Take a look and tell me if you have an idea what that object might be.
Back in 2007, a user (cometa2) of the popular Above Top Secret (ATS) forum posted an alleged official CVW-11 Event Summary of a close encounter occurred on Nov. 14, 2004. Back then, when the encounter had not been confirmed yet, many users questioned the authenticity of both the event log and the footage allegedly filmed during the UFO intercept. More than 10 years later, with an officially released video of the encounter, it’s worth having a look at that unverified event log again: although we can’t say for sure whether it is genuine or not, it is at least “realistic” and provides some interesting details and narrative consistent with the real carrier ops. Moreover, the summary says that the callsign of the aircraft involved in the encounter is Fast Eagle: this callsign is used by the VFA-41 Black Aces – incidentally the very same squadron of David Fravor, formed Co of VFA-41, the pilot who recalled the encounter to NYT.
FAST EAGLES 110/100 UPON TAKE OFF WERE VECTORED BY PRINCETON AND BANGER (1410L) TO INTERCEPT UNID CONTACT AT 160@40NM (N3050.8 W11746.9) (NIMITZ N3129.3 W11752.8). PRINCETON INFORMED FAST EAGLES THAT THE CONTACT WAS MOVING AT 100 KTS @ 25KFT ASL.
FAST EAGLES (110/100) COULD NOT FIND UNID AIRBORNE CONTACT AT LOCATION GIVEN BY PRINCETON. WHILE SEARCHING FOR UNID AIR CONTACT, FAST EAGLES SPOTTED LARGE UNID OBJECT IN WATER AT 1430L. PILOTS SAW STEAM/ SMOKE/CHURNING AROUND OBJECT. PILOT DESCRIBES OBJECT INITIALLY AS RESEMBLING A DOWNED AIRLINER, ALSO STATED THAT IT WAS MUCH LARGER THAN A SUBMARINE.
WHILE DESCENDING FROM 24K FT TO GAIN A BETTER VIEW OF THE UNID CONTACT IN THE WATER, FAST EAGLE 110 SIGHTED AN AIRBORNE CONTACT WHICH APPEARED TO BE CAPSULE SHAPED (WINGLESS, MOBILE, WHITE, OBLONG PILL SHAPED, 25-30 FEET IN LENGTH, NO VISIBLE MARKINGS AND NO GLASS) 5NM WEST FROM POSITION OF UNID OBJECT IN WATER.
CAPSULE (ALT 4K FT AT COURSE 300) PASSED UNDER FAST EAGLE 110 (ALT 16KFT). FAST EAGLE 110 BEGAN TURN TO ACQUIRE CAPSULE. WHILE 110 WAS DESCENDING AND TURNING, CAPSULE BEGAN CLIMBING AND TURNED INSIDE OF FAST EAGLE’S TURN RADIUS. PILOT ESTIMATED THAT CAPSULE ACHIEVED 600-700 KTS. FAST EAGLE 110 COULD NOT KEEP UP WITH THE RATE OF TURN AND THE GAIN OF ALTITUDE BY THE CAPSULE. 110 LOST VISUAL ID OF CAPSULE IN HAZE.
LAST VISUAL CONTACT HAD CAPSULE AT 14KFT HEADING DUE EAST.
NEITHER FAST EAGLES 110 OR 100 COULD ACHIEVE RADAR LOCK OR ANY OTHER MEANS OF POSITIVE ID. FAST EAGLE 100 WAS FLYING HIGH COVER AND SAW THE ENGAGEMENT BY FAST EAGLE 110. FAST EAGLE 100 CONFIRMS 110 VISUAL ID; 100 LOST CONTACT IN HAZE AS WELL.
Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.
In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.
“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.
Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.
Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.
“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.
During a House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing March 7, 2018, lawmakers were apprehensive about the strategy known as continuous capability development and delivery, or C2D2.
This strategy aims to do smaller, incremental updates instead of taking F-35s off the flightline to get months’ worth of larger, packaged software and modernization upgrades needed to “keep up with the latest threats.”
