US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight - We Are The Mighty
Articles

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Declaring the group’s destruction its top Middle East priority, the Trump administration on March 22 urged coalition partners to contribute more to forces who are retaking Iraq’s second largest city and readying an assault on the extremists’ self-declared Syrian capital. There was no apparent announcement of a new overall strategy, however.


Addressing top diplomats of the 68-nation coalition, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for new ideas to expand the against IS in the Iraqi city of Mosul and accelerate the campaign to chase from Raqqa, Syria, while preparing for the complex humanitarian and political consequences of both efforts.

Yet Tillerson did not propose, at least in his public remarks, a new approach, beyond noting the increased U.S. role in each country. As the officials were meeting at the State Department in Washington, the Pentagon announced that it provided an airlift for Syrian taking part in an west of Raqqa, in an escalation of U.S. involvement. At least one country participating in the meeting, France, voiced frustration that Tillerson and other U.S. officials had not offered specifics.

“I recognize there are many pressing challenges in the Middle East, but defeating is the United States number one goal in the region,” Tillerson said. “As we’ve said before, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. We must continue to keep our focus on the most urgent matter at hand.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Ababi said victory was finally within reach.

“We are at the stage of completely decimating ,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Nothing Tillerson outlined departed significantly from the Obama administration’s strategy, which focused on using local forces to retake territory along with efforts to disrupt IS recruitment and financing, and the blueprint of the multilateral effort seemed unchanged.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was disappointed the U.S. hasn’t outlined a more detailed plan, particularly for Raqqa’s future. He said he understood Trump’s administration was still formulating policy, explaining that he will be more concerned if decisions aren’t made before the end of April.

“We are expecting some further clarity from the U.S.,” he told reporters, citing France’s desire for the city to be run by moderate opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and not the country’s Russian-backed government. He also wants to hear what America seeks from U.N.-led talks on a broader political settlement to the six-year civil between Assad’s and various groups.

Tactics for the are complicated in Syria, where a partnership with Kurdish has prompted difficult discussions with Turkey, which sees them as a national security threat. The Pentagon made clear that in Wednesday’s near Raqqa, U.S. forces were still in a support role.

Tillerson said the United States would play its part and pay its fair share of the overall operation. But he said other nations, particularly those which have faced IS or IS-inspired , must contribute more militarily or financially.

He said increased intelligence and information sharing could overcome traditional rivalries between different agencies and governments, and advocated an enhanced online effort to halt the spread of extremist views, especially as the group loses ground in Iraq and Syria.

Although Tillerson alluded to the intensified campaign, he said the Trump administration was still refining its strategy. As a candidate, Trump spoke broadly about radical changes to the approach adopted by then-President Barack Obama. As a president, Trump has moved more cautiously.

“A more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together,” Tillerson said. “But I can say that the United States will increase our pressure on and al-Qaida and will work to establish interim zones of stability, through , to allow refugees to return home.”

The reference to “zones of stability” appeared to stop short of “safe zones,” which the U.S. has been extremely reluctant to commit to enforcing in Syria, even as Trump and others have raised the idea at various times.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Hungary’s foreign minister said he liked what he heard.

“We are enthusiastic about the new U.S. strategy,” Peter Szijjarto said, adding that he saw Trump’s administration determined “not only to against , but totally eliminate .” He said his country would send 50 more to Iraq, taking its contribution to 200.

As the become more encircled, the mission will change. Officials expect in the coming months to see the dissipation of surviving into underground cells that could plan and mount throughout the Middle East, South and Central Asia, Europe, South America and the United States. Washington has been trying to get NATO, coalition and other partners to take actions to adapt to changing threats.

“As we stabilize areas encompassing ‘s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, we also must prevent their seeds of hatred from taking root elsewhere,” Tillerson said. “We must ensure cannot gain or maintain footholds in new regions of the world. We must online as aggressively as we would on the ground. A digital caliphate must not flourish in the place of a physical one.”

Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report. 

Articles

USAF engineers fixed ISIS damage to vital airfield in prep for Mosul fight

It’s not like ISIS didn’t know the attack on Mosul was coming. After all, Mosul is one of the last major cities in Iraq that the group holds. So the radical Islamic fighters prepared for the battle that is now raging on the outskirts of Mosul by doing a few things, including destroying the runways at the vital Qayyarah West Airbase, Iraq.


