An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran - We Are The Mighty
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An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)


EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of We Are The Mighty.

So here we go again. Another professional athlete has decided to protest about the evils of the country that has given him more than any other country would. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the National Anthem of two NFL pre-season football games and has said that he intends to continue to refuse in the future.

Related: Another open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a (more understanding) military veteran

Kaepernick made a blanket statement about his actions: “I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Let’s dissect this a little.

“I am not going to stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

This statement implies the government takes an active role in keeping minorities subjugated, like making laws that say “everyone but black people can do X.” That argument has been debunked so many times that you’re clearly uneducated on the issue and makes it hard to even take you seriously (forget the fact that our President is black, we have a Black Congressional Caucus and a long list of extremely successful black entrepreneurs). Truly active government oppression is a thousand times more brutal than what we have here. If you want to see what it really looks like, I invite you to Google El Salvador, Venezuela, Stalinism, North Korea, Somalia, or Saudi Arabia. Or let the USO set you up with a trip to Afghanistan. While there, ask about women’s rights and then tell us all how oppressive America is when you get back.

“It would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

So how is sitting down selfless and not looking the other way? If you really want to make a difference, get off the bench and actually do something. You signed a $114 million dollar contract with the 49ers and have an average salary of $19 million. How much of that did you donate to black causes or use to help the suffering that has suddenly offended you? I made 1 percent of what you did last year and I’d bet all of it that I donated more of my time to help others than you did.

“There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Embellish much? Sounds like we’re living in South Africa under Apartheid. The high-profile events you’ve launched off of are real problems, no doubt, but the actual law enforcement data suggests your statement is hyperbolic. Rule of law exists in America. Wrong-doers don’t get away with murder. (Well, OJ did, maybe, but that’s another story, isn’t it?)

When you decided to “sit in,” did you think you were the champion of a cause and every African American would agree with you? I’m willing to bet there are plenty who are rolling their eyes right now because they feel you’re doing more harm than good and wish you would just keep your thoughts to yourself. You’re not Che Guevara and this is not Bautista’s Cuba. You’re not a freedom fighter leading your people out of bondage. You’re an ill-informed athlete who’s only fanning the fires of racism by sitting on the sidelines for a principle that you only understand through a simplistic pop narrative that’s little more than a hashtag campaign.

Look, Colin, I get it. You want to show your anger and dissatisfaction about an issue that means something to you. The problem is you’re going about it all wrong. Instead of inspiring others or sparking change, you’re angering your fellow citizens (especially veterans) and losing respect instead of gaining it. You are an American citizen and this is your country. You have the right to say and do what you like, a right forged by the efforts of millions who actually put their lives on the line, the real freedom fighters.

If you’re pissed, fine. And if you’re pissed enough to take action, even better. Just do it in the right way. Write an insightful article about what ails you. Hire someone to write your memoir that outlines a proposed solution. Go on a speaking tour to raise awareness and inspire others. Use some of those NFL millions to fund a study that helps define the problem and the solution. Fund a scholarship or two for black kids who have the grades to get into college but not the money. Find an inner city high school and donate football equipment or (even better) spend some time on the field mentoring them.

You’re probably wondering why so many people disagree with you, even to the point of burning your jersey in the streets. Simply put, this country isn’t perfect, but even a passing knowledge of history (the kind usually possessed by a guy with a bachelor’s degree) should make you proud to be an American. We liberated Europe from genocidal Naziism, won the Cold War, landed on the moon, made more breakthroughs in technology and medicines that save lives every day than any other country, and given athletes the opportunity to make a ton of money to play a game. The list could go on and on, but it all points to one undeniable fact – the world would be a much worse place than it is without America.

Despite all that, you’ve decided America sucks and chosen to express your dissatisfaction by offending 99 percent of the 324 million Americans who have nothing to do with the issue you’re protesting. That’s your right and you certainly don’t have to respect the flag or the anthem.

But, in return, I don’t have to respect you. Now, instead of seeing a skilled athlete tearing up opposing defenses, millions of people are going to see a misguided man who chose to help break our country instead of help fix it. Sitting on the sidelines during the anthem only makes you part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Need a role model, Colin? Look to U.S. Army Lieutenant Sam Kendricks, who stopped his Olympic pole vault to stand and show respect when he heard the anthem. That guy gets it, but, of course, he’s actually serving something bigger than himself.

Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”

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5 epic military movie mistakes

For decades, Hollywood has been making military-based films that have touched Americans with great characters and stunning imagery. Not every movie has a high budget, but it’s the attention to detail that veterans respect when their branch is accurately represented on the big screen.


But still, some filmmakers get it wrong. So here’s a simple list of flaws that can be easily avoided when making your next epic war movie.

1. Screwing Up Rank 

In 2005’s “Jarhead” based on the book by former Marine Sniper Anthony Swofford, Dave Fowler is labeled as a private first class, or Pfc., who’s wearing the rank insignia of a lance corporal. The majority of the population overlooks details like this, but those who are familiar with Marine Corps rank probably did a double take.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
(Universal)

2.  Empty Weapons That Will Shoot

If 1997’s G.I. Jane wasn’t a stretch in reality then neither was seeing this gunship with empty rocket pods heading into battle. Next time, just film the inbound attack helicopters from the side. The note behind the note: we notice when movie weapons are handled incorrectly.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
(Buena Vista)

3.  Uncover… 2!

Sure, Hollywood is familiar with military uniforms and how to wear them. The unwritten rule once was to not advertise how to properly decorate and wear service and dress uniforms in case the knowledge falls into the wrong hands.

But that’s not the case today. And with uniform regs fully available online, filmmakers have no excuse when they get it wrong.

According to Marine Corps dress regulation, the dress blue uniform hardcover should be snug fitting and be worn parallel to the deck. Lastly, don’t forget to shave. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere in the world, but not on your face.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
(WB)

4. Poppin’ An Epic Hand Salute

Steven Seagal plays Chief Casey Ryback, a decorated Navy SEAL who specializes in explosives, weapons, and counter-terrorism turned culinary specialist but finds it challenging to render a proper salute. Takes notes:

  1. Stand up straight.
  2. Snap your salute up and stop once your fingertips touch the outside edge of your eyebrow, keeping your fingers straight.
  3. Position your forearm at a 45-degree angle and upper arm parallel to the deck.
  4. Angle your hand inward towards your body.
  5. Refrain from looking constipated.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
(WB)

5. Questionable Tactics

Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 war epic “Full Metal Jacket” is one of our all-time faves, but not for its accuracy in combat maneuvering. You don’t have to be a veteran to notice how dangerous running out in front of a barrage of cyclic gunfire can be and unrealistic.

Known for his attention to detail, Kubrick dropped the ball on getting the detail right in this shot as Doc Jay (played by Jon Stafford) crosses from left to right in front of a potentially bad friendly fire situation to save his comrade.

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That time this Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

In October 1965, Commander Clarence W. Stoddard, Jr. of the USS Midway carried a special bomb to North Vietnam to celebrate the six millionth pound of ordnance dropped on the Communist country: a ceramic toilet.


An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

The event was recounted on MidwaySailor.com:

The bombing was a Dixie Station strike from South Vietnam. Among the weapons on Stoddard’s ordnance list was one code named “Sani-Flush.”

Sani-flush was a damaged toilet, which was going to be thrown overboard. One of the Midway‘s plane captains rescued it and the ordnance crew made a rack, tail fins, and nose fuse for it. The checkers maintained a position to block the view of the air boss and the captain while the aircraft was taxiing forward.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

The toilet ordnance was dropped in a dive with Stoddard’s wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Robin Bacon, flying tight wing position to film the drop. When it came off, it turned hole to the wind and almost struck his airplane, and whistled all the way down.

According to Clint Johnson, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain, just as Stoddard’s A-1 Skyraider was being shot off, they received a message from the bridge: “What the hell was on 572’s right wing?”

“There were a lot of jokes with air intelligence about germ warfare,” Johnson said. “I wish that we had saved the movie film. Commander Stoddard was later killed while flying 572 in October 1966. He was hit by three SAMs over Vinh.”

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
Cmdr. William Stoddard

This isn’t the first example of unconventional warfare from U.S. Navy aviators. In August 1952, AD-4 Skyraiders from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton dropped a 1,000-pound bomb with a kitchen sink attached to it.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

“We dropped everything on them (the North Koreans) but a kitchen sink.” Their squadron’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. M.K. Dennis, told the press, before showing them a bomb with a kitchen sink attached.

