Among the Iraqis freed in the US-led coalition’s liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State this month was Emad Mshko Tamo, a Yazidi who was separated from his family and trained as a soldier by the terrorist army for the past three years.
Wounded from shrapnel and covered in dust, the emaciated former captive shook hands with the Iraqi soldiers who freed him. He accepted a bottle of water and held it in his lap, sitting in the front seat of a truck that was to take him to a hospital for treatment.
Emad is 12 years old.
While the Iraqi government celebrates its victory over the Islamic State in Mosul, aid organizations report that hundreds of civilians remain trapped in the Old City and the humanitarian crisis in Iraq continues to mount, with 3 million refugees and almost 1 million displaced people from Mosul.
“In the last week of fighting, 12,000 civilians were evacuated, [and] their condition was the worst of the entire war,” Lise Grande, the lead coordinator of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, said July 17 during a press conference.
“Many were elderly, disabled. There were separated children. They clearly did not have sufficient water, they hadn’t had sufficient food, and the overwhelming majority of the civilians who came out were unable, even on their own, to cross the front line to safety. They had to be helped,” said Ms. Grande, adding that the levels of trauma in Mosul are among the highest anywhere.
The Iraqi army next will move to liberate the cities of Tal Afar, Hawija, and western Anbar province, and humanitarian organizations are preparing for an even larger crisis.
Among the concerns are those for orphaned children and those separated from their families. Ms. Grande was unable to provide estimates but said the numbers are large and will require specialized care for months and even years to come.
Emad’s story is a bright spot in an otherwise dark saga, said Dlo Yaseen, an Iraqi-Kurdish translator who helped the 12-year-old while he was being transferred between hospitals from Mosul to Irbil.
Terrorists kidnapped Emad in the summer of 2014 from his village near Sinjar. He was one of thousands of victims of the Islamic State’s campaign of genocide against the Yazidi people — a Kurdish minority whose religious tradition, which mixes aspects of Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism, is regarded as apostasy by the Islamic State.
The militants reportedly executed thousands of Yazidi men and boys and at least 86 women, and kidnapped and sold Yazidi women into sex slavery — among other crimes against humanity. An independent survey and analysis of survivors, family members, and civilians estimates that 3,700 Yazidis were slain or died during the summer assault, and that of the 6,800 who were kidnapped, 2,500 are still missing.
In Mosul, when the Iraqi soldiers realized that Emad was Yazidi, they called the only Yazidi soldier in their unit, Mr. Yaseen said. The soldier recognized Emad’s family name and was able to locate his relatives in Dohuk, a Kurdish city in northwestern Iraq.
Shrapnel from Iraqi army mortar fire had wounded Emad. Although Islamic State captors tried to treat him, he was still suffering. Personnel at a field hospital decided that he would be transferred to a larger hospital in Irbil for surgery.
In the meantime, five of Emad’s uncles traveled the few hours’ drive from Dohuk to Irbil for the reunion. They also brought news of Emad’s mother, who had traveled to Canada a few months earlier with two of his siblings. Emad and his mother were able to talk via Facebook chat.
Yazda, an international Yazidi aid organization, corroborated Emad’s story, saying his mother was resettled in Canada with the help of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees after the government’s decision to take in Yazidi survivors.
Shortly after Emad’s rescue, Mr. Yaseen posted a photo of him on Facebook: “A Yazidi boy rescued under ISIS and rejoined his relative.”
The photo is striking — Emad is composed, sitting in the passenger seat of the truck, his face turned toward the camera. He is covered in grime — a large and dirty blue T-shirt is the only clothing covering his twig-like frame. His blond hair sticks up at all ends, his face is covered in white dust, but his lips are red and stained with blood. His expression is calm, a slight furrow to his brows as they arch upward.
“I asked him, ‘How do you feel now that you are rescued?'” said Mr. Yaseen. “He said, ‘I’m happy. I’m going to go to my house, my family. I will be happy.'”
