Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Ukraine says one of its soldiers has been killed and three wounded as a result of clashes with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Defense Ministry said on Oct. 16, 2018, that separatist fighters violated a cease-fire 37 times during the previous 24 hours by firing machine guns, grenade launchers, and mortars.

It said Ukrainian government forces killed two separatists and wounded six.


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This is how a US destroyer dodged 2 missiles off the Yemen coast

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.


The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)

While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.

Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.

The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.

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The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.

Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.

The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.

Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.

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This airsoft gun can only be purchased by military and law enforcement personnel

If you search online for airsoft guns, you’ll find a plethora of replica firearms that shoot 6mm plastic bbs. Airsoft guns can be used in a range of activities from casually plinking soda cans in the backyard to fully immersive military simulation events that can last for days. Naturally, U.S. military firearms like the venerable M4 carbine and M1911 pistol are popular choices for airsofters to carry into their bb battles. As a result, the airsoft market is awash with every conceivable variant of these, and other, real-world firearms. However, one gun has long been coveted by airsoft players for its popularity and rarity.

Used by armed forces, security agencies and police forces in at least 48 countries, Glock pistols are some of the most iconic firearms in the world. Though they are not standard issue with the U.S. military, their use in special forces units and general popularity led to a great demand for airsoft replicas. However, the Glock Company was very wary of their designs and trademark being used without their permission and aggressively combated airsoft replicas coming to the U.S. from Asia as counterfeit products.


Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
U.S. soldiers receive instruction from their British counterparts on the Glock 17 (DVIDS)

 

Airsoft guns shipped from Asia bearing Glock logos were confiscated by U.S. Customs and were unable to be sold in the United States. To get around this, some retailers selling to U.S. customers would solder the trademarks off of the replica Glocks in order to get them past customs. The occasional entrepreneurial airsofter would make a trip to Japan and bring back a few airsoft Glocks declared only as “toy guns”, and sell them at an inflated price on the Glock-hungry American airsoft market.

However, despite the incredibly high demand for the airsoft version of Gaston Glock’s famous firearms, the replicas that did make it into the states were not perfect copies. Aside from the orange tips and the fact that they shot bbs rather than bullets, the airsoft Glock replicas were slightly wider than the pistols that served as their template. As a result, they did not fit in holsters designed for real Glocks.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Left: Elite Force really wants you to know that they have the Glock license (Author)
Right: If you force an Elite Force Glock into an OEM Glock holster, you’ll have a heck of a time getting it back out…trust me (Author)

 

In 2017, airsoft history was made when Glock finally gave out the license for Glock airsoft guns. The German manufacturer Umarex and its subsidiary, Elite Force, obtained a worldwide (except France and all French territories) exclusive license. The French company Cybergun obtained the Glock license in France and its territories. It’s a little confusing, but this detail is important.

With its parent company holding the license, Elite Force contracted Taiwan-based airsoft manufacturers Kien Well Toy Industrial Company and Vega Force Company to produce the licensed gas-powered airsoft Glocks. Both KWC and VFC had been making unlicensed airsoft Glocks and simply adjusted some of the markings on their guns to meet Elite Force and Glock’s requirements. However, even these licensed replicas suffered from the aforementioned fault of being too wide and not fitting in Glock holsters.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Credit where it’s due, the Elite Force Glock Gen 4s do have interchangeable backstraps (Author)

 

Enter Cybergun and its subsidiary, Spartan Military Law Enforcement. Holding licenses in France for FN Herstal, Sig Sauer, Famas, Colt, Kalashnikov and now Glock, Spartan MLE contracts airsoft manufacturers to supply realistic training tools to military units and law enforcement agencies around the world. Since plastic bbs are extremely inexpensive compared to simunition rounds or other training solutions, many organizations have implemented airsoft as a training tool. Building their products to a high standard to simulate real firearms as closely as possible, Spartan MLE dictates precise specifications to their airsoft manufacturers.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
The “Made in Taiwan” sticker rather clashes with the “Austria” marking (Author)

