On Nov. 14, 1910, the U.S. military took its first step toward linking flight and naval operations when Eugene Ely made the first carrier takeoff, guiding a Pusher biplane off the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham in the waters of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Navy tapped Capt. Washington Irving Chambers — who has been called “the father of naval aviation” — earlier that year “to observe everything that will be of use in the study of aviation and its influence upon the problems of naval warfare,” according to the Smithsonian.
Chambers recognized the utility of shipborne landings and takeoffs. At a flying event in Belmont Park, New York, in October 1914, Chambers asked planemaker Glenn Curtiss and Ely if they would attempt to land on a ship if he supplied one. (Another account has Curtiss and Ely making the offer, and Chambers saying he had no money to finance the experiment but would provide a ship.)
On November 14 — a Monday soiled by fog and intermittent rain — a Curtiss Pusher biplane with floats mounted under the wings was loaded aboard the Birmingham. The US Naval Institute identifies the aircraft as a Hudson Fulton Flyer.
The cruiser was equipped with an 83-foot runway on its deck, but that length meant Ely only had 57 feet to take off.
Though the original plan was to steam into the Chesapeake Bay and launch the plane while underway, which would provide extra lift, it was foiled by the weather. That afternoon, Ely launched his biplane from Birmingham’s deck while the ship was as anchor.
After his wheels left the deck, Ely guided the plane toward the water to build up speed. But he miscalculated, and witnesses watched as the plane smacked into the water and bounced back into the air. The collision damaged the propeller and sprayed Ely’s goggles with saltwater.
After less than five minutes in the air, Ely set the plane down on a nearby beach. He had flown less than 3 miles.
‘The most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark’
A reporter for the Indianapolis Star noted afterward that, “Aerial navigation proved today that it is a factor which must be dealt with in the naval tactics of the world’s future.”
Ely and the Curtiss team had plans to fly on the West Coast in January 1911, and Chambers made arrangements to follow up their feat in Norfolk by landing on a ship.
The armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Francisco Bay, was outfitted with a 120-foot platform. Ely, wearing a padded football helmet and bicycle inner tubes around his body for protection, took off from a nearby race track on the morning of January 18, 1911, flying a Curtiss Pusher with hooks on the landing gear.
Thousands of spectators watched as Ely made a safe landing on the Pennsylvania, with the plane’s hooks catching ropes stretched across the ship’s deck. After lunch with the captain, Ely took off from the Pennsylvania, landing safely at the race track.
Capt. C. F. Pond, commander of the Pennsylvania, called Ely’s feat “the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark.”
Ely continued flying at sites around the country, earning acclaim. But his life was cut short by a crash at the Georgia State Fair on October 19, 1911. Though he was a civilian flier, Ely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Navy in 1933.
President Donald Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress on Feb. 14, 2018 that proposed plans for a military parade would cost from $10 million to $30 million.
“I’ve seen various different cost estimates,” Mulvaney said, during a hearing in front of the House Budget Committee. “Between $10 million and $30 million depending on the size of the parade, the scope of it, the length, those types of things.”
“Obviously, an hour parade is different than a five-hour parade in terms of cost,” he said.
Mulvaney was responding to a question from California Representative Barbara Lee, who asked how much the planned parade would cost and where the money would come from. Mulvaney said that the money for a parade would have to be appropriated and that it is not accounted for in the FY19 budget.
The Trump administration has said a military parade would help show appreciation and support for those serving in the military. Though the idea is still in its early stages of planning, it has been heavily criticized, with much of the pushback focusing on cost.
America’s last military parade in Washington DC was in 1991, and celebrated the victory over Saddam Hussein’s forces and the liberation of Kuwait. That parade cost around $12 million, less than half of which was paid by the government and the rest coming from private donations.
Mulvaney also admitted that if he were still a Congressman, he would not vote for the budget he proposed.
Edward King, president and founder of the conservative think tank Defense Priorities, told CNBC shortly after the announcement for a parade that “given budget realities, the opportunity cost of a parade is too high to justify,”
“Math still applies to superpowers, so our $20 trillion of debt poses a serious threat to our national security.”