The United States has unveiled new sanctions against the Iranian metallurgical sector, blacklisting several companies, including domestic and foreign subsidiaries of the country’s main steel producer.
The Treasury Department said on June 25 that the sanctioned entities included four manufacturing companies and four sales agents as part of a crackdown on entities believed to fund Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” worldwide.
The United States “remains committed to isolating key sectors of the Iranian economy until the revenues from such sectors are refocused toward the welfare of the Iranian people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by the companies and generally prohibit Americans from dealing with them.
The move is part of U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues since President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018 from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
The new U.S. sanctions target one domestic and four foreign subsidiaries — operating in either Germany or the United Arab Emirates — of Iran’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, which Treasury said accounts for about 1 percent of Iran’s gross domestic product.
Mobarakeh Steel Company was blacklisted in 2018 for allegedly providing millions of dollars annually to an entity with close ties to Iran’s paramilitary Basij force, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Also targeted were three aluminum, steel, and iron producers in Iran, which Treasury said contributed to billions of dollars in sales and exports of Iranian metals every year.
A company which the Treasury said had addresses in China and Hong Kong was also sanctioned for allegedly transferring graphite to a blacklisted Iranian entity in 2019.
As if Robert Rudolph Remus wasn’t already a badass wrestling name on its own, upon becoming one of the now-WWE’s most beloved Superstars, Remus chose the stage name “Sergeant Slaughter.” It was appropriate at the time, even wearing his character’s trademark Smokey Bear-style campaign hat: Remus was not only a United States Marine, he was also a Drill Instructor.
Remus will now be known as “Sergeant Slaughter” until the end of time, his beloved character has transcended wrestling into areas even Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson hasn’t been able to invade. The WWE’s NCO is not only one of the Superstars that turned wrestling into mainstream entertainment worldwide, his definitive strong chin is also in the G.I. Joe universe, as well as the WWE Hall of Fame. Getting there was tough going, though.
The man we know as Sgt. Slaughter started his wrestling career way back in the early 1970s, when wrestling was little more than a regional patchwork of stunts and characters, far removed from the international spectacle we know of it today. That all changed when Vince McMahon consolidated wrestling and updated its stodgy image over the course of some thirty years or more. Sgt. Slaughter came to the then-WWF in 1980 as a villain – a “heel” in wrestling terms. But it wasn’t until just before 1984 that Remus’s character found the popularity we know of today.
He’s so popular, he still comes around the ring.
It was at this time a heel known as the “Iron Sheik” emerged as the World Champion. The Sheik is arguably one of wrestling’s greatest villains ever – and every great villain needs a hero. Or in the world of wrestling, a “face” – also known as a babyface, one of the good guys. Enter America’s Drill Instructor: Sgt. Slaughter. His feud with the Iron Sheik catapulted the two to mainstream stardom, making Slaughter the second most popular face, second only to Hulk Hogan. It was the pinnacle of his wrestling career. He would take a heel turn in the days of the 1991 Gulf War, sympathizing with the Iraqis and feuding with Hulk Hogan, even losing the World Championship as a result.
Still, it’s a long way from Parris Island to Madison Square Garden and Sgt. Slaughter packed both.
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”
Concern Morinformsytem-AGAT, a Russian defense company, has a cruise missile launcher with the external appearance of civilian shipping containers.
The Club-K was originally exposed to the West in 2010 when Jane’s Defense Weekly editor Robert Hewson disclosed it. A promotional video shows it quickly transforming from its camouflaged state to its strike configuration before destroying a naval fleet, an armored force, and an air base. It destroys a helicopter carrier at the 7:00 mark, something Hewson believes it could easily do.
The system can fight with just two of the containers: One for targeting and one to actually launch the missiles. An add-on container can launch a UAV for better targeting and to allow for a battle damage assessment. Additional launchers can be linked to the targeting container, allowing for more missiles on target.
