Posts tagged ‘Defense’
On the Brink
A U.S. Marine prepares to exit the back of an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft high above Djibouti near the Horn of Africa.
The Marines — from the Maritime Raid Force with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) – were conducting parachute operations with French special operations forces in May.
The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. The one is this photo is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.
To see more spectacular photos of this jump, as well as what the Osprey looks like in flight — and the very interesting headgear of the French parachutists, click here.
Dawn Blitz 2013
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting a large amphibious exercise off the Southern California coast called Dawn Blitz 2013. But this year’s exercise, which runs from June 11-28, is a little different from previous ones. It has morphed into a multi-national exercise with troops from New Zealand and Canada and — for the first time — the Japanese Self Defense Forces participating.
In fact about 1,000 Japanese sailors and soldiers are taking part in the exercise as well as . New Zealand and Canada which have have sent company-sized contingents of between 150 and 200 troops. There are also small detachments serving as observers from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
The participation of so many Latin American countries indicates that the shift — or pivot — in U.S. strategy to the Pacific takes in more than just the Far East. “When we talk pivot, it’s much more than Asia,” says Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, commanding general of both the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The American contingent in the massive exercise is about 4,000 sailors and Marines, Broadmeadow told a defense bloggers roundtable today (June 13)
Dawn Blitz is a multilateral amphibious exercise designed to strengthen international partnerships by improving the ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.
But both Broadmeadow and Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock II — who spoke to the blogger’s group Tuesday (June 11) took pains to say the exercise had no political ramifications despite news reports in Asia that it was meant to send a message to China which is in a escalating dispute with Japan over possession of a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.
Although amphibious operations on San Clemente Island are scheduled for June 17, the exercise “has nothing to do with retaking an island,” said Broadmeadow.
In addition to troops from Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment as well as helicopters and other units from the Western Army Aviation Group and Japanese Air Defense Command, the Japanese contingent included three ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force which sailed across the Pacific from Japan to California with a stop in Hawaii.
U.S. Navy vessels from the Expeditionary Strike Group 3, including the USS Boxer, USS Peleliu, USS New Orleans and USS Harpers Ferry — all amphibious assault or transport ships –and the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, are taking part in the Exercise.
Another first for the exercise was expected Friday (June 14) when a Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft lands aboard one of the Japanese ships, the Hyuga [see photo below], for the first time. Broadmeadow said it wasn’t the first time an MV-22 had landed on the deck of a foreign Navy vessel — just the first time for a Japanese ship..
Broadmeadow also said members of MARSOC, the Marine Corps special operations unit, would take part in the exercise.
Avoiding Nasty Surprises
The uproar over the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging cell phone and Internet surveillance revived a national debate about the necessity of intelligence gathering and what the federal government does with what it learns.
But the accumulation of “Big Data” – millions and millions of phone calls, text messages and emails — whether by government agencies or private corporations, underscores the urgency of acquiring intelligence that can be acted upon in real time. This is especially true in an era when the United States is confronted by near peer competitors like China and Russia, hostile nation states such as North Korea and Iran and non-state, violent extremist networks like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Actionable intelligence is simply that: information gleaned from a range of sources that enables decision makers – from political leaders to field commanders – to take appropriate and timely action when faced with a security threat like an imminent terrorist attack or the shipment of weapons of mass destruction.
The bottom line: preventing nasty surprises.
Two U.S. airmen conduct a security check around a disabled C-130 Hercules aircraft on Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan’s Logar province, June 6, 2013. The two sentinels are part of the 376th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Fly Away Security Team. They are forward deployed from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan.
LATIN AMERICA: (UPDATE) OAS-War on Drugs; Colombia on NATO; Brazil-U.S. Meeting; Ex-Guatemala Dictator
OAS Pushback on Drugs
The Organization of American States (OAS) is holding its annual general assembly meeting in Antigua, Guatemala and the War on Drugs will be Topic A.
According to the Los Angeles Times, several Latin American governments are expected to call on the United States to find “alternatives to what is seen as an approach to fighting drugs that leans heavily on law enforcement — a strategy that has cost tens of thousands of mostly Latin American lives.”
The hemispheric organization recently issued a report that urged governments to decriminalize some drug use. Latin American nations like Mexico, Honduras — and host nation Guatemala — have been battered by drug-related corruption and violence that has left thousands of civilians, soldiers and police dead.
While the OAS study calls for discussion on legalizing marijuana, it makes no specific proposals and found there is “no significant support” among the 35 OAS members for legalizing cocaine or other drugs, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry, isn’t expected to accept the concept of decriminalizing marijuana use. At the Summit of the Americas last year, President Obama said he believed drug legalization was “not the answer” to the problem of drug-related violence and narco terrorism.
A senior State Department official in the U.S. delegation told reporters Tuesday (June 4) in a background briefing that Kerry “wants to contribute to a really good conversation” about counter narcotics strategy because “last year when this started, there was a lot of buzz about legalization, but there really wasn’t much behind it. There weren’t a whole lot of facts in that conversation.”
