The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.
“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”
Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.
The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.
“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”
Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.
U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”
Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.
“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.
But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.
Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.
Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.
Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.
Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.
The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.
It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.
Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.
The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.
Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.
Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.
The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.
Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. President Donald Trump expressed optimism on Jan. 10 that a diplomatic opening with North Korea that emerged this week in talks with the South could lead to broader dialogue to quell tensions in the region.
Trump’s upbeat mood after months of escalating threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs came as the UN Security Council said it welcomes “possibilities for confidence-building and trust-building on the Korean peninsula” that emerged this week.
“We have certainly problems with North Korea,” Trump said at a news conference, but “a lot of good talks are going on right now. A lot of good energy… Hopefully, it will lead to success for the world, not just for our country, but for the world.”
“Who knows where it leads?” he said.
The move toward dialogue began with an agreement between North and South Korea on Jan. 9 to reopen talks between their militaries and welcome a team from the North to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month at the first formal talks between the two sides in more than two years.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office on Jan. 10 said that Trump indicated in a phone conversation that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold talks.
The White House said Moon and Trump agreed that, as long as the North refuses to discuss curbing its nuclear development, the global community should continue to exert “maximum pressure” through stiff sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN council this year.
But, at the same time, the White House said, “Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”
Trump has previously scoffed at what he said was the futility of talking with the North.
GNC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday night, announcing that it expects to close between 800 and 1,200 stores while on the hunt for a buyer for its business. The vitamins and supplements retailer had about 7,300 stores as of the end of March.
In a letter to shoppers, GNC said the COVID-19 pandemic “created a situation where we were unable to accomplish our refinancing and the abrupt change in the operating environment had a dramatic negative impact on our business.”
GNC identified 248 stores that would close imminently as part of the restructuring process. Stores are closing in 42 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and Canada.
Here are the first of the locations GNC plans to close, arranged alphabetically by state:
Quintard Mall, 700 Quintard Drive, Oxford, AL
Flagstaff Mall, 4650 E 2 N Hwy 89, Flagstaff, AZ
Arrowhead Town Center, 7700 West Arrowhead Towne, Glendale, AZ
Madera Village, 9121 E. Tanque Verde Rd, Suite 115, Tucson, AZ
Benton Commons, 1402 Military Road, Benton, AR
Northwest Arkansas Plaza, 4201 North Shiloh Dr, Fayetteville, AR
The Mall at Turtle Creek, 3000 East Highland Ave, Space # 309, Jonesboro, AR
Park Plaza, 6000 W. Markham, Little Rock, AR
North Park Village Shopping Center, 103 North Park Dr, Monticello, AR
McCain Mall Shopping Center, 3929 McCain Blvd, North Little Rock, AR
Brawley Gateway, Brawley, CA
Rancho Marketplace Shopping Center, Burbank, CA
La Costa Town Square, 7615 Via Campanile Suite, Carlsbad, CA
Centrepointe Plaza, 1100 Mount Vernon Ave, Suite B, Colton, CA
Mountain Gate Plaza, 160 W. Foothill Parkway, #106, Corona, CA
Town Place, 787 1st Street, Gilroy, CA
Victoria Gardens, 12379 S Main St., Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Monterey Marketplace, Rancho Mirage, CA
Red Bluff Shopping Center, 925 South Main Street, Red Bluff, CA
Tierrasanta Town Center, San Diego, CA
Grayhawk Plaza, 20701 N. Scotsdale Rd, Suite 105, Scottsdale, AZ
Buena Park Mall, 8312 On The Mall, Buena Park, CA
East Bay Bridge Center, 3839 East Emery Street, Emeryville, CA
Vintage Faire Mall, 3401 Dale Road, Modesto, CA
Huntington Oaks Shopping Center, 514 W. Huntington Drive, Box 1106, Monrovia, CA
Del Monte Shopping Center, 350 Del Monte S.C., Monterey, CA
Antelope Valley Mall, 1233 Rancho Vista Blvd, Palmdale, CA
Town Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA
Rancho Bernardo Town Center, Rancho Bernardo, CA
Rocklin Commons, 5194 Commons Drive 107, Rocklin, CA
Westfield Shoppingtown Mainplace, 2800 North Main Street, Suite 302, Santa Ana, CA
