US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

A diplomatic security agent testified Sept. 2 that after militants stormed the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, he turned to US Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was hiding in a safe room, and said, “When I die, you need to pick up my gun and keep fighting.”


Agent Scott Wickland was the government’s first witness in a trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan suspected of orchestrating the attack that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Wickland took the stand and gave a harrowing account of how he tried without success to save the ambassador and Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer.

The smoke from weapons’ fire and explosions was so thick and black that it blinded the three. They dropped to the floor and crawled on their bellies, gasping for air. Wickland said he was trying to lead them to a bathroom where he could close the door and open a window.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

“I was breathing through the last centimeter of air on the ground,” Wickland said. “I’m yelling, ‘Come on. We can make it. We’re going to the bathroom.’ Within 8 meters, they disappeared.”

Wickland kept yelling for them. He was feeling around on the floor through the toxic smoke, which made the lighted room darker than night.

“To this day, I don’t even know where they went. I was right next to them, and then that’s it,” Wickland said. “I had my hand on Ambassador Stevens. I could hear Sean shuffling.”

Twelve jurors and three alternates assembled for the opening day of one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years. Abu Khattala is being tried in US District Court, a civilian court, at a time when the Trump administration has said terror suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

During Wickland’s testimony, Abu Khattala hung an arm over his chair and held his chin, covered in a long, grayish white beard. He listened through earphones to an Arabic translation of the proceedings.

The opening testimony was aimed at turning the jury against the defendant, but his name was never mentioned throughout Wickland’s nearly three hours on the stand. He is expected to retake the stand on Oct. 3.

An 18-count indictment against Abu Khattala arises from a burst of violence that began the night of Sept. 11, 2012. Stevens and Smith were killed in the first attack at the US mission. Nearly eight hours later, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack on a CIA complex nearby

Abu Khattala, who appeared in court wearing a white shirt and dark pants, has pleaded not guilty to his charges, including murder of an internationally protected person, providing material support to terrorists, and destroying US property while causing death.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Ahmed Abu Khattala after capture. Image from US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson called Abu Khattala a “Libyan patriot” who fought on America’s side in the war against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. He said Abu Khattala didn’t mastermind the attack. The lawyer said the defendant simply went to the attack site because he heard there was a protest and wanted to see what was happening.

“He didn’t shoot anyone. He didn’t set any fires. He did not participate in the attacks,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said Abu Khattala was a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran. He reminded jurors that in America, people are not prosecuted because of their religious beliefs.

The prosecution gave a starkly different portrayal of the defendant. Assistant US Attorney John Crabb said that when Abu Khattala’s hatred of America boiled over, he orchestrated the attacks and then triumphantly strode around the attack site carrying an AK-47.

Crabb said that later, the defendant told someone at his apartment: “I attacked the American Embassy” and would have killed more Americans that night if others had not intervened.

He said Abu Khattala “hates America with a vengeance.”

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.

“He killed Ambassador Stevens — a man of peace.”

The trial is expected to last for weeks. Crabb said the prosecution would show the jury videos of the attack site and Abu Khattala’s phone records, which he said showed a spike in activity during the attacks. He said witnesses would include weapons and fire experts and a man named Ali, who was paid $7 million to befriend Abu Khattala and help US forces capture him in Libya.

After he was captured, he was taken to a US Navy ship that transported him to the United States. During the 12-day journey, he was first interrogated by intelligence personnel and then by FBI agents. Crabb said Abu Khattala told FBI agents that America was the “root of all the world’s problems.”

His defense lawyer said Abu Khattala cooperated aboard the ship and he “continued to deny, as he denies today, any participation in planning or masterminding the attack.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new device helps amputees manage phantom limb pain

Amira Idris is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain. During her undergraduate studies, she worked at a prosthetic clinic where she learned that many patients believed their life was over after amputation. She became determined to help change that mindset.


Her work with amputees brought up the phenomenon of phantom limb pain, where patients experience pain sensations in limbs that no longer exist. Idris explained that the nerves are still there, but they’ve been snipped, so they continue to send mixed signals to the brain.

