Guardians with the USCGC Bertholf captured a semi-submersible boat on Mar. 3 with 12,800 pounds cocaine worth nearly $203 million dollars in its hold. The boat was moving up the Central American Pacific Coast when it was spotted by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft who radioed the Coast Guard cutter.
The bust happened 300 miles southwest of Panama. The U.S. Coast Guard is generally thought of as operating only on the U.S. coast but actually deploys around the world to assist other maritime forces and enforce international law.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has accused the United States of giving a false account of a recent encounter between the two states’ navies in the Persian Gulf, after Washington blamed Iranian vessels for harassing its ships.
“We advise Americans to follow international regulations and maritime protocols in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman, and avoid any adventurism and false stories,” the IRGC said in a statement on its official website on April 19.
The force warned that any “miscalculation will receive a decisive response.”
The U.S. Navy had said that 11 vessels from the IRGC made “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward U.S. naval ships in the Gulf on April 15.
In World War II, an American aircrew found itself at the mercy of a German fighter and expected to be shot out of the sky. But something else happened entirely . . .
The American aircrew takes a heavy beating
The American crew on their first mission was limping after taking heavy flak damage during a bombing run over Germany on Dec. 30, 1943. It was supposed to be just behind and beside the flight leader in its formation, but it simply couldn’t keep up with two of its four engines severely damaged. 2nd Lt. Charles Brown, the pilot, watched his formation pull slowly away.
All alone in German skies, the situation got even worse for the crew when eight German fighters appeared ahead. The B-17 downed at least one of the attackers and possibly a second, but seven more fighters approached from the rear and began another attack.
Brown doesn’t remember exactly what happened next but thinks he must have lost oxygen and passed out.
“I either spiraled or spun and came out of the spin just above the ground,” he said in an interview on Military.com. “My only conscious memory was of dodging trees but I had nightmares for years and years about dodging buildings and then trees. I think the Germans thought that we had spun in and crashed.”
One crew member was dead and Brown was wounded with three others. Thinking the Germans had left after the plane nearly crashed, he ordered the crew in the cockpit to check on the wounded and the state of the plane. In the cockpit with the co-pilot, he looked out the window and saw a German fighter on his wing, a feared Messerschmitt Bf-109.
The German Ace
Oberleutnant Franz Stigler was a skilled pilot for the Luftwaffe. On the day of the incident, he had already shot down two B-17s and would automatically earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military honors, if he got just one more that day. He was smoking a cigarette and watching his plane be rearmed and refueled when he looked up and saw the heavily damaged American bomber fly over him. He leaped into his cockpit and flew up to get the kill.
Approaching from the rear, he lined up his shot on the tail, but was surprised to notice that the tail guns were pointed down like no one was holding them. He abstained from his shot and flew closer. What he found shocked him.
Icicles of blood were hanging from the gun barrels and the tail gunner, dead, was visible through a hole in the tail. The tail itself was nearly half gone. Pulling even with the enemy plane, he saw the rest of the plane was damaged as well. Sunlight was passing through a massive hole in the side and the whole thing was peppered from flak and cannon fire. Still unopposed, he caught up to the cockpit and saw the American pilot.
Stigler could drop back at this moment, take out the plane and become a German war hero.
But, when he was starting his career, his commanding officer had told him that he had to follow the rules of war to protect his own humanity. He told Franz that if he ever heard Franz shot at a pilot descending in a parachute, he’d kill Franz himself. Franz later said that when he saw the extreme damage to the B-17, he couldn’t fire. “… for me, it would have been the same as shooting at a parachute,” he said in a video. “I just couldn’t shoot. I just hoped that he got his wounded men home.”
There was a complication though. If Franz was caught letting an Allied plane go, he could be executed on the ground. And the planes were drawing close to German shore defenses that would spot and report him. Also, at any moment the American crew could decide to kill the threat off their wing.
After watching this for a few moments, Brown realized that this pilot could kill him at any moment. He screamed back down the plane for the top gunner to get in the turret and shoot down the German. After he gave the order he turned back to look out the window.
Franz, already worried about how close they were getting to the German shore gunners, saw the turret begin to move. He looked Brown in the eyes, saluted the American, and flew away.
They meet again
Brown would wonder for years about what happened, but it wasn’t until 1990 that he learned what had become of the German pilot who spared him.
After placing an ad in a magazine for combat pilots, Brown received a letter in reply. He called Franz with a dose of skepticism about whether it was his real savior. Franz quickly convinced him by describing all the details of the event, right down to the salute.
