According to a report by the British news agency Reuters, the Galicia Spirit, owned by the Teekay shipping group, came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire from a small boat. The RPG missed the LNG tanker, which was escorted by Djibouti naval vessel. The method used in the attack is similar to that used in the October 1 attack on HSV-2 Swift that caused a fire and damaged the former U.S. Navy vessel, which was on a humanitarian mission. HSV-2 Swift was towed away from the scene of the attack, which prompted the deployment of USS Mason, USS Nitze (DDG 94), and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the region.
The Galicia Spirit would have potentially fared a lot worse than HSV-2 Swift did. Even though it is much larger than Swift at about 95,000 gross tons to the Swift’s 955, it is usually carrying a large amount of a highly flammable and volatile cargo (137,814 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas). That would have been a huge explosion.
Yemen has been wracked by a civil war between the government lead by Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels were responsible for the attacks on Swift and Mason. Nitze fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at Houthi coastal radar sites after the attacks on Mason.
Back in civilian life, there are plenty of high-intensity jobs that are perfect for those veterans who need a little more action than a cubicle can provide. Check out this list of 7 extreme occupations:
In today’s hi-tech age of drones and stealth and computer wizardry we might have a tendency to take military capabilities for granted. So here are nine military aviation firsts to remind us of how far we’ve come over the last 107 years or so:
1. First military flight
The Wright Brothers were contracted by the U.S. Army to conduct first-ever flight trials at Fort Meyer just outside of Washington, DC in 1908. Wilbur had a business commitment in Europe, so Orville had to do the Army flights by himself, the first time the brothers worked separately since their historic flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.
2. First military aviation fatality
On September 17, about halfway into the Army flight program, with Army observer Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge on board, the airplane piloted by Orville Wright experienced a mechanical malfunction involving one of the propellers and crashed. Orville was severely injured and Selfridge died, making him the first military aviation fatality.
3. First aircraft carrier ops
Eugene Ely was the first pilot to launch from a stationary ship in November 1910. He took off from a structure fixed over the forecastle of the US armored cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia and landed nearby on Willoughby Spit after some five minutes in the air. On 18 January 1911, he became the first pilot to land on a stationary ship. He took off from the Tanforan racetrack and landed on a similar temporary structure on the aft of the USS Pennsylvania anchored at the San Francisco waterfront—the improvised braking system of sandbags and ropes led directly to the arresting hook and wires. His aircraft was then turned around and he was able to take off again. (Source: Wikipedia)
4. First strike sortie
The first real world bombing mission was flown on November 1, 1911 by Sottotenente Giulio Gavotti, against Turkish troops in Libya. Gavotti was flying an early model of Etrich Taube aircraft. It’s also interesting to note that the Turks were the first to shoot down an aircraft (using rifle fire) during that same conflict.
5. First air-to-air kill
The first conventional air-to-air kill occured on October 5, 1914, during World War I, when a gunner on a French Voisin bagged a German Aviatik reconnaissance aircraft.
6. First ace
“Vut eez theez volleyball you speak uf?”
Adolphe Pégoud shot down his fifth German aircraft in April of 1915, making him the first military ace ever. On August 31 of that same year, Pégoud was shot down by one of his pre-war flight students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft. He died in the crash. Kandulski later dropped a funeral wreath over the French lines in tribute.
7. First military pilot to go supersonic
After Bell Aircraft test pilot “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 ($1.6 million in 2015 dollars) to break the sound barrier, the USAAF selected Chuck Yeager to fly the rocket-powered Bell XS-1 in a NACA program to research high-speed flight. Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying the X-1 at Mach 1.07 at an altitude of 45,000 ft. over the Rogers Dry Lake in the Mojave Desert.
8. First military pilot in space
On April 12, 1961, Senior Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin launched in the the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome, which made him the first human to travel into space and the first to orbit the earth.
9. First military pilot to walk on the moon
Most people assume that Neil Armstrong was an active duty military officer at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, but he was actually a civilian, which makes Col. “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man out of the lunar module, the first military pilot to walk on the moon.
