The US Navy is an institution rich in tradition with its own language and elaborate ceremonies. One of those ceremonies is the Chief Petter Officer initiation.
Ask any sailor what a newly made chief does as soon as they put on the khaki uniform and you’ll get mixed results. Responses vary from the good to the awfully absurd and usually based on a sailor’s time in service.
For example, this sailor on Facebook said that his chief completely changed when he put on the khakis for the first time:
Ask a chief and he’ll say that it’s one of the hardest and most satisfying jobs in the world:
WATM did an informal poll of sailors of all ranks to uncover the nine common things that new chiefs do when they put on the khakis:
1. Smile incessantly for about an hour.
They’ve just been made and now have the privilege to do the following eight things:
2. Get a new coffee mug that says “chief.”
A good chief’s mug will be respected and left alone. A bad chief will have their mug washed out. Apparently, chiefs have it in their mind that their unwashed coffee mugs have super caffeine powers.
3. Start calling everyone ‘shipmate.’
Everyone becomes a “shipmate” once you become a chief. It used to be that they call everyone by their rate (Navy job) and rank.
4. Start calling other khakis by their first names.
It’s now Frankie and Jane instead of Smith and Martinez.
5. Start eating like a king in the chief’s mess.
Rumor has it that the chiefs eat better than the officers aboard a ship.
6. Gain weight.
Everything has a cause and effect.
7. Pass off the ensign to the first-class.
They lose an ensign but gain a lieutenant.
8. Wait for the first person to call him ‘sir’ so he can say, “don’t call me sir, I work for a living.”
Along with the new position comes treasure trove of cliché terms that they’ve been waiting years to use. (Poor boot, he confused the chief for an officer.)
On May 7th, just barely 20 years after the Columbine shooting, and only seven miles away from the original tragedy, yet another school shooting took place. Thankfully, this one was thwarted early on by three young heroes.
In the face of overwhelming tragedy, an act of heroism casts a ray of hope to focus on amidst the chaos.
An aspiring Marine and his two classmates are being referred to as heroes for their act of bravery at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver, Colorado.
When one of the two gunmen entered the classroom firing—the boys sprang into action and charged the shooter, tackling him.
According to reports, while the three boys charged the shooter, classmates took cover under desks, fled to safety, and some tended to the wounded.
Tragically, one of the wounded was Kendrick Castillo, 18. Castillo was one of the three brave young men who tackled and subdued the gunman. He was shot in the chest as he lunged towards the shooter. He lost his life protecting his classmates. He would have graduated three days later.
Joshua Jones, hero
Another one of the three boys, Joshua Jones, tackled and subdued the shooter. He was shot twice in the leg, but pressed on to hold the assailant down. Amidst all the chaos, he pulled out his phone and called his mom, who he refers to as his ultimate “problem solver.” He told her, “Hey, Mom. There’s been a school shooting. I’ve been involved. The authorities are on the way. They’re going to get an ambulance and I’m going to go to the hospital. That’s all I got right now for you.” Jones says his leg is healing incredibly well.
Brendan Bialy plans to enlist and become a Marine. Semper Fi.
Another one of the three brave young men who defended their classmates was future Marine, Brendan Bialy.
According to Brendan’s father, Brad Bialy, the young men were able to successfully subdue and disarm the gunman, holding the gunman in place until law enforcement arrived. Bialy, who has already proven his bravery and service to others in the direst of circumstances, will continue to do so in honorable service to his country in the Marine Corps.
The two shooters identities have been released, but will not be focused on here. The faces and stories that should live on should be the memory of three young men, in the middle of a normal school day, putting their lives on the line to defend the lives of their classmates.
On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.
Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.
Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.
Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.
Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.
Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.
In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.
To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”
Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.
For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.
Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.
With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.
Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.
The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.
“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.
Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.
Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.
Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”
By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.
Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.
Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.
“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.
Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”
Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.
“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Some aircraft are practically motion picture stars unto themselves — see the Grumman F-14 Tomcats of Top Gun. Perhaps the most prolific military plane on the silver screen is the B-17 Flying Fortress of countless World War II films. Then there’s the F-35 stealth fighter, which has had a disastrous movie career up to (and including) getting ripped apart by The Incredible Hulk.
