Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan has apparently survived a bloody coup attempt that has left over 160 people dead, over a thousand injured, and over 2800 military personnel detained. Massive protests by Erdogan supporters, who were rallied by an address by the Turkish President on FaceTime, helped thwart the coup. The coup was condemned by many elements in Turkey, as well as President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Among events Friday night and Saturday were the shutdown of power for Incirlik Air Base, where the 39th Air Base Wing is deployed. British, Saudi, and German forces are operating from the air base, which is less than 70 miles from the Syrian border. That is a convenient locale for operations against the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attack in Nice Saturday that left 84 people dead.
Air operations from Incirlik ordered to stop, although aircraft currently flying missions were allowed to land. American troops have not been threatened, although the apparent blockade of Incirlik, which has gone to THREATCON DELTA in the wake of the coup, is not a good sign. Nor is the FAA shutting down flights to and from Turkey. The Federation of American Scientists estimated in 2015 that the United States reportedly has many as 50 “special stores” located at Incirlik, adding to the stakes at Incirlik.
Erdogan in the past has not exactly been a friend to the United States. One of the more notorious incidents came early in his rule as prime minister, in 2003, when he suddenly denied permission for the 4th Infantry Division to land in Turkey and attack into northern Iraq during the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lately, during his rule, he has shown a decided pattern of suppressing dissent, including seizing control of newspapers, throwing people in prison for “insulting” him, and drawing charges of both acting like a dictator and turning a blind eye to foreign fighters transiting Turkey to join ISIS.
Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who is residing in the United States after falling out with the Turkish President in 2013 over a corruption scandal and the closure of schools run by his group, Hizmet. According to reports, Gulen is a true moderate Moslem and a supporter of democracy, interfaith dialogue, and education.
With the failure of this coup, Erdogan will move to ensure that there will not be a chance to launch a more successful one. The Turkish president has declared the attempted coup a “gift from god” and has vowed to use it as a pretext to “cleanse our army” and said the elements who took part in the coup are guilty of “treason” and vowed they will “pay a heavy price” for trying to topple his regime.
The effects of this coup will reverberate through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Middle East. Turkey will likely slide further into an Islamist regime, one that becomes increasingly repressive as Erdogan asserts his rule in Turkey.
The Army has announced that its Howlers are ready to fight, achieving initial operational capability. If the Army goes to war, these lifeless robots are going to launch out of tubes, fly through the sky, and force enemy drones to crash and burn so they can’t spy on U.S. troops or attack them.
Howlers were built with two systems from Raytheon, the defense manufacturer. The major platform is the Coyote unmanned aircraft. These drones can be shot from special tubes mounted on ships, vehicles, aircraft, or just on the ground.
They’ve already served with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in hurricanes, but they’re primarily aimed at Department of Defense missions. These are the same drones that the Navy used in the LOCUST program where they launched swarms of Coyotes that worked together. The Navy is hoping to use them in coordinated strikes against targets on shore or at sea.
But the Army is hoping to use them in a very specific air-to-air mission: hunting drones. This application requires a special sensor payload, and the Army got that from Raytheon as well. It’s a radar known as KuRFS that tracks aerial threats with Ku band energy. The Ku band is in the microwave range and is mostly used for satellite communications.
On the Howler, this radar lets the Army track enemy threats. This targeting data can allow other systems to engage the targeted drone, but the Howler can also close with and destroy the threat—by blowing itself up.
Yup, the Howler can act as a suicide drone. Guess it’s good the Coyote is relatively affordable at ,000 apiece, counting the warhead. When an enemy drone is capable of taking out an entire ammo dump like in Ukraine or spotting targets for artillery like in all countries where wars are currently being fought, a ,000 bill to take any of them out is easily worth it.
American special operators are using a new virtual reality trainer to simulate their air insertions before they jump, allowing them to conduct near-perfect rehearsals over and over before the actual mission.