They answered each others questions about the event. Franz explained that he didn’t fire because of his own morals in the war, that he had been gesturing and mouthing to try and get the American to fly to Switzerland because he was convinced the plane couldn’t make it to England, and that he had finally pulled away from the bomber because he was worried about being spotted by Germans or fired on by the Americans.
Franz had always wondered if the Americans made it back alive, if sacrificing his medal and risking his life had meant anything. Brown confirmed that the crew and the plane made it to England and were able to land. The tail gunner had died in the air, but the rest of them survived.
The two became friends. Franz had moved to Canada in 1953 and Brown lived in America, so they visited each other and fished together. Both died of heart attacks in 2008.
From St. Nicolas Island, Calif., the United States fired its latest gift for Vladimir Putin’s Russian Army – a new medium-range missile that would have been banned under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987. The accord, also known as the INF Treaty, bans nuclear-capable weapons with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The United States left that treaty earlier in August 2019, after blaming Russia for violating the agreement first. The Russians aren’t happy about it at all.
Russia’s 9M729 missile, the one that broke the 1987 INF Treaty.
The Aug. 18, 2019 missile test saw the projectile deliberately fly beyond the 500-kilometer range that would have seen it banned by the INF Treaty. Newly-minted Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants missiles like this new one deployed throughout the Asia-Pacific region, but that effort was hampered under the old agreement. Now the U.S. is free to pursue the relevant technology.
“Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform the Department of Defense’s development of future intermediate-range capabilities,” the Defense Department said.
Meanwhile, the Russians were openly upset about the Americans pulling out of the treaty and then having a new weapon within the same month.
“All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”
Bold words from a government who has, according to the United States government, already violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty on several occasions, most notably after it developed and deployed a prohibited missile, known by its apparent Russian designation Novator 9M729, a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 kilometers.
“Russia has violated the agreement; they have been violating it for many years,” Trump said after a Oct. 20 campaign rally in Elko, Nevada. “And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to.” But it’s not just the President who is denouncing the Russian military. The State Department came to the same conclusion.
“The United States has determined that in 2016, the Russian Federation (Russia) continued to be in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 kilometers to 5,500 kilometers, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles,” according to the State Department’s April 2017 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments report.
The new U.S. missile isn’t nuclear-equipped (at least, not for this particular test) and resembles the more common Tomahawk missile in looks and the once-banned intermediate-range Tomahawk missile last seen in 1987. But the Russians weren’t the only ones upset about the looming new Cold War.
“This measure from the U.S. will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” Chinese Foreign Minister Geng Shuang said, adding that the U.S. should ditch its Cold War mentality.
The United States is considering sending more lethal weaponry to Kyiv to build up its naval and air defenses, Washington’s special envoy for Ukraine said, as concerns mount that Russia may be stepping up operations in coastal waters.
In an interview with RFE/RL on Sept. 13, 2018, Kurt Volker blamed Russia for fueling the conflict. He also said that Washington and Moscow still have serious differences over a possible United Nations peacekeeping force that could be deployed to help bring an end to the fighting in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Volker said he thought that Russian President Vladimir Putin was unwilling to negotiate much of anything related to the conflict at least until after Ukraine’s presidential elections in March 2019, or with “[Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko still in power.”
Volker said he has made several overtures to his Russian counterpart, Vladislav Surkov, since their last meeting in Dubai in January 2018, but he has received no response.
In January 2018, Surkov showed interest in the idea of a phased deployment of peacekeepers, Volker said. Since then, however, the Russians “have backed away and have some objections.”
Another meeting is possible, he said, but “right now, there is nothing scheduled.
“Since fighting broke out between government forces and Russia-backed fighters in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have died and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Russia has repeatedly denied financing and equipping the separatist forces in Donetsk and Luhansk despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, insisting that the fighting was a civil, internal conflict.
In recent months, Russia has stepped up naval operations in the shared Sea of Azov, where, Volker said, “Ukrainians have virtually no naval capability or limited capability, so [the Russians] feel they can assert dominance there.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine’s lack of robust naval and air-defense capabilities is a weakness Volker said Washington looks set on addressing.
“I think that’s going to be the focus as we develop the next steps in our defense cooperation,” he added.
International negotiators have twice reached a framework for a cease-fire and a road map for peace, known as the Minsk peace accords. Both have failed to hold.
That is due in large part to the fact that Russia continues to flood the territory with fighters and arms, Volker said.
In August 2018, monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe documented — using drone footage — convoys of military trucks crossing to and from Ukraine and Russia on a dirt road under the cover of darkness. Early September 2018, the monitors said another convoy had been spotted in the area.
