth and boost tactical capabilities. Some Marines have been training or deployed with suppressors for both weapons.
A Marine rotational force deployed to Norway earlier this year was the first unit to be outfitted with suppressors on every weapon.
Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s supreme leader, has arrived in Beijing in his first-ever trip outside the country as its ruler, Bloomberg News reported March 26, 2018.
Kim arrived after mysterious journey of a train from North Korea, which recalls visits his father had made to Beijing before his death in 2011.
Numerous reports on social media and news websites tracked the path of a train slowing train traffic in Northeast China, arriving in Beijing, and then coinciding with a motorcade involving police on motorbikes and a limousine. The train is thought to be the same one Kim took to Beijing in 2010.
Yun Sun, a North Korea and China expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that the mysterious train’s journey “disrupted the whole railway schedule for northeast China, and people are observing that and drawing conclusions about who might be on that train.”
Chad O’Carrol, the managing director of the Korea Risk Group, tweeted that staff at the train station said all the security and obstruction was related to construction but also made the case for why it might have been Kim Jong Un’s first time leaving the country since assuming power.
It would “make perfect sense” for Kim to travel to Beijing “using father’s armored train,” tweeted O’Carrol, who said the route was well tested by North Korean security and that the blackout on state media covering the trip was consistent with trips his father, Kim Jong Il, made to Beijing.
Additionally, Kim is expected to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in the coming months, both leaders of nations his regime is still technically at war with.
On the other hand, China is North Korea’s treaty ally, and its main lifeline to trade with the outside world. Kim Jong Un has refused offers to visit Beijing in the past, but has recently changed his tone regarding diplomacy and face-to-face meetings.
Did Trump make this happen?
Sun said that China attempted to meet with Kim in the past, but rising tensions as North Korea’s nuclear testing heated up derailed the preparations and deteriorated bilateral relations. Previously, China saw Kim as defiant and abusing Beijing’s support for the country, and denied them “the honor, the validation, of having a meeting” with Xi.
“The only variable has changed,” in the Pyongyang-Beijing relationship, according to Sun, is that Trump accepted a face-to-face meeting with Kim, which she said may have “motivated the Chinese to change their mind.”
Also, North Korea may not be able to handle a summit with Trump on their own, and China has a good deal of anxiety about being left out of diplomatic efforts between Pyongyang and its adversaries, according to Sun.
In any case, the train’s journey to Beijing fits the profile of Kim family visits to China’s rulers in the past, and makes sense from both the Chinese and North Korean sides in the run-up to attempting diplomacy with Trump face-to-face.
It was after 6 p.m. in the small Midwestern town as people began to end their day.
The warm colors of the mid-August afternoon sky started slipping into the evening. That’s when a handful of Army drill sergeants were inadvertently called into action, and saved a family from a burning vehicle.
Shortly before, people were driving home from work, running errands or just passing through Sparta, Wisconsin, on Highway 21.
Among those driving was David Turner, 62, a retired maintenance worker, who on Aug. 15, 2019, was in his silver SUV with his granddaughters — Delilah, 4, and London, 2 — on an evening cruise along the highway that connects Sparta to his hometown, Tomah, Wisconsin, roughly 17 miles away.
Meanwhile, several drill sergeants with the Army Reserve were also among the passersby.
They had finished a day’s work at Fort McCoy, a nearby Army base located between Sparta and Tomah, and were driving back to their hotels, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Juhl, a drill sergeant with the 95th Training Division.
The soldiers were on orders, training other Army Reserve drill sergeants vying for U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year later that month.
The right place, at the right time
The drive was cut short after the soldiers had pulled off the road into a nearby parking lot, tending to their first of two unexpected incidents.
The drill sergeants were parked outside of a local flower shop, and had their heads under the hood of a car, trying to pinpoint engine failure in one of the vehicles — but, they weren’t having much luck.
That’s when Sgt. Roger Williams, owner of the inoperable car, and who admits he’s “not a car guy,” called his non-commissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Justin McCarthy — who owns a car shop in Charlotte, North Carolina — for back up. Always willing to help, McCarthy arrived shortly after and identified the problem; a serpentine belt had snapped.
Williams, a Beloit, Wisconsin native, opted to drive his personal vehicle to Fort McCoy. The other soldiers, from various parts of the country, were driving rentals.
“We were meant to be there,” said Sgt. Daniel McElroy, a drill sergeant attached to the 108th Training Command, believing by serendipitous chance they were “at the right place, at the right time” to save lives.
As the men finished checking Williams’ car, Turner, the grandfather in a silver SUV, raced by them. Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Turner was suffering from a medical condition at the time, rendering him unconscious. Yet his foot remained pressed on the vehicle’s accelerator.
“I noticed his vehicle going really fast before hitting a median,” said McElroy, adding that the sound of the engine racing initially caught his attention. They were stopped along a residential area, facing a four-way intersection, where vehicles typically drive slowly.
Within a fragment of a moment, the SUV smashed directly into a utility pole on the other side of the intersection, at full speed, splintering the tree-like column on impact and causing power outages in the area.
A “massive, fiery blue explosion” erupted, McElroy said, and was accompanied with multiple energy blasts shooting from the fractured utility pole. The mangled SUV caught fire.
Answering the call
Although the men were bewildered, working together came naturally. So, without a word or moment of hesitation, all four sprinted toward the burning vehicle. They felt their Army training kick in.
