The face of air security has changed a lot since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, but one thing has stayed constant: you’re not allowed to bring bombs on planes. No, not even fake ones.
A passenger apparently forgot that on Saturday when he packed a high-quality, realistic replica grenade in his checked luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport near New York City.
The right way to pack a grenade is not to pack it at all. Passenger at @EWRairport had this in his checked bag on Saturday. @TSA contacted police, who removed man from plane for questioning. Explosives experts determined that it was a realistic replica, also not allowed on planespic.twitter.com/LCtUtnnzFq
The replica grenade was found by workers at a checked baggage-screening point at the airport’s Terminal A, according to Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for TSA.
The TSA reported the grenade to the Port Authority Police Department, which polices the New York City-area airports. As the passenger was removed from the plane and questioned, police officers examined the grenade and confirmed that it was not active.
The passenger was not charged, and there was no disruption to flights or security screening at the terminal. However, the passenger ended up short a fake grenade: prohibited items are not returned to passengers, according to Farbstein.
This was not the only episode of an explosive — real or replica — found at airport security in recent days.
.@TSA officers at @BWI_Airport detected this missile launcher in a checked bag early this morning. Man said he was bringing it back from Kuwait as a souvenir. Perhaps he should have picked up a keychain instead!pic.twitter.com/AQ4VBPtViG
On Monday morning, TSA screeners at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport found a real missile launcher, minus missile, in a passenger’s checked bag. The passenger, who is an active-duty servicemember, said that it was a souvenir from Kuwait. After airport police confirmed that there was no live missile in the launcher, officers transferred the device to the state fire marshal for disposal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Spend any amount of time on or around an Army or Air Force post and you’ll be sure to find a number of beret-wearing service members around you.
Hell, you’re going to be greeted by a blue beret each and every time you get to an Air Force gate (SecFo HUA!) and, if you were on any Army post between 2001 and 2011, you saw black berets everywhere you went, as they were a part of standard Army uniform.
Got it — but what about the less commonly seen berets? The green, the tan, and the maroon?
This is what berets of all colors mean in the Army and Air Force.
Black — U.S. Army
A black beret is worn by all soldiers in service dress unless they are otherwise authorized to wear a different, distinctive beret.
Black — U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party
A black beret is the official headgear of the Air Force TACP. They’re about as operator as you get in the Air Force without becoming pararescue or combat control.
Blue — U.S. Air Force Security Forces
The most common beret across all branches of service as of writing. Security Forces (the Air Force’s version of Military Police) wear the blue beret with every uniform whenever not deployed or in certain training.
Green — U.S. Army Special Forces
This is the cream of the crop of the U.S. Army. The green beret is the single most recognizable sign of a badass.
Grey — U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape
These guys teach most of the other badasses on this list how to survive in the worst conditions. That definitely qualifies them for their own beret.
Maroon — U.S. Army Airborne
Aside from the Army’s green beret, the maroon beret of Army airborne is one of the easiest to recognize.
These guys drop into any situation with complete operational capability.
Maroon — U.S. Air Force Pararescue
In the Air Force, the maroon beret means something completely different. While being Army Airborne is an amazing distinction, the Air Force Pararescuemen are truly elite.
The introductory course has one of the highest failure rates of all military schools and the ones that do complete it go on to become the kind of guy that you do not want to fight in a bar.
Pewter Grey — U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather
These guys do weather in the most undesirable conditions. I know that may not sound very operator, but just take a quick look at the training they endure and the types of operations they conduct and you won’t ever question their beret again.
Tan — U.S. Army Rangers
The Army Rangers began wearing tan berets in 2001 when the Army made the black beret the standard headgear for the entire Army.
Prior to that, they owned the black beret.
Scarlet — U.S. Air Force Combat Control
The scarlet beret is the headgear of the U.S. Combat Controller. Their beret is one you’ll rarely see because they’re always on the go, doing what they were trained to do… which is classified.
