If you’re hoping to facilitate a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Also, if you’re hoping to ensure that you’re forever trapped in an endless Mobius strip of resentment, one-upmanship, and inventive new levels of searing joint pain, it’s a great idea to workout with your spouse! Yeah, exercising with your spouse can really go either way, sorry.
Be honest: You’ve seen couples working out together, and your reaction is generally either “Why don’t we do that?” or “Who in the ruddy blue hell has time for this GOOP new-age Pitbull-obsessed-$750-for-Athleta-pants-nonsense?” And both reactions are valid! Couples who work out together share a valid interest that carries the side benefit of helping to keep both parties alive, and Athleta is seriously expensive, guys. It’s black yoga pants, calm down.
But if you want to work out with your wife, how do you ensure you remain in that first group, and stay free of both workout-relationship struggles and tank tops that cost 5 because they feel sort of fluffy? Read on! (Erm, read on separately, as we’re about to drop some serious samurai-level psychological trickery that won’t work if your spouse knows about it. Unless they already read this and they are doing it to you. *makes mind blown motion* Anyway, it’s something to think about when you’re on the treadmill for 45 minutes.)
If you’re going to do this, do it together. No dropping each other off at the gym and reconnecting in an hour after you’re all blasting quads or crushing jacks or pulverizing obliques or whatever. Work out a way that it’s a couples’ venture. You don’t have to make her watch you on the lat pulldown machine, and you don’t have to watch every minute of her kickboxing workout (although those are awesome), but if you’re in this together, be in it together.
DO: be supportive
There are going to be about a dozen exceedingly hot people in your field of vision. Remind your spouse that he/she is easily the hottest thing in the room, regardless of how long the 5’4″ yoga-pants model can do a plank, which will sometimes be like two minutes, those people are like magical ab-crunching elves.
Unless you are performing a workout that involves Mjolnir, keep the volume down. Unless you are lifting more than 1,400 lbs. from a standing position, shut up. Unless your spouse is deeply turned on by you making the kind noises that would indicate you’re singing a Korn song, shut up. Also, if your spouse is turned on by Korn, find a new spouse.
DO NOT: Instagram
Under no circumstances should you:
Scroll through Instagram workout models together
Scroll through Instagram workout models separately
Scroll through Instagram workout models in the other room after she goes to sleep
Literally anything involving a peach emoji
Honestly the whole thing is just bad news, those people are almost certainly emotionally bankrupt empty vessels whose primary joy comes from anonymous like numbers*, and the more you two focus on your thing the happier you will all be.
* Except the Rock and Chris Hemsworth, who are both great.
DO NOT: tell your partner to stop doing “vanity exercises”
Unless, that is you want to have a fight at the dumbbell rack. We all have our annoying tendencies. Just turn up the “Sweat Mix” in your AirPods and let them feel better about their show-off zones.
In addition to being a quality exercise that will make your heart work better in your 70s, running offers many fringe benefits, like being outside, spending time together, possibly exploring new trails or paths or beaches, pushing each other, and possibly even doing literally nothing other than quietly enjoying each other’s company. It also might hurt your knees and cause you to trip over roots in the forest, but it’s worth a shot.
DO: try out new classes together
Chances are pretty good your gym offers a bunch of classes featuring words that sound totally made-up, like “aerial fitness” and “black light yoga.” And they might be terrible ideas born because some 20-year-old intern came across a workout content farm online! But unless you’re training together for a marathon or an Olympic discus competition or to launch a workout-couples Instagram (DON’T), you’re probably there to get a little healthier and spend time together. So, pick one or three of the dumbest-sounding classes, and try them out (If you don’t want to hate one another immediately, avoid any class with “Boot Camp” in the title)
Worst-case scenario, you try something new and get a little better at pole dancing. Best-case scenario, you can make merciless fun of those idiots when you’re home later. See, you’re bonding already.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Remember your first summer job? This author’s was as a door corp member, a host, at his local Waffle House. He was fine at that job and terrible as a waiter on Sunday mornings. But the NSA has a program for teens who want to make a bigger impact: Come to the NSA as an intern before college. And the benefits are better than what this author gets now.
