The Warrior Games trials have begun - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

The Warrior Games trials have begun

More than 120 wounded warriors from the Air Force and Army gathered March 1, 2019, to officially open the sixth annual Air Force Trials at Nellis Air Force Base.

The Air Force Trials, which run through March 7, 2019, are part of an adaptive and resiliency sports program designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the wounded, ill and injured service members who participate.


The Warrior Games trials have begun

Retired Capt. Rob Hufford, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program ambassador and athlete, celebrates as he is honored for his Invictus Games achievements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Paralympic-style competitive event showcases the resiliency of wounded warriors and highlights the effectiveness of adaptive sports as part of their recovery. It also highlights the impact the Wounded Warrior program, or AFW2, has in helping with the restorative care of wounded warriors enrolled in the program.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Members from the Air Force Wounded Warrior team pay respect to the flag during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

The Trials are also a test of the athletes’ resiliency, strength, and endurance, according to Col. Michael Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director.

“It’s vitally important for their recovery we rebuild their sense of purpose, their sense of self and their sense of confidence,” said Flatten, during remarks at the ceremony. “Everybody in the world is going to tell them what they can’t do, we’re here to tell them what they can.”

The Warrior Games trials have begun

A member of the U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue Parachute Team glides into the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The event features 10 different adaptive sports: powerlifting, cycling, wheelchair rugby, swimming, shooting, rowing, track and field, archery, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball.

The Air Force Trials is the primary selection location for the 40 primary and 10 alternate members of Team Air Force at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21-30, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey, Air Force Personnel Center command chief, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

“It’s an awesome day here at Nellis,” said Air Force Personnel Center command chief Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Lindsey. “The intent of this event is to promote the health, wellness and recovery of seriously wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans,” said Lindsey. “During these trials, participants will build comradery and confidence as they continue to recover.”

This year, the participants are made up of 53 active duty, 15 Air National Guard and Reserve and 72 Air Force veterans. Also attending the Trials are 32 caregivers, who play an important role in athlete care and recovery.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Col. Michael J. Flatten, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program director, speaks during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

During the ceremony, the athletes were recognized by service, the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Wings of Blue performed a parachute demonstration, two HH-60 Pave Hawks from the 66th Rescue Squadron flew a two-ship formation and the Trials torch, carried by Air Force members from the 2018 U.S. Invictus Team, was lit.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Athletes pose for a group photo during the 6th Annual Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials opening ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Corey Parrish)

The Trials are part of the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior program (AFW2), which is a congressionally mandated and federally funded organization administered by AFPC in San Antonio, Texas. The program includes recovery care coordinators, non-medical care managers, and other professionals who work with wounded warriors, their families and caregivers to guide them through various day-to-day challenges.

The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of the wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.

Articles

France’s operators are reportedly hunting French militants in Iraq

France’s special operators in Iraq are collecting intelligence on their own citizens and then distributing it to Iraqi forces, according to the Wall Street Journal. The intent appears to be ensuring that as few French citizens as possible learn to fight under ISIS tutelage and then conduct attacks at home.


France has suffered many ISIS-sponsored and ISIS-inspired international attack, including the attack in Nice in July 2016 that killed 84 and the 2015 Paris attack that killed 130.

An estimated 1,700 French citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and France has little reason to want any of them back. Gathering intelligence on the most dangerous of them and handing it over to the Iraqis is a convenient way to reduce the threat without violating French laws on extra-judicial killings.

The Warrior Games trials have begun
French TV news has reported that France’s special operations forces are embedded with Iraqi units. (Screen Grab from France 24 News)

The U.S. has killed Americans in drone strikes and firefights, but only one of them was specifically targeted. Anwar al-Awlaki was a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who preached a particularly anti-American and violent reading of Islam. He was targeted and killed in a drone strike in 2011.

France appears to be sidestepping the controversy that embroiled the Obama administration after the killing of al-Awlaki by outsourcing the dirty work.

Christophe Castaner, a French spokesman, responded to questions about the special operations with, “I say to all the fighters who join (Islamic State) and who travel overseas to wage war: Waging war means taking risks. They are responsible for those risks.”

Basically, the official spokesman equivalent of, “Bye, Felicia.”

The Warrior Games trials have begun
The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle sails in 2009. (Photo: U.S. Navy

France was historically reluctant to join the wars in the Middle East, participating in the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan but protesting America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But the rise of ISIS drew France deeper into the fight and Paris currently has large operations ongoing in North Africa and in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, France’s only aircraft carrier was en route to the Persian Gulf when the ISIS attack in Paris killed 130. The carrier was rerouted to the Mediterranean Sea where it concentrated its air strikes against ISIS forces in Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army needs to speed up its future weapons programs

American playwright Arthur Miller once observed that an era has reached its end “when its basic illusions are exhausted.”


