National Security

Weekly Ops Briefing: Hurricane Florence, Airstrikes in Somalia, Afghanistan SITREP, Navy Pilot Awarded DFC, SecDef Mattis

We live in a busy world with a lot of information being thrown at you. Don’t feel overwhelmed. OpsLens will give you a weekly briefing on the major stories you need to know about and cut out all the extra information that isn’t important. Here’s your weekly briefing on what’s going on in national security and military news.

U.S. Military Responds to Hurricane Florence

The United States military has been forced to react to Hurricane Florence this week. Both active duty and national guard soldiers and airmen have been called on to prepare for the storm, which made landfall in the Carolinas on Friday.

Army and Air National Guardsmen were called up to assist state and local authorities in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland. The National Guard has deployed more than 5,000 soldiers and airmen and 10 states are mobilizing more troops to send to the Carolinas.

Coast Guard officials in North Carolina announced that rescue helicopter crews from Air Station Elizabeth City were responding to calls for help from local emergency responders fighting life-threatening storm surges, hurricane-force winds and catastrophic flooding.

The Navy said that the amphibious warships USS Kearsarge and USS Arlington were out at sea and waiting for the storm to pass so they could sail to the Carolina coasts and start helping. The Navy also moved nearly 30 vessels from Naval Station Norfolk and Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek before the storm impacted the mid-Atlantic coast.

Hurricane Florence is currently a weakening tropical cyclone but made landfall as a Category 1 storm, causing heavy damage from severe flooding, wind, and rain. Florence has been blamed for at least five deaths in the United States so far.

Airstrike Kills Two Militants in Somalia

U.S. and Somali-partner troops came under attack earlier this week while conducting a counter-terrorism operation. An airstrike against an enemy position was called in and killed two militants involved in the attack.

“We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike,” according to a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release. “No U.S. personnel were injured or killed and all are accounted for following this operation.”

The attack occurred 37 miles west of Mogadishu, the country’s capital, in the central Somali village of Mubaraak. Al-Shabaab remains a very active and dangerous terrorist group in Africa, particularly in Somalia.

In March 2017, President Donald Trump ordered an increase in the US military’s role in Somalia, authorizing US commanders to move more quickly on drone strikes and raids carried out by special operations forces.

U.S. and NATO Casualties on the Rise in Afghanistan

September is the fourth month in a row in which a U.S. servicemember has been killed in Afghanistan.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy A. Bolyard, 42, from Thornton, West Virginia, died September 3, 2018, of wounds sustained from small-arms fire in Logar Province, Afghanistan. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed to have been an insider attack by a member of the Afghan National Police force.

In August, Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Transfiguracion, a Special Forces soldier with 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, died from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Helmand province.

Three members of the Czech Army, a participating member of the NATO force, were killed by an IED in early August in Afghanistan.

Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan and there appears to be no end in sight. After an “end” to combat operations in 2014 and a reduction of U.S. troop levels to 9,000 under President Barack Obama, the trend is again shifting to a renewed U.S. combat role and additional troops on the ground.

August saw some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan this year. According to the Long War Journal, the Taliban currently control 49 districts in Afghanistan, with another 200 contested. The government of Afghanistan controls 147 districts.

Navy Pilot Awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for Shooting Down Syrian Jet

United States Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael “MOB” Tremel, an F/A-18E Super Hornet pilot with the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down a Syrian Jet last year.

The shootdown occurred over Raqqa on June 18, 2017 and was the first air-to-air kill for a U.S. pilot since 1999 and the first for the United States Navy since 1991. The Distinguished Flying Cross is given for heroism or extraordinary achievement during aerial flights and was awarded to Lieutenant Commander Tremel at the Tailhook Association’s annual conference on September 8.

“While monitoring a Russian SU-35 Flanker operating above him, Lieutenant Commander Tremel identified a Syrian SU-22 FITTER closing quickly on the coalition ground force. He executed three warning passes with flares, but the FITTER disregarded the warnings and delivered ordnance on the coalition ground force,” the award citation states. “Lieutenant Commander Tremel immediately fired two air-to-air missiles that destroyed the FITTER and protected the coalition force from further threat.”

SecDef James Mattis Reportedly Eye-pokes Sean Spicer: 

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has reportedly responded to former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s repeated requests to appear on Sunday morning television talk shows with another “Mattisism.”

According to an excerpt from Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Mattis lashed out at Spicer, who is an officer in the Navy Reserve. The passage was allegedly revealed by White House Associated Press journalist Zeke Miller, who got an early glimpse of the book.

“Sean, I’ve killed people for a living,” the secretary of defense allegedly said. “If you call me again, I’m going to f–king send you to Afghanistan. Are we clear?”

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Chris Castellano

Christopher Castellano is a U.S. Army Veteran. He currently serves as a firefighter in New York City.

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