 

Though the Spartan MLE Glocks are made by VFC like the Elite Force Glocks, Spartan MLE required VFC to update their design to make the guns as close to the real thing as possible. As a result, Spartan MLE Glocks feature a more definitive trigger (Glock triggers are infamously mushy, so that says a lot about the poor triggers in the Elite Force Glocks). Though it’s unnecessary in airsoft, the slide on Spartan MLE Glocks reciprocates the same distance as real Glocks and locks back fully; Elite Force Glocks have a shorter cycle and lock a few millimeters shorter to save gas. Finally, Spartan MLE Glocks are a 1:1 scale replica of real Glocks and fit perfectly into their holsters.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Like a glove (Author)

 

Unfortunately for many American airsofters, the Spartan MLE Glocks can only be sold to military and law enforcement personnel. In fact, when Spartan MLE first sold the airsoft Glocks in the states, the guns had to be purchased in bulk by military units or police departments. Today, individual military and law enforcement personnel can submit their identification to airsoft retailers and purchase the airsoft Glocks for personal use.

Whether you want to train at home for your duty weapon or just have the most exclusive gun on the airsoft field, the Spartan MLE Glocks offer service members and law enforcement personnel the best replica on the market today.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
An Air Force Special Operator fires a Glock 19 (U.S. Air Force)

 

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the US Navy canceled this routine Black Sea patrol

Christopher Anderson, an aide to former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, testified that the White House canceled a Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the Black Sea after President Donald Trump complained to then-national security adviser John Bolton about a CNN report that framed the operation as a counter to Russia, Politico reported.

According to Anderson’s testimony, the news report in question came from CNN and characterized the operation as antagonistic toward Russia. Anderson testified that Trump called Bolton at home to complain about the article, and the operation was later canceled at the behest of the White House, Anderson said.


“In January, there was an effort to get a routine freedom-of-navigation operation into the Black Sea,” Anderson testified. “There was a freedom-of-navigation operation for the Navy. So we — we, the US government — notified the Turkish government that there was this intent.”

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

While Anderson in his testimony placed the report in January, details from his testimony match a story from early December, which had the headline “US makes preparations to sail warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions.”

Anderson said the White House asked the Navy to cancel the freedom-of-navigation operation because the report portrayed the operation as a move to counter Russia, which has increased its naval presence there since annexing Crimea in 2014. In November 2018, its forces attacked Ukrainian assets transiting the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and held 24 Ukrainian service members captive.

“We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,” Anderson said.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Former national security adviser John Bolton.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“We don’t — I can’t speculate as to why, but that, that operation, was canceled, but then we were able to get a second one for later in February. And we had an Arleigh-class destroyer arrive in Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Crimea invasion.”

The White House did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment. US 6th Fleet did not address Black Sea transits in December 2018, but said all operations in January and February of 2019 went according to schedule.

“U.S. 6th Fleet conducted our naval operations in the Black Sea region as scheduled in January and February 2019. The U.S. Navy will continue to operate in the Black Sea consistent with international law, to include the Montreaux Convention,” according to spokesman Cmdr. Kyle Raines.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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That time when Americans and Germans fought together during World War II

Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”


It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.

In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.

The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Schloss Itter (Itter Castle) in July 1979. (Photo: S.J. Morgan. CC BY-SA 3.0)

That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.

From The Daily Beast:

There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.

Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.

Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.

As for the book, apparently it’s been optioned to be made into a movie. With a crazy story like this, you’d think it would’ve already been made.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Soldiers can now get extra money for childcare after moving

No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?


Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.

AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”

AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.

AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran and the US trade escalating threats on Twitter

President Donald Trump shot down a veiled vision of peace offered by Iran’s president on July 22, 2018, to full-on threaten the Islamic Republic with historically epic confrontation — and it looks as if his administration could topple the country.

