Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

“No one left behind” is a phrase inextricably linked with our military culture. The concept is a pillar that supports the platform of what it means to serve, analogous to “defending those who can’t defend themselves” and “protecting our freedom.” Like all military axioms, no one left behind means many different things, depending on the service member or veteran you ask. 

The most prominent examples of this are in the Medal of Honor citations of U.S. troops braving enemy fire to bring a wounded comrade to safety without regard for their own well-being. Not as thoroughly illustrated in Hollywood, however, are veterans who are determined to bring home the remains of U.S. troops lost in foreign wars, or those working to help other veterans with challenges in employment, physical disabilities, and mental health. All of it can be traced back to “no one left behind.”

The time has come for the U.S. to embody this core principle yet again.

Close to 18,000 Afghans (and their 53,000 family members) who provided assistance to the U.S. as interpreters, security guards, contractors and more, now face a future that is uncertain at best. These people who fought alongside our men and women in uniform are running out of time, as the U.S. Department of Defense now estimates its withdrawal from Afghanistan is 95% complete as of July 12th.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of DVIDS

One man with a wealth of knowledge and experience on the subject is General Joseph Votel (Retired). The former commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and US Central Command (CENTCOM) was one of the first troops on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11, conducting a rare combat jump with his fellow Rangers on Objective Rhino, near Kandahar.

“I was in the first wave of troops, October of 2001,” General Votel told Sandboxx News. “And I think between 2001 and 2019 — when I actually left service — I’d been to Afghanistan for some part of every year, sometimes just a few days and sometimes for a whole year.”

General Votel’s extensive time spent in theater, dating back to the very beginning of U.S. operations there, makes him as qualified as any expert one could find on the war-torn country and its looming humanitarian crisis.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Then- deputy commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force-82, Gen. Votel cuts a ribbon at the groundbreaking of a new public works building in Panjsher Province March 27, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Timothy Dinneen)

These thousands of Afghans who aided or sympathized with U.S.-led forces in the 20-year war against the Taliban have been imperiled as the American presence dwindles. The slow trickle of departing troops turned to a hasty exit at the beginning of May, and the U.S. has assumed a much more defensive posture. As a result, the Taliban has seized territory at an alarming rate and now control over half of the districts in the country. There was already plenty of support for their strict interpretation (and enforcement) of Sharia in more conservative, rural areas, but they are now are closing in on major cities that have been more secular and progressive in terms of things like women’s rights.

“I’ve invested a lot of time in this like many have, and I feel like I got to know the Afghan people. I certainly got to know their story quite well. I feel sad that we are not leaving them in a better position,” General Votel said.

The Taliban are determined to improve their image with the U.S. government and avoid any entanglements that would prolong the withdrawal. Multiple Taliban spokesmen have been dismissive of human rights abuses in territories they’ve re-captured, and recently stated that Afghans who worked with the U.S. will not be harmed if they “show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Taliban religious police beating an Afghan woman for removing her burka in public, in August of 2001, shortly before the Taliban was removed from power (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan/ Wikimedia Commons)

Many Afghans put little stock in the statement from Taliban leadership, and have no intention to stay and find out if they keep their word. There are countless stories of retaliation against these Afghans that the Taliban has past referred to as “traitors” and “slaves.” Whether all of the more recent violence has been sanctioned by the Taliban or not, those who fear further reprisals without the U.S. presence do so justifiably.

“These interpreters and others that helped us, they did this at their own personal risk. We recognized this and we set up programs. The Special Immigrant Visa program, SIV program… is specifically designed to give those who’ve spent time with us a leg up in the immigration process — to come to the United States and have an opportunity to become a citizen, because we knew that their jobs — what they were doing for us –would put them in danger down the line.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
This graphic, daunting enough, illustrates what is probably best-case scenario for SIV applicants in light of the backlog (Government Accountability Office/ State Department)

The sheer volume of SIV applications coupled with staffing issues and lack of a central database has created an enormous backlog at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that could take several years to sort through. An outbreak of COVID-19 killed one and infected 114 staffers at the embassy last month, grinding operations to a halt. Further complicating the issue, many SIV applicants do not live in Kabul. Transportation and communication would already be an issue, particularly in rural areas, even without Taliban militants’ ever-increasing presence.