McCarthy, a 25-year service veteran, had experienced a similar situation during a 2007 deployment in Iraq, when his vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. He also has a civilian background with energy, and verified no live wires were touching the vehicle.
However, its motor was in flames, fluid had puddled onto the road around it, and black smoke from the engine poured into the air vents and filled the inside of the vehicle with smoke. It seemed the family was on borrowed time.
“The first person we checked was the driver,” Juhl said, after rushing to the vehicle, adding that Turner was conscious, but “out of it” at the time.
Turner, who suffered a fractured vertebrae among other injuries, was pinned in the driver’s seat. He woke up to the smell of air bag powder blended with engine smoke, he said, and immediately thought about his granddaughters in the back.
When the collision happened, the pole pretzeled the framework of his vehicle as easy as a soda can being crushed. The steering wheel immediately locked Turner into place. The soldiers tried opening the driver’s side door, but it was useless.
Like Turner, the door was pinned in. However, it was bent enough for the soldiers to fold the frame like a banana from the top, McCarthy said. They worked on the door until the glass from the driver’s side window shattered, causing black smoke to roll out from inside.
They could reach Turner with their hands, but were still unable to move him. All Turner could repeat was, “How are the girls?” in a dazed tone.
“I tried getting out on my own,” Turner later said. “The pain was so intense all I could say was ‘get the girls, leave me alone, if I die, I die.'”
At the time, the soldiers were unaware of any passengers. Due to the smoke-filled interior, deployed side airbag curtains, and dark tinted windows of the SUV — their vision was clouded, McCarthy said. In addition, he didn’t hear any crying.
McCarthy “didn’t know what to expect” when he opened the back door, he said, and his “heart sank thinking of the children’s conditions.” He and Juhl rushed to opposite sides of the vehicle to check the children.
McCarthy was greeted by the 2-year-old, London, and he asked “is it okay if I get you out of your chair?” London, safely in her car seat, replied, “I’m 2,” ignoring the question, raising her index and middle fingers. He didn’t see injuries on the girl.
Meanwhile, Juhl checked on Delilah, who also had no visible injuries. They removed the girls without any issues.
The soldiers “relied on their Army training in a civilian environment,” McCarthy said, adding, although it wasn’t a tactical vehicle, and they’ve “never trained with child seats,” it was comparable to “a gunner in a turret,” or similar training scenario.
Around this time, McElroy pulled Turner from the vehicle from the front passenger side door. After ensuring the victims were okay, and local responders arrived, the soldiers slipped into the crowd and left. It wasn’t until the Turner family searched for the men that their story was able to be shared.
The drill sergeants credit readiness training for their actions.
“The Army has done an outstanding job training individual soldiers,” McCarthy said, adding, “Things like combat lifesaving skills prepared me adequately, and without the Army’s training, I don’t know if I would have responded as effectively.”
“Those men were humble; they responded and went home,” Turner said, who is expected to make a full recovery. “But, the word ‘hero’ doesn’t touch who they are. Anybody who is in the military, if they are going through any training, should emulate the people who saved my life.”
On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:
The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.
“Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.
The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.
(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)
The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.
(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)
Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.
Days after China sent a half-dozen bombers into the Pacific for military exercises, US Air Force B-52 bombers and F-15 fighters linked up with Japanese aircraft for joint drills.
Two B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam joined F-15 Eagles from Kadena Air Force Base for exercises with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force on April 4, 2019, The Japan Times reported, citing a US Air Force spokeswoman.
Aircraft tracking data for the B-52 flights appears to show the aircraft flying through the Miyako Strait as they made their way toward Western Japan.
The Miyako Strait is a strategically valuable waterway between the Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, providing the Chinese navy its main route into the Pacific Ocean.
A Chinese H-6 bomber.
The exercises conducted April 4, 2019, like those carried out on March 20, 2019, were reportedly part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission, which it has done since 2004. Bomber flights and joint drills are conducted regularly to deter aggression.
Allied training “in the vicinity of Western Japan” followed substantial Chinese military activity in the area earlier in the week.
On March 30, 2019, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Xian H-6K long-range bombers, accompanied by one Tupolev Tu-154MD electronic intelligence aircraft and at least two fighters, flew through the Miyako Strait, The Diplomat reported.
Two days later, two Xian H-6G maritime strike bombers supported by a Shaanxi Y-9JB electronic-warfare and surveillance aircraft flew through the strait. Japan scrambled fighters to intercept the approaching Chinese aircraft, just as it did on March 30, 2019.
A Chinese H-6 bomber.
These types of flights are becoming increasingly common as China steps up the tempo for bomber flights into the Western Pacific.
China’s People’s Liberation Army “has rapidly expanded its overwater bomber operating areas, gaining experience in critical maritime regions and likely training for strikes against US and allied targets,” the Department of Defense stated in its annual report on Chinese military power.
“The PLA may continue to extend its operations beyond the first island chain, demonstrating the capability to strike US and allied forces and military bases in the western Pacific Ocean, including Guam,” the report said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.
But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.
That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.
Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.
But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.
But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.
The U.S. Treasury said Net Peygard targeted current and former U.S. government and military personnel with a malicious cybercampaign, while New Horizon had staged international gatherings to back efforts by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force to recruit and collect intelligence from foreign participants.
Witt herself was recruited by Iran after attending two international conferences organized by New Horizon, U.S. officials said.
They said Witt served as a counterintelligence officer in the air force from 1997 until 2008, and worked as contractor for two years after that.