Code Pink Tells Gold Star Mom: Your Son Deserved to Die

U.S. mission in Iraq officially changes Sept. 1

American Forces Press Service – By Jim Garamone

A fundamental shift will take place at the end of the month in the mission of U.S. forces in Iraq, a Pentagon official said Aug. 19.

The change in mission from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn reflects the improvement in conditions in Iraq and officially will end the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and change it to one of stability operations, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Some 56,000 U.S. troops are now in Iraq, down from a high of 180,000. The number will drop to 50,000 by the end of the month, Mr. Whitman said.

“It takes us from what has been a combat mission to a stability operations mission,” he added. “It takes us from a military lead to a civilian lead.”

Though the “advise and assist” mission officially does not change until the end of the month, American brigades have been in place and performing that mission for more than a year in southern Iraq and now through almost all of the country.

“As a practical matter, we have now been conducting stability operations for the last several months,” Mr. Whitman said.

Six U.S. Army brigades, plus support personnel, will work with Iraqi security forces through the end of 2011, when all American troops will be out of Iraq. The units are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division and the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division. Soldiers with these units will be advising, assisting, teaching and mentoring the Iraqi army and police in a range of capabilities.

U.S. Air Force personnel will continue to help in training the Iraqi air force, and Navy and Coast Guard personnel will continue to advise and assist Iraq’s maritime forces.

“This is not like a light switch, where one day you are doing combat operations and the next day you are doing stability operations,” Mr. Whitman explained. “It has been a transition that has taken place gradually over time.”

President Barack Obama has indicated that the mission officially will change on Sept. 1, and military forces and U.S. civilians in Iraq are moving to reflect that.

While instances of violence have dropped dramatically in Iraq, dangers still exist there. U.S. forces always maintain the capabilities to defend themselves, Mr. Whitman said, and will retain that right even after Sept. 1. American “advise and assist” units will have the capabilities to come to the aid of Iraqi security forces if called upon, he added.

Ensign cites harassment in call sign choice

Navy Times – By Andrew Tilghman – Staff writer

Ensign Steve Crowston thought getting his own call sign from his squadron mates would be a friendly induction into the tightly knit and testosterone-fueled culture of naval aviation.

But when the new admin officer walked into the ready room for Strike Fighter Squadron 136 in Virginia last year, he claims he found dozens of aviators — including the squadron’s commanding officer — openly mocking him as an alleged homosexual.

“Fagmeister” was one of the proposed call signs scrawled in the white erase board, he said.

“Gay boy” was another.

The squadron ultimately chose “Romo’s Bitch” — an apparent reference to his love for the Dallas Cowboys and their quarterback, Tony Romo.

“I was like, wait a minute? What the hell? You think I’m gay? What a way to tell me that,” said Crowston, a limited duty officer who was previously a chief.

Crowston declined to say whether he is a homosexual, noting only that he considered the call sign “workplace harassment.” He complained to the Naval Inspector General’s office, and his accusations of harassment and promoting a hostile work environment were unsubstantiated. He is still assigned to the squadron, but has been temporarily moved to the wing headquarters since filing his complaint.

His commanding officer could not be reached for comment.

Crowston’s complaint underscores concerns in the aviation community that call signs — a deeply entrenched but unofficial custom — are often inappropriate, bawdy or outright offensive.

The Naval Safety Center’s websites lists the “best all time call signs,” including Lt. Chuck “Dingle” Berry and Lt. Tom “Butts” Tench. The Navy recently posted a photo of Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Myers with his call sign “Taint” painted on his F/A-18E Super Hornet on the carrier George H.W. Bush.

Originally designed to avoid confusion during radio communications, call signs today are typically featured on aviators’ jackets, painted on aircraft and used in many formal written correspondences.

No clear standards

Navy leadership has provided no written rules or formal guidance regarding call signs, said Lt. Aaron Kakiel, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces in San Diego. An appropriate call sign is one that can be shared with an aviator’s mother or explained in a family setting, Kakiel said.

Yet concern about call signs dates back to 2002, when commanding officers were informally warned to keep call signs clean and professional, several aviators said.

Vice Adm. Tom “Killer” Kilcline, who recently turned over command of Naval Air Forces, has raised the issue in private and public talks with his senior officer corps, according to one former commanding officer of a helicopter squadron.

“There’s been a lot of sensitivity to call signs. It’s been a topic that had very high interest, right from the air boss personally. [Kilcline] charged the COs to make sure that the call signs were appropriate within your wardroom,” said the aviator, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the subject.

“Some of the call signs that were out in the fleet were, quite frankly, in poor taste. Most of them were not outright vulgar, but there was innuendo,” he said. Some officers may have quietly changed their call signs to conform with the unwritten rules, he said.

Call signs have become more sensitive as the fleet has grown more diverse.