“It’s really important, I think, for us to follow up on that, follow through on our promises and, and do the right thing for these people. It’s literally a life and death situation for many of them,” General Votel explained.

Operation Allies Refuge, announced earlier this week, will begin the massive task of evacuating all SIV applicants out of Afghanistan by the end of the month. When asked at Wednesday’s briefing, DOD Press Secretary John Kirby was non-committal about potential locations for the soon-to-be displaced Afghans while their pending immigration is processed. There is precedent, and therefore hope, for such a large undertaking. CONUS installations have not been ruled out, such as in 1999 when the U.S. airlifted 20,000 Kosovo refugees to Fort Dix, NJ. International U.S. assets like Guam seem more likely, as that is where 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to in 1975.

Growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, General Votel has a personal connection to that operation as well. Many Vietnamese Hmong ended up immigrating to that area, and the connection to the present-day crisis is not lost on him:

“They have integrated so well and they have become a very integrated, important and contributing part of our community right here. And whenever you see Hmong, and the different influence they have in here, it makes you think of America doing the right thing, even in the wake of a disaster like Vietnam was,” he said.

“We did the right thing. We stood by people that stood by us, that were going to be persecuted because of their association and support to us. And we brought them to our country and then made them part of our society.”

While the U.S. government has acknowledged the problem and is putting things in motion to get these Afghans to safety, General Votel said that the American people can also help. No One Left Behind is a non-profit at the forefront of the issue, one that Votel supports himself. They have already raised over $1 million dollars for their cause of evacuating our Afghan allies from Kabul, and now the General is helping to spread the word far and wide.

While Americans can certainly offer their financial support to No One Left Behind, General Votel was just as quick to mention the importance of people using their “time and talent” to help. He says one of the best ways Americans can help right now is to be aware of the problem, make others aware of it, and especially, put pressure on Congress and keep the plight of the Afghans in the public eye and a high-priority for President Biden’s administration.

General Votel’s own experience with interpreters, in particular, speaks to why ensuring the safety of these Afghans is not only a question of American morality and doing the right thing, but also crucial to the safety of U.S. troops and the security of the American people. What interpreters provide troops on the ground is invaluable, and is not just translation of the language (though it is certainly that, as well).

“What I deeply valued was the cultural aspects that I really picked up from them… They understand the country. They understand things that are just so difficult for us as Americans to appreciate that they can share that with us, and they give us an understanding of the society and how things there work.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
More than just assets, interpreters are comrades to our troops on the ground. Mohammad Nadir (center) was an interpreter for three years, obtained his Special Immigrant Visa, and still enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as an 0311 in 2017 (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Quezada)

The estimated cost of approximately $699 million to execute Operation Allies Refuge is a relatively small price to pay for a mission that will enhance security and save American lives in the future. However, General Votel emphasized to Sandboxx News more than once that there’s also the moral obligation that the United States has to the Afghan people who helped us.

“They become comrades. They begin to appreciate our values, as well, and are really good representatives for our country. So they’re just so much more than somebody that translates words from one language into another.”

  • To learn more about No One Left Behind, visit nooneleft.org.
  • To donate, click here.
  • To Tweet your U.S. Senators, click here.
  • To e-mail your U.S. Senators, click here.

This article by Tory Rich was originally published by Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx News on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate generals?

With Confederate statues coming down across the nation, it’s time to ask: Should we change the name of Army bases named after Confederate Generals?

I think it’s a good discussion for us to have as a nation and an Army. When we can assess the problem and make rational decisions, I trust the Army leadership to make the best decision for our force and nation. We may not all agree on that or those decisions, but one of the greatest parts of America is civil discourse. It’s not difficult to see the pain these names may cause or why the current names don’t matter.


I’ve been to countries where they’ve torn down statues and changed names, erasing history without dialogue. There were many more significant issues, but none of those places have peace and prosperity. A statue or name change alone will not change society or bring a land of opportunity. When not done correctly, it divides people. However, this is an opportunity to do something right for the current and future generations.

We can have discussions and study our Civil War for years. There are a few undeniable conclusions. The Confederates attempted to succeed from the Union and the score was Union – 1, Confederates – 0. The Confederates implicitly or tacitly endorsed slavery of people based upon the color of their skin. We can learn from these difficult times in our nation’s history, so as not to repeat them. We should not honor these generals that fought against their country and therefore the right to own slaves.