Many millennials and members of generation Z are putting off buying a home. It’s not hard to blame them for that. Housing prices have gone up, and it is a lot harder to save for that big down payment when purchasing your first home. Home purchasing among millennials has dropped with the exception of one demographic: veterans.
There has been an eight-year increase in veterans using the VA home loan, up 43 percent. In 2019 alone, there were 624,000 loans backed by the VA, and a majority of these loans were held by millennials.
That number will go up even more in 2020 thanks to a change in benefits.
A new law signed by President Trump this past June, the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, makes it even easier for veterans to move into the home of their dreams. The part of the law that affects homebuyers was the limit on how much veterans could borrow without a down payment.
There is no longer a limit on how much a veteran can borrow. If you qualify, you can now take out a bigger loan with no down payment.
The VA home loan is a wonderful resource for qualified veterans. VA loans are mortgage options issued by private lenders with zero down and backed by the VA. The loans can only be used for primary residences, not properties used for investment. However, they can be used to refinance an existing mortgage.
With housing prices soaring in certain parts of the country, there was a major roadblock to the VA home loan. The loan would only cover the value of the house up to a certain amount. As a result, if a veteran wanted to use the VA home loan to purchase a house that was more to their needs and desires and it was over the limit, they had to front a portion of the extra amount as a down payment.
Jeff Jabbora is a Marine veteran who has spent the last seven years as a real estate agent in San Diego County. When asked about the new law, he said the new law “enables qualified veterans, who qualify for a loan amount over the local area maximum to be able to not have to put money down on the loan. For example, if the local/county loan limit for where the veteran is buying the home was 0k, and the veteran was buying a 0k property, with the previous program, the veteran buyer would need to bring money to the table on the overage. Most often, 25 percent. So in that scenario, it would be 25 percent of the overage of, 0k, which would be k.”
Before the law went into effect, the limit dissuaded veterans from moving into houses that were more suitable for them and limited their housing options. This was most noticed in areas like California, the D.C. area, the Northeast and cities with high housing costs. According to data from Realtor.com, a whopping 124 U.S. counties had a higher average list price than the 2019 loan limits. When you compare the cities with the highest median housing cost versus the cities where veterans use their VA home loan, you see that 50 percent of those cities are similar.
Veterans in Los Angeles will see the biggest savings. The average listing price in L.A. is id=”listicle-2645370998″,655,468. Based on that number, VA borrowers would have had to come up with a down payment of 2,236. Now they don’t have to.
Here is an example of how it works.
With the new law in effect, there should be a marked increase in homeownership among veterans.
As with the VA home loan, steady and suitable income as well as credit comes into play.
Owning a home is a point of pride..thanks to this new law, more veterans can have the opportunity.
Early results came in from the US Air Force’s realistic, challenging Red Flag air combat exercise — and it looks like the F-35 slaughtered the competition.
Aviation Week reports that the Joint Strike Fighter killed 15 aggressors for each F-35 downed. The F-35 achieved this remarkable ratio in a drastically increased threat environment that included radar jamming, increased air threats, and surface-to-air missile batteries.
“In the past, the non-kinetic effects were not fully integrated into the kinetic fight,” Col. Robert Cole, the Air Force Cyber Forward director, said in a statement.
But now, F-35s take on cyberthreats and electronic warfare in addition to enemy surveillance and conventional, or kinetic, threats.
“This integration in an exercise environment allows our planners and warfighters to understand how to best integrate these, learn their capabilities and limitations, and become ready to use [these combined resources for maximum] effect against our adversaries,” Cole said.
But the F-35s didn’t just shoot down the enemy — they used their sensor-fusion and datalink abilities to talk to other planes and help them sniff out threats they wouldn’t have seen on their own.
“Before, where we would have one advanced threat and we would put everything we had — F-16s, F-15s, F-18s, missiles, we would shoot everything we had at that one threat just to take it out — now we are seeing three or four of those threats at a time,” Lt. Col. George Watkins, 34th Fighter Squadron commander, told Aviation Week.
