US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS' oil business - We Are The Mighty
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US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

In one fell swoop, a series of aerial strafing and bombing runs destroyed 83 oil tankers belonging to ISIS forces in Syria.


USA TODAY reports that after a pilot witnessed a gaggle of vehicles in the oil-rich, ISIS-held region of Deir ez-Zor province, US-led coalition forces sent a surveillance aircraft to provide intelligence on the area. After confirming the targets, A-10s and F-16s were scrambled to dispense more than 80 munitions against the vehicles.

After the dust settled, an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks were destroyed in the largest single airstrike against ISIS forces in Syria this year.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
A convoy of ISIS-owned fuel tankers burn after being targeted by a Russian airstrike. | Screenshot via Guerrilla TV/YouTube

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” said Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.

The vehicles, which were reported to have been out in the open, may be indicative of the declining state of ISIS’ leadership and control. After a series of devastating airstrikes from both coalition and Russian forces, ISIS militants have grown accustomed to evade aerial threats by avoiding traveling in large convoys; however, this latest lapse in judgment could be a sign of worse things to come for the militants.

“This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Harrigian explained to USA TODAY.

The bombing campaign, otherwise known as Tidal Wave II, was enacted to wipe out ISIS’ oil market that was generating more than $1 million a day during its peak.

At the beginning of this operation, coalition aircraft would drop leaflets on the oil tankers prior to their bombing runs to provide the option for drivers to escape. However, after new military rules were implemented, leaflets are no longer required to be dropped.

Instead, pilots are now firing warning shots to indicate their arrival.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Navy SEAL Google hired as its security chief

As corporate America recruits veterans who have led men and women under fire, Google has skimmed the cream of the crop to manage its global security.


Veteran Chris Rackow heads the team that protects the company’s 80,000 employees, its offices and property, in more than 150 cities across almost 60 countries. Google tapped Rackow’s experience just over a year ago, recognizing the value the former warrior would bring to the search powerhouse. He had spent years in two of the most elite military and paramilitary organizations in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs and the FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
A group of U.S. Navy SEALs clear a room during a no-light live-fire drill near San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Stevenson)

Rackow’s leadership illustrates how corporate America has caught on to the resource created by veterans of U.S. foreign interventions. An ability to manage complex, risky, and dynamic problems, especially in the rapidly changing technology industry, carries a premium.

Google brought Rackow on board in September 2016 as vice president of global security. He is one of many veterans at Google, which does not disclose the number it hires, but says they’re employed in every job category, including software engineering, sales, finance, and security.

Related: Fortune 500 CEOs who served in the military

“One of the highest values of veterans is leadership just because it is such a core element within the military, from junior-enlisted all the way up to senior officers,” Rackow said. “Everybody’s expected to exert some type of leadership, and that is baked into recruits from day one all the way through.”

“It’s a quality that I have seen to be slackening across the business world,” Rackow said. “That’s, I think, where veterans really can play a huge part – coming in and providing positive, respectful, and dignified leadership for organizations, especially multinationals.”

Rackow’s military career started in 1988 when he joined the SEALs, a Navy special forces unit known for its punishing selection program and high-stakes covert missions. He was a SEAL for nearly 23 years. He also spent 13 years in the FBI, for five years as a member of the Hostage Rescue Team, a counter-terrorism unit operating at home and abroad, and, like the SEALs, famed for its harsh induction and commando-style operations.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Members of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team spring into action. (Photo courtesy of FBI)

Now he works in an industry where the weapons of battle are code and silicon chips.

“I know I’m not the smartest guy in the room,” Rackow said. “In fact, I’m probably at the very low end of the totem pole based on the amazing skills we have here at Google.”

And for veterans, the corporate world has some significant differences from the armed services.

“The government and the military really are quite homogeneous. It really is not as truly diverse as a company is, and especially a global company,” he said.

“You really are presented with 360 degrees of various belief systems and ideas and concepts. That’s probably just the unique challenge for veterans, is to understand … the larger landscape that they need to be able to understand and learn how to operate within.”

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Google employees participate in Pride 2016 in London. As a company, Google promotes, exhibits, and supports diversity. (Photo by Katy Blackwood, cropped for viewing)

Still, his service gave him deep expertise in areas where the skills needed for military operations overlap with those required in a global technology firm — teamwork, for example.

“A team is really a group that understands that we are sacrificing a small part of our individuality, but we’re coming together for a common good, a common goal,” Rackow said. “Whether you call it a common goal or you call it a mission, it’s all the same thing.”

“True leadership really means there’s no one model, and oftentimes within a team, let’s say of 10 people, you might have to exercise 10 different leadership styles … without it looking as if you’re catering to individual needs,” he said.

Along with his background in warfare, Rackow brought into the tech industry a solid civilian education – thanks to realizing during his time with the FBI that he was getting intellectually out-gunned.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Graduations aren’t just for basic. Getting a degree helps propel vets into higher positions post-service. (DoD Photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay)

“I was coming to the conclusion that I was going after people that were way smarter than I was, and I needed to go back to school,” he said.

He spent two years getting two degrees simultaneously: an MBA from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and a master’s in global management from Arizona State’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, the latter teaching him “how to be successful across different cultures and belief systems.”

See Also: 20 private security contractors that hire vets with the skills

Rackow, married with a teenage daughter, has bounced around the world for decades, mostly in the Middle East and the western Pacific. Now, working at Google and living in Half Moon Bay, he’s not so far from where he spent his formative years. Born in Los Angeles, he lived in Lake Tahoe from kindergarten through fourth grade.

When he was in fifth grade his family moved to San Diego. “I grew up pretty much a California water kid. I was always out in the water, surfing, sailing, diving. Surfing stuck with me – I go out when it’s appropriate for my age,” he said. “I’m not charging anything big anymore. But I love to go out and stand-up paddleboard, or go out and surf.”

He considers his hiring by Google “a stroke of luck” that started with a call from one of the company’s recruiters.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Kerry-Ann Moore, left, an advisor from the Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans Department, shakes hands with Army Capt. Jessie Felix during a military job fair in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, May 2, 2015. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.)