“We have to be careful particularly with female aviator call signs. These can, and have, triggered alarms and get high-level attention fast,” said another former CO who remains on active duty and asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak about call signs.

Some call signs that skate along the edge of offensive can require tacit approval from the aviator or sailor receiving it. For example, Jason Graveen, a former operations specialist second class who worked as a tactical air controller, was given the call sign “Indian Outlaw” in 2001 after aviators learned he was a Native American who grew up on a reservation in Wisconsin.

“I didn’t mind it,” Graveen said. “I know when a comment or nickname is with bad intent. The air crew asked if it would offend me, and of course it did not.”

Call signs may not be as deeply entrenched in naval aviation culture as some other traditions.

Bob Rasmussen, a retired captain who serves as the director of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla., said call signs were not widely used when he was a squadron commander back in the 1960s.

“They were certainly not widespread in the air wing where I had command,” said Rasmussen, who headed a squadron of F-8 Crusaders. “It was probably limited to six or seven pilots in the squadron. Not by any decree or mandate that we put out; I think it was a point in time that the [junior officers] didn’t feel that they’d achieved enough [to warrant a call sign].”

Crowston said his command was dismissive about his complaints. He said other officers believed it was “a joke and meant to funny.”

Sly Stallone’s ‘The Expendables’: Why has the movie split the conservative movement?

LA Times Blog – Patrick Goldstein

I guess if conservatives can’t agree on really important things in life, like whether Israel should bomb Iran or not, then it should come as no surprise that they can’t agree on whether “The Expendables” is a good movie, much less whether it’s actually devoutly patriotic or anti-American.

Film critics, for example, have pretty much all decided that the Sly Stallone over-the-hill gang action picture was a lousy movie with a great marketing campaign. But in the conservative blogosphere, a heated debate has arisen over the film’s relative merits. As a liberal, I think this is a good thing, since liberals can never agree on anything, so it’s reassuring to see our conservative brethren in a similar situation.

New York Post blogger-critic Kyle Smith, who is unusually pragmatic about most ideological matters, is in the lousy movie camp, writing that while “The Expendables” is clearly a hit, “let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s a good movie, shall we? I wanted it to be good too. I have no problem with manly derring-do.  And no, it’s not ‘so bad it’s good.’ It’s just bad.”

But Big Hollywood’s John Nolte, who sees pretty much everything in strictly black and white terms, seems to think “The Expendables” might be the most stirring, patriotic film to come out of Hollywood since John Wayne’s “The Green Berets.”

Nolte went to great lengths to bash my colleague Steven Zeitchik, whom he called a “cultural enforcer” for gently making fun of the film’s old-school take-no-prisoners patriotism. For Nolte, the film “is a much more impressive achievement than the likes of the flood of ‘Syrianas’ that have bombing one after another at the box office over the past few years.”…]

The Archbishop and the Concentration Camp

The American Catholic

Retired Archbishop Philip. M. Hannan of New Orleans, still alive at the age of 97, discusses his service in the video above, made in 2007, with the 505th parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne in World War II.  Ordained at the North American College in Rome on December 8, 1939, he served with the 82nd Airborne as a chaplain from 1942-46, and was known as the Jumping Padre.  He was assigned to be the chaplain of the 505th Regiment with the rank of Captain shortly after the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.  He had many adventures during his time with the 505th, but perhaps the most poignant was what happened to him on May 5th, 1945, in the final days of the War in Europe.

On May 5, 1945, the 505th overran a concentration camp near Wobbelin in Germany.  Captain Hannan and his assistant James Ospital hurried to the camp to see what they could do to help.  A scene of complete horror awaited them.  Corpses were sprawled everywhere.  Dying prisoners lay in filthy bunks crudely made out of branches.  All the prisoners looked like skeletons, both the dead and the living.  The camp reeked of the smells of a charnel house and a sewer.

He found a Belgian priest who had been in the camp since 1940.  He told the chaplain that another priest who had been arrested with him had just died.  Commandeering a truck, Hannan loaded as many prisoners into the truck as it could hold. Here is a photograph of Hannan helping an inmate into the truck.

Since so many seemed on the verge of death he led them in an act of contrition and gave them a mass absolution.  He then had the truck driven to a nearby civilian hospital.  The Belgian priest refused to be helped until all the prisoners at the concentration camp had been aided.  The priest told him that throughout his captivity he had said mass every day, bribing the guards for a few crumbs of bread and a few drops of wine.  Even the non-Catholic prisoners took part in his masses, giving them something to live for.

Having done everything he could for the prisoners that could be accomplished in one day, Chaplain Hannan left and returned the next day.  When he arrived he met a funeral procession of weeping prisoners.  They were on their way to bury the Belgian priest who had died shortly before Hannan arrived back at the camp.

