Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn't The Biggest Threat To Iraq - We Are The Mighty
Articles

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq


Gen. David Petraeus, who commanded US troops during the 2007-2008 surge in the Iraq war, believes Iran-backed Shia militias are a bigger threat to Iraq than the Islamic State militants they are fighting.

“The foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran,” Petraeus told Liz Sly of The Washington Post.

Iran’s military mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, has played pivotal roles in the deployment of Iranian assets against the Islamic State (aka Islamic State, ISIL, Daesh) in Iraq. Suleimani was present during the successful siege of Amerli in August, and he is on the frontlines of the battle against ISIS in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

“Yes, ‘Hajji Qassem,’ our old friend,” Petraus said to Sly. “I have several thoughts when I see the pictures of him, but most of those thoughts probably aren’t suitable for publication in a family newspaper like yours.”

Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and especially during the time Petraeus-led the surge, Suleimani directed “a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq,” as detailed by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

“Iran and its Iraqi proxies have been carving out a zone of influence in eastern Iraq for well over a decade,” Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute, wrote recently. “And this zone,” as Knights said US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey recently noted, “is expanding.”

To assist in the siege of Tikrit and further military operations against ISIS, Iran has moved advanced rockets and artillery systems into Iraq, The New York Times reported this week.

These systems are introducing a new level of sophistication into the Iraqi warzone and could further inflame sectarian tensions as the artillery is often imprecise and has the potential to cause collateral damage.

“The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East,” Petraeus said. “It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State.”

Last month, Suleimani gloated: “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

And Suleimani’s Iraqi allies — such as the powerful Badr militia led by commander Hadi al-Ameri — have allegedly burned down Sunni villages and used power drills on enemies.

Ali Khedery, who served as a special assistant to five US ambassadors and a senior adviser to three heads of US Central Command between 2003 and 2009, noted that the “fundamental identity” of the Shia militias was “built around a sectarian narrative rather than loyalty to the state.”

More From Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

US paratroopers are testing this new tactical chest rig

The US Army is testing a new fighting load system for paratroopers, designed specifically for airborne operations.


“The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel, or ABN-TAP, was developed with the paratrooper in mind and will allow the paratrooper a greater degree of comfort, mobility, and safety during static line airborne infiltration operations,” said Rich Landry of the US Army Soldier Systems Center laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.

Previous fighting load system designs interfered with the fit of the T-11 parachute harness and moved T-11 reserve activation handle further away from the paratrooper’s grasp.

The ABN-TAP, which is similar to the old Load Bearing Equipment or LBE, enables soldiers to rig the fighting load under the parachute harness but below the reserve parachute.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore.

“This will allow paratroopers to properly adjust the T-11 parachute harness to their specific sizing requirements and keep the T-11 reserve parachute handle well within reach,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ian Seymour, Test NCO from the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate, or ABNSOTD.

The ABN-TAP design actually draws its lineage from the older LBE system used with the T-10 and MC1-1 parachute systems by paratroopers for decades.

Soon after the Global War on Terror began, all branches of the armed services rushed to modernize field equipment to meet the rigors of modern combat and allow for the constant presence of body armor, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief at ABNSOTD.

“With the vest/plate carrier systems seeing overwhelming soldier acceptance, the task of providing the paratrooper with a modern design compatible with current parachute systems is challenging to say the least,” Tracy said.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Soldiers from the 57th Sapper Company, 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, assemble the Airborne Tactical Assault Panel. US Army photo by Jim Finney.

The ABN-TAP bridges this gap by providing both new and old capabilities to the paratrooper.

Tracy explained that this new fighting load system allows not only for rigging under the parachute harness and reserve, but can be rapidly adjusted to serve as a “chest rig” design upon landing.

“Ground troops consider this to be the most efficient design under current operational conditions,” said Tracy.

“Operational testing using airborne paratroopers, collects data which truly allows the Army to evaluate the suitability and safety of the ABN-TAP when worn during static line airborne operations and follow-on missions,” Tracy said.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
The Airborne Tactical Assault Panel (ABN-TAP) rigging configurations. Photo from US Army.

Before testing soldiers participated in New Equipment Training, which included familiarization with the system, fitting and proper rigging of the ABN-TAP with the T-11 parachute system.

Soldiers then conducted parachute jumps from a C-17 aircraft at 1,250 feet above ground level over Sicily Drop Zone at Bragg.

Upon completion of testing, the ABN-TAP could potentially be issued to Army airborne forces worldwide.