Russia has not responded to accusations that it was behind the convoys.
Volker also criticized Kyiv, which he said was not doing enough to reach out to Ukrainians living in separatist-held territories. He said Poroshenko’s government has also failed to develop a reintegration plan for when the conflict does end.
Preliminary ideas, he said, “[do not] enjoy strong political backing and there is little emphasis that this should be a priority for the Ukrainian government to figure out how it can reach its own citizens and be as proactive as possible in trying to make their lives better.”
“It’s a shame because those people [living in separatist-held areas] have gone through a lot. It causes them to be very sour on the government in Kyiv,” he added.
He highlighted the cases of elderly people, “people with the least mobility,” and said Kyiv should work with the Red Cross to help get government pensions to those people.
Changing U.S. Policy?
Volker’s appointment, in July 2017, came amid concern that U.S. President Donald Trump was looking to soften Washington’s position on the Ukraine conflict, and Russia’s role in it.
However, the Trump administration has all but continued U.S. backing for Ukraine, a policy set in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Washington has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military equipment and training to the Ukrainian armed forces, and sanctions imposed for the annexation and for fueling the conflict remain in place.
More notably, the Trump administration in early 2018 sent Ukraine 210 advanced antitank missiles known as Javelins, a move Obama had resisted for fear of antagonizing Moscow.
“It’s true that we haven’t achieved anything on the ground and we haven’t gotten Russia to really resolve the conflict,” Volker said. “So we have to keep that under advisement.
“On the other hand, what we’ve done over the last year has been very important,” he said.
“We’ve created a policy framework for the United States; we’ve coordinated that with our allies, specifically France and Germany; we’ve given clear support for Ukraine and restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity; we’ve clarified Russia’s responsibility here,” he said.
In August 2018, Trump suggested in an interview that he would consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Russia “if they do something that would be good for us.”
Asked about Trump’s commitment to Ukraine, Volker said that everything the United States has done for Kyiv “has been done with the president’s approval, so there’s no policy gap.”
“The way I read what the president is doing, [he] is trying to keep a door open for Putin to be able to climb down, negotiate some kind of agreement, see if we can reduce the risk of conflict, see if we can actually create peace in Ukraine,” he said.
“At the same time, the policy has been to continue to layer on additional steps of pushback on Russia and support for Ukraine as a way to induce Russia to negotiate,” he said.
Featured image: Kurt Volker, the special representative of the U.S. State Department for Ukraine.
Senior U.S. Army leaders are pushing a campaign to enhance recruiting, toughen physical fitness training, and extend Basic Combat Training to prepare soldiers for a major future conflict.
Secretary of the Army Mark Esper spoke March 26, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium about his vision for the Army of 2028 that calls for a larger, more physically fit force.
“To meet the challenges of 2028 and beyond, the total Army must grow,” Esper said. “A decade from now, we need an active component above 500,000 soldiers with associated growth in the Guard and Reserve.”
The Army requested 4,000 soldiers be added to the active force as part of the proposed fiscal 2019 budget. The increase would boost the active-duty ranks from 483,500 to 487,500.
The Army must focus on “recruiting and retaining high-quality, physically fit, mentally tough soldiers who will deploy and fight and win decisively on any future battlefield,” he said.
“A decade from now, the soldiers we recruit today will be our company commanders and platoon sergeants. That’s why we are considering several initiatives, to a new physical fitness regime to reforming and extending basic training in order to ensure our young men and women are prepared for the rigors of high-intensity combat,” he added.
Esper did not give details about extending Basic Combat Training, which currently lasts 10 weeks. But the Army has already begun reforming BCT.
By early summer 2018, recruits will go through a new Army BCT, redesigned to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing enhanced emphasis on drill and ceremony, inspections, and pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.
The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic, as well as being careless with equipment, uniforms, and appearance, according to Army Training and Doctrine Command officials.
The Army has also been considering adopting the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test: A six-event fitness test designed to better prepare troops for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to help them survive in combat.
Gen. James McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said that the service is also considering improving the screening processes it uses to better prepare recruits coming into the Army.
“We are going to put more screening systems in place to make sure that when young men and women enter the Army, they are ready to meet the standards,” McConville said.
Training and Doctrine Command has done a “great job of implementing the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which is a four-event physical-fitness test to make sure that young men and women get in shape before they go to initial military training,” he said.
“Then once they get into initial military training, we are screening them again to meet the physical demands of being in the Army,” McConville said.
The Army is also testing a concept that involves assigning fitness experts to two Army divisions, he said.
