Category Archives: Military

Iraq Declares Defeat of IS

I sure hope so.

Iraqi troops have seized the ruins of Mosul’s grand mosque from Isis, the military said in an announcement, declaring the extremists’ reign in the country to be over.

“Their fictitious state has fallen,” military spokesperson Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told state TV on Thursday – three years to the day since Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the so-called caliphate from the same spot.

2.2 Mile Shot

Wow.

“The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 meters. For operational security reasons and to preserve the safety of our personnel and our Coalition partners, we will not discuss precise details on when and how this incident took place,” the unit said in a written statement.
Due to the distance of the shot, some voices in the military community expressed skepticism at the Canadian government’s report. The reported shot from 3,540 meters, or about 2.2 miles, would eclipse the previous sniper world record of 2,474 meters or 1.54 miles set by the United Kingdom’s Craig Harrison when he killed two Taliban insurgents in November 2009.
The Globe and Mail first reported the shot’s success and said it disrupted an ISIS attack on Iraqi forces, citing unnamed sources.
“The elite sniper was using a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq. It took under 10 seconds to hit the target,” the paper said.
The Canadian military unit confirmed the distance of shot shortly after the Globe and Mail story was published, but the shot has yet to be formally confirmed a third party agency.

Escalating in Syria

See what I mean?

Russia has said it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are present as “targets” amid a diplomatic row caused by the downing of a Syrian jet.

The country’s defence ministry said the change in position would apply to all aircraft, including those operating as part of the US-backed coalition.

It will also suspend a hotline between Russia and the US set up to prevent mid-air collisions.

U.S. Shoots Down Syrian Fighter

Boom.

The incident occurred in the town of Ja’Din, south of Tabqa, Syria, which had recently been retaken from ISIS by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish and Arab rebel forces supported by the U.S. in the fight against the militant group.

SDF came under attack from regime forces in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad around 4:30 p.m. Syria time. A number of SDF fighters were wounded in the assault, and the SDF soon left Ja’Din.

Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force overhead that stopped the initial pro-regime advance towards the town.

“Following the Pro-Syrian forces attack, the coalition contacted its Russian counterparts by telephone via an established ‘de-confliction line’ to de-escalate the situation and stop the firing,” said a statement from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS.

“At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” said the statement.

The Syrian pilot is believed to have been able to eject from the aircraft, according to a U.S. official.

The whole situation is set up to escalate very quickly if we let it.

U.S. Shoots Down Missile

Wow. Shooting a bullet with a bullet.

Washington (CNN)The Pentagon successfully shot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile on Tuesday in what was widely seen as a test of US ability to counter a North Korean missile launch.

The Missile Defense Agency launched a ground-based interceptor from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to intercept a US-launched mock ICBM target over the Pacific Ocean, according to a US defense official.
The interceptor “destroyed the target in a direct collision,” according to a statement from the Missile Defense Agency.
“The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment … and a critical milestone for this program,” said MDA Director Vice Adm. Jim Syring.

Humbled and Thankful

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. No politics this week. Here you go:

What became Memorial Day began during the aftermath of the American Civil War. In an effort to find a way to grieve and remember the hundreds of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers whose graves were strewn around virtually every community in the newly reunited United States, Gen. John Logan, in his role as commander-inchief of the Union veterans group called the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day. He set aside the day for the purpose of decorating the graves of those who had given their lives in defense of their country during the Rebellion.

In the first national celebration of Decoration Day, former Union General and future President James Garfield, who was then a congressman from Ohio, gave a speech at the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s former property, which had been designated Arlington National Cemetery. After the speech, 5,000 participants decorated the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers in an act of national healing.

In the ensuing years, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day, fixed at the last Monday of May, and expanded to honor all those who have died in defense of liberty in all of America’s wars. The list of honored patriots is long — more than 1.1 million souls — and growing with each passing year. The price of liberty is indeed very, very high.

For most of our nation’s history, military service was compulsory. Men were expected to, and forced to by the government, serve in the armed forces in times of war and peace. Many men volunteered, as did many women, and after the draft was ended in 1973, every member of the armed services is a volunteer.

Although he was almost certainly not the first American soldier to die in combat, the honor of that distinction is generally given to Capt. Isaac Davis. One of the famed Massachusetts Minutemen, Davis set the mold for Americans for generations to come. He stepped forward when called to defend his nation, which was not even a nation yet, from the invading British Red Coats.

