Trump had one question when it came to the War in Afghanistan, according to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2018 book Fear: Trump in the White House: “What the f*ck are we doing there?” And he didn’t just want to know what the generals thought, so he asked the lower ranks.
When Trump took office in 2017 and was presented with options on securing high-value targets and changing the course of the war from the Obama-era policies, Trump changed the conversation, telling then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he wanted to talk to some “enlisted guys” about the war.
Mattis rolled his eyes.
The President in the Oval Office with many of his original staff from 2017.
“I want to get some real fighters over here who are not officers,” the President told his advisors, including Mattis, former Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Steve Bannon, and others. He wanted their “on the ground views” of the war. While the former officers in the room scoffed at the idea of enlisted troops informing the Commander-in-Chief on the then-16-year-long war in Afghanistan, Trump’s controversial Chief of Staff thought of it more idealistically, relating the idea to President Lincoln talking to Union troops during the Civil War.
On July 18, 2017, almost six months to the day after taking office, the President sat down with three soldiers and an airman who spent significant time in Afghanistan and had lunch in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
From left, Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald J. Trump, and National Security Advisor Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talk with service members during a lunch in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, July 18, 2017.
(White House photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump was joined in the lunch by McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence, Army First Sgt. Michael Wagner, Army Master Sgt. Zachary Bowman, Army Master Sgt. Henry Adames, and Air Force Major Eric Birch. As the lunch began, the President told reporters they were there “to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going and what we should do in terms of additional ideas.”
“We have plenty of ideas from a lot of people,” Trump said, “but I want to hear it from people on the ground.”
The President asked them what they thought the U.S. was doing in Afghanistan, where they thought it was going, and what they should do for additional ideas. Afterward, Woodward writes, Trump told Bannon the ground pounders’ views were unanimous – “we’ve got to figure out how to get the f*ck out of there… Totally corrupt… the people are not worth fighting for… NATO does nothing, they’re a hindrance… it’s all bullsh*t.”
So when it came time to discuss new policy at the next National Security Council meeting, Trump interrupted McMaster’s briefing, saying his best information came from the “line soldiers” he met that day.
“I don’t care about you guys,” Trump told Mattis, McMaster, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford and the rest of the NSC in a 25-minute dressing down on everyone who informed Afghanistan war policy. “It’s a disaster … the soldiers on the ground could run things much better than you.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis officially started the U.S. Department of Defense’s review of the country’s nuclear arsenal Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.
President Donald Trump directed Mattis to conduct a review after taking office in January. The full-scope review comes as concerns over the aging nuclear arsenal are growing in both the White House and Congress.
“In National Security Presidential Memorandum 1, dated Jan. 27, the president directed the secretary of defense to conduct a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure the U.S. nuclear deterrent is safe, secure, effective, reliable and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” said Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White in a statement.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will lead the review in cooperation with “interagency partners,” according to White. A final report will be issued at the end of the year.
The review comes at a time when the U.S. is facing increased nuclear threats. North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program and has increased missile testing in the last two years. Russia is believed to have violated a decades-old nuclear agreement banning the deployment of intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles. The Russian military is engaged in a military modernization program that includes both its strategic and tactical nuclear weapons.
A significant portion of the current U.S. nuclear arsenal is based on designs from the 1960s and 1970s. The Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of Military Strength rated the U.S. nuclear arsenal “strong,” just one step down from “very strong,” but leaders within the military, the White House and Congress are concerned over the aging arsenal.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” said Trump tweeted in December.
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“Everything north of the Strait of Hormuz is under our control,” said Ali Fadavi, a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. If that’s true it would mean the Islamic Republic controls the flow of one-fifth of the world’s oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran also says it controls the American Navy.
Let’s see how that works out for Iran.
“American battleships in the region are under the complete control of Iran’s army and the Revolutionary Guards,” Fadavi told Fars News Service, without providing any further details. While Iran isn’t going anywhere near the recent rocket attack that struck the Green Zone just a few days before the IRGC Navy commander made the statement, the provocations against American forces in the region appear to continue.
