Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’

AROUND AFRICA: Obama’s African Trip; Terrorized Nairobi Mall Reopens; Burundi Vote

Obama African Visit No. 4.

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

President Barack Obama heads to East Africa this week for his fourth visit to the continent where his father was born.

Travel to Kenya, his father’s homeland, is on the president’s schedule. He will be attending the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kenya. It marks the first time the gathering of entrepreneurs and leaders from business, international organizations and governments will take place in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to co-hosting the GES along with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the two will hold bilateral meetings. Relations between the two countries have been strained due to International . Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 election, the Voice of America website reported. Charges against Kenyatta have been dropped, while Ruto and another defendant continue to face trial.

Obama is expected to attend the summit during the weekend and to deliver a public address before traveling to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian visit to the headquarters of the African Union, has drawn criticism from human rights groups because  the authoritarian regime in Addis Ababa has cracked down on political dissent, the Washington Post reports.

*** *** ***

Westgate Mall Reopens.

Nairobi Westgate Mall (2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall
(2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Security will be high on the agenda of Obama-Kenyatta talks, according to the BBC.. The East African nation is one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid and in the region and recent years have seen a spate of attacks from Somalia’s al-Shabab extremists.

One of the deadliest of those attacks took place two years ago in Nairobi when gunmen terrorized the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall — killing 67 and injuring scores more.

The mall reopened Saturday, for the first time since the attack. The mall has installed x-ray machines, explosive detectors and bullet-proof guard towers, Al Jazeera reported.

Gunmen from the Somalia-based armed group al-Shabab stormed the popular mall on September 21, 2013, in a brazen attack that the group said was in retaliation for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia. The siege lasted three days before Kenyan authorities retook the shopping center.

*** *** ***

Burundi “Votes”

Burundi's location in Africa. (Map: CIA World Factbook

Burundi’s location in Africa.
(Map: CIA World Factbook

Polls have closed in Burundi’s presidential election, and votes are being counter.

But incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is certain to win after running unopposed, the VoA reported. Voter turnout was low in neighborhoods rocked by weeks of violent protests. Many in the tiny Central African nation said Burundi’s constitution bars Nkurunziza from seeking a third term.

At least 70 people have been killed in protests since he announced in April that he was running for re-election, the BBC reported.  About 1,000 people are fleeing into Tanzania each day to escape the violence, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

The U.S. State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government. But the Nkurunziza government accuses the opposition of provoking violent protests.

The African Union (AU) did not send observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state, BBC reported. The AU said the security climate did not allow for free and fair elections. The European Union took a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its displeasure with Nkurunziza.

July 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: Exercise Jade Helm 15 Begins in Seven States — Arousing Conspiracy Theorists

Jaded About Jade Helm.


Chilean and U.S.  Army  Special Forces troops train together in bilateral exchange in April at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Osvaldo Equite)

Chilean and U.S. Army Special Forces troops train together in bilateral exchange in April at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sergeant Osvaldo Equite)

Exercise Jade Helm 15 a massive special operations forces (SOF) exercise involving hundreds of troops across seven states in the Deep South and Southwest got underway this week — after months of speculation by conspiracy theorists and right wing talk radio hosts that it was part of some dark plan to overthrow the Constitution and/or seize locals’ guns.

The Army says its just a big exercise in relatively unpopulated areas with challenging terrain and summer weather conditions to prepare as realistically as possible for whatever overseas crisis comes down the road in the future

According to U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), they will be training with other U.S military units from July 15 through Sept. 15 in the multi-state exercise.

“USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible,” USASOC said in a March press release to counter rising concerns — especially in Texas, where the governor ordered the National Guard to keep a close eye on the Army exercise

“While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart,” the March press release noted. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.”