“We are putting physical therapists, we are putting strength coaches, we are putting dieticians into each of the units so when the [new] soldiers get there, we continue to keep them in shape as they go forward,” McConville said.
“We are going to have to take what we have, we are going to have to develop that talent and we are going to bring them in and make them better,” he added.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said the service is also going to have to get better at how it approaches recruiting.
“When 87 percent of the people we recruit have someone in their family that has been in the military, it starts to beg the question, ‘Are we expansive enough in our recruiting efforts?’ ” McCarthy said.
“Are we sophisticated enough in the way we communicate to the entire country and recruit the best quality individuals?” he said. “So our sophistication has got to get better, from the tools that we have to find the people to the manner in which we communicate.”
When natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, America usually sends its military to aid in rescue and recovery. Engineers, search and rescue, and logistics specialists pour into the area to save as many people as quickly as possible.
Here are 17 photos that show what that’s like.
1. Troops are rushed to the area, usually via cargo aircraft.
2. In the crucial first hours, disaster survivors can be rescued from collapsed or flooded structures. Engineers carefully shore up crumbling buildings and cut through obstacles.
3. During hurricanes and tsunamis, there’s a good chance some survivors will have been swept to sea. Trained swimmers work to extract them.
4. Survivors are transported to safe areas in military aircraft and vehicles.
5. When possible, the Navy sends its hospital ships to the disaster zone. The USNS Mercy and USNS comfort are floating hospitals with capacity for 1,000 patients each.
6. Field hospitals are set up to receive and treat the injured or sick after the disaster.
7. As survivors are being evacuated to care facilities, equipment, food, and other necessities surge in.
8. If the local transportation network has been damaged, the U.S. military finds workarounds. Here, a group of Air Force combat controllers direct air traffic at Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there knocked out the control tower.
9. As supplies come in, they are moved overland to shelters and distribution centers.
10. Sometimes, engineers have to prevent additional damage from aftershocks or continuing flooding.
11. The engineers can operate 24-hours-a-day to get ahead of rising water.
12. Sandbags and materials can be dropped into place by helicopters, vehicles, or carried in by troops.
13. When helicopters are used, the crew chief directs the pilots in order to get the materials in the right spot.
14. Clearing roads allows for more vehicles to move supplies and evacuees.
15. If invited by local government officials, troops will help patrol disaster areas.
16. As the situation begins to stabilize, the military will assist with clean up as well. Eventually, they’ll be released back to their normal missions.
When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.
This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.
“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”
Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.
The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.
“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”
The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access.
(Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)
Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.
Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.
“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”
“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.
EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.
“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”
“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights, and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”
“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.
“All these soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”
Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.
He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.
“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the soldier.”
Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.
“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed, and capability to the frontline soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”
While the Air Force is best known for dropping bombs on the enemy — and they’ve done a lot of that throughout the War on Terror — there is one critical mission that some elite airmen carry out: evacuating wounded troops in the middle of a firefight. Air Force Pararescue took that mission on in Afghanistan, even though it’s not exactly what they were trained for — the original mission was to recover downed aircrews.
As a result, the Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk has had quite a workout. This is the Air Force’s standard combat search-and-rescue helicopter, which replaced the older HH-53s. According to an Air Force fact sheet, the HH-60 has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, a maximum unrefueled range of 504 nautical miles, and the ability to use 7.62mm miniguns or .50-caliber machine guns. It has a crew of four and has a hoist that can haul 600 pounds.
But there is one question: How do you get a Pave Hawk to Afghanistan? Or to other disaster areas, like Mozambique in 2000? Well, believe it or not, the helicopters fly in — but not by themselves. Despite the fact that they can be refueled in mid-air thanks to a probe, the helicopters often are flown in on the Air Force’s force of C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III cargo planes.
You may be surprised, but the HH-60 is actually an easy cargo for one of these planes to carry. It comes in at 22,000 pounds — or 11 tons. The C-17 can carry over 170,000 pounds of cargo, per an Air Force fact sheet. The C-5 carries over 281,000 pounds. With weight out of the way, the only remaining issue is volume — and the HH-60 addresses that with folding rotor blades.
So, if a Pave Hawk needs to go to Afghanistan, they fold the rotor blades, roll the chopper onto the C-5 or C-17, and take off. The cargo planes reach Afghanistan with a bit of mid-air refueling. Once it lands, the HH-60 rolls off, the rotor blades are unfolded, and it’s ready to save lives.