The A-10 Warthog’s movie career is more subtle. Its on-screen appearances are in supporting roles that reflect its status as America’s best close-air support aircraft. The low- and slow-flying A-10 is tough, durable and anti-glamorous. Its design is utilitarian — and not pretty to look at.
Really, it’s a flying 30-millimeter Gatling gun with an armored frame built around it and an enormous compliment of missiles and bombed slung underneath the wings. When directors need something that flies and can blow up objects on the ground, the Warthog is a reliable character.
Not that the A-10 has always done well on screen.
Courage Under Fire (1996)
The Warthog made its first appearance — from what we can tell — in this Denzel Washington-led drama which served as Hollywood’s opening exploration of the Persian Gulf War. While not a classic and (at times) a bit maudlin, Courage Under Fire is a weighty and serious meditation on the inherently confusing nature of combat and the unreliability of eyewitnesses.
Washington portrays a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel tasked with investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Medevac Huey commander Capt. Karen Walden, played by Meg Ryan, during combat with Iraqi troops. The White House wants to award her the Medal of Honor, but there are questions about what happened in the moments before her death — which may implicate another soldier. The investigation also forces Washington’s character to confront buried trauma in his past.
The A-10s are only in the film for a brief few seconds, where they napalm the West Texas desert which stands in for the Iraqi battlefield.
We have mixed feelings about this film. To be sure, Jarhead is a good movie — although Marine veterans will point out errors in detail. It’s a mood picture that gets at the feeling of being in the Marines while the movie Marines do things real ones would never do. The film deserves praise, but it’s not perfect.
Jarhead is heavily adapted from the 2003 book of the same name by Marine veteran Anthony Swofford, who served during the Persian Gulf War. In the film version, the Marines advance into Iraq when they see five A-10s flying past them. “Warthogs, baby! Those things are fucking tank killers,” one Marine shouts. “That shit’s a fucking monster!”
Pumped up at the sight, he falls out of formation, which triggers two of the planes to turn around and attack the unit. Note that none of this ever happened. In the book, Swofford references an A-10 strike on a Marine LAV during the Battle of Khafji, which killed 11 U.S. troops. There was no Warthog friendly fire attack on Swofford’s unit in real life.
The scene also flubs several other details. Listen closely.
Fans of the Transformers franchise are more familiar with A-10s appearing in toys depicting shape-shifting alien robots from the 1980s. The A-10 does not turn into a robot in the 2007 Michael Bay ode to military hardware pornTransformers, but they do arrive for a battle with Scorponok.
It’s easy to see why — the Pentagon provided an unprecedented level of support for the film, helped rewrite the script and provided (paid) uniformed extras. The A-10 scene was even filmed at the U.S. Army’s White Sands, New Mexico testing range, which stood in for an Egyptian village.
Don’t expect 100 percent accuracy with sound effects and combat tactics — but the aircraft are real. Remember that the Pentagon doesn’t concern itself so much with unerring accuracy in movies. It cooperates with studios as a recruiting tactic (the military prefers films that have a generally positive take on the institution) and to boost morale for service members and their families.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
It’s a compliment to the A-10’s durability that director McG included it in his post-apocalyptic take on the Terminator franchise. Skynet has nuked the planet and the Resistance relies on the slow-flying planes for close-air support owing to their (relatively) low maintenance requirements.
But the results are … mixed. The United States built the Warthog to destroy Soviet tanks in Europe, so it seems like a perfect fit for striking back at the metal-boned terminators. But when the planes appear in the film, they’re easily shot down by Skynet’s air defenses.
Pentagon watchers will recall that the A-10 is at a center of a heated debate between Congress and the Air Force regarding the future shape of American air power. Terminator Salvation, in a way, illustrates the argument for scrapping the Warthog.
Proponents of retiring the aircraft argue that the A-10 is only useful when the enemy can’t shoot back, as the Warthog is too visible and slow to survive over a battlefield featuring sophisticated radars and surface-to-air weapons, like the kind fielded by Russia and China. Advocates for keeping the aircraft note that the U.S. military largely fights insurgencies and hybrid enemies, which the A-10 is well suited to combat owing to its ability to loiter for long periods.
OK, true, Terminator Salvation is just a movie. But we can expect robotic armies — with sophisticated sensors to boot — to slowly become an emerging reality over the 21st century. Arguably, they’re already here … if you include drones.