The admiral was not okay with this, but caved to pressure from American press. The U.S. dropped the kitchen sink on Pyongyang that same month.

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This is why the US-led coalition called Amnesty report on Mosul ‘irresponsible’

The US-led coalition said July 12 that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.”


The report released July 11 said Iraqi civilians were subjected to “relentless and unlawful attacks” by the coalition and Iraqi forces during the grueling nine-month battle to drive IS from Iraq’s second largest city. It said IS militants had carried out mass killings and forcibly displaced civilians to use them as human shields.

War is not pleasant, and pretending that it should be is foolish and places the lives of civilians and soldiers alike at risk,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a coalition spokesman, told The Associated Press.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul on July 10, but clashes along the edge of the Old City continued into the following evening.

In all, 5,805 civilians may have been killed in the fight for western Mosul by coalition attacks, Amnesty said, citing data from Airwars, an organization monitoring civilian deaths caused by the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria.

Amnesty said the fighting generated a “civilian catastrophe.”

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

IS swept into Mosul in the summer of 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. The extremists declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law. The militants rounded up their opponents and killed them en masse, often documenting the massacres with video and photos.

US-backed Iraqi forces have gradually retaken much of that territory, but at a staggering cost, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced and entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

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Marines temporarily ground planes in wake of Hornet crash

The Marine Corps has ordered all non-deployed aircraft squadrons to observe a 24-hour “operational pause” after a Miramar-based squadron suffered a third F/A-18C Hornet crash in 12 months — two within the span of a week, one fatal.


Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told Military.com there would be an operational pause for all Marine Aircraft Wings, exempting deployed units.

“This operational pause is to happen within the next seven business days,” she said in an email. “Operational pauses are routine and are a time to align, discuss best practices and look at ways to continue to improve.”

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
US Marine Corps photo

The news of this grounding throughout Marine Corps aviation was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

Burns said the timing of the pause was at the discretion of the wing commanders. Investigations into the most recent crashes are still ongoing, she said.

Pilot Maj. Richard Norton of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 was killed July 28 when his F/A-18C Hornet went down during training near Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California.

A second pilot attached to the squadron, who has not been identified, is being treated after ejecting from his F/A-18C Hornet on Aug. 2 over Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, during a training flight.

That aircraft had been temporarily assigned to Fallon’s Strike Fighter Wing Pacific Detachment, officials said.

In October 2015, a Marine pilot also attached to VMFA-232, Maj. Taj Sareen, was killed when his Hornet crashed near Royal Air Force Airfield Lakenheath in England during a flight from Bahrain to Miramar at the completion of a six-month deployment to the Middle East.

No cause has been publicly released for any of these three crashes.

Officials said recently they have wrapped up an investigation into a deadly Navy F/A-18C crash that happened earlier this summer. Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss, a soloist with the Blue Angels demonstration team, was killed June 3 when his aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff in what was supposed to be a rehearsal flight ahead of an airshow in Smyrna, Tennessee. The results of that investigation have yet to be released.

In a discussion at a think tank in Washington, D.C., on July 29, the Marines’ head of aviation, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, said he did not believe diminished flight hours for Hornet pilots had contributed to the tragic July 28 crash.

“I track [flight hours] each week. This particular unit was doing OK,” he said.

Davis added he did not believe that reduced flight hours, a function of limited resources and available aircraft, were making Marine Corps squadrons less safe, but added the Corps was “not as proficient as we should be.”

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North Korea tried to launch a missile, but couldn’t get it up

North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.


While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.

A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.

Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
The North Korean Hwasong missile has been tested with varying success, most recently in February 2017. (Photo: KCNA)

Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.

Also read: This is what a war with North Korea could look like

While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”

On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence  visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”

To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
These aren’t the guys who hacked North Korea…but they could be. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”

North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.

A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.

“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.

Related: North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

He described the present moment as the “golden age of espionage,” as cyberwarfare remains nonlethal, unattributable, and almost completely unpunished.

But a recent missile salvo from North Korea suggests that even a prolonged, sophisticated cyberattack can’t fully derail its nuclear-missile program.

“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)

Furthermore, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea’s very restricted internet, “if it ever came to cyberwar between the U.S. and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West.”