Check out the video below to see an HH-60 arrive in Afghanistan:
On March 26, North Korea’s YouTube channel released a dramatic propaganda video that features a nuclear attack near the Lincoln Memorial:
The video is four minutes long and contains a montage of U.S. defeats throughout history set to background music reminiscent of a ’70s-era TV show .
“If the American imperialists provoke us a bit, we will not hesitate to slap them with a pre-emptive nuclear strike,” read the Korean subtitles in the video, according to The New York Times. “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called the United States exists on this planet or not.”
The North Korean propaganda video comes amid a string of nuclear and rocket testing, which resulted in further sanctions of the Kim regime. Most recently, the Pyongyang threatened a direct attack on the South Korean presidential palace, the Blue House, unless its demand are met.
North Korea, sometimes called “The Hermit Kingdom” for its reclusiveness and closed borders, is known to rattle its saber when it needs something, be it food aid or cash, in order to elicit a bribe or assistance in order to return tensions to normal.
The North also often does this in March, around the time of annually planned joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In March 2010, the North sank the South Korean submarine Cheonan in the South’s territorial waters. In 2012, they announced planned rocket launches. In 2013, they conducted a nuclear test during the U.S.-ROK exercises, this prompted the U.S. to respond by flying B-2 Stealth Bombers and B-52 Stratofortresses over the demilitarized zone, to remind the North of U.S. bomber capabilities in the region. In response, Kim Jong-Un declared a “state of war” between the North and South, but no actual attacks ever materialized.
Politicians: Let’s use the military to fight the coronavirus!
Military: uhhhh ok.
Many of us who served have participated in humanitarian missions around the world and at home. Whether it was big disasters at home like Hurricane Katrina, unrest like the Los Angeles riots of 1992 or the massive tsunami in 2004 to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and famines in vast corners of the world, the United States military is usually there to provide assistance or security.
With the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzing most of the country and reports that it could possibly get really ugly, politicians have been throwing out many plans to help Americans, prevent the spread of the virus, and how to act if the worst-case scenario happens.
This past Sunday, during the Democratic primary debate, former Vice President Joe Biden threw out his plan to utilize the military to fight the outbreak.
“I would call out the military now,” Biden said. “They have the ability to provide this surge that hospitals need. They have the capacity to build 500 hospital beds and tents that are completely safe and secure. It’s a national emergency, and I would call out the military. We’re at war with the virus.”
His lone debate opponent (fellow veteran Tulsi Gabbard, anyone?) Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders echoed Biden’s call and said he would mobilize and deploy National Guard Units to combat the outbreak. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has started a plan to use the New York National Guard to create or build upon facilities so up to 9,000 more hospital beds could be ready if needed.
This talk brings up the images we have seen in the movies. When a monster attacks, a terrorist plot happens or a cataclysmic disaster happens, the military comes in, sets up shop and gets to kicking ass.
We have even seen in movies like Outbreak and Contagion where the military is either on the forefront or very involved in epidemic operations.
For all that talk and imagery we have, the Pentagon is a bit more restrained on how exactly the military will be involved.
“The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible at the direction of the president,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said, “We just want to make sure that the conversation that we have is informed by the facts of what is possible and what is not and what those trade-offs are.”
The big issue is beds and field hospitals. The military can set up big tents to accommodate many potential patients. These tents can go anywhere from a couple of dozen to housing hundreds. The issue though, is if the military is prepared to handle coronavirus patients. The military trains and is prepared to handle trauma and casualties from war and natural disasters. Outbreaks, on the other hand, might not be the military’s strong suit. Do they have the medical personnel and support staff to handle the potential of thousands of infected patients?
The Navy has two hospital ships, but are limited in size, geography (they can only be close to the seaboards obviously) and are configured to deal with mass trauma and not infectious diseases. Being in an open sickbay might not be the best place for a large group of people that need to be treated in isolation.
National Guard units would be the units that would be used to help with any outbreak containment and treatment efforts. Active duty would be prohibited (as many of us know) by the Posse Comitatus Act. Right now, there are less than 1,000 Guardsmen mobilized (mostly in New York). If the virus spreads, there will be more mobilized, but the trade-off will have to be weighed. Many Guardsmen also work as police, firefighters and first responders, and that would be a huge loss to the town they are leaving.
While there are no plans yet to use the National Guard for law enforcement purposes, we keep hearing about curfews, lockdowns, shelter in place and Marshall Law (sorry Rubio) means that the military might have to consider they will be utilized as an auxiliary police force.
With all that’s been said, we do have to factor in two things. The first is that the military might not even be needed. This might all blow over or civilians might be able to take care of the outbreak without the need for much or any military assistance.