“Any time soldiers and their leaders get involved in operational testing, they have the opportunity to use, work with, and offer up their own suggestions on pieces of equipment that can impact development of systems that future soldiers will use in combat,” said Col. Brad Mock, the director of all the Army’s Airborne testing.

Articles

With ISIS nearly dead in Syria, guess who’s making a comeback

Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate is consolidating territory in a major clash with a rival rebel group and could make the terror group a more formidable threat in the longer term than the Islamic State, US-based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group warns.


The warning comes amid a major clash between al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and another Islamist rebel group in the province that the Syrian regime and its allies do not largely control. The US, by and large, is focused on defeating ISIS in other areas of Syria and has largely given over a leadership role for post-ISIS Syria to Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime.

“The prospect of a sustained de facto governing presence by al-Qaeda in Idlib is a grave national security concern,” The Soufan Group noted. “The prospect may lead to US airstrikes, though the air space over Idlib is far more complicated and crowded than over Raqqa. Idlib is just to the east of Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold with a sizable Russian military presence,” the group added.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Flag of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham from Wikimedia Commons

US-backed, anti-ISIS fighters have retaken approximately 40 percent of ISIS’s capital of Raqqa, but continue to have a long and grueling fight ahead of them. The fight consumes the majority of US resources in Syria.

HTS and the Islamist rebel group have now struck a tenuous truce giving HTS control of the city of Idlib. The terrorist group has changed its name several times and falsely declared to cut ties with the global al-Qaeda network in order to court less extreme opposition groups on the ground in Syria.

Experts fear the terrorist group will deepen its roots in Syria and may able to launch external terror plots against the West using its new sanctuary.

“The battle against the Islamic State in Raqqa is not to be the most consequential ongoing fight in Syria,” The Soufan Group lamented.

Articles

This artist shows combat through a fighting man’s eyes

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq


It’s been said that if you look at an infantryman’s eyes you can tell how much war he has seen. Stare into the eyes of many of the fighting men portrayed by World War II combat artist Tom Lea and you can tell his subjects have seen Hell – and then some.

Muralist, illustrator, war correspondent, portraitist, landscape artist, novelist, and historian, the multi-talented Lea covered World War II for “Life” magazine, a publication that pioneered photojournalists’ coverage of combat yet still showcased his drawings and paintings of warfare. Now, the public has a rare opportunity to view some of Lea’s best work at a single impressive exhibit.

“Tom Lea: LIFE and World War II” is showing at The National WWII Museum, New Orleans, through January 1, 2017. Sponsored by The Woldenberg Foundation, the exhibition features nearly 30 original paintings and illustrations on loan from the U.S. Army Center of Military History, as well as from private collections and museums.

There are also interpretative displays, audio-visual presentations of oral histories from World War II veterans who participated in the battles Lea portrayed, and displays of personal items that belonged to Lea such as his drawing table, brushes and an easel.

Even though World War II is frequently remembered as a time when the combat photographer came into his own, Lea’s work as an artist was relevant during World War II because it was extremely dynamic and caught the imagination of service members’ families and other civilians back home, said Larry Decuers, the exhibit’s curator.

“His images provided everyone on the home front with a realistic — if haunting— view of combat unfolding overseas,” Decuers said. “Lea’s works also represented a unique aspect of wartime journalism because they were so detailed in design.”

Thomas Calloway “Tom” Lea III, who died in 2001, said his mission as an artist and journalist was straightforward: “I did not report hearsay; I did not imagine, or fake, or improvise; I did not cuddle up with personal emotion, moral notion, or political opinion about War with a capital W. I reported in pictures what I saw with my own two eyes, wide open.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Lea was one of the first civilian artists hired by “Life” as a correspondent during World War II. His work in numerous theaters of operation required him to travel more than 100,000 miles during the war.

Lea risked his life to document combat ranging from convoy battles involving destroyers in the North Atlantic to the bloody beach assault during the Battle of Peleliu. His subjects ranged from admirals and generals to ordinary servicemen, but he felt a particular affinity for the men below decks and the Marines who faced some of the most ferocious combat of the entire war.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

His paintings ultimately became full-color spreads in 10 issues of “Life,” reaching more than 30 million readers and providing a chilling perspective on the war.

Among the art displayed in the exhibit is perhaps Lea’s most famous – and haunting – wartime painting, “That 2,000-Yard Stare.” It has become one of the most iconic images of the effects of war on the human psyche.

“He left the States 31 months ago,” Lea wrote about his subject, a combat Marine at Peleliu. “He was wounded in his first campaign. He has had tropical diseases. He half-sleeps at night and gouges Japs out of holes all day. Two-thirds of his company has been killed or wounded. He will return to attack this morning. How much can a human being endure?”