“It was of great interest to see if I could actually come and work and provide value here, and especially after doing the research on what Google believes and what they think they can do for the planet in general, I looked at it as another service-based environment,” he said.

Google supports veterans through grants to an education group and scholarships. It also hosts a veterans’ network among employees and resume-writing workshops pairing Google employees with veterans entering the civilian workforce, Rackow noted.

Though a commando for most of his career, he had prefaced his service with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I’m an engineer at heart,” he said. “But as my counselor in college told me, I probably should never practice engineering.”

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The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

Lists

5 reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody

Every day, the ordinary person encounters issues that they find difficult to solve.


As veterans, we hail from a world of military service where conflict and struggle are constants.

But what separates most veterans from the average Joe is how we manage to resolve these frequent problems using our unique military backgrounds.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

Related: 8 of the top federal agencies ranked by Americans

Check out five reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody.

5. We improvise, adapt, and overcome

No mission ever goes as expected. Although we plan for what we think might happen, there’s always a hiccup or two. We pride ourselves on our ability to think on our toes, come up with plans, and solve problems in ways civilians couldn’t fathom.

That’s our thing!

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Bear gets it.

4. We negotiate well under pressure

Many people freeze up when conflict arises. The military trains us to think under pressure and continue to execute until the mission is completed. We tend to carry that impressive trait over to the civilian workforce.

3. We learned to delegate responsibility

In the military, we’re trained to look for our team members’ strengths and positively utilize those traits. Not everyone can be great at everything. Focusing on individual talents builds confidence, which yields the best results when they’re tasked with a crucial mission.

Most civilians stay away from certain responsibilities if they know it’ll lead to a rough journey down the road.

We can tell. (Image via GIPHY)

2. Our experience alone solves issues

Most military personnel travel the world and encounter the problematic events that life throws at us. These experiences give us a worldly knowledge and teach us how we can better work with others outside of our comfort zone.

Also Read: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. We don’t stress about the little sh*t

Many of us have been a part of intense combat situations. So, when conflict does rear its ugly face, comparing those issues to a firefight quickly de-escalates the situation.

It’s a talent.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

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These were the real-life Wonder Women who fought in the world’s bitterest wars

By now, many of us have seen the new Wonder Woman movie. If you haven’t, you probably know the basics anyway: Amazon warrior-princess who braves the battlefields of 1918 to save humanity from the depredations of Ares, God of War. It’s a fun movie, even if I had to set aside my critical military historian’s eye for a couple of hours (not like that’s a rare occurrence where Hollywood is concerned). You may also know that the title character is portrayed by one Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces, so it has that going for it, too.


One thing I particularly liked about the movie was the theme that Diana (Wonder Woman’s real name, in case you haven’t seen the movie or ever read a comic book), though an elite, hard-ass warrior, only fought because she believed it was necessary. The Western Front in Belgium was represented fairly realistically as the muddy, bloody, ruinous Hell that it was. Diana fought not because she liked fighting, but to end that Hell once and for all.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I won’t go any further, but, like those who fought in the “War to End All Wars,” Diana’s outlook undergoes a change as the movie progresses. Significantly, though she is reluctant, Diana never loses her conviction that violence is sometimes necessary to prevent greater evil from wreaking havoc on the world.

One of the more humorous elements of the movie is the innate sexism Diana encounters as she moves forward. She is constantly forced to prove herself on and off the battlefield. Of course, being an immortal Amazon princess, with its attendant abilities, helps. But super powers are not required to be a warrior, whether one is male or female.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (2017). Screengrab from YouTube.

There’s a lot of controversy these days about the role of women in the US armed forces, specifically, whether women should serve in combat units. Recent months have witnessed the first two female graduates from Ranger School, and the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put females clearly in the line of fire for well over a decade.

Female warriors, however, are not a new phenomenon, nor are they only the stuff of legend or Hollywood fancy. They’ve been around for literally thousands of years. Without taking a position on the role of females in combat (other people here are far more qualified than I to speak on that subject), here’s a look at some women who fought, and fought well, from the American Revolution through the Global War on Terror. This list is by no means complete, or even close to being so. It’s merely intended to offer a glimpse of women in combat over the last 240-odd years.

The American Revolution

Records for female soldiers who fought in the Revolution are scarce. That many women, usually disguised as men, did fight is beyond question. Most of their names and deeds are lost to us thanks to their enforced anonymity, but a few records survive. The most common theme for the service of these women is that they followed their husbands to war, passing themselves as teenage boys, which were not uncommon in the ranks. Some women volunteered for the bounty paid to enlistees or just in the hope of steady meals. Some didn’t like sitting at home and wanted to fight for their country, like the first soldier on our list.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Battle of Long Island

Deborah Samson enlisted on 20 May, 1782, at age 22, in Captain George Webb’s company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of Foot, a light infantry unit. She gave her name as Robert Shurtliff. Rising to the rank of corporal, she fought with the Continental Army in several engagements, including the Battle of White Plains.

Samson was wounded several times. In a skirmish near Tarrytown, she took a saber cut to the head. When her unit was ambushed by Loyalists near East Chester, Samson was hit by two musket balls in the thigh. Probably afraid of discovery if she sought medical aid, Samson crawled into the woods and removed one ball herself. The other was left in the leg while she soldiered on.

Samson was finally revealed as a female while serving as a clerk for General John Patterson in Philadelphia. She became sick and was treated by Dr. Barnabas Binney. Dr. Binney outed her to General Patterson, who recommended to General George Washington that Samson be discharged due to being a female. Deborah Samson was honorably discharged in October, 1783. In 1792, along with other veterans, Samson received back pay due her for her service. In 1805, Samson was awarded a veteran’s pension by the Massachusetts legislature, which stated “that the Said Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier.” She received that pension until she died in 1827.

