The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has allegedly launched a chemical weapons attack on a base used by American military forces to support Iraqi efforts to retake the city of Mosul. The Sept. 21 artillery attack on Qayyara Air Base that reportedly contained a chemical shell caused no casualties, but some American troops underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution.
The attack, which Pentagon chief Gen. Joseph Dunford said is suspected to have used mustard gas, is the first time American troops have faced hostile chemical weapons since World War I. A 1984 paper for the United States Army Command and Staff General College noted that the United States suffered over 70,000 casualties from German chemical weapons in that conflict, of which just over 1,400 were fatal.
A U.S. Soldier with the 76th Army Reserve Operational Response Command decontaminates a vehicle after a simulated chemical weapons attack during a base defense drill in Camp Taji, Iraq, July 23, 2016. This drill is one way Coalition forces maintain readiness and practice security procedures. Camp Taji is one of four Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve build partner capacity locations dedicated to training Iraqi security forces. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson/Released)
Military officials said a massive aerial attack on a former pharmaceutical plant near mosul Sept. 13 destroyed what they believe was an ISIS chemical weapons production facility.
Mustard gas, a liquid that is properly called “sulfur mustard,” is a blister agent that not only can be inhaled, but also takes effect when it contacts the skin. This nasty chemical agent causes large blisters on the skin or in the lungs when inhaled. The agent can last a long time – unexploded shells filled with sulfur mustard have caused casualties in France and Belgium decades after the German surrender in World War I.
Chemical weapons were widely used in the Iran-Iraq War, most notoriously by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the Al-Anfar Offensive. The 1988 attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, using nerve gas, gained world attention, particularly due to the casualties suffered by civilians. Chemical weapons use was widely feared during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein’s regime was supposed to end its chemical weapons program, but played a shell game for over a decade.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, concerns about Saddam Hussein’s apparent non-compliance with the terms of the 1991 cease-fire and United Nations Security Council Resolutions lead the United States to launch Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
While no large stockpiles of chemical weapons were found, coalition forces did encounter sarin nerve gas and sulfur mustard that had not been accounted for in pre-war inspections, and a 2014 report by the New York Times reported that over 5,000 shells filled with chemical weapons were found by American and Coalition forces during the Iraq War.
It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.
The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.
After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”
The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.
“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.
“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”
“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.
The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.
“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.
Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.
Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”
Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.
He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.
It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.
In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.
Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.
There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.
Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.
Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.
Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?
There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.
That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.
DARPA wants “gremlins” to fly out of the bellies of C-130s or other large planes, assist jets in bombing missions, and then return to their motherships for the flight home in order to be ready for another mission within 24 hours.
The gremlins are semi-autonomous drones that would hunt targets and find air defenses ahead of an attack by a piloted fighter or bomber. In some cases, the gremlins could even find and identify targets that their motherships would engage with low-cost cruise missiles.
Some of the drones could be configured as electronic warfare platforms, hiding themselves and the other aircraft from enemy air defenses or jamming the enemy radar altogether.
A typical mission would play out like this: A stealth jet would approach unfriendly airspace ahead of the gremlins’ mothership. The drones would launch and proceed ahead of the jet into hostile territory, seeking out enemy air defenses and mission objectives on the ground.
The jet pilots would then use the intelligence from the gremlins to decide how to engage the target, either with weapons on the jet or with cruise missiles from the mission truck that is still flying just outside of the enemy air defenses. Once the bombs or missiles take out the radar, other aircraft can now force their way into the country while the drones fly back into the mothership.
If everything comes together, the gremlins will be part of DARPA’s “System of Systems” project. The idea is a new weapons system that would work with different aircraft as time went on. So, the gremlins could fly from C-130s in support of F-22s and F-35s now, then support new aircraft as they’re added to the U.S. military arsenal.
There was a reason he was known as “Give ‘Em Hell Harry.”
Truman was the last President to take office without a college degree and started his military career as an enlisted man in the Missouri National Guard. He wanted to join so bad, he memorized an eye chart to pass the Army physical – he couldn’t see well enough to get in on his own. He first enlisted in 1905.
By the time WWI rolled around, Truman re-enlisted and had been elected an officer. It was on the battlefields of France that he was given command of Battery D – dubbed “Dizzy D” for its bad reputation. The onetime Pvt. Truman was now Capt. Truman, in command of 194 men.