But the display also includes drawings and sketches of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines engaged in the day-to-day and behind-the-scenes jobs that made the fighting possible.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

And then there is his painting of U.S. Navy chaplain John J. Malone experiencing combat for the first time as he does his best to help overwhelmed corpsmen treating casualties. “He was deeply and visibly moved by the patient suffering and death,” Lea wrote. “He looked very lonely, very close to God, as he bent over the shattered men so far from home.”

The exhibit helps people today understand Lea’s contribution to how the public learned about World War II’s events at a time when there was no cable or satellite news and no Internet to provide instantaneous coverage.

“As it is the museum’s mission to tell the complete story of the American experience in World War II, it is critical that we share all aspects of the war – including stories about the courageous men and women who traveled overseas in order to share stories with anxious families back home,” Decuers said. “Lea’s work is a significant piece of World War II, and we’re thrilled to share it at our institution.”

For more information, call (877) 813-3329 or (504) 528-1944, or visit the museum on the Web at nationalww2museum.org.

Articles

You need to see this incredible B-1B Bomber crash landing

In a 1989 incident, the Air Force crew of a B1-B bomber found itself unable to lower the front landing gear during a training flight and was forced to execute an emergency landing in the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.


The four-person crew was executing a routine training flight without nuclear weapons onboard on Oct. 4, 1989, and realized three hours into the flight that the front landing gear was malfunctioning. Over the next nine hours, the crew worked to get the gear down.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
(GIF: YouTube/airailimages)

Investigators later blamed a hydraulic failure, but the crew in the air just knew that they had to reach the ground safely. The Air Force routed the plane to a dry lakebed in California that was often used for landing the space shuttle.

The dust of the Rogers Dry Lake bed is more likely than most surfaces to allow for a safe skid, reducing the risk to the crew and plane. The full landing is visible from a few angles in this video from airailimages:

Articles

This Walt Disney film taught World War II soldiers how to use an anti-tank rifle

Before Lady met Tramp and Captain Jack Sparrow was dependent on rum, Walt Disney Productions’ humble beginnings included informational videos.


Amazingly, one of these educational videos was a theatrical short on how to effectively operate a high-caliber rifle used to take down tanks.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Walt Disney Productions

Developed in 1942, “Stop That Tank!” was a 22-minute instructional film produced by Walt Disney Productions in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada.

In it, a cartoon rendition of a prancing Adolf Hitler breaks the monotony of the forthcoming chore: sitting through another instructional film that the soldiers would soon be watching. Afterwards, Disney’s signature vintage mix of using actual characters, cartoons, and a narrator, provide detailed instructions on the proper techniques of using the rifle — such as loading, aiming, firing, and cleaning.

The rifle mentioned in the film happened to be a Mk.1 “Boys Anti-Tank Rifle” that was originally manufactured in Britain. Weighing in at 36 pounds, this monstrous .55 caliber rifle .55 — slightly reminiscent of Barrett’s M82 — stood at 63.5 inches tall and had a 36-inch barrel.

Here’s what the film’s animation looked like:

Watch the entire video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnhlD0HZAm4
Articles

‘Charlie Mike’ gets it right for the new greatest generation

Journalist Joe Klein, author of Primary Colors and writer for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, (among others) now brings us Charlie Mike: A True Story of Heroes Who Brought Their Mission Home.


The book’s quick description says it’s “the true story of two decorated combat veterans linked by tragedy, who come home from the Middle East and find a new way to save their comrades and heal their country.” But this book is more than that.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Charlie Mike tells the story of Jake Wood of Team Rubicon and Eric Greitens of The Mission Continues along with those who assisted them and helped build these monumental veterans’ service organizations.

“Service” is the key word in this book, and in the cases of Wood and Greitens, the service is from the veterans. Charlie Mike, as the name implies (Charlie Mike is military speak for “Continue the Mission”) is as much about the needs of communities around veterans as it is about veterans. Like a The Mission Continues fellows says, these are challenges, not charities.