In my 20-plus year military career, I never once cared about a base’s name, let alone whether the name of a general inspired me. What motivated me were the units that called those bases home. The famed 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 10th Mountain Division and United States Army Special Forces — these and other storied units are what inspired me. We stand on the shoulders of giants. I’d read about these units in books and watched them in movies. The unit lineage is what mattered to me, and I’m willing to bet most of those I served with would agree.

I also didn’t care that they were named after famous generals. They didn’t inspire me or give me a sense of pride. Truthfully no generals, living or dead, ever inspired me. I had the privilege to work with some of the finest generals of our time. I have immense respect for these men and what I learned from them is invaluable. However, I wouldn’t say I was inspired. Why, you might ask? These generals are so removed from the fight that I find it hard to gain inspiration. Those that inspired me were leaders closer to us out conducting missions in the dirt, and my brothers and sisters that I served with.

I will not lose sleep if we change the names of our bases to Fort Tomato or Fort Pine Tree. I hope that we make these decisions with a thorough process. If Army leadership is considering such a process, I do have some excellent suggestions. Medal of Honor recipient, MSG Roy P. Benavidez, Fort Benavidez. Commander of the Tuskegee airmen, General Benjamin O. Davis, Fort Davis. The list of worthy American soldiers is much longer than the number of bases.

The truth is, we are hurting as a country. If this can help our nation heal, I’m all for it. It’s absurd not to have the discussion. Let’s reinvigorate patriotism and pride in our Army. We can run major marketing campaigns sharing the stories of these worthy soldiers. We can all be proud to say “I’m reporting to” or “served at” Fort (insert great American name).

I leave you with only one question: Will you be part of the discussion with me?

MIGHTY TRENDING

This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

After losing his arm and leg in battle, a Hawaiian soldier being treated at the Naval Medical Center San Diego told his doctors that more than anything else, he wanted to surf again.


Navy Seaman Emily Wallace reacts to a moment free from her severe pain during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. The medically appointed surf therapy helps her to manage her pain and provides her with a reprieve from chronic pain without medications. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Almost 10 years later, the hospital’s surfing clinic staff has assisted more than 1,500 wounded, ill and injured service members from all service branches in their recovery through surfing.

“I remember at the time, I told him we’re going to go surfing but I had no idea how we’re going to go, with him missing an arm and a leg,” said Betty Michalewicz-Kragh, surf therapy program manager and exercise physiologist with the Health and Wellness department at the medical center, also known as “Balboa.”

Michalewicz-Kragh said she looked for ideas on the internet and eventually called a Brazilian above-the-knee amputee who came to San Diego and assisted Michalewicz-Kragh in training the soldier for five weeks.

The patient started surfing. “And as a result of him going surfing, many other wounded warriors have gone surfing, and it’s been an amazing journey,” she said.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Today, adaptive surfing is more mainstream, with its third world championship taking place in December in La Jolla, California. Michalewicz-Kragh said when the clinic first started using surfing therapy, she only thought of the physical benefits, such as the cardio ability and strengthening the posterior muscles.

“We ended up realizing the benefit surfing has for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues,” she added. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

Finding Fitness, Friends

Surfing is like a medication, and all the side effects are good, Michalewicz-Kragh said. “A person may come here to surf but they end up finding a community,” she explained. “The side effects will be that his fitness level will be better, his cardiovascular ability improves, he gets stronger, and he meets a lot of people. The community integration aspect is really important, so there are many benefits to surfing.”

She said patients don’t need to know how to surf before showing up and they can attend the swim clinic beforehand. “Our goal for the patients as they come to the program is to find out how they can make their life better by surfing and to have the ability to surf and become a better surfer,” she said. “You will not be Kelly Slater after six weeks, and not after 12, but you will have the tools to know how to practice and learn how to surf on your own safely and independently.”

Also Read: Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

Beach Yoga

Before surfing, patients can also take yoga classes at the beach, thanks to Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, the Navy medical center’s preventive medicine department head.