The legend of Molly Pitcher is hard to pin down. According to the story, she was carrying pitchers of water to the soldiers, one of whom was her husband, serving a cannon at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. When her husband collapsed, Molly immediately took his place, swabbing the barrel and helping reload the gun.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

It appears that “Molly Pitcher” is a composite figure built on the stories of Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley and Margaret Corbin. Mary Hays (as she was known at the time) was present at Monmouth and a witness claimed that a British cannonball bounced right between her legs while she was serving the American gun, ripping away part of her petticoat. She supposedly quipped that it was lucky the ball wasn’t aimed a little higher and went on with her work.

Hays remained with the Continental Army until the end of the war, though it seems that she served in a support role, as many women did. After her husband’s death, she married a former Continental soldier named John McCauley. She died in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1832, where a monument commemorates her valiant service.

Margaret Corbin’s story is similar to the better-known Mary Ludwig Hays. At the 1776 Battle of Fort Washington, Corbin was carrying water to her husband’s gun crew when he fell. She stepped into his place and helped keep the cannon operational by swabbing and helping to reload. During the battle, Margaret was hit by grapeshot in the arm and chest, disabling her for life.

Corbin was one of the first members of the Invalid Corps, created by Congress in 1777 to care for wounded and disabled soldiers. She was granted a pension in 1779, the first American woman to receive a disabled veteran’s pension.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Image under Public Domain.

Anna Maria Lane followed her husband to war in 1776, when he enlisted in the Connecticut Line under General Israel Putnam. Records of her service are sketchy, but it is known that she fought in the Battle of Germantown in October, 1777, where she was severely wounded. After the war, Anna and her husband John moved to Virginia, where they were both recognized for their service by the Virginia legislature and granted soldiers’ pensions.

The American Civil War

The story of female soldiers in the Civil War is akin to those who fought in the Revolution. Women disguised themselves as men and marched off to war for pretty much the same reasons as their forebears. Women served in both the Union and Confederate armies, and most seem to have gone undetected, but we do know the stories of a few.

Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Canadian by birth. To escape an abusive father and an arranged marriage, she disguised herself as a man and fled to the US, where she found work in Hartford, Connecticut as a travelling Bible salesman. When the war broke out in 1861, Edmonds was in Michigan and promptly volunteered for the 2nd Michigan Infantry Regiment on a three-year enlistment. She used the name Franklin Thompson, which had been her assumed name for the previous couple of years.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Sarah Emma Edmonds. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Edmonds was nearly captured at First Manassas when she stayed behind to care for the wounded when the Union Army retreated. In 1862, Edmonds served in the Peninsula Campaign, the Battle of Second Manassas, and the Battle of Fredericksburg as a courier, often braving long solo rides through contested territory. Her horse was shot from under her at Second Manassas, forcing her to ride a mule, which subsequently threw her, breaking her leg.

Edmonds’ memoirs claim that she performed espionage missions behind Confederate lines, disguised as a male Irish peddler, though there is no official record of those missions.

The 2nd Michigan was sent to Kentucky in the spring of 1863, where Edmonds came down with malaria. Afraid of discovery, she requested convalescent leave as opposed to seeing a military doctor. Her leave request was denied. Feeling she had no choice, Edmonds deserted and never returned. “Franklin Thompson” was charged with desertion, though no further action was taken. Following her recovery, Edmonds served as a female nurse until the end of the war.

Edmonds, now known as Sarah Edmonds Seelye, attended a reunion of the 2nd Michigan in 1876, where she was welcomed by her former comrades. They helped her have the charge of desertion expunged from her records and supported her pension application, which was approved in 1884. Seelye was the only female to receive a soldier’s pension from the Civil War. In 1897, a year before her death, she became the only female member of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1901, she was reburied with full military honors in Houston’s Washington Cemetery.

Jennie Hodgers (a.k.a. Albert D.J. Cashier) is remarkable not only for her wartime service, but for the fact that she continued to live as a man for the rest of her life. Hodgers was born on aChristmas Day, 1843, in Ireland. Little is known about her life from then until she enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry under the name Albert D.J. Cashier.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Jennie-Hodgers AKA Albert-D.J. Cashier. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Hodgers fought in over forty engagements, including the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of Nashville, the Red River Campaign, and the Battles of Kennesaw Mountain and Jonesborough. An account exists of her escaping capture by overpowering a Confederate guard. She mustered out on 17 August, 1865.

Living as a man apparently agreed with Hodgers, and “Albert Cashier” worked several jobs, voted in elections, and drew a soldier’s pension. Hit by a car in 1910, “Cashier’s” true gender was discovered by the local hospital, which, remarkably, agreed not to give away her secret. She was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover. It was here, in 1913, that dementia finally caused her to be revealed as a woman. Sadly, she was sent to an insane asylum where she was forced to wear a dress.

On the plus side, when the story was published in the local newspapers, Hodgers’ former comrades protested her treatment and defended her service. Upon her death in 1915, Hodgers was buried in full uniform and her grave was marked with the name Albert D.J. Cashier and her service dates. A second marker with the name Jennie Hodgers was placed beside the original in the 1970s.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman is another whose story is well-known, thanks to her family’s preservation of her letters. With her father in debt and no prospects of marriage, the nineteen-year old Wakeman left home in 1862 to seek work as a man. While working as a laborer, she met recruiters from the 153rd New York Infantry Regiment, who offered a $152.00 enlistment bounty. Wakeman accepted and enlisted on 30 August, 1862 under the name Lyons Wakeman.

The 153rd New York saw action during the Red River Campaign of 1864 and Wakeman stood on the firing line at the Battles of Pleasant Hill and Monett’s Bluff. The Red River Campaign featured marches of hundreds of miles through muggy heat and disease-ridden swamps, which Wakeman endured as well as her male counterparts.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Before the campaign, Wakeman had written home, “I don’t know how long before I shall have to go into the field of battle. For my part, I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go.” Wakeman finally succumbed to disease in May, 1864 and died on 19 June. She is buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. The grave marker bears the name “Lyons Wakeman.” No record exists of her sex ever being discovered.

Mollie Bean is a bit more elusive than Sarah Edmonds and Jennie Hodgers, and, in her anonymity, is likely more representative of the majority of female Civil War soldiers. In fact, Mollie Bean may not have been her name at all.

