5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States - We Are The Mighty
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5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.


The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:

1. Adultery (by the masses)

The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.

2. Homosexuality

After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.

3. Dodging the draft

On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.

4. Seceding from the Union

In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.

5. Illegal Immigration

This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
(Photo: TA4.org)

The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.

 

NOW: 6 Weird laws unique to the U.S. military

OR: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

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6 games that should definitely feature a battle royale mode

At this year’s E3, many long-awaited game have been announced. And because gaming companies love digging into the same gold mine over and over again, it seems like a good handful of established franchises are now getting a new “battle royale” mode to try and cash in on a booming trend.

For those who don’t know, a “battle royale” game is one in which 100 players are dropped into an open world and are expected to find gear to help them outlast the other 99 players. We have nothing but love for the game mode, seeing as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is one of our favorite games lately. When it’s done right, it’s spectacular, but shoehorning the mode into any old game might not work.

Shooter games, both first-person and third-, tend to work pretty well, but other games, like Realm Royale, are proving that even in the absence of rifles, the genre is surprisingly fun. Even a game that was focuses more on 1 vs 99 could do well, as proved by the Thanos update to Fortnite.

So, we’ve decided to take a look at games for which a battle royale mode would definitely be a welcome addition.


5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

Quake is the original “git good” game.

(id Software)

Quake Champions

One of the biggest draws of PUBG is the incredibly high skill ceiling. But in our opinion, no game franchise in history has come close to matching the skill required to dominate in Quake.

Currently, nothing in the battle royale scene matches the hyper-fast tempo of Quake. The health, armor, and weapon-spawn systems wouldn’t need to change — Quake Champions is already perfect for the game mode if you simply gave it a massive map for players to traverse.

Pro-tip: If you download the game between now until June 18th, 2018, you get it for free.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

Something to think about… Maybe as a multiplayer mode in the RE2 remake.

(Capcom)

Resident Evil

Shy of Minecraft: Hunger Games, there isn’t really any story or plot behind why 100 players are trying to kill each other. If it was set in a zombie-infested hellscape, it’d be a bit more logical.

The Resident Evil franchise would make for a fantastic battle royale because dying wouldn’t mean a game over. It would start out as a 100-player free-for-all. Whoever dies just gets moved to the zombie team and they get another life. In order to win, you’d have to kill all of the zombies as well as the other players — or be a part of the zombie horde that kills all living survivors.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

It’ll be like Los Angeles when it rains!

(EA Games)

Burnout

It’s been about ten years since a (good) Burnout game was released and they remastered the best installment of the series just a few months ago.

Burnout has always been about the stupid, awesome fun of destroying vehicles. What better way to make that happen than to have 100 player-driven cars crashing into each other?

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

If you think about it, Red Dead Redemption’s online mode was basically a free-for-all anyways.

(Rockstar Games)

Red Dead Redemption 2

Grand Theft Auto V tried a battle royale mode and it worked out well enough, but many players felt like winning was a little too reliant on luck rather than skill.

Now, if it were 100 cowboys fighting each other in an open world, it’d be far more fun. One player couldn’t just find a Rhino tank and roll their way to victory.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

No items, Foxes only, Final Destination — let’s do this.

(Nintendo)

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

To be fair, Super Smash Bros is the original sumo-wrestling equivalent of a battle royale game. Some game modes allow you to take on an endless onslaught of computer-controlled characters with your single fighter. It might be tough to fit 100 players around a TV, but the groundwork is all there. Just make the Hyrule Temple stage a little bigger and it’d probably fit 100 fighters.

The game is great with 4 players and chaotically awesome with just 16 players — why not go a step further?

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

“Where are we dropping, boys?”

(Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft

The makings of a battle royale mode are already established in the lore and game mechanics of World of Warcraft. The greatest thing about the Warlords of Draenor expansion was its inclusion of a 25-man, free-for-all arena called the Highmaul Coliseum. Maybe they could bring that back and up the ante.

There are even four battlegrounds already in the game that would be perfectly suited for a re-purposing to support 100 players: Alterac Valley, Wintergrasp, Tol Barad, and Ashran. Hell, the “drop-in” mechanic that typifies nearly every battle royale game already exists in their newest battleground, Seething Shore.