“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he continued.


Trump was responding to statements from Rouhani, Iran’s elected political leader who serves at the pleasure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s religious supreme leader.

In a meeting with Iranian diplomats, Rouhani offered a vision of peace with the US but also said a conflict between the two would be “the mother of all wars.”

According to Reuters, he said: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Rouhani’s statement, though balanced against the threat of massive war, actually represents a shift in Iranian foreign policy.

Iran has strongly opposed the US since its theocratic government took power in 1979, with officials chanting “death to America” in parliament. Iran’s navy has the explicit, though lofty, operational goal of destroying the US Navy.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Trump is coming for Iran’s leadership

Rouhani, in extending a veiled olive branch, may have been acting in anticipation of an onslaught by Trump.

A new report from Reuters suggests Trump’s administration has launched a campaign designed to topple Iran’s leaders.

Several officials told Reuters that Trump would pressure Iran’s leaders with tough sanctions and an information campaign meant to erode their support.

Recent statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate this shift has already taken place, as the US expresses its hope for the Iranian people to install a more moderate, secular government.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

An Iranian woman protesting the theocratic government’s rule that all women must wear headscarves in public.

(My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران / Facebook)

It could actually work

Since late 2017, Iran has seen wave after wave of grassroots protests with citizens rejecting the regime’s economic, social, and foreign policies.

Iranian women rejecting the forced dress code of headscarves have become emblematic of the movement.

While European countries strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of US sanctions has successfully made Tehran a pariah in the business world.

After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran’s currency ballooned and the government imposed a set of strict financial controls on its citizens, capping the amount of foreign currency they can hold and seizing overseas accounts.

As Iran’s working class rejects the government’s foreign-policy ambitions, the upper class has had its aspirations of foreign travel or education crushed by such financial restrictions. Iran’s government has responded to protests with security forces and violence time and time again, but the unrest has continued on a regular basis in 2018.

At the same time, Israel has proved adept at beating back Iran in its push toward the Mediterranean. In May 2018, after a rocket attack that Israel attributed to Iran, Israeli jets devastated a large swath of Iranian forces in Syria.

Russia, normally a powerful ally of Iran, swiftly turned its back on Tehran, refusing to sell it air defenses even when its forces were coming under heavy fire from Israel and telling Iran’s militias to leave Syria.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, told Reuters that Trump’s strategy could produce one of two outcomes.

“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”

The US maintains it does not seek regime change for any country, even those as antagonistic as Iran and North Korea.

But the people of Iran have shown a genuine distaste for the theocracy’s policies, and the noted Iran hawks Pompeo and John Bolton, the national security adviser, may see the opportunity as too good to pass up.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The top 007 Reasons why James Bond is the worst spy ever

James Bond has long been the most famous “secret agent” out there. Everyone knows James Bond, and it is rare to meet someone who hasn’t seen at least one of the films. Like with most films of that kind, there are a lot of issues with the character and storylines in general. Take for instance the fact that they call him a “secret agent” when he is in fact an Intelligence Officer. Add to that he doesn’t have a line manager, but instead somehow reports directly to the head of MI-6. Then there is the reality that a “license to kill” doesn’t really exist. Despite these tiny issues with details, the films are actually quite good. However, there are many reasons that James Bond truly is the worst spy ever, even if he is a fictional character. Here are the top 007 reasons:


He carries a gun on airplanes

He walks on and off commercial flights with a shoulder holster on and is never once stopped by security. He strolls through the airport fully armed and no one seems to notice or be bothered by the fact that an armed man in a suit is boarding a flight. Even if he has it in his bag instead, it is still never questioned. In reality, he probably would have received a weapon when he arrived at his destination, not carry it on an airplane with him.

