Twin brothers who went to war together are receiving medals 70 years after they took off their combat boots.
Richard and Robert Barrett, 91-year-old veterans of World War II, never knew they supposed to be getting medals nor were they looking for these accolades. A family member happened to discover the oversight after requesting replacement copies of their Army records – the originals had been destroyed.
The crowd gave a standing ovation after Richard received the Silver Star and Bronze Star with additional military honors from Congressman Sam Graves, who had expedited the process for them.
The brothers, who were 18 when they shipped off to war, recalled their time in combat:
“We were just kids when we heard our first machine gun fire and [we said] ‘Oh that’s great, that’s fun, machine gun fire,'” said Richard, “But a little later the Germans started shooting those 88 artillery shells, and things changed after that.”
He was also quick to point out that he is 5 minutes older than his brother Robert, and joked, “Of course, I had to take care of him in combat; he was kind of a puny kid.”
The Barretts showed humility as they talked with Fox 4 News about being honored for their service: “It’s nice, but we’re both kind of humble about it,” Richard said. “We don’t let it get to be a prestigious deal for us. Awards or no awards, I’d do it again.”
“We saw some rough times,” Robert added. “We slept on some cold ground, but there are other men that did so much more than we did too.”
Robert will receive his medals in a separate ceremony.
A remote control airplane hobbyist has modified a model A-10 Thunderbolt II to conduct Nerf strafing runs on T-72 cardboard tanks and uploaded the results to YouTube. The modified, remote control A-10 can fire 12 paper-tank-busting Nerf balls in under half a second. You know, just in case your yard is overrun with mini Soviet tanks.
The RC A-10 can also fire three darts for taking out hard targets. Though reportedly not made from depleted uranium, the darts have more heft and better ballistic properties than the Nerf rounds, but they’re still loaded into the primary tube. That means backyard commanders have to decide their weapons layouts before the mission. It’s three darts or 12 balls, not both.
Both primary weapon loads of the A-10 are on display in the full video:
Despite its impressive performance against cardboard tanks and low cost, the RC A-10 has a number of drawbacks that will likely prevent its purchase by the Air Force.
First, the RC A-10 is manufactured by an untested contractor, YouTube user ajw61185. More importantly, it fires all of its rounds in a single burst, requiring it to return to its base to rearm after a single pass.
Critics of the RC A-10 point out that it was developed for a very different yard than exists today and claim the platform is simply outdated. Modern yards contain advanced sprinklers that the RC A-10 has no countermeasures with which to defend itself. The more stealthy RC F-35 might be able to avoid many of these sprinklers, but it has yet to reach the fleet due to frequent cost overruns and malfunctions.
Still, the RC A-10 is probably fine for home use and so could be used by defense-minded property owners to deter cross-border actions by stray dogs, squirrels, and other aggressors.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.
“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.
Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.
(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)
“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)
I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.
It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.
Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:
• “No, singing or playing of music;
• no cooking food;
• avoid speaker phones
• watch your voice volume
• deal with gas in the restroom
• always knock before entering a cubicle
• no “prairie-dogging”
In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!
“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.
“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.
“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”
I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”
Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.
“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.
“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”
We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.
(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)
I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.
Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:
“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”
“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.
“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.
The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.
My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.
A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).
I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.
I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:
1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are
2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base
3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property
4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.
5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.
6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice
7. Never litter
8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness
9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with
10. Never reveal the locations of buried items
11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment
12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!
(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.
(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of a new ballistic missile controlled by a precision guidance system and ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on May 30.
The missile launched on May 29 was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the “Hwasong” rockets, North Korea’s name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said. That indicated the North had launched a modified Scud-class missile, as South Korea’s military has said.
The North’s test launch of a short-range ballistic missile landed in the sea off its east coast and was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying international pressure and threats of more sanctions.
Kim said the reclusive state would develop more powerful weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend North Korea against the United States.
“He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
South Korea said it had conducted a joint drill with a US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on May 29. North Korea’s state media earlier accused the United States of staging a drill to practice dropping nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula.
The US Navy said its aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, also planned a drill with another US nuclear carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in waters near the Korean peninsula.
A US Navy spokesman in South Korea did not give specific timing for the strike group’s planned drill.
North Korea calls such drills a preparation for war.