Iron Sky (2012)
The absolutely ludicrous Nazi-sploitation film Iron Sky by Finnish director Timo Vuorensola features a President Sarah Palin (portrayed by Stephanie Paul), a soundtrack by Slovenian industrial band Laibach and an invading fleet of Nazi flying saucers launched from a secret moon base.
That’s on top of the space-battleship USS George W. Bush … and a cameo by A-10 Warthogs (digital, of course).
We could complain about the Warthogs acting as the first line of defense in an air battle. The A-10 can carry air-to-air weapons but is a dedicated ground attacker. But this is a movie about Nazis invading the planet from the moon. At the least, you’d want to fight back with everything you’ve got.
I have seen this movie against my better judgement. (I’m a Laibach fan.) But I couldn’t finish it, and would not recommend it. I’ve put up with a lot of schlock-filled action movies — but I have my limits.
Man of Steel (2013)
We’ve previously observed that the U.S. Air Force gets its ass royally kicked in Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel. F-35 Joint Strike Fighters fly en masse toward the invading Kryptonian forces of General Zod only for them to do more damage to the civilian population than the enemy. Same goes for the Warthogs.
Two A-10s feature briefly during the battle for Smallville but get blown out of the sky. The U.S. Air Force assisted the production of Man of Steel, which curiously features perhaps one of the worst on-screen performances by the American military in a film — although it’s a valiant effort considering the otherworldly enemy threatening the planet. That’s ultimately a job for Superman, with terribleconsequences for humanity.
Most of what is lying around in the dusty expanse of the aircraft graveyards around Tucson, Arizona is readily identifiable and not entirely remarkable.
Ejection seats from old F-4 Phantoms. An old CH-53 helicopter hulk. An interesting find over there is a fuselage section of a Soviet-era MiG-23 Flogger. No idea how it got here. Other than that, it’s just long rows of old, broken, silent airplanes inside high fences surrounded by cactus, dust, sand and more sand. An errant aileron on a dead wing clunks quietly against the hot afternoon breeze as if willing itself back into the air. But like everything here, its days of flying are over.
But there… What is that strange, manta-ray shaped, dusty black thing lying at an angle just on the other side of that fence? It may be an old airfield wind vane or radar test model. But it also may be…
(U.S. Air Force photo)
I had only read about it and seen grainy photos of it. I know it’s impossible. The project was so secret not much information exists about the details even today. But I stand there gawking through the chain link fence as the ruins of the other planes bear silent witness. It’ like the corpses of the other airplanes are urging me to look closer. To not leave. Their silent dignity begs me to tell this story.
After nearly a minute of studying it through the fence I realize; I am right. It is right before my eyes. Ten feet away. Despite the 100-degree heat I get goosebumps. And I start running.
I quickly locate a spot where the entire fence line opens up. I skirt the fence and in a couple minutes running around the sandy airplane corpses I’m inside. There, sitting right in front of me on its decrepit transport cart and dusted with windblown sand, abandoned in the Sonoran Desert, is one of Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich’s most ambitious classified projects from the fabled Lockheed Skunk Works.
(Lockheed Martin photo)
I just found the CIA’s ultra-secret Mach 3.3+ D-21 long-range reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was so weird, so ambitious, so unlikely it remains one of the most improbable concepts in the history of the often-bizarre world of ultra-secret “black” aviation projects. And now it lies discarded in the desert. The story behind it is so bizarre it is difficult to believe, but it is true.
July 30, 1966: Flight Level 920 (92,000 ft.), Mach 3.25, Above Point Mugu Naval Air Missile Test Center, Off Oxnard, California.
Only an SR-71 Blackbird is fast enough and can fly high enough to photograph this, the most classified of national security tests. Traveling faster than a rifle bullet at 91,000 feet, near inner-space altitude, one of the most ambitious and bizarre contraptions in the history of mankind is about to be tested.
“Tagboard” is its codename. Because of the catastrophic May, 1960 shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 high altitude spy plane over the Soviet Union the CIA and is in desperate need of another way to spy on the rising threat of communist nuclear tests. Even worse, the other “Red Menace”, the Chinese, are testing massive hydrogen bombs in a remote location of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolian/Chinese border. It would be easier to observe the tests if the Chinese did them on the moon.