“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”

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How to make yourself hard to kill, according to a special operator

Time and again in my line of work, people ask me, “What did you do to prepare?” I usually respond with some sort of reference to steel genitalia, eating large amounts of bacon, and shooting nails from my eyes. That usually wows people.


After the hilarity that is EVERY encounter with me, I give them an answer that always seems to underwhelm. “I try to be as strong as I can. All the time. I just want to be the strongest guy out there. That’s my number one goal. Then it’s cardio and mobility.”

Seriously, that’s it.

If you want, I can get into long physiological discussions about how stronger people are less taxed by the same effort expressed on an event by a weaker person. There are so many examples out there, I won’t even bother to ham-handedly try to quote them or paraphrase a saying they came up with.

Related: 4 key differences between the Green Berets and Delta Force

Do you wanna geek out and banter about the Krebs Cycle? Wanna quote grip strength tests designed by dudes that don’t lift trying to extrapolate the best anaerobic exercise for slow twitch muscle fiber performance? Well, tough crap, I am not that good. The point is this — I can stomp on the ground and scream until I am blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter. I can only tell you what I have seen, and what I think works.

The fact of the matter is this: the stronger man nearly always wins. This isn’t story time, and Goliath wins in real life kids. The freakishly strong 30-year-old whips the young buck more frequently than he doesn’t. The underdog is a great story — but there is a reason why he is the underdog. It’s cause no one thinks he can win, and he most likely won’t. Think Vision Quest:  could Louden Swain really beat Shute? Uh, hell no. That dude carried logs up and down steps like, all day, like a damn boss. Plus, Shute looked like he was about 195 pounds as a high school wrestler, and Matthew Modine’s character dropped to 168 pounds to fight him… sorry, I digress.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
U.S. Army Capt. Jason Parsons, a Medical Activity pharmacist assigned to Fort Jackson, lifts a weighted trap bar during the Urban Assault Course at the Best Ranger Competition 2016 on Ft. Benning, Ga., April 15, 2016. The 33rd annual David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition 2016 is a three-day event consisting of challenges that test competitors’ physical, mental, and technical capabilities. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kohl)

After covering what I do to prepare, the conversation progresses. Next comes, “What is the typical military member/SOF Operator?” Well, I can’t tell you that. I’ve seen huge, jacked, 225-pound football players quit, cry, and fail. I have seen un-athletic, uncoordinated 155-pound 18-year-olds dig deep and carry those 225-pound guys. There is a single commonality amongst all those that make it, compared to those that don’t, strictly physically speaking. That commonality is strength.

Across the board, the men and women that pass tough selections and outperform their peers in the military are simply stronger than their peers. I did not say “bigger,” I said stronger. Stronger in all tasks, globally stronger. Can you throw on one-third of your bodyweight in armor and gear and carry your friend 400m at a dead sprint? No? Well then, Turbo, I don’t care what your marathon time is.

“Well, fine then. Describe your ideal team mate” is usually what follows next. Which is weird, that people want me to talk about my dream teammate, which is a guy.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
A group U.S. Army Ranger students, assigned to the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, carries a zodiac boat to a a river to be able to disembark a mission on Camp Rudder, Eglin Air Force Base, Fl., July 7, 2016. The Florida Phase of Ranger School is the third and final phase that these Ranger students must complete to earn the coveted Ranger Tab. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Austin Berner)

Anyway, give me a 180-200-pound guy that can squat, deadlift, press, clean, and snatch close to the “accepted” standards for athletic performance. Add in cardio to his regimen — sprints, preferably. Every once in a while, with safety in mind, force him to work longer than 40 minutes. It should be taxing. Every single gym session works him toward a common goal — mobility, flexibility, strength, power, explosiveness, and injury prevention. If any workout doesn’t directly benefit (without excluding) those tenets, then don’t do it. Strength is priority numeral uno. Cardiovascular/cardiorespiratory conditioning is second, tied with mobility and injury prevention. Everything else — aesthetics, fad training ideas, things you read in muscle and fitness about your abs- throw them away. Let’s not get cute until we are in the top 10 percent of our weight class.

In the current fitness enthusiast world we find ourselves today, I almost always get the following retort next: “BUTBUTBUT what about functional strength? Big guys aren’t the only useful ones. Who cares how much I can lift in the gym real life is where you need it, I have mad cardio and sick abzzzz blah blah blah.”