Meanwhile, the United States is increasing its presence in the Gulf region, sending bomber aircraft along with three more ships to bolster its forces. The Pentagon is also weighing a plan to deploy five to ten thousand more troops to the region.
The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group entered the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf in 2016
Iran has approximately 20,000 men from the Navy of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stationed in and around the Persian Gulf, manning missile boats, torpedo boats, and even speedboats. Of most concern to the ships of the U.S. navy and its allies, however, is the number of coastal and aircraft-fired anti-ship missiles in the region. On top of the IRGC’s naval assets are the approximately 15,000 men and Marines aboard the the dozens of more traditional ships – frigates, destroyers, corvettes – in the Gulf.
As for the buildup of American troops in the Gulf, Iran recently said the power posed by the force have turned from threats to targets.
Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.
So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.
Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.
Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.
Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.
Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.
The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.
By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.
One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.
Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).
Seriously how fun is this:
For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.
For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.
Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. Right now, they have 45 kids paired with 45 veterans. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.
The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!
One Navy Cross and one Silver Star were presented posthumously, including an upgrade from a Silver Star to a Navy Cross for SEAL Charles Keating, IV, who was killed during an ambush in northern Iraq while assisting anti-ISIS Peshmerga forces.
“Today we honor some of our nation’s finest heroes, not just for their individual acts of courage and bravery in the face of danger, but for the everyday selflessness that they and their peers demonstrate,” Mabus said. “This generation of Sailors, and particularly those serving as part of our Naval Special Warfare team, is an extraordinary group of men and women who have given so much to our country.”
These awards were upgrades to previously awarded medals for valor in combat and upgraded as a result of the Department of the Navy’s Post 9/11 Valor Awards Review Panel. This panel reviewed award nominations from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure members were appropriately recognized for acts of valor.
The Navy did not disclose the names of the SEALs whose awards were upgraded.
According to Keating’s Silver Star citation, he lead Peshmerga fighters in repelling an assault by 100 ISIS fighters, including intercepting a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device with sniper fire and rockets. Keating’s actions occurred in March 2016, two months before he was killed.
“Although today we recognize these individuals for their heroism and valor in combat, we are also honoring the Sailors and Marines who fought beside them and those who are still in the fight,” Mabus said.
The Department of the Navy reviewed more than 300 valor awards and the review was completed Nov. 15.
The Navy Cross, the U.S. Navy’s second highest decoration, is awarded for extraordinary heroism while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States. The act must be performed in the presence of great danger or at great personal risk.
The Silver Star is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations with a friendly force. It is the fourth highest military honor that can be awarded to a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and the third highest award for valor.
It’s no surprise that psychotic despots and drug lords who came to power through violence and intimidation would be fascinated with gold-plated and diamond-encrusted weapons. The most well-known collector was Saddam Hussein.
After his fall, his weapons seemed to be scattered in every direction. Exactly how many weapons were in Saddam’s arsenal is not public knowledge, so it’s unclear how many have just “fallen off the books” throughout the years. The ones that have been accounted for, however, are often placed in museums and presidential libraries around the world as historical artifacts.
One of his most famous golden weapons was the golden Tabuk, an Iraqi variant of the AK-47. Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division discovered it near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. The weapon was given as an official “thank you” to the Australian troops that helped them in the area. The weapon traded hands a few times before Australia’s Deputy Chief of Army, Major General John Cantwell, accepted it and placed it in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra in 2007.
(Australian War Memorial)
You might wonder why more weapons weren’t taken as trophies by troops in Iraq. Well, having weapons that are not cleared and are without their paperwork properly done breaks countless UCMJ, Interpol, UN, and Geneva Convention laws. Getting the proper rights to take home war trophies may be a headache, but it’s not impossible. This hasn’t stopped idiots from becoming war criminals in pursuit of riches, though.