The second factor is that our military is really good at being adaptable. Time and time again, the United States military gets served a sh*t sandwich, and they adapt and overcome those situations. If the coronavirus spread does require a massive response from the military to help civilians, I think the men and women in uniform will do everything they can to make sure they can help as many of us as possible.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new transnational organized-crime task force on Oct. 15, 2018, furthering a crackdown on crime that he said has been a Trump administration priority since Day 1.
“The same day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups,” Sessions said in remarks delivered in Washington, DC.
The Justice Department, following Trump’s lead, has intensified its efforts against the transnational gang MS-13, which started in the US and is now based in Central America. Sessions designated the group a priority for the department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which he said had been able to hit it “from all angles.”
Sessions directed that task force, as well as Justice Department officials, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to name the top transnational criminal groups threatening the US. Subcommittees within the new task force will focus on the five groups named by those officials.
“I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets,” Sessions said.
Below, you can see the five groups on which the Justice Department’s new task force will focus.
The gang started among migrants from Central America, El Salvador in particular, who fled civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them ended up in Southern California, where, without family networks or other connections, they gravitated toward gangs.
Deportations returned many members to their home countries in the 1990s and 2000s, where the gang blossomed in the post-conflict environment.
The gang’s influence has since spread throughout the region, including to the US, where it often carries out extortion, robberies, and other crimes in areas with large migrant communities, like the Washington, DC, suburbs or Suffolk County on Long Island.
Though MS-13 members have committed particularly heinous crimes, experts have said the Trump administration misunderstands the reach and power the gang.
“Our research found that MS-13 is hardly a lucrative network of criminal masterminds,” Steven Dudley, a senior fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, wrote in early 2018. “Instead, it is a loose coalition of young, often formerly incarcerated men operating hand to mouth across a vast geographic territory.”
The Jalisco New Generation cartel, or CJNG
The Mexican organized-crime group CJNG is the youngest group on the list compiled by the Justice Department. It is believed to have sprung from one faction of the Sinaloa cartel, which is also on the list, around 2010.
Based in the southwest state of Jalisco, the CJNG has grown rapidly since then, expanding throughout the country. It often violently forces out competitors and has corrupted numerous law-enforcement officials.
It has focused on synthetic drugs like crystal meth, and it has helped push up homicide rates along Mexico’s Pacific coast, fighting for control of ports needed to bring in precursor chemicals needed to make those drugs. The CJNG has expanded into other criminal enterprises; in some parts of Mexico it is believed to be fighting for a piece of the lucrative oil-theft trade.
Perhaps the group’s most high-profile crime was shooting down a Mexican army helicopter over Jalisco in May 2015. The shoot-down killed six soldiers, who were among 15 people killed in wave of violence in the state that day. (Mexican authorities said in 2018 they caught the suspects responsible for bringing down the helicopter.)
In the years since, the CJNG and its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, aka “El Mencho,” have become high-profile targets. The capture of a number of CJNG financial operators, including the wife of “El Mencho,” in recent years likely indicates Mexican authorities are trying to go after the gang’s money. (Though the wife was released on bail in September 2018.)
The group also appears to be facing competition at home. A group called the Nueva Plaza cartel, believed to be led by a one-time confidant of Oseguera, is thought to be challenging it on its home turf in Guadalajara, with backing from groups like the Sinaloa cartel.
Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as he is extradited to New York, January 19, 2017.
(Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office)
The Sinaloa cartel
Over the past two decades, the Sinaloa cartel has risen to the top of Mexico’s narco hierarchy, operating throughout the country and around the world, linking coca fields in South America and drug labs in Mexico to consumers in the US, Europe, and parts of Asia.
Formed in the western state of the same name, the Sinaloa cartel emerged in the 1990s, after the breakup of the powerful Guadalajara cartel. Led by cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel muscled rivals out of valuable territories, including cities bordering the US.
In the process, the cartel helped stoke dizzying bloodshed in Mexico, making its cities some of the most violent in the world.
The cartel’s outlook has been cloudy since Guzman’s January 2016 arrest, which came about six months after he broke out of jail for the second time. Rumors of a looming third breakout appeared to be snuffed out in January 2017, when Mexican officials whisked him to New York and turned him over to the US.
Since then, the Sinaloa cartel appeared ready to crack up. Guzman’s sons and presumed heirs to the cartel were kidnapped by rivals in late 2016, and in early 2017 they were challenged by Guzman’s former right-hand man and his son.
But Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a shadowy cartel chieftain who helped form the group with Guzman and is backing Guzman’s sons, appears to have reestablished some of the cartel’s “cohesion” and avoided a major fracture.
The Sinaloa cartel is better understood as an alliance of factions rather than a hierarchical cartel — a organizational structure that is believed to give it some resiliency in the face of law-enforcement pressure.
The Gulf clan, or the Gulf cartel, was long one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups moving cocaine from South America to the US and meting out shocking violence along the way.
Gulf cartel’s formation can be traced to the mid-1980s in northeast Mexico, where criminal elements and officialdom have long intertwined. Around that time, it began cutting deals with Colombian traffickers and soon vaulted from a relatively small-time marijuana and heroin business to a billion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation.
The cartel also corrupted government officials, federal and local police forces, and attorneys general. In the late 1990s, it also began developing a military wing, recruiting former Mexican special-forces soldiers to help form a group of enforcers known as the Zetas.
The Gulf cartel and the Zetas began to split in the late 2000s, sparking inter- and intra-cartel fighting that still makes northeast Mexico one of the country’s most violent regions.
In recent years, the Gulf cartel has “lost strength and has experienced rapid turnover in leadership,” the DEA said in its 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. But the group remains influential in northeast Mexico, moving drugs into South Texas and controlling distribution hubs in US cities like Houston and Atlanta.
Hezbollah posters in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” is the only group on the Justice Department’s list with its origins outside the Western Hemisphere.
It emerged after Israel’s 1982 invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, which came amid a civil war in the latter country that ran from 1975 to 1990.
A Shiite Muslim political party and militant group, Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran and has fought with Iran in Syria to support that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad.
That campaign has improved Hezbollah’s operational capabilities and added to its weapons stockpiles, now believed to include weapons like guided missiles, armed drones, and anti-tank missiles.
Israel has launched strikes in Syria to deter Iran and Hezbollah and has increased its readiness to counter Hezbollah and Iranian action there. Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanon and its expanding military capabilities have led experts to warn a future war between it and Israel could be bigger and more violent that the 2006 Lebanon War.
The US, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, has pushed Lebanon to cut Hezbollah’s access to its financial sector.
The group has also been active in the US and the Western Hemisphere for some time, though its focus there is believed to be on money laundering.
People in the region with links to the group are almost all considered not to be active members but rather “associates,” though at least one man has been accused of conducting surveillance in the US in support of potential Hezbollah attacks.
The US has also accused numerous Venezuelan officials of links to Hezbollah, including through an alleged black-market scheme to sell passports. Though some intelligence officials have said those allegations are overstated.
Hezbollah-linked actors in the region’s “activities have largely been involved in logistics support, providing funds back to Lebanon to Hezbollah itself,” Adm. Kurt Tidd, the former head of US Southern Command, told the Senate in early 2016.
The threat to the US
“Transnational Criminal Organizations — whether they are gangs, drug trafficking cartels or terrorist groups — are a scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will lead the new task force, said alongside Sessions on Oct. 15, 2018. “They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption. They terrorize law-abiding citizens.”
While the groups named are responsible for violence and criminal activity in the US and the region, experts have differed with the Trump administration’s assessment of them.
While the gang’s members have committed heinous acts in the US, their crimes mostly target immigrant communities. Though the group’s members in the US have contact with leaders in Central America, the organization itself is decentralized and largely involved in crimes like extortion, drug possession, and homicide, as it isn’t powerful or organized enough for transnational drug-trafficking.
“The cartels use gang members. They use individuals that are living here in the United States to basically do the distribution and the logistics here in the United States,” Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider in 2017.
Even as violence in Mexican border cities has risen over the past decade, violence in US cities next to them has been below-average. And incidents of cartel-related violence in the US have usually been limited to people with ties to the cartels (though there have been cases of mistaken identity).
Hezbollah is also active in the US, but it appears largely focused on fraud and money laundering. Throughout the region, the group’s activities appear limited to financial and logistical support for the organization based in Lebanon.
Intelligence officials have also disputed assertions by US politicians that the Venezuelan government is collaborating with Hezbollah and other militant groups.
“The whole Hezbollah line has been distorted for political purposes by the more extreme elements of the US right wing,” a former CIA senior official told Reuters in early 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In addition to physical exercise, proper nutrition plays a major role in overall health, fitness, and training for the Army Combat Fitness Test, says Maj. Brenda Bustillos, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command dietitian.
“It’s important for soldiers to recognize the impact proper nutrition has on them,” said Maj. Bustillos. “From how they get up and feel in the morning, how they recover from an exercise, how they utilize energy, and whether or not they have energy at the end of the day — proper nutrition is powerful, and stretches far beyond what we were taught as kids.”