Mollie was arrested on 20 February, 1865 while hitching a ride on a railroad car near Danville, Virginia. Riding a military rail car required permission from the provost marshal so, when she was discovered, the guard demanded her papers. Mollie replied, “I’ve got no papers and damn if I want any.” She was arrested and, shortly thereafter, discovered to be a female dressed as a soldier. Mollie claimed to have enlisted in the 47th North Carolina Infantry Regiment in 1863 and to have been twice-wounded in battle. She was sent back to Richmond and imprisoned in Castle Thunder. The story was picked up by newspapers in Richmond and Charlotte. Mollie was portrayed sensationally and her claims of service were discounted, with at least one paper describing her as “manifestly crazy.” The general opinion was that she could not have served for over two years without her true sex being discovered. Upon her imprisonment, Mollie vanishes from history. There are no records of her incarceration and examinations of the 47th North Carolina’s muster rolls reveal nothing. The census records of females with the surname “Bean” provide no real evidence. “Mollie Bean” may well have been a made-up name given to the authorities upon her arrest.

RELATED: These badass historical women cross-dressed so they could fight with the boys

She does, however, make a fanciful reappearance in the alternate history novel The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove. If you haven’t read it, and you’re into that sort of thing, it’s very well-done. The premise is built around South African time-travelers who provide Robert E. Lee’s army with AK-47s in the winter of 1864. Don’t be deterred by the fantastical scenario; Turtledove is a serious historian. The book is outstanding and thought-provoking.

Two more female soldiers from the Civil War merit our attention, though we don’t, and likely never will, know their identities. The remains of a Confederate private were discovered on the Gettysburg battlefield on 17 July, 1863 by a burial detail from the Union II Corps. The private was female. She was likely killed while taking part in Pickett’s Charge on 3 July. Finally, a 1934 excavation of a mass grave on the Shiloh battlefield revealed the remains of a female with a minié ball lodged in her pelvis, likely her death wound. Plainly, females not only served in the Civil War, they were in the thick of battle and some were killed. Due to the nature of their service, we’ll never know how many.

World War I

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Photo from the Smithsonian Institute

By the time the First World War rolled around, medical exams for prospective soldiers were more thorough. It was far more difficult for would-be female soldiers to disguise themselves. As far as we know, only one, 20-year old Dorothy Lawrence, actually pulled it off. Lawrence was a British journalist who managed to join a tunneling outfit of the British Expeditionary Force for ten days. At that point, she gave herself up out of a desire to report on the horrible conditions under which her fellow soldiers worked. Lawrence was treated rather poorly by the British authorities, who accused her of being a camp-follower (AKA prostitute). Still, two female soldiers, one British and one Russian, stand out for their wartime service.

Flora Sandes was the daughter of an Irish priest. As a child, she read and re-read Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade and dreamed of being a soldier. As an adult, she traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Egypt, working as a typist to fund her adventures. She was an experienced rider and, according to her family, “a capital shot with the big service revolver.”

Upon the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, 1914, the 38-year old Sandes volunteered as a nurse for a Serbian ambulance unit. Serbia was overrun in late 1915 by the combined forces of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Bulgaria. The Serbian Army forced marched across the mountains to Albania, where Sandes enlisted in the Serbian Iron Regiment.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Flora Sandes. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

A year later she was a sergeant major and had published an English language book about her exploits to raise money and support for the Serbs. At the end of 1916, Sandes was involved in the vicious hand-to-hand combat in the mountains of Macedonia, where she was wounded by a grenade. Forced to retire from combat duty, she spent the rest of the war running an army hospital and conducting public relations tours to promote Western awareness of the plight of the Serbs. After the war, Sandes remained with the Army, eventually retiring as a captain. In 1917, she was awarded the Order of the Star of Karađorđe, Serbia’s highest combat decoration.

Sandes rode out the Second World War in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Though aged 65, she was recalled to active duty. She was willing, but the Germans overran Yugoslavia before she could do anything. She was arrested by the Gestapo as an enemy alien and imprisoned with fourteen other women. One of Sandes’ fellow prisoners later said “She possessed a wonderful fund of Serbian swear words which she launched at the guards with such devastating effect that they behaved almost respectfully.” She was eventually released, but had to report to the Gestapo weekly until the war ended.

ALSO READ: 15 women who helped pave the way in the Army

Sandes finally left Belgrade following the passing of her Serbian husband a few months after the war. She was nearly 70, but went to Rhodesia to stay with her nephew, who was a Rhodesian police officer. She was unpopular with the colonial authorities, however, who complained about her “fraternizing with the African peasant population, sitting around an open fire and drinking beer made from sorghum.” Flora Sandes returned to England, where she died in 1956.

Maria Bochkarevka was a Siberian peasant girl who survived an abusive father and two abusive husbands to join the Russian war effort in 1914. Women were not allowed to serve at that time, but Maria wrote a personal letter to Tsar Nicholas II asking for special permission. Her request was granted and Bochkarevka was sent to the front in 1915.

Her first combat saw Maria, despite being hit in the leg, pull dozens of wounded men from No-Man’s Land, for which she was decorated. She was soon promoted to corporal and began leading 30-man patrols into No-Man’s Land. On one of her patrols, she killed a German soldier with her bayonet. In the spring of 1916, Bochkarevka was wounded three times, including taking a piece of shrapnel near the base of her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. Determined to fight, she learned to walk again and returned to the front, where she was promoted to sergeant. She was captured not long afterward, but she escaped, killing ten Germans in the process with grenades. She was decorated again.

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Maria Bochkareva. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Bochkarevka is most famous for raising and training the Women’s Battalion of Death in 1917. The battalion was an all-female combat unit designed to shame the male soldiers of the Russian Army into fighting harder. The Russians were reeling from the fall of the Tsar and repeated defeats at the hands of the Germans, and desperately needed a morale boost. Buchkarovka started with 2000 women, but her iron discipline soon whittled it down to around to around 250.