Citing a recent report delivered to Congress regarding C2D2, Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass., said costs “may be as high as $11 billion in development and $5.4 billion in procurement” between fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2024 to achieve all the requirements.
“This potential cost of $16 billion is an astonishingly high amount and, as far as I am aware, greatly exceeds any cost figures previously provided to Congress,” she said.
“It is important to remember this is a software-intensive effort, and the last 17 years of F-35 software development have seen dramatic cost increases and significant delays,” Tsongas continued. “If Congress agrees to support this effort at this cost and under the proposed management regime, it should only do so fully aware of the significant risks involved.”
Vice Adm. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, said the current cost estimate stands at roughly $10.8 billion for development, of which $3.7 billion will be shared by U.S. allies operating the F-35. The Pentagon would thus be responsible for only $7.2 billion over seven years.
Tsongas also queried Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy officials on whether the proposal is reasonable for the fifth-generation stealth jet.
“None of the services have a true comfort level until we have a … cost of how this is going to happen scoped out,” said Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation. “But year by year, we’re going to put money into C2D2 at the levels that Admiral Winter is requesting currently.”
Rudder testified alongside Winter; Air Force Lt. Gen Jerry D. Harris, deputy chief of staff for Plans, Programs and Requirements; and Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, air warfare director for the office of the chief of Naval Operations.
Conn agreed with Rudder, and Harris added there are “funds laid in [the Air Force’s] plan,” as well as plans to reduce sustainment costs long term. He did not specify budget numbers.
C2D2 replaces what was once called Block 4 follow-on modernization, or the succeeding, repetitive mods to Block 4, the latest software modernization to upgrade the F-35’s avionics and weapons delivery. Block 4 itself is slated for implementation sometime before the end of 2018.
“We just want to be sure this is rooted in reality,” Tsongas said.
In a follow-up discussion with reporters, Winter laid out worst- and best-case cost scenarios.
Going through all of the pre-planning and execution — when developers and engineers are needed, at what point a certain batch of F-35 Lightning IIs can receive the work, among other factors — Winter said once those calculations formally come together, $10.8 billion for development is roughly correct.
“That estimate will most likely come down, but I don’t guarantee anything,” Winter said.
“But we’ve also looked at, if all of that is correct, what are the modifications to the fleet aircraft, so the procurement elements of this, the software’s going to be minuscule,” he said, referring to the $5.4 billion figure Tsongas cited.
“If I had all the hardware updates on the first year, it would be a less [of] a procurement cost because all of my new aircraft would already have it in there,” Winter said.
In his written prepared testimony for the hearing, Winter cited the Pentagon’s lessons learned from upgrading the F-22 Raptor, but did not specify what modifications to the stealth jet have cost. At the Defense Department’s order, Lockheed Martin Corp. stopped producing the F-22 in 2011.
“Based on experience from the F-22, an eight-to-10-year span between technology refresh events will maintain viable warfighting capability throughout each cycle,” he said in his testimony.
The F-35’s total cost has been projected at more than $1 trillion over a 50-year lifetime.
Defense industry giant Raytheon unveiled its newest weapon, the Peregrine air-to-air missile, Sept. 16, 2019.
The weapon, designed for use on fourth-and fifth-generation fighter aircraft — anything from an F-16 to an F-35 — is about 150 pounds and 6 feet long, making “the most efficient use of the real estate on a fighter aircraft,” according to Mark Noyes, business development executive at Raytheon.
“Peregrine will allow U.S. and allied fighter pilots to carry more missiles into battle to maintain air dominance,” Thomas Bussing, the vice president of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems, said in a statement.
The new missile will combat a number of airborne threats, including other missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and other aircraft, while saving space. The AMRAAM missile, for example, is 335 pounds and 12 feet long.
Mockup of the Peregrine air-to-air missile.
“With its advanced sensor, guidance and propulsion systems packed into a much smaller airframe, this new weapon represents a significant leap forward in air-to-air missile development,” Bussing said.
