The Pentagon has rejected Russian insinuations that U.S. forces were involved in recent drone attacks against Russia’s air base and its naval facility in western Syria.
Spokesman Marine Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Jan. 9 that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”
The comments come after Russia’s Defense Ministry noted in a statement the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility at the moment of the attacks.
“Hardly anyone could have obtained the exact coordinates [for the attacks] based on space-based reconnaissance,” it also said.
The statement came a day after the Defense Ministry said that 13 armed drones were used to attack its facilities in Hmeimim and Tartus overnight on Jan. 5-6.
The ministry said seven of the unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down and the six others were forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage.
A monitoring group, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the attacks were carried out by an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia Province, where the Hmeimim base is located, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Russia has given President Bashar al-Assad’s government crucial support throughout Syria’s civil war and has long been at odds with U.S. support of certain rebel groups in the Syrian civil war.
The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven millions from their homes since it began with a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.
More than 40 Russian military personnel died in Syria since Moscow launched a campaign of air strikes in September 2015, in many cases using Hmeimim as a base.
During a visit to the airbase on Dec. 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over “the most combat-capable international terrorist group” — a reference to the extremist group Islamic State (IS) — and announced a partial withdrawal of Russian troops.
‘All Necessary Means’
Western officials say that the Russian campaign, particularly in its earlier stages, focused heavily on targeting rebels seeking Assad’s ouster rather than IS militants.
Asked whether the announcement of a partial withdrawal could have been premature, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Jan. 9 that the Russian forces in Syria have “all the necessary means” to counter any challenge.
Putin said on Dec. 28 that more than 48,000 Russian military personnel had served in the operation in Syria, and that Russia’s presence at Hmeimim and Tartus would be “permanent.”
On Dec. 29, Putin signed a law ratifying an agreement enabling Russia to expand operations at its naval facility in Tartus.
Savannah VanHook celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 13, 2019, by visiting Claire’s at the Fashion Place mall, Murray, Utah, with her parents to pierce her ears — something she’s been asking her mother and father for over five months. It stung, but she seemed proud of her freshly-pierced ears. The family headed to the food court when something entirely different pierced her ears: The sound of four gunshots ringing throughout the mall.
Savannah’s father, Sgt. Marshall VanHook, a recruiter with the Herriman U.S. Army Recruiting Station, recognized the sound immediately and directed his daughter and wife, Sarah, into a T-Mobile store to take cover.
Vanhook then ran toward the commotion.
“I saw the flash, and I heard the shots. I knew immediately what it was; it’s very distinctive,” recalled Vanhook. “My first response was to make sure my family was taken care of … and then it was just a matter of ‘I need to stop this before it gets to my family,’ so I took off. I ran towards where I thought the threat was at. While I was running there really were no thoughts other than ‘take care of business.'”
Vanhook ran through the mall and made his way outside in an attempt to see the shooter to get a description, he explained.
“I got out to the parking lot and it was a bit of chaos, people were running and I had no idea where they went,” he said. “I just came back and that’s where I saw the two victims.”
The two victims, an adult male and adult female, were starting to fall to the ground. He ended his search for the gunmen and jumped into action to assist saving lives.
“It was just a matter of getting to work,” said Vanhook.
A mobile phone video from a fellow shoppers captured his next actions. VanHook removed his belt and created a makeshift tourniquet above the woman’s visible gunshot wound. Keeping a calm disposition, he directed an observer to use her scarf to apply direct pressure to the leg injury while he moved on to assess the man’s condition.
Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah
Victims of shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah
Dramatic footage of two victims being treated by bystanders following a shooting at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.
Vanhook has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for nine years. Before joining the Herriman recruiting team four months ago, he served as a civil affairs specialist with the 321st Civil Affairs Brigade. There, he received first aid response training, including Combat Lifesaver in 2014.
“Because of the Army, it instilled something in me to react in danger and not to flee from it,” explained VanHook.