The battalion participated in the summer offensive of 1917, going over the top with the men. Led by Buchkarovka, now a captain, they penetrated three German trench lines before being repulsed. After the battle, the women’s morale was reportedly far better than their male comrades, and their casualties lower, though they had spearheaded the assault in their sector.

In October, the battalion defended the Tsar’s Summer Palace in Petrograd against the Bolshevik revolutionaries. They were ultimately overrun and Buchkarevka was captured. Through the machinations of some friends, she was released and allowed to leave the country. She traveled to the US and England, where she met with Woodrow Wilson and King George V, who promised to aid the White Russians against the Bolshevik Reds. Buchkarevka was captured in 1919 while fighting the Bolsheviks and convicted of being an “enemy of the people.” She was executed by firing squad on 16 May, 1920.

World War II

The Second World War provided more opportunities for women to serve, but female combat soldiers were few and far between. Many women served with the British Special Operations Executive and the American Office of Strategic Services, but, due to concerns about length, I’m staying as close to the front lines as possible. With that in mind, one woman stands out above all others.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the deadliest of the scores of female snipers deployed by the Red Army in World War II. In just under a year of combat, Pavlichenko notched 309 confirmed kills, after which, she was pulled from the front and sent to the US and Great Britain to drum up support for a second front against Germany.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Pavlichenko was a university student in Kiev when the Germans invaded in June, 1942. She immediately enlisted in the Red Army. She had won medals in a civilian marksmanship program and applied for the infantry. Nonetheless, the recruiter tried to convince her to become a nurse. Pavlichenko’s insistence on becoming a rifleman caused the army to test her. She was taken to the front, handed a rifle, and told to shoot two Romanian soldiers. Two shots: two kills. Pavlichenko was trained as a sniper and attached to the 25th Rifle Division. She never claimed the first two kills as part of her official count, since she said it was a test, not real combat.

Pavlichenko served in Moldavia and in the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean Campaign. She was known for tying the occasional strip of cloth to surrounding trees and brush to distract the eyes of enemy spotters. She also planted mannequins to serve as bait. Her first 75 days of combat yielded 187 kills. By the time she arrived at Sevastopol, she was known as “Lady Death” and the Germans starting targeting her with counter-snipers. She once made the mistake of climbing a tree to get a better view and was grazed by a German sniper round. She allowed herself to fall twelve feet to the ground, lying still for hours, before crawling away after dark. She eventually won every sniper duel in which she was engaged, accounting for 36 German snipers.

Pavlichenko became so famous, thanks in no small part to Soviet propaganda, that the Germans started addressing her directly by loudspeaker. They tried to lure her to defect, offering her honors and chocolate (seriously). When that failed, they threatened to catch her and tear her body into 309 pieces, one for each kill.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

In a later interview, Pavlichenko laughed, saying how delighted she was that the Germans knew her score. She was evacuated from the Sevastopol by submarine before the city fell in July, 1942. She was awarded the USSR’s highest honor, Hero of the Soviet Union, and sent on her PR trip, where she became fast friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She told one reporter that “Every German who remains alive will kill women, children, and old folks. Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.” Upon her return, Pavlichenko was assigned to train snipers and boost morale on the home front. She even had her own postage stamp, issued in 1943. After the war, she returned to university, earning her degree in history. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Pavlichenko in Moscow in 1957. Pavlichenko died in 1974. A movie of her exploits was released in 2013. As far as I know, it’s only available in Russian, titled “Battle for Sevastopol,” and in Ukrainian, which is called “Indestructible.” There’s an English language trailer on YouTube.

Afghanistan and Iraq

The asymmetrical nature of the Global War on Terror has blurred the lines between the combat and non-combat roles of troops deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops who are technically slated for the support role have been thrust squarely into the line of fire. As a result, the US ban on women in combat units has not spared females from being tested under fire. Here are a few of the many who passed with flying colors.

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Rebecca Turpin. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Marine 2LT Rebecca Turpin was leading her logistics convoy through 80 miles of desert in the Helmand Province when they were ambushed in a small village between Camp Bastion and the FOB at Musa Qala. They had hit an IED earlier in the march and were slowed by the necessity to tow the damaged vehicle and by maneuvering through a hamlet with no real streets. While moving through the hamlet, Turpin saw men herding women and children into the houses. “I had this sinking feeling,” she said later. Then an RPG hit her refueling truck, cuing a hail of small arms fire and grenades. Marshaling her convoy to provide cover, Turpin called for air support, which came in the form of two Cobra attack helicopters. Once the enemy fire was suppressed, the Cobras moved off and Turpin turned her column around to an alternate route. When they were hit again during the turnaround, Turpin called the Cobras back and directed a fighting exit from the hamlet. Going by a different route, her convoy arrived safely at Musa Qala with no serious injuries. Despite her insistence that “What I did was my job,” Turpin was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with “V” for her leadership under fire. Lt. Colonel Michael Jernigan, Turpin’s battalion commander, said “She could have made bad decisions, and perhaps Marines would have died. But she didn’t and they didn’t.” Turpin left the Corps as a captain in 2011.

On 20 March, 2005, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester was escorting a supply convoy on a run east of Baghdad as a vehicle commander in the 617 Military Police Company, a Kentucky National Guard unit. When the vehicle in front of hers was hit by an RPG, Hester led her vehicle through the kill zone into a flanking position. She and her team then took the enemy positions under fire with an M203. Hester and her squad leader then assaulted the dug-in insurgents, clearing two trench lines. Hester personally killed three insurgents with her M4. After the 45-minute fight, 27 insurgents were killed, six wounded, and one was captured. All US personnel survived. Hester and her squad leader, SSG Timothy Nein, were awarded the Silver Star. Hester became the first female Silver Star recipient since World War II and the first ever for actions in direct combat.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Leigh Ann Hester. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Being under fire was nothing new for Hester, who, predictably, claims she just did what she was trained to do. According to all accounts, Hester is a bit embarrassed by the fact that she has her own action figure and a wax likeness at the Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee. Hester left the Guard in 2009 and became a cop near Nashville, Tennessee, but missed being a soldier and reenlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 2011. In 2014, she deployed to Afghanistan for 18 months as part of a Cultural Support Team. She is now an E-7 with the Tennessee National Guard.