In 2014, two men from New Jersey were caught in a sting by the FBI trying to sell over $1 million worth of Hussein-family weapons. Later that same year, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Joel Miller had his conviction overturned after being framed and sentenced for smuggling home a chrome-plated AK variant in 2005. As it turns out, another Marine had planted the weapon on him after Miller threatened to expose his affair. Nonetheless, he was still given a bad conduct discharge after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps.
(Hemet Police Department)
But at least two of Saddam’s weapons have been known to make their way to auction legally. The M77 rifle that Saddam held during a 2000 military parade was given to an unnamed agent after 29 years of service to the CIA. Although it wasn’t flashy like the rest of Saddam’s armory, it still put up and sold at auction for $48,875.
When people think of traveling 1,000 miles it often conjures thoughts of long, uncomfortable drives with kids shouting “are we there yet?” or perhaps of long lines waiting to get through airport security.
But what it almost certainly does not evoke is the thought of running those 1,000 miles.
The mere idea of running such a distance would seem crazy to most people. But it seemed like a great idea to Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, and he decided to set out to accomplish it in one year.
For Hanson running 1,000 miles in a year was a chance to strive for a goal that would stretch his physical and mental limits.
“I believe if you are not setting goals that stretch you, you’re probably not setting those goals high enough,” said Hanson.
To reach for such a goal, Hanson would take the lessons he learned while attending the Senior War College.
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, stands with the shoes and race bib he wore when running the Revel Mt. Lemmon Marathon, along with the medal he earned for completing the race held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
“In 2017 I accepted admission into the Senior War College,” said Hanson. “I had seen several of my friends and leaders come out of the school wrecked. It is very hard to keep a balanced life in that, and so I decided when I accepted Senior Service College that I was going to make sure I kept all my fitness’s in check.”
For Hanson, this simply means focusing on establishing and maintaining a balance between all aspects of his life.
“Try not to be over-focused,” said Hanson. “If our goals support other goals, all of our fitness’s, I think that we find that we have a much better experience in getting to those goals and accomplishing them.”
Running 1,000 miles in a year is difficult in the best of circumstances, but it would be nearly impossible without the support of his wife. Fortunately for Hanson, his wife was right beside him providing support, balance, and often a training partner.
“In my case, my spouse is very involved in my military life, and she’s very involved in my spiritual life, and she’s very involved in my physical life,” said Hanson. “We’d go places and we’d run together. We’d go places and we’d hike together. We find ways to make physical fitness not separate from each other.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Arizona Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, gestures to the camera as he runs the Revel Mt. Lemon marathon in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson also had the support of his Army Family to help bolster his efforts.
“I know my team out here, they would make sure that I would hydrate,” said Hanson. “They would make sure that I ate properly. They would support me and motivate me.”
As he approached the homestretch of his journey, the idea of running a marathon to complete his 1,000 miles began to gain traction in his mind. He also saw it as an opportunity to take another shot at a goal he had once reached for but fell short of grasping.
“I did a marathon in 2004 and I did not reach my goal of doing a less than 3 hour and 30-minute marathon,” said Hanson. “But this one here, as I was running I was kind of watching my splits and in the back of my mind, I knew I had not met my goal in 2004. I started to mention to my wife that my splits are getting close to Boston times.”
Hanson decided to complete his journey and pursue his secondary goal at the Revel Mt. Lemmon marathon held in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 02, 2019. As the marathon progressed, he knew he would complete his 1,000 miles and felt confident he would finally achieve the goal that eluded him in 2004.
“I would say I was pretty doggone focused,” said Hanson. “Certainly you’re feeling discomfort, but up until the point I started having debilitating cramps, I fully felt I was going to be able to accomplish my goal.”