The missile’s guidance and sensor systems allow it to “detect and track moving or stationary targets at any time of day and in challenging weather conditions,” according to the release.
The Peregrine combines “the autonomy of AMRAAM [Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile]” with the maneuverability of the 9X Sidewinder missile, Noyes told Insider. The three weapons together, he said, provide warfighters with “just an incredibly potent and catastrophic capability against the enemy.”
The Peregrine incorporates already available materials, military off-the-shelf components, and additive manufacturing processes, making it a low-cost option for militaries facing increased air threats, particularly missiles and UAVs.
Noyes praised the Peregrine’s ability to “autonomously track and destroy a target,” saying, “The ability of this new seeker is just incredible for all weather, day and night.”
The Peregrine’s small size, combined with its high-performance propulsion system, allows airfighters to fire more rounds, faster, as well — enabling it to “overwhelm the enemy with affordable mass.”
As Defense News points out, the Peregrine announcement dovetails with a Raytheon executive’s comments about the proliferation of counter-drone technology, indicating that the company’s focus on defeating drones won’t stop any time soon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After the Second World War, the Air Force established their version of a LRC, Project X, which would be used as one of the four means to evaluate students of the Squadron Officers Course at Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
“What we are trying to replicate for the students is being under stress and how you manage people under stress with limited resources, limited time and trying to solve a complex problem with a group of people with different personalities, different ways of leading and ways they want to be followed,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Clayton, Air University assistant professor of leadership.
The primary purposes of the course are to improve the students’ leadership ability by affording the student an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in formal leadership instruction. Secondly, to assess the students by measuring the degree to which certain leadership traits and behaviors are possessed. It’s also used to provide the students with a means of making a self-evaluation to determine more accurately their leadership ability and to provide the opportunity to observe the effects of strengths and weaknesses of others during a team operation.
Most importantly, the LRC is used to develop diverse individuals as future leaders in the Air Force.
Stress plays an important part in the evaluation of each leader as it is through stress the critical leader processes and skills will be observed by the evaluator. To produce a stressful environment for the working team, certain limitations are placed on them.
Officer trainees work together to overcome an obstacle at the Project X leadership reaction course. The course is designed to improve leadership traits to Air-men attending Squadron Officer School, Officer Training School, Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and other schools on Maxwell AFB.
According to the LRC standard of operations, the course operation is designed so that each individual will be a leader for a task-one time and serve as a team member or observer the remainder of the time. For each task there is a working team and an observing team. The working team is responsible for completing the mission while the observing team acts as safety personnel, overwatch elements, support elements, or competition.
The tasks themselves vary. For example, one task may be to get personnel and equipment across a simulated land mine without touching the ground by building a makeshift bridge from supplies. Another task may incorporate fear and more physical endurance by getting a team and gear over a high wall. Each task has a time limit and unique problems to solve the mission.
Although completing the mission isn’t the goal of the LRC.
“As a leader, you have to recognize some of these people may be scared to do this task or to move across this task with me. So, how do you motivate those people? Do you have the emotional intelligence to understand that you may be able to get through this task on your own, but other people may be scared to do it, so how do you understand that? How do you communicate to your people, motivate them, lead them by example, inspire them to follow you and get through the task? These tasks are designed to cause that stress and to make you apply the leadership skills you learned in the classroom,” Clayton said.
The whole concept is getting students to identify what type of leader they are as well as understand and identifying leadership traits in others.
An unmanned US military space plane has landed at NASA’sKennedy Space Center following a mission lasting more than two years.
The , which looks like a miniature space shuttle, touched down May 7, causing a sonic boom as it landed on a runway once used for space shuttles which have been mothballed.
The sonic boom caused dozens of nearby residents to take to Twitter, with one saying her house “shook” and her dog had “gone into a frenzy”.
Exactly what the space plane was doing during its 718 days in orbit is not entirely clear, with the US Air Force saying the orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”
The cost of the mission – the fourth and longest so far – is classified.