The goal is simple, but the problem is titanic. Get photos of the top-secret Red Chinese hydrogen bomb tests near the Mongolian border deep inside Asia, then get them back, without being detected.
Lockheed Skunkworks boss Kelly Johnson and an elite, ultra-classified small team of aerospace engineers have built an aircraft so far ahead of its time that even a vivid imagination has difficulty envisioning it.
Flat, triangular, black, featureless except for its odd plan form as viewed from above, like a demon’s cloak, it has a sharply pointed nose recessed into a forward-facing orifice. That’s it. No canopy, no cockpit, no weapons. Nothing attached to the outside. Even more so than a rifle bullet its shape is smooth and simple. This is the ultra-secret D-21 drone.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The D-21 is truly a “drone”, not a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). Its flight plan is programmed into a guidance system. It is launched from a mothership launch aircraft at speed and altitude. It flies a predetermined spy mission from 17 miles above the ground and flashes over at three times the speed of sound. It photographs massive swaths of land with incredible detail and resolution. And because of its remarkably stealthy shape, no one will ever know it was there.
Today the D-21 rides on the back of a Lockheed M-21, a specialized variant of the SR-71 Blackbird, the famous Mach 3+ high altitude spy plane. The M-21 version of the SR-71 carries the D-21 drone on its back up to launch speed and altitude. The it ignites the D-21’s unique RJ43-MA20S-4 ramjet engine and releases it on its pre-programmed flight.
Chasing the M-21 and D-21 combination today is a Lockheed SR-71, the only thing that can keep up with this combination of aircraft. It is the SR-71’s job to photograph and film the test launch of the D-21 drone from the M-21 launch aircraft.
There have been three successful launch separations of the D-21 from the M-21 launch aircraft so far. In each of these flights, even though the launch was successful, the D-21 drone fell victim to some minor mechanical failure that destroyed the drone, because, at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, there really are no “minor” failures.
Today Bill Park and Ray Torick are the flight crew on board the M-21 launch aircraft. They sit inside the M-21 launch aircraft dressed in pressurized high altitude flight suits that resemble space suits.
Once at predetermined launch speed and altitude the M-21/D-21 combination flies next to the SR-71 camera plane. Keith Beswick is filming the launch test from the SR-71 camera plane. Ray Torick, the drone launch controller sitting in the back seat of the tandem M-21, launches the D-21 from its position on top of the M-21’s fuselage between the massive engines.
Something goes wrong.
The D-21 drone separates and rolls slightly to its left side. It strikes the left vertical stabilizer of the M-21 mother ship. Then it caroms back into the M-21’s upper fuselage, exerting massive triple supersonic forces downward on the M-21 aircraft. The M-21 begins to pitch up and physics takes over as Bill Park and Ray Torick make the split-second transition from test pilots to helpless passengers to crash victims.
The triple supersonic forces rip both aircraft apart in the thin, freezing air. Shards of titanium and shrapnel from engine parts trail smoke and frozen vapor as they disintegrate in the upper atmosphere. There is no such thing as a minor accident at Mach 3+ and 92,000 feet.
Miraculously, both Bill Park and Ray Torick eject from the shattered M-21 mother ship. Even more remarkably, they actually survive the ejection. The pair splash down in the Pacific 150 miles off the California coast. Bill Park successfully deploys the small life raft attached to his ejection seat. Ray Torick lands in the ocean but opens the visor on his spacesuit-like helmet attached to his pressurized flight suit. The suit floods through the face opening in his helmet. Torick drowns before he can be rescued. Keith Beswick, the pilot filming the accident from the SR-71 chase plane, has to go to the mortuary to cut Ray Torick’s body out of the pressurized high-altitude flight suit before he can be buried.
The ultra-secret test program to launch a D-21 drone from the top of an M-21 launch aircraft at over Mach 3 and 90,000 feet, is cancelled.
The D-21 program does move forward on its own. Now the drone is dropped from a lumbering B-52 mothership. The D-21 is then boosted to high altitude and Mach 3+ with a rocket booster. Once at speed and altitude the booster unit drops off and the D-21 drone begins its spy mission.
After more than a year of test launches from the B-52 mothership the D-21 drone was ready for its first operational missions over Red China. President Nixon approved the first reconnaissance flight for November 9, 1969. The mission was launched from Beale AFB in California.