It was a dynamic, often turbulent, year around the military community. 2015 saw domestic terrorism, growing aggression from former Cold War adversaries, and the Pentagon dealing with unprecedented budgetary and cultural challenges. Here are WATM’s picks for the top 15 stories of the year:
1. The “American Sniper” controversy
The Clint Eastwood-helmed biopic from real-life American sniper Chris Kyle divided the U.S. like a red Starbucks cup. The film earned a whopping $100 million during its opening weekend, but inconsistencies from the book and the depictions of certain onscreen combat actions (like taking aim at a child in Iraq, for example) sparked a few anti-war tweets from actor Seth Rogen and filmmaker Michael Moore. The movie also caused a backlash about how much of a hero Kyle really was, bringing into question whether the all of the events Kyle wrote about really happened.
As much as military experts lauded the film for “getting it right” in terms of technical detail and overall atmospherics (including the challenges of reintegration) “American Sniper” also exposed that the civilian-military divide is alive and well.
2. Troops deployed to fight Ebola outbreak return from West Africa
In 2014, President Obama ordered 2,800 U.S. troops and Department of Defense personnel to West Africa to help combat the Ebola epidemic there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the hardest hit, with more than 22,000 reported cases and more than 8,000 confirmed deaths from the virus. U.S. troops were vital to the mission to contain the victims and maintain the quarantines. In February 2015, all but 100 of those troops deployed returned home, not a single one infected by the virus.
“Military engineers oversaw the building of new Ebola Treatment Units; military logisticians directed the deployment of life-saving resources from across the globe; and military doctors supported the brave men and women who treated patients every day,” said Rajiv Shah, then-head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
3. Bowe Bergdahl faces general court martial
The Army, for more than a year, deliberated on just how to deal with the aftermath of the Bowe Bergdahl incident. Though it is clear Bergdahl walked away from his post during his last deployment to Afghanistan in June 2009 and was held until his release in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014, the Army stated its belief that there is no evidence Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct while held captive by the Taliban and Haqqani Network. The matter was sent before a four-star general to review the facts for a possible court martial.
In March, the Army charged Bergdahl with “desertion with intent to shirk important or hazardous duty” and one count of “misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place.” Sgt. Bergdahl’s story is now the subject of the wildly popular “Serial” podcast, featuring interviews with those for Bergdahl’s unit, as well as his Taliban captors.
4. Donald Trump blasts Sen. John McCain’s service record
Trump was speaking at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa in July when moderator Frank Luntz asked the Presidential candidate about an incident where McCain referred to Trump’s supporters as “the crazies.” Luntz referred to the Arizona Senator as a “war hero.”
“He’s a war hero because he was captured… I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump replied and then told the audience that McCain “graduated last in his class at Annapolis (Naval Academy).” After the event, Trump released a statement:
“I am not a fan John McCain because he has done so little for our veterans… I have great respect for all those who serve in our military including those that weren’t captured and are also heroes.”
The statement was condemned by the Republican Party, other GOP hopefuls, and much of the American media. Sen. McCain did not immediately comment. McCain, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, spent the next six years being beaten and tortured as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” He appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joeshortly after Trump’s remarks, but did not demand an apology.
“I’m not a hero,” the 78-year-old senator said. “But those who were my senior ranking officers … those that inspired us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be capable of doing, those are the people I think he owes an apology to.”
“I think he may owe an apology to the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict and those who have undergone the prison experience in serving their country,” McCain added. “When Mr. Trump says he prefers to be with people who are not captured, the great honor of my life was to be in the company of heroes.”
5. Marines who lowered the American Flag in Havana raise it again
In January 1961, three U.S. Marines in Havana, Cuba lowered the U.S. embassy flag for the last time. The day before, President Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba after a coup brought dictator Fidel Castro to power. Castro ordered all but 11 U.S. diplomats to leave Cuba.
6. U.S. troops Spencer Stone and Alek Skarlatos prevent terror attacks on a Paris train
In August 2015, a heavily armed Moroccan national was set to shoot up a Paris-bound train, killing as many people as possible. As he exited the bathroom, two Frenchmen attempted to wrest the would-be shooter’s AKM rifle away. One was shot through the neck, the other fell to the floor. At that point three Americans — a civilian named Anthony Sadler, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and U.S. Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos — jumped the gunman. Stone put the man in a choke hold, taking repeated stab wounds from a box cutter, while Skarlatos took the attacker’s rifle, beating him in the head until the man lost consciousness.