Though Concern Morinformsytem-AGAT doesn’t advertise the Club-K on its website, the system has been spotted multiple times. The photo at the top of the page was taken in 2011 at an arms show and Wendell Minnick of Defense News saw the Club-K in 2014 at an arms show in Malaysia. Multiple versions of the system are labeled as being for export though no confirmed sales have taken place.
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provided lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
9th Hospital Center soldiers were conducting convoy operations along one of the post’s isolated training areas when they noticed a dark, brooding cloud of towering smoke from a rolled over truck.
As the convoy got closer to the smoke, they noticed an accident that involved two vehicles and one casualty on the road.
“When we got closer, we realized the extent of the accident,” said Cpt. Jillian Guy, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Field Hospital. “Everyone quickly realized that we were the first responders. Our main priority was to move the first casualty away from the burning vehicle and save his life.”
The convoy made a hasty stop and the soldiers quickly approached the first casualty bystanders had removed from the burning vehicle.
“My thought running up to the scene was to get him away from the burning vehicle as soon as possible and to control the bleeding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Newell, acting first sergeant for 11th Field Hospital. “I was also thinking that we didn’t know if he had injured his spine, so I knew we needed to use cervical spine precautions as soon as we got to him before we could move him.”
Medics took the lead relocating the casualty further from the burning vehicle using cervical spine precautions. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle’s fuel compartment exploded.
Once the casualties were removed from immediate danger, medics began providing aid to the more severely injured casualty.
“Soldiers swiftly delivered care to the first casualty applying a tourniquet for open bilateral femur fractures,” Guy said. “I saw the second casualty walking around disoriented so I grabbed two medics to help treat him.”
Medics applied tourniquets to the first casualty proficiently to control the bleeding and provided airway management and trauma care. The second casualty suffered from a suspected traumatic brain injury and facial trauma. The medics treated and stabilized both casualties until the emergency medical services arrived.
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provide lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Yaeri Green)
Even after the EMS arrived, Newell, Sgt. Eric Johnston, combat medic team leader and Sgt. Mariela Jones, platoon sergeant, remained and continued to provide help.
“We were starting fluids, bandaging the wounds and placing the casualty on a spin board,” Newell said. “Once he was on a spin board, Sergeant Jones moved to provide airway until he was placed on a helicopter.”
The intervention did not stop until the casualties were evacuated. The first casualty was air evacuated by Baylor Scott White, and the second was taken to Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center by the EMS.
“The medics from three different companies quickly became one cohesive unit,” Guy said. “I have never been more proud of everyone on scene. Even the non-medical MOS soldiers did an amazing job with crowd control, driving vehicles safely to the scene and comforting others who had seen the trauma.”
When soldiers came across a situation that needed immediate aid, they reacted expeditiously and saved the lives of those casualties. Military police and EMS commended the Soldiers for their quick reaction, professionalism and proficient medical skill set.
9th Hospital Center soldiers are prepared to provide expert medical care at moment’s notice and they will continue to train in order to stay ready.
“Tragedy can happen at any time and you need to be prepared,” Johnson said. “It was an eye opening experience that nobody was expecting.”
The Army element known as “America’s Contingency Corps” marked the 76th anniversary of D-Day by telling the story of a black veteran of that battle who died without ever receiving the full hero’s recognition he deserved.
The Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based XVIII Army Corps published a series of tweets Saturday night telling the story of Cpl. Waverly Woodson, who sustained “grievous” wounds at Omaha Beach in Normandy, but still managed to save the lives of 80 other soldiers.
The XVIII Corps is the same unit from which some 1,600 soldiers were ordered to the Washington, D.C. region this week to stand on alert for protest control. They ultimately returned home without entering the district.
Woodson was one of roughly 2,000 black American soldiers who landed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. A member of the all-black 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion, he worked for 30 hours to triage the wounded after getting hit by a German shell himself, according to the tweet thread. In all, he treated more than 200 soldiers.