Gateway Plaza Shopping Center, 580b River St, Suite B, Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Rosa Plaza, 600 Santa Rosa Plaza, Suite 2032, Santa Rosa, CA
The Promenade Mall, 40820 Winchester Road, Temecula, CA
West Valley Mall, 3200 N. Naglee Rd., Suite 240, Tracy, CA
Union Square Marketplace, Union City, CA
Riverpoint Marketplace, West Sacramento, CA
Yucaipa Valley Center, 33676 Yucaipa Blvd, Yucaipa, CA
Chapel Hills Mall, 1710 Briargate Blvd at Jamboree Drive, Colorado Springs, CO
The Citadel, 750 Citadel Drive East, Space 1036, Colorado Springs, CO
River Landing, 3480 Wolverine Dr, Montrose, CO
Monument Marketplace, 15954 Jackson Creek Pkwy, Monument, CO
Central Park Plaza, 1809 Central Park Dr., Steamboat Springs, CO
Larkridge Shopping Center, 16560 N. Washington St, Thornton, CO
Woodland Park Plaza, 1115 E US Hwy 24, Woodland Park, CO
The Plaza At Burr Corners, 1131 Tolland Pike, Manchester, CT
Dover Mall, 1365 N. Dupont Highway, Dover, DE
Gateway West Shopping Center, 1030 Forest Ave, Dover, DE
Rockford Shops, 1404 North Dupont St, Wilmington, DE
Boynton Beach Mall, 801 N Congress St, Suite 763, Boynton Beach, FL
Clearwater Plaza, 1283 S. Missouri Ave, Clearwater, FL
Coral Square, 9295 West Atlantic Blvd, Coral Springs, FL
Dupont Lakes Shopping Center, 2783 Elkcam Blvd, Deltona, FL
The Shops @ Mission Lakes, 5516 South State Rd 7, Space # 128, Lake Worth, FL
Wickham Corners Shopping, 1070 North Wickham Road, Unit 106, Melbourne, FL
Good news, Marines. On Nov. 27, 2017, MARADMIN 644/17 was signed and with it comes a few changes to your uniforms and seabags.
The first, and perhaps most widely applicable change, is that watch caps, combat utility gloves, and inserts are to be placed on the minimum requirement list for seabags. This means that each and every Marine needs to keep these handy.
In addition to putting a few more required items in the Marine seabag, MARADMIN 644/17 includes a few changes to the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform. One of these changes is yet another something for which your commanding officer can get on your ass. The document will:
Authorize commanders to direct the MCCUU blouse be tucked into the MCCUU trousers in a neat manner, when doing so will enable Marines to deploy and employ mission critical equipment.
The justification for this change is that by tucking in the MCCUU blouse, Marines will be able to more easily deploy military police belts, duty belts, or pistol belts, expanding that tactical toolbox just a tiny bit further.
MARADMIN 644/17 is also helping unmanned aircraft operators get a little more credit. Starting now, both enlisted and officers who pilot drones can wear the unmanned aircraft systems breast insignia on Marine Corps uniforms. Recognizing the troops behind the controls of unmanned aircraft is becoming more important as drone warfare becomes more prevalent. In fact, the US Air Force recently updated their awards to ensure that drone pilots would get their just honors.
Finally, the document also mandates that combat instructors at the School of Infantry East/West and The Basic School should have an additional pair of hot weather Marine Corps Combat Boots. Expect a slight bump to supplementary allowances to get these boots in your bag.
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.
The Kremlin says it will study any British request to question the two men London suspects of trying to murder a former spy, in strict accordance with Russian law.
But spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no such request has been received so far.
Britain has charged two men, Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov, with attempting to murder former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
British authorities accuse them of spraying a military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on Skripal’s front door in Salisbury in March 2018.
Peskov on Septe. 14, 2018, reiterated that the Kremlin denied any Russian state involvement in the poisoning.
Peskov’s comments come a day after the two men appeared in an interview on Kremlin-funded RT television station to proclaim their innocence.
The two denied they were agents of the military intelligence service widely known as the GRU and said they were merely tourists in the city southwest of London.
“Our friends had been suggesting for quite a long time that we visit this wonderful city,” Petrov said in the interview.
“They have a famous cathedral there,” Boshirov said, adding: “It is famous for its 123-meter spire.”
James Slack, spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May, derided their claims as “lies and blatant fabrications.
“More importantly, they are deeply offensive to the victims and loved ones of this horrific attack,” he said.
British officials have accused the suspects of smuggling Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume bottle and smearing some of it on the front door of Skripal’s home in Salisbury, where the former intelligence officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.
The attack left Skripal, 67, and his daughter Yulia, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.
The men interviewed by RT denied carrying the fake women’s perfume bottle with them.
“Isn’t it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume?” one of the two men was quoted as saying by the Kremlin-funded RT.
“The customs are checking everything.They would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it.”
They also said they stayed less than one hour in Salisbury due to poor weather.