As others restrained the attacker, Stone (who is an Air Force medic) tended to the wounds of the first passenger, pushing his finger on the neck artery to stop the bleeding. All survived. Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone were named Knights of the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande. Sadler received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor (civilian equivalent of the Distinguished Service Cross). Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal (the highest non-combat award). And Stone was awarded the Airman’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Stone also received a STEP promotion to staff sergeant after his regular promotion to senior airman.
7. First female soldiers earn Ranger Tabs
The two female officers, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, became the first women to complete the U.S. Army’s grueling Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia amid the ongoing debate about the roles of women fighting in combat. Griest is a military police officer and Haver is an Apache helicopter pilot. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were among 19 women who started the course. A third woman graduated in October.
8. Russia enters the Syrian Civil War
In September, Russian military aircraft carried out the country’s first airstrikes in support of President Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained his forces were attacking ISIS positions, but there were many reports of Russian forces attacking anti-regime positions. Russia’s support for Syria goes back to the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s support for Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad who ruled Syria for almost 30 years before his death in 2000. The issue was made even more complicated after Turkey shot down a Russian aircraft for violating Turkish airspace.
9. Marine Corps publishes a study about gender-integrated units
The Marine Corps released a summary of results in September 2015 based on a nine-month study of gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. The study also claimed that all-male units were faster, stronger, had less body fat, and were more accurate with every standard individual weapon like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The study’s summary did note the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.”
10. Training “Moderate” Syrian rebels falls apart
The first round of American-trained “moderate” Syrian fighters made their way into Syria in September 2015. They were quickly routed by or defected to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front, a Sunni Islamist group. Al-Nusra stormed the rebel headquarters and took some of the fighters hostage. Later the same month, 75 more American-trained Syrian rebels entered the country via Turkey, where the majority of the training takes place. Almost immediately, those U.S.-backed fighters surrendered to the al-Nusra front. The “vetted” U.S.-backed leader, Anas Obaid, told al-Nusra he intentionally deceived the U.S. to get the weapons.
The U.S.’ $500 million dollar plan to arm and train “moderate” Syrian rebels was a disaster. CENTCOM, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, reported of the 5,400 rebels planned to be in Syria fighting ISIS this year, there were only “four or five” active fighters in country. The CENTCOM spokesman went on to say there is no way the goal could be reached in 2015. The Obama Administration nixed the plan to train rebels by October 9th.
11. Congress saves A-10 from the Air Force
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the only aircraft built specifically for a close-air support mission. The signature feature is its 30mm gatling gun, the GAU-8 Avenger. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (the BRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), has been music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so that the plane has earned the nickname of “the grunt in the air.” The Air Force wanted to retire the slow-moving but stout plane to make room in their budget for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says is “designed for the whole battlespace.” But critics claim the F-35 ill-suited for the close air support mission.
In the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress ordered the Air Force to produce a reliable, independent study on how they will replace the A-10’s CAS mission while providing the necessary funds to keep the Warthog flying.
12. President Obama extended U.S. military’s Afghan mission into 2017
They won’t have a direct combat role, but U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through 2017. When President Obama leaves office in 2017, 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban and a growing ISIS threat will keep the U.S. forces busy as they work to keep the Afghan government in power.
The Obama Administration announced the extension in October. The War in Afghanistan is almost 15 years old and claimed the lives of 2,230 service members and cost more than $1 trillion. The new yearly plan costs upwards of $15 billion per year.
13. ISIS and China hack DoD computers, stealing troops’ personal data
In mid-October, a native of Kosovo was detained in Malaysia and alleged to be the hacker who had forced his way into the U.S. government software that held the personal information of U.S. troops and federal workers. The Kosovar, said to have ties to ISIS, stole data belonging to 1,300 people and gave it to the terror group’s hacking division.
One month prior, Chinese hackers forced their way into the systems of the Office of Personnel Management, and stole 5.6 million fingerprints, which, in turn, affected the compromised the records of 21.5 million Federal employees and applicants. The personal data also potentially contained information about intelligence agents posted overseas. The data included the employees’ biographical forms used when applying for sensitive or classified jobs.
14. All Combat Jobs are opened to women
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to open all military combat roles to women, rejecting limitations on the most dangerous military jobs. The secretary’s orders gave the branches until January 1st to plan their changes and force those combat roles open to women by April 1st, including infantry, reconnaissance, and special operations forces.