The Gifted Talented STEM Program seeks high school students with credits for physics, calculus, and either computer science, programming, or engineering. Combine those credits with a 1200 or above on the SAT or 25 or above on the ACT, and those students can get a job at an actual spy agency.
The students work full-time over the summer for between 10 and 12 weeks. Benefits include paid time off, holiday and sick leave, housing assistance, free courses, and travel reimbursement.
If the students are really interested in the NSA for a career, they can then enroll in the Stokes Educational Scholarship Program as well. That has all the same benefits of the GT STEM Program, but they also get up to ,000 in tuition assistance, health and life insurance, and credit toward federal retirement.
In addition to the technical internships, the NSA has a language program for high school seniors with an aptitude for the Chinese, Russian, Korean, Farsi, or Arabic languages. There are also high school work-study programs where students work 20 to 32 hours a week during the school year, earning about -12 an hour.
Now, students with those great academic credentials can make real contributions to national security, but the NSA is pretty open about why they really want students to come to the agency for a few summers in a row.
It helps them poach talent away from Silicon Valley.
The NSA is part of the Department of Defense, and it’s the military’s primary arm for cyber security and defense as well as other espionage activities. It absolutely needs top-tier computer talent to do its job and to protect American service members and enable offensive activities across the globe.
But recruiting that talent is tough, especially since software and computer companies have deeper pockets and are looking for the same people. So the NSA hopes that, by allowing the students to see the meaningful impact of their work early on, those same students will come back to the agency after graduation.
In fact, all students that complete their degree on the Stokes scholarship are required to work at the NSA for 1.5 times their length of study. So, six years for the average bachelor’s degree and nine years for the average master’s program.
Reporter James Foley was no stranger to battle zone coverage. This first-hand look at a Taliban ambush against U.S. soldiers shows how he was willing to put himself in harm’s way to capture the story.
Infantrymen from the 101st Brigade were under constant attack and lost seven troops to IEDs, suicide attacks, and firefights.
Much of the U.S.’s military attention was focused on Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold in the southwest part of the country (Afghanistan), according the PBS video below. But, in Kunar Province in the northeast, the firefights were just as fierce.
The video picks up with Private Justin Greer, age 19, getting shot in the head while manning the turret-mounted grenade launcher.
James Foley was a freelance reporter for GlobalPost, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations. He was murdered by the terrorist group ISIS in August 2014.
Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London or wherever they come from.
If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.
Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.
The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.
Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.
The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.
In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.
Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.
Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.
In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.
Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.
The U.S. Army on Monday unveiled its $178 billion spending request for fiscal 2021, a proposed budget that adds some 1,000 active-duty soldiers and sets aside money for new long-range missiles, high-tech soldier systems and a new family of rifles for infantry and other close-combat forces.
The $178 billion topline request is $4 billion less than last fiscal year’s $182 billion request, according to Army budget documents. The Army received $180 billion in the fiscal 2020 enacted budget.
The Army is requesting .5 billion for military personnel, including .1 billion for the active force, a .4 billion increase over the .7 billion it received last year, according to budget documents.
Despite the increase, the Army is projecting modest growth, adding 900 active-duty soldiers to its ranks and transferring another 100 new active-duty soldiers for the new United States Space Force.
By the end of fiscal 2021, the Army plans to reach an end strength of 485,000, according to the documents.
The Army met its fiscal recruiting goals in fiscal 2019 after struggling to recover from a troubling 6,500-person recruiting shortfall the year.
The National Guard is slated to receive .8 billion for 336,500 soldiers, an increase of 500 from last year, according to budget documents. The Army Reserves is set to receive .1 billion for 189,800 soldiers, an increase of 300 soldiers from last year under the request.
The Army is also requesting funding for significant investments in soldier lethality, another modernization priority.
The Next Generation Squad Weapon — a new 6.8mm system slated to replace the M4A1 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry squads — is slated to receive 1.2 million — that’s .4 million for RDTE and .8 million to start buying the first rifle and automatic rifle variants, according to Pentagon budget documents. Fielding is scheduled to begin in fiscal 2023.
The Army also plans on spending 6 million for 40,219 sets of Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) — a Microsoft-based system that features sophisticated goggles that allow soldiers to see their weapon sight reticle in their field of view along with other key tactical information. Fielding is set to begin in fiscal 2021.