Those men tried to intimidate him at every turn, even giving him the “Bronx Cheer” after formations. But a guy like “Captain Harry” wasn’t about to take that garbage in his command. He began to hold his NCOs responsible for the junior enlisted behavior – and the discipline changed in a hurry.
His men began to obey him loyally, especially in combat, and Truman enjoyed his command. The only time they faltered was during an artillery exchange with the Germans in the Vosges Mountains, where both sides exchanged gas and high explosive shells for more than 30 minutes.
Truman was tossed from his horse, which fell on top of him into a shell crater. Panic and disorder gripped his company when they were supposed to fall back, but they had no horses to pull the artillery. The guns were getting stuck in the mud as German shells rained on them.
The company first sergeant ordered the men to make a run for it.
That’s when Capt. Truman was pulled out from under his horse. He stood on the battlefield and unleashed a string of curses so profane it actually shocked his enlisted men to turn around and run back into the hail of chemicals and explosions to man their guns.
Maybe it was his time as an enlisted artilleryman, or maybe the future President picked that language up while working on the Santa Fe rail lines and sleeping like a hobo. He sure didn’t pick it up at West Point – because he couldn’t get in.
During his presidency, Truman kept his spot as a U.S. Army reserve colonel, leaving after 37 years of service. When his presidency ended, he and his wife Bess drove back to Missouri, not to a corporate boardroom – which he considered it a black mark on the office of the president.
It was tempting to make the headline for this review-interview “‘Terminal Lance’ creator Maximilian Uriarte gets dark with The White Donkey. That wouldn’t be truthful, at least not completely.
Much of Uriarte’s self-published graphic novel could be considered dark — and likely will be. But the word “dark” could also be substituted with the word real. Though the book opens with a disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will find a lot of familiar feelings in its pages.
“It’s 90 percent true and then there’s a lot of fictional elements put into it,” Uriarte says. “I don’t like saying that it’s a true story because it’s not. It’s fictional. I feel like once you add one fictional element to anything it becomes a fictional story. The white donkey was real. I really did run into the white donkey in real life, which I write about it in the back of the book. In real life, I only saw the donkey once when we stopped for convoy and that was it. I thought about it a lot every day after that though.”
The White Donkey is a departure from his bread and butter work on Terminal Lance. But Uriarte’s graphic novel was a long time coming. He first conceived the idea in 2010, and launched the Kickstarter for the project in July 2013, a funding process Uriarte will not soon repeat.
“I don’t think I would ever do a Kickstarter again because I hated that. I still hate it,” he says. “It’s one thing to have an investor to answer to. It’s another thing to have 3,000 investors to answer to when things take too long. It’s really stressful.”
Uriarte may be producing the first graphic novel written and illustrated by an Iraq veteran about the Iraq war, but the process of telling this story far outweighed the stress of the financing, in Uriarte’s opinion.
He loves writing, even though he didn’t even know how to make a graphic novel at first. But writing is writing, except when it comes to novels. It’s important to note there’s no corporate ownership to his work. His graphic novel is an independent endeavor, the culmination of more than five years of work.
“I love writing,” he says. “I wrote this book as a screenplay first and that was how I approached it. I went through a few different processes of trying to figure out how to make this into a graphic novel because I had no idea how to make a graphic novel when I got into it. I started writing it out really novel-like, as a book. It didn’t really do me any favors because I needed a screenplay. I needed a script for the graphic novel. Waxing poetic in sentences and paragraphs didn’t really do me any favors. I thought, ‘Why write all this beautiful poetic language that no one is going to see?'”
Fans of Terminal Lance may wonder why The White Donkey seems so different from the comic strip. The reason is because that’s the reality of war, or at least Max Uriarte’s experience with war.
“I wanted it to be a grim war story,” he says. “I wanted it to be more self-aware in a way. I think the usual Hollywood narrative is always very heroic. I feel like a lot of being a Marine is not heroic in the slightest sense of it. I think I wanted to have a narrative that combats that idea of that glorified American ideology, that going to war is heroic. Even the “personal journey” aspect of it is pretty arrogant of people to think they’re going to experience some enlightenment at the expense of people dying. It’s a very sad and a very false reality I think.”