Lt. Col. Daniel R. Hanson, Task Force Guardian Joint Staff, Arizona Army National Guard, returns the salute of Capt. Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer In Charge, Arizona National Guard, at Papago Park Military Reservation in Phoenix, Ariz. on Nov. 07, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Moyte)
Hanson would complete the marathon and reach 1,000 miles. However, despite his spirit willing him to keep going, his body would rebel and he would fall short of his secondary goal of a sub 3 hour and 25-minute marathon. He would cross the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 40 minutes, which would place him in the top 23% of all finishers.
“So, my goal was to be under 3 hours and 25 minutes,” said Hanson. “I think I was on pace to be under until mile 23. Somewhere in the 23rd is when the cramping started and I lost my pace.”
Failure to reach a goal, even if not the primary goal, is often enough for many people to avoid striving for difficult goals in the future. For Lt. Col. Hanson it is simply a confirmation that he is setting goals that will continually push him to expand his own limits.
“Not meeting a goal is a disappointment, but it’s only a setback,” said Hanson. “It’s a mentality thing. Although I felt like I failed, it’s just setting goals for yourself that are relevant to yourself that push you to the next level.”
And that disappointment is not enough to stop Hanson, it is just more motivation to keep chasing his white rabbit.
“There is a marathon here in Phoenix/Mesa in February,” said Hanson with a grin. “I think I can get it next time. I just need to tweak a couple of things.”
It happens almost every single year and it’s always a giant fuss. A new recruit who is barely out of boot camp will wear their branch’s dress uniform as they walk down the aisle at their high school graduation. The school will invariably be annoyed that someone isn’t wearing the same thing as everyone else, they’ll cause a fuss, and, suddenly, everyone is up in arms against that school.
Now, we’re not going to throw any individual under the bus — so we won’t name names — but trust me when I say that stunts like this are definitely boot moves.
This time, the near-annual graduation controversy started with two Marines in Michigan. They informed their school of their plans month before entering boot camp and the school, of course, rejected their proposal. The students graduated recruit training on a Friday and come back to Michigan to graduate high school the following Sunday.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
First, it’s important to realize that schools don’t lack in compassion for the military and its troops, but the ceremony requires uniformity. The school made many concessions, including offering specially-made tassels, just like those worn by honor students, woven in red, white, and blue. They also offered to announce their military rank as they received their diploma and annotate their service in the rosters and the programs.
Even still, the students walked in their dress uniforms instead of the standard caps and gowns. The school’s superintendent allowed them to walk to keep their families happy. Afterward, an unnamed school board member discretely expressed to the students they were not happy with the rule violation, but that they also respected their service. This gentle aside then hit the internet, was blown out of proportion, and now the school board members are being made to look like as*holes.
The fact is that the uniform of the day was a cap and gown. These recruits disobeyed that order. When moments like this happen in the military because someone is trying to be an individual, the offenders swiftly disciplined. When this happens in the civilian world with recruits fresh out of boot camp (in this case, literally two days out of boot camp), the civilians who put out a simple rule (and offered many compromises) are made out to be the bad guys.
(Photo by Chris Moncus)
Each school has a policy on wearing uniforms to graduations. Some allow it, some don’t. The entire state of New Jersey, for instance, allows all troops to wear their uniform to their high school graduation. If the school allows troops who’ve completed their initial entry training to wear a uniform, outstanding! Go for it! If not, the school shouldn’t be vilified for asking a young troop (and student) to follow a guideline.
If you still feel compelled to wear your dress uniform in an unofficial manner, wear it under your cap and gown. It’s as simple as that.
Members of the 386th Expeditionary Wing dental team were given a unique opportunity to join forces with the Army veterinary clinic to provide support to the K-9 unit at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 8, 2018.
In most instances in a deployed environment the medical group supports the vet by providing medications and food related support, but on this day it was to perform a teeth cleaning on Military Working Dog Vviking.
“I am very grateful to do this out here,” said Staff Sgt. Torri Olivieri, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group dental services noncommissioned officer in charge. “Working with a military working dog and supporting the mission in this aspect is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
In a deployed location, the veterinary clinic leans heavily on the medical group in emergencies to support the K-9 unit if the veterinary clinic is unavailable.