Despite a successful launch the D-21 drone was lost. In the middle of 1972, after four attempts at overflying Red China with the D-21 drone and four mission failures, the program was cancelled. It was imaginative. It was innovative. It was ingenious. But it was impossible.
So ended one of the most ambitious and outrageous espionage projects in history.
1604 Hrs. December 20, 2009. In the Back Storage Yard of the Pima Air Space Museum Outside Tucson, Arizona.
I pet airplanes when I can. I’m not exactly sure why, maybe to be able to say I did. Maybe to try to gain some tactile sense of their history. Maybe to absorb something from them, if such a thing is possible. Maybe so that, when I am old and dying, I can reflect back on what it felt like to stand next to them and touch them. I don’t know why I touch them and stroke them, but I do.
The fully restored Lockheed D-21 drone at the Pima Air Space Museum outside Tucson, Arizona.
(Pima Air Space Museum photo)
The D-21 is dusty and warm in the late afternoon Arizona sun. Its titanium skin is hard, not slightly forgiving like an aluminum airplane. It gives away nothing. Silent. Brooding. After I touch it my hand came away with some of the dust from it. I don’t wipe it off.
Sometime later in the coming years, the D-21B drone, number 90-0533, is brought inside the vast restoration facility at the Pima Air Space Museum and beautifully restored. Now it lies in state, on display inside the museum.
But when I first found it sitting abandoned in the storage yard, dusty and baking in the Sonoran Desert sun, it felt like its warm titanium skin still had some secret life left in it.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that Russia is ready to assist Belarus in accordance with a collective military pact, if necessary.
The Kremlin said in the same statement that external pressure was being applied to Belarus. It did not say by whom.
The two spoke on August 16 for the second time in as many days.
Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenka of rigging a presidential election on August 9.
Some 7,000 people have been detained by police across Belarus in the postelection crackdown with hundreds injured and at least two killed as police have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and, in at least one instance, live ammunition.
Hundreds of those held and subsequently released spoke of brutal beatings they suffered in detention, much of it documented and splashed across social media. Thousands more remain in detention as international outrage mounts.
Facing the most serious threat ever to his authoritarian rule, Lukashenka spoke with Putin on August 15, after saying there was “a threat not only to Belarus.”
He later told military chiefs that Putin had offered “comprehensive help” to “ensure the security of Belarus.”
The Kremlin said the leaders agreed the “problems” in Belarus would be “resolved soon” and the countries’ ties strengthened.
Just replace Kenobi’s spirit form at the end of “Return of the Jedi” with Ulysses S. Grant’s love of spirits and you have a strong case that the famed Union general and 18th president was the real world inspiration for the legendary Jedi Master.
Both of these bearded military masterminds have just way too much in common.
1. Both are widely regarded for the first half of their accomplishments, but were immortalized by their final ones.
Quick history lesson for anyone living under a rock since 1977 or never picked up a history book.
Obi-wan Kenobi was a Jedi Knight in the prequel trilogy of “Star Wars.” His level head and skill in battle shot him up the ranks before eventually being recognized as the mentor to Luke Skywalker in the Original Trilogy.
Ulysses S. Grant was the top general of the Union Army during the American Civil War. His level head and skill in battle shot him up the ranks before eventually being elected to be the 18th President of the United States during the Reconstruction era.
2. Both accepted their adoptive names early in life.
Each of them have semi-arbitrary names, Ben Kenobi and Ulysses S. Grant.
According to the canon novel “Kenobi,” Obi-wan was meditating in an attempt to contact Qui-Gon. In his conversation, he remembers that Ben was a name he saw on a map and liked it. His fling would then call him by it and it sort of stuck.
It came in handy when he needed to go into hiding (because I guess Kenobi was a common name).
Grant was actually born Hiram Ulysses Grant. When his father wrote his representative to help get the 16-year-old Grant into West Point, the forms were filled out incorrectly and mistakenly written as “Ulysses S. Grant.”
Because this was the biggest opportunity for him at that point, he adopted the name. He would also go by the name “Sam,” because his initials U.S. were a play on Uncle Sam. Eventually that U.S. became “Unconditional Surrender.”
Even though his mother’s maiden name was Simpson, he joked with his wife, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”
3. Republic versus the Confederacy.
Civil War breaks out for both men. The Galactic Republic fights the separatists, The Confederacy of Independent Systems. War rages on between them in many star systems.