“We went there to see Stonehenge, Old Sarum, but we couldn’t do it because there was muddy slush everywhere,” one of the two men said, referring to local landmarks.
In a statement, the British government said the interview reflected more “obfuscation and lies” by Moscow.
“The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service — the GRU — who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country,” it said.
“We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March,” the statement also said. “Today — just as we have seen throughout — they have responded with obfuscation and lies.”
The RT interview was aired a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had identified the men Britain suspects of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, but claimed they were civilians.
“They are civilians, of course,” Putin said on Sept. 12, 2018.
Leaders from Greece and Macedonia say they will meet in Switzerland this week as they continue to seek a solution to a nearly three-decade-old name dispute.
A Greek government spokesman said on Jan. 22 that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.
Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.
Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 have complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.
Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.
U.N.-mediated talks between the two countries’ chief negotiators in New York on Jan. 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.
Greece wants Macedonia to change its name — adding a modifier like “New” or “North” — to clarify that it has no claim on the neighboring Greek province of Macedonia.
However, many Greeks disagree with such a solution.
The U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has rejected Russia’s claim that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on May 29 that the aircraft reflected Russia’s goal to establish a foothold in the oil-rich country.
Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director for intelligence at ARFICOM, said the U.S. military tracked the 14 MiG-29 fighter jets and SU-24 fighter bombers that were flown in by the Russian military, landing at Libya’s Jufra air base.
The base is the main forward airfield for Khalifa Haftar and his eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), which has been waging an offensive to capture Tripoli.
Hadfield said Russia’s activities in Libya gave it access to that country’s oil and a military base in striking distance of Europe.
“Backing the LNA and backing Field Marshal Haftar — it really isn’t about winning the war, it’s about developing strongholds,” Hadfield said in an interview on May 29 with a small group of reporters.
A big U.S. concern would be if Russia placed missiles in such a location, he added.
“If Russia secures a permanent position in Libya and, worse, deploys long-range missile systems, it will be a game changer for Europe, NATO, and many Western nations,” Hadfield said.
Russia has denied links to the aircraft, calling the claim “stupidity.” Viktor Bondarev, the former Russian Air Force chief who heads the Defense Committee in the upper house of parliament, said the planes were not Russian, but could be Soviet-era aircraft owned by other African countries.
Hadfield disputed that, saying there were none of those aircraft in that part of Africa. And, he said, “not only did we watch them fly from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya, we were able to photograph them at multiple points.”
AFRICOM first released information about the arrival of the Russian aircraft in Libya on May 26. It provided more details on May 27, saying Moscow deployed the jets and bombers to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping Haftar battle forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
AFRICOM said that MiG-29s and Su-24s bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
Hadfield said the fighter aircraft will likely provide close air support and offensive strikes for the Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin that has been helping Hafter’s forces.
The aircraft have not yet been used, but he said they will have to be flown either by pilots from Russia or contractors employed by Vagner.
Also on May 29 the U.S. State Department announced that Malta on May 26 seized id=”listicle-2646139035″.1 billion worth of counterfeit Libyan currency that it said was printed by a Russian state-owned company.
The money was printed by Joint Stock Company Goznak and ordered by “an illegitimate parallel entity,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in the statement.
The statement said the influx of Russian-printed Libyan currency in recent years “has exacerbated Libya’s economic challenges,” adding that the United States remained committed to working with the United Nations and international partners to deter illicit activities in Libya.
“This incident once again highlights the need for Russia to cease its malign and destabilizing actions in Libya,” Ortagus said.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country is now split between a government in the east allied with Hafter and the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says the situation in Libya is continuing to deteriorate and that a cease-fire announced in January is in tatters.
The cease-fire “has definitively collapsed, and hostilities have resumed in full,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on May 29, according to Interfax.
The balance of power differs significantly from what it was when the cease-fire came into effect due to “massive foreign assistance,” she said.
Russia is in contact with all sides in the conflict and will insist it is resolved through diplomatic means, she said.
“The relationship between a military working dog and a military dog handler is about as close as a man and dog can become. You see this loyalty, a devotion unlike any other, and the protectiveness.” – Robert Crais
The United States military has utilized working dogs since the Revolutionary war. They were originally used as pack animals, carrying as much as forty pounds of supplies between units, including food, guns and ammo. Then during World War I, they were used for more innovative purposes, like killing rats in the trenches. However, it was during World War II that there was a surge in the use of military working dogs. The U.S. military deployed more than 10,000 working dogs throughout WWII. These specially trained dogs were used as sentries, scouts, messengers, and mine detectors. It is estimated that there are approximately 2,300 military working dogs deployed worldwide today.