The Army continues to place a high priority on its modernization effort, a plan to replace most of its major weapons platforms over the next decade.
The budget request realigns billion in the fiscal 2021-2025 Program Objective Memorandum (POM) to fund its cross-functional team development efforts.
Army leaders “eliminated 41 programs and reduced/delayed 39 programs across the [Future Years Defense Program] not tied to the [National Defense Strategy] or modernization priorities,” according to budget documents.
The Army began ruthlessly cutting non-modernization programs in the last budget cycle to free up more than billion in a tedious process known as “Night Court.”
“We must transform all linear industrial age processes to be more effective, protect our resources and make better decisions,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, said in the documents. “We must be the Army of tomorrow, today.”
The Army is making cuts to procurement of weapons and tracked vehicles, requesting .7 billion compared to the .7 billion it received last year, according to budget documents.
The Army cut buys of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, purchasing 32 vehicles for 3 million. Last Year, the Army bought 21 for 5 million, according to Pentagon budget documents.
The Army also cut military construction, requesting id=”listicle-2645128013″.1 billion, down from the id=”listicle-2645128013″.8 billion it received last year. The request includes 0 million for nine projects in the active-duty force. That’s a decrease from the id=”listicle-2645128013″.4 billion the service requested for 21 active Army projects in fiscal 2020, according to budget documents.
The National Guard is slated to receive 1 million for 18 projects, according to budget documents. The Reserve would get million for four projects.
The Army increased its missile budget to .5 billion, up from the billion it received from last year, according to budget documents.
For long-range precision fires, the Army’s top modernization priority, the service is requesting 0 million in research, development, testing and evaluation (RDTE) for the Long-Range Hypersonic Missile effort, according to budget documents.
The Army is requesting a total of 2.6 million for its new, long-range Precision Strike Missile (PrSM). Some 2.7 million of that is for research, development and testing and .9 million would purchase 30 of the new missiles, according to Pentagon budget documents. The PrSM is intended to engage targets beyond 500 kilometers, replacing the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) which has a range of about 300 kilometers.
The Army is spending 7 million for the Mobile Short-Range Air Defense System, or M-SHORAD, compared to last year’s 3 million, according to budget documents.
Osama bin Laden is dead. ISIS has been disbursed to the winds. Al-Baghdadi saw the wrong side of Army Special Forces. That means it’s open season on terrorists’ most-wanted leaders. Since no one usually wants to carry this mantle, the United States government sometimes has to decide for them. In the weeks following the death of ISIS’ first caliph, the State Department announced a $10 million reward for two members of our old enemy, al-Qaeda.
If you’re looking for a cool couple of million and have some spare time…
Michael Evanoff, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, told reporters that the State Department was announcing a reward for two senior members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It’s offering million for information on Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki and up to million for Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi. The United States alleges the two terror group members have encouraged its membership to make attacks against the United States and its citizens.
Al-Qosi is a Sudanese national who was Osama bin Laden’s driver and cook from 2006 to 2010. He was captured by American forces and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, where he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The former driver and cook was released to Sudan in July 2012 in exchange for his cooperation. Al-Awlaki is a senior commander for AQAP who was also a field commander for AQAP fighting the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen.
Which means he’s probably as good at war as the Saudis.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi is not any kind of field commander or operative, at least not that the United States has released. The Supreme Court has since ruled material support for terrorism is not a war crime and therefore cannot be prosecuted under the Guantanamo military tribunals, but he has not challenged his previous convictions. Instead, he turned to advocating support for attacks on American nationals and American military forces worldwide, which put him in the State Department crosshairs.
At the Second Battle of Mukalla in 2015, Sa’ad bin Atef al-Awlaki was a field commander who led troops against the Saudi coalition. American troops were stationed near Mukalla, but not much is known about the interactions between U.S. and AQAP forces during the battle. AQAP was forced to abandon the town.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Coronavirus pandemic that’s happening around the world. The effects of the virus have left military families scrambling, and not for reasons you think. With military moves being stopped, schools shut down, and redeployments halted, families are struggling to figure out a plan to prevail through yet another disaster.
Do you have an emergency financial plan in place for your family?