Combat Lifesaver Course is the next level of first aid training after Army Basic Training Course. It provides in-depth training on responding to arterial bleeding, blocked airways, trauma, chest wounds and other battlefield injuries. The course was presented as realistically as possible, making it effective and easier to apply in a real scenario, explained VanHook.
“You go over [the training] and over it. It’s just a matter of muscle memory,” he said. “There really wasn’t thought. It was action.”
Although VanHook doesn’t consider himself a hero, his leaders feel he has represented himself and the Army well.
“His actions definitely, I think, were heroic,” said Lt. Col. Carl D. Whitman, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion (Salt Lake City). “Most people don’t normally run to the sound of the guns, if you will… but he’s a soldier and went into action as soldiers do. We’re well-trained. His training and that mindset took over.”
“A lot of folks out there may call him or other soldiers that do that a hero, but I think those of us in uniform don’t see ourselves that way, and I know he doesn’t, but definitely his actions were heroic,” Whitman said. “His actions resulted in saving a couple people’s lives.”
VanHook explained after everything that occurred, his family is doing well but it all seems surreal.
“It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “It makes me angry. I’m a little angry that something like that happened. It was my daughter’s birthday and it kind of messed it up. We had plans that night and because of the incident, it kind of got put on hold.”
He explained his wife was scared to leave the house following the shooting, but now they are working together to get back to normal life. His daughter Savannah, too young to realize the weight of the incident, he said, described the evening as “not how she wanted to spend her birthday.”
Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.
All without risking lives.
Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.
“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.
The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.
Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.
The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.
The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.
Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.
The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.
“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.
Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.
The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.
The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.
To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.
“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”
The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.
The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.
It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.
“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.
The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.
“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.
Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.
Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.
It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.
As the United States continues to take preventative steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19, the Pentagon has issued number of statements pertaining to the coronavirus and PCS orders, as well as official and non-official travel, in the coming months.
If you have a family member or loved one currently attending recruit training, make sure to check our regularly updated article explaining audience attendance restrictions at graduation ceremonies across the force here.
It’s important to remember that most service members and even their families are not at high risk even if they are exposed to Covid-19. These precautionary measures should be seen as responsible steps aimed at preventing the spread of the infection, but not as cause for significant worry. This story will be updated as more changes manifest.
You can follow these links to jump directly to sections explaining different changes pertaining to military snd civilian travel, the coronavirus and PCS orders.
On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced new travel restrictions that will go into affect on Friday, March 13. The restrictions include a 60-day ban on travel to any nation designated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a “Level 3 Location.” This ban includes all TDY and PCS related travel.
“This restriction includes all forms of travel, including Permanent Change of Station, Temporary Duty, and government funded leave,” the Defense Department announcement states. “The Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change. The DoD guidance will follow those changes. Service secretaries and commanders may issue waivers to this policy as they determine necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases”
The Pentagon also advises that service members that are traveling to unrestricted nations take specific care to ensure their travel arrangements do not involve stops or layovers in areas designation by the CDC as “Level 3.”
“Authorized Departures are delayed until appropriate transportation and reception procedures are in place for their intended route of travel as prescribed in this memorandum,” the memo states.
Military Families and Civilian Personnel Travel
Military families and civilian personnel are also barred from traveling to “Level 2” locations for 60 days. Some “level 2” designation nations include the UK, Japan, Singapore, and Bahrain — where the U.S. Navy’s Central Command is currently located.
“The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a released statement. “While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.”
PCS and Transfer Changes
The Department of Defense’ Customer Movement Portal has updated its page to include brief answers to many of the most frequently asked questions among service members and their families pertaining to coronavirus PCS order changes.
Here are the Defense Department’s answers to the questions you have about the Coronavirus and your PCS orders, sourced directly from the Pentagon’s FAQ:
Q: My PCS is rapidly approaching–how do I know if my planned move is covered by this order?
A: Contact your chain of command immediately!
Q: I’ve confirmed that my PCS is impacted by a stop movement order, but I have already submitted my movement request to the Personal Property Office. What will they do with my shipment?
A: It depends.
