The “Mach Loop” in northwest Wales provides a perfect vantage point to watch fighter jets and other aircraft blitz through steep-sided valleys at almost eye level.
Amateur photographer Elwyn Roberts caught what appear to be U.S. Air Force F-15 fighters from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath — home to the U.S. Air Force in Europe’s only F-15 fighter wing — making some thunderous passes through the Loop’s snow-capped mountains.
Aviation enthusiasts and photographers flock to the area, nicknamed the Mach Loop after the town at the southern end of the circuit, Machynlleth, where roughly 1,000-meter-tall mountains make it possible for all kinds of aircraft to make low-level passes.
A former medic with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) that heroically fought his way up a mountain to render aid to his Special Forces teammates and their Afghan commando counterparts will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced Sept. 21, 2018, that former Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II went above and beyond the call of duty April 6, 2008, while assigned to Special Operations Task Force – 33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 1, 2018.
In April 2008, Shurer was assigned to support Special Forces operators working to take out high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley.
As the team navigated through the valley, a firefight quickly erupted, and a series of insurgent sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenades, and small arms and machine gun fire forced the unit into a defensive fighting position.
Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II graphic.
Around that time, Shurer received word that their forward assault element was also pinned down at another location, and the forward team had sustained multiple casualties.
With disregard for his safety, Shurer moved quickly through a hail of bullets toward the base of the mountain to reach the pinned-down forward element. While on the move, Shurer stopped to treat a wounded teammate’s neck injury caused by shrapnel from a recent RPG blast.
Staff Sgt. Ronald J. Shurer II.
After providing aid, Shurer spent the next hour fighting across several hundred meters and killing multiple insurgents. Eventually, Shurer arrived to support the pinned down element and immediately rendered aid to four critically wounded U.S. units and 10 injured commandos until teammates arrived.
Soon after their arrival, Shurer and his team sergeant were shot at the same time. The medic ran 15 meters through a barrage of gunfire to help his sergeant. Despite a bullet hitting his helmet and a gunshot wound to his arm, Shurer pulled his teammate to cover and rendered care.
Medal of Honor.
(US Army photo.)
Moments later, Shurer moved back through heavy gunfire to help sustain another teammate that suffered a traumatic amputation to his right leg.
For the next several hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.
Shurer also helped evacuate three critically wounded, non-ambulatory, teammates down a near-vertical 60-foot cliff, all while avoiding rounds of enemy gunfire and falling debris caused by numerous air strikes.
Further, Shurer found a run of nylon webbing and used it to lower casualties while he physically shielded them from falling debris.
Shurer’s Medal of Honor was upgraded from a Silver Star upon review.
When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.
President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?
Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News
In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.
So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?
Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.
“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”
See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.
In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.
Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.
In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.
Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).
Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.
But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.
We sent our “Vet On The Street,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, CA. to find out if people could name the official title of the Afghanistan War. Check out the result here:
Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.
Please help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.
China is taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand. The Chinese regime in Beijing is upset over reports that Japan is considering adapting their Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers” to operate the F-35B Lightning.
According to a report by UPI, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to “do more that may help enhance mutual trust and promote regional peace and stability.” China and Japan have a long-running maritime, territorial dispute centering around the Senkaku Islands.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a sister ship to the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, and is building a copy of that ship along with plans to build four larger carriers, two of which are to be nuclear-powered. Japan, presently, has two Izumo-class vessels in service, as well as two Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers” that are smaller than the Izumo-class ships.
If Japan were to modify the Izumo-class ships to operate F-35s, the cost could be huge. The vessels need modifications to their magazines to carry the weapons the F-35s use. Furthermore, the decks would need to be re-done to handle the hot exhaust from the F-35’s F135 engine.
The US is warning the Philippines to think very carefully about its plan to purchase military equipment from Russia, including diesel-electric submarines, and stressing that Russia is an unsavory partner.