Having emergency funds for your family in times like this is crucial. Going forward, use these financial tips to help your family thrive during hard times.
Have three months worth of expenses saved if possible.
Have adequate insurance (travel, personal property, auto, renters, and home).
Save a small amount of cash every month (Separate from your normal savings).
Do you have an emergency childcare plan?
With the rising number of schools and daycare centers shutting down, having an emergency plan for your children is essential. After reading that most military families don’t have someone they can ask a favor, finding your village is now more important than ever. Because we assume our school-aged children would spend most of their days at school, we don’t really prepare for this not to be the case. Now, we have to prepare. Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe and entertained.
Have a list of drop-in childcare facilities or babysitters near your home.
Have written childcare instructions in your home for an emergency babysitter.
Sign up for a free online school subscription. Cato.org has an extensive list of online schooling options.
Do you have enough household products in case of emergency?
Many military families live paycheck to paycheck. Having a surplus of food and household items may not be an option. However, there are things you should always keep in your home in case of emergency, or in this case, quarantine.
Always keep one weeks worth of basic living essentials in your home.
Have a small supply of ready to eat foods on hand.
Don’t forget baby formula pet food. Many people overlook these items when preparing for a disaster.
Does your family have exceptional medical needs?
If you have an exceptional family member or members that requires medication, having necessary medical supplies can mean the difference between life or death.
Have a pre-written medical emergency sheet easily accessible
Contact your doctor for medication refills, if you are close to running out.
Have basic medical supplies on hand (cold medicine, bandages, pain relievers).
Being prepared eases the stress of any emergency, especially one that doesn’t have an immediate end in sight. Visit Ready.gov to learn more about how you can prepare your family for an unexpected emergency. Better to be safe, than sorry.
Also, check CDC.com for the most accurate up-to-date information.
As the rest of the world processes the fact that the U.K. is now leaving the European Union, there’s a real chance that Scotland might leave the U.K and take the base where the U.K. maintains an arsenal of 160 deployed nuclear warheads on 58 Trident missiles with them.
Many Scottish politicians supported leaving the U.K. in a 2014 referendum that was defeated in an approximately 45 percent vs. 55 percent vote. The “Yes” camp, which asked voters to say, “Yes, Scotland should be an independent country,” pledged to get rid of Britain’s nuclear submarines within the first term of a Scottish president. When the measure was defeated, it allowed the Royal Navy to breathe a sigh of relief. But the issue is coming around again.
That will leave voters trying to decide whether to remain part of the EU, which 62 percent of the Scottish population supported, or to remain part of Britain, which only 55 percent of the population supported. While there’s no guarantee that Scotland would leave if a new referendum is held, it is likely that a “Yes” vote would force Britain to move all four of its nuclear submarines to a new base. And that would be a huge problem.
Estimates in 2014 said that it would take Britain 10 years and 3 billion pounds that it doesn’t have to relocate the base. So, the Royal Navy began looking at alternatives. The best and easiest for the U.K. would be if they could negotiate a deal to lease the base from Scotland, but that would likely fail since many members of the independence movement want all nuclear weapons off Scottish soil. The next best option would be for England to send all their warheads, their sub crews, and the submarines themselves to Georgia. Yes, that Georgia, the state just north of Florida.
American politicians promised support of the plan in 2014. If it came up again in 2017, there’s a decent chance Congress would go for it since the British nuclear deterrent is part of the NATO nuclear deterrent. Besides that, Britain has few options. France could be a possibility, assuming that the French people don’t take Brexit too personally. Britain’s strong status in NATO could potentially get it four parking spots in a Baltic port, but then it would have the constant headache of its submarines being within range of a Russian invasion.
A credible way to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles has been a cornerstone of American defense thinking since the early days of the Cold War. With renewed ballistic missile threats from China and North Korea, the need for a reliable way to intercept incoming ballistic missiles on their way to the US mainland was renewed.
But the most recent test shows more promise for a new interception system than at any time in U.S. military history, with the system successfully intercepting an incoming test ICBM as it was designed to do.
The test missile was an ICBM launched from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 4,000 miles away from the United States. The interceptor missiles were launched from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base via an underground missile silo. This test was a “salvo” test, which means multiple missiles were fired at the same incoming missile to increase the chances of destroying it.