PARASIM incorporates a harness tailor-made to parachute manufacturer’s specifications, a virtual reality headset, and a digital environment using weather simulation and satellite or map imagery. All of this put together allows operators to create custom mission profiles and then practice them.
“If I need to insert a SEAL team in Syria tomorrow night, all I need is a latitude and longitude,” David Landon, president and CEO of Systems Technology Inc., told Defense News. “So by the time they actually make the jump, they’ve already done it. There are no surprises.”
The system can even handle multiple jumpers in a single simulation, allowing a unit to virtually jump as a team and work together to make the proper insertion to the target area.
Every military branch in the Department of Defense has purchased the system, according to Systems Technology Inc.’s website.
A Marine who fought off an Afghan insurgent assault despite painful shrapnel wounds to the leg said his bravery under fire was all in a day’s work.
Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator attached to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, received the Silver Star on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at the headquarters of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or Marsoc, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for heroism in battle during a 2013 deployment to Herat province, Afghanistan.
In an interview days after receiving the military’s third-highest award for bravery, Van Hook recalled the events of that day of action.
Van Hook, a 27-year-old native of Nokesville, Virginia, had been serving as the element leader for Marine Special Operations Team 8224, Special Operations Task Force West. A former reconnaissance Marine, Van Hook had been to Iraq once and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.
His team had begun its operation late at night Aug. 14. They planned to clear a village of insurgents in preparation for a visit by local Afghan National Army, or ANA, leaders to the region the following day. As they moved into the region around 2 or 3 a.m., Van Hook said, the team spotted two who appeared to be “walking with intent” and exhibiting other suspicious behaviors.
On Van Hook’s order, the Marine team took cover and maneuvered closer to observe the men, eventually watching them link up with eight others at the back of a building. All were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons he said, and as they communicated in Pashto over their radios, Van Hook could make out words like “bomb.”
Taking advantage of the element of surprise, he “executed a hasty ambush” on the men, according to his medal citation, killing four and wounding two more. Then he and his team cleared the building from which the insurgents were operating, using their own guns and hand grenades. One more insurgent was taken hostage inside, and two more were detained.
Despite the intensity of this ambush under cover of darkness, Van Hook said he was able to keep a cool head as he aggressively charged into an enemy position.
“We train like we fight here,” Van Hook said. “Our training is as realistic as we can possibly get it. It’s almost second nature at this point.”
Daybreak found Van Hook and his team in a building providing over-watch defense for a sister Marine Special Operations Team as they brought in ANA officials for a key leader engagement with elders from the region.
“The area was highly destabilized. We wanted to get high-ranking leaders with the Afghan army to show their presence,” Van Hook explained. “We knew the area had a lot of insurgents in it and they had freedom of movement.”
The engagement went as planned, with little more than sporadic “pop shots” at the Marines while the leaders were present. But as the ANA detachment pulled away, all that changed.
“You could almost see their tail lights crossing the horizon when the attack started to kick off,” Van Hook said.
A sniper on the ground started targeting the two Marine teams. As Van Hook’s team began returning fire with recoilless rifles and machine guns, the insurgents directed the bulk of their fire at them. As the onslaught became overwhelming, Van Hook ordered a Marine who had been manning an MK-19 grenade launcher on the roof to take cover.
“If your head was just over the wall, you were getting shot in the Kevlar,” he said.
Later, though, when Van Hook got word from the other Marine element that it was being targeted on three sides, he grabbed another Marine and charged back out to take control of the MK-19 once more.
As he fired the big gun, Van Hook successfully drew the brunt of the enemy attack onto his position, taking the pressure off the other element and allowing them to regain their advantage. He fired on the insurgents until one of them shot an RPG into the rooftop position, knocking Van Hook and the other Marine unconscious and wounding them with shrapnel.
When Van Hook regained consciousness, he saw that the MK-19 had rolled over his leg, which had been pierced by shrapnel and had blood pooling under it. The other Marine had been apparently wounded in the back, and Van Hook moved to put pressure on the wound, and push the Marine to cover, despite the pain in his own leg.