Congress, the defense industry, academia, and the U.S. Army all believe the Pentagon must fundamentally change the culture and performance of its acquisition enterprise after decades of tweaks and inertia.

Since Vietnam, the most significant reform to the Defense Department, the United States Army, and Army Acquisition Enterprise was the Goldwater-Nichols DOD Reorganization Act of 1986. It changed who controlled budgets, project management, research and development, and aspects of modernization. Since then, numerous institutional adaptations and reorganizations have been initiated, many of which have led to familiar conditions: cumbersome spans of control; complex communication and procedural (bureaucratic) structures; difficulty prioritizing competitive programs and budget requirements; decreased accountability and effectiveness; and, disconnects between futures and acquisition procurement strategies, to name a few.

For the Army, those conditions materialized into “a lost decade of procurement” marked by, “reductions in modernization, procurement, and RDTE funding”; and a “wave of [OSD] requirements,” according to Lt. Gen. Mike Murray, Army Deputy Chief of Staff (G-8). While the present Army reorganization should address many of these concerns, a critical purpose of any new command, regardless of structure, is to obtain a central authority for translating futures and modernization activities into a smart acquisition strategy; activities that haven’t been under a single command since 1940.

The Warrior Games trials have begun
The Pentagon. (Photo by David B. Gleason)

With Futures Command

While the existing structure managed victory on global battlefields from Grenada to present operations, the U.S. Army has determined that long-delayed reforms in acquisitions require the most significant reorganization of modernization functions in 40 years. Because the overmatch our Army has enjoyed for the last 70 years is closing quickly across all domains of warfare, it is clearly understood that early successes are going to be essential for the new Army Futures Command.

While some may think this new command is a strategy of creating a new bureaucracy to address bureaucratic cultural concerns, the new command will be challenged to:

  • Streamline the requirements process, which averages three to five years, and major weapons systems development, which averages 10 years. A major contributing factor for such lengthy delays is the current command structure requires dozens of flag officer board and committee hearings within multiple multi-star command to approve requirements (if one includes the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System).
  • Overcome a risk-averse acquisition culture optimized for individual and organizational outcomes within stove-piped organizations, thus requiring synchronization at HQDA level.
  • Provide a vision-to-victory or futures strategy that alleviates tensions between present requirements and future readiness.
  • Improve integration of operational concepts into acquisition strategies, presently determined and developed by multiple disjointed multi-star commands. At present, there is no single point of contact (command) with ownership of futures to formulate consensus on a long-term procurement strategy within the United States Army.
  • Overcome the stale reforms and existing RD structure by leverage industries leadership of advanced technologies and modernization in order to decrease procurement and acquisition timelines, increase innovation, and, address cultural “contrast in approaches to research and development that differentiates defense firms from their commercial counterparts.”
  • Improve and balance the research and development strategy; establish conditions for a “succeed-fast” and “fail-fast” strategy throughout the defense acquisition life cycle.
  • Elevate the confidence of stakeholders, particularly Congress, in our ability to manage major Army defense acquisition programs. For the Army, recent “failures” have cost tax payers billions and are the most obvious reason why oversight and authorities is overly centralized (by Congress). Since 2011 alone, the Army has ended 20 programs, delayed 125 and restructured 124 others.
  • and, ultimately, establish a wartime acquisition enterprise capable of rapid adaptability to threat capabilities today and in the future.

On this last point, recent acquisition enterprise efforts to synchronize and create a shared visualization stem from a current state assessment that “acquisition’s underlying problems are exacerbated during conflict, when warfighters are in harm’s way. Therefore, the natural tendency has been to work around the system rather than fix it,” according to a previous Army Futures Studies Group cohort. Reflecting on these truths, the Army has determined that now is the time to fix the system, as “wartime adaptation against a peer adversary will require capability generation to be exponentially faster than it was for recent operations”, according to Maj. Hassan Kamara of the Army Future Studies Group.

So the Army has started its most significant organizational redesign in four decades to meet futures and modernization challenges to do its part. Let’s look at how it got here.

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Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Piggee and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey (Image via HQDA G-4’s Facebook Page)

A Short History of the Army’s Modernization and Futures Enterprise

Since the dawn of World War II, the Army has maintained a flexible organizational structure to meet significant overseas and continental commitments and challenges. Hundreds of congressional panels, committee hearings, and operational research projects have created new commands to address niche requirements but rarely resulted in the birth of a major command.