Dietary decisions affect every soldier’s individual physical performance differently, too, she said, and has the power to impact careers “whether that be good or bad.”
Bustillos, a clinician who’s seen patients for the last 15 years of her career, believes the ground rules for healthy eating are only that — ground rules. “Every patient I’ve met with is different, and their needs are all different, too.”
Soldiers weave through an obstacle course.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski)
“Nutrition and dietary patterns are not one size fits all,” she said. “A registered dietitian understands this, and understands the biomechanics of each individual, along with the unique metabolic concerns they may have.”
She added, “How someone eats can be what makes or breaks them during big events, such as the ACFT. That’s why it’s important for soldiers to take advantage of resources available to them, and meet with a dietitian about what works for them while training for the test.”
Army combat fitness test
The ACFT is a six-event, age- and gender-neutral, fitness assessment set to replace the Army’s current physical fitness test by October 2020. It’s the largest physical training overhaul in nearly four decades, and is currently in its second phase of implementation, with every soldier slated to take the test as a diagnostic at least once this year.
The test is designed to link soldiers’ physical fitness with their combat readiness. Each event is taken immediately following the next, and aims to be an endurance-based, cardio-intensive assessment of overall physical fitness.
“The ACFT will require soldiers to properly fuel their bodies to be fully ready to perform,” she said. “The six events require many different muscle movements, with both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, making the fueling piece of fitness incredibly important — as important as physically training.”
Nutrition has often been attributed as “fuel for the body,” she said. For example, proteins repair you, and give the body the building blocks it needs for everyday activities, carbohydrates give the body energy, vitamins strengthens the bones, minerals help regulate the body’s processes, and water is essential for being alive.
But, nutrition also plays a role “in terms of preparation and recovery,” she said. It doesn’t matter if someone is training for a marathon or the ACFT, how they eat, or what they drink makes a world of difference.
U.S. Army soldiers participate in a 2.35-mile run.
(U.S. Army photo by Senior Airman Rylan Albright)
For example, if a soldier wakes up early on an empty stomach when scheduled to take the ACFT, that soldier will lack the glucose needed for a good performance. This can make the short-term decisions as critical as the lifestyle choices made in the months prior to testing, she said.
“Consider an individual like an automobile,” Bustillos said. “If an automobile starts running out of gas, it will begin running on fumes, and then be completely empty. That’s how an individual [regardless of training leading up to the test] will perform, especially if they don’t properly fuel their body before an ACFT.”
Bustillos urges soldiers to always “train to fight,” meaning all their nutritional decisions, at all times, should holistically enhance their physical fitness, mental alertness, and overall health.
“If a soldier only eats right the night before, or morning of an ACFT — but not during the months of training leading up to it, they won’t do as well on the fitness test [regardless of physical activity],” she said.
The best course of action, according to Bustillos, is eating right “day in and day out” while training. “Muscles are hungry, and they need fuel, so if you implement a healthy dietary lifestyle while training, then your body performs much better while performing.”
Soldiers should consume a variety of healthy nutrients in their diet, she said. For example, carbohydrates, fats, dietary fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water should be taken in.
(U.S. Army photo by Jorge Gomez)
When a soldier doesn’t eat properly in both short- and long-term capacities, muscles will break down because the body is continually searching for the fuel it needs to perform, she said.
“The night before an ACFT, a soldier should take in some proteins and carbohydrates,” she said, adding that carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for the brain and body.
Examples include moderately-sized, protein and carbohydrate-rich meals, such as a grilled chicken breast and brown rice, followed by a light breakfast the next morning, ideally two hours prior to taking the ACFT, she said. However, the possibilities for what foods to eat are seemingly endless, as long as they fall in the food healthy groups.
“I understand not everyone wants to wake up two hours before a performance test just to eat,” she said. “So, a light snack in the morning is also good. It can be a performance bar, a whole-grain English muffin, a banana, or just half of a muffin with smear of peanut butter — something to not disrupt the stomach while providing a fuel source for the body.”
With the ACFT around the corner, or if you have questions on how nutrition can enhance your lifestyle based on body type, Bustillos recommends you seek answers from a registered dietitian nearby.
“It’s important to remember there’s no such thing as bad foods, just bad dietary patterns,” she said. “As long as we’re eating well, taking good care of our bodies, and putting good things in it — it’s okay to have the scoop of ice cream, or sharing a tub of buttered popcorn with friends at the movies, those are certainly things that make life more enjoyable.”