As in our timeline, the United States of America fought the separatists, the Confederate States of America. War rages on between them in many states.
4. Both were responsible for the first major victory in their wars.
The people of Naboo were losing the invasion by the Trade Federation. Tides were turned when a young padawan, Obi-wan, struck down Darth Maul in an epic light saber battle. He was promoted to Jedi Knight for his actions.
The Union was losing the skirmishes along the Tennessee-Kentucky border, most notably at the Battle of Fort Donelson. Tides were turned when a young Brig. Gen. Grant pushed back Brig. Gen. Floyd in an epic counterattack (and earning him the “Unconditional Surrender” Grant nickname). He was promoted to major general for his actions.
5. Both had beaten major adversaries in other generals — and a comrade.
Kenobi fought many great enemies during the Clone War and after. In “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” he fought General Grevious, commander of the CIS forces. Afterwords, his largest enemy was the commander of the 501st, Darth Vader himself. Twice (if you consider him being struck down and achieving more power than Vader would ever know a victory).
Darth Vader, previously Anakin Skywalker, was once a great ally to Kenobi, fighting at his side other during the Clone War. By the end, they would both become each other’s greatest enemy.
Grant lead the Union Army through many of its more memorable victories. Grant defeated Confederate generals left and right — many of whom hold the name of U.S. military bases today. General Bragg, Gen. Polk, Gen. A.P. Hill, and of course, Gen. Robert E. Lee. He would defeat Lee at Petersburg and then force his surrender at Appomattox.
Robert E. Lee and Grant had first met each other during the Mexican-American War. Both were present at Scott’s March to Mexico City. This was back when Grant was a still a lieutenant and Lee a lieutenant colonel long before they were both Generals-in-Chief of their respective armies.
6. Both saw their people in turmoil after their Civil Wars.
After the Galactic Republic collapsed into the Empire, Obi-wan needed to go into hiding and assumed the name of “Ben.” He witnessed the collapse of the Jedi Order and the chaos that was brought by the Emperor and Darth Vader. More about what happened in those years is rumored to be played out in the upcoming “Obi-wan” stand-alone film.
Grant may have been victorious, but Reconstruction wasn’t an easy step. The short time between the Union victory and Lincoln’s death was mixed with the moderate positions and vetoes of Andrew Johnson and the devastation of white supremacists had on the newly freed slaves. Grant would try his best to push through his Enforcement Acts, which were in place to protect African Americans and combat the Ku Klux Klan.
7. Their successors (mostly) ended the strife.
Obi-wan was slain by Darth Vader, giving his pupil the next step in his hero’s journey. By the end of “Return of the Jedi,” Luke Skywalker would help (spoiler alert: by the way for those aforementioned people under a rock) his father, Darth Vader, renounce the Dark Side and overthrow the Empire, bringing peace until “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”
Grant tried to reunite the divided country again, make peace with the Native Americans, and help with civil rights. They still weren’t enough. The Luke Skywalker in this comparison? Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republican nominee who took his place. Even still, Hayes only withdrew troops from the South.
*Bonus!* The strong connection with “McGregor.”
First being portrayed by Alec Guinness of “Bridge on the River Kwai” fame in the original trilogy, he would later be brought to life by Ewan McGregor from “Trainspotting” and “Black Hawk Down.”
As for Ulysses S. Grant, he spent the last weeks of his life at his friend’s cottage atop Mount McGregor while he finished his memoirs.
I enlisted in the Army in 2007 as a combat correspondent/videographer. During my time in the Army, I traveled all over the world and was allowed to do missions that gave me a sense of purpose and earned me two Emmys, three DOD Military Videographer of the Year awards and a handful of military decorations.
I also deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division (Airborne) for a year. I covered dozens of different types of stories there including Black Hawk medic evacuations, combat hospitals, combat aviation, engineers and EOD technicians and K-9 units. But I spent most of my time with the Infantry.
During my time on the ground, I worked very closely with an Afghan interpreter (who I’ll leave anonymous because of ongoing concerns for his safety as well as that of his family). He was one of the kindest and most courageous men I’ve ever met, and we couldn’t have done our mission without him.
This interpreter would commute secretly from his village to our base every day until finally it became so dangerous that he had to move on base with us while at the same time he moved his family to Kabul. He and I weathered many mortar and rocket attacks together in those days.