I will put this as plainly as I can. Being globally stronger, stronger as a whole person, will translate to “functional capability”. I could not give a rat’s ass if a teammate of mine can’t do a nifty “fitness trick” like a double under, or a handstand pushup, or a muscle up. Why would I? Can you give me a real life task where a double under directly translates? Let me head you off here — we took care of “cardio” already. Double-unders are a barely useful parlor trick.

Related: 5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6

If you cannot pick me up wearing my kit and all my gear — I weigh 260 pounds loaded down — then you are useless, and you don’t get a spot. Sorry, but this is real life. You don’t get to scale real life. I don’t care if you can take half of your bodyweight and move it from ground to overhead 30 times reeeeaaaaallly fast. How fast can you lift 140 percent of your bodyweight to your shoulder and run 100 meters to cover? Oh, you can’t? Then stop with all the “functional fitness” crap to support your point as it applies to the SOF environment. Or produce the science and vetted studies to back up your point. Pro tip — those studies don’t exist.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
Workout with a buddy, but don’t actually carry them unless you are taking turns. Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michelle Kapica

I want to break this down to brass tacks. In my experience, both in the military and the SOF community, stronger people really are harder to kill. I can tell you from first hand experience, and from second and third hand experience. If you focus 80 percent of your energy to making yourself as strong as you can be, you will be more useful, around for longer, and more likely to be a success in this small focus group.

I liken it to fighting — good fighters want to be stronger later in the fight. Ask an experienced fighter how it is to fight someone that is truly stronger than they are. It is unnerving. Better fighters do this with strength training.

In the end, I always use this analogy:  “You can always dig deep and find bigger lungs. In the fight, in the heat of the moment, a true warrior can find a couple more steps, another sprint. That’s going to be there. But strength? You can’t just find a 100-pound PR when you need it. If you can’t lift 280 pounds off the ground and you need to move 350 — well, get as amped up as you would like. Your double unders aren’t going to help you now.”

And if you train to be able to run away, to simply exist as opposed to being strong enough to finish the fight, well, then run away is all you got. And that’s not the business we are in.

-Aaron

The author of this article is an active duty special operator.  We are protecting his identity by only using his first name.  This article first appeared in The Havok Journal on 26MAR14.

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This is how much US military leaders like their new orders from the White House

US military commanders deeply appreciate the autonomy and hands off approach the Trump administration takes to battlefield operations, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31.


Townsend explained that the Trump administration has “pushed decision making into the military chain of command,” as opposed to the widespread micromanagement of military operations seen under the Obama administration. “I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces who doesn’t appreciate that,” he said.

“Our judgment here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get twenty questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take,” Townsend said. “I think every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility, and then the trust and backing to implement that.”

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson.

US Special Envoy to the counter-Islamic State coalition Ambassador Brett McGurk told reporters in early August that gains against ISIS have “dramatically accelerated” under the Trump administration, highlighting the terror group’s loss of territory.

President Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that US rules of engagement were too restrictive in the ISIS fight during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the early months of his presidency he has loosened rules of engagement and launched dozens of drone strikes under looser authorities.

“There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a US defense official told the Wall Street Journal in April in the midst of high tempo operations against the terrorist group.

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What North Koreans really think of their supreme leader

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran
Why does it always look overcast in North Korea?


The Center for Strategic and International Studies‘s Beyond Parallel released new polls that shed light on one of the most obscure areas in global studies — the opinions of ordinary North Korean citizens.

North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.

But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.

Also read: What you need to know about North Korean threats

“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.

Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

Out of the 36 people polled, zero said that the country’s public distribution system of goods provides what they want for a good life.

Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.

While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:

State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.

Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.

The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.

The US and international community have long tried to lobby North Korea’s greatest ally, China, to exert some influence on the isolated dictatorship to ease the suffering of the North Korean people, and protect the region from Pyongyang’s nuclear belligerence.

An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

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7 key facts about the USO’s 75 years of service

The USO was formed on Feb. 4, 1941 as the nation prepared for the possibility that it would get dragged into another World War. Now, 75 years later, the USO serves America’s warfighters with an estimated 10 million “connections” every year in the form of entertainment tours, homecoming celebrations, care packages, and more.