The Secure World Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the suggests intelligence-related hardware is being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.
At 29 feet-long and with a wingspan of 15 feet, the Boeing-built craft is about a quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.
This mission began in May 2015, when the plane set off from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Its first mission was eight-months-long from April 2010, its second from March the following year lasted 15 months.
A third took off in December 2012 and ended after 22 months.
Another mission is scheduled later this year.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, sonic booms used to be common in the area during the 30 years of NASA’s manned space shuttle programme, with landings at the Kennedy Space Center preceded by a loud double boom.
But the last of those shuttles landed nearly six years ago.
There is also a type of rocket – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 – which produces sonic booms and these were last heard earlier this month.
But officials had refused to confirm the return date for the , so its arrival was not expected by residents.
Two more women are attempting to enter the U.S. Air Force’s combat controller and pararescue (PJ) battlefield airman career fields.
The women, who were not identified for privacy reasons, are the first to enter the official training pipelines of those career fields, according to 1st Lt. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for the Special Warfare Training Wing.
However, they are not the first two female candidates to attempt PJ or combat controller training overall, he said Nov. 1, 2019.
“One candidate is pursuing pararescue, [but] she is currently not in training,” Huggins said in an email. “The most common reasons for this are medical hold, administrative hold or waiting for a training class to begin. The second woman is a combat control (CCT) candidate, and she is currently in the Special Warfare Preparatory Class.”
U.S. Air Force pararescuemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erik Cardenas)
The prep class runs eight weeks. Once she graduates, she will proceed to the Assessment and Selection (AS) course, he added.
The two new candidates make the 10th and 11th women to attempt any type of battlefield courses under the Special Warfare Training Wing, and the 11th and 12th to express interest in the program since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to all in December 2015.
Of the female candidates who have previously attempted to join the service’s special warfare program, seven pursued Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training; one tried pararescue training. Another woman recently dropped from the special reconnaissance program — previously known as special operations weather team, or SOWT — in August 2019, according to Air Education and Training Command.
The 10th, who attempted to become a combat controller, left the program, Huggins said. AETC previously mistakenly said that she had graduated the prep course.
The battlefield airmen career fields are comprised of special tactics officer, combat rescue officer, combat controller, pararescue, special reconnaissance, TACP specialist and air liaison officer.
Combat controllers from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron fast-rope from a CV-22 Osprey.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
Huggins said it’s no secret that these career fields are tough.
“There is no specific timeline as to when we’ll see our first woman serving as a Special Warfare airman in one of the seven combat-related career fields,” he said. “From start to finish, it may take up to two years for a woman to join an operational unit because of the Air Force’s natural timeline to recruit, access, select and train.”
Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel that attrition in these career field pipelines has been high because of the grueling training.
Attrition across the elite training pipelines ranges between 40 and 90 percent, depending on specialty, he added.
“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said in February 2019.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.
The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.
“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.
“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.
The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.
“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.
On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.
“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.
But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.
“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.
The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A government chemist testified Oct. 5 he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on two women being tried in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.
The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal inKuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.
Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on Huong’s fingernails.
Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big black letters “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”
The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a doctorate in chemical weapons analysis, said laboratory tests also detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.
He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, and even faster when it is in contact with water, leaving degraded products of VX.
“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.
Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine.
Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which could bring a death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defense has said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.
Raja earlier described VX as the “deadliest nerve agent created” and literature showed that 10 milligrams could be fatal. He said VX is oily and difficult to detect because it is colorless and odorless, and can be easily transported in a water bottle. He said Malaysia’s airports do not have the special equipment needed to detect VX.
Raja also said rubbing VX on the eyes and neck would be the fastest way to kill a person, compared to splashing or spraying the chemical. He said VX doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it a strategic choice because a person could be targeted without affecting the surroundings. It takes six days for a drop of VX to evaporate, he said.
He agreed with the prosecutors’ assertion that Kim didn’t inhale VX because no nerve agent was detected on a nasal swab.