Qayyarah West sits within Iraq’s Ninawa Province to the south of Mosul and is an obvious logistics base for an attack on the city.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Timothy Williams, assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineering Group, operates a jackhammer on a runway during repair operations at Qayyarah, West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The same day that Iraqi forces captured the airfield in July, bloggers and journalists immediately predicted the role the base would play in the coming fight against ISIS.

There was just one major problem. According to a story by Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Lemmons, ISIS had systematically destroyed the runways at Qayyarah West with explosives and heavy machinery for two years.

The C-130, one of the military’s most versatile cargo planes, needs at least 3,000 feet of safe runway to make an assault landing. Even then, the short runway lowers the available total weight with which aircraft can land or takeoff.

So the Air Force needed to take a base with no usable runways and get it ready to take in tons of cargo in a short period. A team of engineers from the Air Force flew to the base to attempt the task. They undid two years of ISIS destruction in only three weeks.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules waits to unload logistical supplies in support of the fight for Mosul at Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Oct. 22, 2016. This is the second aircraft to land there following completion of repairs to the runway after Da’esh damaged it. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The Air Force deployed a small team to assess the damage, then sent the full team to begin repairs. Over the three-week period, the airmen judged which parts of the runway were unsafe for operations, cut out those sections of asphalt, and then fixed just those spots.

“We show up, clear the debris out, get all the junk and everything out of there,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Charles told a military journalist. “Then we dig down, if we have to, until we hit hard surface ground.”

Once the engineers found hard surface, they ensured everything was level and firm, then rebuilt the section of runway from the ground up. And the airmen completed their work just in time. The first C-130s arrived on Oct. 21, less than a week after the Iraqi Army began their offensive to retake Mosul.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The repaired runway provides a more robust logistical capability for the invasion, allowing more ammunition and other supplies to fly in. And Qayyarah West has served the coalition in other ways as well, such as housing the American Paladins providing artillery support to the Iraqi advance.

Articles

House-Senate to negotiate key military benefit changes

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
Wikimedia commons


The House and Senate, in passing separate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, haven’t yet agreed on the size of the next military pay raise, or how to reform health care or housing allowances, or whether to require all 18-year-old women to register with Selective Service to be part of a conscription pool in future major wars.

Ironing out these disparities, and many more consequential to military personnel, retirees and family members, will now fall to a House-Senate conference committee comprised of armed services committee members.

The committees’ professional staffs will negotiate many decisions in advance, on guidance from chairmen Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Max Thornberry (R-Texas), and senior Democrats Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.). But the principals will need to engage behind closed doors on larger and more controversial topics to produce a single bill that either avoids or challenges a threatened veto from President Obama.

To achieve compromise, conferees will need to shed the political posturing routine in election years and make hard choices based on real budget ceilings. The House, for example, had refused to support another military pay raise cap in 2017 and deferred TRICARE fee increases to future generations of service members. Yet it only authorized funding for seven months of wartime operations next year in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Here are some of the tough decisions to be negotiated:

Pay Raise – The House bill supports a 2.1 percent January raise to match wage growth in the private sector. The Senate voted to cap the raise, for a fourth consecutive year, at 1.6 percent. A long-shot floor amendment from McCain to add $18 billion in defense spending authority, including several hundred million to support a larger pay raise, was defeated.

Basic Allowance for Housing – The Senate supports two substantial BAH “reforms.” It would dampen payments stateside to members, married or now, who share housing off base. It would cap payments to the lesser of what individuals actually pay to rent or the local BAH maximum for their rank and family status. House is silent on these. The White House opposes them.

TRICARE Reforms – The Senate embraces a portion of TRICARE fee increases that the administration proposed for working age retirees. It also incentivizes the fee system so patients pay less for services critical to maintaining their health and they pay more for incidental health services. Senate initiatives also emphasize improving access and quality of care.

The House rejects almost all higher fees and co-pays intended to drive patients, particularly retirees, back into managed care and military facilities. Both bills would narrow TRICARE options down to managed care and a preferred provider organization. But the House would require all current TRICARE Standard users to enroll annually to help better manage costs and resources. The House, however, would subject only new entrants to the military on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to higher TRICARE enrollment fees.

Female Draft Registration – Without debate on the topic, the Senate voted to require all women attaining the age of 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register with Selective Service. The House voted to strike similar language from its own defense authorization bill, leaving the issue to be fought behind closed doors of the conference committee.