A funeral service was held by the 82nd Airborne for the 200 dead inmates of the concentration camp in the nearby town of  Ludwigslust on May 7.  Several hundred members of the division attended, along with the unwilling participation of captured German officers and the citizens of Ludwigslust.  Father Hannan participated in the funeral along with a Protestant and Jewish chaplain…

Rise of the “Blimps”: The US Army’s LEMV

Defense Industry Daily

The rise of modern terrorism, sharply increasing costs to recruit and equip professional soldiers, and issues of energy security, are forcing 2 imperatives on modern armies. Modern militaries need to be able to watch wide areas for very long periods of time. Not just minutes, or even hours any more, but days if necessary. The second imperative, beyond the need for that persistent, unblinking stare up high in the air, is the need to field aerial platforms whose operating costs won’t bankrupt the budget.

These pressures are forcing an eventual convergence toward very long endurance, low operating cost platforms. Many are lighter-than-air vehicles or hybrid airships, whose technologies have advanced to make them safe and militarily useful again. On the ground near military bases, Raytheon’s RAID program fielded aerostats, and then surveillance towers. Lockheed Martin has also fielded tethered aerostats: TARS along the USA’s southern border, and PTDS aerostats on the front lines. The same trend can be observed in places like Thailand and in Israel; and Israeli experience has led to export orders in Mexico and India. At a higher technical level, Raytheon’s large JLENS aerostats are set to play a major role in American aerial awareness and cruise missile defense, and its ground and air scanning ISIS radar was developed under a DARPA project, to pair with Lockheed Martin’s fully mobile High Altitude Airship.

The Army’s LEMV project fits in between RAID and HAA/ISIS, in order to give that service mobile, affordable, very long term surveillance in uncontested airspace. Its technologies may also wind up playing a role in other projects…

  • The Army’s LEMV [NEW]
  • Surveillance Options, and the Rise of the LTAs
  • Contracts & Key Events
  • Additional Readings [updated]

The Army’s LEMV

The LEMV isn’t really a blimp. Technically, it’s something called a hybrid airship, which gains lift from 3 different sources. One is the same aerostatic lift that a blimp gets, from the same onboard helium. Another is aerodynamic lift, now that composite materials allow rigid, shaped hull designs that aren’t just balloons. The final element is vectored thrust from 4 diesel engines and vector vanes, which builds on aerodynamic lift.

That combination is very helpful, because it can eliminate one of the biggest problems with blimps: sensitive equilibrium. A conventional blimp must have more buoyancy than payload, in order to fly. If it has too much buoyancy, however, it becomes very difficult to land. That isn’t a big problem if the mission is fly over a local football stadium, but if you’ve just offloaded many tons of cargo, or finished up a 3-week mission and burned about 18,000 pounds of fuel, it’s a different story. For a blimp, the problem could be solved with ballast, but it’s an inefficient approach that creates its own hazards and difficulties. A hybrid airship has more options, hence more flexibility. Ongoing research into technologies like hovercraft/suck-down skirts would offer even more flexibility on the ground.

Northrop Grumman Director of Airship Programs Alan Metzger told The Engineer magazine that he expects LEMV to have about 3 weeks endurance, carry 2500 pounds of payload, and travel at speeds between 30 – 80 knots/ He added that:

“When you do the maths on that you’re talking about $20,000 to keep the vehicle in the air for three weeks. It’s vastly cheaper to operate than many conventional aircraft today…. Some of the characteristics of our vehicle allow you to make trades between how long you’d like to stay in the air and how much cargo you’d like to carry. We have the ability to trade 23 days to go 1000 miles and carry 15, 20, 30,000 pounds…. We’re green, we use a quarter of the fuel as the same payload of cargo aircraft… there are fewer moving parts. there’s less maintenance…. Now we have the opportunity to show that a vehicle of this class and size can carry the required payloads, create the endurance and persistent surveillance that war-fighters are looking for.”

Fortunately, these 3 week missions won’t require a crew, but deploying to the mission zone at home or abroad means flight through civil airspace. For now, that means manned flight options, in addition to remote piloting or autonomous modes. Piloting it has been described as being closer to operating a ship than to flying a plane, and winds above 23 mph or so will be a challenge for the design team to tackle.

Their team crosses the Atlantic, and includes Northrop Grumman as lead, plus:

  • Hybrid Air Vehicles Ltd. in Bedford, UK (HAV304 airship platform)
  • Textron subsidiary AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, MD (Makes the US Army’s OneSystem UAV/surveillance aircraft control & information distribution stations)
  • DERA spinout Blue Bear Systems Research in Bedford, UK (flight control algorithms)
  • ILC Dover in Kent County, DE (Airship manufacturer and designer)
  • SAIC in McLean, VA
  • Warwick Mills in New Ipswich, NH (Fabrics engineering)

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Updates: Added Big Peace Article Link – END