First Lieutenant Ashley White-Stumpf was part of the first class of the Cultural Support Teams sent to Afghanistan to support special ops troops. Assigned to the 75th Rangers, White-Stumpf served two months in Afghanistan before being killed by an IED in an ambush on 22 October, 2011. She was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star. I was unable to find much on her activities in Afghanistan, perhaps because of her association with special ops forces. But there is a book about White-Stumpf and the CSTs called Ashley’s War, which looks to be pretty good. Still, I felt that she merited inclusion here.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Ashley White-Stumpf. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Private First Class Monica Lin Brown was the second woman, after Hester, to earn the Silver Star since World War II. Brown was a combat medic with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province in 2007. On 25 April, she was part of a convoy which was ambushed on its way to a meeting with tribal leaders. One HUMVEE hit an IED, sending it into a wadi and igniting its fuel load. Brown moved to the wreck and treated the soldiers wounded in the blast, shielding them with her body from small arms fire and the 15 mortar rounds which impacted near her. By this time, the ammo in the HUMVEE began to cook off, prompting Brown to shield the wounded once more while continuing treatment.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
Monica Lin Brown. Photo from Breach Bang Clear.

Brown’s platoon sergeant arrived, amazed to see Brown still alive. Seeing the danger from the engulfed HUMVEE and continuing enemy fire, he loaded Brown and the wounded onto an Afghan Army truck and moved them to a safer location. An enemy mortar shell impacted on Brown’s former position just seconds later. All the while, Brown treated the wounded soldiers, continually shielding them from falling brass and enemy fire until the MEDEVACs arrived. Brown’s actions earned her the Silver Star. They also resulted in her being removed from her assignment because of the ban on females in combat.

As I said, I’m not taking a position on women in combat. Honestly, I’m not qualified to offer an informed opinion on the subject. It is clear, however, that women have served, and served well, in combat environments throughout history. So, taking advantage of the publicity from the Wonder Woman movie, here’s an opportunity to raise a glass to all the women who have answered the call and laid it on the line. Thanks for your service.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coast Guard watch opens fire on shark as it closes in on swimming crew

A member of the “shark watch” on a Coast Guard cutter had to open fire on a shark this week to dissuade it from continuing to approach his crew mates.

When you’re out on the open ocean, even recreational activities require proper planning and safety precautions, as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball demonstrated in dramatic photos released earlier this week.


A carefully planned swim call, or a period of recreational swimming organized by the ship’s crew, started like any other — with rescue swimmers standing by and an armed “shark watch” standing guard from an elevated position, keeping his eyes trained on the surface of the water for any signs of danger.

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Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a swim call (Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard maintains a “shark watch” or a “polar bear watch” any time crew members are in the water and there’s potential for danger posed by indigenous wildlife. This time, it was Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron who was tasked with keeping a lookout for any aspiring “Jaws” star as other members of the crew got a chance to kick back and enjoy the warm Pacific water.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron on Shark Watch (Coast Guard)

It wasn’t long before Cintron and others spotted the grey silhouette of what appeared to be a longfin mako or pelagic thresher shark approaching the swimming crew. Cintron stood ready, and as the shark closed to within 30 feet or so of the swimmers, Cintron was ordered by his chief to open fire. The gunfire likely came as a real shock to the swimmers; many of whom were not aware of the approaching shark until the shots rang out.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball

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Cintron fired a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away,” according to a post on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page. It seemed to do the trick at first, only to have the shark once again turn and close with the swimming crew, who were now working to evacuate the water in a calm and organized manner. As the shark once again closed to within 30 or so feet, Cintron fired another burst.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

Cintron firing on the approaching shark. (Coast Guard photo)

“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.

It’s important to note that bullets lose a significant amount of energy the minute they impact water. In fact, it’s common for bullets to come apart and tumble harmlessly in just a few inches of water. There was no blood in the water near the shark, and according to Coast Guard public affairs, there were no indications that the predator was injured in the altercation.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball

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The close encounter with a shark ultimately proved harmless, with the entire crew back on board and only one reported injury (a scrape, ironically enough, right in the middle of a tattoo of shark jaws on one crew member’s leg). Still, this unusual engagement is incredibly rare. According to Military.com’s Patricia Kime, the last reported shark sighting during a Coast Guard or Navy swim call was in 2009, and no shots were fired.

“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Here’s what the US military’s future helicopter fleet could look like

In what the participants call a “unique” collaboration, government agencies and aerospace corporations are working together to develop advanced platforms and technologies for vertical lift that are intended to replace virtually all the current rotary wing and tilt-rotor aircraft being used by the four U.S. military services.


The results of those efforts are likely to also influence future civilian and international vertical lift programs.

The ultimate goal is to produce a family of vertical lift aircraft that can serve as transports for personnel and cargo and perform attack, scout, search and rescue, anti-submarine and anti-surface ship missions from land or sea at speeds and ranges far exceeding existing capabilities.

During a forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Sept. 23, the industry and government representatives said the focus was on achieving the maximum commonality of aircraft components and open architecture in mission systems to reduce production and sustainment costs and promote interoperability among individual aircraft and services.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
The Sikorsky X-2. (Courtesy photo)

The coalition of talent is working on two separate but closely related programs: Future Vertical Lift and Joint Multi-role Technology Demonstration, which are managed by the Army with participation by the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

Under the FVL part of the effort, Bell Helicopter is working on an advanced tilt-rotor aircraft called the V-280 Valor, which advances the technologies produced for the V-22 Ospreys that are operated by the Marines and Air Force Special Operations Command and in the future by the Navy.

For FVL, Boeing-Sikorsky team is building a “coaxial” helicopter called the SB-1 Defiant, which uses counter-rotating rotors for vertical operations and a rear-mounted propeller for high-speed level flight. It builds on technology demonstrated by Sikorsky’s X-2 that hit speeds of 260 knots, or 300 miles an hour.