– If your shipment has not yet been awarded to a moving company, it will be put in a hold status pending further guidance (e.g. either the stop movement order is rescinded or you receive approval from your chain of command to continue with your move).
– If your shipment has been awarded to a moving company, but has not yet been serviced (e.g. packing has not begun), please contact your servicing Shipping Office. They will work with you to change your pickup dates to a future date in coordination with your mover and in line with DOD guidance.
Q: My shipment has already been picked up by the moving company. What will happen to it now?
A: Contact your Shipping Office to determine your shipment’s status. Depending when it was picked up, it may be in storage in the local area, en route to your planned destination, or in storage near your destination.
Q: What about my POV? I have an upcoming appointment to drop my car off at the Vehicle Processing Center (VPC). What should I do?
A: If you are unsure if the stop movement order applies to you, contact your chain of command. If the stop movement order does not apply to your PCS—or your chain of command has approved an exception to the order—proceed to the VPC as planned.
Q: I’ve already dropped my POV off, but my PCS has been delayed. Can I get my car back?
A: If you’re interested in retrieving your vehicle, contact the VPC immediately. VPCs are postured to assist customers with changing appointments, vehicle retrieval, and answering any other POV-related questions you have.
The DoD also advises that service members contact their local Personal Property Office for answers to their specific questions, or you may be able to find more answers on their customer service page.
You can also contact USTRANSCOM’s 24-hour hotline Toll Free at (833) MIL-MOVE, (833) 645-6683.
CDC Designated Level 3 Travel Health Notice Nations
The Center for Disease Control currently designates these nations as “Level 3,” barring any travel to these countries for service members for at least the coming 60 days, starting Friday, March 13.
Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.
The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.
The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.
“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.
Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.
“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”
The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.
The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.
Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.
When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.
Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.
Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.
“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.
Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.
Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.
Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.
Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.
“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.
“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”
Among the stolen intel were 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs that Netanyahu claimed showed Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions and deceived powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Netanyahu said that stash was made up of 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files stored on 183 CDs. He said the haul collectively weighed half a ton.
Netanyahu didn’t confirm how Mossad, known for its stealthy missions, obtained the material, but did say they had been stored in “a dilapidated warehouse.”
“Few Iranians knew where it was — very few,” Netanyahu said.
And now more details on the Iran mission have since emerged. A senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Mossad first discovered the unnamed warehouse in Tehran in February 2016, and began its surveillance from there.
The official also claimed that Mossad agents broke into the building one night in January 2018, took the 110,000 documents, and returned them to Israel that same night.
Iranian media has remained quiet on the raid, likely embarrassed that the spy agency stole an incredible number of documents under the cover of night.
But the value of the stolen documents that have so far been made public is up for debate.
While the White House said Netanyahu’s presentation provided “new and compelling details” about Iran’s past behaviours, some experts disagreed.
“Everything he said was already known to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and published,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted.
“There is literally nothing new here and nothing that changes the wisdom of the JCPOA.”
JCPOA stands for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and is the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Aevum, a quiet, scrappy, and ambitious rocket-launch startup, unveiled the biggest drone in the world on Wednesday.
Called Ravn X, the fully autonomous vehicle is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It’s not the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) by size — the wings of Northrop Grumman’s MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. But the Ravn X wins on mass, weighing 55,000 pounds when you include the rocket that will drop out of its belly in midair and shoot a satellite into space.
Despite its unusual size and mission, the drone isn’t so different from your standard aircraft. It flies like a typical plane, and it and its rocket use Jet A, a very common kerosene-based fuel, says Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum.
“We don’t need a launch site. All we need is a runway that’s one mile long and a hangar,” Skylus told Business Insider. (Even small commercial airports have runways that easily meet that mark.)
Aevum has toiled over the design for roughly five years in its makeshift headquarters: an old textile mill-turned-tech incubator in Alabama. Skylus said he mulled over the concept a decade prior to that as he hopped from NASA to one space startup after another. After being disappointed with the approaches he saw and resistance to new ideas, Skylus said, he scraped together a bit of funding and got to work with some aerospace colleagues.