The two defense policy bills, HR 4909 and S 2943, are aligned on some other important, even surprising benefit changes. These include:

Commissary Reform — The Senate approved the same sweeping changes endorsed by the House to modernize commissary operations. They include a pilot program to replace the cost-plus-five-percent pricing formula with variable pricing across local markets. Both chambers also endorse allowing the Defense Commissary Agency to offer its own brand products to generate more profits and enhance patron savings, and to convert commissaries to non-appropriated fund activities like exchanges.

DeCA is to calculate and set a baseline level of savings that patrons now enjoy and maintain it. Meanwhile, a new Defense Resale Business Optimization Board will be formed to oversee the reforms including the streamlining of commissary and exchange operations to gain efficiencies.

The Senate rejected McCain’s push to privatize up to five base grocery stores for two years to test whether a commercial grocer could operate base stores at a profit and still offer deep discount. McCain hopes privatization over time ends the need for DeCA with its $1.4 billion annual appropriation. Defense officials estimate the approved reforms will cut commissary funding by about $400 million a year over their first fives years.

Meanwhile, DoD last week gave Congress a promised report on prospects for making commissaries and exchanges “budget neutral” or self-sustaining. It concludes that budget neutrality is unattainable without gutting the benefit. This helped to weakened support for a privatization test.

Ending Former Spouse Windfalls — Another issue the House and Senate agree on is modifying how the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act calculates retirement pay for sharing as marital property in divorce settlements. Current law allows courts to divide final retired pay, even if it was bolstered more years served and promotions gained after divorce. Congress agrees this creates a windfall for ex-spouses that should be eliminated, but only for divorce finalized after the bill becomes law.

The former spouse law (Sec. 1408, 10 U.S.C.) will be changed so retired pay to be divided is based on a member’s rank and years of service at time of divorce, plus cumulative military pay raises up through retirement.

This is the first substantive change to the USFSPA in at least a decade. It surprised the former spouse support group EX-POSE, which calls it unfair to future ex-spouses who might sacrifice their own careers to raise children or to accommodate the frequent moves that are part of service life.

ABA Therapy Rates Restored – Both bills direct the Department of Defense to restore higher TRICARE reimbursement rates paid through last March for applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with autism. The change is to take effect when the bill is signed. Though appreciative of the rollback, family advocates worry that months more of delay could see more ABA therapists decide to drop or to refuse to accept more military children.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these vets tell the real story of what going back to school is like

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


In this episode, our group of veterans talks about their experiences going to college after serving in the military.

Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This heroic working dog conducted 210 combat missions while deployed

Military Working Dog Gabe started his Army career in a rare way, escaping near-euthanasia in a Texas shelter before becoming a remarkably successful working dog and a celebrity loved by famous humans, like Betty White and Jay Leno.


2012 Hero Dog Awards Tribute – Gabe

youtu.be

Gabe is credited with going on 210 combat missions and finding 26 caches of weapons and explosives before retiring to live with his handler in 2009 as a sergeant first class. He passed away in his handler’s arms in 2013.

Most military working dogs are purchased from European breeders and raised from birth to work in military units or police agencies. But the U.S. was running short on good dogs, and it has always allowed the occasional stray into the ranks. Gabe was one of those strays.

He had been sitting in a shelter where he was reportedly a day away from euthanasia when the Southeast Texas Labrador Retriever Rescue Organization pulled him out. The Army found him then and tested him for potential as a military working dog. He passed and was assigned to Army Staff Sgt. Charles Shuck.

The team trained together as a Specialized Search Dog team, a then-new program that focused on entirely detecting IED and IED-making components. Dogs in the SSD program don’t search for drugs. They don’t search for cadavers. They don’t chase.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Gabe visits with actor Betty White.

(U.S. Army)

They find bombs. They find them in combat, in the burning desert, and sometimes under fire. Gabe finished a five-month training iteration and was the rock star of the class. After they graduated, Shuck’s commander asked if they could deploy to Iraq. They needed Gabe in the show.

And so he went, and Gabe and Shuck were quickly favorites with troops on the ground. They rolled out often, 210 times in a single deployment. Of those missions, 170 were combat patrols where they led columns of soldiers through dangerous areas, smelling for the tell-tale scents of IEDs.