“Just between [the F-35] and the [F-22] Raptor we are able to geolocate them, precision-target them, and then we are able to bring the fourth-generation assets in behind us after those threats are neutralized. It’s a whole different world out there for us now.”
The ability for fifth-generation US aircraft to detect threats and send that information to legacy planes meets an urgent need for the US military.
The F-35 has repeatedly hit cost and schedule overruns during its production and is now years behind schedule. But the latest performance at Red Flag proves that even a handful of F-35s can improve an entire squadron’s performance.
The current Red Flag exercise will conclude on February 10.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was accompanying a 50-man joint Special Forces team as they moved forward in Taliban-ridden Kunduz Province on Nov. 2, 2016.
As they snaked through an alleyway during the night mission in search of a high-value target in Boz Qandahari village, the U.S.-Afghan team came upon a barrier, “a large metal fence, that blocked the way, and it wasn’t supposed to be there,” according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
That’s when the first enemy grenade was launched, and bullets started to spray during the ambush, said Wilson, who presented the Air Force Cross — second only to the Medal of Honor for valor in combat — to Hunter, a combat controller, on October 17 for his steadfast decisions and courage during the U.S. Army-led mission in Afghanistan.
Wilson said Hunter, assigned to 23rd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, kept his position, never faltering as he called in “danger-close” airstrikes from AC-130 Spooky gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters within 20 meters of their position.
Danger-close refers to strikes coming within 100 meters of friendly personnel. The firefight lasted for eight hours.
“What was truly extraordinary as I reviewed this story was the amazing precision and professionalism of the team,” she said, speaking before the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron; Air Force Special Operations Command commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb; and the AFSOC community at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Hunter managed to position himself between the insurgents and his team, “shielding the wounded with his body, while providing suppressive fire with his rifle,” according to the citation.
After clearing the compound, and taking cover with a few team members, Hunter exposed himself to gunfire again as he heard calls for help in the distance, “dragging a wounded teammate 30 meters to safety,” the citation states.
For the next four hours, the airstrikes kept coming from the AC-130 “Spooky 43” gunship crew and the helicopters, including multiple 105mm rounds within as little as 13 meters from his location.
“Doesn’t an insurgent fear, more than the sound of a jet fighter, the sound of an AC-130 gunship?” Wilson said.
In all, 1,787 munitions rained down on the enemy’s position, which included 31 “danger-close” engagements, the citation said. More than 50 lives were saved, and 27 Taliban fighters were killed.
“Every [Joint Terminal Attack Controller], aircraft commander and ground force commander knows the risk of a danger-close mission,” Wilson said.
“But 31 without a single fratricide [by friendly fire] on the ground is just astounding,” she said.
“Thanks to [Staff] Sgt. Hunter, and his efforts to always be closest to the enemy, to put himself in the rear when everyone else got out of the way. To make sure his team was safe. He risked his own life and put himself in position to maintain tally on the target,” Wilson said.
The secretary honored two Army Green Beretskilled in action that day: Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer and Maj. Andrew Byers. Byers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in February.
“Special operations is a force that we call when we really need the absolute best,” Wilson said.
She added, “There’s no better friend — and no worse enemy — than the United States special operations forces.”
South Korea’s defense minister is publicly boasting that it will create a new “decapitation unit” called the Spartan 3000 with the express intent of taking out North Korean leadership, The New York Times reports.
The brigade-sized unit of between 2,000 and 4,000 soldiers will be established by year’s end, The Times reported the defense minister, Song Young-moo, as saying, adding that the military was already “retooling” helicopters and transporting planes to be able to penetrate North Korean airspace at night.
It’s out of the ordinary for a senior government leader to publicly say they are working on a plan to assassinate a foreign head of state. But there’s an interesting reason behind it: The South is trying to freak out its northern neighbor and get it to the negotiating table instead of further developing nuclear weapons.
“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” retired South Korean Lt. Gen. Shin Won-sik told The Times.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. The claim has not yet been independently confirmed, but some experts think North Korea may have detonated such a device or is very close to achieving it, according to Reuters.