He constantly destroys or loses his equipment

He is regularly issued with equipment, weapons and vehicles that are worth millions. However, he never returns any of it, at least not in the same condition he gets it. You would think when given the highest levels of technological advancements in “spy gear,” weapons and cars, one would be inclined to take extra special care of it all.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Okay, so “Q” knew this one wasn’t coming back. But still… (MGM)

He is always being captured and/or beaten up

Despite the fact that he is a highly trained intelligence officer, who is supposed to be aware of his surroundings at all times and the number one rule of intelligence is “never get caught,” Mr. Bond is constantly being captured by the baddies he is after. Even if he isn’t being captured, he is getting beaten up by any number of people associated with whichever villain he is chasing. Where is all that training he meant to have?

He never follows orders

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
“It’s not cute anymore, James.” (MGM)

The intelligence world does leave some wiggle room to think on your feet, but a big part of it is also following the orders you are given. James Bond never does that. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or tells him to do, he does the opposite. He always feels that he is in the right and he does his own thing at all times, no matter the consequences.

He travels under his own name

Anyone who knows anything about intelligence knows that they absolutely never travel using their own identity whilst on operations. That is part of the whole point of what they do. However, James Bond who is supposed to be one of the best, always travels under his own name and with his own documents.

He always draws attention to himself

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
Oh, wait… this getting very familiar all of a sudden

One of the biggest parts of intelligence training is how to never get noticed. For someone who is supposed to be a spy or secret agent or intelligence officer, depending on what you like, he draws an awful lot of attention to himself. He drives expensive cars, wears ridiculously expensive suits and stays at five-star hotels. Not to mention the fact that he is always blowing things up and firing his weapon in highly public places.

Everyone knows who he is 

The number one reason James Bond is the worst spy ever: Everyone knows exactly who he is. Every bad guy, every hotel receptionist, every bartender knows his name. He walks into a bar and is greeted with, “Good evening, Mr. Bond.” Plus, they know exactly what he drinks! Villains know his reputation and that he has a license to kill. They all know him on sight. To top it off they all know his 00 code number … His secret code number. The number of times an adversary uses 007 is absolutely astounding. This alone is enough to make James Bond the worst spy ever.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
WORST…
Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
…SPY…
Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
…EVER.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Garbage collection in Syria is crucial to fighting ISIS

Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.

These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.


Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

University of Washington in Seattle.

Given recent decisions and announcements by President Trump about withdrawing much of our aid and our troops from northern Syria while the civil war continues and the Islamic State Group, or “IS,” still threatens, it’s a timely question.

Stability and local services

To understand what’s at stake in Syria, it’s helpful to look at Iraq.

More than 15 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq and eight years after the U.S. said it was leaving the country, Iraq is unstable. Five thousand U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq today, tasked with shoring up the still struggling Iraqi armed forces.

One of the reasons for the instability is the U.S. decision in 2003 to dismiss nearly all leaders of the Iraqi civil service when it toppled dictator Saddam Hussein because they were members of Hussein’s Baath Party.

With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.

If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.

Keeping local officials on the job

The U.S. has supported these communities since 2012. I directed the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government aid from 2012 until 2016, as head of the team known as the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team.

Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.

Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.

Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.

The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.

We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.

Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.

(Syria Recovery Trust Fund, Author provided)

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.

International aid

Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.

Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.

Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey, long supported the U.S. approach because it kept Syrians in Syria, diminishing the flood of refugees to Turkey.

Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.

But the aid President Trump cut, sometimes called stabilization assistance, goes to local civilian officials, working to help the sick and wounded and keep children in school.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Larry Bartlett, senior adviser for the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team meets with members of the Civil Administration of Manbij, Syria, in August 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Izabella Sullivan)

An opening for IS

Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.

President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.

The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.

The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.

So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?

I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.

“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

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5 ways for spouses to survive a duty station they hate

As your time is nearing an end at your current duty station and your rotation date is approaching, you are probably getting extremely anxious waiting to hear where your next assignment might be.

You want to prepare, maybe even start packing, but you don’t even know what to save for immediate use at your next duty station or what to let the movers pack.