Army Capt. Carolyn Scholl, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services veterinary core officer, prepares to insert a breathing tube in military working dog Vviking’s throat during a routine teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)
“I called the dental tech and dentist down here today so they could get hands-on experience with the MWD, because if there is an emergent situation they would be the ones taking care of the dog,” said Army Spc. Caitlin Hinds, 719th Medical Detachment Veterinary Services vet technician.
While the veterinary clinic is a role three facility, which means they are able to support a majority of surgeries, they aren’t specifically trained to perform routine cleanings.
The vet clinic takes the opportunity to invite both medical clinic staff and dog handlers to many routine visits, such as blood draws and check-ups, to ensure they have the knowledge and are comfortable to do these things if they are unavailable, Hinds explained.
Air Force military working dog Vviking receives a belly rub from his handler before his teeth cleaning at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Dec. 7, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy L. Mosier)
Staff Sgt. Angelina Borges, 386th Expeditionary Medical Group military working dog handler, discussed an incident in 2018 when her partner, MWD Vviking, was having issues lying down and sitting and the vet was there to help her every step of the way to help improve his health.
“I am really thankful for the vet clinic here and how they have explained everything to me,” Borges said.
The trust and willingness to accommodate one another has really bolstered the partnership between the Army and Air Force and Hinds looks to keep improving that relationship.
“I can go to the kennel master and medical group and say, ‘I need this,’ and they are more than willing to help,” Hinds explained. “It makes me feel good, because I am building the bonds back.”
The cohesiveness between units at ‘The Rock’ stems from these bonds and has developed with trust and partnership with one goal in mind — to complete the mission.
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the largest non-nuclear bomb in the United States arsenal has made its combat debut.
According to a report by CNN, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also called the Mother of All Bombs, was used to hit a cave and tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
Designation-Systems.net notes that the GBU-43 weighs 21,700 pounds – almost 11 tons – which includes 18,700 pounds of high explosive. It has a 40-inch diameter and is 30 feet long. The bomb is often used by the MC-130, a special operations variant of the C-130 Hercules.
One DOD official told FoxNews.com, “We kicked it out the back door.”
The GBU-43’s GPS guidance allows it to be dropped from high altitudes from as far as three miles away – out of the reach of some air defenses, and also allowing planes to avoid being caught in the bomb’s blast radius. The London Daily Mail noted that the bomb can leave a crater almost a thousand feet wide.
The GBU-43 replaced the BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a Vietnam-era bomb that weighed in at 15,000 pounds, and saw action in the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom, with a similar delivery method. Designation-Systems.net notes that the bomb’s explosive was 12,600 pounds of a mixture of ammonium nitrate, polystyrene, and aluminum powder. The last BLU-82 was dropped in 2008.
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
Russia, already the owner of the world’s longest Arctic coastline, has spent the past few years bolstering its presence there.
Now changes wrought by climate change are giving Moscow more territory to work with in the Arctic as the US is still looking for ways to get into the high north.
Russian sailors and researchers explored five new islands around the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean off Russia’s northern coast during an expedition in August and September 2019.
The islands, ranging in size from about 1,000 square yards to 65,000 square yards, were first spotted in 2016 but not confirmed until the expedition by Russia’s Northern Fleet and the Russian Geographical Society.
The new islands are “associated with the melting of ice,” expedition leader Vice Adm. Aleksandr Moiseyev said on Oct. 22, 2019, according to state news agency Tass. “Previously these were glaciers, but the melting of ice led to the islands emerging.”
The discoveries come as Moscow has boosted its military presence in the region, refurbishing Cold War-era bases, setting up new units, opening ports and runways, and deploying radar and air-defense systems.
In all, Russia has built 475 military facilities in the Arctic over the past six years and deployed personnel, special weapons, and equipment to them, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March 2019.