Of relevance to the present era, the first significant organizational overhaul was in 1940, when the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the United States Army was established. The GHQ struggled to manage training, support, modernization, and ground combat functions. In 1942, these functions were separated when the War Department reorganized itself and assumed command and control over ground combat troops and formed Army Ground Forces (AGF) command which assumed responsibility for training troops.

At the end of the war Congressional and industrial committees and boards reformed the War Department and the Army. Unfortunately, a mix of incremental and disruptive structural alterations was implemented which left the service with an uncoordinated command structure and in need of significant reorganization by 1955, when the Davies Committee formed the Continental Army Command (CONARC) which assumed command and control of ground forces and training functions.

Almost immediately, various panels recognized CONARCs structural challenges as the Cold War stressed the nation’s resources, but most recommendations went ignored throughout the remainder of the decade. By 1962, following the Hoelscher and Traub Congressional Committees, the Army was thoroughly reorganized. The Technical and Administrative Services; all support functions were centralized under Army Materiel Command; and the Combat Developments Command (CDC) were created under Continental Army Command (CONARC) to support modernization.

Within a decade CONARC’s span of control had become a significant concern and Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army Chief of Staff, initiated Operation STEADFAST under Lt. Gen. William DuPuy to fix it.

Also Read: The Army’s ‘Hard Kill’ tank defenses are a high-tech upgrade

Operation STEADFAST led to the creation of Forces Command (FORSCOM) and Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), the latter assuming control of training centers, Army schools, and doctrine development and CONARC was abolished. Later that same year, TRADOC assumed the mission for modernization and CDC was deactivated. As a result of this restructuring, similar to today, modernization and research development (RD) activities were scattered among major commands but all other functions were represented by a major command.

While significant structural change has occurred since 1973, they have not fundamentally changed how TRADOC and AMC function.

Key challenges we’re dealing with now, like the construct, function, and institutional integration of Futures Command, which were factors in the failures of structural changes in the past, must be clearly understood. There is never a time in the Army where a need to repair something structural isn’t required. Therefore, considering historical examples above, the question we must ask today is, are we in need of “incremental” or “disruptive” reform?  If “disruptive” change is in the cards, the alignment of forces, sustainment, training, and combat developments (or modernization) functions within streamlined commands is one potential course of action. However, what the Army is ready for, what the specific content of the reform will be, and its tolerance levels for disruption while heavily engaged in current operations are yet to be determined. If history is any guide, this will be determined based on whether or not senior defense leaders perceive the current state as one in crisis or this is just an opportune time for reform.

It is clear that any new modernization command must demonstrate value to industry, academia, research and development communities within and external to the U.S. Army, but, even more so to the warfighters whose equipment readiness is one of four pillars of readiness.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sister of missing Fort Hood soldier seeks answers

With each passing hour, Mayra Guillen is consumed by one thought: Will Vanessa be found today?

“I don’t even know what’s keeping me going,” Mayra said. “Sometimes I don’t get hungry. I have my days when I feel like giving up, but then I think about it and I say, ‘What if I’m a step away? What if tomorrow’s the day?”’


Army Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, Mayra’s younger sister, has been missing since April 22 at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. Guillen, 20, was last seen in the parking lot of her squadron headquarters, wearing a black T-shirt and purple “fitness-type” pants. Guillen is of Hispanic descent. She is 5 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs 126 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) is working with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. More than 150 people have been interviewed, and ground and air searches have been conducted, the CID said.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Along with her barracks room key, ID card and wallet, Guillen’s car keys were discovered the day she disappeared in the armory room where she was working, the CID said.

“We are completely committed to finding Vanessa and aggressively going after every single piece of credible information and every lead in this investigation,” Chris Grey, CID chief of public affairs, said in a news release this week. “We will not stop until we find Vanessa.”

The CID is offering a reward up to ,000 in its search for Guillen, whose case has drawn the attention of, among others, actress Salma Hayek.

“We will maintain our resolve to locate Pfc. Vanessa Guillen and will continue our efforts until she is found,” Col. Ralph Overland, 3rd Calvary Regiment commander at Fort Hood, said in a separate news release.

A team of investigators at Fort Hood will look into allegations that Guillen was being sexually harassed, it was announced Thursday.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

Searches are ongoing for missing Soldier Pfc. Vanessa Guillén. Troopers from Thunder Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, receive a brief prior to going out on searches recently in the training area at Fort Hood, Texas. (Army courtesy photo.)