She got to work on a prototype to combat that pain.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Redmond Ramos warms up before competing in the athletics portion of the Invictus Games at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre in London Sept. 11, 2014. (DoD photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault, U.S. Air Force/Released)

She developed a product that stimulates the nerves with vibration therapy, which not only helps with nerve pain management, but increases blood circulation and reduces symptoms of arthritis or restless leg syndrome as well.

Her work led her to the creation of the ELIX, a patent-pending socially conscious wearable device that has been proven to help amputees with phantom limb pain.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
In 2016, the VA medical centers treated nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations. (Image of ELIX device courtesy of Amira Idris)

But that’s only the beginning. Now she is on a campaign to donate 100 devices to veterans. She’s running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money that will directly go towards materials and supplies, product development, and manufacturing of the ELIX specifically to give to veterans suffering from phantom limb pain.

She wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device, and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

Articles

A-10 pilot manages to ‘belly land’ his plane after nearly everything falls apart

After a routine training run in Alpena County, Michigan in late July, US Air National Guard Capt. Brett DeVries survived the perfect storm of malfunctions to safely land his A-10 Thunderbolt II on its belly without the benefit of landing gear.


During a training exercise where A-10 pilots practice dropping inert bombs and ripping the planes’ massive gun, DeVries’ gun malfunctioned. Moments later, his canopy blew off his plane as he flew along at 375 miles an hour, according to a US Air National Guard write up of the event.

The incredible winds smacked DeVries head against his seat, nearly incapacitating him. “It was like someone sucker punched me,” he said. “I was just dazed for a moment.”

Related: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

DeVries wingman, Major Shannon Vickers, then flew under his plane to assess the damage, finding bad news. The panels under his plane had been damaged, and it was unclear if he would be able to lower his landing gear.

Meanwhile, DeVries struggled against the wind and having everything loose in his cockpit. He could no longer benefit from checklists, which had become a liability that could now potentially fly out and get stuck in his engine.

DeVries, having the flight from hell, had two of his radios go down and had to communicate with Vickers and flight control on his third backup system. They worked together to find him a nearby spot to land and Vickers observed that DeVries would not in fact be able to use his landing gear.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Capt. Brett DeVries (right) and his wingman Maj. Shannon Vickers, both A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots of the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. Vickers helped DeVries safely make an emergency landing July 20 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center after the A-10 DeVries was flying experienced a malfunction. | US Air National Guard photo by Terry Atwell

“I just thought, ‘There is no way this is happening right now.’ It all was sort of surreal, but at the same time, we were 100 percent focused on the task ahead of us,” Vickers said.

Miraculously, thanks to the meticulous training A-10 pilots undergo and the incredibly rugged design of the plane, DeVries walked away unscathed, and maintainers will be able to fix the plane.

Articles

This bomber made the B-52 look puny

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has the nickname “Big Ugly Fat F***er” — or just the BUFF — but is it the biggest bomber that ever served? Believe it or not, that answer is, “No.”


There was a much bigger bomber in the fleet — and while it never dropped a bomb in anger, it was the backbone of Strategic Air Command in its early years. That plane was the Convair B-36 Peacemaker.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
A prototype B-52 next to a B-36 Peacemaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Peacemaker was immense, according to a fact sheet from the National Museum of the Air Force: Its wingspan was 230 feet (compared to 185 feet for a B-52), the B-36 was 162 feet long (compared to just over 159 feet for the B-52), and it could carry up to 86,000 pounds of bombs, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. The B-52’s maximum bomb load is 70,000 pounds, per an Air Force fact sheet.

How did you get such an immense craft off the ground? Very carefully.