Then, he manned the gun once more and continued to fire on the enemy fighters. When he looked down and saw that the pool of blood under his leg had grown larger, he applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept on fighting.
Finally, one of MARSOC’s special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen convinced Van Hook to leave the roof for a medical examination. At this point, the Marine was in intense pain and couldn’t feel anything below the ankle of his wounded leg due to a nerve injury.
But, Van Hook said, “I could still think, and I realized there were gaps in my security, so I wanted to support as much as possible.”
With two Marines wounded and an ANA soldier who was fighting with them in bad shape from being shot in the face, the decision was made to organize a casualty evacuation. Instead of laying back and resting, Van Hook teamed up with another Marine who had a recoilless rifle, identifying insurgent targets so he could shoot at them.
Then, with the medical evacuation, or medevac, chopper approaching, he began calling in “danger close” suppressive 120mm mortar fire around the landing zone to allow the bird to land safely. Once on board, Van Hook said he felt not relief, but frustration.
“The last thing a Marine wants to do is leave other Marines behind and I was pretty irritated at that point,” he said.
But the day wasn’t over; while aboard the aircraft, the Afghan soldier collapsed, and Van Hook and the other Marine provided triage care, taking advantage of their extensive medical training.
Looking back on the day, Van Hook was unassuming about his accomplishments.
“This is the job we signed up for,” he said. “Everybody understands the positions you’re going to be put in once you become a [Marine] Raider. Once I found out that the award went through, it was the biggest dose of humble pie I’ve ever experienced.”
The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.
The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.
A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.
It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.
The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.
It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.
A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.
It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.
North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.
The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.
Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):
“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.
“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”
She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.
“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.
What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.
She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”
She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.
The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.
It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.
He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.
“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.
“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”
Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.
“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”
Relatives of Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, spoke out in an interview with The Guardian published Aug. 3, 2018, about their family’s dark legacy — and they suggested that the family’s involvement with terrorism hadn’t ended with bin Laden’s 2011 death.
Living sheltered lives as a prominent but controversial family in their native Saudi Arabia, several of the family members opened up about bin Laden’s childhood and his eventual transformation into one of the most notorious figures in recent history.
But while bin Laden’s career as a terrorist and head of Al Qaeda came to an end at the hands of US Navy SEALs in a midnight raid on his hideout in Pakistan, his militancy seems to have taken root in his youngest child.
Bin Laden’s family believes his youngest son, Hamza, has followed in his father’s footsteps by traveling to Afghanistan, where the US, Afghanistan’s national army, and NATO have been locked in a brutal war with Islamic militants since shortly after the Twin Towers were destroyed.
The scene just after United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
Hamza, officially designated a terrorist by the US, apparently took his family by surprise with an endorsement of militant Islam.
“We thought everyone was over this,” Hassan bin Laden, an uncle of Hamza, told The Guardian.
“Then the next thing I knew, Hamza was saying, ‘I am going to avenge my father.’ I don’t want to go through that again. If Hamza was in front of me now, I would tell him: ‘God guide you. Think twice about what you are doing. Don’t retake the steps of your father. You are entering horrible parts of your soul.'”
After the September 11 attacks, some members of bin Laden’s family remained in touch while others led a quiet life under the supervision of the Saudi government and international intelligence agencies.
Many of the bin Ladens have sought to put their history behind them by avoiding media and politics, but Hamza’s apparent support of his father’s ideas suggests Osama bin Laden’s embracing of terrorism may have come back to haunt them.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.
Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.
His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.
Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.
Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.
On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.
“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.
The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.
As America’s elite, U.S. Navy SEALs are constantly called for operations around the globe.
With a motto of “the only easy day was yesterday,” the average day in the life of a SEAL is usually anything but. Whether they are deploying to global hotspots, honing new skills in some of the military’s toughest schools, or going through training evolutions stateside, SEALs learn to be ready for anything.