The Philippines, a US ally in East Asia, is interested in acquiring its first batch of submarines to strengthen the navy amid tensions with China in the South China Sea. Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in June 2018 that his country needs submarines to keep up with neighboring states.
“We are the only ones that do not have [undersea capabilities],” Lorenzana explained at a flag raising ceremony, the Manila Times reported. “We are looking at [South] Korea and Russia and other countries [as source of the submarines],” he further revealed. Russia is reportedly willing to sell the Philippines Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines and offering soft loans if the Philippines cannot afford the desired vessels.
“I think they should think very carefully about that,” Randall Schriver, United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said in Manila Aug. 16, 2018. “If they were to proceed with purchasing major Russian equipment, I don’t think that’s a helpful thing to do [in our] alliance, and I think ultimately we can be a better partner than the Russians can be.”
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
“We have to understand the nature of this regime in Russia. I don’t need to go through the full laundry list: Crimea, Ukraine, the chemical attack in the UK,” he added, “So, you’re investing not only in the platforms, but you’re making a statement about a relationship.”
Schriver encouraged the Philippines to consider purchasing US systems, as interoperability is key to cooperation between US and Philippine forces. After his meeting with Schriver, Lorenzana reportedly flew to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials, according to the Philippine Star.
During his time in Manila, Schriver assured the Philippines that the US would be a “good ally” and have its back in the spat with China over the South China Sea. “We’ll be a good ally … there should be no misunderstanding or lack of clarity on the spirit and the nature of our commitment,” he said at a time when the Philippines is charting an independent foreign policy that is less aligned with US interests.
The US has been putting pressure on allies and partners to avoid purchasing Russian weapons systems. Turkey’s interest in purchasing Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system recently tanked a deal for the acquisition of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter. The US has also issued warnings to India, Saudi Arabia, and others to reconsider plans to acquire Russian systems.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.
Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.
As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.
“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.
The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.
For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:
Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of United States Pacific Command, called Chinese criticism of the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system “preposterous” during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The blunt talk comes in the wake of reports that China has unleashed hackers against South Korean government and business interests after the South Korean decision to allow deployment of a THAAD battery. According to Defense News, a battery has six launchers, and a Missile Defense Agency fact sheet notes each launcher has eight missiles. So, this battery has 48 missiles ready for launch.
While the United States has other missile-defense options to protect allies in the region like South Korea and Japan, THAAD is one of the more capable options according to ArmyRecognition.com, with a range of about 600 miles and the ability to hit targets almost 500,000 feet above ground level. The system is also highly mobile.
The MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missile, which proved itself capable of intercepting ballistic missiles during Operation Desert Storm, is already operated in the region by the United States, Japan, and South Korea, according to ArmyRecognition.com. The Patriot has a range of 43.5 miles and is capable of also targeting aircraft in addition to ballistic missiles.
Adm. Harris also declared support for a study into the feasibility of deploying Ground-Based Interceptors to Hawaii. This system currently is based in Alaska and California, with 30 interceptors split between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The GBI has shown a success rate of almost 53 percent in tests, per the Missile Defense Agency.
A Hawaii basing option for the GBI would add another tier of defenses to that state, which along with Alaska are potentially in range of North Korean ICBMs like the Taepodong 2 and KN-08.
For World War I pilots, the most terrifying song that relates to their experience may not be Seven Nation Army but 99 Luftballoons, because going against barrage and observation balloons in the Great War was terrifying.
Barrage balloons over London in World War II.
Pilots with the balls and skill to attack these balloons were known as balloon busters, and ones that had shot down more than five of the balloons were known as balloon aces. And yes, shooting down a balloon counted as a “kill,” same as shooting down a piloted enemy plane.
But what made them so hard to shoot down? After all, they were just a bunch of floating bags of air. Pop ’em with a needle and get on with your day, right?
First, military balloons weren’t made of cheap Mylar or latex. Many in World War I were made of tightly woven fabric, though vulcanized rubber and Thiokol rubber were prominent in World War II. All of these materials could take plenty of hits without splitting, meaning bullets that passed through them caused them to leak instead of to pop.