They also pose one of the greatest security challenges for US President Donald Trump, who portrayed the latest missile test as an affront to China.
“North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile … but China is trying hard!” Trump said on Twitter.
Japan has also urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, met China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, for five hours of talks near Tokyo on May 29 after the North’s latest test.
Yachi told Yang that North Korea’s actions had reached a new level of provocation.
“Japan and China need to work together to strongly urge North Korea to avoid further provocative actions and obey things like United Nations resolutions,” Yachi was quoted as telling Yang in a statement by Japan’s foreign ministry.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry after the meeting made no mention of North Korea.
North Korea has claimed major advances with its rapid series of launches, claims that outside experts and officials believe may be at least partially true but are difficult to verify independently.
A South Korean military official said the North fired one missile on Monday, clarifying an earlier assessment that there may have been more than one launch.
The test was aimed at verifying a new type of precision guidance system and the reliability of a new mobile launch vehicle under different operational conditions, KCNA said.
However, South Korea’s military and experts questioned the claim because the North had technical constraints, such as a lack of satellites, to operate a terminal-stage missile guidance system properly.
“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the south Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” KCNA cited leader Kim as saying.
On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.
“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.
“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”
US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.
The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.
(U.S. Defense Department)
The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”
The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.
“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.
Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)
The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”
China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.
“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Khalil and his team provide medical care, food, and water to the animals, and they must be prepared to evacuate in as little as 24 hours. Many of the rescued animals are traumatized and require special care after they are saved.
The vision of FOUR PAWS is simple: a world in which humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding.
From cage fighting to illegal puppy trades to disaster zones, FOUR PAWS provides a voice — and action — for animals under direct human control.
Animals healthy enough for release will be returned to the wild. Others receive rehabilitation and safety for the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.
“Animals can build bridges between nations and this is important,” shared Khalil. Regardless of ideology, political beliefs, or languages, people and nations in war at least “never disagree about animals.”
UPDATE: According to a Navy release this morning, search and rescue efforts are underway for the seven sailors now confirmed missing. A total of five sailors, including the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, have been medevaced to Yokosuka. Three Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels, the Ohnami, Hamagiri, and Enshu, have arrived to provide assistance, and a Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is assisting in the search for the missing sailors.
“I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the 7th Fleet’s commanding officer said.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) has been involved in a collision at sea with a Philippine merchant vessel. At the time of this writing, two Japanese Coast Guard cutters, the Izunami and Kano, are on the scene.
The collision put a hole in the starboard side of the destroyer, and caused a number of casualties, including one that is requiring a medevac, which is being coordinated as of this writing.
The Navy release stated that the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) and two tugs have been sent to assist USS Fitzgerald, which is steaming back to Yokosuka under its own power, but is limited to a speed of three knots.
The destroyer has suffered flooding due to the collision.
The Navy reported that the full extent of damage and casualties were still being assessed. A Richmond Times-Dispatch e-mail alert citing the Associated Press claimed that seven sailors were missing after the collision.
Official U.S. Navy releases have not yet confirmed that any sailors are missing, and a Navy spokesman refused to comment on the reports to WATM when contacted via phone.
A tweet by Commander Naval Forces Japan stated that a family information center has been opened at Yokosuka.
An information center is open at CFAY for USS Fitzgerald families, counselors on scene. CAPT Kim, CFAY CO will address families at 0945.
The Fitzgerald was commissioned in 1995 and is the 12th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. It is equipped with a five-inch gun, two Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems with a total of 90 cells, a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and two triple Mk 32 torpedo tubes. She has a crew of 303 according to a U.S. Navy fact sheet.
The B-52 has been serving in America’s nuclear deterrent arsenal since 1952. But a lot has changed on the BUFF and its mission since it was on the front line against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The strategic bomber has gone from being designed to deliver huge nuclear bombs on Russia to dropping precision-guided conventional bombs on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Today, it is far more likely to deliver its nukes using air-launched cruise missiles than a gravity bomb.
But little did most people know that part of its post-World War II heritage equipped the lengthy bomber with tail guns.
The retirement of Chief Master Sgt. Rob Wellbaum is notable since he was the last of the B-52 tail gunners in the Air Force. Most versions of the BUFF had four .50-caliber M3 machine guns – fast-firing versions of the historic Ma Deuce (1,000 rounds per minute, according to GlobalSecurity.org) that were also used on the F-86 Sabre. Two B-52 versions went with different armament options, the B-52B (twin 20mm cannon in some planes) and the B-52H (an M61 Vulcan).
