According to a recent Better Business Bureau study, service members are more susceptible to fraud than average consumers. In fact, scammers using the name “Exchange Inc.” have been attempting to fool soldiers and airmen into thinking they are working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and boat engines.
“For years, scammers have used the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Steve Boyd, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “Some military members have sent money thinking they’re dealing with the Exchange, only to receive nothing in return.”
Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles or represent private sellers in completing transactions in the continental United States. Scammers have left consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.
Scammers have left military consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by using the name Exchange Inc. to dupe military consumers.
The scammers typically direct potential buyers to use multiple third-party gift cards to pay for purchases. Most recently, scammers required payment using Google Play gift cards. To verify any suspicious payment method requests, military shoppers can call Exchange Customer Service at 800-527-2345.
The Exchange operates solely on military installations and via ShopMyExchange.com. The Exchange does not act as a broker in private transactions and does not advertise in classified advertisement or resale websites.
Shoppers who believe that they may have been taken advantage of can file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
The US military gave or took fire in some form or another in at least seven countries in 2018: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.
Here’s a breakdown of America’s military involvement in each country.
U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Birmingham, an infantryman with 1st Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, from Alpena, Mich., keeps on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)
The war in Afghanistan
At least 15 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2018 in a war that entered its 18th year in October 2018.
The deadliest incident of the year occurred in late November 2018, involving a roadside bomb that ultimately claimed the lives of four US service members. This marked the largest loss of life in a single incident for the US in Afghanistan since 2015.
There are currently roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria
The US military also continues to be active in Iraq and Syria in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, conducting airstrikes and advising local forces on the ground.
At least 10 US service members were killed in Iraq in 2018, though none of the deaths were a direct result of enemy action.
Human rights groups have accused the US-led coalition of reckless behavior and “potential war crimes” in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
While civilian casualties are still being assessed for 2018, a report from the monitoring group Airwars said the US and its allies may have killed up to 6,000 civilians via strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 alone.
The US has been waging a campaign against the Islamic State group since August 2014.
The US fired more than 118 missiles, more than twice the number it used in an attack on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017.
Shadow wars in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan
Under Trump, the US has also dramatically increased the number of drone strikes in places the US is not currently at war.
In 2018, there have been a slew of strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan, where the US is fighting what have been dubbed “shadow wars.”
The US conducted at least one drone strike in Pakistan in 2018, at least 36 in Yemen, and at least 39 in Somalia, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has been tracking US drone strikes in these countries for years.
As the numbers above show, the US military has been particularly active in Somalia in 2018, where it’s been focusing on aiding local forces in the fight against the Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is an al Qaeda affiliate.
In June 2018, Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad was killed in southwestern Somalia when militants attacked his team as it worked alongside Somali and Kenyan troops.
The US has also been active in Libya in 2018, where it’s launched roughly half a dozen air strikes against militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
(Official US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson)
The war on terror entered its 18th year in 2018
The various operations in which the US took or gave fire in 2018 were linked to the so-called “war on terror.”
Since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the US has spent nearly trillion on the broad, ill-defined conflict, which has claimed nearly 500,000 lives, according to an annual report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
According to the report, America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries, and nearly 7,000 US troops have been killed since the war on terror began.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Staff Sgt. Sean Devoy, a 28-year-old medic, died after falling during hoist training near Robert Gray Army Airfield, officials said.
The cause of the incident, which is being called an “accident,” is under investigation, a news release said.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Staff Sgt. Sean Devoy’s family and friends during this difficult time,” said Lt. Col. Khirsten Schwenn, 2nd GSAB, 1st Avn. Regt., commander. “The unexpected death of a family member is profoundly tragic. Staff Sgt. Devoy touched countless lives as a flight paramedic. We are deeply saddened by the loss of an extraordinary noncommissioned officer and teammate.”
Devoy, whose home of record is Ballwin, Mo., arrived at Fort Riley in December 2012 after joining the Army in March 2010. He was posthumously promoted to staff sergeant.