The military working dogs of today are utilized in many different missions and specialties. After intensive training, each dog is then assigned to a specific specialty based on their strengths and abilities. Once the military working dogs are assigned their specialty, they are shipped out to military installations worldwide.
A few of the possible specialties these dogs can be selected for are:
Sentry dogs are trained to warn their handlers with a growl, bark, or other alert when danger or strangers are nearby. These dogs are valuable assets, especially for working in the dark when attacks from the rear or from cover are the most likely. Sentry dogs are often used on patrols, as well as guarding supply dumps, airports, war plants, and other vital installations.
Scout and patrol dogs are trained with the same skills that sentry dogs are. However, in addition, these dogs are trained to work in silence. Their job is to aid in the detection of ambushes, snipers, and other enemy forces. These particular dogs are somewhat elite among the military working dogs, because only dogs with both superior intelligence and a quiet disposition can be selected for this specialty. Scout and patrol dogs are generally sent out with their handlers to walk point during combat patrols, well ahead of the Infantry patrol.
Casualty dogs are trained in much the same way search and rescue dogs are. They are utilized to search for and report casualties in obscure areas, and casualties who are difficult for parties to locate. The time these dogs save in finding severely injured persons can often mean the difference between life and death.
With the current war on terrorism, explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or in a roadside location is a common threat. Explosive detection dogs are trained to alert their handlers to the scent of the chemicals that are commonly used in explosives. These dogs have such a superior sense of smell that it is nearly impossible to package explosives in a way that they cannot detect.
No matter what their specialty or their mission, the reality is these highly trained K9s are an invaluable part of today’s military. There has yet to be a technology created that can match the ability and heart that military working dogs sustain every day. These dogs are the unsung heroes of the U.S. military, and it is only in recent years that there has been a movement to make sure they are given the appreciation and benefits they deserve. There is constant research going into the best ways to protect them in combat. And along with a push to make K9 Veterans Day an official holiday, there is also a movement to make sure these four-legged heroes are taken care of when their time in service comes to an end.
Just as the cyber threat has continued to evolve and grow, so too have the National Guard’s cyber teams and cyber capabilities, said Guard officials during a cyber roundtable discussion at the Pentagon.
“The cyber domain is constantly changing and it’s very dynamic,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett, the vice director of domestic operations with the National Guard Bureau.
That changing cyber domain also means looking differently at where cyber operators come from within the ranks.
“We tend to be very linear in our thinking sometimes,” said Air Force Col. Jori Robinson, vice commander of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Wing and former commander of a cyber operations squadron and group. “You have to have a computer science degree, you have to come from a computer background and that is what makes a good cyber operator.”
Turns out, said Robinson, some of the best cyber operations specialists may come from the aircraft maintenance field.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Smith, a cyber systems operations technician with the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, uncoils cable for a radio frequencies kit.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Wright)
An Air Force study, she said, looked into elements that make an individual have the capacity to understand cyber networks, even if the specific computer network abilities aren’t there.
“That person over in maintenance who has been turning wrenches on a jet for the past 15 years, has the capacity and innate ability to understand networks and get a better idea, and they are turning out to make some of the most prolific and fantastic operators we have,” said Robinson.
For some Air Guard units, that comes as a benefit as missions shift and equipment changes. When the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 167th Airlift Wing transitioned from flying the C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft to the smaller C-17 Globemaster III, that left many maintainers in limbo.
“C-17s don’t require as many maintainers as C-5s, so there was a net loss of people of force structure,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jody W. Ogle, the director of communications and cyber programs with the West Virginia National Guard.
Using workforce development grants, many of those maintainers attended civilian education courses to retrain into the Guard’s cyber force.
“It was met with great success,” said Ogle, adding that about 50 maintainers made the switch.
Robinson echoed his sentiments.
“We’ve taken some of our maintainers and turned them into cyber operators and they are just crushing all of these classes and they are among the most sought-after folks by Cyber Command to come sit in on these teams,” she said.
Having another potential avenue to pull from is important, said Robinson, as the Maryland National Guard has a large concentration of cyber capability.
A C-17 Globemaster III.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)
“It’s a very robust mission set in the state,” she said. “We run full spectrum operations for Cyber Command and 24th Air Force as well as on the Army side.”
That capability means filling a variety of roles.
“In the National Guard our core missions are one, fight America’s wars, two, secure the homeland and, three, build partnerships,” Burkett said. “We support the warfight by building fully integrated National Guard cyber units into operational federal missions. [We] protect the homeland by providing highly-trained cyber forces available to support mission-partner requirements.”