An updated Army press release issued Wednesday (July 15) listed the various military installations where parts of the exercise will take place:
• Arizona: National Guard Training Centers and at an Army Reserve Center
• Florida: Eglin Air Force Base
• Louisiana: Camp Beauregard
• Mississippi: Camp Shelby, Naval Research Laboratory ˗ Stennis Space Center, and U.S. Navy Seabee Base at Gulfport/Biloxi
• New Mexico: Cannon Air Force Base, and tentatively in Otero County
• Texas: Camps Bullis and Swift, and in Bastrop, Burleson, Brazos, Edwards, Howard, Hudspeth, Kimble, Martin, Marion, Real, Schleicher and Tom Green Counties
• Utah: Carbon and Emery Counties

EDITOR’s COMMENT: We find it worth mentioning that the fears of some of the good folks of Texas seem to parallel the plot of the 1964 film, “Seven Days in May.” However, that  scenario described an attempted coup by right wing politicians and military leaders aimed at a liberal president they perceived as weak in dealing with the Soviets. To us that seems a more likely — if far-fetched — movie plot than a military coup to support the “liberal” policies of gun seizure etc.

July 16, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 10, 2015)

Danger Zone.

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Brittany E. Jones

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sergeant Brittany E. Jones

We were struck by the otherworldly appearance of this photo. Reminds us of a hostile world in a science fiction movie — like the original Planet of the Apes. But this shows Air Force Technical Sergeant Matthew Bingaman, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, returning from an improvised explosive device (IED) training scenario June 25, somewhere in Southwest Asia. The spaceman-like suit is meant to protect EOD techs from the bombs they are working to defuse and dispose of. Note the warning sign on the left side of the photo. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Bingaman is assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, a unit of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. A 16-year EOD veteran, Bingaman continually trains to safely handle live explosives.

July 10, 2015 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 26, 2015)

Tough Customer.

 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sergeant Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sergeant Ezekiel R. Kitandwe)

A member of Special Operations Command throws the shot put during field competition for the 2015 Defense Department Warrior Games, at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 23, 2015.

The Warrior Games, founded in 2010, is a Paralympic-style competition that features eight adaptive sports for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces.

To see more photos of these amazing people, click here.

June 27, 2015 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: Waterloo Bicentennial; U.S. Army Turns 240; 99th Flag Day; 150th Juneteenth

A Month to Remember.

The month of June is when summer really gets going (in the northern hemisphere). Traditionally, it’s a time of graduations and weddings and outdoor recreation before the heat gets oppressive and the bugs become maddening. This year, it also marks the anniversaries of several significant historical events.

Napoleon Meets His Waterloo.

Scotland Forever! Iconic 1881 British painting of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo by Lady Butler.

Scotland Forever! Iconic 1881 British painting of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys at Waterloo by Lady Butler.

It’s been 200 years since combined British, Dutch, and Prussian forces under England’s Duke of Wellington defeated France’s Armee du Nord (Army of the North) near the village of Waterloo. The climactic 9-hour battle on June 18, 1815 led to defeat and final exile for French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte — ending France’s domination of Europe and changing European diplomacy and politics for decades.

The basic story:

Napoleon, defeated in 1814 and sent into exile on the island of Elba, escapes and returns to France, raises an army, scares the reigning French king and his government out of Paris and marches to Belgium to confront the latest international alliance (Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, Russia, Prussia and several smaller German states) formed to defeat him.

Napoleon defeats — but doesn’t destroy — a Prussian army under Marshal Blucher on June 16 at Ligny in Belgium. The emperor’s strategy is to defeat each army separately before they can mass and overwhelm the French. The Russian and Austrian armies are still far off. So on June 18, Napoleon turned on the Anglo-Dutch-German forces under Wellington near Waterloo. Because of heavy rains the night before, the battlefield is sodden and Napoleon decides to delay his attack until the fields dry out enough so his troops and cannon won’t have to slog miles through the mire.  Many historians count this as a mistake — if not a blunder — for the delay allows the Prussians to reorganize and come to Wellington’s aid and overwhelm the now-outnumbered French.

Marshall Ney and his staff leading the cavalry charge at Waterloo (Painting by Louis Dumoulin)

Marshal Ney and his staff leading the cavalry charge at Waterloo
(Painting by Louis Dumoulin)

Because of the enormity of  events that day (Wellington’s forces numbered 68,000. Napoleon had 82,000 at his command and the Prussians brought another 30,000 to their second-go-round with the French.) we leave it to others to describe the ebb and flow of battle.