While a “decapitation unit” — if created — may give Kim pause, it’s unlikely that such a force would be able to carry out cross-border raids without a deadly retaliation from Pyongyang. Part of the reason many of the US’s military options against North Korea range from bad to worse is that Seoul, a metro area with more than 25 million people, is within artillery range of the North.
Most experts think that a preemptive strike against North Korea would be perceived as an attempt at regime change and that its military leadership would most likely lash out at South Korea with artillery and chemical weapons.
“It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953,” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in June of potential hostilities. “It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth.”
Austin Tice is a former Eagle Scout, a former Marine Corps officer, and an award-winning journalist held in captivity in Syria. The Georgetown law student was on assignment there in 2012, covering individual stories set amid the background of the Syrian Civil War. Just five weeks after he arrived in the country, unidentified armed men released a 43-second video of Tice blindfolded and held hostage.
No one has claimed responsibility for his capture, unusual for such a propaganda war. After the first five years, his family was still trying to piece together what happened that led to Tice’s capture. Now, the reward for information leading to Tice’s whereabouts is more than $1 million.
No other information, photos, or video related to Tice has been released since.
Tice’s family is on a mission to get the Syrian government of Bashar al-Asad and the government of the United States to cooperate, using every available resource to locate Austin Tice and bring him home. They say the United States believes Tice is alive. He was last seen getting into a car in a Damascus suburb but was detained at a checkpoint shortly after.
When President Trump took office in 2017, the new State Department set up a back-channel with the Syrian government to secure Tice’s release. Unfortunately, that’s when the U.S. involvement in Syria began to thicken, The administration was forced to launch Tomahawk missiles at Syrian military sites, and the talks stalled.
As of December 2018, Tice’s parents divulged that they had received information that Tice is still alive and had survived his captivity. They believe he is being held by the Syrian government or one of its allies and the U.S. State Department has called on Russia to exert its influence is obtaining Tice’s release.
The Syrians insist they don’t know where Tice is being held, but the Tice family maintains that the best chance for the man’s release would come from direct talks between the United States government and that of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Before World War II, the Marine Corps had what were known as Marine Defense Battalions. These units were used to defend outposts like those on Wake Island and Midway Atoll, and the one at Wake deserves credit for one of the great stands in Marine Corps history after being left high and dry by the U.S. Navy’s answer to George McClellan.
Now the Marines may be ready to resurrect that concept. According to a solicitation posted at FedBizOpps on Oct. 27 of this year, the service is looking for some land-based anti-ship missiles that can reach out and touch the enemy at least 80 miles away. The system needs to be “employable by highly deployable and mobile forces.”
Such missiles are actually old hat for many countries, both friendly and not-so-friendly. Norway, for instance, relied on land-based batteries of the Penguin anti-ship missile to supplement armed missile boats should the Cold War have turned hot. The Soviet Union (and later Russia) developed land-based versions of the SS-N-3 Shaddock, SS-N-2 Styx, and the SS-N-26 Sapless. China’s Silkworm missiles were famously purchased by Iran, and Iran developed the Noor, which was fired at American ships multipletimes last year.
According to Marine Corps history, during World War II, 20 Marine Defense Battalions were formed. Back then, these units generally had coastal artillery to defend against enemy ships (the 1st Marine Defense Battalion at Wake actually sank a Japanese destroyer), as well as machine guns for defending against troops, and anti-aircraft guns for use against enemy planes. And of course, every Marine in those units was a rifleman.
What sort of modern missiles might be used? The United States does have the Harpoon anti-ship missile in service – some versions of which can reach over 80 miles. Other relatively off-the-shelf options could include the Norwegian-designed NSM, or a ground-launched version of the LRASM. There is also the chance that the 155mm Vulcano heat-seeking round could be used from Marine Corps M777 howitzers.
In short, the Marines’ desire for a few good anti-ship missiles could lead to the return of some little-known but storied units to the Marine Corps.
A South Korean decision to allow North and South Korean athletes to march together under a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics may be costing President Moon Jae-in support.