Those mission-partner requirements often focus on working with state and local agencies to assess and identify potential security risks in their networks.
“We provide vulnerability assessments, we’ll do some mission assurance, predominantly with the government agencies,” said Robinson, adding that Maryland Guard cyber units assisted the Maryland Board of Elections during recent elections in the state.
“We were called in pretty early with the Maryland Board of Elections just to have a conversation,” she said. “We provided a lot of lead up information, a lot of policy review and should they have needed it we were available going into the elections to do more over-the-shoulder monitoring [for potential cyber threats] for them.”
Robinson stressed, the cyber teams were strictly hands-off when it came to using computer hardware.
“We were very clear from the beginning that we were not going to be hands-on-keyboard,” she said. “The Board of Elections felt they had a strong handle on what was happening on the networks on Election Day.”
The Maryland Guard cyber units were able to easily integrate because of partnerships built between the Guard and those local agencies, stated Robinson.
Those partnerships are important.
“We learn a lot from our partners,” said Burkett. “We don’t necessarily have all the answers.”
For the Maryland Guard cyber units, one of the most beneficial partnerships has been an international one.
Since 1993 the Maryland Guard has been partnered with Estonia as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which pairs National Guard elements with partner nations worldwide. Since 2007, that partnership has included a strong cyber component, said Robinson.
That year saw Estonia suffered a massive hack to its computer infrastructure.
“What Estonia brings to the United States is quite fascinating because of the hack that happened in 2007, what it did to their critical infrastructure and their ability and how Estonia responded following that,” said Robinson.
The result was a total redo of network systems.
“They completely revamped their network system and how they do all online transactions,” said Robinson. “It’s a fascinating study in how you can add additional layers of encryption, additional layers of protection to everything that is online.”
It makes for a unique system, Robinson said.
“We’re learning a lot from them from that perspective,” she said, adding that cyber operations have been integrated into training exercises conducted with Estonian forces, including a large-scale training exercise in 2017 that incorporated both flying and cyber missions.
“We created an exercise where a massive attack, a piece of malware, had found its way on to the Estonian air base,” Robinson said, referring to the cyber portion of the exercise. From there, the exercise simulated the malware getting onto the computers used for maintenance of the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were used for the flying portion of the exercise.
The cyber operators had to respond quickly, said Robinson, just as if it were a real-world attack. And, it was both Estonian and Maryland Guard cyber elements responding.
“We worked side by side,” she said. “It was a fantastic exercise that we’re looking at expanding in 2020.”
Those exercises, and partnerships, only expand the Guard’s cyber capabilities, said Burkett.
“Learning and building those relationship and partnerships is what the National Guard does naturally,” he said, adding that’s critical as the cyber threat continues to evolve.
“There is nothing that cannot be hacked,” he said. “We are dependent upon our cyber infrastructure for critical systems to support our way of life. As long as we are dependent upon those systems, we are going to have to defend them.”
Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, U.S. defense officials said Monday, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
The defense officials, however, said an anonymous survey conducted last year showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey. Sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, so the Pentagon uses anonymous surveys to track the problem.
The new figures are being released Monday. Several defense officials spoke about the report on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the data ahead of time.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
Overall there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
Retaliation is difficult to determine, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
Two years ago, a RAND Corporation study found that about 57 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress demanded swift steps to protect whistleblowers, including sexual assault victims, who are wronged as a result of reports or complaints.
Data at the time suggested that many victims described the vengeful behavior as social backlash, including online snubs, that don’t meet the legal definition of retaliation.
Officials are trying to get a greater understanding about perceptions of retaliation. They’ve added more questions and analysis to eliminate instances when commanders make adjustments or transfer victims to protect them, as opposed to punishing them or pressuring them to drop criminal proceedings.
As a result, while 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administration actions or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Despite the small increase in reports last year, officials focused on the anonymous survey. The survey is done every two years and includes a wider range of sexual contact.
In 2012, the survey showed 26,000 service members said they had been victims of unwanted sexual contact, which can range from inappropriate touching and hazing to rape. The numbers enraged Congress and triggered extensive debate over new laws and regulations to attack the problem.
The surveys have shown a steady decline. Monday’s report shows 14,900 cases were reported. Of those, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men. It marks the first time more women than men said they experienced unwanted sexual contact. There are far more men in the military and the total number of male victims had been higher, even if by percentage, women faced more unwanted contact.
The decrease in reports by men suggests a possible reduction in hazing incidents, officials said.
About 21 percent of women said they had faced sexual harassment, about the same as two years ago. The percentage of men dipped a bit.