He had submitted his visa three times during his service. He is now unemployed because the base he worked at is closed. He is now in hiding from the Taliban and in grave danger. Every day he has to wait for a visa it gets worse. If he doesn’t get it he will have no choice but to attempt the treacherous journey to India through Pakistan with his family. If he survives the journey it will cost him most of the money he made with the Army.
There is a government program for giving visas to Afghan nationals, but the process is taking too long and too few visas are being issued. Because of this reality and because I know the power of creating awareness through storytelling, I’m part of a team producing a short narrative film called The Interpreter.
The Interpreter is a short film that functions both as a stand alone piece to assist advocacy efforts, and also as a proof of concept for the feature film currently in development. The Interpreter is being produced by Her Pictures in Los Angeles in association with USC Media Institute for Social Change and Interpret America with most of the film’s proceeds going to the non-profit No One Left Behind. I’m directing the film, Jenna Cavelle wrote the screenplay and is producing, with Michael Taylor executively producing. Our technical advisory team consists of Afghan interpreter, Fahim Fazli, the founders of No One Left Behind, Matt Zeller and Jason Gorey, and the founders of Interpret America, Barry Olsen and Katharine Allen.
The costs of war are multi-fold and unforeseen at the outset, and the plight of Afghan interpreters is one such element. For years these brave men saved the lives of American service members while hazarding their own. America now needs to accelerate the process of doing right by them.
Robert Ham is an Army veteran and a frequent contributor to The Mighty TV, We Are The Mighty’s video channel.
A former director of the veterans hospital in the nation’s capital who had been fired for poor leadership has been rehired.
Brian Hawkins was put back on the Department of Veterans Affairs payroll after he appealed the decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Hawkins was let go last month after audits found mismanagement at the facility.
The board is requiring the VA to keep Hawkins as an employee until the Office of Special Counsel reviews his claim.
In a statement August 9, the VA says Hawkins had been reassigned to administrative duty at VA headquarters in Washington and would not work directly with patients.
It says VA Secretary David Shulkin will explore other ways to fire Hawkins under a newly enacted accountability law signed by President Donald Trump.
Education will be a key part of maintaining America’s might upon the sea, Navy officials said Feb. 12, 2019, as they unveiled their comprehensive look at education in the service.
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer signed a memorandum that will lead to the establishment of a Naval University System that will help develop America’s ultimate competitive advantage: the minds of its service members.
The memo is an outgrowth of the Education for Seapower Study — the first comprehensive “top to bottom” look at Navy education in 100 years.
The effort looks to maintain America’s lead in military affairs.
Protecting competitive advantage
The impact of education can be huge. Education will lead to America’s competitive advantage, Navy officials said. Technology — as good as it is — can only go so far if the people operating it do not understand the implications.
Vice Adm. Timothy “T.J.” White, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, delivers a lecture to midshipmen in Alumni Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Oct. 16, 2018.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Souvannason)
“The last remaining advantage that we have will be our minds,” Navy Undersecretary Thomas Modly said during an interview. “We have to make sure we are getting the best people and that we are training them and educating them to be agile and adaptable so they can deal with uncertainty in a better way.”
The effort will go from the deckplates to the flag and general officer ranks, with the service establishing a Naval Community College system and putting in requirements for masters degrees in strategic studies for all unrestricted line flag and general officers.
The memo calls for the service to have a chief learning officer — a senior executive service civilian — in place by June 2019. That person will develop the education strategy by December 2019. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, is reorganizing the Naval Staff to create the position of director of warfighting development.
Building an educational system
The creation of the Naval Community College is first on the agenda and there could be people in the program by 2020, officials said.
Spencer called for the review when he first came into office in 2018. He was concerned that the Navy, because of the operational requirements, was not getting the right people, the right education for their position.
Thomas B. Modly, undersecretary of the Navy, and Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, Naval War College president, listen to a presenter at the “Breaking the Mold; A Workshop on War and Strategy in the 21st Century,” held in Newport, R.I., March 7, 2018.
(Navy photo by Edwin L. Wriston)
Panel members looked at the Marine Corps University and the Army and Air Force equivalents in forming the recommendations.
Part of this effort is to consider the way delivery methods for education have changed over time. The service has to get the mix of distance education and in-residence time right. The Navy has people all over the world and it will be a huge advantage for them to be a part of this, officials said.
