Posts tagged ‘Special Operations’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: First Two Women Pass Army Ranger Course

Ground and Glass Ceiling Breaking.

Soldiers participate in rappel training during the Ranger Course on Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia., July 12, 2015. Two of 19 women who were the first to take the course have passed. (U.S. Army photo)

Soldiers participate in rappel training during the Ranger Course on Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia., July 12, 2015. Two of 19 women who were the first to take the course have passed.
(U.S. Army photo)

Two women have successfully completed the Army’s elite Ranger school, one of the toughest combat training courses in the world, the Army announced Monday (August 17).

The female soldiers weren’t identified beyond being described as West Point-trained officers, NBC and other news outlets reported. They were among 96 soldiers who will graduate Friday at Fort Benning, Georgia, and receive the coveted Ranger shoulder tab, the Army said.

The 96 soldiers were winnowed from 400 — 19 of them women — who started the course on April 20.

It was the first time in U.S. Army history that female soldiers were allowed to participate in the Ranger course. It is part of a one-time assessment of the program to determine how to open combat jobs to women after the Defense Department ordered that all occupations be open to women beginning in 2016

The Ranger course has three grueling phases starting with the Benning or Darby phase, which includes fast-paced instruction on troop-leading procedures, principles of patrolling, demolition, field craft, and basic battle drills focused on squad ambush and reconnaissance missions. The mountain phase consists of four days of military mountaineering training, four days of techniques training, 10 days of student-led patrols, and one administrative day, where the students are counseled on their performance.

The last phase of the Ranger course, at glin Air Force Base in Florida, focuses on skills needed to survive in a rain forest or swamp.

While only about 3 percent of active-duty soldiers have earned their Ranger tabs, doing so is considered an unofficial prerequisite for many infantry commands, the New York Times reported. And it is an explicit requirement for leading combat troops in the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, the service’s premier light-infantry unit.

But the two female officers still won’t be able to apply for assignment to the Ranger Regiment, the Times reported. The elite unit has a separate selection process, which isn’t open to women yet.The same is true, so far, of postings as infantry or tank officers.

August 18, 2015 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 14, 2015)

Apache Dance.

82nd Airborne Division photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

82nd Airborne Division photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull

U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters provide a demonstration of their firepower during a live fire exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

According to the Defense Department, Operation Dragon Spear included a forcible entry operation with Army and Air Force units showcasing the U.S. global response force‘s ability to deploy, fight and win. If you click on the photo to enlarge the image, you’ll see the flaming vehicles struck by the Apaches. Any questions?

The demonstration, with 1,500 soldiers and airmen participating, included the 82nd Airborne Division, the 75th Ranger Regiment, 10th Special Forces Group and Air Force units supplying transport aircraft. To see more photos, click here.

August 14, 2015 at 12:08 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC NATION: Obama Visit; Melting Ice Signposts; Walrus Woes; Russia Stakes a Claim

North to Alaska.

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama announced today (August 13) that he will journey to the Alaskan Arctic at the end of the month. In a video released by the White House, Obama — who is vacationing in New England — said he’s going to Alaska because it is on the “front lines of one of the greatest challenges we face this century,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“You see, climate change once seemed like a problem for future generations, but for most Americans, it’s already a reality,” Obama added. The Times noted that Obama’s August 31 to September 3 trip to see melting glaciers and speak with hunters and fisherman in Alaska would be the first Arctic visit by a sitting president.

Later in September, Obama plans to talk with Pope Francis about climate change when the pontiff visits the White House during a tour of the northeastern U.S., as both prepare for an international climate summit in Paris in December, he Times said.

The White House described Obama’s trip as part of an “all-out push” on climate-change issues during the final 18 months of his second term, the Wall Street Journal reported. The trip comes just weeks after his administration’s release of standards to limit carbon emissions from power plants — a move widely criticized by Republicans as hurful to the economy and costly for consumer, the Journal noted.

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Ice Melts, Maps Change.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

The Arctic Circle and surrounding territory.

So much sea ice has melted in the Arctic recently that the National Geographic’s annual Atlas of the World has had to revise its map of the Arctic Ocean.

The 10th edition of the annually published atlas — released in September — includes a map of the Arctic Ocean that looks dramatically different from 15 years ago, according to the website Quartz.

The melting ice hasn’t stopped since last fall, and it’s likely to have shrunk even further than the newly published maps now reflect, said Juan Jose Valdes, a geographer with the magazine.

To see the maps, including an animated one showing how Arctic sea ice has melted  between 1999 and 2014, click here.

*** *** ***

They am the Walrus.

For the second year in a row, walruses in the Arctic are running out of sea ice and may begin crowding onto a small beaches in northern Alaska.

Walruses prefer to spend their time out on the Arctic sea ice, which allows them a resting place in the open ocean where food is abundant. In the summer, when sea ice begins to melt, walruses typically follow the retreating ice north and migrate back south again when the ice refreezes in the fall, according to the Washington Post.

But last year, sea ice in the Chukchi sea between Alaska and Russia dropped to such low levels — an increasingly common occurrence as climate change dramatically reshapes the Arctic — that tens of thousands of walruses in the area were forced to drag themselves onto the Alaskan shore in search of res. And this year, ice is already low enough again that it’s looking like it could happen again soon, the Post said.

*** *** ***

Claim Jumper?

Like gold miners in the Yukon at the turn of the 20th Century,  Russia has formally staked a claim with the United Nations to a vast area of the Arctic Ocean, including the North Pole — and all the riches that may lie beneath the ice.

The foreign ministry said in a statement August 4 that Russia is claiming 1.2 million square kilometers (over 463,000 square miles) of Arctic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles (about 650 kilometers) from the shore, the Associated Press reported.

Russia, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have all been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas. Rivalry for Arctic resources has intensified as shrinking polar ice is opening new opportunities for exploration, according to the AP.

 Russia was the first to submit its claim in 2002, but the U.N. sent it back for lack of evidence. It submitted a partial revision regarding the Okhotsk Sea in 2013 and the commission issued a recommendation the following year, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
*** *** ***

ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the  High North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the Arctic. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening “international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

Polar bears explore a surfaced U.S. submarine in the Arctic. U.S. Navy photo. (Click on the image to enlarge)

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August 14, 2015 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: Florida National Guard Unit to Horn of Africa

Eastbound and Down.

More than 600 members of the Florida National Guard are leaving for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom — but members of the 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment are going to Africa, not Afghanistan, according to local news and broadcast sites.

The troops are set for an estimated nine-month mission in the Horn of Africa. Before shipping overseas, they are heading to Fort Bliss, Texas for additional training. The regiment is part of the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

While in Africa, the Florida troops will conduct protection and security operations.

August 12, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 7, 2015)

Brown Water Patrol.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Scott

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Scott

U.S. sailors and Indonesian Kopaska naval special forces practice patrol formations during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Indonesia (CARAT) 2015 in Surabaya, Indonesia, August 5, 2015.(Click on the photo to enlarge image).

In its 21st year, this annual exercise includes the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps as well as the armed forces of nine partner nations, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

The U.S. sailors are assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 3. Part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, the Navy’s three Riverine Squadrons focus on conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in coastal areas, rivers and deltas.

August 7, 2015 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

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.

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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.

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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

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