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14 photos that show how deployed troops watch the Super Bowl

The military is filled with sports fans, and few days are as important to sports followers as the Super Bowl. So the U.S. military goes to great lengths to ensure that troops around the world are granted the opportunity to watch the big game (as long as they aren’t currently wrapped up in a mission…probably).


Here are 14 photos that show how troops around the world watch the ultimate football game each year:

1. Sports fans around the world watch the game on the Armed Forces Network, a U.S. military satellite channel. Some of these watching parties even allow minor uniform alterations, such as the wear of sports jerseys.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Capt. Joe Beale, a systems automation officer assigned to the 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, cheers as the Seattle Seahawks score a touchdown during Super Bowl XLVIII, Feb. 2, 2014, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army Cpl. Alex Flynn)

2. The watch parties are held wherever a TV and suitable seating can be set up, including chow halls…

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Sailors watch Super Bowl 50 (fun fact: this was the year the Super Bowl decided to take a break from using roman numerals because the stand-alone “L” raised some confusion) between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) mess decks. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

3. …theaters or briefing rooms…

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Deployed troops watch the “big game” during a Super Bowl 50 viewing party at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2016. The Airmen, soldiers, and civilians enjoyed the game and got to meet Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and former players during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

4. …and even ranges.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

5. The luckiest viewers get to watch in sports bars on base.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Community members react to the Super Bowl 50 game with Carolina Panthers versus Denver Broncos Feb. 8 at the CZCC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

6. The game-watching parties are usually supplemented with other activities.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

7. For obvious reasons, football games are a common choice.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Marines with 3rd Battalion 4th Marine Regiment take a break from their Integrated Training Exercise to watch the Super Bowl at the Combat Center’s Range 215, Feb. 3, 2012.

8. But other games are commonly set up.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Pfc. Oscar Ramero plays pool at a Single Marine Program Recreation Center at Camp Pendleton, Feb. 7, 2016. The center hosted a Super Bowl party which included free food and games for noncommissioned officer ranks and below. Ramero, from New York, is a student with Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry – West. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)

9. Some bases will even get special visits from USO tours, like this NFL All-Star Cheerleaders line-up.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
NFL All-Star Cheerleaders perform for the Super Bowl 50 party Feb. 8 at the CZZC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

10. Concerts are fairly common as well.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
The Smokin’ Scarecrows play a cover of a song Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The band was part of the pre-game entertainment before the 2016 Super Bowl. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

11. Prize giveaways are big at watch parties, especially overseas.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Vonetta Weatherspoon, community member from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, received the grand prize of two round-trip tickets to the U.S. from United Airlines at the Super Bowl 50 party Feb. 8 in the CZCC. (U.S. Army photo by Lance Davis)

12. Electronics, plane tickets, and other prizes are given out.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Prizes for the patrons of the Super Bowl 50 Madness party rest on a table Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Prizes included National Football League lawn chairs and money. Club members could also receive furniture, additional cash, LED televisions, and gaming consoles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

13. Of course, no Super Bowl party is complete without snacks.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson chaplains hosted a Super Bowl Sunday Party with a large variety of food and drinks at the Wired Cafe, on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Feb. 1, 2015. The Super Bowl Sunday Party there is an annual tradition. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Christopher R. Morales)

14. But it is the military, so not everyone gets a party or even a chance to watch the game. Some guys have to pull duty, like these paratroopers getting ready for an airborne operation on Super Bowl Sunday.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
While the rest of the country was watching Super Bowl 50, hundreds of Airborne Artillerymen assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery rushed down to Green Ramp to conduct sustained airborne training in preparation for a zero-dark-thirty airborne operation the following morning of Feb. 8, 2016., on Fort Bragg, N.C. (Capt. Joe Bush, 82nd Airborne Division Artillery/ Released.)

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This Army general’s death is a sad reminder of the military’s mental health crisis

The mysterious death of Maj. Gen. (Promotable) John G. Rossi on July 31, shortly before he was to be promoted to lieutenant general and take command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, has now been ruled a suicide.