A row of spherical barrage balloons used for suspending aerial nets
(Australian War Memorial)
So they couldn’t simply be popped, and it often took a lot of rounds to bring one down. But if a fighter did manage to slay the beast, he wasn’t out of danger yet. While American balloons in World War II were sometimes filled with helium, none of the early Great War combatants had access to that gas, and hydrogen was the preferred gas for barrage balloons anyway.
Why? Well, for the same reason it was bad for the Hindenburg. Observation balloons had people in them, people who would’ve loved helium instead of hydrogen over their heads. But barrage balloons were empty, and filling them with hydrogen meant that, when destroyed, the balloons had a tendency to go out in massive fireballs. This was a huge threat to the fighters attacking it.
It also meant that fighters had one advantage though: Incendiary rounds were very effective against the balloons. But in World War I, pretty much only the British had incendiary rounds in planes. Everyone else was slinging cold metal. And incendiary rounds didn’t stay hot forever, generally traveling only 300 to 400 yards while still burning. You did not want to be 300 yards from an exploding balloon and still flying towards it as you would have to be to effectively shoot at it.
Barrage balloons and their crews in World War II.
(Royal Air Force)
Fine, fine, fine. The balloons were hard to shoot down and, when shot down, might explode in a big fireball and kill the attacking fighter. Fine. Just fly around them, right? Let the Germans have their balloons over their lines, maybe bring in some air defense artillery to shoot at it. But let the fighters avoid them.
Nope. For two reasons. First, those observation balloons were an enduring threat from the moment they went up until the moment they went down. Artillery observers sat in them and reported troops positions and movements to their friendly artillery for hours, allowing German crews to hit English, French, and U.S. positions all day. They had to be killed.
American pilot Frank Luke poses with his 13th confirmed kill.
So observation balloons and barrage balloons were lethal, terrifying, and absolutely had to be destroyed, and some of America, England, and France’s top aces proved their mettle by flying at the things, especially in World War I. In fact, some of the top decorated fighter pilots of World War I had few wins against human-piloted planes, but a dozen or more against balloons.
Will Coppens, a Belgian pilot, personally awarded a medal by King Albert I had only shot down two enemy planes in his career, but he had taken down an astounding 35 enemy balloons. The next highest scoring pilot after him was Frenchman Leon Bourjade with 27. So, yeah, Coppens earned that medal from his king.
America’s top balloon buster was Frank Luke, a mouthy pilot who was looked down upon by his peers when he arrived in France. He claimed his first fighter kill in August 1918, but no one else had witnessed the feat, and he was written off as a blowhard. So, after hearing how hard balloons were to take down, he attacked one on September 12 and, after three passes, destroyed it right before it reached the safety of the ground where the observers could clamber out.
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire, and barrage balloons created persistent threats to enemy fighters.
(State Library of New South Wales)
Luke bagged another two balloons two days later. His wingman that day, 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, formed a team with him that specialized in balloon busting and turned the whole thing into a traveling show, sending invitations to VIPs to witness German balloons blowing up at set times and places. But it was too bold to last, and Wehner was shot down on September 18 while taking down his fifth balloon, giving him balloon ace status in death.
Distraught, Luke went off the deep end, taking more and more risks in flight to the point that his superiors grounded the already famous pilot who, by that point, had 11 victories against balloons and four against fighters, making him America’s ace of aces. On September 29, he stole a plane and dropped a note to the ground that told observers to watch German balloons over the Meuse.
Luke flew into the teeth of the enemy, dodging ground fire and eight enemy fighters as he took down one balloon after the others, destroying all three in the area before he was shot down. He survived the wreck and pulled his pistol, fending off a German patrol and killing multiple members of it until a German round drilled him in the chest.
He was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses and the Medal of Honor for his heroics in September 1918, going to his grave as America’s best-ever balloon buster with 14 kills against balloons and four against fighters.