Once Ravn X reaches the right location, speed, and altitude, its two-stage rocket is designed to drop, ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 100-kilogram (220-lb) payload into low-Earth orbit. The approach is similar to air-launched rocket systems developed by Virgin Orbit‘s and Pegasus, though Skylus claims Aevum’s unmanned version is more efficient, cost-effective, and enterprising.
Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”
Autonomous launch to space within 180 minutes
More than 100 startups like Aevum exist in a pool of companies hoping to dominate the small-launch industry, or rockets able to fly payloads weighing 1,000 pounds or less to orbit. The market has surged in recent years with the shrinking size and increasing performance of electronics, plus a growing thirst for space-based images, data services, and more.
What Aevum has that few similar companies do, though, is the blessing and funding of the US Air Force. Last year, the Department of Defense contracted Aevum to launch a new mission called Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 (ASLON-45) for $4.9 million. The goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries’ missile launches.
Aevum scooped up the contract in part because the company claims it can take a small satellite from a customer and get it into orbit within 180 minutes, if necessary — a task that’d typically take months to work out. Skylus said years of intensive software development have mostly automated the requisite launch paperwork, mission profiling, payload integration, and more. As a result, he said, Aevum needs only about 10% of the staff typically required for launching rockets.
“We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said.
Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, a chief within Kirtland Air Force Base’s Space and Missile Systems Center, visited Aevum this week at the Cecil Spaceport-based launch facility in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” she said in an Aevum press release. “The US Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support US space superiority objectives. Having a robust US industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the US Space Force can respond to future threats.”
Aevum and the USAF hope to get ASLON-45 off the ground by mid-2021.
“There’s really no reason for us to not be ready. ASLON-45, like the name implies, is an agile mission. What we’re really trying to show is not that small launch vehicles can deliver stuff to orbit — Rocket Lab is already doing that,” Skylus said, referring to the New Zealand small-launch company that recently flew its sixteenth mission to orbit.
He added: “What we’re proving is agility, flexibility, responsiveness, and operational efficiency. This is a brand-new architecture, and a brand-new launch vehicle that’s never been conceived.”
Skylus acknowledged the fear some people have of drones generally, and one carrying a big rocket specifically. But he said the company is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure Ravn X is extremely safe to fly and launch payloads to space.
An agency spokesperson declined an interview request by told Business Insider, but noted Aevum said it plans to apply for a launch license in 2021.
“When you start looking into all of this … the line between a piloted commercial airliner versus our launch vehicle really starts to blur,” Skylus said. “It’s hard to tell where one’s more safe than the other, and why a person might feel more comfortable with in a giant Boeing airplane flying over you, every single day, versus this one.”
The US Navy is looking at a number of ways to increase its presence in the Arctic around Alaska, including deployments of the service’s advanced maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, the Navy’s top civilian official said in December 2018.
Asked by Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan about the US presence in that part of the world, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 12, 2018, that the Navy was present under the sea and in the air and “looking at how we can get up there” in other capacities.
“If I had a blank check for everything, it’d be terrific, to ice-harden ships, but with the demand that we have right now, it is unaffordable,” Spencer said, adding that it would be possible to send assets up there seasonally as sea ice melts.
“You and I did go look on the coast up there for a potential strategic port,” Spencer told Sullivan. “I think the Coast Guard, in concert with the Navy, we should definitely flesh out what could possibly be done.”
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon.
“When it comes to using Alaska in the Arctic area for training, the commandant and I have talked about this — plans to go look at doing something this summer, possibly on Adak, for training,” Spencer added, referring Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who was also at the hearing.
Spencer said he and Navy Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran “have talked about possible P-8 [deployments] up to Adak. There are definite training uses, and there’s definite ability to affect the National Defense Strategy with Arctic activity.”
The Navy and Marine Corps presence in Alaska is currently small, with some sailors and Marines stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, the latter personnel there as part of a reserve unit.