He deployed to Germany in 2010 and Afghanistan in 2011, 2013, and 2016.
He earned several awards and decorations throughout his career.
A team from the US Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., is leading the investigation.
On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. diplomatic facilities in a newly Qaddafi-free Libya were hit by a coordinated assault by an Islamic militant group. The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and two special operations veterans who responded to the attack as part of a volunteer CIA quick reaction force. The special operations community got their revenge, capturing ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya in 2014.
Khattala was accused of being the leader of an extremist militia and directing the Benghazi attacks. Prosecutors alleged Khattala was responsible for the deaths of the four Americans, but could not find any evidence of the extremist leader actually holding a weapon.
He was caught on camera driving fighters to the attack site and his mobile phone records proved he was communicating with the attackers. Among the witnesses testifying against him were the FBI plant who got close to Khattala and helped the FBI arrange his capture by U.S. Army Special Forces.
The attack on the compound that killed Ambassador Stevens was the first that resulted in the death of such a high-profile diplomat since the 1979 killing of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs during a botched kidnapping attempt in 1979. Also killed was State Department Information Officer Sean Patrick Smith, along with former Navy SEALs Glen “Bub” Doherty and Tyrone “Rone” Woods, who both served with valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After CIA contractors who responded to an attack on the consulate compound removed Smith’s body and aided survivors (they were unable to find the ambassador), the attacking forces moved on to the CIA’s annex, where the defenders took cover. Doherty and Woods died in defense of the annex.
Though there have been many investigations in the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks and an exact timeline isn’t clear to this day, what is clear is that it was a coordinated assault by members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, a group formed to fight the government forces of Muammar Qaddafi – and the Abu Khattala was involved.
Khattala was convicted on four charges, including providing material support for terrorism, but was cleared of 14 others including the four deaths of Americans on the ground in Benghazi that night.
LEGO Masters attracted the attention of millions of viewers with its first season in the first half of 2020. The reality competition show was hosted by Will Arnett and pit teams of two against each other to take on LEGO building challenges and prove themselves to be LEGO Masters. Builds were judged by two Lego Group creative designers and the show incorporated various guest stars to serve as hosts and judges. On November 11, 2020, it was announced that the show had been renewed for a second season which would begin filming in 2021. The Veterans Day announcement was coupled with the announcement of a partnership with the Merging Vets & Players charity.
Founded in 2015 by FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk Nate Boyer, MVP connects combat veterans with former professional athletes to provide them with a new team, assist in their transition and show them that they are not alone. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MVP is currently working to help veterans remotely—that’s where LEGO Masters comes in.
Lockdowns and quarantines forced people all around the world into their homes. While the new reality was difficult for some, the effect it had on combat veterans was even greater. To counter the stress of confinement, many people turned to building LEGO. “One of our vets, Robin Fox, [brought] up that he uses LEGOs to help his PTSD,” Glazer said. From that mention, other veterans in MVP were inspired to pick up LEGO sets and start building. The idea culminated in the partnership with LEGO Masters.
LEGO Masters provided hundreds of LEGO sets to MVP to allow vets to find the joy and peace of building during this challenging time. “I’m really proud to be able to be here as a representative for LEGO Masters to present these LEGO sets to MVP chapters all around the country,” Arnett said.
Currently, MVP has chapters in Los Angeles which serve the Pacific region, Las Vegas which serve the Rocky Mountain region, Chicago which serve the Midwest, Atlanta which serve the Southeast and New York which serve the Northeast. Combat veterans can join by submitting proof of eligibility including Authorized Campaign Medals, a military pay statement reflecting Hostile/Imminent Danger Pay, or Korea duty. Though a DD-214 can generally provide sufficient information for eligibility, MVP encourages interested veterans to reach out for assistance.
To say Make-A-Wish Foundation founder Frank Shankwitz had a rough childhood is an understatement. Shankwitz was born in Chicago and his mother left him when he was young. His grandparents took him, which he recalled as “happy times,” until one day his mother kidnapped him off a playground and told him they were heading back to Arizona.
They stopped in Michigan for five years.