“I always check with them at the beginning of class as they check in, where they’re hurting, so I can make sure they focus the class on things that will be beneficial to any particular needs they may have and then ask them afterward,” Christensen said. “I’ve had feedback from some patients who say that this is the only thing they’ve found that helps them feel better, and some who say, ‘I hated yoga, but now I love it,’ so that’s encouraging. It’s a great setting. It’s not me; it’s the beach.”

Christensen said programs such as the surfing clinic are important for wounded warriors. “It gives them hope and confidence, which will help them with their depression if they have it,” she said. “It’s giving them hope that they can get better, confidence in their abilities to do so, and then ability and new skills and new talents.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Volunteers

The patients can go through the six-week program twice to learn surfing, and those who transition out of the military and stay in the local area can continue with the program. About 50 surfers — retired firefighters, police officers and military, along with the Del Mar lifeguards — volunteer to work with the patients in the surf therapy clinic.

Former Air Force Sgt. Warren James, a Vietnam veteran, has been volunteering for the past two years. “I’m really good at teaching the beginners,” the former avionics technician said. “It’s very rewarding for me, and I can see it’s very effective for the patients.”

James, who repaired radios and radar equipment on F-4, C-130 and C-40 aircraft during his military service, said he enjoys volunteering with service members and fellow veterans. “It’s overwhelming sometimes. They have injuries, and I didn’t really get injured, so I feel for them,” he said. “I saw a lot of bad things, and I don’t say much about it, but it’s really good to be able to talk to somebody else about it. I know how they feel … I didn’t have PTSD, but I can sense when they do, and it’s really comforting to help them and know that it’s helping me, too.”

Volunteers attend a briefing for the Naval Medical Center San Diego surf therapy session in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Surf therapy is medically appointed and provides treatment for a host of maladies, including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Surfing clinic participants gain confidence as they make progress in the surfing clinic, he said. “If they had a physical injury, they recover quicker,” he added. “They take less medication. It’s just a really good program.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Patients’ Opinions

Retired Marine Corps Sgt. Toran Gaal, a bilateral amputee who lives in Valley Center, California, said surfing brings him closer to those he lost in combat. He was injured in an improvised explosive device blast in Afghanistan in 2011.

“To be in a place like the ocean, it allows me to be closer to those people and feel like I’m lifted up,” Gaal said. “I feel like I’m around them when I’m out there. I feel like they’re around me, watching over me, making sure I’m safe. The ocean allows me to feel close to them, as well as gain relationships with some of the volunteers to be happy.”

The surfing clinic is about surfing and reintegration into the community, Gaal said. “It’s not just about gaining independence and going out and surfing. It’s about reintegration and transitioning,” he said.

Gaal said he and his wife, Lisa, have become friends and family with Bob Bishop, one of the volunteers, with whom they have regular lunches at Bishop’s home.

Navy Cmdr. Lori Christensen, head of the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s preventive medicine department, instructs a yoga therapy session on the beach in Del Mar Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

“It’s just a sense of family for me, and my wife knows that. She knows that when I’m around these people, I come back happier because I enjoy being in their presence and the negativity is not there. They’re all positive influences,” Gaal said.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Volunteer Brianna Phillip helps Navy Seaman Emily Wallace, left, walk into the surf to meet her instructo,r Necia Snow, right, during a surf therapy session for Naval Medical Center San Diego patients in Del Mar, Calif., Sept. 14, 2017. Wallace suffers from an illness that causes severe pain, and the medically appointed surf therapy helps to manage her pain. DoD photo by EJ Hersom

Marine Corps Cpl. Leighton Anderson, a Gardena, California, native who was injured during an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash in 2016, said he enjoys the surfing clinic as well.

“I always wanted to learn how to surf, since I’m from California,” Anderson said. “I tried it three times in my life and never did it. I was like, ‘Let me try it through here,’ and then after that, I was hooked. It was pretty sweet. I love it. Everybody’s really nice and supportive.”

Anderson said surfing helps him physically and mentally.

“I had so many barriers, because once I was injured, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I might hurt myself.’ I have a little PTSD, and I didn’t think I would enjoy anything. Once I tried it, I broke down a lot of barriers I had mentally and physically. I had weak tendons in my hand and foot, but with surfing they’re starting to get better. And mentally, it makes me happy. It’s just something everybody should take on.”