A Gallup Korea poll released Jan. 26 indicates approval ratings for Moon, whose support had not dipped below 70 percent since he assumed office less than a year ago, now stands at 64 percent, local newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
Moon’s nosedive in popularity comes at a time when North Korea may be taking advantage of the reconciliatory mood in Seoul, and calling for an “independent” unification that could split the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The United States may be making it clear to North Korea its tactics are not working.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Joint Chiefs of Staff director, said suspending drills that occur regularly is not an option.
“We haven’t suspended, we’re de-conflicting during the period of the Olympics and exercises will continue immediately after the Olympics,” McKenzie said Jan. 25.
Senior South Korean and U.S. officials are expected to confirm the plans in Hawaii, with a ministerial-level meeting on the timing of post-Olympic drills and their scale, according to South Korean news network MBN.
But South Korea’s tough military stance on the North, which has shown no signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program, has not contributed to Moon’s standing in the polls.
According to Gallup, Moon’s approval rating has declined for two consecutive weeks, and decisions to unify the women’s ice hockey team and march in unison at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics are responsible for the fall.
Among South Koreans in their 20s, the approval rating dropped from 75 to 68 percent.
Other factors for the decline include a perception Moon’s administration is “retaliating” against past administrations and punishing conservatives, like former President Lee Myung-bak, according to the survey conducted this week.
U.S. Army soldiers descending on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)
The jump celebrated the 75th anniversary of jumps by three-man “Jedburgh” teams ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Around 300 Allied troops dropped behind enemy lines to train and equip local resistance fighters.
The “10th SFG(A) draws [its] lineage from the Jedburghs. We’re celebrating their combined effort to liberate Western Europe with local forces,” a senior enlisted soldier assigned to 10th SFG (A) said in a statement.
A US soldier collecting his parachute after landing.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)
“Overall it was a great jump. It was smooth and went as planned,” one soldier who made the jump explained, adding, “It’s an outstanding experience to be able to honor the paratroopers who jumped into France during World War II.”
There’s one thing everyone can agree with President Donald Trump on about the street gang MS-13: The group specializes in spectacular violence. Its members attack in groups, in the woods, at night, luring teens to their deaths with the promise of girls or weed. One Long Island boy told me he doesn’t go to parties anymore because he worries any invitation could be a trap. A victim’s father showed me a death certificate that said his son’s head had been bashed in, then lowered his voice and added that the boy’s bones had been marked by machete slashes, but he didn’t want the mother to know that. A teenager who has left the gang told me he considers himself dead already, and is just trying to make sure MS-13 doesn’t kill his family.
I’m spending the year reporting on MS-13 members and their associates. I’ve been combing through their text messages. I’m talking with the detectives building cases against killers not yet old enough to buy cigarettes. And I’ve been spending long evenings with the gang’s victims, who often start crying as soon as they start talking about the violence that has marred their lives. Everyone agrees the gang is bloodthirsty. Most of the other assertions I’ve heard from the Trump administration about MS-13 have almost no connection to what I’m seeing on the ground.
1. MS-13 Is Not Organizing to Foil Immigration Law
Trump often talks about how MS-13 has carried out a string of murders in the suburbs outside New York City. One of the first things I did when I started reporting was talk to the ex-girlfriend of the gang leader charged with ordering six of those killings in 2016 and 2017. The girl sat at a Panera Bread in a Long Island strip mall and told how he had kidnapped and raped her shortly after her 15th birthday, threatened her family, and forced her to get a tattoo of his name on her arm. As I talked to her, I imagined a man like the ones I had seen in news reports on MS-13 — chins jutted out, arms strong from lifting weights, and gothic tattoos of the letters M and S on their faces and chests. I was shocked when I eventually saw this gang leader in court; he was a baby-faced 19-year-old who blushed when girls waved to him from the gallery. The indictment against him laid out killings that were ordered in response to adolescent trash talking.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called MS-13 the most brutal of the gangs driving the drug trade, and promised to go after the group like the government went after mob boss Al Capone. Really, experts have found the gang has barely any role in the international drug trade. The Congressional Research Service said that it could be misleading to call MS-13 a transnational criminal organization at all, because it has no central leader or global ambitions. The gang is made up of sometimes competing cliques, often led by teenagers most interested in wielding power over other young people in their immediate circles.