Here is a sampling of detailed online accounts of the battle:

Encyclopaedia; the BBC’s iWonder; British; The Napoleonic History SocietyWhat the Battle of Europe teaches us about Europe today; 

Under the pressure of attacks by the Prussians and Wellington, the French army falls apart. Napoleon is forced to abdicate again, and is sent into exile again, but much farther away to the island of St. Helena’s in the South Atlantic, where he dies in 1821. Britain, arguably, becomes the most powerful nation in Europe, if not the world. And except for failed revolts and revolutions — mostly in 1848 — there is no big military conflict in Europe until 1854 when Britain, France and Turkey wage war against Russia in the Crimea (which gave us the Charge of the Light Brigade, Florence Nightingale and the original Thin Red Line.)

*** *** ***

Closer to home, there are a couple of other significant events that happened in June.

Juneteenth 150.

Regular visitors may remember in April we posted that Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865 did not end the Civil War. There were still two armies, one in North Carolina commanded by Joseph Johnston and another in the West commanded by Edmund Kirby Smith. Johnston  surrendered on April 26 and Kirby Smith surrendered on May 26.

Last month we also posted that the last battle of the Civil War was fought at Palmito Ranch on the Rio Grande in Texas on May 12-13. By the way, the Confederates won that battle.

General Order No. 3

But that still didn’t end slavery in Texas. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 when U.S. Major General Gordon sailed into Galveston Bay with 1,800 Union troops and announced his General Order No. 3.


It informed the people of Texas, that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States (President Lincoln), all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

Until then, the estimated 250,000 slaves in Texas did not know that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had freed them — and all the other slaves in states in open rebellion against Washington, as of January 1863. It’s important to note that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t be enforced until Union troops gained control of each state that had left the Union. The last major Union thrust west of the Mississippi River from Louisiana had ended in failure in May 1864.

The date, June 19th — or Juneteenth — has become a significant holiday for African-Americans to celebrate freedom from enslavement.

Happy Birthday, U.S. Army.

Army Secretary John McHugh, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, cut the Army Birthday cake during the 2015 Army Ball in Washington D.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by John G. Martinez)

Army Secretary John McHugh, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, and Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel A. Dailey, cut the Army Birthday cake during the 2015 Army Ball in Washington D.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by John G. Martinez)

On June 14, 1775 — at the urging of John Adams (the future 2nd U.S. president) — the Continental Congress, in effect, created the U.S. Army by voting $2 million in funding for the colonial militias around Boston and New York City. Congress also ordered the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Together with the ragtag militias in New England and New York they would form the first Continental Army. George Washington of Virginia, one of the few colonials with military command experience (from the French and Indian War)  would take command in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 3, 1775.

For more birthday photos around the Army, click here.

Flag Day

Two years later, on June 14, 1777, Congress adopted the 13-star, 13-red-and-white-striped flag as the national flag. Flag day was celebrated on various days in various ways around the United States until the 20th century.

As war wracked Europe and the Middle East in 1916, and it looked more and more like the United States would be drawn into the horrific conflict known as the Great War, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress — but it’s not an official federal holiday. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of June 14 as oficially-designated flag day.

U.S. Flag Day poster 1917. (Library of Congress via wikipedia)

U.S. Flag Day poster 1917.
(Library of Congress via wikipedia)


SHAKOSHAKO 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.

June 26, 2015 at 2:17 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 19, 2015)

Sunrise Drop.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Aaron S. Patterson, Combat Camera)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Aaron S. Patterson, Combat Camera)

Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Eddie Myers parachutes from a UH-1Y Venom helicopter during insertion training on Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Myers is a parachute safety officer assigned to Detachment 4th Force Reconnaissance Company.

Click on photo to enlarge image.

June 19, 2015 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Mastermind of Deadly Algerian Gas Plant Attack Reported Killed


Mokhtar Belmokhtar (State Dept. Wanted poster)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar
(State Dept. Wanted poster)

The one-eyed Islamist militant who ordered a deadly attack on an Algerian gas plant two years ago has been killed in a U.S. air strike, Libyan officials say, the BBC and other news outlets are reporting,

Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other fighters were killed in the operation in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, according to a statement from Libya’s government Sunday (June 14).

The BBC cautioned that there have been incorrect reports of his death in the past. If confirmed, however, Belmokhtar’s death “would be a major counterterrorism victory for the United States against one of the world’s most wanted militants,” according to the New York Times.

June 14, 2015 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

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