And Gabe was able to find the goods. In one case, he hit on 36 mortar rounds stashed by insurgents. Mortar rounds are popular tools for bomb makers because their explosives are reliable and powerful. Recovering them saves lives. Gabe also visited soldiers during his deployment, improving morale.

Gabe would eventually garner three Army Commendation Medals, an Army Achievement Medal, and dozens of military coins and other awards. In 2008, he received the Heroic Military Working Dog Award Medal from the American Kennel Club.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Gabe visiting with children in a school.

(U.S. Army)

But Gabe was senior and needed to retire soon after the deployment, something he did in 2009. The Army allowed Shuck, Gabe’s only handler, to adopt him. He visited schools and hospitals and became a celebrity, appearing in photos with Betty White and Jay Leno.

The heroic dog enjoyed almost four years of retirement, but cancer had stealthily crept through his liver and spleen. It was discovered in February 2013, but it was far too late to operate.

Shuck made the decision to have Gabe put to sleep and cradled him as he passed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hostage-taking on Ukrainian bus ends, all passengers safe, after 12-hour ordeal

LUTSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces have captured an armed man who was holding 13 people hostage inside a bus in the northwestern town of Lutsk, ending a 12-hour ordeal.

No one was injured.


An armored personnel carrier with Ukrainian special forces pulled up alongside the bus around 9:30 p.m. seconds after an explosion created a bright flash near the vehicle, a video posted by an onlooker showed:

Максима Плохого задержали, автобус брали штурмом

www.youtube.com

Maksym Kryvosh, a 44-year-old resident of Lutsk who has a criminal record and was once treated at a psychiatric center, was arrested. Kryvosh also went by the last name Plokhoy, which means “bad” in Russian.

Police said Kryvosh ranted against “the system” in his negotiations, called the nation’s oligarchs and officials “terrorists,” and demanded that people watch the 2005 documentary film Earthlings about the suffering endured by animals at farms, research labs, and other locations.

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy posted a short video on Facebook recommending that people watch the documentary. Local media said Kryvosh was following the news about his hostage-taking on his smartphone. Zelenskiy deleted the video after Kryvosh’s capture.

Regional police chief Yuriy Kroshko said earlier in the day that Kryvosh had told police that he was armed and had a large amount of explosives with him.

He also claimed to have placed a bomb at another site in the city and said he could detonate it remotely.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


Articles

Finding beauty in the ‘Boneyard’

Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.


Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese

An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.

To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.

“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”

So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.

Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.

“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”

Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.

“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.

Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.

The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.

“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”

Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.

So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.

“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”

Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.

The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.

“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”

In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.

“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.

When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.

A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.

Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.

This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.

“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.

The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.

Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.

“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”

For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.

Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.

Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.

Watch this video from Airman Magazine to take a tour of the Boneyard:

Articles

Heroic Coast Guard ship from ‘Perfect Storm’ sunk for reef

The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.


The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.

The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.

A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.

The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.

The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.

The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.

Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.

Articles

Kayla Williams (Still) Loves Her Rifle More Than You

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of profiles of incredible female veterans that WATM will be presenting in concert with Women’s History Month.


US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
Kayla Williams (right) with unidentified female soldier next to an up-armored Humvee during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The title of Kayla Williams’ 2005 book, Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the US Army uses an old marching cadence to seemingly thumb its nose at what some might consider the more antiquated ways of US Army culture, especially when it comes to women. Fifteen percent of the Army is female, but Williams would come to learn during the Iraq War, the only women in the Army the public knew well were Lynndie England and Jessica Lynch… and those were not the people Williams wanted representing women in the Army.

“When I came home from Iraq, I realized people can be ignorant about the role of women in combat,” Williams told me. “Some people asked if I was allowed to carry a gun, some asked if I was in the infantry, even though women still can’t be. I was acutely aware women’s roles were largely unknown to the general public and I wanted to give a nuanced perspective of what women experience in the current conflicts.”

Williams was an Army signals intelligence linguist, specializing in intercept and direction finding. She enlisted in 2000 because she wanted to learn another language. The language the Army chose would dramatically affect the way she looked at her career.

“I got Arabic as opposed to Korean or Chinese,” Williams says. “I was at the Defense Language Institute on 9/11 and it was clear to us then the world had changed.” In 2003, Williams was part of the initial invasion of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Air Assault. Though her primary function was signals intelligence, she found there was a huge need for Arabic translation on the ground. Beyond any of her expectations she found herself doing foot patrols with the Army infantry.