After seeing smoke in the town of Concord, the

Minutemen assembled on Punkatasset Hill decided to attack the British. Davis, accepting the honor, declared that, “I haven’t a man that is afraid to go,” and led his company down the hill to the Old North Bridge to confront the British. On the third volley from the disciplined British, a bullet pierced Davis’ heart just as he was raising his gun to fire. Private Abner Hosmer was also mortally wounded in the head during the same volley.

As of the time of this writing, we do not know the details of how Sergeants Joshua Rodgers and Cameron Thomas were killed. Aged just 22 and 23 years old, respectively, Rodgers and Thomas are the most recent casualties of America’s longest war. Both men were in the same unit and were killed by small arms fire on April 26 in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. This Memorial Day will be especially difficult for their families in Bloomington, Illinois, and Kettering, Ohio.

When one strolls through one of the far-too-many cemeteries with countless rows of identical white stones or stands before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that honors those heroes without a stone of their own, the distinctions of how or why they entered the military, race, creed, gender, age, religion, and even time fall into insignificance. Every one of those heroes had one thing in common. When our nation needed them to pay the ultimate sacrifice, they paid it. And for that, we are humbled and deeply thankful.

Why the Rage Against Chemical Weapons?

He has a point.

The Obama-Trump doctrine that the United States will enforce a global norm against the use of chemical weapons is strategically pointless and morally arbitrary. Strategically, it requires the United States to invest its time and resources policing a weapon this is not qualitatively different from conventional weapons. Morally, it amounts to a declaration that the United States cares more about the murder weapon than the murder victim.

Assad, for example, has killed hundreds of thousands of people, but we’re only supposed to get upset when he kills them with chemical weapons? The reasoning for opposing chemical weapons is that they can be deployed in an arbitrary fashion that kills a lot of innocent people and they result in a gruesome death. One could make the same case for the MOAB.

Injured Marine Completes Boston Marthon

Stud.

For Staff Sgt. Jose Luis Sanchez, what it means to serve and represent his country is something he knows all too well. According to NBC, Sanchez is a retired Marine who lost the lower part of his left leg by stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011. However, the former military man would not be deterred because of his injury when it came time to run in the 2017 Boston Marathon.

Rather, he showed his pride and honor for his country on Patriots’ Day on an entirely different level.

Sgt. Sanchez wore a Semper Fi Fund shirt and ran on his prosthetic leg while carrying a large American flag for the entire 26.2-mile race, finishing in 5:46:13.

“I want to recognize veterans and everyone who thinks they can’t do something,” Sanchez told Runner’s World. He completed the race as a charity member for the Semper Fi Fund, which supports wounded veterans, Runner’s World reports.

Mother of All Bombs

You have to love the creative naming from the military.

The US military has dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat on an Islamic State group tunnel complex in Afghanistan, the Pentagon says.

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), known as “the mother of all bombs”, was first tested in 2003, but had not been used before.

The Pentagon said it was dropped from a US aircraft in Nangarhar province.

Russia Escalates

Something to watch.

Russia has said it is suspending a deal with the US to prevent mid-air collisions over Syria in response to US air strikes on a Syrian air base.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said following Donald Trump’s decision to fire 59 cruise missiles at a military target in Syria on Thursday, Moscow was suspending a memorandum with the US that prevented incidents and ensured flight safety.

Under the memorandum, signed after Russia launched an air campaign in Syria in September 2015, Russia and the US had exchanged information about their flights to avoid incidents in the crowded skies over Syria — where Russia has several dozen warplanes and batteries of air-defence missiles.

U.S. Launches Punitive Strike Against Syria

Eh.

The US missiles hit the Shayrat airfield, from where Washington believes the chemical weapons attack was launched, one US official was quoted as saying.

A statement on Syrian state TV said “American aggression” had targeted a Syrian military base with “a number of missiles” but gave no further details.

Earlier on Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad should have no role in a future Syria.

His comments signalled a sudden shift in policy by the Trump administration.

I get the anger at Assad’s use of chemical weapons to murder civilians. It’s absolutely horrific and the latest horrible act by a truly evil man. But I question this attack as a matter of policy. We just blew $100 million or so on firing a bunch of missiles to punish him, but what did we accomplish? What is the goal? Regime change? It’s going to take more than that. Just punish Assad to reestablish America’s role in the world as a moral authority? Support our allies? Who?