The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet is having a really tough year. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Navy is the full throes of the “Fat Leonard” scandal. The fallout began in November after 28 people were charged with crimes by the Justice Department.
The scheme is detailed in full by the Washington Post, but the gist of it is that the government believes those involved helped the Singapore-based firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia and its head, “Fat Leonard” Glenn Francis, milk the Navy out of some $35 million by overcharging for resupply – often by passing along classified information to GDMA.
All of this happened between 2006 and 2013. The conspirators weren’t dumb enough to use their Navy email accounts (one of them was dumb enough to transmit classified data via Facebook). Instead, they took out accounts on a consumer site. The indictment says Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch wrote to his conspirators,
“Just got turned on to this third-party email website that the military folks can’t block or track.”
Okay, so maybe in the annals of worldwide naval history, hookers aren’t that ridiculous. But Rear Admiral (that was his real rank, stop laughing) Robert J. Gilbeau once took in two at a time, paid for by Leonard. Leonard also used to hook Gilbeau up with a particularly famous one, known only as “The Handball Player.”
Commander Donald Hornbeck (aka “Bubbles” – not a joke) was taken with a lady he called his “new Mongolian friend.” Leonard even sent Cmdr. Stephen Shedd a catalog from VIP Tokyo Escorts, a high-end call girl service. Other brilliant call girl aliases include “BT” and “The Indonesian Detachment.”
Eventually, the indictment just gives up and refers to “other prostitutes.”
Francis allegedly also took Navy officers out to nightclubs accompanied by prostitutes and purchased dates for an unknown number of them, not just the core group of defendants – who called themselves “The Brotherhood,” “The Wolfpack,” and “The Cool Kids.”
4. Ca$h. Lots of it.
The former Rear Admiral “Tsunami Bob” Gilbeau (that was his nickname for himself) netted a cool $40,000 in cash for his part in the conspiracy. He pled guilty for lying to investigators, but was never charged with bribery or destroying evidence.
Other, non-cash windfalls for the officers included $37,000 hotel stays in the Philippines, $10,000 in Sydney, untold amounts for the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.
3. Sex acts with Gen. MacArthur’s corncob pipe
Navy investigators allege that one Lt. Cmdr. spent multiple days at the Manila Hotel, where Fat Leonard paid for the $3,300/night MacArthur Suite for a…
…raging, multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available.
That’s a quote from the actual indictment.
The 78-page indictment also says that, during this stay, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sex acts.” Looking at what’s available in the MacArthur Suite, it looks like the only usable “memorabilia” is the General’s iconic pipe.
In a thank-you email to Leonard, Shedd wrote that “it’s been a while since I’ve done 36 hours of straight drinking.” He had been emailing Leonard classified movement schedules for many Navy ships for months leading up to the weekend.
2. Food and booze
Early on in the conspiracy, three of the Navy officers charged allegedly ate at the Petrus Restaurant in Hong Kong. The bill was $20,435 — of course, Fat Leonard picked up the tab.
Those same three drank cocktails on a helipad in Singapore the very next month at the Jaan Restaurant, where they ate a lavish meal, topped off with Hennessy Private Reserve ($600 a bottle) and Paradis Extra champagne ($2,000 a bottle).
Other dinners were similarly expensive: $30,000 in Tokyo, $11,000 in Sydney, $18,000 in Hong Kong, $8,000 in Thailand, and $55,000 in Manila.
On at least one occasion, Fat Leonard’s champagne bill for Dom Perignon at the Shangri-La in Manila totaled more than $50,000. The officers accompanied the champagne with $2000 Cohiba cigars.
1. Personal favors.
Leonard arranged for one of Cmdr. Hornbeck’s relatives to receive an internship at the Chalet Suisse Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, and then paid for his living expenses – a total cost of $13,000.