According to a report by the Associated Press, Rossi is the highest-ranking officer and first Army general officer to kill himself while on active duty since statistics were kept in 2000. In an obituary posted online, Rossi left behind a wife, three children (one an Army officer), his father and a sister.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Then-Brig. Gen. John Rossi shakes hands with Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, Nov. 12, after arriving on Camp Taji, Iraq, for a visit to the troops there. On Rossi’s left walks Col. Frank Muth, the commander of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo U.S. Army)

During his career, Rossi had received the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, among other decorations. He had served a tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rossi became part of an increasingly tragic statistic. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs released in July, 20 veterans take their own lives every day. That was down from 22 per day according to the previous study that used data from 2012.

While Rossi’s suicide is the Army’s first active duty general officer who took his own life since the Department of Defense started to keep statistics in 2000, high-ranking officials committing suicide is not an unknown phenomenon.

One of the most notable incidents involved Adm. Jeremy Boorda who was the Chief of Naval Operations when he shot himself in May, 1996. Another incident involved James Forrestal, who had recently resigned as Secretary of Defense when he was hospitalized for treatment of “overwork” (he was actually suffering from serious depression). In May of 1949, he jumped out of a window at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Even legendary military leaders contemplated suicide. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general who was most famous for capturing Atlanta and his March to the Sea, had a mental breakdown in late 1861 during which he considered taking his own life.

In a statement released after the announcement of Rossi’s cause of death his family said, “For our family, this has been an incredibly painful time, and we ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately.”

For veterans in crisis, or their friends and family, help is available. Call (800)273-8255, send a text message to 838255, or chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx.

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5 of the world’s strongest fortifications ever

As the saying goes, “a man’s home is his castle.”


While this rings true for people who own a house, it was even more important for the leader in charge of a kingdom, an empire or even a republic. The reason for this is that the man in the “high castle” had much a stake. So to make sure that the country is strong, a king would build a fortress — or a wall with many fortresses — to project the centralized strength and influence of his nation throughout his realm and beyond.

Understand that a fortress is not just a building with a certain amount of walls and towers, but also can be a wall. Below is a list of the strongest fortresses ever built in the history of the world.

5. Masada, Israel

On a rocky plateau situated on a hill in southern Israel near the edge of the Judean desert, one can find the fortress of Masada. Almost all information on Masada and the siege that took place comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
The fortress of Masada withstood a year-long siege by Roman Gov. Lucius Flavius Silva. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 66 AD, the Kingdom of Judea was in upheaval over Rome’s prolonged occupation and revolted. In doing so, a small group of rebels known as the Sicarii captured Masada after slaughtering its Roman garrison. In 72 AD, Lucius Flavius Silva, commander of the Legio X Fretensis, laid siege to Masada.

To reach the top, Lucius gave the order to build a massive ramp that was 375 feet high and 450 feet long. Once the legionaries made it to the top, they rolled the siege engines in and battered Masada’s walls until they fell.

Once inside, the Romans didn’t find an enemy in sight. Rather, they found over 900 dead. Only two women and five children survived.

4. Great Wall of Gorgan, Parthian/Sassanid Empire

The Great Wall of Gorgan is a fortress that remains mostly unknown. Located in northeastern Iran, the wall stretches from the Caspian Sea to the Kopet Dag Mountain Range. In total, the wall was 121 miles long.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
The Great Wall of Gorgan. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The date of its construction is disputed. Some say it is 1,000 years older than the Great Wall of China. While little is known about the wall, the Parthians (247 BCE – 224 AD) who ruled Iran, are said to have built on the original remains of the wall.

The original height and width is unknown, but when the Sassanid Empire (224–651) overthrew the Parthians they repaired, enlarged, and added fortresses to the wall. The height of the Gorgan wall has yet to be determined. The width of the wall was between 20 to 30 feet wide and featured 30 fortresses.

What made this wall significant was that for many centuries it prevented nomads from the north, like the Dahae, Massagetae, Hephthalites and other various nomadic elements from getting in.

3. Hadrian’s Wall, England/Scotland

Hadrian’s Wall is well known to most casual students of history.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD ordered for the construction of the wall along with 16 fortresses garrisoned with static troops. The length of the wall expanded from the Irish Sea to the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea — a distance of 73 miles.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
The author walking on Hadrian’s Wall in Great Britain. (Photo courtesy Cam Rea)

The purpose of the wall is obvious, but as to why it was constructed, remains disputed. The reason for this is that there is no clear evidence that suggests Roman Britain, south of the future wall, was under any real substantial threats — even though there had been some minor rebellions in the province and within the Roman Empire. This was probably the reason why Hadrian built the wall — as a symbol and reminder that it is best to separate one from the barbarians.