We need to determine a coherent policy toward Syria, articulate it, and act on it. Fits of violent reaction don’t accomplish much.

Germany Rebuffs NATO Committments

Germany is refusing to meet its commitments to NATO and the U.S. by failing to invest in its own defense. This sets up some interesting decisions for Trump.

The world’s fourth-largest economy spent $37 billion — 1.2% of its economic output — on defense last year, according to government figures. That is far short of the 2% set by NATO and a third of the 3.6% of gross domestic product that the United States spent in 2016, according to NATO figures.

That shortfall by Germany and other NATO countries is why Trump renewed his call in a speech to Congress on Feb. 28 for NATO members to pay their fair share of defense costs. “Our partners must meet their financial obligations,” Trump said. “Now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that. In fact, I can tell you that the money is pouring in.”

That’s not quite the case in the German capital. The federal government plans to increase its military spending by $2.1 billion this year. It would bring total spending to $39 billion, a 5.4% annual boost. The increase pales in comparison with the 10%, or $54 billion, hike in U.S. defense spending Trump proposes for 2018.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet with Trump at the White House on Tuesday, recently announced plans to add 20,000 soldiers to the Bundeswehr to bring the force to nearly 200,000 but not before 2024, and the increase merely offsets recent cuts in troop strength.

Here’s the thing… the United States has invested billions of dollars for the past 80 years to provide a military defense for Europe and Europe has benefited from that by being able to spend their money on rebuilding their economies and infrastructures after WWII. But while there were some altruistic motivations for that, the real reason was that it was in the best interests of the U.S. to do so. The macropolitical reasons were that if Russia were to ever bulge out of its borders in a quest for world domination, it will most likely have to go through Europe before getting to America. American leaders invested in European defense because we would rather fight the Russians on the continent of Europe and let them exhaust their energy on that soil than let them do so on the shores of New Jersey.

While the Russian threat has ebbed in recent decades, we are right of the precipice of a new Angry Bear with the face of Putin. He has already invaded Ukraine, created a virtual satellite state in Syria, and is threatening Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries. One would think that European nations would see the threat and act accordingly, but the memories of WWII and the abject pacifism remains a powerful cultural phenomenon.

So what should the U.S. do? If we withdraw from Europe and leave them to themselves, the threat of war increases. And in the event that another European war breaks out, it is inevitable that the U.S. will become involved. Or, in another scenario, Germany’s inability to defend themselves with conventional forces may lead them to launch a nuclear defense in the face of a Russian assault, thus starting the nuclear war that we have spent 80 years trying to prevent. But if we continue to defend Europe with American forces, we are expending a lot of money to prevent an eventuality that may never come.  How much American money should we spend to defend countries who refuse to adequately defend themselves?

What will the Trump Doctrine be?

China Maintains Spending on Military

This is a handy reminder that China has been rapidly expanding its military for decades – and will continue to do so irrespective of what the United States does.

China says it will increase military spending by about 7% this year, just days after Donald Trump outlined a boost to the US defence budget.

The scheduled announcement was made ahead of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing.

China has been modernising its armed forces recently as its economy expands.

China’s announced defence budget remains smaller than that of the US. But many China observers argue the real figure could be much higher.

The announcement marks the second consecutive year that the increase in China’s defence spending has been below 10% following nearly two decades at or above that figure.

It means that total spending will account for about 1.3% of the country’s projected GDP in 2017, the same level as in recent years, said government spokeswoman Fu Ying.

Haley Evaluates U.N. Peacekeepers

This is a good move.

Haley is setting up a mission-by-mission review of all 16 peace operations and is “relatively skeptical” of the value and efficiency of many of the blue-helmet deployments, said the diplomat, who spoke on background.

A senior Security Council diplomat told AFP that peacekeeping reform was “a priority” for the new US ambassador “who wants to work closely with key partners on the issue in the coming weeks.”

While the United States has few soldiers serving as peacekeepers, it is by far the biggest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping, providing nearly 29 percent of the $7.9 billion budget for this year.

During hearings at the US Senate last month, Haley made clear she was seeking to bring the US share of funding for peacekeeping to below 25 percent and said other countries should step in to shoulder the burden.

“We have to start encouraging other countries to have skin in the game,” she said.

It is easy for the U.N. to send Blue Helmets all around the world when someone else is footing the bill. How often are the Blue Helmets actually keeping peace?