Marines have been deployed to Norway on a rotational basis since the beginning of 2017, and Oslo recently said that it would ask the US to increase their numbers and move them farther north, closer to that country’s border with Russia.
The Navy has also made moves toward higher latitudes, sending an aircraft carrier above the Arctic Circle for the first time since the early 1990s as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture, which took place in October and November 2018. Navy officials have stressed that they intend to be more active in the Arctic going forward.
Neller has emphasized that his command is focusing on training for harsh conditions.
Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment disembark an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter after a simulated raid on Indian Mountain radar system as part of Exercise Arctic Edge 18 at Fort Greely, Alaska, March 12, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brianna Gaudi)
In March 2018, Marines joined soldiers, sailors, and airmen in Alaska for Arctic Edge 2018, where they trained “to fight and win in the Arctic,” the head of Alaskan Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, said at the time.
A few weeks after that exercise, Neller told Sullivan during a Senate hearing that the Marines “have gotten back into the cold-weather business.” In August 2018, while traveling through Alaska with Spencer, Sullivan said that the Marine Corps was “looking at spending a lot more time in Alaska.”
Adak Island is at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands. The naval facility, which was on the northern side of the island, took up more than 76,000 acres and was an important base for submarine surveillance during the Cold War.
The airstrip there has been in commercial use since the Navy shut down military operations in 1997.
Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, left, meets with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, right, in Nome to discuss the construction of deep-draft ports in western Alaska, Aug. 13, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco)
The Navy is currently grappling with operational and maintenance challenges brought on by more than two decades of continuous operations around the world — a situation that has been complicated by discussions of expansion and by uncertainty about its budget in the future as it builds new supercarriers and designs a new generation of ballistic missile subs that will carry nuclear warheads.
Returning to Alaska would present an array challenges, according to Jeffrey Barker, a deputy branch head for policy and posture on the chief of naval operation’s staff.
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 man their workstations while assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 March 16, 2014 in the Indian Ocean.
(US Navy photo)
“We want to be agile, but sustainability is key,” Barker said at the beginning of December 2018 during a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic. “We don’t really want to do anything if we can’t sustain it, so that’s a huge part of that, and the infrastructure to that.”
“When Secretary Spencer went around Alaska, he was asked a lot of questions, and he asked us a lot of questions about how much would it cost to go back to Adak,” Barker said. “He was shocked — gobsmacked is what he said — when the report that we gave him said id=”listicle-2623753290″.3 billion.”
Barker said that Spencer clarified that he only wanted to use the facility “for a couple of weeks here and there,” and when asked about the plan after the hearing on Dec. 12, 2018, Spencer said the base was up to that task.
“The airstrip is in great shape,” he told Breaking Defense, which first reported his comments about a potential P-8 deployment. Spencer added that the Navy may have to pay to clean up one of the hangars.
But the airport, he said, “has a fuel farm up there that Air Alaska is using to fuel its planes. It has de-icing platforms that we could use for fresh water washdowns for the P-8. They have lodging up there that is supposedly coming forward to us on a rental availability, so it really isn’t a big bill.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States has a number of holidays meant to honor those members of the armed forces who are serving, who have served, and who have given their last true measure of devotion on the battlefield. There’s an organization now that seeks to make sure we remember everyone in uniform through its mission to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” And it all starts one day in December, decorating for one of America’s biggest holidays.
Men and women in the U.S. military are putting their lives on the line for Americans back home every day of the year, says Wreaths Across America. The group aims to remember and honor those warfighters while teaching future generations to do the same. Their mission restarts every year on the third Saturday in December (this year, it’s December 15), when volunteers around the United States place a wreath on a veteran’s grave, say their name aloud, and thank them for their courage and sacrifice.
Wreaths Across America began with Morrill Worcester of Harrington, Maine, the owner of Worcester Wreath Company. As a young boy, he was sent on a trip to Washington, D.C. where he saw Arlington National Cemetery for the first time. The experience never left him and, after he became a successful entrepreneur, he decide to give back to the men and women who died so that he could make his fortune.