“He was transferred to a hospital ship but refused to remain there, returning to the fight to treat more Allied Soldiers. He was hailed as a hero in his hometown of[Philadelphia],” the thread stated. “Yet when he returned to the US, he had to fight Jim Crow, facing discrimination at every turn.”
Woodson was nominated by his commander for the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest combat award. Instead, he was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple heart.
The tweets noted that Woodson had departed Lincoln University, where he was a pre-med student, to serve his nation after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Despite passing the Army’s officer candidate school exam, his race meant he could only serve as an enlisted soldier.
“Waverly Woodson never truly received the recognition he deserved for his selfless heroism on this day 76 years ago,” the thread concluded. “Today, let’s acknowledge him and the [largely overlooked] African American troops who landed on Normandy on D Day.”
“Based on extensive research on his service record, it is clear that Cpl. Woodson did not receive the Medal of Honor during WWII because of the color of his skin,” the lawmakers wrote. “We believe that the Army has sufficient evidence of the required recommendation to, at a minimum, permit a formal review by an award decision authority. Accordingly, we respectfully ask the Army to rectify this historic injustice and appropriately recognize this valorous Veteran with a posthumous recommendation for the Medal of Honor.”
It’s not clear if the XVIII Airborne’s public acknowledgement of Woodson and his heroism signals a larger interest on the part of the Army in revisiting his award.
Until the 1990s, no Medals of Honor had been awarded to black World War II veterans. Following a review commissioned by the Army in 1993, seven black veterans of the war received the nation’s highest combat honor, all but one posthumously.
Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.
“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.
It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.
Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.
“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”
The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.
Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.
“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”
VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.
“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”
To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.
The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
Pilot program takes off
Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.
The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.
Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.
More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.
It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.
In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.
And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.
A guardian ‘angel’
Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”
Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.
“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”
It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”
Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.
For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”
When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”
“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
North Korea and the U.S. flexed their military muscles April 25 as Pyongyang marked the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army — without testing a nuclear weapon or conducting a major missile test.
Instead, amid soaring tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the nuclear-armed North carried out large-scale, live-fire drills in areas around the city of Wonsan on the country’s east coast, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.
The Yonhap news agency said the drill, which involved 300-400 artillery pieces, was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un and was thought to be the “largest ever.”
Some observers had anticipated the regime would test an atomic bomb on the occasion.
The massive live-fire drills came the same day a U.S. guided-missile nuclear submarine arrived in South Korea and as diplomats from the United States, Japan, and South Korea gathered in Tokyo for a trilateral dialogue aimed at discussing measures to “maximize” pressure on the North over its nuclear and missile programs.
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. Described as ‘nuclear-capable’, its first test flight was on Feb. 12, 2017. (Photo: KCNA/Handout)
Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters that the three countries had agreed to further cooperate in their effort to take “resolute” actions against nuclear provocations by the North.
Kanasugi said the trio also shared the recognition that China — North Korea’s largest trade partner — had a “significant” role to play in reining in Pyongyang’s saber-rattling. He did not elaborate.
South Korea’s envoy on North Korean nuclear issues, Kim Hong-kyun, warned that Pyongyang’s failure to discontinue its missile and atomic tests will be met with “unbearable” punitive sanctions, and that the three countries will seek to “maximize” pressure against the reclusive state.
This could come in the form of tightened oil exports to the North by China, something reports in Chinese state-run media have alluded to in recent days.
Kanasugi is scheduled to meet his visiting Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, on May 3. In meeting with Wu, Kanasugi said he will discuss the possibility of China cutting off its supply of oil to North Korea.
The three envoys said they would “continue to work very closely with China” and “coordinate all actions — diplomatic, military, economic — regarding North Korea,” Joseph Yun, special representative for North Korea policy from the U.S., told reporters after the meeting.