When he was 10, they finally reached a tiny town in Arizona on Route 66. “We were broke,” Shankwitz said. “We had no gas, no food, no money, but a family took us in. We slept on their kitchen floor. It was the first time we’d ever been permanent somewhere, kitchen floor or not. A man named Juan became like a father-figure to me, and he introduced me to the idea of giving back. This was the 1950s – ‘give back’ was not a real popular term yet. But he taught me that you can always give back. It doesn’t have to be money – it can be your time or your talents.”
In the seventh grade, Shankwitz’s mom informed him that she could no longer afford to keep him; she was moving and he needed to find a new place to live.
Juan found him a place to stay in town with a widow and Shankwitz paid the weekly rent by finding a job as a dishwasher that paid per week. “All of a sudden I had an extra a week,” he said. “Juan taught me how to turn a negative into a positive and that has been something I’ve carried with me through my entire career.”
Shankwitz went to the Air Force after high school. “It was the Vietnam era,” he recalled, “but they decided I needed to protect England. I remember when we were informed we were not to wear our uniforms during traveling – they were afraid we’d offend the public. I’m so proud today to see our service members wearing their uniforms at airports. I love hearing people thanking them and clapping for them. You should never be embarrassed of the uniform. It’s so important that our military always be proud of their service.”
Following his time with the Air Force, Shankwitz went to work for Motorola. He describes himself then as “somewhat of an adrenaline junkie,” so when a friend of his suggested joining the Arizona Highway Patrol, he jumped at the chance. Shankwitz got involved with the Special Olympics in his off time. “I began to think about Juan,” he shared, “and how maybe I was starting to give back. I enjoyed that so much.” At work, Shankwitz was asked to join a motorcycle patrol that traveled to schools to teach kids about bike safety and he felt like he was getting closer to where he needed to be in serving others.
In 1978, Shankwitz was in a high speed chase with a drunk driver when another drunk driver broadsided him going 80 miles per hour. “I was pronounced dead immediately,” he explained, “and they’d already radioed in ‘963, Officer killed in the line of duty.’ An emergency room nurse from California stopped at the scene and did CPR for four minutes, and brought me back to life. I love California! They said the crash was spectacular. I’d gone through the tunnel and I saw the light. And then I came back. I remember when my senses came back. The sense of smell was first. I smelled this very nice perfume. Then the sense of touch; something was tickling my face. Then the sense of hearing – sirens all around and someone saying, ‘We’ve lost him.’ Last was the sense of sight. And I saw that a beautiful blonde had her lips locked on me and I thought it was heaven! Later, I was told I was saved for a purpose, and that God believed I had more to do. I needed to find out what that purpose was.”
Not two years later, Shankwitz received a radio call from his dispatcher saying she needed him to find the nearest telephone, which was 40 miles away. She put him through to a border patrol agent who had an assignment for him. Shankwitz remembers verbatim: ‘There’s a little boy named Chris. He’s 7 years old. He has leukemia, and he has 2 weeks to live. He likes to watch a show called CHiPs and he wants to be a motorcycle cop just like Ponch and Jon. We’re going to pick him up and have you standing by so he can meet a real motorcycle cop.’ I was in. I got on the bike and flew to the hospital.”
When the helicopter landed, Shankwitz was surprised that Chris wasn’t super sick looking. “Instead,” he said, “this tiny pair of red sneakers jumped out and came running over. He knew every button and switch on that motorcycle. I am watching him thinking, ‘He’s a typical 7 year old, and yet he’s going to die.’ Then I saw his mom, tears in her eyes, seeing her little boy again instead of just this sick patient. Chris became the first and only honorary officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol. We felt pretty good about what we’d done but we knew there was more for him.”
The troopers rallied around Chris. “We went to the uniform store, and asked if they could make Chris his own uniform,” Shankwitz said. “Two women spent all night custom-making a uniform for him. The next morning, we took several motorcycles and cars, lights going, and brought the uniform to him and a smokey hat. He was ecstatic. He asked if he was an official motorcycle police officer, but we told him that he had to earn his wings. We set up traffic cones for him in his driveway and gave him a test, which of course he passed.”