“Surfing therapy is amazing,” James said. “The program works, because it keeps them not thinking what they would normally would be thinking when they’re at a medical appointment. But here, we just talk about other things, and that’s why it works.

“It’s different,” he added. “I definitely suggest getting in the water, even if you have no experience at all. Just come to the beach.”

Articles

Today in military history: Iraq invades Kuwait

On Aug. 2 1990, Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, gaining control of 20% of the world’s oil reserves and a significant portion of the Persian Gulf coastline.

In response, the UN Security Council imposed a global ban on trade with Iraq and on Aug. 9, the United States launched Operation Desert Shield to defend Saudi Arabia. 

By January, Hussein’s occupying army was 300,000 strong, prompting the UN Security Council to authorize force against Iraq if it refused to withdraw. 

Iraq refused.

On Jan. 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began and would become one of the most one-sided conflicts in history as U.S. and coalition forces rapidly overwhelmed the Iraqi army and liberated Kuwait within weeks. 

Nearly 200,000 Iraqi soldiers and civilians died or were wounded as a result of the Persian Gulf War, with fewer than 800 American and allied casualties.

In the post-9/11 world, the events leading up to and after the conflict came to lasting importance. Today, U.S. troops have come and gone, come and gone, come and gone from Iraq. The country has become America’s enduring sidepiece. Then Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch gave way to Operation Iraqi Freedom and with it Bayonet Lightning, Red Dawn, and countless others who themselves gave way to Operation Inherent Resolve. There are troops in Iraq today who weren’t yet born when Saddam first captured the Kuwaiti oil fields, and Saddam himself didn’t live to see this day.

The invasion of Kuwait probably seemed like a quick victory, one unlikely to have lasting effects in the annals of history, but little did we know it was just setting the stage for the region’s next 30 years.

Featured Image: Oil well fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm. The wells were set on fire by Iraqi forces before they were ousted from the region by coalition force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David McLeod)

Intel

Marine veteran chokes the hell out of a guy trying to rob a gas station

When a masked man walks into a gas station with a knife, most people would step aside.


That’s exactly what Daniel Gaskey did initially, until the eight-year Marine veteran figured out what was going on and decided to take action. The off-duty firefighter was pushed out of the way at the register by the masked man. Security footage captured what happened next.

“I just launched on his back, put my arm around his head, around his neck and just rotated and just thrust him on the ground,” Gaskey told CBS-Dallas-Fort Worth. “I landed on top of him and standing. And once I got them on the ground and I was on top of it I was able to get the knife away and threw it out of his reach and focused more on controlling him.”

Besides being a firefighter and a veteran of the Marine Corps, Gaskey also wrestled in high school. Looks like that came in handy.

Watch:

NOW: These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why the Russian military is so ‘accident-prone’

While every military has accidents, the Russian military appears to be more accident-prone than other great powers.

“There’s a tendency for accidents to happen in Russia,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a Russia expert at CNA, told INSIDER.

Edmonds, a former CIA analyst and member of the National Security Council, said that the problem appears to be that Russia often combines a willingness to take risks with an outdated military infrastructure that simply can’t support that culture, creating an environment where accidents are more likely.

In recent weeks, many people have been killed or wounded in various Russian military accidents, including a deadly fire aboard a top-secret submarine, an ammunition dump explosion at a military base, and a missile engine explosion at a military test site.


Fourteen Russian sailors died on July 1, 2019, when fire broke out aboard a submarine thought to be the Losharik, a deep-diving vessel believed to have been built to gather intelligence as well as possibly destroy or tap into undersea cables.

The incident was the worst Russian naval accident since 20 Russian sailors and civilians died aboard the nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa in 2008 — a tragedy preceded by the loss of 118 sailors aboard the nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub Kursk in 2000.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Nuclear-powered submarine Nerpa.

These are just a few of a number of deadly submarine accidents since the turn of the century.

“The aging Russian navy (and the predecessor Soviet Navy) in general has had a far higher number of operational accidents than any other ‘major’ fleet,” A.D. Baker, a former naval intelligence officer, previously told INSIDER.

The Russian navy lost its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, last fall when a heavy crane punched a large hole in it, and the only dry dock suitable for carrying out the necessary repairs and maintenance on a ship of that size sank due to a sudden power failure.