“We really do not believe North Korea is ready to engage us toward denuclearization,” Yun said. “We make clear among ourselves that denuclearlization remains the goal and we very much want North Korea to take steps toward that.”
Meanwhile, the USS Michigan — one of the largest submarines in the world — arrived at the South Korean port city of Busan “for a routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a statement.
The vessel, which began service as a ballistic missile sub but was converted to a land-based attack vessel in the early 2000s, can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and embark up to 66 special operations personnel, according to the U.S. Navy.
That strike was also seen by some as sending a message to Pyongyang that military action remains a credible option for Washington in dealing with the North.
The Michigan may have been what U.S. President Donald Trump was referring to in an April 11 interview with the Fox Business Network in which he described powerful submarines that were to link up with a U.S. “armada” — led by the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier — that was heading toward the region.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful,” Trump said. “We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.”
On April 23, the Maritime Self-Defense Force held joint drills with the Carl Vinson and its escort vessels in the Western Pacific as the carrier strike group made its way toward the Sea of Japan.
The Trump administration had in recent days faced criticism over the strike group’s whereabouts after officials had portrayed it as steaming toward the Korean Peninsula when it was, in fact, still thousands of kilometers away.
The carrier group’s last reported location was in the Philippine Sea on April 23.
The North has called the moves “undisguised military blackmail” and a dangerous action that plunges the peninsula into a “touch-and-go situation.”
“If the enemies recklessly provoke the DPRK, its revolutionary armed forces will promptly give deadly blows to them and counter any total war with all-out war and nuclear war with a merciless nuclear strike of Korean style,” the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Shinmun said April 24. DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
International concern that the North is preparing for its sixth atomic test or a major missile launch has surged in recent months as the Kim’s regime butts heads with Trump.
Speaking to a gathering of United Nations Security Council ambassadors in Washington on April 24, Trump pushed for more pressure on the North, saying that maintaining the status quo was “unacceptable” and the council should take action to tighten the screws on Pyongyang with additional sanctions.
Trump said the North “is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not.”
“People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem,” he added.
Also April 24, the White House confirmed reports that it would host a briefing on the North Korean nuclear issue for all 100 U.S. senators. Press secretary Sean Spicer said the briefing would be delivered by four top administration officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.
While administration officials often travel to Capitol Hill to speak with Congress about policy issues, it is rare for the entire Senate to visit the White House.
Earlier April 24, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, threatened military strikes on the North if Kim orders attacks on any military base in the U.S. or in allied countries, or tests a long-range missile.
“We’re not going to do anything unless he gives us a reason to do something. So our goal is not to start a fight,” Haley said on NBC’s “Today” when asked if the U.S. is seriously considering a preemptive strike against the North.
However, when pressed on what would prompt a U.S. military response, Haley appeared to draw a line in the sand.
“If you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile. Then obviously we’re going to do that,” she said. “But right now, we’re saying, ‘Don’t test, don’t use nuclear missiles, don’t try and do any more actions’ and I think he’s understanding that.”
North Korea has kicked its weapons programs into overdrive over the last 16 months, conducting two nuclear blasts and a spate of new missile tests.
In one particularly worrisome development for Japan, the North conducted a near-simultaneous launch of four extended-range Scud missiles in March as a rehearsal for striking U.S. military bases in the country.
Experts who analyzed photographs of the drill told The Japan Times at the time that the hypothetical target of those test-launches appeared to be U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture — meant as a simulated nuclear attack on the base. The exercise showed the North’s first explicit intent to attack U.S. Forces in Japan, they said.
In the event of conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. troops and equipment from Iwakuni would likely be among the first deployed.
Also April 24, the U.S. State Department announced that Tillerson will chair a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss North Korea. That meeting is widely seen as an effort to drum up support for increased pressure on the North.
“The DPRK poses one of the gravest threats to international peace and security through its pursuit of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, and other weapons of mass destruction as well as its other prohibited activities,” the State Department said in a statement.