Walker Sends Off National Guard in West Bend

Via Washington County Insider.

Army Took 10 Years to Choose New Sidearm

This is ridiculous.

(CNN)After a long and much-criticized search, the US Army has chosen Sig Sauer to produce its next generation of handgun, eventually replacing the current standard issue sidearm, the Beretta M9 pistol.

“Following a thorough operational test, fielding of the modular handgun is expected to begin in 2017,” the Army said in a statement announcing the decision Thursday.
[…]
“The Army’s effort to buy a new handgun has already taken 10 years and produced nothing but a more than 350-page requirements document micromanaging extremely small unimportant details,” Senate Armed Services committee chairman John McCain wrote in a 2015 report on the program’s problems.
“A decade for a pistol?” Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina asked at the same Mattis confirmation hearing. “They’re relatively simple devices … This is a great testament to what’s wrong with defense acquisition.”
Amen to that. We need to fund a powerful military, but wasting money on bloated processes like this is inexcusable.

Obama Forgives a Traitor

Help me understand this… Obama rattles his war saber at Russia over information they allegedly gave to Wikileaks about the Democratic Party, but he forgives a traitor who released classified military information to Wikileaks? I agree with this:

Manning isn’t a woman in need of rescue. He’s a soldier who committed serious crimes. He wasn’t a “whistleblower,” as many of his defenders claim. He just dumped hundreds of thousands of classified documents into the public domain for the purposes of “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms” without the slightest regard for the lives of others. There is no excuse. Manning is a traitor who pled guilty to a lesser offense to avoid the full penalty for his crimes. He has received too much mercy already. Obama’s commutation of his sentence is a disgrace.

Cambodia Cancels Exercises with U.S.

This is interesting

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman confirmed in an e-mail that the exercises for 2017 and 2018 have been canceled. He said military exchanges and training programs are not affected. After the local elections in June, Cambodia will hold a general election in 2018 in which long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen is expected to face a strong challenge.

Some analysts tied the cancellation more closely to China’s influence in the region, which they believe will be exercised more vigorously after Donald Trump becomes U.S. president. Trump’s rhetoric on China has been unfriendly, and he has suggested that the U.S. may reduce its involvement in the region.

Southeast Asian nations, even traditional allies of the United States such as the Philippines, have recently drawn closer to China as Beijing flexes its diplomatic and military muscle in the region. Cambodia depends on China as its most important ally and has demonstrated its willingness to do Beijing’s bidding in diplomatic initiatives in the region, especially regarding Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“China is going to test the United States,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “This is one of the early test signals. Cambodia is a bit part in the overall picture.”

U.S. Deploys Troops to Poland

President Obama sure is making a lot of dramatic, far-reaching foreign policy moves right before he leaves office. If you think this move isn’t motivated by Obama’s selfish political calculations, just think… would he have done this (or slap Israel; or change Cuba policy; etc.) if Hillary had won?

U.S. and other Western nations have carried out exercises on NATO’s eastern flank in past years, but the new deployment – which includes some 3,500 U.S. troops – marks the first-ever continuous deployment to the region by a NATO ally.

It is part of a larger commitment by President Barack Obama to protect a region that grew deeply nervous when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then began backing separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east.

If we were going to do this, we should have done it in 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine. It might have had a deterrent effect to stem Russia’s advance at that time. It’s too late now. All it does is set up political landmines for the incoming president.

Here’s how this will go down… Trump will pull back these troops because their deployment to Poland serves no purpose and aggravates Russia for no gain. Then the Democrats and media will jump on Trump and accuse him of being pro-Russia, a puppet for Putin, etc. Domestic political posturing ensues.

Slinger Grad Leading Marine Band in Rose Bowl Parade

Awesome!

Jan. 2, 2017 – This morning the Rose Parade steps off at 10 a.m. in Pasadena, California.  Take special note of the man who will lead the 1st Marine Division Band. His name is Ben Becker and he is from Slinger.

According to the 1st Marine Division webpage, “Benjamin Becker enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of 1997 after graduating from Slinger High School in Slinger, Wisconsin. Upon completion of boot camp and combat training in February 1998, he was transferred to the School of Music Basic Course. After graduating from the School of Music in July 1998, he reported to the 2nd Marine Division Band in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as a tuba instrumentalist. While stationed there he was promoted to the rank of Corporal in January 1999, and then to Sergeant in January of 2000.