The White Donkey is a thought-provoking, poignant work, on the level of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and is bound to raise Uriate’s profile beyond the large and loyal audience he’s already earned. Still, no matter how successful The White Donkey is, he wants fans to know Terminal Lance isn’t going anywhere.
“Terminal Lance is going to be around for a while if I can help it,” he says. “There’s going to be some changes on the site. I want to open it up more for op-eds and some other content. I want it to be a place any branch can come to for entertainment.”
The White Donkey will available on Amazon in February.
Honor guards are an important part of the pomp and circumstance surrounding official state events. Many guard units are mostly for show, serving only to drill perfectly and impress crowds.
But some honor guards are filled with active soldiers who continue to practice killing people when they aren’t all dressed up in tall hats and shiny breastplates. Here are 6 of them.
1. The Queen’s Guard (U.K.)
The Queen’s Guard is probably the most iconic ceremonial guard unit in the world, but the men outside Buckingham Palace aren’t just a tourist attraction.
They are real soldiers and are allowed to use violence to protect themselves, their post, and the Queen. Some tourists have learned this the unpleasant way.
2. The Swiss Guard (The Vatican)
Dating back to the 1400s, the Swiss Guard are the primary protective force for the Pope. When the guardsmen aren’t wearing their funny uniforms, they’re training to kill those who threaten the Holy Father. Skip to 2:13 in the video to see members of the Swiss Guard training with their assault rifles.
3. Old Guard (U.S.)
The 3rd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army are the official honor guard of the President as well as the ceremonial guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All members are active duty infantry soldiers who also deploy to combat and train for fights in the national capital.
(Note: The 3rd Infantry Regiment is the official honor guard for the president, but the president is much more commonly seen with the Marine Sentries, four Marines assigned to guard his person in the West Wing of the White House.)
Commanded by a colonel in the Italian Army, the Carazzieri Regiment performs ceremonial duties as the honor guard of the Italian president, but they’re also an active police force. During times of war, they can be organized under the Defense Ministry.
6. Presidential Guard (Fiji)
The Presidential Guard of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is the honor guard of Fiji’s president. However, they are also in charge of the physical security of the president’s residence and nearby installations.
The most powerful weapon in the United States’ Cold War arsenal was likely not its hundreds of nuclear warheads — it was the man whose job it was to deploy them.
There are few men in Air Force history as noteworthy and controversial as Gen. Curtis LeMay. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. Though not always remembered fondly by history, some of his image as a shoot-first-ask-questions-later, caveman may be undeserved.
He was the youngest general to wear a fourth star. When he retired, he had served as a four-star general longer than anyone in American history; a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy, instead graduating from Ohio State. At the height of his career, he was the symbol of American military might. A bit more about one of the U.S. Air Force’s most influential founding generals can be gleaned through his more noteworthy quotes.
1. “We should always avoid armed conflict. But if you get in it, get in with both feet and get out as soon as possible.”
Despite his gruff, cold image, every operational goal, in LeMay’s mind, was a means to an end. Ending a war quickly meant saving American lives. During World War II, LeMay was responsible for the firebombing of Japanese cities which completely destroyed most major Japanese cities. It was his command that dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Official estimates from the United States Strategic Bombing Survey determined at least 330,000 killed, 476,000 injured, 8.5 million people made homeless, and 2.5 million buildings destroyed. Almost half of 64 Japanese mainland cities were completely destroyed. The destruction was not lost on LeMay. He acknowledged that if the Japanese had won the war, he would have been tried as a war criminal.
Later he would reveal that dropping the atomic bombs was totally unnecessary, given the level of destruction he had already waged on Japan. He said he only dropped them because of President Truman’s authority. After the war, Japan’s former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe confirmed that the decision to surrender was based on the prolonged bombing wrought by General LeMay’s Marianas-based air forces. LeMay took command of the Marianas in January 1945. The Japanese surrendered in August of 1945.
2. “War is never cost-effective. People are killed. To them, the war is total.”
He was known as a tough commander, but a fair one. He earned a reputation for being stone-faced, uncaring about the needs of his men but LeMay actually suffered from Bell’s Palsey, which literally immobilized his face. When a Harvard study found Army pilots were aborting bombing missions over Germany out of fear, LeMay personally led every bombing sortie and ordered any crew who didn’t go over the target be court martialed.