Other favors include VIP services for an officer’s wife’s trip to Thailand, including a tour and shopping spree in Bangkok, a family vacation for the Shedds in Singapore and Malaysia totaling $30,000, gifts of iPads and Versace purses for officers’ wives, boxes of beef (I don’t want to know the details), and three hours of lap dances in Tokyo.
We all know military kids have grit. They are resilient. Gone are the days when the moniker of brat was the norm. These kids kick butt. But clearly, they didn’t get to be this awesome on their own. Along with genetics, military parents pass down life skills and civilian parents should take notice.
Not only that, military parents start at a disadvantage. We don’t have the luxury of choosing where we live, how much time we spend together as a family or if making friends at our new duty station will be easy or a string of awkward interactions or being repeatedly ghosted.
However, the byproduct of this lack of choice are parent life hacks that redefine parenting, military style:
1. The art of the cannonball
When you have to jump into friendships, school, new surroundings, etc. – ad nauseum – there is no room for hesitation. You must just take a leap, no matter the water temperature or the distance to the splash. Military parents model what it is to roll with life when plans that were already written in Jell-O change again when new orders are cut.
Military kids are often the new faces on the playground asking, “Wanna play?” As they get older it gets harder, but they still try. They never stop trying. They jump in because they know they’ll have to start the process all over in two to three years.
2. Let it go and embrace the suck
When you grow up without being able to control the world around you, your “normal” changes. Military kids know that “normal” is not a thing. This life lesson is one that all kids – and adults – need to learn. Of course, letting go of control is in no one’s comfort zone. It is ongoing — a choice to make the best of each crappy situation. Because as military kids and parents know, the crap will be closely followed by amazing – new favorite restaurants, friends and places to explore.
Sure, sometimes new is not better, and you find yourself stationed in rural Fallon, Nevada instead of sunny San Diego, California. But just as a cardboard box can be magically transformed into Star Wars X-wing fighter, rocks are actually buried treasure and white walls are blank canvases when presented with a permanent marker – hard is just an opportunity to invent a new perspective.
3. Herd parenting for the win
Because military spouses morph into solo parents during deployments, they are often forced to (begrudgingly) rely upon others. The kindness of strangers at grocery stores, parents who invite kids over for playdates and judgement-free friends who come over, bottle of wine in hand – these things save lives. They also help kids learn that asking for help is okay. Not only is it okay, it is usually more fun. There are also other adults to yell at your kids, so you don’t have to be the bad guy 24/7. Parenting takes a village, but for military families their lifestyle makes a village.
4. Yes sir/ma’am!
For those who are not from the south, calling someone ma’am or sir is risky. Using these pronouns could be considered an insult if addressed to someone of an insufficient age, and could be wise to avoid.
But the thing about the military is it sends people from all regions of the U.S., mixes them together and orders them to be polite. Respect is part of the culture, even if it is just surface level and mandatory. Military kids can certainly be wild, but they know the consequence of answering a question with “yea” instead of “yes ma’am” outweighs the use of extra syllables.
5. It is not about them
Well, a lot of it is about them. Older kids have the youthful wisdom to connect news stories about war to what their parents do. Their ears perk up when they hear someone mention the military. They have become so a part of this process that they know when it is NOT about them, but about a greater, larger purpose. Without being told, military kids know that a happy life is not always an easy life. They know what it is to sacrifice and the honor that comes through service. This value placed on service leads many to follow in their parent’s footsteps by joining the military themselves.
Life hacks aside, we know that despite their resilience, military kids have to grow up fast. Many have anxiety, struggle at school as a result of frequent PCS moves and act out when mom/dad is deployed. They have to say goodbye to parents as if it were the last time and worse yet, sometimes it is. Their lives are harder than most and we as parents do our best with what we have.
But sometimes, if we are lucky enough to stumble into solid friendships, awesome duty stations and model optimism more often than not, our kids will rebound from this lifestyle with character birthed from chaos.
Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on September 18th, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.
The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.
“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.
The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.
Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.
Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.
Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.
An Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber taking part in a training exercise with South Korean forces was threatened by the Chinese while in international airspace.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the threat came while the Lancer was over the East China Sea. China set up an air-defense identification zone over the East China Sea in 2013, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
The B-1B Lancer carried out its training mission despite the threat. The United States and South Korea are carrying out Foal Eagle, an annual joint exercise held with South Korea. The exercises have long been protested by North Korea. According to a DOD release from earlier this month notes that over 30,000 American and South Korean troops are taking part.
China has had a history of harassing American aircraft and naval vessels in the South China Sea, including the 2001 EP-3 incident, when an EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy J-8 Finback fighter. The Chinese pilot was killed in the collision, while the EP-3E made an emergency landing. The crew was held for ten days by the Chinese.
While the South China Sea is a well-known flashpoint, the East China Sea is also the location of maritime disputes, including one between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands.
The only nation to have used nuclear weapons this century will be able to strike Seattle in four years, former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said on Wednesday.
“I really do think that it is very likely by the end of Mr. Trump’s first term the North Korean’s will be able to reach Seattle with a nuclear weapon onboard an indigenously produced intercontinental ballistic missile,” Hayden said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“Now, will it be a high-probability shot, they have technical issues, so probably not. But then again, what kind of odds are you comfortable with when it comes to Pyongyang?” Hayden said.
So far this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has conducted 25 ballistic-missile tests and two nuclear tests.
Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow of Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, says the North Korean threat isn’t four years away — it’s nearly here.
“Hayden is a bit behind the curve on the North Korea ICBM threat,” Klingner told Business Insider.
“After the December 2012 launch, the South Korean navy dredged up off the ocean floor the stages of the North Korean missile, Klingner explained. “South Korean and US officials assessed the missile had a 10,000 km range which covers a large part of the US.”
The launch, which was largely viewed as a front for testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, was not only successful but also showcased the North’s technological advancements.
“After the February 2016 launch, experts assessed it could have a range of 13,000 km, covering the entire US,” Klingner said, which makes the Seattle range estimate “outdated,” he added.
According to Klingner, even the rocket with a range of 10,000 km would compromise approximately 120 million people.
What’s more, in 2015, US commanders of US Forces Korea, Pacific Command, and North American Aerospace Defense Command publicly assessed that Pyongyang is able to strike to the US with a nuclear weapon.
Attack helicopters are fierce predators that go after enemy troop formations and guard friendlies. Here are the 9 that most effectively prowl the battlefield:
1. Ka-52 “Alligator”
Capable of operating at high altitude and speed, the two-seater Ka-52 snags the top spot from the usual winner, the Apache. The Alligator’s anti-ship missiles have better range than the Apache and the helicopter boasts similar armor and air-to-air capability. A one-seat version, the Ka-50, is also lethal.
2. AH-64 Apache
The AH-64 is armed with a lot of weapons including Hellfire missiles, 70mm rockets, and a 30mm automatic cannon. Its tracks and prioritizes 256 contacts with advanced radar and targeting systems. Optional Stinger or Sidewinder missiles turn it into an air-to-air platform. The newest version, AH-64E Guardian, is more efficient, faster, and can link to drones.
3. Mi-28N “Havoc”
The night-capable version of the Mi-28, the “Havoc” carries anti-tank missiles that can pierce a meter of armor. It also has pods for 80mm unguided rockets, five 122mm rockets grenade launchers, 23mm guns, 12.7mm or 7.62mm machine guns, or bombs. It also has a 30mm cannon mounted under its nose.
4. Eurocopter Tiger
The Tiger minimizes its radar, sound, and infrared signatures to avoid enemy munitions and still has thick armor, just in case. It carries a 30mm turret, 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles, and a wide variety of anti-tank missiles as well as countermeasures for incoming missiles .
The Z-10 has an altitude ceiling of nearly 20,000 feet and carries capable anti-tank missiles, TY-90 air-to-air missiles, and a 30mm cannon. The Z-10 was originally considered a triumph of the Chinese defense industry, but it was actually designed by Russian manufacturer Kamov, the company behind the Ka-52 and Ka-50.