Women already have access to most front-line roles in the Army, Navy and Air Force. Earlier in 2015, women were integrated into the Navy’s Submarine Service. Women have been serving as fighter pilots in the Air Force and Navy since 1993, and the Army has been fighting to open its infantry positions to women since September 2015. The defense secretary’s rationale was simply that any qualified candidate should be allowed to compete for the jobs.
15. U.S. deploys special forces ground troops to fight ISIS
In a departure from the U.S. military’s policy of providing air support and “advisors” to support Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Ash Carter authorized the deployment of additional special operations forces in Iraq to conduct raids to free hostages, capture Daesh leaders, and gather intelligence.
Earlier in the year, the U.S. deployed 3,300 troops to Iraq in training and advisory capacities, as well as support for air operations. The new standing force will be based in Iraq but conduct operations in Iraq and in Syria. The total special force could number up in the hundreds. In October, U.S. special forces and Iraqi troops conducted a raid on an ISIS compound to free 70 Iraqi prisoners, resulting in the first U.S. castualty in the war against ISIS.
Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.
During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.
“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.
On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.
“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.
Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.
But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.
Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”
“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.
The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.
In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.
U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.
Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.
Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.
VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”
The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The military of today looks very different from the military of parents or grandparents. Many of us veterans will go into high-tech training on things like satellites, avionics, or even automated weapons. Military careers with a technical background are a great starting point for a post-military career.
“Veterans and transitioning service members are an amazing talent pool,” says General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Military Affairs at Microsoft. “You have a group of amazing young men and women who have served their country, put their organization above themselves, and come with unique skills and sense of discipline.”
“From a great career in the military, we want them to have the opportunity to go into another great career in the technology industry,” Cortez says.
But what if you didn’t happen to work in a technical field?
Much of the warfighting capability of U.S. armed forces still depend on door-kickers and trigger-pullers. A noble job, but it doesn’t always have a civilian equivalent. And then there are the military careers we take for granted: the plumbers, boatswain’s mates, and undesignated airmen (and others) that may not want to continue those careers after serving.
We live in the information age, in a digital word, where tech jobs are the holy grail of well-paying careers. Sometimes it seems like getting to work in tech after the military means coding your own app and moving to Silicon Valley.
Or maybe check out what Microsoft is doing for the military-veteran community.
Edgar Sanchez joined the Army at 32 and while he was at the base education office, he learned about Microsoft Software Systems Academy, or MSSA. The program is an intense 18-week training course that gives aspiring vets a background in Information Technology systems.
In a world full of shady dealers who will tell you anything to get a piece of your GI Bill benefits, isn’t the idea of Microsoft directly teaching you things like cloud application development, server cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, and database business intelligence administration a bit comforting?
Best of all, finishing the course gets you a job interview at Microsoft. But don’t worry if you don’t get that job. More than 240 companies have hired MSSA graduates. The program has a 94 percent employment rate.
“Why not bring the technology industry’s skills gap and thousands of transitioning service members together?” Cortez asks. “Why not fill this need in technology by training people that are interested, that are leaving active duty, and preparing them for those jobs?”
A thought that would be comforting when it’s time to think about leaving the military.
The trenches and battlefields of World War I are some of the last places one would expect to read about women who were decorated for valor. Yet, in the “War to End All Wars,” six women received medals for valor. Three received the Citation Star, the forerunner to the Silver Star, and three others received the Distinguished Service Cross – second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor in action.
All were with the Army Nurse Corps at the time, one of the very few outlets women had to serve in the military. While medical units weren’t supposed to come under fire, these six women were among the nurses who did come under fire – and would distinguish themselves.
According to Military Medical, the first woman to earn a Silver Star (known as the Citation Star in World War I), was Jane I. Rignel. At 7:30 AM on July 15, 1918, Mobile Hospital 2 came under attack. Rignel aided in the evacuation of the patients while under artillery fire – and kept going until the hospital itself was shelled by the Germans.
5. 6. Linnie E. Lecknore Irene Robel
Military Medical reports that these two nurses received the Citation Star for their actions while part of an ad hoc unit known as Shock 134, attached to Field Hospital 127. When the hospital came under fire on July 29, 1918, they continued to treat wounded soldiers who were brought in.
The tale of the Silver Star recipients takes an ironic turn. While the recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross got recognition at the time in publications like the Journal of Nursing, the Citation Star recipients slipped through the cracks. The Silver Stars were eventually presented to the families of Jane Rignel and Linnie Lecknore.