The gruff general took combat losses to heart, knowing he’d sent men to die, but firmly believed if the death of one American could save a thousand, then it was the right decision to make. In The Fog of War, a documentary about the life of former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, McNamara quoted LeMay: “Why are we here? Why are we here? You lost your wingman. It hurts me as much as it does you. I sent him there. And I’ve been there, I know what it is. But you lost one wingman, and we destroyed Tokyo.”
3. “Successful offense brings victory. Successful defense can now only lessen defeat.”
This is an “extremely belligerent, many thought brutal” man who believed in the power, threat and use of nuclear weapons. He wanted SAC to be able to deliver every nuclear warhead in the American arsenal on the Soviet Union at once. This military rationale earned LeMay the image of a cold man who was obsessed with starting any kind of war with the Russians.
It was Gen. LeMay who inspired the character of Buck Turgidson in “Doctor Strangelove,” willing to pay for a victory over the Soviet Union with unlimited American lives. As a bomber pilot, LeMay’s point of view was one of overwhelming force. At its height, the SAC had 1600 bombers and 800 missiles in its arsenal.
4. “We can haul anything.”
As the commander of U.S. Air Forces In Europe, LeMay was asked by the Commander of all U.S. forces in Europe, Lucius D. Clay, about the feasibility of an airlift (later known as the “Berlin Airlift”) to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.
Gen. Clay asked LeMay “Can you haul coal?” Even though he preferred the more aggressive response of an armed convoy backed by bomber aircraft, Gen. LeMay enthusiastically began the 5,000 ton per day airlift operation within weeks. He was so instrumental in its startup, it was initially called “The LeMay Coal and Feed Delivery Service.” LeMay’s response to Clay’s hauling question represents the can-do attitude and spirit of the U.S. Air Force.
5. “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”
Robert McNamara, who served under LeMay during WWII and over him as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy Administration, called him the finest combat commander there ever was. While he was convinced a war would happen at some point and believe the U.S. should fight it on the grounds most favorable to it, LeMay’s military upbringing taught him that true readiness required constant training and this readiness was to be in place when the civilian leaders of the military deemed it necessary to use them.
His solution was to create a force so powerful no one would dare sneak an attack. He would always advocate for a heavy military response, most notably during the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but always loyally and diligently carried out the orders and policy of his civilian superiors.
6. “To err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy”
When he took control of Strategic Air Command in 1948, most of his bomber crews couldn’t hit Ohio with a mock atomic bomb during exercises. The SAC under Gen. LeMay became one of the most effective military units in the world on the basis of relentless training.
One officer was quoted as saying: “Training in SAC is harder than war … it might be a relief to go to war.” Within two years, the procedures, checklists, and training implemented by General LeMay gave SAC one of the best safety records in U.S. military history.
7. “The price of failure might be paid with national survival.”
After retiring from the Air Force in 1965, LeMay ran with George Wallace on his segregationist party ticket. It led many to conclude that LeMay agreed with Wallace’s racial views. In truth, LeMay agreed to run with Wallace because he believed in a hard line against Communism, and an end to the War in Vietnam, and didn’t see any of the potential candidates doing these things.
LeMay was no racist. During his tenure as a commander in the Air Force, he had actually promoted the integration of units well before Truman’s executive order. Protesters would attend Wallace rallies shouting “Sieg heil” at the man who designed the bombing plans that crippled Nazi war production, even personally leading the most dangerous missions.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Comedian Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show, poses for a photo with the Air Force team during the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games in West Point, N.Y., June 15, 2016. Stewart emceed the opening ceremonies for the games.
Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez Arellano, a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, does pushups during a therapy session at the center’s Military Advanced Training Center, which provides amputee patients with state-of-the-art care, in Bethesda, Md. Lopez, who lost her right leg and suffered several other injuries in a motorcycle crash in 2015, is competing in the Department of Defense Warrior Games, which end June 21.
The U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood group put up an impressive 238 miles from Sunday morning to just before Tuesday morning’s 3-mile division-style run.