The trial is to resume Oct. 9, with the judge, lawyers and the two suspects visiting Raja’s laboratory to see VX-tainted samples from the two women before they are formally submitted as evidence. This came after Raja told the court it would be safer to view the samples in the lab because the VX may still be active.
Gooi Soon Seong, lawyer for Siti, told reporters that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.
“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.
He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the VX-tainted samples since he testified VX could easily be washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said the defense has another explanation of why VX was present on the Vietnamese and would reveal this later.
The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Oct. 4 in sealed plastic bags, and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves as they viewed it.
Earlier witnesses have testified Kim quickly suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning and died from acute VX poisoning within two hours of the attack.
VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years. He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.
The trial is being closely watched by the Indonesian and Vietnamese governments, which hired the defense lawyers for both women.
Christmas time is synonymous with giving and receiving presents. Everyone loves to receive a gift, even it means you have to awkwardly open it front of a person who’s eagerly watching your face, waiting for a reaction. That love of receiving doesn’t begin and end on Christmas morning, though — not by a long shot.
Gift buying is an art. Picking the perfect gift can be difficult, and when you’re shopping for someone close to you, the pressure is on. Now, if one or more of those someones is a veteran, well, you’ve got some thinking to do. Veterans are a special breed. We’ve got an odd sense of humor, an irregular view of ‘normal,’ and can be plain ol’ weird. Finding the right gift for your vet will likely be a mission.
We know the Christmas season is over, but the following gifts can be enjoyed by a vet on any calendar date.
Can’t go wrong with any of these choices
9 and a half out of 10 veterans love to drink and can likely throw down with the best of them. Consider buying your vet their favorite bottle of liquor. If it’s one of those gift boxes that comes with a few, nice glasses, that’s great! If not, that’s fine; glasses are optional.
Near the top of every Marine’s gift list
Vets love clothing that makes sense. Help out your vet by getting them some clothing that can be useful. Think something somewhere between Under Armor and a ghillie suit.
Two things veterans can always use more of: travel and relaxation. The type of travel will vary from vet to vet, but we all appreciate a good vacation. It could be as simple as some alone time, a day trip, or a spa day.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to please veterans — just a little attention to detail.
Please, check on your friends this time of year
An ear and a shoulder
Transitioning back into civilian life can be a strange experience for many vets. We might move on, find a job, and start a family, but the feeling of camaraderie will never really be quite the same.
If you’ve got a vet in your life, it might not seem like a gift to you, but give them a call every now and then to check in, see how things are going. It’s a small gesture, but a worthwhile one.
A Taliban shadow governor who had planned and executed improvised explosive device attacks on Marines and Afghan soldiers for well over a decade was killed in a precision airstrike just days before Christmas, Marines in Afghanistan told Military.com.
Task Force Southwest, the 300-Marine element that deployed to Helmand province as an advisory force for the Afghan National Defense Forces in April, does most of its work from inside the wire, supporting the local troops who patrol and launch ground attacks. But this recent strike on local Taliban mastermind Qari Fida Mohammad illustrates the impact Marines continue to have on the active fight.
Mohammad, longtime shadow governor of the restive Helmand district of Marjah, was killed Dec. 20, task force spokeswoman Maj. Kendra Motz said.
Standing inside the unit’s operations center, where 11 large flat screens featured detailed live drone footage from around Helmand province, Capt. Brian Hubert explained how the strike happened.
“Through the work of the intelligence sections as well as the operations in here, and coordination with the Afghans as well, we were able to conduct a strike on him a few days ago,” said Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest. “Basically, we’re very familiar with the battlespace now. So when we see the leaders we know are important there, we can kind of do a bead on them.”
The unit started tracking Mohammad with its eyes in the sky. When he was well positioned as a target, the Marines called in two Air ForceF-16 Fighting Falcons to execute the strike.
“He was in a vehicle traveling with deputies, bodyguards, and a cousin of his, who was also a sub-commander,” Hubert said. “We took the shot successfully, and [he was] dead on the spot, which was huge.”