In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action. During the Vietnam War, three B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. All three of the victims were North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds, who found out the hard way that the BUFFs weren’t helpless targets on their six.
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely-operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
An incident during Operation Desert Storm, though, would soon change things for the BUFF. A friendly-fire incident occurred when a tailgunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defense system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, which damaged the BUFF. The BUFF returned to base, and was reportedly named “In HARM’s Way” as a result.
Shortly after the misunderstanding, the Air Force announced that the tail guns were going away.
So, for all intents and purposes, a generation has passed since the B-52 had a tail gunner. Gone are the days when a fighter had to watch its steps when trying to get behind the B-52. To get a glimpse at what was lost, check out the video below.
One of the most common types of attacks troops will experience while deployed is a mortar attack, otherwise known as indirect fire. When this happens, protocol states that all troops must seek cover inside the nearest bunker.
Depending on where a troop is stationed, they’ll run into a wide variety of troops from different units on their way to that bunker — all of whom react to IDF very differently.
How a troop reacts says a lot about them as a warfighter and the kind of unit they’re in. You’re likely to see these troops — who span the gamut from POG to grunt — when you hear the IDF siren go off:
Sorry if fighting this nation’s wars is “inconvenient” for you.
1. Scared little “fobbit” troops
This person is either newly in theatre or enlisted with zero intentions of fighting. Not to discredit entire branches, but based on personal experience, they’re typically Airmen or Sailors on shore duty. Not the corpsman, though — corpsmen aren’t POGs.
Now, you might not see them cry, but they’re definitely going to jump when someone else enters the bunker. Be warned, when you’re in the bunker with them, you’re probably going to have to talk them down from a panic attack.
They will also unironically think they’re not actually a POG. But, you know… they still are.
2. The overzealous hero troops
This dude is ready for war! This guy managed to get in full-battle before making his way to the bunker. He’s just waiting on the word to go from Amber to Red at any moment, despite never being given the order to get out of Green.
Nobody wants to tell the guy that after you hear the boom, things get boring again. This is probably the closest this person will get to real combat and they want to take full advantage of the moment. Ten years from now, they’ll probably share this “war story” to people at the bar while trying to score some free drinks.
Or they’re the type of person that slowly walks to the bunker just to catch someone else walking slowly to the bunker.
(Via Decelerate Your Life)
3. The calm rule-follower
This is the category a large majority of the NCOs and senior officers fall into. The siren goes off and they help usher others into the bunker with them. They know they have to keep a calm demeanor or else it’ll freak out the fobbits and agitate the eager hero.
The only downside to this person is that they’ll always start arguing with the next two guys on this list.
And 9 times out of 10, they’re a Specialist or a Lance Corporal.
4. The reluctant slacker troops
This person really doesn’t want to go to bunker — but the rule-follower is looking, so they have to. They’ve been in-country for a while and they know that things are going to be okay… Probably. The only thing that’s going through their mind is a weighing of options. They’ll be busy thinking about if they want to risk an asschewing, the odds of that mortar hitting where they’re at, and if they want to pretend they “didn’t hear” the siren go off.
7 times out of 10, they’ll just go to the bunker for an accountability formation and dip before the all-clear siren goes off. They’re probably out for a smoke, which they’ll either jokingly offer to the fobbit or blow in the direction of the rule-follower who made them leave their hut.
Truly, they’re the best of us.
5. The sleeping grunt
It’s been months since this grunt gave their last f*ck. These guys have truly reached the max level of gruntness; ass-chewings and the threat of death don’t give this troop pause.
It was probably funny going to the bunker to laugh at everyone the first eighty-seven times, but now they’d rather get a little bit more sleep.
The US Navy carried out two high-profile aircraft-carrier training events in key waters that send messages to China and Russia, the US’s two main competitors and the only countries close to matching the US’s military might.
The US Navy’s Ronald Regan Carrier Strike Group joined Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 4 Battle Group to conduct joint military exercises in the hotly contested South China Sea on Aug. 31, 2018, the Navy said.
Japan sent the Kaga, a small aircraft carrier technically classified as a destroyer, along with guided-missile destroyers to train with the US’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, the Reagan.