Hadrian’s Wall would provide Roman Britain security from the Celtic/Pictish tribes in the north until Rome abandoned Britannia in 410 AD.

2. Walls of Constantinople

In 324 AD, Emperor Constantine I moved the capital from Rome to the small port town of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. The reason for this move was to be closer to the eastern portion of the Roman Empire due to its lucrative trade.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

To ensure the safety of this second Rome, Constantine issued an order to build of a wall. The Wall of Constantine was laid out in a series of four rows, with the inner two featuring towers 50 feet apart.

While very effective in repelling invaders, the Roman Emperor Theodosius II decided to expand the walls. The Theodosian Walls consisted of two — an inner and outer wall — which consisted of 96 towers. The inner wall was 40 feet high while the outer wall stood at 30 feet high.

The walls of Constantinople paid off for many centuries and were able to throw back 12 sieges from 559-1203 AD. However, the city was captured in 1204 during the fourth crusade, but afterward was able to withstand five more sieges until that fateful day in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks bashed down the walls and captured the city.

1. Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China needs no introduction. Many assume that the Great Wall was built and finished during the lifetime of a Chinese emperor. Instead it was constructed by multiple emperors over 1,000 years.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

The height, length, and thickness of the wall — or walls — vary, depending on which emperor built it and how much they could afford.

For example, once the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) pushed out the Mongols, they set about to expand and enlarge the Great Wall. The total length of the Great Wall under the Ming was over 5,000 miles long and 25 feet high and 15 – 30 feet thick at the base. If one were to take the wall and line it up, the length would be over 13,000 miles, according to study in 2012.

While the Great Wall looks good, it provided only temporary protection. The problem was that due to its size, it was too cumbersome and too costly to man.

The purpose of the Wall was to keep nomads out from the north. Instead, it kept the people of China isolated within and the wars that came with it.

The Mongols, however, just went around it during their invasion in 1211. The Ming would later enhance the wall, but it didn’t make a difference when the Manchu invaded in 1644.

From that point on, the Great Wall was more of a monument to look upon with amazement.

 

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The US Army may consider building a new ‘urban warfare’ school

Army Maj. John Spencer, a scholar at the Modern War Institute, argued Wednesday the Army needs to create a school of urban warfare as soon as it possibly can.


Global trends make conflict in urban areas much more likely in the future, but Spencer noted in an opinion piece for the institute at West Point that the Army has not adequately prepared its soldiers to fight in this environment, which means that the service is violating one of its ten core principles.

For Spencer, the way to fix this major gap is to create a school of urban warfare.

As pointed out recently by Army chief of staff Gen. Mark Milley, “Army forces operating in complex, densely populated urban terrain in dense urban areas is the toughest and bloodiest form of combat and it will become the norm, not the exception in the future.”

And yet, Spencer said the Army is woefully unprepared at this point to effectively fight in dense urban areas, which feature endless enemy positions, civilians mixed in with combatants, narrow alleys and close-quarter firefights.

Related: The 82nd Airborne deploys more troops to ‘brutal’ ISIS fight

“The Army is fighting in cities today,” Spencer wrote. “It will find itself fighting in cities in the future. It is time to commit to preparing soldiers for this environment. To do so, the Army needs a school that provides soldiers the opportunity to build necessary skills, feel the stress, and mentally prepare for the hell of urban warfare — before combat.”

As it stands now, soldiers receive training on breaching small buildings and only sometimes get the chance to participate in live-fire exercises in houses. While it’s true that many soldiers have fought in locations like Baghdad, Fallujah and Ramadi, new units and new soldiers coming into the service lack this experience and have to start from scratch.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Soldiers from the 19th Engineer Battalion react to a simulated rocket-propelled grenade attack at Zussman Urban Combat Training Center. | US Army photo by Sgt. Michael Behlin

Currently, the Army has no such site that can approximate either structural or population density of a city. The only location even remotely close, according to Spencer, is the Shughart-Gordon Training Complex at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which only has 20-30 buildings and is situated around trees or desert areas, as opposed to more dense urban structures. Moreover, civilian actors used in simulations rarely reach beyond a few hundred.

