Archive for November, 2010

AFGHANISTAN: NATO Troops Slain by Afghan in Uniform

Not Again

A gunman dressed as an Afghan policeman has fired on coalition troops, killing six NATO service members, according to the Guardian and other press outlets. The shooting, reportedly by an Afghan border policeman who was also slain, took place in Nangarhar Province on the Pakistani border.

Reports say the gunman was wearing an Afghan Border Police uniform. (U.S. Air Force photo)

NATO is not identifying the nationality of the victims, although press reports say U.S. troops make up the majority of coalition forces in the area.

The Associated Press, quoting an Afghan official, reports the gunman was indeed a member of the Afghan Border Police, not an insurgent in disguise.

If that is true, Monday’s killings are the latest in a string of incidents where Afghan policemen or soldiers turned on their instructors or mission partners – going back to the fall of 2009. The incident occurred as NATO’s Training Mission in Afghanistan has been ramping up efforts to recruit, train, deploy and maintain thousands of Afghan police and soldiers with an eye toward turning over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by 2014.

November 29, 2010 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Nov. 26, 2010)

Danger Will Robinson!

U.S. Army Photo by Barb Ruppert

An all-terrain, search-and-rescue humanoid robot simulates how a soldier or object of up to 500 pounds can be lifted and carried, and how it can grasp fragile objects without damaging them at Fort Detrick, Md., Nov. 22, 2010.

This robot, known as the BEAR (Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot) is manufactured by Vecna Technologies of Massachusetts, according to ROBOT magazine.  The remotely-controlled robot has been tested to see if it could rescue wounded soldiers under fire, according to

To see a video of what the BEAR can do, click here.

November 26, 2010 at 12:57 am Leave a comment

TRADITION: Navajo Code Talkers

Happy Thanksgiving and Yah-ta-hey!

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian L. Anderson

At Thanksgiving, folks in the United States give thanks for all the things they treasure: like food and family, freedom and football, to name a few. It also commemorates a gathering between the Pilgrim Fathers who founded Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 and the local Native Americans who helped them survive their first hard winter.

We spotted this photo last week ago on the Defense Department Web site and thought it was pretty symbolic for the season. Here some of the surviving members of the Navajo Code Talkers take part in a Veterans Day parade in New York City.

The Code Talkers were a special U.S. Marine Corps unit created to confound Japanese intelligence officers listening in on U.S. radio transmissions in the Pacific during World War II. Speaking their native tongue to other Navajos at Iwo Jima, these code talkers gave the enemy eavesdroppers fits. In addition to speaking a non-written language that very few non-Navajos understood, the code talkers devised code words like “potato” for hand grenade and “tortoise” for tank.

The Navajos were not the only speakers of unusual languages pressed into service as wartime coded message transmitters. Cherokee and Choctaw speakers were used on the Western Front in World War I. Comanche and Meswaki speakers were used in Europe and North Africa against the Germans. Interestingly enough, Hitler, aware of the Native American code use in the First World War, sent German anthropologists to study them before World War II. But the languages and dialects proved to be too many and too confusing for the would-be Nazi code breakers.

In the Pacific, the Navajos replaced a small contingent of Basque speakers (an ancient language spoken in northern Spain and southwest France) and became the most famous code talkers of that war. A popular – although highly-fictionalized – movie was made in 2002 about their exploits. There are also monuments to them in Arizona and Florida.

Just another example of Native Americans helping their country. By the way, “Yah-ta-hey” is a traditional Navajo greeting among friends, like “Hi” or “Hello.”

November 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Next AFRICOM Chief Outlines Objectives (UPDATE)

Confirmation Hearing (Updates to restore links)

President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next head of U.S. Africa Command says he’s concerned about the reported links between al Qaeda elements in Yemen and the Somalia-based African terrorist organization, al Shabab.

U.S. Army photo

Army Gen. Carter Ham told a Senate hearing on his nomination last week that he also thinks more troops that can speak African languages are needed in America’s newest regional combatant command.

Ham tackled questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee Nov. 18 at his confirmation hearing.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the committee’s chairman, told Ham that the challenges facing AFRICOM “are staggering” – from terrorism and violent extremists in Somalia and West Africa to illicit arms smuggling and fragile governments that are unable to extend control beyond the boundaries of their capitals.

But the committee believes “the most pressing concern” is the evolving threat posed al Qaeda and al Shabab elements in Somalia, Levin said. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) the panel’s senior Republican, noted that the threat from the Horn of Africa “to our friends, our interests and even our homeland has changed significantly in the past few years.”

Ham agreed that the extremist threat in East Africa “is probably the greatest concern that Africa Command will face in the new future,” according to the Associated Press. Al Shabab, until recently, has confined its activities to Somalia but over the summer, the Islamist militant group took credit for bombings in Uganda that killed more than 70 people.