Chris told Shankwitz, “I’m so happy my wish is coming true.” It was the first time Shankwitz had really ever heard that: “my wish.”
Shankwitz and his team went to pick up the custom-made wings they had commissioned for Chris when he got a radio call: the little boy had been taken to the hospital and was in a coma. Shankwitz was devastated.
“We took the wings to his room anyway,” he said, “and just as I pinned his wings on the uniform, Chris came out of the coma. He started giggling. ‘Am I a motorcycle officer now?’ he asked. I told him yes. A few hours later he passed away. I like to believe those wings carried him to heaven.”
The Arizona Highway Patrol did a full police funeral for Chris. Shankwitz explained, “In Chris, we lost a fellow officer that day. When we got to Illinois where he was going to be buried, we were pulled over by the Illinois State Police. When we told them what we were doing, they escorted us. We were met at the cemetery by Illinois Police, all in dress uniform. Like I said, we lost a fellow officer that day.”
“Chris was buried in his uniform. His tombstone reads Chris Greicius, Arizona Trooper. It was a truly unbelievable sight. When we got home, we asked, ‘Why can’t we do this for other children?’ And Make-A-Wish was born. It started with in a bank account. There are now 60 chapters in the United States and Make-A-Wish International has 39 affiliates, serving children in nearly 50 countries on five continents. Over 480,000 wishes have been granted.
Shankwitz said, “Every 26 to 28 minutes a child gets a wish, because of one little boy. Never underestimate the difference one person can have on the world.”
More about Frank Shankwitz and the Make-A-Wish Foundation can be found in his memoir, Wish Man, which has also been developed into a movie by the same title, available on Netflix.
The Air Force recently updated evaluation policies for enlisted airmen, refining the process and requirements for enlisted performance reports.
The revised policies are in response to feedback from the field and are geared towards increasing flexibility for commanders and empowering performance within the enlisted corps.
“We are continuously making strides to reform our talent management system, including evaluating updates we previously made to the Enlisted Evaluation System,” said Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services. “Our focus is on making our system more agile, more responsive, simpler and more transparent to better meet the needs of our airmen and our Air Force.”
The updated policies will impact almost every active duty enlisted airman as well as those in the Guard and Reserve.
One of the more significant updates covers a long and widely debated subject. Under the new policy senior noncommissioned officers who complete an associate’s degree or “higher level degree from a nationally or regionally accredited academic institution” are eligible for promotion and senior rater stratification or endorsement consideration.
Prior to this update, only degrees obtained from the Community College of the Air Force could be considered for senior rater stratification and endorsement. Airmen should ensure completed degrees are updated in their personnel records in the Military Personnel Data System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
Another update focuses on equitability and streamlines the stratification process by removing ineligible airmen from the senior rater stratification pool. The previous policy allowed airmen with an approved high year of tenure, or HYT, retirement date to be factored into the senior rater’s endorsement allocations. For airmen reaching HYT, performance evaluations are also now considered optional.
An additional update authorizes the senior enlisted leader, previously only an advisor, to be a voting member of the Enlisted Forced Distribution Panel. In addition, the policy affords large units the ability to use the Enlisted Force Distribution Panel process. If a designated large unit chooses not to do so, the unit commander must publish and disseminate alternate procedures no later than the accounting date for each evaluation cycle to ensure transparency.
In yet another update, commanders now have authority to designate any number of non-rated days if they determine an airman “faced personal hardships during the reporting period.” The option provides commanders the agility to reflect periods of extenuating circumstances on annual evaluations without negatively impacting the airman.
Air Force senior leaders also made recommendations regarding referral evaluations. Currently, a report is automatically referred when “met some, but not all expectations” is selected on the AF Forms 910 and 911. To allow raters the opportunity to identify and document potential areas of improvement, these ratings will no longer be considered a mandatory referral enlisted performance report. This particular policy change will take effect in conjunction with the staff sergeant static close out date on Jan. 31, 2019.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright said the change to referral evaluation requirements allows raters to provide airmen with more honest, realistic feedback of their performance while, at the same time, allowing airmen more room to improve.