Special Forces has a slightly better selection with the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, which has 68 buildings. Still, this setting is nowhere near city-size.

A real school of urban warfare could fix this, Spencer said, and would teach soldiers “the individual and collective skills of shooting, moving, and communicating in urban environments, along with specific skills like breaching.”

“They would learn to live, survive, and conduct offensive and defensive operations as units in dense urban terrain. The school could be further phased to replicate the full experience of operating in progressively more dense — and complex — environments,” Spencer continued. “It could culminate with terrain walks and site visits to a nearby city, requiring students to think through the application of the skills, field craft, and knowledge they’ve gained.”

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US-backed forces were supposed to assault ISIS capital two weeks ago

The start date of the offensive to oust Islamic State fighters from the city of Raqqa and end the terror group’s state-building project has been announced several times in the past few months, often with great fanfare by commanders in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ ground ally in northern Syria.


The last announcement came in March when Kurdish commanders said an assault on the city would begin April 1.

Two weeks later that start date, like many others, has come and gone, prompting the months-long question: when will the U.S.-backed SDF offensive shift gears from isolating Raqqa, which is hemmed in on three sides now, to mounting an assault to retake the capital of the jihadists’ self-styled caliphate?

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
A Marine directs an F/A-18D Hornet returning to an undisclosed location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community, June 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Over the weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency AFP he would support whomever wants to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa, but mocked the delay in an assault on the city, which U.S. officials believe is being defended by around 4,000 IS fighters.

“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” he said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”

No firm answer about a new start date was forthcoming on April 15 from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when he met in Washington with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik.

The Turkish defense minister again complicated the U.S. effort to choreograph an agreement among multiple local and international players about a Raqqa offensive by pressing Ankara’s long-standing demand for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose fighters dominate the ranks of the SDF.

There were no signs that the Turkish request made persistently by Ankara in recent months, and relayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a February phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, will be heeded.

U.S. officials say they envisage the Raqqa battle will resemble the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local indigenous forces have been waging the struggle to retake the northern city of Mosul, the last IS major urban stronghold in that country.

Also read: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Some 500 U.S. special forces soldiers deployed in northern Syria are helping to train and advise SDF units.

Mattis later said at a press conference the U.S. remains in solidarity with Ankara when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants and Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but he made no mention of discontinuing the alliance with the YPG, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, or PYD.

The Turks, who fear the emergence of a Kurdish state in north Syria, maintain there’s no real distinction between the PYD and the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Mattis cited the long security relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, dating back to 1952 when Turkey joined NATO; but, in the wake of the April 16 constitutional referendum that greatly enhances the Turkish president’s powers, analysts say it is unclear how much Erdogan values his country’s alliance with the West, and whether his slim victory will embolden him to disrupt a Raqqa assault by the SDF.

Earlier in April, Erdogan ramped up the pressure on Washington, saying his government is planning new offensives in northern Syria this spring against groups deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including IS and the PYD’s militia.

In March, Turkish forces escalated attacks on the YPG in northern Syria, forcing the U.S. to deploy a small number of forces in and around the town of Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa to “deter” Turkish-SDF clashes and ensure the focus remains on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is being pummeled by airstrikes mounted by U.S.-led coalition forces and Syrian warplanes.

Local anti-IS activists say the air raids fail to distinguish between military and non-military targets; however, with IS fighters seeded throughout the city and surrounding villages, being able to draw a distinction is become increasingly challenging, say U.S. officials.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
U.S. Airmen load pallets of nonlethal aid for the Syrian Opposition Coalition onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at an undisclosed base May 9, 2013. U.S. forces provided humanitarian aid to refugees of the Syrian civil war. (Dept. of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, U.S. Air Force)

“Civilians are now [caught] between the criminal terrorists on one side and the international coalition’s indiscriminate bombing on the other side,” said Hamoud Almousa, a founding member of the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is opposed to an assault on the city being led by the YPG.