The B-36 had six Pratt and Whitney R-4360 engines in a pusher configuration and four General Electric J47 jet engines. These were able to lift a fully-loaded B-36 off the ground and propel it to a top speed of 435 miles per hour.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
The immense scale of the B-36 is apparent by looking at the one on exhibit at the National Museum of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Depending on the model, the B-36 had up to 16 20mm cannon in twin turrets. The B-36 entered service in 1948 – and it gave SAC 11 years of superb service, being replaced by the B-52. Five planes survive, all of which are on display.

Below, this clip from the 1955 movie “Strategic Air Command” shows how this plane took flight. Jimmy Stewart plays a major league baseball player called back into Air Force service (Stewart was famously a bomber pilot who saw action in World War II and the Vietnam War).

Also recognizable in this clip is the flight engineer, played by Harry Morgan, famous for playing Sherman Potter on “MASH” and as Detective Rich Gannon in the 1960s edition of “Dragnet.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Can military spouses be buried in veterans cemeteries?

You may know that most veterans can be buried in state and national veterans cemeteries for little or no money, but what about their spouses and other dependents?

Your spouse may be eligible to be buried with you in a veterans cemetery at little or no cost. However, if you and your spouse have divorced and they have remarried, they probably aren’t eligible. Dependent children may also be eligible. Some parents of those killed on active duty may also be eligible.

As always, only veterans with an other-than-dishonorable discharge (and their dependents) qualify for this burial benefit. There are also other restrictions against those found guilty of certain crimes.


Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery is run by the Department of the Army. As such, it has rules that are a bit different than National Veterans Cemeteries, which are run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The cemetery is also running out of space for new burials.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Arlington National Cemetery.

Therefore, burials and inurnments, the placing of cremated remains in a large wall, are limited to specific groups. Currently, burial at Arlington National Cemetery is open to:

  • Members who died on active duty and their immediate family
  • Retirees and their immediate family
  • Recipients of the Purple Heart or Silver Star and above, as well as their immediate family
  • Any honorably discharged prisoner of war who died after Nov. 30, 1993, and their immediate family

Veterans and their dependents as well as some retired reservists are eligible for inurnment in the cemetery.

The cemetery will furnish a headstone/marker for both the veteran and dependents.

National veterans cemeteries

These cemeteries are run by the VA. There are currently 136 national cemeteries in 40 states and Puerto Rico. Locate a VA cemetery near you.

Burial is available to any veteran with an other-than-dishonorable discharge, as well as their dependents. The VA will furnish a headstone/marker for the veteran and dependent.

VA National Cemeteries

State veterans cemeteries

Many states have their own veterans cemeteries. Eligibility is similar to VA national cemeteries, but may include residency requirements.

Most states provide free burial and a headstone for the veteran; many charge a fee less than id=”listicle-2636201112″,000 for eligible dependents.

State veterans cemeteries

Other cemeteries

The VA may provide a free headstone or marker for all eligible veterans buried at any cemetery worldwide; however, it doesn’t pay the cost of placing the marker. Some states will reimburse this cost.

Dependents aren’t eligible for this benefit; however, some states may provide a headstone to dependents.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes, memes, memes! Here are the 13 funniest ones from around the military:


1. When the crew is tired of MREs, but first sergeant doesn’t understand:

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Maybe drive through some mud on the way back.

2. The platoon isn’t scared of getting a little wet, are they?

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
What’s a 50-foot drop, then 50-foot climb among buddies?

SEE ALSO: These 8 TV characters would never survive in the real military

3. Elsa created an actual, functioning snowman (via Team Non-Rec).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
You really thought she would never build an army?

4. Don’t be jealous, he had to turn the wrench a lot of times for those (via Sh-t my LPO says).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Sure, it was mostly because he turned it the wrong way the first dozen times, but still.

5. Remember to always keep your weapon pointed downrange and away from the cat (via Devil Dog Nation).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
And don’t aim at your mom.

6. Next time a paratrooper calls someone a leg …

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
… remind them that the rest of the Army can’t get drug around by silk.

7. “Oh yeah? You ready to show me your life jackets now!?”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

8. Marines do more with less, rah?

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
If you wanted armor, you should’ve joined the Army.