Here are 19 photos showing what they do best around the world.
On June 5th, seven veterans of the Battle of Midway joined about 1,000 people aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier to mark the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Ocean theater.
Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes, blocked by clouds, thundered above the USS Midway, a Navy carrier that was commissioned in 1945 to commemorate the battle. The carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and has been in a military museum in downtown San Diego since 2004.
Well-wishers lined up to shake hands with 102-year-old Andy Mills and other wheelchair-bound Midway veterans after a 90-minute ceremony that recounted how the landmark battle unfolded. One Midway veteran came from hospice care.
The 1942 battle occurred six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor after Navy code breakers broke complex Japanese code to reveal a plan to ambush US forces. The Japanese planned to occupy Midway, a strategic U.S.-held atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, and destroy what was left of the Pacific fleet.
When Japanese planes began bombing Midway, American torpedo planes and bombers counter-attacked in waves, bombing and sinking four Japanese carriers on June 4. The fighting continued for another three days before the United States proved to be victorious.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations, told the audience that a string of “effective but decisive” actions led to a victory with razor-thin room for error.
“In hindsight, when you review the Battle of Midway, you can see like a series of strokes of amazing luck. And when you put those strokes together, it’s like a miracle occurred at Midway. It trends towards the miraculous,” he said.
Anthony J. Principi, who served as secretary of veterans affairs from 2001 to 2005, wrote in the Military Times that that Navy commanders made “coordinated, split-second, life-and-death decisions.”
“We won because luck was on our side, because the Japanese made mistakes and because our officers and men acted with great courage amidst the chaos of battle,” he wrote.
The Midway, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, has hosted college basketball games, parties during the Comic-Con pop culture extravaganza, and TV tapings for shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
Alejandro Villanueva is a former West Point lineman and Army Ranger who got his first start at tackle on Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. He took on the high-pressure role of protecting the “blind side” of backup quarterback Landry Jones, who’s in due to starter Ben Roethlisberger’s injury.
But Villanueva knows a thing or two about pressure, like, the life-or-death kind that soldiers face during wartime on a daily basis. And for him one night in particular stands out among many pressure-filled missions he carried out over the course of four tours in Afghanistan.
As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Villanueva was serving as a 2nd lieutenant in Afghanistan. Stationed in the Kandahar Province, he was the rifle platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. A firefight had broken out between the Taliban and Afghan civilians, and, in trying to protect them, Lt. Villanueva had unknowingly led his troops into an ambush. The Taliban was waiting in the dark for Villanueva, the 6-foot-9 man known as “The Giant,” and opened fire, wounding three soldiers. Two of them survived, but Pfc. Dietrich, 20, bled out through the hole in his back moments after Lt. Villanueva had carried him from the fray and loaded him onto a helicopter.
Less than a month after Pfc. Dietrich died, Staff Sgt. Simon was shot three times, and Lt. Villanueva’s was the last face he remembered as he was loaded onto the helicopter. Staff Sgt. Simon nearly died twice, and Lt. Villanueva was given his dog tags and asked to prepare a memorial speech for his parents. But Staff Sgt. Simon lived, and he planned to watch his friend play against the Chiefs, his favorite team, from the stands of Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s going to be crazy,” said Mr. Simon, now retired from the military.
And, along with knowing pressure, these war veterans know crazy.
At the Office of Naval Research’s annual Science and Technology Expo on July 21 in Washington, DC, a development team from Rutgers University demonstrated the unusual quadcopter, which can swim at depths of up to 10 meters, then seamlessly launch to the surface and soar into the air.
The drone, developed with sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research, shows promise as a tool for mine countermeasures and port security, to name a few possibilities.
There’s also interest from the special operations community, said Dr. Marc Contarino, vice president of technology for the program. It carries a 360-degree waterproof camera, making it well-suited for security and bridge and ship inspections, among other missions.