“Liberating [Raqqa] does not come by burning it and destroying it over its people who have suffered a lot from the terrorist group’s violations,” he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists for its information, said that four civilians — two women and two children — were killed April 17 in an airstrike believed to have been carried out by coalition warplanes on the Teshreen Farmarea north of Raqqa.

The Observatory says between March 1 and April 10, airstrikes killed 224 civilians. They included 38 children under the age of 18, and 37 women.

Another mainly Arab anti-IS activist network, Eye on the Homeland, complains at the lack of international condemnation about the civilian casualties from the airstrikes, arguing civilians caught in the conflict are being treated inhumanely.

“We assert that the liberation of civilians from all forms of terrorism requires that military forces acting in the area avoid civilian killing, displacement, and the destruction of their properties whenever possible,” the network said recently on its website.

It warned the deaths will “be used to by terrorist organizations in their propaganda to convince civilians that these military forces do not have their interests at heart” and will “only further fuel radicalization.”

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The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

In January 1973, the United States agreed to end direct combat operations in Vietnam. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the fighting between North and South Vietnam was also temporarily halted. Though the accords were never ratified by the Senate, on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending more than twenty years of military assistance and eight years of direct combat support from the U.S. military. With only a handful of Marines left to guard the embassy in Saigon, the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi released the last 67 of its admitted prisoners of war.


5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

During World War II Ho Chi Minh fought alongside the American OSS against the Japanese. After the war, Ho declared an independent Vietnam but soon realized the West would restore French rule in what was then known as Indochina. With the help of Communist governments in China and the Soviet Union, Ho led an eight-year insurgency against the French, and the country was split in two in 1954.

The United States began to support South Vietnam as early as 1954. President Eisenhower pledged his unwavering support for the regime of Southern dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. The Diem regime arrested, tortured, and/or killed upwards of 100,000 people whom he suspected supported the Northern Communists. Diem would be killed in a coup in 1963.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Marines with Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, direct a concentration of fire at the enemy during Operation Allen Brook, 8 May 1968. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo).

In the 1960’s North Vietnamese guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong (VC), began attacking villages and government institutions in the South. By 1965, the U.S. began to send over men and materiel in large numbers, escalating the conflict to a major war. By 1969, the peak of U.S. military involvement, more than half a million U.S. troops were involved in the war. The war included the largest aerial bombing campaigns in history. President Richard Nixon, who was elected on a platform of ending the war, oversaw a brief expansion. Before it ended, the air war expanded, and the conflict migrated into neighboring Cambodia and Laos (attempts to block Northern supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail).

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
US Marines during Operation Dewey Canyon, A Shau Valley, Vietnam (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Jordan)

The U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, but the fighting between North and South continued. The year 1974 would be the most costly one for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of combat losses. In 1975, Northern Communist forces captured the southern capital of Saigon and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The last Americans were airlifted out on April 30, 1975.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street April 29, 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

More than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, including 1.5 million civilians and 58,000 Americans. Ho Chi Minh would not survive the end of the war, dying in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who oversaw much of the escalation, would not live to see U.S. troops withdraw. He died in January 1973.

 

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Russia’s new all-terrain vehicle is a lifesized Tonka truck

The Sherp all-terrain Russian adventure-mobile looks like a Tonka truck. The two-passenger ATV with 63-inch wheels is deceiving in that it appears much larger than it actually is from far away.


5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Image: Sherp

The Sherp’s all-terrain capabilities are impressive. With nearly two feet of ground clearance, it can roll over brush fields, swamps, forest floors, and even fallen trees — it can clear anything up to 27.5 inches tall. Its ridged wheels are grapplers in rocky terrain and act as water paddles in the river.

The truck is way underpowered, however, sporting a 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel with 44 hp. The engine gives it a head-spinning speed of 28 mph on land and 3.7 mph in the water. Despite the power let down, it looks incredibly fun to drive.

Watch the ATV tackle the snow and water:

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Vietnam may see an American aircraft carrier again – this time on a friendly visit

The United States Navy will be sending an aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam in 2018, part of a series of steps to promote “regional and global security” in Asia. This will mark the first time an aircraft carrier has visited the Southeast Asian country in more than 50 years.