At CSIS, Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations, and Vince Tobin, VP for advanced tilt-rotor systems at Bell, said their aircraft will fly next year in preparation for a competitive “fly off” for the FVL program.

Both of those firms, Rockwell Collins and other companies are participating in the JMR program, which is focused on developing a new generation of mission systems and avionics that would go into any future vertical lift aircraft and, the panelist said, could be retrofitted into some of the legacy platforms that are likely to remain in service for decades.

The Rockwell Collins officials said the advanced computer systems being developed in the JMR effort would allow the future vertical lift platforms to be “optionally manned,” meaning they could be operated as unmanned systems as well as flown by humans.

Bell has also introduced an unmanned tilt-rotor proposal, the V-247 Vigilant, with a folding wing and rotor for the Marines.

Dan Bailey, program director of JMR/FVL for the Army, said the technology demonstration program is expected to culminate in 2020, and will “set the conditions for the future” as they seek to replace all the military’s vertical lift systems over decades.

The FVL competition for the air frame should conclude in 2019, he said.

Bailey said the vertical lift “airframe designs we have today are very limited on what we can get out of them.” And the ability to increase efficiency in those platforms “is limited.”

“We need new platforms,” he said.

Bailey and the others stressed the importance of pushing open architecture capabilities in the systems developed under JMR. Open architecture generally means the software within mission systems and other aircraft avionics is independent of the hardware. That allows rapid and relatively inexpensive changes in the systems as technology improves or mission requirements change.

Bailey said the FVL/JMR program provides the ability to partner with industry “that is unique” and will allow the government “to do this efficiently.”

To meet the multi-service requirements of the FVL program, Van Buiten and Tobin said their aircraft could be produced with the rotor and wing folding capabilities that the Navy and Marines require for shipboard operations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how the French special forces hostage rescue operation unfolded

Two French commandos were killed during a night operation to rescue two hostages in the west African country of Burkina Faso on May 10, 2019.

The two petty officers, Cédric de Pierrepont, 32, and Alain Bertoncello, 27, were confirmed to have died in the operation, according to the French Navy.

Here’s how the operation unfolded.


Two Frenchmen, one American, and one South Korean were abducted and taken to Burkina Faso, in West Africa.

French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, both of them tourists, were visiting a wildlife preserve in Benin when they were abducted on May 1, 2019.

Their tour guide was fatally shot and their car was burned.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

The location where French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas were abducted.

(Google Maps)

The South Korean and American hostages, both of them women, were held for 28 days. The US State Department did not release the American hostage’s name due to privacy concerns but said she was in her 60s.

The French Foreign Ministry previously issued a travel guidance in the region.

Source: NPR, Vox, NBC News

It was unclear who the captors were, but terror organizations, like the Islamic State, have operated in the area.

The captors were believed to be handing the hostages off to an al-Qaeda group in Mali. The French Gen. François Lecointre told reporters it would have been “absolutely impossible” to successfully conduct a rescue operation under those circumstances.

Around 4,500 French troops are deployed to the region after the country set out to eliminate ISIS activity in Mali in 2013. Twenty-six French troops have been killed since the conflict.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times, France 24

The raid relied on intelligence from the US and France.

The original objective was to rescue the two French hostages.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that neither South Korea nor the US were “necessarily aware” of the abduction of their citizens, according to Reuters.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

Operators of the National Gendarmes Intervention Group (GIGN), an elite French force, during a demonstration in June 2018.

French officials, who were tracking the kidnappers, decided to strike after they set up a temporary camp.

“France’s message is clear. It’s a message addressed to terorists,” Parly said after the raid, according to Reuters. “Those who want to target France, French citizens know that we will find track them, we will find them, and we will neutralize them.”

Source: Vox

French commandos launched their raid on Thursday night.

The mission was personally approved by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The commandos in the mission were part of Task Force Sabre, a contingent of troops based in Burkina Faso. It was unclear how many troops took part in the raid.

During the onset of the mission, a lookout was killed after he spotted the approaching commandos roughly 30 feet away. The French commandos then hit the nearby shelters after heard the sounds of weapons being loaded.

Four of the kidnappers were killed and two reportedly escaped.

Source: The Guardian, Fox News, The New York Times

Two French commandos, Cedric de Pierrepont, 33, and Alain Bertoncello, 28, were killed.

Petty officers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello joined the French Navy in 2004 and 2011, respectively.

“France has lost two of its sons, we lose two of our brothers,” France Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. François Lecointre said.

Bertoncello wanted to join the French Navy after graduating highschool, Jean-Luc, Bertoncello’s father, said to RTL.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

The two French special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Fasso are seen in an undated photo released by French Army, May 10, 2019.

“What he loved was the esprit de corps … he was doing what he wanted and he always told us not to worry … he was well prepared,” Jean-Luc reportedly said. “They did what they had to do. For him it ended badly, for the others, it was a successful mission.”

Source: The Guardian

Three of the hostages were taken to France.

The French hostages said they regretted traveling to the area, even after officials warned that it could be dangerous.

They also expressed their “sincere condolences” for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.

“All our thoughts go out to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers who lost their lives to free us from this hell,” Laurent Lassimouillas said.

France pays tribute to Petty Officers Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.

A ceremony was held for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello at the Invalides, in Paris on May 14, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron described the mission as “necessary” and spoke to family members of de Pierrepont and Bertoncello.

“France is a nation that never abandons its children, no matter what, even if they are on the other side of the world,” Macron said in a speech. “Those who attack a French citizen should know that our country never gives in, that they will always find our army, its elite units and our allies on their path.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army’s Expert Infantryman training is getting an update

Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are rewriting the requirements infantry soldiers must meet when they test for the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Each year, infantry soldiers who have not earned the distinctive badge, consisting of a silver musket mounted on a blue field, must go through EIB testing, a series of 30 infantry tasks, ranging from land navigation to completing a 12-mile road march in under three hours.