Guillen, the second-oldest of six children, was raised in Houston. As a child, she loved playing soccer and running. The medals from her races would hang in her room.

Vanessa and Mayra traded turns doing each other’s hair and makeup. Mayra was not surprised when Vanessa enlisted.

“She knew right away she wasn’t suited to work in an office or something in an environment where you have to sit down, just be still,” Mayra said. “She’s really active, so when she started looking up about joining the Army, she saw a future there. She wanted to represent the country, have some type of honor because you have to honor and respect our soldiers.”

Vanessa was taking online classes and planned to study kinesiology, the science of human movement.

Investigators said they do not believe that Guillen’s disappearance is related to the case of PV2 Gregory Morales, who had not been seen since last Aug. 19. Morales’ remains were found Friday in a field in Killeen. An autopsy is pending.

Anyone with information about Guillen is asked to go online at https://www.cid.army.mil/report-a-crime.html or contact Army CID Special Agents at 254-287-2722 or the Military Police Desk at 254-288-1170.

“It’s something that I still can’t accept,” Mayra said. “I still can’t believe this happened, and I’m having to deal with it. … I still honestly believe that she’s alive and she’s waiting to be found, and by the grace of God, it’s going to happen.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

Stolen valor: Marine steals another combat vet’s Purple Heart story

A former Southern California Marine has been handed a 21-month federal sentence for faking a Purple Heart and lifting from another Marine’s combat story to get disability benefits and a free house.


In a rare prosecution under the 2013 Stolen Valor Act, a 35-year-old Iraq war veteran will also have to pay back more than $300,000 to the U.S. government and a Texas charity.

Brandon Blackstone served with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment out of Twentynine Palms in the Mojave Desert in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in August, during a period of fierce fighting on the Syrian border.

The Warrior Games trials have begun

So did Casey Owens, another 1/7 Marine.

But that’s where the similarities in the two Marines’ stories end — and where Blackstone’s fabrications began.

Prosecutors and fellow Marines say Blackstone fashioned a tale of blast injuries and combat stress based on a horrific explosion that nearly killed Owens and cost him both of his legs.

Owens was in a Humvee that triggered a double anti-mine bomb while responding to a downed U.S. serviceman in September 2004.

Blackstone was in the area and likely witnessed the event. But he wasn’t injured in that attack — or in any other combat incident — according to people who were there, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Texas, and Blackstone’s own lawyer.

In fact, he was evacuated from Iraq after a month with appendicitis.

Also read: This is how the Pentagon had over 120,000 extra Purple Heart medals

But starting at least in 2006, Blackstone began spinning a story of suffering traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his Humvee hit a mine in Iraq.

He even fabricated two witness statements to support his claim for U.S. Veterans Affairs Department disability benefits that he received from 2006 to 2015, prosecutors said.

Worse, in the eyes of his fellow Marines, he began showing the photograph of Owens’ mangled Humvee as part of his story about how he was wounded.

“This scumbag lied to try to get s–t. You don’t do that. It’s not honorable. It’s not how we are. It’s personal for me, especially, as a friend of Casey’s,” said Andrew Rothman, a 1/7 Navy corpsman who was a key player in exposing Blackstone’s fraud.

“This kid essentially stole from all of us. And the honor part is bigger to us than the money and the house.”

Blackstone was awarded a 100 percent disability rating and, by claiming to have a Purple Heart, his application for a mortgage-free house was granted by Texas-based Military Warriors Support Foundation.

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The Purple Heart is one of the most recognized and respected medals awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, Owens tried to make the best of his life with a double leg amputation and brain injuries, among other medical complications. He moved to Aspen and competed as a Paralympics skier.

But Owens was still in pain. He did national TV interviews describing how he struggled to get the care he needed for his mental and physical wounds. His right leg required additional surgeries that took more of it away.

In October 2014, Owens used a gun to kill himself.

But things for Blackstone were going well. He became a mentor at a Missouri-based veterans charity, Focus Marines Foundation. He even started his own nonprofit group, called The Fight Continues, with two other post-Sept. 11 veterans.

But those brushes with others in the veterans community led to his downfall. His story, including video testimonials he was giving about his combat injuries, didn’t sit right with other 1/7 Marines who dedicated a Facebook thread to discussing it.

Related: Not all PTSD diagnoses are created equal

Eventually, Rothman tipped off the Warriors Support charity that was poised to grant Blackstone the deed to the donated house.

Blackstone pleaded guilty in September to one count of wire fraud and one count of fraudulent representation about the receipt of a military decoration for financial gain.