“Under the previous policy, if we set 100 expectations for an airman and they met or exceeded 99 of them but fell short on one, in essence we were saying they should be removed from promotion consideration,” Wright said. “That doesn’t align with our vision of talent management. We want supervisors and command teams to have the option to make decisions that make sense for our airmen, tailored to each individual situation.”
Wright added that providing this decision space for commanders aligns with the Air Force’s effort to revitalize squadrons and empower leaders.
Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.
It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.
And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.
It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.
Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.
The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.
“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”
Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”
Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.
All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.
On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.
“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”
Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.
In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.
According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.
About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.
There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.
Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.
Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.
Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”
“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.
Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.
“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”
President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.
But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.
Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.
The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.
There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.
“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.
US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.
(US Air Force)
While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.
“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.
“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”
Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.
That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.
Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”
“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.
The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.
(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)
Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.
Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.
In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.
Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”
“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”
Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.
“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”
“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Comfort is one of the last things in mind when the U.S. Navy designs a submarine. There’s little room to walk around, restrooms and showers are kept as cramped as possible to make room for ordnance and mechanics, and the perpetual lack of sunlight and fresh air will make you forget what time of the day it is.
Add all that up and you’ll quickly realize being deployed for months on end on a submarine is enough to make most people go crazy with cabin fever — but the submariners of the United States Navy are legitimate badasses, so they make due.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
An extra two hours of duty is nothing if it means not losing your freakin’ mind.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
There’s a certain flow that gets developed while underway. The lack of sunlight actually makes it easier on the human body to adapt to a new circadian rhythm, which makes splitting shifts a little easier. There’s a running joke among submariners that the only reliable way to tell the time it is by what the mess hall is cooking. If it’s waffles, it’s probably morning. If it’s leftovers, it’s definitely midnight.
The crew takes turns cycling through three eight-hour shifts: eight hours of sleep, eight hours of duty, and eight hours of free-time. Prior to 2014, submariners endured an 18-hour day that was split into three sections of six hours of each, but it was decided by the powers that be that shifting people off of a 24-hour cycle was a terrible idea for everyone’s sanity.
This 15 sq. foot rack can be all yours for the low, low price of a one enlistment contract!
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
When it comes to sleeping, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the racks resemble coffins. Stacked two high and barely arms-width apart, the only way you can get any kind of privacy is via a tiny, little curtain. If you can get used to that, great. If you can’t, well, sucks to be you…
The space for your personal belongings amounts to all of a single drawer under your rack and a cabinet above your pillow. To everyone else in the military, that’s about a duffel bag’s load of stuff to last you an average of 90 days. What this means is that you’ll usually take changes of uniforms, the occasional personal memento, and that’s about it.
Slackers, rejoice! You probably won’t be PTing that much while you’re underway. Just remember that PT standards still apply when you’re back on land, so there’s that…
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Khor)
After the submariner finishes their assigned watch, their time is their own until they head back to bed. They’ll often get called back for work or get stuck on some mind-numbing detail — but sometimes, it’s a nice break in the monotony.
Since you can’t really chill out in the living quarters if you’re lower rank, the preferred way to relax is to crowd into the mess hall and watch TV. New submarines are being fitted with internet access to give submariners something to do — but don’t expect speeds greater than old-school dial-up all the way down there. There are gyms on board, but you’ll have to stretch your definition of “gym” to mean two machines that are shared among the crew.
Life isn’t easy on a submarine. It’s not for everyone. But if you can endure the extensive training to earn your Submarine Warfare Insignia and knock out a deployment-at-sea in a cramped tin can, you’ve earned the right to be objectively cooler than (nearly) everyone else in the Navy.
We Are The Mighty is proud to support the release of ‘Hunter Killer,’ a submarine thriller starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman that hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.
The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.
As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.
Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”
Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.
President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.
Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.
“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”
Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”
By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.
Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.
This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.
The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.
“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.