“No” to NATO
Colombia’s defense minister says the South American nation may sign a cooperation agreement on human rights, justice and troop training with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – but has not intention of joining NATO.
Juan Carolos Pinzon told a radio station that Colombia “cannot be a member, does not want to be a member of NATO.” His remarks came after President Juan Manuel Santos said his nation and NATO were going to sign an agreement “to start a whole process of reaching out, of cooperation, also with a look at entering that organization.”
That report caused an uproar among Colombia’s neighbors, especially leftist governments in Bolivia and Venezuela. But NATO officials, quoted by the AP said no membership deal is in the works. Colombia, which has been fighting a 60-year insurgency by leftist guerillas’ aligned with narcotics cartels, has been a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs.
Meeting in Brazil
Tom Kelly, the Acting U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs is in Brazil this week for the 2013 U.S.-Brazil Political Military Dialogue.
The meeting – which seeks to strengthen defense and security relations between the two countries comes in advance of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington with President Obama later this year.
Brazil, South America’s largest country by population and area, is also home to the continent’s largest economy. In recent years, Brazil has enlarged its military and military equipment – submarines, aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – as part of a new security strategy to protect both its water resources in the Amazon and energy resources in the South Atlantic.
Last month, the former dictator of Guatemala was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Central American country. But just a few days later (May 21), the country’s highest court overturned the verdict. Because of a jurisdictional dispute in the case dating back to April 19, Reuters reported.
Efrain Rios Montt, 86, was convicted May 10 of overseeing the killings of more than 1,000 of the Maya Ixil population in the early 1980s. But the Constitutional Court threw out the verdict and ordered the proceeeding void going back to April 19 when a jurisdictional dispute arose after one of the presiding judges suspended the trial — because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.
It was unclear when the trial might restart.
Ideals Carved in Stone
In late May every year, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment – known as The Old Guard because it is the oldest serving unit of the Army – place American flags at every grave marker in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery in advance of the Memorial Day holiday, which honors the nation’s war dead. The cemetery is located in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Washington.
If you click on the above image to enlarge it, you’ll notice the symbols at the top of the headstones of the first three graves indicate (from left to right) the deceased is a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim who all died in the service to their country. Behind these three headstones, on the left, you can also make out the grave of a woman Army officer, who earned the Bronze Star medal in Iraq.
We think these symbols, purchased with blood and carved in stone, are silent testaments of the ideals that America stands for — even if the road to achieving those ideals has been a rocky one since 1776. In the not so distant past, men and women of all races, colors or creeds — even if they weren’t treated equally back home — still answered the nation’s call to serve, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, because they believed in those ideals.
Today, the Army notes that “though they may differ in faith or background, all soldiers bleed the same color for our country. They serve with honor and integrity, and those that fall are all given the same honors.”
Each May, the soldiers of The Old Guard, who also provide military honors at burial services in Arlington, fan out across the cemetery’s rolling lines of graves — and in a matter of just a few hours — place the small flags a uniform distance from each marker and then salute.
On May 23, about 1,200 Old Guard soldiers participated in the “Flags In” event this year, and about 220,000 graves received a flag, as did memorial markers and rows of urns at the cemetery’s columbarium, according to Army Maj. John Miller, spokesman for the Old Guard.
The tradition dates back to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 to honor Union Soldiers that had fallen during the Civil War, Miller said. The custom was interrupted a few times over the years but the Old Guard revived it after World War II.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Indian Army Private Anil Pawe and Spc. Henry Vaillancourt, a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, partner up to fire an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Vaillancourt is familiarizing Pawe — an infantryman assigned to the Indian Army’s 99th Mountain Brigade — with the American machine gun prior to field training during the annual U.S. – India Yudh Abhyas training exercise, which ended May 17.
The joint exercise dates to 2004. Yudh Abhyas means “training for war,” in Hindi. About 200 Indian troops from units including the 50th Independent Para Brigade and the 5th Gurkha Rifles participated.
For more photos of this training exercise, click here.
A reset for America’s counter terrorism strategy was announced by President Obama Thursday (May 23) … authorities in London are collecting evidence a day after the brutal slaying of an off-duty British soldier by two men allegedly protesting the treatment of Muslims … meanwhile a man in Florida said to have links to one of the Boston Marathon bombers is slain after an altercation with the FBI.
Recalibrating War on Terror
President Obama today (May 23) outlined his revised plan for countering terrorism and ending the global war on terror.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Virginia, Obama pledged to continue “our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations” but, he added, “this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
The president layed out a series of policy changes and clarifications as well as calling for Congress to allow the closing of detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where 166 alleged terrorists – many now conducting a hunger strike – have been held for years without trial.
Obama also said he was setting new guidelines for when U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can be targeted for death by missile-armed unmanned aircraft, the so-called drones. He defended the use of drone attacks in the past but said the threat has changed in Afghanistan and elsewhere and only when targets pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to the United States and only when avoiding civilian casualties is a “near-certainty,” the Washington Post reported.