At his sentencing last month, a federal judge in Texas called Blackstone “shameful,” but gave him credit for accepting blame for his actions. Sentencing guidelines limited his incarceration to 27 months or less, according to news reports. His was given credit for time served since February, so he will serve 18 more months.

Blackstone’s defense lawyer, Justin Sparks, said his client was diagnosed with PTSD and suffered a head injury in Iraq — but not in combat.

The head wound happened when a superior roughed him up in the barracks and he hit his head on a dresser. There were other injuries while in uniform that weren’t related to combat but required surgery, Sparks said. While in the hospital, a higher-ranking Marine informally gave Blackstone a Purple Heart medal to acknowledge his pain — but it wasn’t an official award.

There’s no explaining why Blackstone lied about the Purple Heart or applied for the free home, knowing he wasn’t qualified, the former Marine’s lawyer told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“There’s not really a good answer for that. He was in a very, very tough time in his life and reached a pitfall there,” Sparks said this week.

Sparks said his client seemed to lose his grasp on reality as the story spun on.

There’s a symptom of PTSD where you are living your life in the third person. You’re always convincing yourself about what is reality,” he said. “It’s almost a coping mechanism.”

Sparks said his client is still rated at 70 percent disabled by the VA.

The lawyer disagreed that Blackstone was appropriating Casey Owens’ story.

“Brandon never claimed his lost his legs,” Sparks said. “The only common elements in the two stories are PTSD, the Purple Heart, and head injuries. There must be at least 1,000-plus soldiers who have those three things.”

Blackstone’s fellow troops don’t buy the PTSD explanation for his behavior. Several of them also were disappointed by his sentence.

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A Marine salutes the memorial stand for his fallen brother. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“He was in the grip of his own lies,” said Eric Calley, a former Marine who used his own money to start The Fight Continues with Blackstone.

“That judge should be ashamed. I think (Blackstone) deserves a life sentence for what he did to our veterans.”

Lezleigh Owens Kleibrink, Owens’ sister, said her family was hoping for closure from a tougher sentence but didn’t get it.

Kleibrink said she has no doubts that Blackstone was trying to at least bask in the association with her brother’s reputation.

“He was a thief and Casey’s story was a means to get what he wanted,” she told the San Diego Union-Tribune this week.

Further reading: Here are the criteria that entitle a service member to the Purple Heart

“What Brandon doesn’t understand is that it’s ripped open our wounds once again,” Kleibrink said. “Anyone who makes my mother cry like this … He may have joined the Corps, but he was no Marine.”

The Military Warriors Support Foundation said it was the charity’s first brush with stolen valor in awarding more than 750 homes to combat-wounded veterans.

“This was an unusual case, in that even official VA documentation was inaccurate,” said spokesman Casey Kinser. “That said, we are constantly reviewing our processes to vet our applicants more accurately and efficiently.”

The Fort Worth-area house that Blackstone nearly owned has been awarded to another Marine family.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Navy fooled the Russians before the US struck Syria

When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.

Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.


In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.

But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.

When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.

The Warrior Games trials have begun
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Black Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)

Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.

But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.

Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.

Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)

Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.

“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”

Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.

Articles

More than a dozen US troops trapped amid Afghanistan firefight

The Warrior Games trials have begun
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor


More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.

A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.

“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.

A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.

The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.

The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.

An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.

Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team.  One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.

The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.

The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.

There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.

“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.

“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.

The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VP open to the new Space Force using orbital weapons

If officials can advocate for reusable rockets to deliver cargo to troops from space ports, perhaps more firepower in space is possible, too.

Vice President Mike Pence on Oct. 23, 2018, didn’t immediately rule out positioning nuclear weapons in space sometime in the future. In a conversation with the Washington Post during its “Transformers: Space” summit, Pence was asked if the United States was looking to renegotiate the terms of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which currently bans “weapons of mass destruction,” but still allows for conventional weapons in orbit.


“That treaty…doesn’t ban military activity,” Pence said. “It gives nations a fair amount of flexibility in operating in their security interests in outer space. At this time we don’t see any need to amend the treaty, but as time goes forward, the hope that we could continue to see outer space as a domain where peace will reign will require military presence.”

Post reporter Robert Costa, who interviewed Pence onstage at the forum, asked him if he thought nuclear weapons should be banned from space.

“They are now,” Pence replied.

“Should they always be banned from space?” Costa said.

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A SpaceX “flight proven” first stage booster successfully lands on Landing Zone 1, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Dec. 15, 2017.