Friends and family ask you every day if you know where you are going.

How do you answer their questions when you, yourself, have a million questions running through your mind?

“Will it be hot or cold where I’m going next?”

“What will the housing be like? Is there space on base or will I be looking for a home in town?”

“How am I supposed to enroll my kid in school if I don’t even know where I’m going?”

“We are supposed to have our PCS Move in a couple of months and have not heard anything. We are still PCSing, RIGHT?!”

Your neighbors and peers are getting assignments left and right. Every time you hear of a new assignment drop, you can’t help but judge their next base.Regardless if it’s a dream location or one that you would like to avoid, there is a sense of jealousy for the fact that they at least KNOW where they’re going.

That’s when it happens. You get the phone call, email, tap on the shoulder, whatever it is, that you have been (im)patiently waiting for.

“Congratulations! Your next assignment is ___________.” Is this a joke? There’s actually a military installation there?

I’ve only ever heard it referred to as the location that you spend your whole career trying to avoid. I’ve heard others even console themselves after receiving a less-than-ideal assignment by saying, “well at least it’s not ___________.”

What do you do in this situation?

I’ll tell you what you do.

You hold your head high and hope for the best. Chances are, you only have a split second to figure out your emotions before people start looking for your reaction.

And guess what? Your reaction to this news is what sets the stage for the rest of your move.

So how do you stay positive when you’ve only ever heard negative things about this duty station?

1. Forget Your Past Wants

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Everyone puts together a “dream sheet” of assignments, whether actually written down on paper or just in your head. You imagine all of the amazing places the military could send you.

It’s time to let go of all of that.

Your past wishes and desires for assignments don’t matter anymore (at least not right now). Turn your new assignment into your first choice and make yourself believe that it’s what you have wanted all along.

Our very first assignment drop was a public event. My husband stood in front of a room full of people as he was told where he would be going next, while I sat in the audience.

We were waiting to hear whether we would be living on the East Coast or West Coast. When my husband was told that we would be moving across the globe to a remote island, my world was rocked.

Everyone around me immediately turned to see my reaction, mouths wide open. Someone asked, “Is that what you wanted?” I was numb and don’t even know how I managed to get any words out, but I responded, “It is now.”

I have tried my best to keep this mentality EVERY time we move. I try to get excited for any assignment and research everything I can about our new “home.” It’s not always easy, especially when you are leaving a fantastic place for the unknown, but it sure makes moving a lot easier when you’re looking forward to the place you’re going.

2. Go Straight to the Source

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Most of what you have probably heard about this new location is hearsay. You’re likely hearing rumors from people that have NEVER been there before. Before you get all riled up, try speaking to people that have been there recently, or better yet, are currently there.

One of the best resources I have found for gathering intel on a new duty station has been social media. Simply type your new duty station into the search bar of Facebook and you will probably find a number of informational pages.

Join the local classifieds pages, spouse pages and activity pages. Here you will be able to ask any questions you might have and receive up-to-date answers.

3. Debunk the Rumors

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Each duty station has a number of rumors associated with it, whether good or bad. Try to figure out why your new assignment has a bad rap and focus on the positives. Here is an example for our current assignment:

“There is nothing to do.”

“Think about all of the family time we will have. We can go camping, hiking, horseback riding, check out local farms and attend rodeos.”

There will always be something to do and places to explore, but you have to actively search for them.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere.”

“We can do road trips on the weekend and see parts of the country we’ve never seen before.”

Attempt to find the silver lining to each of the negative statements. Maybe even make it a challenge to dispel each of the rumors during your time at your new location.

4. It’s Only Temporary

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Do you remember how quickly your last assignment flew by?

Be prepared for that to happen again.

Three years (plus or minus) is not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things. Make the most of your assignment and get to know a new part of the country (or world!) in the short time that you are there.Make a point to visit that local landmark, attend the parade downtown, see the state park and just go for a drive.