Even when it was deployed, the Kuznetsov was routinely followed around by tug boats in expectation of an accident.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Accidents are by no means limited to the Russian navy. An ammunition depot housing tens of thousands of artillery shells at a military base in Siberia exploded on Aug. 5, 2019, killing one and wounding over a dozen people. Then, on Aug. 8, 2019, a missile engine at a military test site in northern Russia unexpectedly exploded, killing two and injuring another six.

Russia also experiences aircraft accidents and other incidents common to other militaries, the US included.

“Russia really pushes an infrastructure that is old to try to keep up or gain parity with the United States,” Edmonds told INSIDER. “They’re pushing their fleet and pushing their military to perform in a certain way that is often beyond what is safe for them to actually do considering the age of the equipment and the age of the infrastructure.”

At the same time, though, “there is a culture of aggressiveness and risk-taking,” Edmonds added, pointing to some of the close calls the Russian military has had while executing dangerous maneuvers in the air and at sea in close proximity to the US military.

“There is a culture of risk-taking in the Russian military that you don’t have in the United States,” he explained. “You would never allow a US pilot to do a low flyover of a Russian ship. The pilot would immediately have his career ended.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. | US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley


In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.

Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.

The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.

He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.

Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.

Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”

The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.

Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.

Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.

Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.

When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.

“This is my decision,” he said.

Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.

Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”

However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.

Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”

Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.

“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.

Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.

The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.

“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.

“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”

The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.

Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.

Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.

By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.

Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.

On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.

The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”

— Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

MIGHTY SPORTS

NHL ventures “Into the Wild Blue Yonder”

On Feb. 15, the NHL will host its annual Stadium Series Games at a really unique and, frankly, awesome location.


The Colorado Avalanche will host the LA Kings at Falcon Stadium on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy.

The Stadium Series has been played previously at several landmark stadiums in its six years of existence. In 2014, the series kicked off with a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and then two games in Yankee Stadium.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Falcon Stadium.

(goairforcefalcons.com)

Two years ago, the United States Naval Academy hosted the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The Capitals won that game 5-2.

This is part of an initiative by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to build a unique partnership with the military. There have also been talks that the New York Rangers are working on having a game at Mitchie Stadium on the campus of the United States Military Academy.

Colorado Avalanche General Manager and hockey legend Joe Sakic said, “We are grateful for the chance to honor our military and our local U.S. service academy with a special event.”

Another benefit of the game is to highlight the Air Force Academy hockey team. In homage to its own history, the team started playing outdoors as a club team. As it built its reputation over the years, the Falcons have made the NCAA Tournament seven times. Three times they have made it to the Elite 8. What is even more impressive is that Air Force can’t recruit like other schools. (no Canadians or Europeans).

The NHL is going all out with pregame fan spaces, which will have interactive activities for everyone. Fans will be able to meet NHL legends, create their own hockey card, take a look at the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and other activities. The highlight of the pregame festivities will definitely be the Stanley Cup. The iconic trophy will be on display, and fans will have the chance to see the Cup up close and personal.

In preparation for the event, the Avalanche sent forward Gabriel Landeskog to be a ‘Cadet for a Day.”

Landeskog took the time to tour the Academy, try out a flight simulator, take in the school’s athletic facilities, and most importantly, spend time with the cadets.

Click here for more information about the game.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans unload on Roy Moore’s comment about fighting in a foxhole

Politicians who are veterans of the US armed forces have long touted their military records, or their connections to the military during campaigns for public office. Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is no exception.


But Moore received some criticism on Dec. 11 when he applied an allegory that combined military procedure with a politically divisive topic related to some troops currently serving in the armed forces.

“I know we do not need transgender in our military,” Moore said during a campaign rally in Alabama, according to the Associated Press. “If I’m in a foxhole, I don’t want to know whether this guy next to me is wondering if he’s a woman or a man.”

The polarizing discussion over whether transgender people should be allowed to openly enlist in the US military has been a point of contention for some conservatives since President Donald Trump proposed a policy change on the matter in July. Moore, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran, has vehemently opposed transgender rights during his campaign.