(SpaceX photo)

“Well, look. I think what we need to do is make sure that we provide for the common defense of the people of the United States of America. And that’s the president’s determination here,” Pence replied. “What we want to do is continue to advance the principle that peace comes through strength.”

The vice president on Oct. 23, 2018, headlined a few events to promote plans for the Trump administration’s proposed Space Force, intended to be the sixth military branch.

Following his appearance at the Post, Pence convened a meeting of the National Space Council at Fort McNair, where cabinet secretaries, members of the national space and security councils, and policy officials discussed recommendations to begin forming the Department of the Space Force.

Echoing a plan Pence unveiled at the Pentagon in August 2018, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Defense Department would move to:

  • Establish the creation of a unified space command, known as U.S. Space Command
  • Direct a legislative proposal for a Space Force for the White House to review
  • Form a budget request proposal to include Space Force elements in the fiscal year 2020 budget Review various space agency authorities to understand and streamline chain-of-command
  • Establishes the Space Development Agency for new satellite and technology procurement
  • Strengthen relationships between the new military space branch and the intelligence community

The recommendations, approved unanimously in the meeting, will eventually be woven into Space Policy Directive-4, known as SPD-4, Space News reported.

When SPD-4 may be signed by the president was not disclosed, even though members of the Pentagon have been waiting to discuss the directive for some months, Military.com reported last week.

During the two-hour meeting, the conferees heard from Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy; Mark Sirangelo, an “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the University of Colorado Boulder’s aerospace engineering program and former head of Sierra Nevada Corporation’s space business; and Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, Deputy Commander of U.S. Cyber Command.

All were in favor of establishing a Space Force. McLaughlin, however, stressed interoperability and warned of bureaucratic overlap.

“I think you undermine the need for a department if you try to create a combatant command with service-like authorities,” McLaughlin said. “We have to be careful about these three entities not overlapping, and drawing clear lines.”

According to a report from DefenseOne, the Pentagon already has some lines drawn.

Current space operations conducted by bases that belong to Air Force Space Command, the Army‘s 1st Space Brigade, the Navy‘s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and the Naval Satellite Operations Center will all be absorbed into the Space Force, according to plans.

Space Force will not initially include “the transfer of [the] strategic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance mission of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),” the 13-page memo said, as reported by DefenseOne Monday. Whether the intelligence agency will be incorporated at a later date remains to be seen.

“It was not easy to do this,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “But we are moving out.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

After ‘Brexit,’ UK might need to move nukes from Scotland

As the rest of the world processes the fact that the U.K. is now leaving the European Union, there’s a real chance that Scotland might leave the U.K and take the base where the U.K. maintains an arsenal of 160 deployed nuclear warheads on 58 Trident missiles with them.


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The ballistic missile submarine HMS ‘Vanguard’ alongside the ‘Type 45’ destroyer HMS ‘Dragon’ in 2010. Royal Navy photo

Many Scottish politicians supported leaving the U.K. in a 2014 referendum that was defeated in an approximately 45 percent vs. 55 percent vote. The “Yes” camp, which asked voters to say, “Yes, Scotland should be an independent country,” pledged to get rid of Britain’s nuclear submarines within the first term of a Scottish president. When the measure was defeated, it allowed the Royal Navy to breathe a sigh of relief. But the issue is coming around again.

While the U.K. as a whole narrowly voted to leave the EU on Jun. 23 in the “Brexit” referendum, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay. Every single council area in Scotland, roughly similar to a precinct in the U.S., voted in favor of the EU and 62 percent of the popular vote was for staying in. That has led Scottish politicians who backed the first Scottish independence referendum to call for a new vote.

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That will leave voters trying to decide whether to remain part of the EU, which 62 percent of the Scottish population supported, or to remain part of Britain, which only 55 percent of the population supported. While there’s no guarantee that Scotland would leave if a new referendum is held, it is likely that a “Yes” vote would force Britain to move all four of its nuclear submarines to a new base. And that would be a huge problem.

Estimates in 2014 said that it would take Britain 10 years and 3 billion pounds that it doesn’t have to relocate the base. So, the Royal Navy began looking at alternatives. The best and easiest for the U.K. would be if they could negotiate a deal to lease the base from Scotland, but that would likely fail since many members of the independence movement want all nuclear weapons off Scottish soil. The next best option would be for England to send all their warheads, their sub crews, and the submarines themselves to Georgia. Yes, that Georgia, the state just north of Florida.