“The meeting will give Security Council members an opportunity to discuss ways to maximize the impact of existing Security Council measures and show their resolve to respond to further provocations with appropriate new measures.”
Analysts said the White House was taking a multipronged approach to the issue as it ratchets up pressure on Pyongyang.
“Clearly, the Trump administration is looking to employ a swarm-tactic approach to apply pressure on North Korea through a combination of levers,” said J. Berkshire Miller, a Tokyo-based international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Miller, however, said that while this might look as if it was a new way of tackling the nuclear issue, it differed little from the approach taken by Trump’s predecessor.
“While it may appear that Trump has a newly defined approach to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the reality is that his administration is still largely following the path of the Obama administration through an ‘enhanced deterrence’ approach,” Miller said.
“The pace and scope of joint exercises with South Korea and Japan may be increasing — as are political consultations — but there still has been no demonstrable change in the U.S. approach, except the loose talk and uncoordinated planning, as evidenced by the USS Vinson deployment flap.”
In science-fiction movies and television shows, lasers are often used for fighter combat. Whether it is the Rebel X-wings from Star Wars or Air Force F-302s from Stargate SG-1, laser bolts have been taking out bad guys for years. But in real life, lasers aren’t there yet. Not by a long shot. Their biggest military application has been as a guidance system for weapons like the AGM-114 Hellfire and the Paveway laser-guided bombs.
That is in the process of changing. According to a report by CNBC, the Air Force has given Lockheed a contract to develop “high-energy fiber laser weapons” for tactical fighters that are not equipped with stealth technology. The intent is to give planes like Lockheed’s F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Boeing F-15 Eagle a means to destroy incoming surface-to-air missiles.
According to a Nov. 6 release by Lockheed, the contract comes from the Air Force Research Laboratory, which has a Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD program in place. The program has three components:
SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE), a targeting system for the laser beam.
Laser Pod Research Development (LPRD), which will design the pod to power and cool the laser
Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE), the high energy laser itself.
Lockheed has a concept High-Energy Fiber Laser that would turn a Blackhawk into a Laserhawk, albeit the pallet shown in a Lockheed graphic is too large for use on a fighter like the F-16 or F-15. That system is intended to help counter rocket and mortar attacks using a laser that can produce up to 30 kilowatts.
“The development of high power laser systems like SHiELD show laser weapon system technologies are becoming real. The technologies are ready to be produced, tested and deployed on aircraft, ground vehicles, and ships,” Dr. Rob Afzal said in the Lockheed release.
While the system seems geared towards zapping missiles, past tests have seen lasers used on vehicles and unmanned aircraft. Soon, it could be that hauling a gun like the A-10’s GAU-8 could be a thing of the past.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, the information gathered in the aftermath of the raid — which resulted in the death Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens and injured several other troops — indicated that al-Qaeda had developed bombs that could fit inside laptop computers. An explosion on a Somali airliner last year was seen as a “proof of concept” for the new bombs, failing due to the low altitude of the plane.
The Daily Beast reported that the bombs must be manually triggered, prompting their ban from the aircraft cabins and carry-on luggage, but not from checked baggage. Wired.com reports that the American ban applies to inbound flights from eight predominately Muslim countries. The Daily Beast reported that the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban in the wake of the American one.
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that airliner attack, which reportedly used PETN, the same explosive used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2002. As little as three and a haf ounces of PETN could bring down an airplane.
The Jan. 28 raid was controversial, not only for the death of Owens, but also due to civilian casualties, the unexpected heavy opposition, and the loss of a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, labeled the operation a failure. President Donald Trump, though, called the operation a success, and also claimed that substantial intelligence had been gathered.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has targeted airliners in the past. In 2009, the terrorist group was involved in the plot to use an underwear bomb to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The device malfunctioned, injuring the terrorist.
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.