“The system worked exactly as it was designed to do,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel A. Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency. The test result “demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat.”
But not everyone agrees.
In this photo provided by the Missile Defense Agency, the lead ground-based Interceptor is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in a “salvo” engagement test of an unarmed missile target Monday, March 25, 2019. In the first test of its kind, the Pentagon on Monday carried out the “salvo” intercept of an unarmed missile soaring over the Pacific, using two interceptor missiles launched from underground silos in southern California.
(Missile Defense Agency)
The Union of Concerned Scientists says the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that launched the test is more akin to “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” and the system is hugely expensive, ineffective, and offers no proven capability to protect the United States. It goes on to note the GMD in its current state was fielded before any tests were conducted on the system and two-thirds of its intercepts fail. The Union calls the system wasteful and calls on the government to figure out another strategy for missile defense.
The Pentagon will spend .4 billion on missile defense, including the GMD, in the year 2020.
“Success is better than failure, but because of the secrecy I have no idea how high the bar was set,” said Laura Grego of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “How realistic was the test? The Pentagon had a very long way to go to demonstrate the system works in a real-world situation.”
A ballistic missile test-fired from Meck Island in the Kwajalein Atoll.
The United States also uses space-based and sea-based missiles in its missile defense network. These systems were also used to track the successful test intercept.
“This was the first GBI salvo intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target, and it was a critical milestone,” Lt. Gen. Greaves said in a released statement.
December 2017, the Marine Corps wowed a small audience in Quantico, Virginia, with a demonstration of a fully autonomous UH-1 Huey helicopter that could navigate, conduct pre-set missions, and even assess landing conditions, all without a human in the loop.
The secret ingredient was the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System, or AACUS, a kit that can be mounted on a rotary-wing aircraft to transform it from a manned aircraft to an autonomous one. And now, AACUS is a finalist for an elite aviation award.
According to the Office of Naval Research, which leads the AACUS program, it’s now a finalist for the 2017 Robert J. Collier Trophy, awarded by the National Aeronautic Association for “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”
Previous recipients have included the NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity Project Team; the X-47B, developed by Northrop Grumman and the Navy as a carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle, and still reportedly in the running for the MQ-25 program; and the team that designed the F-22 Raptor, among others.
“We at ONR are very excited and proud of the AACUS team that was selected as a finalist for this very prestigious Collier Trophy,” Dr. Knox Millsaps, director of the division of Aerospace Sciences in ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, said in a statement released by ONR. “But our greatest sense of excitement and pride comes knowing we’ve provided a technology that could help the Marine Corps warfighter stay out of harm’s way during resupply missions.”
AACUS, which is designed to be so easy to use that a Marine can program a mission after a few minutes of training, is expected to be an asset for logistics and resupply missions, providing a way to get beans, bullets, medical supplies and more to units downrange without risking a human pilot and crew.
The Corps next plans to place the technology in units for realistic testing as part of its Sea Dragon 2025 experimentation effort later this fiscal year.
The AACUS is competing against eight other finalists for the Collier trophy, according to the ONR announcement.
They include: Boeing 737 MAX; Cirrus Aircraft Vision SF50; Edwards Air Force Base F-35 Integrated Test Force; NASA/JPL Cassini Project Team; Perlan Project; TSA, ALPA and A4A Known Crewmember and TSA PreCheck Programs; Vanilla Aircraft VA001; and Zee Aero Division of Kitty Hawk Corporation.
A winner is expected to be announced March 23, 2018.
Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.
His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.
The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.
Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.
Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
SpaceX rocketed four astronauts into Earth’s orbit on Sunday, kicking off its most ambitious spaceflight yet for NASA.
The mission, called Crew-1, is set to bring Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, to the International Space Station. They’re scheduled to stay there for six months, constituting the longest human spaceflight in NASA history.
The astronauts launched aboard a Crew Dragon spaceship on Sunday evening. Once in orbit, the crew changed out of their spacesuits into more comfortable clothes, ate dinner, and settled down for a night’s rest.