But the term “foxhole” is not only interpreted as a literal defensive fighting position. It also invokes the intimate experience of bonds forged between servicemembers in the midst of battle — be it during the snow-covered Battle of the Bulge in World War II, or in the backdrop of picturesque views from Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Roy Moore, twice removed from the judge bench, seen here after a phone call with President Trump in September. (Image Roy Moore Twitter screen grab)

Veterans and lawmakers came out to condemn Moore’s remarks. Some of them pointed out the damaging sexual-harassment allegations that surfaced last month.

“I’d rather be in a foxhole with the brave trans men and women already serving overseas than in Congress with a pedophile,” Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former infantry Marine Corps officer and Iraq War veteran, tweeted.

“You won’t be in a foxhole. I might be, though, and if I am, I don’t want to have to worry my daughter might get molested by a US Senator while I’m gone,” David Dixon, a US Army armor officer and Iraq War veteran, said on Twitter.

Other veterans took issue with the exclusionary nature of Moore’s sentiments, which may contrast with certain aspects of warfare and military readiness.

Read Also: Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

“This is not a thing anyone who ever served in a foxhole has worried about,” Brandon Friedman, a former Housing and Urban Development official and US Army officer tweeted.

“In the Marine Corps, politics don’t matter. Your color doesn’t matter,” Lee Busby, a Republican write-in candidate in the Alabama Senate race and a former colonel in the US Marine Corps, tweeted. “You fight for the Marine in that foxhole next to you because you love them and would do anything for them. Alabama is no different to me. I am willing to fight and claw for every single person in this state,” Busby said.

Moore’s own military service has since been called into question.

In Vietnam, the troops Moore commanded derisively nicknamed him “Captain America,” according to a 2005 report from the Atlantic. Reporter Joshua Green wrote for the publication at the time that Moore “was so much disliked that he feared being killed by his own troops, and slept on a bed of sandbags so that he couldn’t be fragged by a grenade rolled under his bed.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
A fuel dump burns at Khe Sanh behind the walls of sandbags. (Photo: Public Domain)

One of Moore’s former professors, also a Vietnam War veteran, reportedly said veterans told him that Moore, while on the ground in Vietnam, wanted to be saluted for his rank; a tradition that, while normal by military standards, is discouraged while in an active war zone.

“When you go to Vietnam as an officer, you don’t ask anybody to salute you, because the Viet Cong would shoot officers,” Guy Martin, former adjunct professor at the University of Alabama School of law, told The New Yorker in October.

“You’ve heard this a million times in training,” Martin continued. “There’s nothing more telling about a person’s capability and character and base intelligence. It’s crazy.”

While the US Defense Department previously concluded, after a yearlong study, that allowing transgender people to enlist and serve openly would have a minimal impact on military readiness and cost, Moore has been unwavering in his opposition.

“To say that President Trump cannot prohibit transgenderism in the military is a clear example of judicial activism,” Moore reportedly wrote in a statement in October, following a federal judge’s decision to partially block Trump’s transgender ban. “Even the United States Supreme Court has never declared transgenderism to be a right under the Constitution,” Moore said.

At an October campaign rally, Moore said, “We don’t need transgender bathrooms and we don’t need transgender military and we don’t need a weaker military … We need to go back to what this country is about.”

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. (US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley)

Moore’s views struck a nerve with veterans

“Roy Moore — This is me in a real foxhole,” a widely known Twitter user who goes by the alias “Red T Raccoon” tweeted on Sunday morning with an accompanying photo. “I didn’t care who was next to me as long as they had the American flag on their uniform. Bigotry has no place in the military and especially the Senate,” the man, a former combat medic, who is now a veterans advocate, said.

Business Insider viewed the man’s US Army service records and independently verified his identity following an interview Monday night. He has asked to remain anonymous.

“A bullet or [improvised explosive device] does the same damage to anyone,” the man told Business Insider. “We all did what we had to do to survive and we all just wanted to go home. Sexuality or gender identity had nothing to do with those goals.”

“I treated good men and women in the field that never made it home,” he continued. “He has no right to question their service to our country,” the man said of Moore.

Following his tweet, photos of uniformed servicemembers — some of whom tweeted messages endorsing Jones — began to circulate:

 

 

 

 

Regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 12 special election in Alabama, the responses from veterans following Moore’s comments shows that the military, despite being uniformed in appearance, is comprised of political views as unique as the men and women who serve.

