A military blog by Howard Altman
From Afghanistan to the Alafia, Command Post Tampa is your local military news source.
Does all this news about the global Ebola pandemic or the pending threat of Islamic State jihadis attacking the homeland have you worried about your safety?
The folks at Liquidity Services Inc. might have just what you are looking for.
The Washington D.C. -based government surplus liquidator is auctioning off two 296-square-foot steel shelters, once used by the military for secure storage.
As a lifelong Mets fan, I know what it is like to root for a team on the wrong side of the win-loss ledger.
So I feel a kinship with Army Staff Sgt. Joshua Withers, of Tampa, who is currently stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
Withers, in a video provided by the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, offers a “shout out” from Germany to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ever since bombs and missiles began hitting Islamic State targets in Iraq on Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command and its Air Force component, Air Forces Central Command, have kept a running total of the number of the number of airstrikes against both Islamic State and the Khorasan Group, the location and how many individual flights, known as sorties, have taken place.
Just this morning, Centcom released the latest hit list. U.S. fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 10 airstrikes Thursday and today.
In Iraq, five airstrikes south and southwest of Kirkuk destroyed three Islamic State Humvees and one Islamic State vehicle, disabled two Islamic State armed vehicles and damaged one Islamic State mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle. One airstrike west of Baghdad destroyed an Islamic State guard shack, an armed vehicle and a bunker. One airstrike near Al Qaim destroyed four Islamic State armed vehicles, a command and control node and a checkpoint.
The world’s most famous KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling jet hails from MacDill Air Force Base.
A blast of videos of aerial attacks on Islamic State targets in Syria, distributed by U.S. Central Command and seen around the world, includes a 77-second YouTube video of a KC-135 refueling F-16s that were part of the first strike package to hit IS targets in Syria Sept. 23.
The green-hued video, using night vision technology, shows an F-16 approaching the tanker as the boom operator carefully guides the refueling boom down to the bomb-laden fighter to offload fuel.
The war in Afghanistan may be drawing to a close, but it is still a very dangerous place.
Just this week, the Pentagon announced three more deaths, including one civilian contractor, bringing the total, by my count, up to 2,335 U.S. service members who have died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the nation’s longest war.
And there are tens of thousands of troops deployed around the world, including about 1,600 in Iraq, which is also a very dangerous place.
Aside from being briefed by Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, on plans to hit Sunni insurgent group Islamic State targets in Syria, President Barack Obama spent about 20 minutes Wednesday with in a private meeting with Centcom’s international coalition leaders at MacDill Air Force Base.
The meeting highlighted the importance of the coalition as Obama, who has yet to approve the plans he heard at Centcom, seeks to build a broad international consensus for efforts against IS.
During the 20-minute, coalition-only session, Obama “expressed his gratitude to the members of the coalition and highlighted the importance of the coalition for the ongoing effort of countering the ISIL,” Danish Brig. Gen. Frank Lissner, the coalition chairman, told me in an email.
By Howard Altman
Back in the spring, Iraq was in the rearview mirror and U.S. Central Command, headquartered here in Tampa at MacDill Air Force Base, was largely focused on winding down the war in Afghanistan, which is supposed to end by December.
It’s not like the folks at Centcom were only focused on Afghanistan. Not with 19 other nations to think about, a gnarly nest of dysfunction and despotism, sectarian violence and never-ending bloodshed from Pakistan to Yemen to Egypt that includes countries, like Lebanon and Jordan, feeling the direct effect of the horrific Syrian revolution. And the Gulf states. And the K-stans. And of course, Iran, always vying for supremacy in the Islamic world and a constant thorn for U.S. ambitions.
But now with Iraq and Syria sucking up so much oxygen, the Centcom acronym has become the subject of even more intense worldwide attention. If for no other reason than the near-daily bomb-o-grams, fired off by Centcom’s public affairs shop via email and social media, detailing the latest pieces of often-American hardware you paid for that have been blown up in Iraq by American munitions you also paid for.
Yesterday, two crews from the 91st Air Refueling Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base returned from somewhere in the Middle East after a tour refueling aircraft that were dropping bombs and humanitarian aid in Iraq in the fight against the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State.
While the glory may seem to go to the folks dropping the ordnance and packages, much of that would be impossible without mid-air gas from crews like the ones from MacDill, which are part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing.
How big a role have they played?
If it weren’t for Air Force Tech. Sgt. Lewis Collins, Walter Padron might not have been able to go on a family cruise to the Caribbean for his granddaughter’s 15th birthday.
Around 4 p.m. July 10, Collins, the working-dog kennel master with the 6th Security Forces Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, was returning from a doctor’s appointment when he saw a man on a bicycle hit by a 1995 green Toyota sedan at Spruce Street and MacDill Avenue.
Collins stopped his car and jumped out. Trained in first aid, he was prepared to help.
By Howard Altman
St. Petersburg-based lawyer Matt Weidner devotes a good deal of time helping veterans navigate the legal system.
He says his motivation is simple.
“I feel guilty about not being a veteran,” Weidner says. “I was not man enough to serve, and so while I have regrets, I realize I have other skills. I just started trying to find other ways to help.”