9. Reflective belts are always coming through in the clutch (via Air Force Nation).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
They keep away bears, bullets, and now thieves, apparently.

10. The Air Force demands excellence of every recruit (via Air Force Memes Humor).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
She can also do a better pull up than you, but maybe that’s why she joined the Marines.

11. Whenever the next Engineer Ball is held, I’d like tickets.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Not to the actual event, just the closing fireworks.

12. It’s chief’s least favorite dish (via Sh-t my LPO says).

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Try it today with a side of sadness.

13. “You still have another foot before you hit the tree.”

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

After a driver plowed a rented truck into bikers and pedestrians on Manhattan’s west side on Oct. 31 and went on to shout “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, investigators quickly took to calling the incident terrorism.


The attack left eight dead and 11 wounded, according to reports.

But just a month earlier, when a gunman opened fire onto a concert in Las Vegas, leaving 58 dead and 500 injured, the police did not investigate the incident as terrorism.

The reason comes down to an attacker’s motivation. Authorities have yet to name a motive for the Las Vegas attack, but officials quickly began identifying clues on Oct. 31 after what would be the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill recieves a brief with FBI NY, NYPD Counterterrorism, Mayor de Blasio, and others after a motorist killed 8 and wounded others in an apparent terrorist attack in NYC on Oct. 31, 2017. (image @NYPDONeill Twitter)

“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said at a news conference just two hours after the truck attack.

“He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the truck’s driver, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who had lived in Tampa, Florida. The attack ended when Saipov was shot by the police; he was then hospitalized.

“And if you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on,” O’Neill added. “So, that, along with the statement, that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.”

Read More: This Marine veteran ‘borrowed’ a truck and drove dozens to hospital during Las Vegas shooting

Multiple news outlets reported that investigators found a note in Saipov’s car pledging allegiance to ISIS, though the terrorist group’s news agency Amaq made no mention of the attack immediately afterward.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the Oct. 31 carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.

So even though authorities think Saipov acted alone, the attack is still being investigated as terrorism because of his apparent political motivation.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill at 1PP in a press conference regarding the terrorist attack that killed 8 in NYC on October 31, 2017. (image @NYPDSpeechley Twitter)

“While definitions for terrorism differ, the overwhelming majority of them distinguish terrorism from other crimes of violence by the purpose of the actor, not the severity of the harm caused,” Robert Eatinger, the former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, told The Cipher Brief in October.

In response to the attack, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had “ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program.”

Saipov, however, hails from Uzbekistan, a country never listed in Trump’s proposed travel bans. Saipov used no firearms that legislation could restrict access to. And some of those who knew Saipov, who spent the months before the attack driving for Uber in New Jersey, have said he did not display any warning signs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet Chester, US Army ‘Bulldog Brigade’ mascot

Care for military working dogs and government-owned animals is not taken lightly in the military; and there are many quality control measures in place to ensure these service animals are getting the care they deserve to accomplish their mission.

Spc. Tank Chester, English bulldog and mascot for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog,” 1st Armored Division (Rotational) had surgery to fix a condition called entropion, which occurs when the eyelids roll in, irritating the eye, at Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea, Feb. 20, 2019.


“Certain breeds will get this condition (entropion) due to having excess skin on their face, so when the eyelids roll in, the hair on their eyelids is irritating the eyelid or actually the eyeball and they tear up a lot,” said Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, 65th Medical Brigade. “In Chester’s case, he’s got extra skin folds, so he has water eyes, the water gets down in the skin folds, and it creates a moist environment, which results in bacterial and fungal infections.”

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Spc. Naquan Stokes, a native of Ocala, FL, veterinary technician with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, preps Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

U.S. Army dog handlers and animal control officers spend a lot of time working with veterinarians and veterinary technicians to coordinate care for military service animals like Chester due to the diverse operational requirements placed on these animals.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, gives two-thumbs up signifying a successful entropion correction procedure for Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

“Taking care of Chester is a lot like having your own dog, except for there’s more time invested in him because that’s my purpose, just like if he was one of my soldiers,” said Cpl. Mitchell Duncan, a native of New York, animal control officer with 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “It’s my job to make sure that he’s taken care of and since he’s a government-owned animal there are certain procedures we must follow. He’s required to have monthly visits to the vet, and he’s required to maintain a certain weight and health standard. Prior to becoming his handler, I received training from the veterinary technicians which covered everything from emergency care to daily standard maintenance.”