MIGHTY HISTORY

America almost conducted a doomed invasion of France in 1942

In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.


Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.

(Public Domain)

The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.

And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.

But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:

If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.

And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.

And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.

King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.

And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.

Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.

And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.

Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.

(U.S. National Archives)

So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.

And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.

Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.

Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan

Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

Military Life

6 things you’ll miss about life in the barracks

Most veterans lived in the barracks (or dorms for you Air Force types) at some point during their time in service. Despite the improvements to military quarters over the years, many people just can’t stand barracks life because of things like buffing hallway floors, the senior leader walkthroughs, and the early morning health and welfare inspections. Bottom line: barracks life is not everyone’s cup of tea.


 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Marines barracks party in 1967.

 

But be advised: When you finally leave to live off base or finish your term of enlistment, you may come to the realization that ‘barracks life’ wasn’t really all that bad. Here are some things you might actually miss about living in the “Bs”:

1. Free room and board

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Airman 1st Class Robert Ruiz, 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron, enjoys the comfort of his dorm room. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Anthony Jennings)

 

Remember all the money you saved during your time there? No worries about paying a landlord or making mortgage payments. You didn’t have to concern yourself about paying a power or water bill. Although a military lifestyle is tough, this feels like a small pass on adulthood.

2. Being close to PT formation

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Soldiers conduct physical training outside new barracks at Fort Bragg, N.C. New barracks include suite-like living quarters for Soldiers, where bathrooms and kitchenettes are shared with only a few others. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

 

Getting an extra thirty minutes or even an hour of sleep is something you take for granted when living in the barracks. You don’t have to deal with the stress of driving to base and trying to beat the morning traffic to the front gate. Waking up, brushing your teeth, and walking to formation from your room is pretty awesome.

3. It’s easy to borrow things

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Inside old school U.S. Navy barracks.

 

Need some shaving cream or laundry detergent? Just ask your buddy next door or on the rack beside you. Someone in the barracks would more than likely hook you up.

4. Living with your battle buddies

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
U.S. Marines in front of barracks at U.S. Naval Base Key West, FL in 1963

 

Getting to live in the same building with your friends is fun. You can always find someone to watch the game, hang out, or play video games. Barracks life builds great camaraderie among the unit.

5. Barracks grill outs

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

There was nothing quite like those grill-outs in the courtyard on the weekends. If your courtyard had a basketball or volleyball court, it made these events that much better.

6. Barracks parties

Admit it, some of the best parties you ever attended were from the comforts of your building. They were a blast, full of shenanigans, and sometimes unpredictable. Whether you enjoyed your time living there or disliked them, some of your fondest memories in service probably happened in the barracks.

 

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
U.S. Soldiers hanging out in a barracks day room in 1968.

What are some of your favorite barracks stories? Tell us in the comments section.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

Articles

Taco Rice is what happens when Japanese and American tastes collide

Spoiler alert; it’s delicious!:


Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
American-style taco – shell + sushi rice = a dish to heal the wounds of WWII. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Kon’nichiwa, TACO RICE.

Meals Ready To Eat explored the advent of one of Japan’s most popular street foods when host August Dannehl traveled to Okinawa in search of taco rice, a true food fusion OG.

If you were to suggest that spiced taco meat dressed in shredded lettuce, cheese, and tomato, would seem a bastard topping to foist upon sushi rice, Japan’s most sacred and traditional foodstuff, well, in Okinawa at least, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of a lesson in local history.

Former SOCOM, CENTCOM commander wants no one left behind in Afghanistan
Distinguished inventor of taco rice, Matsuzu Gibo, c. 1983. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Taco Rice is the result of two post-WWII cultures: that of the Japanese and the American troops stationed in Okinawa, finding a way to transcend their differences through the combination of comforting foods.

An influx of American delicacies, most notably Spam, flooded the island following the cessation of hostilities and led to a heyday of culinary cross-pollination. Spam is still featured in many now-traditional Okinawan dishes, but taco rice is, for modern Okinawans and American military personnel, the belle of the mash-up Ball.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

These military chefs will make you want to re-enlist

This veteran farmer will make you celebrate your meat

This is why soldiers belong in the kitchen

What happens when a firefighter’s secret identity is revealed

This Galley Girl will make you want to join the Coast Guard

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