Why does it matter?
The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.
Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.
The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.
What could happen next?
No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.
Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.
Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.
A US MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft was shot down over the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on October 1, US officials confirmed on Monday.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down the unmanned aircraft over the Jadar area on the northern outskirts of Sanaa. A military official was quoted by the Houthi-controlled SABA state news agency saying the army and various militias brought it down, though it was not immediately clear what weapons were used.
It crashed on the outskirts of the capital around 11 a.m. local time, according to Reuters. Video posted on Twitter by journalist and author Babak Taghvaee shows the drone hurtling toward the ground while on fire and captures a crowd gathering around the wreckage.
There were no reports of casualties from the crash, and Houthi rebels loaded what was left of the drone on to a pickup truck, according to Reuters.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft mostly used by the US Air Force.
It is primarily used for precision-strike and close-air-support missions and is capable of carrying Hellfire missiles and other guided bombs. It is also deployed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. It has a flight ceiling of up to 50,000 feet and a range of 1,150 miles.
US Army Maj. Earl Brown, a spokesman for US Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, confirmed that a Reaper drone was shot down in western Yemen. Brown provided few details, saying the incident was “under investigation.”
The Houthi rebels, who have allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and are backed by Iran, control much of northern Yemen, including the capital.
They are fighting a Saudi-led coalition — which includes Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait and is backed by intelligence, weapons, and logistics from the US — that is trying to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The US has increased its refueling support for Saudi aircraft since the conflict began in early 2015.
The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of violating international law with its bombing in Yemen. Houthi forces or their partners may have also committed war crimes.
More than 10,000 people have been killed during the conflict. Two million people have been displaced by the fighting, and 750,000 people are thought to have contracted cholera.
The US is also fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the region, launching raids and drone strikes against the group’s militants. It’s not known whether the drone downed on Sunday was supporting the Saudi-led coalition or targeting Al Qaeda fighters.
You’ve seen those photos from the Civil War era of generals loaded with facial hair. We’re talking mustaches that make the one legendary fighter pilot Robin Olds wore look puny and beards that were awesome AF.
For many decades, though, the beards have been verboten. This is because of World War I – or more specifically, the use of chemical weapons during World War I. The gas mask became a crucial piece of kit, and if you had a beard, the gas mask wouldn’t seal properly. This is not a good thing when the enemy uses anything from mustard to VX. In fact, to quote Egon Spengler, “It would be bad.”
According to the Army Times, though, that could be changing. One of the reasons is to accommodate some religions, notably Sikhs, who are forbidden to cut their hair. But another reason is the popularity achieved by special operations troops who have put the hurt on terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
And it’s not only “operator chic” that drives some to adopt the whiskered look. These days it seems if you’re a man under 35 and you don’t have tats and some facial shag, you just ain’t cool.
“Authorizing the wear of beards in the Army, in addition to approved religious accommodations policy, is a topic that soldiers have inquired about recently across the force,” Sgt. Major of the Army Dan Dailey said in a statement to the Army Times. “As of now, there are no plans to change the policy. Army leaders and researchers are currently reviewing the wear of beards by soldiers in the Army. Any potential change in policy will be made with careful consideration to the professionalism, standards, discipline, readiness and safety of all of our soldiers.”
The big hurdle, though, remains the fit of gas masks. The Army tested not only the current respirator, the M50 Joint Service General Purpose Mask, but also the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology and the gear worn by the chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives specialists in the Army.
“The baseline folks passed,” Lamar Garrett, of the Army Research Laboratory said. “Everyone else degraded in some form or another.”
“If we really wanted to do some serious analysis, we could look at what was the degradation of an individual with a beard that’s an inch-and-a-half, two inches, etc.,” Garrett added.
The Army Times note that the special operations troops have a specialized gas mask that does seal with beards, but the cost is very high – and the budget doesn’t have room for that to be sent to all soldiers.
At this time, the Soldier Research Development Engineering Center is doing more research into not only beards, but other forms of religious headgear and large amounts of hair. This first round of testing will go through June.