US officials regard Russian activity in the Arctic as “aggressive” and have questioned their Russian counterparts on it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, upon arrival at the remote Arctic islands of Franz Josef Land, Russia, March 29, 2017.
“When I was as at the [Arctic Conference in 2017] and [with] the Russian ambassador … I asked him, ‘Why are you repaving five Cold War airstrips, and why are there reportedly 10,000 Spetsnaz troops up there?'” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said at a Brookings Institution event on Oct. 23, 2019, referring to Russian special operation forces.
“He said, ‘search and rescue, Mr. Secretary,'” Spencer added.
Asked whether Russia was a competitor or partner or both in the Arctic, Spencer said he “would love to say both” but expressed concern.
“I worry about their position there,” he said, pointing to the Northern Sea Route, which cuts shipping time between Europe and Asia by 40% compared to the Suez Canal route but runs through Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In April, Moscow said foreign ships using that route would have to give notice and pay higher transit fees.
“That said, dialogue must remain open. We have to keep those avenues of communication,” Spencer added. “You’ve seen the arguments compared to the Suez Canal, the time and dollar savings by going over north, that’s happened. It’s going to continue to happen. We have to be present.”
Catching up in the high north
The emphasis on the Arctic is a part of the “great power competition” described in the 2018 US National Defense Strategy, which outlined a turn away from two decades of combat against irregular forces in the Middle East and toward revisionist foes like Russia and China.
But the US still has some catching up to do when it comes to the Arctic.
The US has just one heavy icebreaker, the decrepit Polar Star, operated by the Coast Guard. Russia, which gets some 25% of its GDP from the Arctic, has more than 40 icebreakers of varying sizes with more on the way. The Coast Guard recently awarded a contract to build three new icebreakers, but the first isn’t expected until 2024.
Marines have deployed on rotations to Norway since 2017 and taken part in exercises in Alaska with the Army and Air Force in an effort to get used to harsh conditions at higher latitudes. But the Navy’s biggest moves have come at sea.
Sailors and Marines aboard the USS Gunston Hall observe an underway replenishment with the USNS John Lethall, Oct. 6, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Colbey Livingston)
“We did Trident Juncture. We went north of the Arctic Circle, [and for the] first time since 1996 we had a carrier strike group and amphib ships north of the Arctic Circle,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.
Trident Juncture in late 2018 was NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War and included the carrier USS Harry S. Truman. One of the Navy ships accompanying Marines to the exercise, the USS Gunston Hall, was banged up by rough seas during the journey.
“We learned a lot, where we had to shore up our learning and where we had to shore up our sets and reps,” Spencer said. “Gunston Hall hit some heavy weather, [which] tore the hell out of the well deck.”
Some sailors suffered minor injuries aboard the Gunston Hall, which had to return to the US. Bad seas also forced another ship, the USS New York, to detour to Iceland, but it eventually made it to the exercise in Norway.
“I’ll write a check for that kind of damage any single time, when I saw what we’d learned from going up there,” Spencer said.
Sailors signal an E-2D Hawkeye ready for launch on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 27, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
The Truman’s trip above the Arctic Circle after a two-decade absence, like the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s participation in the Northern Edge exercise in Alaska for the first time in a decade, is significant, and recent Navy exercises in Alaska laid the groundwork for future training up there, but whether the Navy will be back for good is uncertain.
“We will be in the Arctic Circle … in the high north in the Atlantic and the high Pacific in the Bering Straits on a regular basis,” Spencer said at the Brookings event.
“Will we have permanent basing up there? I don’t know. Would I like to see a logistic center up there — something like a Nome [in Alaska] — that would be great,” Spencer added.
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer with Cmdr. Kevin Culver, commanding officer of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock, in Seward, Alaska, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Burgains)
As of late September 2019, the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program, which is tasked with finding innovative and cost-effective methods to meet the Pentagon’s high-priority environmental needs, was deciding on proposals to guide Arctic infrastructure projects, according to John Farrell, executive director of the US Arctic Research Commission, who sat in on the panel making the decision.