No relatives of Irene Robel have come forward – and her Silver Star remains unclaimed.
The Pentagon is throwing $700 million at a rapidly progressing program to combat the threat of commercial drone use by the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.
The program has commissioned U.S. defense contractors to begin attempting to find solutions to the drone threat, including using lasers to shoot them out of the sky. The technology is in its infancy and has yet to yield any significant results. ISIS has pioneered the use of relatively cheap commercial drones as airborne improvised explosive devices, for surveillance, and propaganda purposes.
The Pentagon program comes as it increases the number of U.S. troops in Syria to assist training for the Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon reportedly worries that its bases could be vulnerable to ISIS drone attacks, and it sees the broader trend in warfare.
The terrorist group used some commercial drones to drop cheap IED’s on the Iraq Security Forces during the Battle for Mosul. ISIS announced the formation of a new drone warfare unit in January, whose sole purpose is to inflict “a new source of horror for the apostates.” The terrorist group said the new unit killed nearly 40 Iraqi soldiers in just one week.
The threat may not just be limited to the battlefield. Georgetown terrorism expert Dr. Bruce Hoffman recently warned that drone “swarms” could become a facet of western terrorist attacks. Hoffman outlined one such scenario, telling readers, “picture Paris on November 13, 2015 [the night when people were slaughtered at a rock concert and in sidewalk cafés] with drone attacks superimposed on top of it. Authorities would have been completely overwhelmed. This elevates our greatest fear, which is simultaneous urban attacks—now with swarming on top of them.”
US special operations commandos rescued an American hostage during an early morning raid on Saturday, according to Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.
“U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men,” said Hoffman. “This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S. military personnel were injured during the operation.”
The New York Times reported that the unit who conducted the raid is the US Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6. They identified the American born hostage as 27-year-old Philip Walton. Walton is the son of missionaries and lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm outside of Massalata, close to the Nigerian border.
Walton was abducted from his backyard on Monday after the captors demanded money from him in front of his family. After offering $40, he was taken away by the assailants on motorbikes and a ransom of $1 million was announced shortly after, said the New York Times.
Approximately 30 SEALs parachuted into the area of the captors’ camp after intelligence resources tracked the kidnappers and Marine special operations assets located their position in northern Nigeria, according to multiple news sources.
ABC News reported that during the raid, a short and intense firefight ensued and six captors were killed with the seventh running off. Walton was apparently unharmed during the firefight.
One counterterrorism source told ABC News, “They were all dead before they knew what happened.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Saturday, “Outstanding work by the U.S. military today in freeing a U.S. citizen taken hostage in Niger and reuniting him with his family.”
This article was originally written by Kevin Wilson for The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are his own.
There are many military occupational specialties that could make the argument that they’ve been underutilized in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One could argue, for instance, that there hasn’t been much need for ADA since the initial invasions, since our enemies in both countries are, for all practical intents and purposes, little more than exceptionally lethal cavemen.
They might be hell on wheels for making bombs and guerrilla warfare, but they don’t fly without a little bit of help, usually in the form of the high explosive warhead.
The same argument could be applied to our fighter pilots, for much the same reason. If the enemy has no fighters of their own, then they’re little more than glorified close air support. Sure, they get to stay on nice bases and have shirtless volleyball games, but that’s a poor substitute for life in the danger zone.
However, there is one very particular specialty who, I would argue, has the bluest balls of them all, and that’s the crews of the Army and Marine Corps’s MLRS and HIMARS launchers.
The MLRS, or Multiple Launch Rocket System, is the single most badass artillery piece in the US arsenal, and possibly the world. Its little brother, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is a very close second. Nicknamed “Steel Rain,” the MLRS and HIMARS represent a quantum leap in ground-to-ground destructive capability, above and beyond anything the world has seen before and since. Sure, cannon artillery might have its place on the battlefield, but that place isn’t wiping out grid squares with a single fire mission.
And yet, for all their awesome destructive power, they’ve seen very limited use over the last decade and a half. This is a phenomenon I’ve witnessed firsthand. My unit, a HIMARS battery in the North Carolina Army National Guard, has deployed multiple times since the start of the Iraq war, and we’ve yet to fire a single rocket in anger. We spent the better part of a year staring at the Sinai desert, but no shooting rockets.