In 1992, the company saw a surplus in its product and he decided to use them in the older areas of Arlington National Cemetery, the ones that were receiving fewer and fewer visitors every year. When other companies got wind of the plan, they joined in. The local trucking company provided transportation to DC. Members of the local VFW and American Legion posts decorated the wreaths with red bows, all tied by hand.
Volunteers from Maine and in the nation’s capital helped lay the wreaths on the graves in Arlington. It even included a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. For 13 years, Worcester quietly and solemnly did the honored dead this service without advertising or announcement.
In 2005, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone noticed the wreaths on the grave markers in Arlington and posted a photo of its snow-covered majesty on the internet. It quickly went viral and those who couldn’t make the trip to DC wanted to do versions of the same in their own hometowns.
Since the company couldn’t possibly make enough wreaths to give to every grave in every state, they instead send seven wreaths to each state, one for every branch of the military and one for prisoners of war and the missing in action.
The Clarion, Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol has partnered with Wreaths Across America.
Since Wreaths Across America began in 2006, 150 sites across the United States hold simultaneous wreath-laying ceremonies. By 2008, that number doubled and wreath ceremonies were held in Puerto Rico and 24 cemeteries overseas. In 2014, the number grew to 700,000 memorial wreaths at more than 1,000 sites, including Pearl Harbor, Bunker Hill, and the September 11th sites.
Their volunteers managed to cover every grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
Representatives of each branch of military service salute behind wreaths in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Ivy Green Cemetery in Bremerton during the Wreaths Across America ceremony.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Gaddis)
Now the ceremonies are held on the third Saturday in December, and the movement of the wreaths bound for Arlington from Harrington, Maine is the world’s largest veteran’s parade. The annual wreath laying goals are surpassed now by education programs and partnership programs with local-level veterans organizations.
To learn more about Wreaths Across America, donate, or volunteer to lay wreaths, visit their website.
On his fantastic new album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson uses life at sea to inspire songs about separation from family and a longing for home. Simpson himself grew up in Kentucky and claims he joined the Navy on a whim when driving past a recruiting station.
After three years which included service in Japan and Southeast Asia, he left the service. “I wasn’t very good at taking orders,” he told Garden and Gun in 2014.
After he came home and started a music career, it turned out he wasn’t very good at taking orders from Nashville, either. Simpson wasn’t cut out for the kind of trucks-and-beer pop country that’s dominated the charts over the last decade and made his name on independently-released albums. He had a breakthrough with 2014’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, produced by Dave Cobb (who’s made a name for himself producing fellow Nashville rebels Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell).
Atlantic Records signed Simpson and gave him total freedom to make Sailor’s Guide, which he produced himself. What he made is a compact album (39 minutes, just like the old days!) that combines ’70s Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with Stax Records-style horns, Al Green keyboard grooves and a Elvis in Memphis vibe.
On the track “Sea Stories,” he talks about joining the Navy:
Basically it’s just like papaw says:
“Keep your mouth shut and you’ll be fine”
Just another enlisted egg
In the bowl for Uncle Sam’s beater
When you get to Dam Neck
Hear a voice in your head
Saying, “my life’s no longer mine”
He also includes a cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” where he adds a new lyric. After the line “You don’t know what it means” (where there’s a howling guitar squall on the original version), Simpson sings “to love someone,” a line he says he imagined was there for years after he first heard the Nirvana version. Fans of the BeeGees (and the innumerable soul covers of the song) will appreciate the “To Love Someone” reference.
There’s zero Autotune on the vocals, so this kind of gritty, soulful music may sound a bit weird to fans of Little Big Town or Florida-Georgia Line. None of the songs sound like truck commercials, so you’re probably not going to hear this music on commercial country radio. If Chris Stapleton got your attention last year, though, Simpson’s album is a logical next step into the world of traditional country.
The album’s for sale in all the digital music stores, CDs are really cheap at Amazon and you can stream it on Spotify or Apple Music before you buy. Check out the first two videos from the album below.