Here are 7 facts about how the USO got where it is today:

1. The USO began at the request of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Photo: Courtesy USO, Inc.

With the “War in Europe” spreading in the early 1940s, President Roosevelt knew he might soon have a massive military that would need morale assistance. He asked six private organizations — the YMCA, the YWCA, the National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association, and the Salvation Army — for their help.

Rather than just draw straws or split up areas on a map, the six organizations combined into a sort of entertainment Voltron that focused on one demographic, the troops.

2. The first services were USO shows and free Coke, both of which continue today

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The late Robin Williams performs for sailors in Bahrain in 2003. (Photo: US Navy Journalist 1st Class Dennis J. Herring)

As the Army and Navy grew in preparation for the war, the most urgent mission of the USO was giving service members the feeling and tastes of home. The USO began a partnership with Coke (that continues to this day) and started bringing in talented soldiers and entertainers to perform for crowds of troops.

3. The USO had a break in service

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Marilyn Monroe visited Korea in 1954. Photo: Department of Defense

In 1947 the occupying forces in Europe and Asia were shrinking and the USO was granted an “honorable discharge” from service by President Harry S. Truman. The Korean War kicked off in 1950 and the USO was back in service by 1951. It wasn’t until after American forces were withdrawn from Vietnam that the USO officially dedicated itself peacetime operations as well as wartime.

4. Bob Hope performed at the first USO center in a combat zone

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Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

While the USO is now known for setting up shop in combat zones, no large USO facilities existed in contested areas during Korea or World War II. The first was in Saigon, Vietnam where Bob Hope performed a Christmas Special in 1964. He would perform a Christmas special for U.S. troops nearly every year until 1973, most of them in Vietnam.

5. The USO is headquartered in the Bob Hope Building

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Bob Hope had a long and enduring relationship with the USO. He first performed with them a few months after their formation and before World War II even started. He continued to headline tours and recruit other entertainers through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War in addition to smaller conflicts and peacetime performances.

In 1985 the USO moved into a new headquarters building that they named for the performer in recognition of his hard work and dedication to the organization.

6. Stephen Colbert’s stint in the Army was in partnership with the USO

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Photo: US Army

While a lot of people remember when Stephen Colbert “enlisted” in the U.S. Army in 2009, not everyone remembers that his week-long trip to Iraq was a USO tour. Colbert filmed his show from the country for that week and allowed Gen. Ray Odierno to shave his had.

7. The longest-running USO tour is a Sesame Street experience

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Photo: US Department of Defense

The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families has run since 2008. In 2014, it celebrated a milestone as it reached its 500,000 military family member. The show has been performed over 1,000 times at more than 140 military bases worldwide.

(h/t to the USO’s interactive timeline where much of the information for this article was found. Check it out to learn more about USO history and see additional photos.)

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US special ops are trying to figure out how to counter Russia’s new way of warfare

US special operations is researching how to counteract a new breed of warfare that Russia, China and Iran have been using quite successfully in recent years, Defense News reported 


Known as gray-zone conflict or hybrid warfare, it encompasses “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area,” according to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

In response, US special ops is looking to develop “predictive analytic technologies that will help us identify when countries are utilizing unconventional warfare techniques at levels essentially below our normal observation thresholds,” Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Theresa Whelan told Congress on May 2.

Related: Special ops may try to develop ‘super soldiers’ with performance-enhancing drugs

That’s because in hybrid warfare, aggressors will try to mask who they really are, such as Russia’s use of “little green men” in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine where its own special operations forces helped support an insurgency.

“Without a credible smoking gun, NATO will find it difficult to agree on an intervention,” according to NATO REVIEW Magazine.

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The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

The Pentagon study will help the US identify early evidence of unconventional warfare, Whelan said.

Many people in countries along Russia’s border, especially in the eastern part of those countries, have close cultural ties, like language and history, to Russia. Therefore public opinion about identity and Russia in these regions is oftentimes sharply divided.

No one yet knows how the US will actually try to counteract such warfare, but “technology will play a significant role,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Business Insider, specifically mentioning artificial intelligence, robotics and drones.

The presence and use of special ops will also increase, as they already have in places like Iraq and Syria. “More special ops died last year than conventional forces,” Lemmon said. “I think that points to the future of warfare.”

This new kind of warfare also brings up questions about the rules of engagement, and how the US can counteract it without triggering a full-scale conventional war.