On Long Island, a detective told me police officers call MS-13 members “mighty munchkins,” because they have often not yet hit their growth spurts and tend to commit their crimes in large groups. They meet at night because, while other criminal organizations have massive international revenue streams, these guys — even the leaders — have to work menial jobs and sometimes go to school during the day. Each clique has its own shot caller, and its own hyperlocal focus. On Long Island, the gang’s focus has often been on controlling the halls of a single high school.
2. MS-13 Is Not Posing as Fake Families at the Border
In justifying the policy of child separation, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13.” The theory is that Central American gang leaders are showing up at the border falsely claiming to be the parents of children, and are also instructing unaccompanied minors to go to the U.S. and claim territory.
Actually, there have been fewer than 200 cases of false family claims this year — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of families apprehended at the border — and there is no indication that any of those cases involved MS-13. Of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come to the U.S. since 2012, Border Patrol says only 56 were suspected of MS-13 ties.
The gang is trying to find new members, but there’s no need to step on the toes of the Mexican gangs that control human smuggling to do it. Long Island teenagers tell me that when they show up to school, gang members sit down next to them at lunch and ask them to join. Many— worn down by loneliness, boredom and the threat of violence if they try to refuse — accept the invitation.
People who study MS-13 agree that when young gang members travel from El Salvador to the U.S., they are driven by the same economic factors driving other Central American immigrants. Even the 19-year-old gang leader charged with six murders on Long Island told his ex-girlfriend he was not a member of the gang when he came to the U.S. from El Salvador. He said it was only later, in the New York suburbs, that he was recruited.
And some MS-13 members are born right here. The Suffolk County Police Department examined a sample of active MS-13 members and found that just a quarter had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The natural conclusion: This is not a border issue. It’s a recruitment issue.
3. MS-13 Is Sticking Around, but It’s Not Growing
Trump talks about the gang as if it is suddenly taking over. “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.,” he wrote in a tweet.
MS-13 has been stubbornly persistent, but it remains a boutique criminal organization, accounting for a tiny portion of 1.4 million gang members nationwide. Trump’s Justice Department says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as 10 years ago. There’s also nothing new about MS-13 alarmism. Back in 2005, Newsweek ran a cover story about the group, citing its 10,000 members, under the headline, “The most dangerous gang in America.”
On Long Island, the murder people cite most often when talking about MS-13’s brutality is the killing of a two-year-old and his mother back in 2010. But the gang’s history goes back much further than that; the FBI set up a Long Island task force to crack down on the gang in 2003. And MS-13 never invaded the U.S at all. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and then mixed with California prison gang culture and was exported to El Salvador.
The group remains significantly smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings; it’s also smaller than several gangs you’ve probably never heard of, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been labeled an extremist group for its anti-immigrant ideology, can’t come up with more than an average of 35 murders per year attributed to MS-13 — far fewerthan that Chicago gang you didn’t know existed.
MS-13 is not the largest, the most violent, or the fastest-growing gang, but it is the U.S. gang most strongly tied to Central America, which is where the majority of asylum-seeking teenagers come from. In that way, it’s the perfect focal point for Trump’s message of closed borders.
4. MS-13 Is Preying on a Specific Community, Not the Country at Large
When confronted in June 2018 with audio obtained by ProPublica of wailing children separated from their parents, White House Communications Adviser Mercedes Schlapp said, “What’s very heartbreaking is to watch Americans who have lost their children because of the MS-13 gang members.” But the vast majority of MS-13 victims are young immigrants, many of them undocumented.
I often think about this when I’m out reporting. In 2018 I have reached out to current gang members and added them as friends on Facebook. I’ve visited the homes of people on the local clique’s kill list, and heard their police-issued panic buttons hum under tables and behind doors. I’ve explored the wooded areas Long Island police call “the killing fields,” where bodies have been found. I feel safe doing this because MS-13 rarely goes after true outsiders — people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment. The closest I’ve found in Long Island to a totally random victim was a worker at a Central American deli who was hurt when a bullet passed through the head of a targeted victim.
The White House put out a statement in May 2018 that described recent murders carried out by “MS-13 animals.” Lost in the controversy over whether it was OK to call gang members animals was the fact that of the six identified victims, five were immigrants and the other was a child of immigrants.