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Capt. Sean Curry, a native of Wooster, OH, veterinarian with the 106th Veterinary Detachment, conducts an entropion correction procedure for Spc. Tank Chester.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

Chester’s entropion surgery was a success and it is the second one he’s endured since he and the Bulldog Brigade arrived to the Republic of Korea in the fall of 2018. Fortunately for Chester, his health and welfare are not only important to Duncan and the Bulldog Brigade, but also one of the biggest reasons why Curry has chosen to serve.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Spc. Tank Chester, English bulldog and mascot for 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Bulldog,” 1st Armored Division, is sedated in preparation for an entropion correction surgery.

(Photo by Sgt. Alon Humphrey)

“Dogs like Chester and the working dogs are why I do what I do,” he said. They’re just unique animals. They represent the unit, and if I can spend the day helping Chester feel better, or helping a working dog complete his job and save soldiers’ lives, then that’s a great day for me.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These countries are the worst human traffickers in the world

In a new report, the U.S. State Department says Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan remain among the worst offenders of human trafficking and forced labor.

The department’s annual Trafficking In Persons report, which is aimed at curbing human trafficking, was unveiled in a ceremony in Washington on June 28, 2018, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump.


It evaluates 187 countries and territories and ranks them into four tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3), with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 3 the worst.

Russia, Belarus, Iran, and Turkmenistan were among 22 countries ranked as Tier 3. Others included Burma (also known as Myanmar), China, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

The Russian government “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so,” the 2018 Trafficking In Persons report stated as a reason why Russia remained among the worst offenders for the sixth year in a row.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

It said Russian authorities “routinely detained and deported potential forced labor victims without screening for signs of exploitation, and prosecuted victims forced into prostitution for prostitution offenses.”

It urged Moscow to investigate allegations and prevent the use of forced labor in construction projects, screen for trafficking indicators before deporting or repatriating migrants, and to establish formal national procedures to aid law enforcement officials.

The report said Belarus, a Tier 3 country since 2015, “maintained policies that actively compelled the forced labor of its citizens, including civil servants, students, part-time workers, and the unemployed, citizens suffering from drug or alcohol dependency, and, at times, critics of the government, among others.”

In Iran, which has been Tier 3 since at least 2011, “trafficking victims reportedly continued to face severe punishment, including death, for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.”

It also accused the government of providing financial support to militias fighting in Iraq that recruited and used child soldiers.

It said Turkmenistan, which remained on the Tier 3 list for the third consecutive year, continued to use “the forced labor of reportedly tens of thousands of its adult citizens in the annual cotton harvest and in preparation for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games” that the country hosted in September 2017.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Pakistan, meanwhile, was upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2, with the report crediting Islamabad with “making significant efforts” to tackle trafficking.

It said Pakistan, which had been Tier 3 from 2014-17, “demonstrated increasing efforts by increasing the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.”

It cautioned, though, that the country’s overall law enforcement efforts on labor trafficking remained “inadequate compared with the scale of the problem.”

The State Department ranked Georgia as the only former Soviet republic to be a Tier 1 country, a category that comprises 39 countries.

In the middle are the Tier 2 countries, defined as those that do not fully meet the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

These include Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Pakistan, Romania, and Serbia.

The report listed 43 countries in danger of being downgraded to Tier 3 in future years. The Tier 2 Watch List includes Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Montenegro, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, along with EU member Hungary.

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

Articles

US may put more weapons in the South China Sea

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Love


Senior Army and Pentagon strategists and planners are considering ways to fire existing weapons platforms in new ways around the globe – including the possible placement of mobile artillery units in areas of the South China Sea to, if necessary, function as air-defense weapons to knock incoming rockets and cruise missiles out of the sky.