“This was the very early days of the war,” she recalls. “The Iraqi people were still hopeful they would see a better future in the aftermath of the down fall of the regime. I was making a difference in the lives of those Iraqis and in the lives of my fellow soldiers.”

Williams’ work took her all over the American area of responsibility in Iraq.  She worked her way North to Mosul, Sinjar, and Tal Afar, and spent a great deal of time on the Syrian border.

“In my experience,” she says, “everyone has to prove themselves in a new unit, male or female. Everyone is going to test you. It’s inevitable. In the combat arms units I was attached to, how they treated me depended on how well I did my job. When they saw me translating for them, they could see I could help them. And when commanders treated me with respect, the troops would too.”

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
Williams getting promoted in Iraq.

Though far from a support structure, Kayla Williams remembers those first days in the Northern areas of Iraq as relatively peaceful.  By the time her deployment was over, however, the situation had completely changed. They had electricity and running water in their camp, but now the insurgency had taken root.

“When we drove back to Kuwait at the end of my tour we had to do it at night in a blackout drive.”

Despite personal feelings about the war, Williams approached every mission to the best of her ability. She knew her skill as a translator could be the most necessary help to the war, and thus the troops. She thought at the time though we went to war for the wrong reasons, maybe we still did a good thing. Now, with a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on the Middle East from American University, her observations are more grounded in fact than feeling.

“Maybe in a generation or two the Middle East will be better off,” she says. “But who knows? Who predicted the rise of ISIS? I’m not sure that anyone can predict the long term. It’s the polite way of saying I hope we didn’t fuck it up too bad.”

Williams sees the roles of women in the Armed Forces as a necessary one, especially given cultural sensitivities in predominantly Muslim countries. To her, being able to assign women to combat units will give field commanders better command and control capability without sacrificing readiness or discipline.

“The decision to lift the exclusion policy for women in combat was a validation and vindication of the more than 280,000 women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Williams says. “The former Secretary of Defense made the decision with the unanimous support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now commanders will be able to train like they fight and function better as a military by putting the right people in the right jobs.”

Williams’ second book, Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War is the story of her return home, her husband’s struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an IED attack during his own time in Iraq, and how they struggled to overcome; it was published in 2014.

Now: Female Vet Says ‘They’ll Have To Pry My Uniform Out Of My Hands’

And: This Female Vet Is One Of History’s Most Decorated Combat Photographers

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Russian military just landed in Venezuela

Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.


The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.

Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.

Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.

The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.

Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return from deployment just in time for Thanksgiving

The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.


During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”

11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.

Articles

Air Force officials present united front to counter F-35 critics

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
Trail aircraft in a section of F-35s banks away while firing an anti-IR missile flare. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — In spite of recent setbacks that grounded 15 F-35s right after the Air Force declared them ready to go to war, service officials at the Air Force Association’s annual gathering outside of Washington DC presented a measured if not upbeat assessment of the program’s progress and how the airplane will improve air dominance.

“I will tell you, in my opinion, that over time, although there are sometimes bumps in the road and you really don’t always get everything the way you want to to being with, as we develop and field this airplane and we get it into the hands of our airmen and allow them to do with it what they’re capable of doing, I firmly believe this airplane will continue to get better and better and better,” Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, head of the Air Combat Command, said during his opening remarks. “It’s a great airplane.”

Carlisle was followed by Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the Joint Strike Fighter program head, who contextualized the state of the F-35 in terms of the problems engineers and test team members have solved.

“I would tell you that if you build a test program and you don’t find anything wrong then you didn’t do a good enough job,” Bogdan said. “So it’s not a surprise to me that on any given day we encounter things wrong with this airplane. What I like to tell people is now is the time to find those things and fix them.”

Bogdan listed the most recent problem — one involving faulty insulation around the engines — that grounded 15 airplanes as a “perfect example.”

“If this problem was found three or four years from now we have hundreds of airplanes out there,” Bogdan said. “The mark of a good program isn’t that you have no problems. The mark of a good program is you find things early, you fix them, you make the airplane better, you make the weapons system better, and you move on.