1st Lt. Carey Duval, assigned to 2nd Brigade Combat Team “STRIKE”, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), answers 15th SMA Dailey’s call to show us one way he trains to stay ready by performing a deadlift at U.S. Army Fort Campbell, Ky., June 8, 2016. This Soldier for Life became an amputee during a deployment in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
DAYTON, Ohio (June 15, 2016) During Navy Week Dayton, Ohio, Sailors from USS Constitution’s Color Guard Parade the Colors before a baseball game between the Dayton Dragons and the South Bend Cubs. Dayton is one of select cities to host a 2016 Navy Week, a week dedicated to raise U.S. Navy awareness through local outreach, community service and exhibitions.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (June 16, 2016) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Ray Mabus, left, observes an underway replenishment with Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi, chief of the Italian navy, while aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). This was the U.S. Navy’s first underway replenishment where the fuel was made from alternative sources and transferred from a partner nation’s ship. The Italian navy auxiliary ship ITS Etna (A5326) provided Mason with biofuel, made from waste fat beef and inedible vegetable oil, as part of the Great Green Fleet initiative.
A Marine carrying a flashlight walks in front of the Base-Ex tents constructed for Marines assigned to 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (LAAD), following a live fire exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 7, 2016. 2nd LAAD conducted a live fire exercise to maintain proficiency and accuracy with the FIM-92 Stinger missile launcher.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Kyle Hancock, a fire team leader with Company C, Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 16.2, fires an M249 light machine gun during a familiarization range at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, June 8, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is forward deployed in several host nations, with the ability to respond to a variety of contingencies rapidly and effectively.
A Marine with Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, performs mountain climbers during Battalion physical training on Parris Island, S.C., June 15, 2016. Battalion PT is led by the Battalion Commander every month in order to build unit cohesion.
An Air Station Houston MH-65 Dolphin helicopter practices landing on the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless during a training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico, June 10, 2016. Keeping crews regularly trained ensures a high level of competency and efficiency service-wide. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams.
An Air Station Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin helicopter lands on Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless Nov. 14, 2013. The Dauntless crew then performed a hot refuel, a refuel of the helicopter while its engines are still engaged.
Tensions over a potential war between North Korea and the United States are mounting every day.
The “hermit kingdom” is boasting through its state propaganda that it could destroy America. Any claim by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to “create a balance of power with the U.S.” is considered laughable.
But in an astounding claim, Pyongyang’s version of Pravda (fun fact: pravda means “truth” in Russian) says it can destroy the US in many different ways, but most notably with an electromagnetic pulse weapon.
Whether or not this claim is true, here’s a breakdown of what their military actually looks like. They have around a million active duty personnel using cheaper versions of an AK-47 (Type 88), 67 year old fighter aircraft, and dwindling allies.
An impressive claim, by 2017 military standards, is its two satellites in orbit. It’s debatable if they actually have an EMP device on them, but it is known that nuclear weapons also give off an an EMP blast on detonation.
The concerns of their nuclear capabilities, non-state allies, artillery and rocket launchers are real. Even if their nuclear warheads could theoretically reach the US, the devastation it would cause to our allies is the only reason they haven’t been obliterated and South Korea hasn’t become a island yet.
Former Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) said during hearings before the 2008 Congressional EMP Commision that he believes that a electromagnetic pulse weapon detonated in Nebraska could kill 9 out of 10 people in the aftermath and ensuing chaos.
This lead former CIA director R. James Woolsey to say in an op-ed piece for The Hill that one of two North Korean satellites could deliver such a blast.
Problem with this is that Bartlett was directly quoting an early release of William R. Forstchen’s “One Second After” — a science fiction novel about the collapse of society. But as we all know, emotions beat facts in fear mongering.
The United Arab Emirates is better known for its skyscrapers and pampered luxuries, but its small size belies a quiet expansion of its battle-hardened military into Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The seven-state federation ranks as one of Washington’s most prominent Arab allies in the fight against the Islamic State group, hosting some 5,000 American military personnel, fighter jets, and drones.
But the practice gunfire echoing through the deserts near bases outside of Dubai and recent military demonstrations in the capital of Abu Dhabi show a country increasingly willing to flex its own muscle amid its suspicions about Iran.
Already, the UAE has landed expeditionary forces in Afghanistan and Yemen. Its new overseas bases on the African continent show this country, which U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis calls ” Little Sparta,” has even larger ambitions.
From Protectorate to Protector
The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, only became a country in 1971. It had been a British protectorate for decades and several of the emirates had their own security forces. The forces merged together into a national military force that took part in the 1991 U.S.-led Gulf War that expelled Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait.