Immerse yourself in the local culture and get to know your new home. If you’re not careful, it might be time to move again before you even got to know this new town.

5. Remember that Attitude Is a Choice

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

You, and only you, can decide how you feel about something. You can make the choice to be excited about a new assignment, or you can choose to dread every minute of it.

Don’t be tempted by those around you trying to bring you down.

When you tell people where you are going next, you might hear, “I’m sorry” or, “Maybe you’ll get a good assignment next time.”

They might be trying to be sympathetic, but in a sense they are peer pressuring you into feeling lousy about your assignment.

You still have a choice. You can still choose to look forward to your move. You can still choose to stay positive.

Finally, appreciate the fact that you have been given the opportunity to experience a place that you most likely would not have lived had it not been for the military.

I am often told by civilians that I am “so lucky” to move every three years and travel the world. Even though PCSing most definitely has its ups and its downs, I do try to remind myself that we REALLY ARE lucky.

I have made friends all over the world.

Ihave artifacts from each of our assignments proudly displayed in our home.

I have lived in the Deep South, the West Coast, a foreign country and the Great Plains.

I have a greater understanding and appreciation for new people that I meet.

The military has provided me with wonderful opportunities to try new places and has really shaped me as a person. I am more resilient, more patient and more curious than before.I have to remember that each assignment, no matter where it is, is simply adding to my life experience.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US accuses Russian spy ship of ‘unsafe’ maneuvers off US east coast

The Viktor Leonov has patrolled international waters flanking Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, every year since 2014, but since its arrival this week, it has sailed with no warning lights and ignored other ships, the US Coast Guard said in a marine safety information bulletin, according to CNN.

“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” the notice said.


“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.”

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Mark Barney)

The notice warned local vessels to steer clear, advising they “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”

The US Navy destroyer USS Mahan is patrolling in the same area, an unnamed defense official told CNN.

It is entirely normal for Russian surveillance ships to patrol international waters near US Naval outposts like Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, but the erratic behavior of the Viktor Leonov is not.

“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” a US Northern Command spokesperson told The Washington Times.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

USS Mahan steams in company with USS George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean during Exercise Mediterranean Shark.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rex Nelson)

The 3,800-ton Viktor Leonov was built in Poland, and began active duty in 1995 with the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, according to Russia state news agency TASS.

The Viktor Leonov previously caught unwanted attention in January 2018, when it was spotted near an easterly US Naval base.

At the time the US Navy spokeswoman told Business Insider: “We are aware of the vessel’s presence. It has not entered US territorial waters.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This real soldier’s photo is still hanging at Checkpoint Charlie

It’s been almost 30 years since the infamous Checkpoint Charlie, the primary crossing post between East and West Berlin, was taken down with the fall of the Berlin Wall. The original guardhouse was little more than a temporary shack for much of its life and has since been replaced. As the area in Berlin began to grow and become a tourist attraction, more and more Cold War-era sights were added to the checkpoint.

One of those sights is a photo of a real American soldier, looking East.


These days, the area in Berlin that saw some of the most intense showdowns between East and West is full of tourists and Berlin residents who probably wish they had taken a different route to work. For three Euro, you can take a photo with one of the soldier-reenactors who dress up to man the post. If you’re hungry, there’s a McDonald’s across the street. It’s very much not the Checkpoint Charlie of old, but still worth a visit. For military veterans approaching the once-legendary area, there might be a different question – who is that guy in the photo?

The “soldiers” holding the U.S. flag and posing for tourists were never troops, that’s just fun for the onlookers. But staring at the photo of the American soldier posted at the guardhouse, it’s clear that he’s wearing a real U.S. Army uniform.