Ham also noted that the U.S. military is not moving fast enough to train troops, other than Special Operations Forces, in African languages and culture.

Ham, currently the head of U.S. European Command, said U.S. security interests in Africa include piracy, illicit trafficking, humanitarian crises and the effect of HIV and AIDS. Stars and Stripes reported that Ham also told the Senate panel that he would look into where the command – now based in Stuttgart, Germany, should set up its headquarters. Locations in Europe, Africa and the U.S. would be considered, he said.

If confirmed, Ham would replace Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the first commander of AFRICOM which stood up in late 2008.

The point man of a Senegalese military counter-terrorism team has his blue training rifle at ready during a patrol exercise at Thies, Senegal, a part of Flintlock 10. The annual exercise focuses on improving military interoperability and capacity-building of militaries from Northern and Western Africa, Europe, and the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeremiah)

November 23, 2010 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Medal of Honor Ceremony

Hero Meets Fellow Heroes

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta (left) meets with three Medal of Honor recipients before he receives the nation’s highest military award for bravery at a White House ceremony on Nov. 16, 2010.  Giunta, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic action in Afghanistan in 2007, is the first living recipient of the medal since the Vietnam War.

Read more about the ceremony here.

To see a slideshow of photos, click here.

Editor’s Note: We have so far been unable to find a list identifying the other three Medal of Honor recipients in this photo. If you can help identify any or all of them, please let us know. You can e-mail us at

November 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Voters Oust Many House Defense Panel Democrats

Election Night Toll: A Dozen Democrats Won’t Be Back

Much has made about the Republican Party’s success in taking back control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections. Several Democratic stalwarts like House Armed Services Committee (HAS) Chairman Ike Skelton and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, failed to win re-election.

But in reviewing the final results, we were startled to see that Skelton and Spratt – who is also No. 2 in seniority on the Armed Services panel – are just two among at least 12 Democrats who won’t be returning to the panel for the 112th Congress in January.

It looks like Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), third in seniority, will also lose his bid for re-election. Down by 800 votes, he is seeking a recount.

The list of defeated Democrats includes Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, chair of the sea power and expeditionary forces subcommittee and No. 4 in HASC seniority. Taylor, who represented Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, was a strong advocate for Navy shipbuilding and getting more mine resistant armored vehicles to the Marine Corps and Army.

Two other prominent members of the HASC – Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak and Indiana’s Brad Ellsworth – ran for the Senate instead of standing for re-election. Both lost. And Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) – sixth in seniority – decided to retire from the House.

All of the HASC Republicans who stood for re-election won, except Rep. Charles Djou of Hawaii. Rep. Mary Fallin was elected the first female governor of Oklahoma.

The new chairman is expected to be Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, the senior Republican on the panel. Many of the returning Republicans are from red states like Texas, Arizona and Virginia or conservative districts but are unlikely to resist attempts to cut defense spending.

Meanwhile, at least three Democrats have announced plans to seek the ranking member position: Reps. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Adam Smith of Washington and Loretta Sanchez of California.

November 16, 2010 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Nov. 12, 2010) (Updated)

Joint Training Exercise in Alaska

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashley M. Armstrong)

Senior leaders from U.S. and Indian armies conduct a troop inspection at Buckner Physical Fitness Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska at the start of the 14-day Yudh Abhyas joint  training exercise.  The annual exercise — which includes, airborne operations training, cold weather marksmanship and tactical training — is designed to strengthen ties between the armies by expanding operational and cultural knowledge with a training focus on peacekeeping operations.

According to a recent report by a Washington think tank on U.S.-India relations, the U.S. now conducts more joint exercises with Indian troops than with any other country’s military.

To see a photo essay on the Alaskan exercise, click here.

November 11, 2010 at 11:42 pm Leave a comment

TRADITION: Happy 235th Birthday, USMC (Updated)

Let ’em Eat Cake, They’ve Earned It

(USMC photo, Sgt. Jimmy D. Shea)

Nov. 10 is the 235th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, which got its start when the Continental Congress resolved on Nov. 10, 1775 to create two battalions of Marines.  Capt. (later Major) Samuel Nichols — considered the Corps’ first commandant — advertised in and around Philadelphia for “a few good men” and signed them up at Tun Tavern in Philly.

Sketch of Tun Tavern in the Revolutionary War. (National Archives via Wikipedia)

We at 4GWAR will be celebrating our Blog’s first birthday on Friday, Nov. 12, so we harbor a warm spot for other organizations born under the sign of Scorpio.