The UAE sent troops to Kosovo as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission there starting in 1999, giving its forces valuable experience working alongside Western allies in the field. Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it deployed special forces troops in Afghanistan to support the U.S.-led war against the Taliban.
Emirati personnel there combined aid with Arab hospitality, working on infrastructure projects in villages and meeting with local elders.
Today, the UAE hosts Western forces at its military bases, including American and French troops. Jebel Ali port in Dubai serves as the biggest port of call for the American Navy outside of the United States.
The UAE decided in recent years to grow its military, in part over concerns about Iran’s resurgence in the region following the nuclear deal with world powers and the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the wars in Syria and Yemen.
In 2011, the UAE acknowledged working with private military contractors, including a firm reportedly tied to Blackwater founder Erik Prince, to build up its military. The Associated Press also reported that Prince was involved in a multimillion-dollar program to train troops to fight pirates in Somalia, a program by several Arab countries, including the UAE.
“As you would expect of a proactive member of the international community, all engagements of commercial entities by the UAE Armed Forces are compliant with international law and relevant conventions,” Gen. Juma Ali Khalaf al-Hamiri, a senior Emirati military official, said in a statement on the state-run WAM news agency.
Media in Colombia have also reported that Colombian nationals working as mercenaries serve in the UAE’s military.
In 2014, the UAE introduced mandatory military service for all Emirati males between the ages of 18 to 30. The training is optional for Emirati women.
“Our message to the world is a message of peace; the stronger we are, the stronger our message,” Dubai ruler and UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wrote at the time on Twitter.
War in Yemen
In Yemen, UAE troops are fighting alongside Saudi-led forces against Shiite rebels who hold the impoverished Arab country’s capital, Sanaa.
Areas where the UAE forces are deployed include Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramawt, and the port city of Aden, where the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is stationed.
Additionally, the UAE appears to be building an airstrip on Perim or Mayun Island, a volcanic island in Yemeni territory that sits in a waterway between Eritrea and Djibouti in the strategic Bab al- Mandeb Strait, according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.
That strait, some 16-kilometers (10-miles) wide at its narrowest point, links the Red Sea and the Suez Canal with the Gulf of Aden and ultimately the Indian Ocean. Dozens of commercial ships transit the route every day.
Already, the waters have seen Emirati and Saudi ships targeted by suspected fire from Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis. In October, U.S. Navy vessels came under fire as well, sparking American forces to fire missiles in Yemen in its first attack targeting the Houthis in the years-long war there.
“More incidents at sea, especially involving civilian shipping, could further internationalize the conflict and spur other actors to intervene,” the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy warned in March.
UAE forces and aid organizations have also set foot on Yemen’s Socotra Island, which sits near the mouth of the Gulf of Aden, after a deadly cyclone struck it. It too represents a crucial chokepoint and has seen recent attacks from Somali pirates.
The UAE has suffered the most wartime casualties in its history in Yemen. The deadliest day came in a September 2015 missile strike on a base that killed over 50 Emiratitroops, as well as at least 10 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and five from Bahrain.
Outside of Yemen, the UAE has been building up a military presence in Eritrea at its port in Assab, according to Stratfor, a U.S.-based private intelligence firm. Satellite images show new construction at a once-abandoned airfield the firm links to the Emiratis, as well as development at the port and the deployment of tanks and aircraft, including fighter jets, helicopters and drones.
“The scale of the undertaking suggests that the UAE military is in Eritrea for more than just a short-term logistical mission supporting operations across the Red Sea,”Stratfor said in December.
UAE officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on its military operations or overseas expansion.
South of Eritrea, in Somalia’s breakaway northern territory of Somaliland, authorities agreed in February to allow the UAE open a naval base in the port town of Berbera. Previously, the UAE international ports operator DP World struck a deal to manage Somaliland’s largest port nearby.
Further afield, the UAE also has been suspected of conducting airstrikes in Libya and operating at a small air base in the North African country’s east, near the Egyptian border.
Meanwhile, Somalia remains a particular focus for the UAE. The Emiratis sent forces to the Horn of Africa country to take part in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the 1990s, while their elite counterterrorism unit in 2011 rescued a UAE-flagged ship from Somali pirates. The unit has also has been targeted in recent attacks carried out by al-Qaida-linked militants from al- Shabab.