His name is Jeff Harper.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the checkpoint’s rise as a prime tourist attraction in the German capital, the photos of Sgt. Harper and his Soviet counterpart on the other side have become as synonymous with the checkpoint as anything else in Cold War lore. But Harper wasn’t exactly the stereotypical Cold Warrior. He was a U.S. Army tuba player with the 298th Army Band in Berlin from 89-94 and never pulled guard duty at the checkpoint. He was just 22 when the photo was taken.

In an interview with the German publication Der Tronkland, Harper said he almost dropped his coffee when he first saw his face up on the sign. That was 1999.

“I am very proud to have become part of the story to this extent and still be part of what is happening in Berlin today,” Harper said. “I can hardly imagine in how many photo albums I have been immortalized.”

Harper has since retired from the Army, but he was still in Berlin for the fall of the wall.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists

Jeff Harper after his retirement in 2010.

The most important thing to know about the photos is that they’re not part of any authentic recreation of the site. They’re an art exhibit, called Ohne Titel – or “Light Boxes.” The photo was taken by Berlin photographer Frank Thiel in 1994, as an attempt to capture photos of the last Allied soldiers in the city. The young Russian troop isn’t wearing a Soviet military uniform, he’s wearing a 1994 uniform of the Russian Federation.

“… These portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – “You are leaving the American/British/French sector” – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here,” said Thiel. “By using two portraits to symbolize almost 50 years of history, I am suggesting that these two faces are representative.”

These days, Harper is enjoying the retired life driving his motorcycle around the highways of the American West. He says the highlight of his career in Berlin was being able to play in the band for President Bill Clinton. As for the Russian soldier on the opposite side, no one really knows who he is or where he ended up.

popular

How seagulls killed a nuclear bomber

Let’s face it, seagulls are pretty damn annoying in the best of times. Now, we have an even better reason to dislike “sky rats.”


On May 18, 2016, a B-52H Stratofortress with the 5th Bomb Wing was forced to abort its takeoff run. According to a report by NBCNews.com, the plane later burst into flames and was a total loss. The reason behind the destroyed plane was finally incovered by an Air Force investigation.

According to the investigation report, seagulls killed a BUFF – and it’s not the first time the military’s lost a plane to birds.

The accident report released by Global Strike Command noted that the crew observed the birds during their takeoff run, and the co-pilot felt some thumps — apparent bird strikes. Then, “the [mishap pilot] and [mishap co-pilot] observed engine indications for numbers 5, 6, and 7 ‘quickly spooling back’ from the required takeoff setting. The MP also observed high oil pressure indications on the number 8 engine and a noticeable left-to-right yawing motion. Accelerating through approximately 142 knots, the [mishap pilot] simultaneously announced and initiated aborted takeoff emergency procedures.”

 

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
A B-52 during takeoff. Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman

The crew then tried to deploy a drag chute. The chute – and the plane’s brakes – both failed, though, and that caused the B-52 to go off the runway. The crew carried out emergency shutdown procedures and then got out of the plane. One suffered minor injuries, but the other six on board were not injured.

Bird strikes on takeoff have happened before. One of the most notorious bird strike incidents took place in September 1995 when a Boeing E-3B Sentry was hit by two Canada geese on takeoff from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. The plane crashed after briefly going airborne, killing all 24 personnel on board.

Another one took place in 2012, when Air Force Two absorbed a bird strike, according to a report by the London Daily Mail.

Ukraine says 3 dead in new fighting against Russian-backed separatists
An engine from the E-3B that was hit by Canada geese on Sept. 22, 1995. The crash killed all 24 of the personnel on board. (USAF photo)

According to the Air Force Safety Center’s Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard Division, the Air Force has recorded 108,670 bird or wildlife strikes from the start of Fiscal Year 1985 to the end of Fiscal Year 2014. The BASH Division also noted that from the start of Fiscal Year 1993 to the end of Fiscal Year 2014, there were 34 Class A mishaps, which included 16 destroyed aircraft and 29 fatalities.

In short, those fine feathered friends are anything but friendly when it comes to sharing the skies with the Air Force.

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