“Special ops have not told us exactly what they want. But we know for special ops, it’s all about speed and not being detected,” Contarino told Military.com. “So we’re building our system to be as fast as possible.”
While current prototypes are not much larger than a typical commercial quadcopter, Contarino said there are plans to build a six-foot-diameter model capable of carrying the 30-pound payload the Navy wants for its mine countermeasure mission. That UAV will be able to operate in waves of three-to-five feet and in 30-mile-per-hour winds, he said.
Developers have already put the Naviator through its paces in real-world conditions, launching the drone from the Delaware Memorial Bridge over the Delaware River and from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
“Since we’re a Navy sponsor, I tried to find the biggest boat I could to showcase it,” Contarino said.
When a Phase Two development contract begins for the Naviator in 2018, Contarino said the team plans to expand its operational envelope, including work to develop a model that can operate at depths of up to 30 meters, and development of pressure-resistant features that could support much greater depths.
Whether the Naviator spends more time underwater or flying over it depends entirely on the mission.
“[It acts as if] air is a fluid, water is a fluid, and it doesn’t care,” Contarino said. ” … So we think the Navy really likes it because it does the air, the surface, and the underwater mission.”
On a summer morning in a desolate corner of Iraq’s western desert, Jim Mattis learned he’d narrowly evaded an assassination attempt.
A Sunni Arab man had been caught planting a bomb on a road shortly before Mattis and his small team of Marines passed by. Told the captured insurgent spoke English, Mattis decided to talk to him.
After Mattis offered a cigarette and coffee, the man said he tried to kill the general and his fellow Marines because he resented the foreigner soldiers in his land. Mattis said he understood the sentiment but assured the insurgent he was headed for Abu Ghraib, the infamous U.S.-run prison. What happened next explains the point of the story.
“General,” the man asked Mattis, “if I am a model prisoner, do you think someday I could emigrate to America?”
In Mattis’ telling, this insurgent’s question showed he felt “the power of America’s inspiration.” It was a reminder of the value of national unity.
Mattis, now the Pentagon boss and perhaps the most admired member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, is a storyteller. And at no time do the tales flow more easily than when he’s among the breed he identifies with most closely — the men and women of the military.
The anecdote about the Iraqi insurgent, and other stories he recounted during a series of troop visits shortly before Christmas, are told with purpose.
“I bring this up to you, my fine young sailors, because I want you to remember that on our worst day we’re still the best going, and we’re counting on you to take us to the next level,” he said. “We’ve never been satisfied with where America’s at. We’re always prone to looking at the bad things, the things that aren’t working right. That’s good. It’s healthy, so long as we then roll up our sleeves and work together, together, together, to make it better.”
The stories tend to be snippets of Mattis’ personal history, including moments he believes illustrate the deeper meaning of military service.
On a trip last month to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and three domestic military installations, Mattis revealed himself in ways rarely seen in Washington, where he has studiously maintained a low public profile. With no news media in attendance except one Associated Press reporter, Mattis made clear during his troop visits that he had not come to lecture or to trade on his status as a retired four-star general.
“Let’s just shoot the breeze for a few minutes,” he said at one point.
Another time he opened with, “My name is Mattis, and I work at the Department of Defense.”
Mattis used stories to emphasize that today’s uncertain world means every military member needs to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
He recalled the words of a Marine sergeant major when Mattis was just two years into his career:
“Every week in the fleet Marine force is your last week of peace,” the sergeant major said. “If you don’t go into every week thinking like this, you’re going to have a sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach when your NCOs (non-commissioned officers) knock on your door and say, ‘Get up. Get your gear on. We’re leaving.'”
By leaving, Mattis meant departing for war.
A recurring Mattis theme is that the military operates in a fundamentally unpredictable world. He recalled how he was hiking with his Marines in the Sierra Nevadas in August 1990 when he got word to report with his men to the nearest civilian airport. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait, and the Marines were needed to hold the line in Saudi Arabia.