Soldiers take part in pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone at Fort Benning, March 21, 2019. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)
The U.S. Army may close or drastically alter its Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as part of a sweeping review of all service schools operating in the reality of the stubborn COVID-19 pandemic.
Army Times reported that the service is considering shuttering the historic, three-week course that was created during World War II to train special teams of paratroopers how to guide large airborne formations onto drop zones behind enemy lines.
Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) confirmed that the Pathfinder course — which also trains soldiers how to conduct sling-load helicopter operations — is part of the review being conducted by the service’s Combined Arms Center, or CAC.
TRADOC spokesman Col. Rich McNorton told Military.com that no decision had been made as to “which ones are we going to turn off, convert to distance [learning] or in some cases go to a mobile training teams. … Pathfinder School is in there with all of those courses.”
The CAC has been conducting an analysis of all TRADOC schools for about four months to see whether they are meeting the needs of combat commanders, he added.
Shrinking defense budgets have forced the Army to look for ways to save money by possibly reducing travel needed for some training courses.
“COVID-19 accelerated that process because, all of the sudden, now we’ve got these restrictions,” McNorton said. “Some courses that we have are a week long and, in order to sustain that, we have to quarantine them for two weeks and then they start it. And it doesn’t make sense to do that.”
McNorton said what will likely happen is that the Army will prioritize which courses will remain the same and which ones will convert to mobile training teams or distance learning.
Another option may be to relocate a course, such as the Master Gunners courses at Fort Benning designed to provide advanced training to gunners on M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Part of TRADOC Commander Gen. Paul Funk II’s guidance is “looking at and saying, ‘Hey does it make sense for everybody to go to Fort Benning for this particular course? How about we push it out to Fort Hood where the tankers are and not bring them in?'” McNorton said.
He said he isn’t sure when the review will be complete, but any recommendation to close an Army school will have to be approved by the service’s senior leadership.
“This stuff gets briefed up to senior leaders, and the senior leaders can say, ‘Bring that one back. We are not getting rid of it,'” McNorton said.
A missile malfunction aboard German navy frigate FGS Sachsen on June 21, 2018 scorched the ship’s deck and injured two sailors.
The Sachsen, an air-defense frigate, was sailing with sub-hunting frigate Lubeck in a test and practice area near the Arctic Circle in Norwegian waters, according to the German navy.
The Sachsen attempted to fire a Standard Missile 2, or SM-2, from the vertical launch system located in front of the ship’s bridge. The missile did not make it out of the launcher, however, and its rocket burned down while still on board the ship, damaging the deck and injuring two crew members.
“We were standing in front of a glistening and glowing hot wall of fire,” the ship’s captain, Thomas Hacken, said in a German navy release.
Sachsen class frigates are outfitted with 32 Mark 41 vertical launch tubes built into the forward section of the ship. Each SM-2 is about 15 feet long and weighs over 1,500 pounds.
It was not immediately clear why the missile malfunctioned; it had been checked and appeared in “perfect condition,” the German navy said. Another of the same type of missile had been successfully launched beforehand.
While the ship’s deck and bridge were damaged, the effects were likely limited by the design of the Mark 41 launcher, which is armored, according to Popular Mechanics.
The two ships sailed into the Norwegian port of Harstad on June 22, 2018, before returning to their homeport in the German city of Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea.
Damage on the vertical launch system aboard the German navy frigate Sachsen, June 2018.
(Photo by German Navy)
“We have to practice realistically, so that we are ready for action in case of emergency, also for the national and alliance defense,” Vice Adm. Andreas Krause, navy inspector, said in the release. Despite the risks, Krause said, “our crews are highly motivated and ready to do their best.”
Germany’s military has hit a number of setbacks in recent years, like equipment shortages and failures. Dwindling military expertise and a lack of strategic direction for the armed forces have contributed to these problems.
The navy has been no exception. The first Baden-Württemberg frigate, a program thought up in 2005, was delivered in 2016, but the navy has refused to commission it, largely because the centerpiece computer system didn’t pass necessary tests.
At the end of 2017, it was reported that all six of the German navy’s submarines were out of action— four because they were being serviced in shipyards with the other two waiting for berths.
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