An upgraded version of the Italian A-129, the T-129 is a Turkish helicopter carrying robust UMTAS anti-tank missiles, rockets, and Stinger missiles. Its cannon is relatively small at 20mm, but it can zip around the battlefield at 150 knots, rivaling the newest Apaches.
7. Mi-24 Hind
The Mi-24 carries understrength anti-tank missiles by modern standards, but it’s great against infantry. Multiple machine guns up to 30mm chew up enemy troops while thick armor grants near-immunity from ground fire up to .50-cal. It also doubles as a transport, carrying up to eight infantrymen or four litters.
8. AH-1Z Viper
A heavily upgraded version of the first attack helicopter, the Viper still has a lot of bite. Hellfire missiles destroy enemy tanks and ships while a 20mm cannon picks off dismounts and light vehicles. Sidewinder missiles allow it to engage enemy air from a respectable distance.
9. AH-2 Rooivalk
The AH-2 is a South African helicopter that uses a stealthy design, electronic countermeasures, and armor to survive threats on the battlefield. While it’s there, it fires a 20mm cannon, TOW or ZT-6 Mokopa anti-tank missiles, or rockets at its enemies. There are plans for it to gain an air-to-air capability.
The Trump administration reportedly rejected the leading candidate in a move that seems to confirm the worst fears of many on President Donald Trump’s approach to Pyongyang.
The White House turned down Victor Cha, a widely endorsed and highly qualified candidate for the ambassadorship to South Korea, on Jan. 30 2018, the Washington Post first reported. Cha had previously served as director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.
Cha’s dismissal owes to his disagreement Trump’s plan to attack North Korea with a “bloody nose” strike, or a limited military strike in response to some North Korean provocation, according to multiple outlets.
People familiar with the talks to bring Cha on board, which had been going on for about a year, said that the final straw came when Cha disapproved of plans to evacuate US citizens from South Korea’s capital of Seoul in the run-up to a US strike on North Korea, both the FT and New York Times report.
In a Washington Post op-ed published after news broke that he was no longer being considered for the ambassador post, Cha wrote, “The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size US city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of US kinetic power.”
Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea has brought about increased diplomatic, economic, and military pressure on Pyongyang. While many see Cha as a hawk on North Korea, as he has written extensively about forcing China’s hand to defund Pyongyang, even Cha apparently couldn’t stomach the lengths the Trump administration was willing to go to.
The case for a limited strike on North Korea asserts that the US can calculate a strike big enough to matter, but small enough to keep Kim Jong Un from retaliating. Since word of the “bloody nose” strategy made its way out of Trump’s inner circle, a growing chorus of experts have condemned the plan as downright absurd and dangerous.
California Rep. John Garamendi told Business Insider that the US should focus on diplomacy, which would require an adequately staffed White House and the reversal of the “destruction of the US Department of State and that soft power” which comes with it.
The dismissal of the hawkish Cha shows that the Trump administration is serious about using force against North Korea, and is willing to dispense with diplomatic manpower in favor of military muscle.
Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.
He has been waiting for two years.
Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”
Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.
The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.
For Choi, that’s especially true.
“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.
His visa will expire in less than a year.
“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”
The complex history of MAVNI
In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.
Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)
Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.
In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.
“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”
“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.
MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.
Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.
The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.
The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)
The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.
Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”
As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.
In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”
He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”
Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.
Mattis looks to save MAVNI
In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.
“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.
Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.
“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”
In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.
Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.
“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.
“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.
“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’
“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”
Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.
Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.
Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”
Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.
Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.
He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.
“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)
Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.
“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”
Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.
In the meantime, she does paperwork.
“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”
Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it
“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.
“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.
“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.
“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.
To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”
Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.
During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.
“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.
On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.
“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.
Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.
But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.
Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”
“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.
The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.
In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.
U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.
Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.
Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.
VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”
The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.