American politicians promised support of the plan in 2014. If it came up again in 2017, there’s a decent chance Congress would go for it since the British nuclear deterrent is part of the NATO nuclear deterrent. Besides that, Britain has few options. France could be a possibility, assuming that the French people don’t take Brexit too personally. Britain’s strong status in NATO could potentially get it four parking spots in a Baltic port, but then it would have the constant headache of its submarines being within range of a Russian invasion.

It’s still too early to tell if Scotland will actually vote to leave, especially since its admittance into the EU would not be guaranteed. If it did leave the U.K. over Brexit though, the Royal Navy would be facing a list of bad options.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The freak accident that saved a carrier at Pearl Harbor

Most Americans know the story of Pearl Harbor, how the Japanese planes descended from the clouds and attacked ship after ship in the harbor, hitting the floating fortresses of battleship row, damaging drydocks, and killing more than 2,300 Americans. But the most coveted targets of the attack were the aircraft carriers thankfully absent. Except one was supposed to be there that morning with a future fleet admiral on board, and they were both saved by a freak accident at sea.


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The USS Shaw explodes on December 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack.

(U.S. Navy)

Vice Adm. William Halsey, Jr., was a tough and direct man. And in November 1941, he was given a top-secret mission to ferry 12 Marine F4F Hellcats to Wake Island under the cover of an exercise. Wake Island is closer to Japan than Hawaii, and Washington didn’t want Japan to know the Marines were being reinforced.

The mission was vital, but also dangerous. Halsey knew that Japan was considering war with the U.S., and he knew that Japan had a long history of beginning conflicts with sneak attacks. He was so certain that a war with Japan was coming, that he ordered his task force split into two pieces. The slower ships, including his three battleships, were sent to conduct the naval exercise.

Halsey took the carrier Enterprise, three heavy cruisers, and nine destroyers as “Task Force 8” to deliver the planes. And those 13 ships would proceed “under war conditions,” according to Battle Order No. 1, signed by the Enterprise captain but ordered by Halsey.

All torpedoes were given warheads, planes were armed with their full combat load, and gunners were prepared for combat. Halsey had checked, and there were no plans for allied or merchant shipping in his path, so he ordered his planes to sink any ship sighted and down any plane.

If Task Force 8 ran into a group of ships, they would assume they were Japanese and start the war themselves. That’s not hyperbole, according to Halsey after the war:

Comdr. William H. Buracker, brought [the orders] to me and asked incredulously, “Admiral, did you authorize this thing?”
“Yes.”
“Do you realize that this means war?”
“Yes.”
Bill protested, “Goddammit, Admiral, you can’t start a private war of your own! Who’s going to take the responsibility?”
I replied, “I’ll take it! If anything gets in my way, we’ll shoot first and argue afterwards.”
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The USS Enterprise sails in October 1941 with its scout planes overhead.

(U.S. Navy)

Equipped, prepared, and looking for a war, Halsey and his men sailed until they got within range of Wake Island on December 4, dispatched the Marines, and then headed for home.

There is an interesting question here about whether it would have been better if Task Force 8 had met with the Japanese force at sea. It would surely have been eradicated, sending all 13 ships to the bottom, likely with all hands. But it would have warned Pearl of the attack, and might have sunk a Japanese ship or two before going down. And, the Japanese fleet was ordered to return home if intercepted or spotted before December 5.

But the worst case scenario would’ve been if Task Force 8 returned to Pearl on its scheduled date, December 6. The plan was to send most of the sailors and pilots ashore for leave or pass, giving Japan one of its prime carrier targets as well as additional cruisers to sink during the December 7 attack.

Luckily, a fluke accident occurred at sea. A destroyer had split a seam in rough seas, delaying the Task Force 8 arrival until, at best, 7:30 on December 7. A further delay during refueling pushed the timeline further right to noon.

Because of that single, slightly odd occurrence, 13 less ships, including one of America’s most valuable carriers, were present when the Japanese attack began. And the Japanese pilots were looking for the three carriers assigned to Pearl. As Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mitsuo Fuchida later described his arrival with the first wave:

I peered intently through my binoculars at the ships riding peacefully at anchor. One by one I counted them. Yes, the battleships were there all right, eight of them! But our last lingering hope of finding any carriers present was now gone. Not one was to be seen.
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USS Enterprise sailors watch as “scores” go up on a board detailing the ship and its pilots combat exploits.

(U.S. Navy)

And the Enterprise would go on to fight viciously for the U.S. in the war. Halsey spent December 7-8 looking for a fight. While it couldn’t make contact in those early moments of the war, it would find earn 20 battle stars in the fighting. It was instrumental to the victories at Midway, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, the Philippine Sea, and Leyte Gulf.