Mohammad, who was based in the Taliban hotbed of Marjah, but operated throughout Helmand province, had been well-known to the Marines for years.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, told Military.com he had known about Mohammad in 2010, when he deployed to Helmand for active combat operations.
“We’re still not really fully aware of the exact ramifications of taking him out,” Reid said. “It was a pretty big takedown, so we’re pretty happy about it. He was behind a lot of attacks against Marines back in the day–really high profile attacks.”
Hubert said the task force was now tracking the impact of Mohammad’s elimination. Ahead of the strike, he said, Marines had watched via drone footage as local civilians took to their homes, fearful of being blamed and facing violent reprisal if any attack were launched on the shadow governor. Now, he said, newly leaderless Taliban fighters in southern Marjah are acting disorganized and confused, without orders to carry out.
“Supposedly, [Mohammad] also had a lot of intimidation where he killed full families; he was absolutely just a Mafia-style Taliban leader in that area,” Hubert said, adding that he regularly demanded ‘taxes’ from local civilians by force. “Taking him out … hopefully provides the residents of Marjah and the southern end a little bit of a ‘hey, maybe it’s a turn.'”
For the Marines, Marjah is a region full of history. It’s the site of some of the service’s most hard-fought battles in Helmand. Some 50 American troops died in the 2010 joint siege on Marjah, known as Operation Moshtarak. When Marines departed Afghanistan in 2014, Marjah was considered relatively stable; but by 2016 it had fallen back under Taliban control.
Marines are now working to empower Afghan troops from the local 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army to hold the line. When the small task force arrived, the provincial capital city of Lashkar Gah was on the verge of being overtaken by the Taliban, Marines said. Now, with support from the Task Force, the soldiers have restored stability to the town and are beginning to move offensively against the Taliban.
In a shura with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller on Dec. 23, Helmand provincial governor Hayatullah Hayat said Afghan troops continue to take daily casualties in the fight.
But task force personnel continue to exact a daily toll against the Taliban as well. On a December visit to the operations center, a dark plume of smoke rose from a road on one of the screens — evidence of a precision strike carried out only minutes before.
From the screens, Hubert said, Marines had watched a pair of Taliban fighters carrying weapons dig a hole in a road south of the Marjah district center, intending to emplace IEDs ahead of a trip Afghan National Security Forces intended to make to the center.
Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos were in the air at the time, and Marines reached out and shared what they were seeing, offering them the opportunity to take out the fighters.
“They couldn’t quite get it, so we stepped in,” Hubert said. “We took the shot with F-16s and killed the two enemy. So now, they’re free to move toward the Marjah district center unimpeded by any kind of enemy contact right now.”
The process of identifying targets and executing strikes is a collaborative one, Hubert explained. Often the Marines will share what they’re seeing and make recommendations to the Afghan troops about how to respond, but leave the decision-making to them. The Afghan troops also play a significant role in the intelligence-gathering: in addition to ground reports, they maintain their own ScanEagle drone, its footage featured on one of the screens at the operations center.
As one target smoldered on the screen, Marines were tracking another: two men traveling up a road, south of friendly forces, one carrying a weapon on his back, concealed by clothing.
“We can see [the weapon] by the shape and size of what it looks like, then we’ll see him take it out,” Hubert explained.
In the course of several hours that morning, the Marines would coordinate the elimination of a half-dozen Taliban fighters.
The recent strike against Mohammad, and the daily strikes on Taliban targets, illustrate the intensity of the fight the Marines are still waging, albeit from a greater distance than they were during active combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom four years ago.
“I know we want to bring in governance, and I know we want institutional fixes. But right now, this is a fight,” said Reid, the task force deputy commander. “And as Marines, when we’re fighting, we’re going to kill the enemy, and we’re going to kill as many as we can.”
Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.
Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.
Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.
The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.
Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.
“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”
The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.
“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”
In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.
Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.
Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.
“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.
The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.
“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.
The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.
The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.
“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”