“I think we have a pretty good track record of doing that over the last few years,” he continued. “We don’t talk about engine fires anymore. We don’t talk about a hook on the ‘C’ model that doesn’t catch a cable. We don’t talk about a helmet that has multiple problems with it — in fact, talk to the aviators about how much they like this helmet. We don’t talk about landing gear problems. All of those things are behind us.”

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight
(L-R) Carlisle, Bogdan, Pleus, and Lyons at AFA Convention briefing on state of the F-35 program. (Photo: Ward Carroll)

“I’m hopeful that as we grow the fleet that we all take the time to form opinions on this airplane from experts,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, Director of the Pentagon’s F-35 Integration Office, said.  “And the only experts in the F-35 business are those that fix, maintain, and fly the F-35 on a day-to-day basis.”

Scott claimed that pilots flying the F-35 out of Luke AFB and Eglin AFB, when polled about what airplane they’d want to be in if faced with an enemy pilot of equal ability today, unanimously chose the F-35 over the F-15C, F-15E, F-16, or A-10 in a “beyond visual range” environment and picked the F-35 by a factor of 80 percent over those other airplanes in a dogfight.

Col. David Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, explained that the Air Force’s Initial Operational Capability, or “IOC,” ruling was organized into four categories:  availability, deployability, access to required support equipment, and the readiness of trained aircrew, maintenance, and support personnel.

“Our achievement of each IOC milestone gave us increased confidence,” Lyons said. “The outcome speaks for itself. The jet has proved to be both survivable and lethal while allowing the technological growth required to become a viable weapons system for decades to come.”

Lyons touted that the 7-aircraft “graduation” detachment based out of Mountain Home AFB last year yielded a 97.5 percent hit rate for dropped bombs, a 92.3 percent mission capable rate, and 100 percent sortie completion rate — all of which exceed the standards set by the legacy aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace. He also stated there were zero F-35 losses from “Red Air,” the term used for simulated enemy aircraft in a training scenario.

Lyons characterized his overall impressions of the jet as “overwhelmingly positive.”

“It’s a pilot’s airplane and the technology will prove to be game-changing,” he said. “I think our adversaries will worry, and I think they have every reason to feel that way.”

The sanguine outlook of the high-ranking panel at the Air Force Association Convention was mitigated by the recent news that 57 jets — 15 in operational use and 42 on the production line — had substandard tubing that caused insulation to migrate into fuel tanks. The discovery resulted in the fleet airplanes being grounded while technicians perform an intrusive procedure to remove the insulation by drilling through the wing to access the fuel tanks. Bogdan said he expects the affected jets to be back in service sometime in December. He also said the grounding action does not affect the ‘B’ and ‘C’ models of the F-35.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The spectacular naval origin of the phrase, ‘son of a gun’

These days, Americans are less likely to exclaim “son of a gun” than the more-explicit “son of a b*tch,” but there was a time when “son of a gun” itself was not used in mixed company — and that time was more than 200 years after the age of sail.


It seems the Royal Navy, while not keen on having women aboard its ships, sometimes overlooked the practice. Different times throughout its history saw sailors of the Royal Navy either bring either their wives or lovers aboard ships that might be out at sea for a while. While it wasn’t officially tolerated, there are instances of a ship’s company turning a blind eye to it.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

At this point, it’s important that everyone knows I’m talking about prostitutes.

Everyone aboard a ship was counted in the ship’s log back in those days. The log was a detailed account of who was working, who came aboard, who left, who died, etc. It also kept track of who was born aboard one of the King or Queen’s ships. It was uncommon, but it did happen. Women had to get around the world just like anyone else. The Royal Navy kept this count, just like any other ship.

But say there was one of the aforementioned female guests aboard a ship. If that woman just happened to give birth aboard ship, that child would have to be kept in the log. If a child was born with uncertain paternity — that is to say, there were too many possibilities as to who the father could be — the newborn still had to be counted in the log.

US asks Europe to deploy more troops for ISIS fight

Like an old-timey recording of the Maury Show.

If this was the case, the child’s name was recorded as the “son of a gun” — the son of a seaman below decks. Eventually, the common use of the phrase began to refer to any child born aboard a ship, even those of officers accompanied by their wives. Then, it began to refer to any child of a military man, not just the bastard children of sailors.

Some 200-plus years later, it’s used to lovingly refer to a mischievous person or as an expression of awe or esteem. To use an expletive or insult in the same vein, we’ve moved on as a society. Who knows where language will go next?

Do Not Sell My Personal Information