5. Immigration Raids and Deportation Can Only Go So Far
Secretary Nielsen said in June 2018 that the presence of MS-13 in the U.S. is “the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws.” The loopholes she is talking about are actually specific protections contained in United Nations conventions on refugees and torture, which the U.S. ratified. The U.S. is obligated to allow Central American immigrants to stay in the country while their asylum claims are processed, which can take years. If the person pleading asylum is a minor, they are supposed to be released to relatives.
But if U.S. officials determine that a teenager is a gang member, they stay in custody. And immigration officials can also re-detain teenagers who are recruited into MS-13 once they get here. Dozens of Long Island teenagers were re-detained in 2017 on suspicion of gang ties. The problem is that it can be hard to tell who is in the gang and who is just adopting gang style. MS-13 has its own music and aesthetic, bound up in Central American pride. On Long Island, some immigrant teens use MS-13 markers as a fashion statement, the way American kids might once have worn the blue bandanas associated with the Crips because they liked Snoop Dogg.
I sat in on one hearing for a Long Island 17-year-old who had been detained for half a year after he wrote the El Salvador telephone code, “503,” in a notebook at school. He had spent some of that time in a detention center now under investigation for child abuse. At the hearing, an immigration judge ordered the teen released and openly mocked the gang charges. “I note that ‘503’ is an area code,” the judge said. “He may have had his grandmother’s phone number written in his notebook. We don’t know. But I think this is slim, slim evidence on which to base the continuing detention of an unaccompanied child.”
That’s not to say that all of the immigrant teenagers accused of gang affiliation are innocent. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested some 8,000 suspected MS-13 members in the past decade. If deportation was all it took, the gang would be gone by now.
This all matters because the gang really is terrorizing a portion of the population: young Latino immigrants in a few specific communities.
In May 2018, I accompanied the mother of a high school freshman killed by MS-13 to a Trump event on Long Island. Inside a government building, the president railed against the gang. “They killed a cop for the sake of making a statement. They wanted to make a statement, so they killed a cop,” he said. (They did not kill a cop.)
Outside, the mother drifted between a pro-Trump rally and a counter protest. She took tranquilizer pills so she could face local reporters, and then told them she was unsure if Trump really cared about victims like her. She said she hoped the president’s fixation on MS-13 might spur changes that will keep other kids from being attacked and recruited by the gang.
But for any policy to work, it needs to be rooted in reality.
The Army wants its mortar systems to be even more mobile, accurate, and quick to fire. Moreover, they want mortar crews to be able to park a Humvee with a tube mounted to it and then get out of there.
The Advanced Direct Indirect Fire Mortar system gives them all of that and a direct-fire capability too.
The ADIMs is currently being tested and displayed as an 81mm system on a Humvee, but it could be adapted to other calibers and light tactical vehicles. A “soft-recoil” system allows larger mortars — historically limited to larger, heavy vehicles like the Stryker — to be mounted on the Humvee or its replacement, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Humvees are able to reach a lot of places Strykers and other larger vehicles can’t, allowing the mortars to quickly reach parts of the battlefield they otherwise couldn’t.
Once the mortar is in position, it can be manually worked by a standard mortar crew or remotely operated by a fire direction center. In theory, this would allow the weapon to be dropped or driven into position and then fired without a human mortar crew. Someone would still have to secure it though, since it’s a powerful, advanced weapons system.
But then mortarmen could just emplace the weapon and play spades while the FDC worries about firing it. Once the weapon is fired, it’s capable of being moved within 50 seconds to avoid enemy counter fire.
Of course, the ADIM only really matters if it makes it to the battlefield. The ADIM shares a lot of traits with the Marine Corps Dragon Fire and Dragon Fire II mortar systems.
The Dragon Fire was tested by the Marine Corps, upgraded to the Dragon Fire II, and then shelved. Instead, the Marine Corps adopted the M327, a highly-mobile, rifled mortar without the automation of the ADIM or Dragon Fire systems.
According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.
There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.
It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!
As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.
Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.