5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosts an honor cordon for Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 8, 2017. (DoD photo)

According to a Defense Department readout of a meeting between Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, the carrier visit is part of a series of steps to “deepen defense cooperation,” which included the transfer of a decommissioned Hamilton-class Coast Guard high-endurance cutter to the Vietnamese Navy.

The South China Sea has been a longstanding maritime flashpoint between China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

The Bangkok Post reported that President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had discussed having a carrier visit Vietnam when the two met in May during a visit from Phuc to the U.S. The Thai media outlet also reported that Vietnam has been taking a hard line among the Association of South East Asian Nations regarding China’ construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

China has long claimed dominion over the entire South China Sea, marking its claims with a so-called “nine-dash line.” The claims have been disputed and were rejected by an international tribunal in 2016. China, though, boycotted the process.

The U.S. has conducted a number of freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. American and Chinese units have also had a number of close encounters in the maritime flash point, and in other regions where China has made territorial claims.

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Veterans in Congress call for ban exemptions for Iraqi interpreters

Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.


The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.

Related: Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.

Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.

“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”

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That time Civil War soldiers stopped fighting and played music for one another

A few weeks after the bloody battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, an odd event took place at the front lines of the Civil War armies camped on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. The two sides — camped approximately a mile from one another — engaged in a battle of the bands.


5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
A Union band in the Civil War poses for a photo. (Photo: CC BY-SA Jcusano)

According to University of Virginia Professor Dr. Gary W. Gallagher in his Great Courses lecture series on the war, the concert was begun by a Union band on one side of the field who played a patriotic northern song, likely “Yankee Doodle” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Just after they finished playing, the Confederate band opened with the song “Dixie.”

The two bands then continued playing songs for one another throughout the early hours of the night, until the Union band started playing “Home on the Range,” a song popular in both Union and Confederate camps throughout the war.

The Confederate band joined in during the song, and soldiers from each side sang along.

The entire event was captured in a poem “Music in Camp” by John Reuben Thomas.

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
Thure de Thulstrup’s Battle of Gettysburg, showing Pickett’s Charge. (Scan: Library of Congress)

Like the later Christmas Truce of World War I, the peace between the warring sides was short-lived. The Civil War would rage for almost two more years before its official end in May 1865. Indeed, the bloodiest battle of the war, Gettysburg, would take place just a few short weeks after the impromptu concert.

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Remembering Black Hawk crew chief Jeremy Tomlin

Specialist Jeremy Tomlin was afraid of heights but his fear fell away when he was in a Black Hawk helicopter, his mother said April 19.


Tomlin, 22, was killed this week when the helicopter he was on crashed into a Maryland golf course during a training mission. Two other soldiers on board were critically injured.

“Jeremy loved to hunt and fish,” grandfather Ronnie Tomlin said. “Growing up, he never caused anyone trouble. All he wanted to do was play video games. He was just an average kid.”

5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States
A UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jasmonet Jackson)

Tomlin, the helicopter’s crew chief, grew up in the Chapel Hill, Tennessee, area. He was assigned to the 12th Aviation Battalion and stationed at Davison Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

He started playing video games at age 3 or 4, Jenny Tomlin said.

After graduating from high school in Unionville and turning 18, he headed off. He married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, before shipping off to Germany and they spent two years there, Jenny Tomlin said.

“He loved working on those helicopters and he loved flying,” Ronnie Tomlin said. When Jeremy Tomlin spoke to his grandfather recently, he said he was interested in getting into special operations.

Tomlin was aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter when it crashed in Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) southeast of Washington, D.C., the Army said. The helicopter was one of three on a training mission, the Army said.

Tomlin died at the scene and two others aboard, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Nicholas and Capt. Terikazu Onoda, were injured and taken to a Baltimore hospital, the Army said.

Related: An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

Nicholas was in critical condition the evening of April 19 and Onoda had been upgraded from critical to serious condition, said Col. Amanda Azubuike, director of public affairs for the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. One witness described pieces falling from the aircraft and another said it was spinning before it went down.

A memorial service for Tomlin is scheduled for April 21 at Fort Belvoir.

“He was scared of heights, but in the helicopter he felt safe,” Jenny Tomlin said. “Not a lot of people can say they died doing what they loved.”

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