Alongside the South China Sea, more mobile artillery weapons used for air defense could also prove useful in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe, officials said. Having mobile counter-air weapons such as the M109 Paladin, able to fire 155m precision rounds on-the-move, could prove to be an effective air-defense deterrent against Russian missiles, aircraft and rockets in Eastern Europe, a senior Army official told Scout Warrior.

Regarding the South China Sea, the U.S. has a nuanced or complicated relationship with China involving both rivalry and cooperation; the recent Chinese move to put surface-to-air missiles on claimed territory in the South China Sea has escalated tensions and led Pentagon planners to consider various options.

Officials are clear to emphasize that no decisions have been made along these lines, yet it is one of the things being considered. Pentagon officials have opposed further militarization of the area and emphasized that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea need to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.

At the same time, Pentagon officials have publicly stated the U.S. will continue “freedom of navigation” exercises wherein Navy ships sail within 12 miles of territory claimed by the Chinese – and tensions are clearly on the rise.  In addition to these activities, it is entirely possible the U.S. could also find ways to deploy more offensive and defensive weapons to the region.

Naturally, a move of this kind would need to involve close coordination with U.S. allies in the region, as the U.S. claims no territory in the South China Sea. However, this would involve the deployment of a weapons system which has historically been used for offensive attacks on land. The effort could use an M777 Howitzer or Paladin, weapons able to fire 155m rounds.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Photo:  US Army Spc. Gregory Gieske

“We could use existing Howitzers and that type of munition (155m shells) to knock out incoming threats when people try to hit us from the air at long ranges using rockets and cruise missiles,” a senior Army official said.

Howitzers or Paladins could be used as a mobile, direct countermeasures to incoming rockets, he said.  A key advantage to using a Paladin is that it is a mobile platform which could adjust to moving or fast-changing approaching enemy fire.

“A Howitzer can go where it has to go. It is a way of changing an offensive weapon and using it in dual capacity,” the official explained. “This opens the door to opportunities and options we have not had before with mobile defensive platforms and offensive capabilities.

Mobile air defenses such as an Army M777 or Paladin Howitzer weapon could use precision rounds and advancing fire-control technology to destroy threatening air assets such as enemy aircraft, drones or incoming artillery fire.

They would bring a mobile tactical advantage to existing Army air defenses such as the Patriot and Theater High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which primarily function as fixed-defense locations, the senior Army officials said.

The M777 artillery weapon, often used over the years in Iraq and Afghanistan, can fire the precision GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round able to destroy targets within one meter from up to 30-kilometers or more away.  Naturally, given this technology, it could potentially be applied as an air-defense weapon as well.

Using a Howitzer or Paladin could also decrease expenses, officials said.

“Can a munition itself be cheaper so we are not making million dollar missiles to shoot down $100,000 dollar incoming weapons,” The Army official said.

While Pentagon officials did not formally confirm the prospect of working with allies to place weapons, such as Howitzers, in the South China Sea, they did say the U.S. was stepping up its coordination with allies in the region.

“We continue work with our partners and allies to develop their maritime security capabilities,” Cmdr. Bill Urban, Pentagon spokesman, told Scout Warrior.

Strategic Capabilities Office

The potential use of existing weapons in new ways is entirely consistent with an existing Pentagon office which was, for the first time, recently announced publically.  It is called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, stood up to look at integrating innovating technologies with existing weapons platforms – or simply adapting or modifying existing weapons for a wider range of applications.

“I created the SCO in 2012 when I was deputy secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs.  Getting stuff in the field quickly,” Carter said.

US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack
Photo: U.S. Navy by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

Senior Army officials say the SCO office is a key part of what provides the conceptual framework for the ongoing considerations of placing new weaponry in different locations throughout the Pacific theater.  An Army consideration to place Paladin artillery weapons in the South China Sea would be one example of how to execute this strategic framework.