The Marine Corps Birthday is a big deal with the Corps (as big as Saint Crispin’s Day in England) and has been since 1921, when then-Commandant Major Gen. John LeJeune issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921, summarizing the history, tradition and mission of the Marine Corps and directing that the order be read to every command on every subsequent Nov. 10, the Marine Corps Birthday.

Since 1952, the Marine Corps has had another tradition: the cake cutting ceremony. The 20th USMC commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the ceremony, stating the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest Marine present, who passes it to the youngest Marine.

Gen. James F. Amos, the 35th commandant of Marine Corps, cuts the ceremonial cake while Navy Secretary Ray Mabus looks on, to celebrate the 235th U.S. Marine Corps birthday at the Pentagon. (Sgt. Jimmy D. Shea)

In the photo above, Gen. Amos is cutting the cake with a Mameluke sword, the traditional sword of Marine officers, commemorating the Corps’ first post-Independence landing on foreign shores. So Happy Birthday Leathernecks and here’s to Presley O’Bannon and the seven Marines who landed on the shores of Tripoli. Let’s also toast Smedley Butler, John LeJeune (which people in-the-know say is actually pronounced LeZhurn) John Basilone, “Chesty” Puller, John Philip Sousa and Dan Daly, the man behind our favorite Marine Corps story … and to all the other Marines who’ve signed on since 1775.

God bless the United States and success to the Marines, as the traditional toast goes.

November 10, 2010 at 12:52 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (Nov. 5, 2010)

Coping with — and Overcoming — the Cost of War

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Travis K. Mendoza
Veterans Day is next week (Nov. 11) and we thought we’d take a look at the costs of war and how some veterans are coping with the price they were asked to pay.

This week’s FRIDAY FOTO shows former U.S. Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell speaking to fellow injured vets during one of the annual Paralympic Military Sports camps at Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego. In April 2004, Stockwell — then a 24-year-old Transportation Command officer — lost most of her left leg to a roadside bomb in Baghdad while leading a supply convoy through the Iraqi capital. She was the first female soldier to lose a limb in the Iraq War and later became the first Iraq veteran chosen for the U.S. Paralympics Team.

Stockwell competed in three swimming events at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. A native of Minnesota and an ROTC graduate of the University of Colorado, Stockwell re-learned how to ski and also learned to ride a bicycle without her prosthetic leg. She has participated in triathlons and completed the New York City Marathon using a hand-powered bike. She also learned to fit other amputees with prosthetic limbs.

She has also been an advocate for military sports camps, like this one in San Diego, since she was injured more than six years ago. The camps introduce veterans and military personnel with physical injuries to sport opportunities. Stockwell was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star medals for her service.

To see a video and hear Stockwell in her own words, click here.

To see the athletic accomplishments of other wounded warriors in May’s Warrior Games at Colorado Springs, Colo. Visit several photo essays by clicking here, here, here and here.

November 5, 2010 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. and Europe Grapple with Bomb Threats

Guarding Against More Cargo Plane Bombs

Following the recent attempt to smuggle package bombs into the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke with leaders from the major air cargo companies about how to make things safer in the wake of the Yemen bomb plot.

Napolitano spoke with officials Thursday (Nov. 4) from UPS, DHL, FedEx and TNT, to discuss enhanced air cargo screening and security efforts following last week’s disrupted attempt to conceal and ship explosive devices onboard aircraft bound for the U.S. from Yemen.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Napolitano said she is committed to partnering with the shipping industry to strengthen cargo security through enhanced screening and other preventative measures, including terrorism awareness training for personnel.

Following her call with shipping industry leaders, Napolitano spoke with Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA). They  iscussed continued DHS collaboration with private sector partners and international allies to secure the global supply chain through a layered security approach.

France Arrests Brothers on Terrorism Charges

Meanwhile, bomb threats and bomb plots continue to bedevil several countries in Europe. CNN reports that French authorities have arrested two brothers on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack. The pair, who are French, were taken into custody Wednesday (Nov. 3).

France is at its second-highest level of terror alert and 85 people have been arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism this year. About 27 of them are still in custody, officials said.

Greece Intercepts 14th Letter Bomb

And in Greece, authorities are dealing with a spate of letter bombs – sent mostly to foreign embassies and governments. The 14th suspect device, sent to French Embassy in Athens, was detonated by police.

Two bombs exploded at the Swiss and Russian embassies earlier, slightly injuring a courier service employee. The devices are small and apparently do not pack enough explosive to seriously hurt anyone, the BBC reported. Authorities believe the bombs are the work of militant Greek leftists and not linked to international terrorism. Two Greek men have been arrested in connection with some of the bombs.

The spate of bombs has prompted Greek officials to halt the delivery of overseas mail.

November 5, 2010 at 12:02 am 2 comments

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