All in all, they’re set to spend 27 hours inside the Crew Dragon capsule, which the astronauts have named Resilience, before the ship fully lines up with and docks to a port on the station. The docking operation requires a complex set of maneuvers, and the Crew-1 launch won’t be considered complete until it’s done. If the spaceship can’t dock, it may have to turn around, plummet through Earth’s atmosphere, and parachute into the ocean so NASA and SpaceX can recover the astronauts.
If docking succeeds, though, Crew-1 will become the first operational mission to come out of a decade-long effort to restore NASA’s human spaceflight capabilities. Through its Commercial Crew Program, the space agency has funded the development of private, astronaut-ready launch systems from SpaceX and Boeing. NASA has spent more than $6 billion on the program, according to The Planetary Society.
SpaceX on Tuesday became the first company to receive NASA’s human-spaceflight certification for a commercial system, and Crew-1 marks its first “operational” mission. The company proved its human-launch abilities this summer when it successfully rocketed NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS and back in a test flight called Demo-2.
Now, the four astronauts on the Resilience spaceship are awake and monitoring the docking operation.
“We’re not done yet,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, told reporters two hours after the launch. “That spacecraft’s out there with those four precious crew members on [it], and we’re going to get them safely to the International Space Station tomorrow.”
NASA TV is broadcasting live video of the docking on its stream below:
NASA plans to continue broadcasting through about 2 a.m. ET, after the agency expects Crew-1 astronauts to float inside the ISS, greet each other, and wrap up a traditional docking ceremony.
How a 13-ton spaceship precision maneuvers into an ISS port
The flight is programmed to be automatic, but the crew will keep tabs on the process. If anything goes wrong, the astronauts can manually control the spacecraft.
“They won’t have to push any buttons or fire any thrusters, Dragon is doing this all on its own — it’s completely autonomous,” Leah Cheshier, a NASA communications specialist, said during NASA TV and SpaceX’s joint broadcast on Monday night. “The crew is just monitoring when you see them looking at their screens.”
Early in the docking process, Resilience stopped about 400 meters below the space station, later swing up and in front of the facility. The capsule then began a series of automated maneuvers to close in on the ISS. First, it began slowly pulling up to a point about 220 meters ahead of the station’s Node 2 forward port.
Assuming all goes well, the spaceship’s autopilot will continue inching it toward the football-field-size, orbiting laboratory and line up its docking system with the adapter on the port.https://gfycat.com/ifr/QuerulousThickHamster
Crew Dragon’s automated and manual docking systems have both been tested. During Demo-2, Behnken and Hurley turned off the auto-pilot to and controlled the vehicle. Demo-2 was a test flight, after all, and part of it was making sure the backup systems worked.
“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast after the docking, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though this was as expected.
If there are no issues, and the new Crew Dragon firmly secures itself to the ISS in the same way the last ship did, the station’s adapter will slowly fill with air, allow the astronauts inside to open their hatches, and then greet each other with zero-gravity hugs.
Kate Rubins, the NASA astronaut currently on the ISS, will be waiting to greet them.
“I have some great friends flying on that vehicle, so I’m going to be pretty happy to open the hatch and welcome them to the space station,” she told Business Insider.
Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov will also welcome Crew-1 to the space station.
The Crew Dragon will remain attached to the ISS for the astronauts’ entire stay there. The Resilience capsule has a new set of solar panels that are much more durable than the ones that flew with Behnken and Hurley. Those previous solar panels would have begun to degrade in the harsh radiation of space after just 110 days (that mission only lasted two months). Resilience, however, is certified to weather 210 days — nearly seven months — in space.
This may not be the only docking in the Crew-1 mission
In another major upgrade, Resilience is programmed with the ability to move itself to another of the four ports on the US section of the ISS, in order to make room for other incoming spaceships.
“It’s getting a little crowded in space. And that’s a really good thing,” NASA astronaut Suni Williams said in a Friday briefing.
Williams is set to fly on the first operational mission of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner — that company’s spaceship for astronauts, which was funded and designed through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program as well. The Starliner is set to reattempt an uncrewed test flight to the space station in 2021, since the first test failed. That might require the Crew Dragon to move to a different port.
To relocate the spaceship, the crew will climb back in and run new software that should maneuver the Crew Dragon away from its original docking point, the Forward Port, and re-dock to the station’s Zenith Port.