It suffered numerous strikes, but always returned to the fight. Its crew earned the Presidential Unit Citation and the Navy Unit Commendation. The ship, and much of the crew, survived the war. But the Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947.

Two great articles, linked above, were instrumental in writing this article. But a hat tip also goes out to Walter R. Borneman whose book The Admirals inspired this piece.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA and DoD Identification Card Renewal and Issuance Guidance During the Coronavirus Pandemic

VA and the Department of Defense (DoD) have taken action to minimize the number of non-essential required visits to identification (ID) card offices during the coronavirus public health emergency. If you have a VA or DoD ID card that has expired or is getting ready to expire, here are your options.


VA-issued Veteran Health Identification Cards (VHIC):

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans enrolled in VA health care who are seeking a brand new VHIC (initial) should contact their local VA medical facility for guidance on going to facility to request a card. Once issued, cards are valid for 10 years.
  • Most Veterans will be able obtain a replacement VHIC (not initial VHIC) by contacting their local VA medical facility and making their request by phone, or they can call 877-222-8387, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET. Once their identity has been verified, a replacement card will be mailed to them.

DoD-issued ID Cards:

Detailed information concerning DoD ID Card operations during the coronavirus pandemic can be found at the DoD Response to COVID-19 – DoD ID Cards and Benefits webpage (https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus).

For all information regarding DoD-issued ID cards, please contact the Defense Manpower Data Center Identity and ID Card Policy Team at dhracacpolicy@mail.mil. Limited information follows:

Common Access Cards (CAC) (including military and civilian personnel):

  • DoD civilian cardholders who are transferring jobs within DoD are authorized to retain their active CAC.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC is within 30 days of expiration may update their certificates online to extend the life of the CAC through Sept. 30, 2020, without having to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissue. Directions for this procedure may be found at https://www.CAC.mil/coronavirus under News and Updates / User Guide – Updating CAC/VoLAC Certificates.
  • Cardholders whose DoD-issued CAC has expired will have to visit a DoD ID card office in person for reissuance. Visit http://www.dmdc.osd.mil/rsl to find a DoD ID card office near you and schedule an appointment at https://rapids-appointments.dmdc.osd.mil.

DoD-issued Uniformed Services ID Cards (USID) (including Reservist, military retiree, 100% disabled Veteran, and authorized dependent ID cards):

  • Expiration dates on USID cards will be automatically extended to Sept. 30, 2020, within DEERS for cardholders whose affiliation with DoD has not changed but whose USID card has expired after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Sponsors of USID card holders may make family member enrollment and eligibility updates remotely.
  • Initial issuance for first-time USID card-eligible individuals may be done remotely with an expiration date of one year from date of issue. The minimum age for first-time issuance for eligible family members has been temporarily increased from 10 to 14 years of age.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran-backed fighters ‘killed’ in Syria air strikes after Iraq base attack

Air strikes in eastern Syria have killed 26 fighters from an Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group following a deadly attack on U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Iraq.


The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the March 12 strikes near the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal were probably carried out by the coalition.

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But a spokesman for the coalition said in an statement to AFP that it “did not conduct any strikes in Syria or Iraq last night.”

Later in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mike Esper blamed Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia groups for the attack on the coalition at the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

But he did not confirm whether the U.S. or its allies had carried out the eastern Syria attack.

However, Esper said that “all options are on the table” as Washington and its allies try to bring those responsible for the attack, which killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier and wounded a dozen others when a barrage of Katyusha rockets were launched from a truck later discovered several kilometers from Camp Taji.

Syrian state media reported that in the attack in eastern Syria, unidentified jets hit targets southeast of Albu Kamal with only material damage.

However, the Observatory said camps of the Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias, were hit in the strikes, which came after a rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base, located less than 30 kilometers north of Baghdad.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “underscored that those responsible for the [Camp Taji] attacks must be held accountable,” the State Department said of a phone call between the two.

Iraq’s military said caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi ordered an investigation into what he called “a very serious security challenge and hostile act.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but the United States has accused Iran-backed militias of previous attacks on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told a Senate hearing that the attack was being investigated.

But he noted that Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah “the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against U.S. civilian and coalition forces in such an incident Iraq.”

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upload.wikimedia.org

U.S. President Donald Trump on March 12 said it had not been fully determined whether Iran, which has backed a number of anti-U.S. militia groups in neighboring Iraq, was responsible for the Katyusha attack.

Washington blamed that militia for a strike in December that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led U.S. President Donald Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.

In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

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

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