“They were in the midst of making final selection on proposals to directly address this very topic of Arctic infrastructure design — a design tool that would look at the rapid environmental changes that are going on and give guidance to engineers better than the current guidance they have, which is outdated, about how to design infrastructure that will last 20, 30, 40 years in a rapidly changing environment,” Farrell said at a Hudson Institute event at the end of September 2019.
“This is of great importance to places like Thule Air Force Base in Greenland and other bases that we have in the north, not just in the US but pan-Arctic,” Farrell said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you look at the USS Constitution today, berthed at the Boston Navy Yard, you might find yourself wondering how a wooden ship got the nickname, “Old Ironsides.” The answer to that question is actually very simple: Cannonballs used to literally bounce off the hull of the Constitution in battle, falling harmlessly into the sea bellow.
The Constitution is currently the oldest active ship in the US Navy today. Launched in 1797, it was one of the earliest ships to enter service with the fledgling Navy. Ordered as a heavy frigate as part of the Naval Act of 1794, the Constitution and five other similarly-configured ships were to be the backbone of the new Navy — heavy warships that other, smaller, ships could support and rally around.
Though slated to carry 44 guns (cannon of varying sizes), sailors often crammed more than 50 aboard the vessel when it put out to sea. Three masts, decked out with massive sails, would provide the propulsion needed to drive the nearly 1600-ton ship through the rough Atlantic waves.
(Painting by Anton Otto Fischer)
It was during the War of 1812 that the Constitution earned her now-famous nickname, under the command of Isaac Hull. Well-liked and revered by those who served under him, Hull took it upon himself to personally ensure that the Constitution and her crew were ready for combat at all times. In mid-July, 1812, the heavy frigate encountered a small squadron of British ships, who gave chase. With a bit of planning and a little creativity, Hull managed to maneuver his ship away to safety.
The following month, the Constitution encountered one of those pursuing ships — the HMS Gurriere, commanded by James Dacres. This time, battle was inevitable and the two ships began trading blows. Hull quickly repositioned his ship, giving his gunners a clear view of the Gurriere.
Scrambling over the upper and the gun decks of both ships were sailors and Marines, frantically reloading their weapons for the next salvo. Aboard Constitution, sailors watched as 18-pound cannonballs whistled through the air, bracing for an impact that would certainly penetrate the walls of the ship, killing and maiming anybody in their way.
And then, nothing happened.
Though some of the cannonballs did inflict damage, others bounced off and fell into the roiling sea, much to the bewilderment of both sides. An American sailor notably yelled out, “Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!” and thus, the nickname, “Old Ironsides” was born.
A combination of different types of oak layered around each other made the ship’s surfaces dense and difficult to pierce. The multiple layers of wood absorbed the cannonballs’ impacts of the and dissipated the forces quickly. Extra ribbing and bracketing on the internal walls also contributed to making the Constitution so sturdy.
By the end of the battle, the Guerriere was beyond salvage, much to the disappointment of Hull. Broadside after broadside had done the frigate in. The British crew was taken aboard Constitution and salvage parties took what they could off the smoldering Royal Navy vessel before lighting it afire and setting the ship adrift to descend to its watery grave.
Old Ironsides sailed into Boston Harbor, packed with prisoners of war, as jubilant American sailors and Marines celebrated their triumphant return home. After doing battle with more British ships in the following years, Constitution was briefly laid up in mothballs while her future was decided by the Department of the Navy.
Amidst fears that the Constitution would be scrapped, having long outlived its original intended lifespan, public outcry spurred on by a poem written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, entitled Old Ironsides after the ship’s nickname. The powerful poem motivated the Navy to fund a refit and refurbishment of the battle-scarred frigate. The nickname has since stuck, even through the Constitution‘s years of obscurity in the late 1800s and early 1900s.