In fact, the Pentagon is vigorously stepping up its support to allies in the Pacific theater. A 2016 defense law, called the Southeast Asia Maritme Security Initiative, provides new funding to authorize a Department of Defense effort to train, equip, and provide other support to the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, Urban explained.

“The Secretary (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) has committed $425M over Fiscal Years 2016-2020 for MSI (Maritime Security Initiative), with an initial investment of $50M available in fiscal year 2016 toward this effort,” Urban said.

Army Rebalance to the Pacific

While the Army is naturally immersed in activities with NATO to deter Russian movements in Eastern Europe and maintaining missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – the service has not forsaken its commitment to pursuing a substantial Army component to the Pentagon’s Pacific rebalance.

Among other things, this involves stepped up military-to-military activities with allies in the region, coordinating with other leaders and land armies, and efforts to move or re-posture some weapons in the area.”The re-balance to the Pacific is more than military, it is an economic question. the Army has its hands full with the Middle East and with Europe and is dealing with a resurgent problem in Europe and North Africa,” an Army official said. “We have been able to cycle multiple units through different countries,” the senior official said.

Also, the pentagon has made the Commander of Army Pacific a 4-star General, a move which enables him to have direct one-to-one correspondence with his Chinese counterpart and other leaders in the region, he added.

As of several years ago, the Army had 18,500 Soldier stationed in Korea, 2,400 in Japan, 2,000 in Guam, 480 in the Philippines, 22,300 in Hawaii and 13,500 in Alaska. The service continues to support the national defense strategy by strengthening partnerships with existing allies in the region and conduction numerous joint exercises, service officials said.

“The ground element of the Pacific rebalance is important to ensure the stability in the region,” senior officials have said. Many of the world’s largest ground armies are based in the Pacific.

Also, in recent years Army documents have emphasized the need for the service to increase fire power in the Pacific to increased fielding of THAAD, Patriot and the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS in the Pacific region. ATACMS is a technology which delivers precision fires against stationary or slow-moving targets at ranges up to 300 km., Army officials have said. In 2013, the Army did deploy THAAD missile systems to Guam.

Army officials have also called for the development of a land-based anti-ship ballistic missile, directed energy capability, and additional land-based anti-ship fires capabilities such as the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Army officials have also said man support a potential adaptation of the RGM-84 Harpoon and calls for the development of boost-glide entry warheads able to deploy “to hold adversary shipping at risk all without ever striking targets inland.

Boost-glide weapons use rocket-boosted payload delivery vehicles that glide at hypersonic speeds in the atmosphere. An increase in the Army’s investment in boost-glide technology now could fast track the Army’s impact in the Air-Sea Battle fight in the near term, Army papers have stated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will soon have female grunts, tankers in all brigade combat teams

The U.S. Army announced recently that female soldiers will be integrated into all of its infantry and armor brigade combat teams (BCTs) by the end of the year.

Currently, 601 women are in the process of entering the infantry career field and 568 are joining the armor career field, according to a recent Army news release.


“Every year, though, the number of women in combat arms increases,” Maj. Melissa Comiskey, chief of command policy for Army G-1, said in the release. “We’ve had women in the infantry and armor occupations now for three years. It’s not as different as it was three years ago when the Army first implemented the integration plan.”

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta started the process by lifting the ban on women serving in combat roles in 2013. The Army then launched a historic effort in 2015 to open the previously male-only Ranger School to female applicants.

Out of the 19 women who originally volunteered in April 2015, then-Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first to earn the coveted Ranger Tab that August.

The plan is to integrate female soldiers into the final nine of the Army’s 31 infantry and armor BCTs this year, according to the release. The service did not say how many female soldiers are currently serving in the other 22 BCTs.

At first, the gender integration plan, under the “leaders first” approach, required that two female officers or noncommissioned officers of the same military occupational specialty be assigned to each company that accepted women straight from initial-entry training.

Now, the rule has been changed to require only one female officer or NCO to be in companies that accept junior enlisted women, according to the release.