“I genuinely think no one can answer that,” Lemmon said. “It is taking the idea of warfare into a totally different realm.”

While the results of the study are two years late, the Pentagon expects to have an “answer with our thoughts” before the end of June, Whalen told Congress.

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That time a Dutch warship pretended to be an island to evade the enemy

Sometimes in life, the guy with the drunken, so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas hits one out of the park and saves the day. This is clearly what happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the last Dutch warship standing after the Battle of the Java Sea.


Originally planning to escape to Australia with three other warships, the then-stranded minesweeper had to make the voyage alone and unprotected. The slow-moving vessel could only get up to about 15 knots and had very few guns, boasting only a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20 mm canons — making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above.

Related: 37 awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

Knowing their only chance of survival was to make it to the Allies Down Under, the Crijnssen‘s 45 crew members frantically brainstormed ways to make the retreat undetected. The winning idea? Turn the ship into an island.

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The Abraham Cristessen in all its jungle finery Photo: Wikipedia

You can almost hear crazy-idea guy anticipating his shipmates’ reluctance: “Now guys, just hear me out…” But lucky for him, the Abraham Crijnessen was strapped for time, resources and alternative means of escape, automatically making the island idea the best idea. Now it was time to put the plan into action.

The crew went ashore to nearby islands and cut down as many trees as they could lug back onto the deck. Then the timber was arranged to look like a jungle canopy, covering as much square footage as possible. Any leftover parts of the ship were painted to look like rocks and cliff faces — these guys weren’t messing around.

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Check out that boat-shaped island. Oh wait… Photo: Wikipedia

Now, a camoflauged ship in deep trouble is better than a completely exposed ship. But there was still the problem of the Japanese noticing a mysterious moving island and wondering what would happen if they shot at it. Because of this, the crew figured the best means of convincing the Axis powers that they were an island was to truly be an island: by not moving at all during daylight hours.

While the sun was up they would anchor the ship near other islands, then cover as much ocean as they could once night fell — praying the Japanese wouldn’t notice a disappearing and reappearing island amongst the nearly 18,000 existing islands in Indonesia. And, as luck would have it, they didn’t.

The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces.

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The craziest gifts presented to North Korea

North Korea is the weird kid at the back of the class who keeps making disturbing drawings in his notebook and trying to convince everyone that he’s the coolest.


Still, other countries give North Korea a lot of gifts. Some are presented to the current leader, Kim Jong-un, but a surprising number are still given to Kim Il-sung, a guy who has been dead since 1994, and Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011. The gifts are usually housed at the International Friendship Exhibition, a museum of the bizarre located two hours northeast of Pyongyang.

What do other world leaders get dead and crazy people who already have nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons? Why, a weird-looking Olympic bear, of course.

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Photo: Youtube

Misha the bear was the 1980 Summer Olympics mascot. Held in Moscow soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the 1980 Olympics were the only Games boycotted by the U.S.

If the situation calls for something a little grander, North Korean leaders could always use a third personal train. The first was gifted to North Korea by Soviet General Chairman Joseph Stalin and the second came from Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong. They seem to share a paint job, but the Chinese train has better decorations around the windows. Stalin also gave the regime a bulletproof limousine.

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Youtube

Nicaragua’s Sandinista rebels showed their love of Kim Il-sung by gifting him this not-at-all-creepy statue of a crocodile serving drinks.

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Photo: Youtube

That’s not the only dead animal on display in the museum. An anonymous Canadian supposedly gave the North Korean leaders a polar bear skin with the head still attached while the leader of Madagascar presented them with a fossilized snail.

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Photo: Youtube

This dead bear was a gifted by Romanian communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu. No one is sure why it was presented with a lazy eye.

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Photo: Youtube

Bears are a repeating symbol in the museum. Here, a family of bears plays inside of a large egg because reasons.

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Photo: Youtube

And then there’s the plate with an animal walking off of it.

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Photo: Youtube

The exhibitions contain many weapons including a hunting rifle from Vladimir Putin and this sword from the N-Trans Group, a Russian transportation company.

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Youtube

Of course, life in North Korea isn’t all about awesome crocodile statues and sweet swords. Some argue that the money expended to build the grand museum would have been better spent feeding starving citizens. They’re probably just jealous of the more than 100,000 total gifts presented to the Kim dynasty.