His remarks came a day after the White House revealed that four U.S. Citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009. For an outline of the plan, click here.
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Horror in London
An off-duty British soldier was run over by a car and then hacked to death May 22 by two men believed to have ties to radical Islamist groups. Both of the alledged attackers were shot and wounded by London police responding to 9-1-1 calls. One of the suspects men held up a bloody knife and meat cleaver in hands red with blood as he ranted to passersby about his reasons for the attack.
The soldier was identified as Lee Rigby, 25, a drummer with the 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, according to CBS. Rigby, who served in Afghanistan, leaves a wife and two-year-old son. He was not in uniform at the time of the attack which took place near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a section of Southeast London.
The man waving the bloody blades and justifying his attack to passersby who filmed him with their cell phones, was identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, a British-born convert to Islam of Nigerian descent. The second suspect, also hospitalized with gunshot wounds, was not identified.
Authorities in Britain took two other people into custody on conspiracy charges today (May 23) and government investigators were looking into whether the alleged attackers were “lone wolves” or part of a larger terrorist organization.
Rigby is the first person to have died on British soil in an apparent attack by Muslim extremists since the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transit system, in which 52 people were killed, the Los Angeles Times reported. An additional 1,200 police officers were out patrolling London May 23.
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Marathon Bombing Mystery
There’s been a new wrinkle in the investigation of last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon.
A man identified as a friend of one of the two alleged bombers was shot to death in Orlando, Florida May 22 after allegedly attacking an FBI agent who has questioning him, the Associated Press reported.
Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was himself slain in a gunbattle with police just days after the bombing, was shot after attacking the FBI agent who did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia, had lived in the Boston area before moving to Orlando, Fla., over the past couple of years.
Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and charged in the bombing.
The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. But some of Todashev’s former roommates said that he knew Tsarnaev from athletic circles in Boston and that the two Russian immigrants might have trained together, the AP reported.
And officials are looking to see if there are any links between Tsarnaev and a triple muder in Boston a year-and-a-half ago.
Reading Micro Expressions
ARLINGTON, Virginia – Think you know when someone’s lying – because they won’t meet your gaze, or they can’t sit still or they’re sweating profusely?
You’re probably wrong says San Francisco State University professor David Matsumoto.
“There is no such thing as a Pinocchio response,” Matsumoto, founder and director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at San Francisco State, told a Human Geography conference outside Washington, D.C. recently. “There’s no set of behaviors that reliably differentiate” between who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, he said. At least none that the average interrogator can spot.
Hundreds of studies conducted with thousands of participants in recent years indicate that the average accuracy rate for an individual to detects liars and truth tellers is just 54 percent. “Bottom line: we’re no better [at it] than flipping a coin,” Matsumoto said.
But his research indicates that there are tiny facial expressions – micro-expressions he calls them – that can give away what a person under stress is thinking. They’re hard to spot with the naked eye but readily visible on slow motion video.
As an example, he showed video of a witness testifying at the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Some visible signs – breathing, blinking – indicated the witness was agitated. But when Matsumoto stopped the video, a facial expression not readily visible at normal speed was now apparent. Video usually shows movement at 30 seconds per second but the micro-expression image was captured in just three frames, indicating it took just one-tenth of a second.
Most people don’t see the changes but if they do “they don’t know what it is. But if I freeze frame on it, it’s very clear what his emotional state is,” Matsumoto said. And they “seem to be culturally universal,” he added.
He cautioned that such split second expressions are not a guaranteed indicator of lying but that the person being questions bears careful scrutiny. His program has been able to train law enforcement and other professionals how to spot micro-expressions.
Matsumoto is also studying whole body gestures and movements as indicators of intent and whether people who have experienced violent attacks can identify potentially violent persons by their facial expressions. So far his research indicates two types of potentially threatening facial expression: one contemplating premeditated assault (like an assassin or terrorist) and one indicating the loss of impulse control (someone who suddenly snaps and attacks.) But more research is needed, he said.
Human geography is a multi-discipline study of not only the physical nature of the earth but the people who live on it and how they relate among themselves and with others along political, economic, cultural, linguistic, geographic lines.
The two-day conference was sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).
The Big Lonely
The commanders of the Joint Tactical Group and the Régiment de marche du Tchad (a unit of the French 2nd Armored Brigade) observe maneuvering ground troops from a sand dune near Qatar’s Al Qalayel military camp during Exercise Gulf Falcon 2013.
(Click on the photo to see a larger image)
For three weeks, nearly 3,000 French and Qatari military participated in the bilateral exercise. The effort is planned and conducted under cooperation agreements between the two countries that were reached in 1994.
The French military see the exercise as an opportunity to toughen the men and materials of the Army, Air Force and Navy to harsh desert conditions.
To learn more about the exercise and see more photos, click here. Be advised the site in in French.