Sturgill’s daring cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”The album’s first single is “Brace for Impact (Live a Little)”
A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.
Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.
Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.
Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.
Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.
An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)
“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”
Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.
“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.
Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.
With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.
“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.
He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.
“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”
The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.
Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.
Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.
“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.
After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…
Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.
“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”
Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.
“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.
The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.
Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.
“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.
This may not go for everyone, but typical military life usually means being away for months at a time. Because of this unique schedule, members of the armed forces tend to move on different romantic timelines than the average Joe. Often, that equates to getting a lot more serious a lot more quickly.
Being in the military might run in the family.
There are plenty of young adults who opt to join the military all on their own. That said, it’s not uncommon for military life to be passed down through generations. Serving one’s country is a badge of pride in many families. What does that mean for you? If you decide to settle down with someone in the armed forces, be prepared for your own kids to follow a similar path.
They’ll love you, but they also love their country. A lot.
Even if military life is completely new to you (or even seems a little crazy), respecting their decision to serve their country is non-negotiable. They’re doing it to protect not just you, but everyone else, too. That’s a lot of love!
You might have to move, more than once.
The military brat title exists for a reason. It’s not uncommon for military families to have to hop from base to base over the years, so prepare yourself for that possibility.
They’ll be gone often.
This goes without saying, but their schedules won’t be predictable. They’ll be gone for major holidays and life events, and you won’t have a say. If you can’t roll with the punches, stay out of the military dating game.
Their squad will be their second family.
Seriously. Whether they’re in the Army, the Navy, the Marines, or the Air Force, they learn right off the bat to stand by their team. They have each other’s backs, for better or worse. They’re responsible for getting each other home safely. When your partner’s battle buddies (brothers and sisters, really), are around, embrace it and give them time to catch up.
They may keep a few secrets.
The harsh reality is that veterans have seen a lot more than most civilians can imagine. They’ve seen pain, made tough calls, and experienced a different kind of heartbreak. When they return, they may not want to talk about it. If they seem like a closed door, don’t take it personally. They probably don’t want to burden you with difficult memories, and they may not be ready to relive them. It can take time to open up! At the end of the day, some secrets might just stay secret…and you have to be okay with that.
Complete strangers will take over your lives.
In a way, the government will dictate where you live. Where your kids go to school. When you can take that family vacation. People you’ve never met will decide whether your partner is home for the holidays. Flexibility is a must, as is loyalty. Starting a life with someone in the military means that you, too, will live a military lifestyle. Before you take that leap, make sure you can handle it!
Being a military spouse is scary.
When your partner is deployed, nothing is guaranteed. You can pray they are safe, but you can’t always be sure. It’s scary, but it also makes their return home so much sweeter. You really learn to cherish every moment together.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the June 29 defense budget left out proposals to have women register for the draft.
The move essentially tabled the controversial issue following similar action June 29 in the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018. Proposals by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and others to have women register for Selective Service were dropped from that bill.
Speier unsuccessfully argued for an amendment to the NDAA that would have required women to register for the draft. “It’s time to stop delaying the inevitable with parliamentary gymnastics,” she said. “If it does come to a draft, men and women should be treated equally.”
(USMC photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager)
Her amendment failed by a vote of 33-28 in the committee.
Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, opposed Speier’s amendment, saying it was getting ahead of an ongoing review of the Selective Service System.
Last year, committee members approved a similar measure requiring women to register for the draft, but Republican leaders stripped the language on the House floor.
The Senate last year also backed the draft for women but dropped the issue in budget negotiations with the House.
Women have always been exempt from the law requiring all men ages 18 to 26 to register for possible military service with the Selective Service System. The main argument against women registering for the draft had been that they were excluded from serving in combat jobs. However, the Defense Department has since lifted combat restrictions.
At a May 22 Brookings Institution forum, Thornberry was asked to state his position on women and the draft.
He responded, “We have appointed a commission to look at this. We’ll see what they have to say,” but he gave no timeline for the study to be completed and no indication whether Congress would be prepared to act when the commission files a report.