Comiskey said it’s still important to have female leaders in units receiving junior enlisted female infantry and armor soldiers, to help ease the culture change of historically all-male organizations.

“Quite frankly, it’s generally going to be an NCO leader that young soldiers will turn to for questions,” she said. “The inventory of infantry and armor women leaders is not as high as we have junior soldiers. … It takes a little bit longer to grow the leaders.”

In 2019, the Army began opening up more assignments for female armor and infantry officers at Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Drum, New York; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Polk, Louisiana; and in Italy.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Fort Benning hosts ‘Shark Tank’ style competition for changes to the base

On December 1st of 2020, Fort Benning launched a new type of platform. One where soldiers could bring their best ideas to the table and have them heard by the higher-ups. Known as the Maneuver Innovation Challenge, or MIC, the goal was to bring in great ideas that could help all involved, from soldiers, to the base as a whole, and the programs that help it run. It was put into action by Major General Patrick J. Donahoe, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning. 

Inspired in part by the TV show, Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors, the MIC created a way for small voices to be heard in a big way. Maj. Gen. Donahoe served as a judge, along with Col. Matthew Scalia, Sgt. 1st Class Kendall Willridge, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph McAuliffe, Dr. Jay Brimstin and Capt. Joseph Barnes.

The project was announced through a series of videos and social media posts, alerting people to sign up with their idea. 

“The best ideas are not going to come from some old, staid general. They’re gonna come from some young sergeant figuring out the next great solution. So join us in the Maneuver Innovation Program, and let’s figure out the next big idea,” – Donahoe said.

The MIP works like this: between Dec. 1st and Feb. 1, 2021, soldiers and civilians could pitch their ideas to the cause. Using an online platform, folks submitted their best ideas to the powers that be. A total of 23 ideas were collected online, ranging from functional apps, to improving tank camouflaging, to programs to help divorced, dual military couples.

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The team narrowed the ideas to four finalists, which were pitched live to judges on Feb. 4th. Those making the cut earned prizes in their own right, including:

• A four-day pass.

• Sitting as Donahoe’s guest(s) for a luncheon at MCoE headquarters.

• Official backing for a training course of their choice at Fort Benning, if enrollment qualifications are met. 

After the competition, a video was released on Twitter with the hashtag #shootmoveinnovate, announcing that the final four ideas would be put into action by integrating with facilities through TRADOC, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and innovation program resources. 

The ideas included: streamlining policies for on-post housing, an app for maintaining digital accountability of soldiers during holiday block leave, and multiple variations for digital options for in/out-processing.

“They’re all winners, Donahoe said. “Clearly when you look at it, all good ideas.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un tasted a K-pop show for the first time – and liked it

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a surprise appearance at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang after some speculation over whether or not he’d actually show up — and he reportedly loved it.

Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, saw South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation member Seohyun, and many others play at a “Spring is Coming” concert that appears to have captured his imagination.


“When such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout, and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen,” Kim said, according to North Korean media.

Kim even told a South Korean performer he’d like to return the favor with a show in South Korea called “Autumn is Coming,” according to NK News.

“Please tell [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] that how great an event like this is,” Kim reportedly said, also explaining that he reworked his busy schedule to see Red Velvet.

Kim, and his wife watched the performance with South Korean officials including Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who said Kim “showed a lot of interest while asking about songs and lyrics during the South’s performance,” according to NK News.

The performance also included some North Korean songs which were greeted with loud applause. And, as the event took place in Pyongyang, Kim himself was loudly applauded by the crowd.

Kim’s surprise visit to the show underscores a massive change in North and South Korean relations. Under Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, North Korea kidnapped South Korean artists to help film propaganda movies.

In North Korea, citizens can be sentenced to death for simply possessing South Korean media. When South Korea used to air drop in media like DVDs, North Korea would respond extremely harshly.

But now, as tensions begin to thaw and Kim goes on a diplomatic offensive meeting with heads of state for the first time, his tone seems to have shifted.

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