In an exchange with Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Mattis recalled sitting in the back of a room at the Pentagon in June 2001 while senior political appointees of the new George W. Bush administration fired questions at a military briefer about where they should expect to see the most worrisome security threats. At one point, Mattis said, the briefer said confidently that amid all the uncertainty, the one place the U.S. definitely would not be fighting was Afghanistan.
“Five and a half months later, I was shivering in Afghanistan,” Mattis said, referring to his role as commander of Task Force 58, a special group that landed in southern Afghanistan aboard helicopters flown from Navy ships in the Arabian Sea to attack the Taliban in and around Kandahar.
Regardless how much they resonate with his young audience, Mattis’ stories illustrate how he sees his military experience as a way to connect with troops who often feel distant from their political leaders. They also are a reminder Mattis’ boss is one of the most politically divisive figures in recent history.
Speaking to troops and family members at an outdoor movie theater at Guantanamo, Mattis pointed directly to the political battles.
“I’m so happy to be in Guantanamo that I could cry right now, to be out of Washington,” he said, adding jokingly that he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his tenure away from the capital. He said as soon as he gets back in the company of uniformed troops, he is reminded of why the military can set a standard for civility.
“Our country needs you,” he said, and not just because of the military’s firepower. “It’s also the example you set for the country at a time it needs good role models; it needs to look at an organization that doesn’t care what gender you are, it doesn’t care what religion you are, it doesn’t care what ethnic group you are. It’s an organization that can work together.”
The second annual enlisted remotely piloted aircraft pilot selection board met last week to decide on the next enlisted airmen who will attend training and soon fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The Air Force Personnel Center will decide on 40 new airmen — an increase from last year’s pool — out of 134 applicants by February, officials said.
“The board was held to select 40 Airmen total, including 30 primaries (same as last year) and 10 alternates (an increase of 5 from last year),” personnel center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com.
An RQ-4 Global Hawk landed at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. May 24. The arrival of the unmanned aerial vehicle marks the first time an aircraft of this type has flown to an Air Force Air Logistics Complex. (U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Leach)
“We increased the number of alternates to provide greater flexibility for covering any future contingencies,” Dickerson said in a statement.
Whether or not this leads to a gradual, annual expansion of airmen selected for RPA training isn’t definite right now, Dickerson said.
Last year, the board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments.
“The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years,” according to a service release at the time.
There first 30 airmen and five alternates selected are currently scattered throughout the training pipeline, Capt. Beau Downey, spokesman for Air Education and Training Command, told Military.com.
“AETC currently has 15 RPA pilots in training. Eight are in RPA Instrument Qualification and seven are in RPA Fundamentals Course, both a part of the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas,” Downey said in an email.
Meanwhile, there are 15 enlisted pilots who have attended or are in the process of completing the RQ-4 Formal Training Unit, or FTU, at Beale Air Force Base, California.
Downey said the program at Beale, under Air Combat Command, is broken into two phases: The first is Basic Qualification Training (BQT) and the second is Mission Qualification Training (MQT). Both phases culminate in a Form 8, or how one performs in his or her check ride.
“Students remaining at Beale for their operational assignment will complete both BQT and MQT at the Beale FTU,” he said.
There is also a segment at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.
“Those students who will be assigned to Grand Forks [will] complete BQT at Beale and then move to the Grand Forks…for MQT,” Downey said.
ACC has graduated four enlisted pilots from the full program at the Beale unit. Another four completed Basic Qualification Training at the Beale FTU and have moved to the Grand Forks unit.
There are three currently in MQT at the Beale training unit and four in BQT. Of those four, two will remain at Beale and two will move to Grand Forks.
Another four enlisted airmen are scheduled to arrive at Beale at the beginning of February, Downey said.
The Air Force has expanded its RPA reach since it began training enlisted airmen on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. The service announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed high-altitude reconnaissance drone.