The Navy and Marine Corps have world-class faculty in their institutions and the rest of the fleet needs to be exposed to them, Navy officials said. Distance learning gives sailors and Marines the opportunity to learn from them.
The Navy wants the system to be tailored to the way the force fights, officials said. The U.S. military is a joint force and the Navy and Marine Corps cannot be separate from the Army and Air Force, officials said.
The panel consulted with Army and Air Force in setting up the system, because “frankly the Army and the Air Force have been doing a much better job of putting a high value on education,” officials said. “We took a lot of lessons from the way they are structured and addressing it to inform this study.”
A large part of the effort is establishing a Navy community college system. The idea is to get sailors and Marines have educational programs delivered to them wherever they are. This will develop into a system that will be a mix of online learning and at schools to fulfill the needs of the individuals and the services.
The upcoming summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In could result in a historic announcement, with the sides declaring an end to the 68-year long war on the peninsula, according to a report.
Newspaper Munhwa Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean intelligence source as saying the coming Kim-Moon summit on April 27, 2018, the first time the leaders will meet face-to-face, may result in a peace announcement.
The news follows weeks of planning between the South and North that kicked off with a thawing of previously tense relations during the Winter Olympics.
Since then, Kim has expressed an unprecedented willingness to talk to the South, a desire to talk about denuclearization with the US, and traveled outside his country for the first time since assuming power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the thaw, North Korea has seen an influx of South Korean visitors, including diplomatic delegations and Korean pop bands, with Kim himself sitting in on a performance that he reportedly loved.
North Korea has also opened up the Kim family to publicity, sending his sister Kim Yo Jong to the games and upgrading the status of Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, from “comrade” to “revered first lady” in a potential bid to create a cult of personality around her.
The US maintains a wait-and-see attitude toward the talks, and has vowed to stay tough on North Korea by not letting up on sanctions or military pressure. But the customary military exercises that take place with the US and South Korea have been delayed and toned down since 2017.
Experts remain skeptical that North Korea would actually go through with its promises to denuclearize, as it has entered into negotiations in the past only to have them fall apart when it came time to inspect their nuclear sites.
But South Korean diplomats repeatedly say Pyongyang has stuck to its promise of denuclearization, and even laid out specific plans for implementation.
In any case, the relations between North Korea and the world have markedly turned since 2017, when President Donald Trump threatened the country with presumably nuclear “fire and fury” and Pyongyang spoke of firing missiles at US forces in Guam and detonating nukes in the sky.
The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.
Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.
David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:
‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’
By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’
Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’
Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.
Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.
Russia showed off its new “Star Wars-like” combat suit on Thursday at a science and technology university in Moscow, state-owned media outlet RT reported.
The “next-generation” suit comes with a “powered exoskeleton” that supposedly gives the soldier more strength and stamina, along with “cutting-edge” body armor, and a helmet and visor that shields the soldier’s entire face, RT said.
The suit also has a “pop-up display that can be used for tasks like examining a plan of the battlefield,” Andy Lynch, who works for a military company called Odin Systems, told MailOnline. There’s also a light on the side of the helmet for inspecting maps or weapons.
Russia hopes to produce the suit “within the next couple of years,” Oleg Chikarev, deputy chief of weapons systems at the Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building, which developed the gear, told MailOnline.
It should be noted, however, the video only showed a static display of the suit, and it’s still an open question of whether it actually has any of the capabilities that are claimed.
Still, Russia is not the only country developing such technology, Sim Tack, a Stratfor analyst, told Business Insider in an emailed statement.
The US hopes to unveil its own Tactical Light Operator Suit, also known as the “Iron Man” suit, in 2018.
Tack said that France is perhaps furthest along in creating its Integrated infantryman equipment and communications system, or FELIN, but it’s not as high-tech as the Iron Man suit.
Nevertheless, it’s “unclear whether these type of suits will eventually make it to the battlefield,” Tack said.
Some technical problems still persist: for example, the batteries required to power the exoskeletons — many of which have leg braces that evenly distributes weight and allows the soldier to run faster and jump higher — are too bulky because the suits require so much power, Tack said.
But given how much effort countries are putting into developing these suits, “we may well see some type of them reach the battlefield at some point,” Tack said.