Soon, EIB testing will feature more up-to-date tasks to reflect the modern battlefield, according to a recent Army news release.

Infantry officials recently conducted a modernized EIB pilot with multiple infantry soldiers, Master Sgt. Charles Evans, from the office of the Chief of the Infantry, said in the release.

“Their feedback was really essential to rolling out this new standard, making sure it was validated,” Evans said. “Just working out all the kinks and making sure that all the tasks were applicable, realistic and up-to-date with the latest doctrine.”

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

Parachute infantryman Spc. Sean Tighe, assigned to B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, performs push-ups as 1SG Landon Sahagun, B Company 1st Battalion (Airborne) 501st Infantry Regiment, counts his repetitions during the Expert Infantryman Badge testing.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

Many of the changes in the manual are designed to standardize options for units in how to conduct the testing, but “there will be significant changes to some of the tests themselves,” according to the release.

“Indirect fire, move under fire, grenades, CPR and care under fire are all being reworked,” the release states.

The results of the pilot will soon be put into an updated training manual for EIB testing.

“The reason we did this event was to make sure it wasn’t just written from a single perspective, that it had feedback from all the different types of units across the Army,” Evans said.

The Army also is updating infantry training for new recruits. Fort Benning just started a pilot program to extend One Station Unit Training for infantry from 14 to 22 weeks to ensure soldiers spend more time mastering infantry skills such as land navigation and fire and maneuver techniques.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first aircraft-drone collision just happened in New York

A civilian drone operating illegally over Staten Island, New York, on Sept. 21 crashed into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by Fort Bragg soldiers.


There were no injuries as a result of the crash, which the Federal Aviation Administration said was the first in US history between an aircraft and a drone.

The helicopter and its crew are part of a contingent of soldiers from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division serving in New York in support of the United Nations General Assembly, which brought world leaders to the city.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
A DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter drone. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Doodybutch.

A spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division, Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, said the helicopter sustained minor damage to a window and a rotor blade when a hobby drone, described as a quadcopter, struck the helicopter at about 7:30 p.m.

The incident is under investigation by authorities in New York.

New York media reported the helicopter was flying at about 500 feet over a residential area when it was struck. FAA guidelines require drones to fly at or below 400 feet. Drones are also prohibited to fly outside of parks in New York City.

The helicopter landed safely at a New Jersey airfield after the collision, Buccino said.

US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business
A UH-60 Black Hawk assigned to 3rd Battalion 142nd Aviation flies over New York City. US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Santiago Mejiasepulveda.

“Our paratroopers are well-trained and well-led,” he said. “They responded immediately and appropriately to ensure the safety of the crew and the completion of the mission.”

Buccino said a team is on its way to New York with the equipment needed to repair the helicopter. It’s expected to be fixed within 24 hours.

Photos of the damage show dents and scratches on the helicopter. A small piece of the drone also appears to have lodged itself into the helicopter.

Buccino said no soldiers were injured during the incident.

The soldiers in New York are part of the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion. They have been there since Sept. 17.

Articles

Adam Driver: Why I Joined the Marine Corps After 9/11

Today, Adam Driver is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood with a career-defining role as Kylo Ren in the revived Star Wars series and a lead in the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie Silence. Plus he’s still playing Hannah’s weird ex-boyfriend Adam on Girls. Back in the summer of 2001, he was an aimless high school graduate wondering what to do next. September 11 inspired him to join the Marines.


In this clip from TED Talks: War Peace (airing Monday, May 30th on PBS stations nationwide) talks about why he joined the military. In his full talk, he shares how the world of theater recreated the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how drama can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.

The complete program includes talks from:

  • Journalist Sebastian Junger, who believes that the prevalence of PTSD may have more to do with the angry and fractured America that vets come home to than their actual combat experiences.
  • Jamila Raqib, who promotes effective strategies of non-violent protest to people living under tyranny and shares encouraging examples of successful change around the world.
  • Humanitarian Samantha Nutt, who has been to some of the most war-torn places on earth and draws parallels between conflict zones in the world’s poorest nations and the proliferation of cheap automatic weapons and small arms; and
  • Parent Christianne Boudreau, who conveys the emotional story of her son’s conversion to radical Islam and subsequent death while fighting for ISIS in Syria.

The program also features three original short films:

  • Talk of War, by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz, featuring parents and their children talking about the strain that deployment takes on military families;
  • All Roads Point Home, by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, about Major General Linda Singh, Maryland’s highest-ranking soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and was called upon to use her skills in the Baltimore riots of 2015; and
  • Bionic Soldier, by Anna Bowers, Mark Mannucci and Jonathan Halperin, about new advances in biotechnology that allow severely wounded vets to once again lead active lives.

Finally, there’s a musical performance by singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright.

As with all PBS programs, check with your local station for an exact time and date when they’re airing the program.

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-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

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-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

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

Today in military history: Regan challenges Gorbachev to tear down Berlin Wall

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

After Germany’s defeat in World War II, the capital city of Berlin was divided, with the eastern section falling under Soviet control. In 1952, the border between the two countries was closed and in 1961, during the height of the Cold War, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall to prevent East German citizens from fleeing to the west.

Standing before the wall in 1987, President Reagan famously addressed the Soviet leader, telling him that if he should seek peace, then, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Two years later, the wall was indeed destroyed, and Germany was officially united in 1990. 

During the years of the Wall, nearly 5,000 people successfully defected from East Berlin to West Berlin. The number of people who died trying, however, remains unknown. Apartments and buildings near the wall were boarded and bricked up. Barbed wire fortified the structure and border guards were issued shooting orders when dealing with defectors — even women and children. 

East Germans dug long tunnels under the wall, took hot air balloons, escaped through pre-Wall sewers, and in one instance, drove a sports car at full speed through early fortifications. 

Officials had listed 98 deaths but a historic research group at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam has confirmed at least 140 deaths. Other estimates are higher. 

Featured Image: View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the Wall in 1986. The Wall’s “death strip” on the east side of the Wall follows the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal (filled in 1932). (Image by Thierry Noir at Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg)

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