It’s to the point where the 13Ms, the MLRS and HIMARS crewmembers, were nicknamed 13 Miscellaneous. If there was a job that needed bodies, chances are, they’d get sent to do it, because the chances of them doing the jobs they were trained for were less than nil.
Why, you ask? One could argue that the rockets were overkill, or that they were too expensive. Me, I’ve got another theory.
See, there’s this little country in Asia, you might have heard of it. You know, the one run by a fat little kid who keeps saber rattling? Starts with an N, ends with -orth Korea? Yeah, that one.
It’s no secret that the Hermit Kingdom is ratcheting up tensions in a big way. Tensions are as high as they’ve ever been, and if the manure hits the air circulator for real, it’s going to be the single greatest conventional conflict of the new millennium. Leaving aside the issue of whether or not their nukes are worth a damn, we can count on a vast wave of troops rolling over the DMZ and riding like hell for Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
And what stands in their way?
Well, aside from a whole lot of angry South Koreans, the US has a substantial troop presence over there, and with them, a whole lot of artillery. And the biggest and baddest of them are Steel Rain.
Stopping that initial onslaught is going to be a lot like stopping an avalanche with fire-hoses: doable, but you’re gonna need one hell of a hose, and an awful lot of water. And brother, it’s hard to find a bigger fire-hose than the Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Now, I’m not saying I’m in favor of war in the Korean Peninsula. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s a terrible idea, but I’m also pretty sure we don’t have much of a choice in the matter. If it happens, it happens.
If North Korea steps over the line, however, I’m kinda hoping they do it in a big way, on behalf of all the 13M and 13P out there. Because, you know, it’s been a while, and we have needs that just haven’t been taken care of.
Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle in 2017 with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Aug. 15, 2018.
While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities” — the Marine Special Operations Team on Feb. 28, 2017, became engaged in a “fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as “Raiders.”
The two award citations for the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with “V” distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.
While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.
Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to “return fire in self-defense.”
United States Military Achievement Medals.
According to one citation, the Raiders’ communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.
The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.
The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter’s M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which “[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner,” the citation said.
“He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” the citation added.
The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and “assessed two enemies were killed,” Reho told Task Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.
The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The Oct. 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.
This article originally appeared on Task Purpose. Follow @Taskandpurpose on Twitter.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.
Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.
“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”
Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.
“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.
“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.
“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”
“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”
In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.
Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.
The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.
Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”
Jake Wood has seen and done a lot in his life, so you know when he calls receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service “humbling,” it’s a meaningful statement. The co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon was a United States Marine and scout sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s testified in Congress on veterans’ mental health and briefed the last three Presidents of the United States about the issues returning veterans face.
Now, he’s been recognized by the ESPY awards, the annual presentation from ESPN and ABC honoring athletes for their performance in sports and sports-related activities. While deploying American military veterans to help disaster areas other rescue organizations won’t touch isn’t necessarily a sport, one can argue it’s definitely athletic.
But you don’t have to argue for Jake Wood.
Tillman as a Ranger and as a Cardinal.
The Pat Tillman Award for Service is presented at the ESPYs to honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the Tillman legacy. Previous honorees include 2016’s Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, who overcame hip injuries sustained in Iraq but still became the world’s number one paraswimmer. In 2015, it was awarded to Danielle Green, who joined the military after playing basketball at Notre Dame and lost her arm in Iraq. Green returned to help other veterans struggling to adjust to life after the military.
For Jake Wood, this award hits close to home. Wood was playing on the offensive line at the University of Wisconsin when Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004. It was after Tillman died that Wood told his coach he was off to join the Marine Corps, where he spent four years.
He was out for just three months before he saw the devastation in Haiti. It was in Port-Au-Prince that a handful of volunteers formed the first heartbeat of what would be come Team Rubicon. Now, the organization is 80,000 members strong.
Wood in Haiti on Team Rubicon’s first mission.
And Jake Wood, the former o-lineman for the Badgers, is being recognized for forming a group that helps those most in need while giving struggling military veterans a new mission in life.
Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.
Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.
Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.
The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.
“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.
Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.
“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.
The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.
Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
Peace talks offered
Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.
“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.
The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.
Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.
The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.
A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.