But beyond just teaching US and Japanese carriers how to fight together, Washington sent Beijing a message that it won’t be pushed out of the South China Sea and that if a fight comes, it won’t stand alone.
China, which illegally annexed about 90% of the South China Sea and has sought to unilaterally dictate who can use the resource-rich waterway that sees trillions of dollars in annual trade, has struggled to make allies in the region. The US has moved to counter China’s attempts at hegemony by deepening ties with Australia, Japan, and India.
On top of that, the US just showed for the first time ever that it can update its supercarriers with a stealth aircraft perfect for taking out island fortresses like Beijing’s South China Sea holdings: the F-35C.
An F-35C conducting a catapult takeoff from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
(Lockheed Martin photo by Andrew McMurtrie)
Russia checked by the 2nd Fleet
Half a world away, the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Harry S. Truman carriers did joint training including the F-35C for the first time. But the exercise most likely had an additional audience in mind: Russia.
As Russia’s navy increasingly menaces the US and looks to assert itself as a powerful navy in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, the US has again found the need to defend its home waters of the near Atlantic.
Also in 2015, the US suspended “freedom of navigation” patrols, its main way of checking Chinese ambition in the South China Sea.
But now the Navy is taking those challenges seriously.
“We are the best Navy in the world, and given the complex and competitive environment we are in, we can’t take anything for granted or settle for the status quo,” Rear Adm. John Wade, the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, said in a Navy press release.
With a renewed mission and the world’s first carrier-launched stealth aircraft, the US has sent a clear signal to its main military rivals that US Navy power is back and on the move.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Navy SEAL James Hatch was on a mission to find Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan in 2009. It would be his last. After 26 years in the Navy, he was seriously wounded and eventually left the military. Since then, he has done a number of interesting things, but he is now set for the next iteration of his life – the Ivy League.
Hatch was wounded in Afghanistan while looking for Bow Bergdahl. The wound ended his career.
If you didn’t quite catch how long Hatch had been in the Navy before Bergdahl walked off his post, his 26 years as a Navy SEAL and dog handler before leaving the service in 2009 makes Hatch a 52-year-old freshman today. But as daunting as the first day in a new school can be, Hatch is unlikely to be deterred by social anxiety. If anything the former special operator sees it as another challenge to be handled.
“My experience in academia is somewhat limited, at best,” he told NBC News. “But I want to learn, and I feel this can make me a better person. I also feel my life experience, maybe with my maturity — which my wife would say is laughable — I think I can help some of the young people out.”
James Hatch and his service dog, Mina at Yale.
Hatch joined the military right after high school instead of going to college. He joined the Navy and became a SEAL spending his career serving in some of the most dangerous and topical areas in the world. After leaving the military in 2009 four years shy of a 30-year career, he suffered from depression like many separating vets. Drinking, drugs, and attempted suicide became the norm. But Hatch sought help and is now turning everything around. Aside from joining the ranks of the Ivy League elite, he also runs Spikes K-9 Fund, a non-profit that pays for healthcare and protective gear for police and military working dogs.
He got into the school through the Eli Whitney Students Program at Yale. The Eli Whitney program is for students with “extraordinary backgrounds” who have had their educational journeys interrupted for some reason. Hatch seems to be the perfect fit for such a program. On top of that, the GI Bill, scholarships, and Yale itself will cover the costs of his tuition.
“He brings just an incredibly different perspective,” the Director of Admissions for the Eli Whitney Students Program told NBC. “We don’t have anyone here that is like Jimmy and just his life and professional experiences will add tremendously to the Yale classroom, to the Yale community.”
In particular, his fellow Yale students will see Hatch in class with his service dog, Mina – whom they already love.
ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.
Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.
It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.
Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.
“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”
The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.
With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.
Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.
In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.
Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.
The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.
Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.
At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.
The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.
The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.
As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.
That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.
Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.
“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.
The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.
At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.
Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.
But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.
Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.
Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.
The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.
More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.
“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.
“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”
The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.
Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.
The theft also caused the dismissal of 91st Security Forces Group commander Col. Jason Beers, who was moved from Minot to his new job as Chief of Air Force Special Operations Command’s installations division. With AFSOC being based primarily in Florida, I think we can call that an overall win for the Colonel but unfortunately Chief Master Sgt. Nikki Drago was also fired as the unit superintendent.