Eric Greitens is a Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, and Navy SEAL whose SEAL service was (unofficially) cut short after exposing fellow SEALs drug use on an exercise in Thailand. He was inspired after visiting injured Marines at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to found an organization which would help veterans heal themselves by continuing to serve, even if they could no longer serve in the military. He founded The Mission Continues with the help of Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL whose story is also covered in the book. The Mission Continues gives fellowships to veteran to help “redeploy” them into their communities.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Eric Greitens

Jake Wood and William McNulty are two former U.S. Marines who were frustrated with the way disaster relief organizations handled enlisting volunteers in the aftermath of the 201o Haiti Earthquake. They decided to just go and do whatever they could, and with a little help and guidance from Jesuits on the ground in Haiti, doctors they met along the way, and their good friend Clay Hunt, they did just that. Their efforts there became the model for Team Rubicon, an non-profit organization that uses the skills and work ethic of American veterans and teams them with experienced first responders to deploy emergency teams to disaster areas. Wood was one of The Mission Continues first fellows.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Jake Wood

These organizations, their founders, and the veterans who staff them are prime examples of the attitude of the post-9/11 community of American veterans. The tales of their lives and how these organizations came to be are ones of integrity, personal sacrifice, tragedy, and brotherhood. Their stories are inspiring, and their legacy is already legendary. They represent the newest greatest generation.

Joe Klein does justice to these amazing stories, and that makes Charlie Mike one of the best military books of the year.

 

Articles

Marines train with AK-47s, PK machine guns to prep for Afghanistan deployment

Marines are heading back to Helmand province, Afghanistan this spring for an advisory mission that will put them back in the thick of the fight between the Taliban and Afghan National Security Forces.


In preparation for the upcoming mission, the 300-man contingent of Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest spent a day honing foreign weapons skills to familiarize themselves with the arms the Afghans use every day. On Jan. 17, the Marines practiced firing two well-known Soviet-era Kalashnikov weapons: the PK general-purpose machine gun and AK-47 rifle, according to a news release from II Marine Expeditionary Force by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins.

Related: Service branches and elite units are testing a 60-round drum

Hopkins noted in the release that these weapons are used by both allies and enemies in the region, making it important for the Marines to understand them and their use.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Marines with Task Force Southwest fire PK general-purpose machine guns during foreign weapons familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

“We want these Marines to familiarize themselves with weapons they might find down range,” Staff Sgt. Patrick R. Scott, the foreign weapons chief instructor with Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, said in a statement. “They need to be able to talk intelligently about them to their foreign security force, and that’ll help them build rapport and hopefully help them become successful in the long run.”

The weapons course also included live-fire ranges with weapons systems more familiar to Marines: the Mk-19 machine gun and the 60mm mortar.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
A Marine with Task Force Southwest fires an AK-47 during foreign weapons and familiarization training. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins

Before the Marines deploy, they will also train with hired Afghan roleplayers–a mainstay of military cultural training.

“I find it… inspirational that I get to help and be a part of the step that gets Marines back into Afghanistan,” Sgt. Hayden Chrestmen, a machine gun instructor with the Division Combat Skills Center, said in the release “As an Afghanistan veteran, it’s extremely important they know how to operate these weapon systems because they’re protecting their brothers to the left and right of them.”

Articles

7 stunning photos of Air Force spec ops planes getting ready for action

Air Force Special Operations pilots are some of the best in the world. But what is it like to be with this awesome community as they make sure they’re ready for action?


Here are some photos that are worth more than the proverbial thousand words.

The MC-130J, like the C-130J, can be loaded with vehicles. In this case, they can carry the specialized vehicles used by other special operators like Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepare to load a vehicle onto a MC-130J Commando II as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Routine flights and airdrops are conducted to maintain proficiency and training certifications for prospective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Of course, before take-off, there is the ritual of the pre-flight checklist. At least the tablet means there’s no chance of losing a page.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thomas Parris, 17th Special Operations Squadron MC-130J Commando II loadmaster, reviews a preflight checklist as part of a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. The MC-130J was among four others that flew in formation and completed airdrop training on Ie Shima Range, Okinawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The pilot, of course, will be in his office during this exercise, so the tablet is conveniently mounted.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
A U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando II pilot from the 17th Special Operations Squadron maneuvers toward a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. This is the third iteration of the annual training, which is referred to as ‘The Day of the Jakal.’ It entailed a series of airdrops at Ie Shima Range, Okinawa, to hone in low-altitude maneuvers and supply-delivery capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“Tail-end Charlie” gets a good look at the other planes in the formation.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron line up in a five-aircraft formation during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Here, you can see two of the planes breaking, while others wait patiently in line. This isn’t just a training exercise for AFSOC, it’s also practice for the VA.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Four U.S. Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs from the 17th Special Operations Squadron break out of a formation June 22, 2017 off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission. Airmen from the 17th SOS conduct training operations often to ensure they are always ready perform a variety of high-priority, low-visibility missions throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific-Region. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The view from the front of the line is much better, no?

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
MC-130Js in a line behind another MC-130J during a training exercise. (USAF photo)

Preparing for the air-drop: This is what all that flying is about – delivering the supplies to the boots on the ground.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
A U.S. Air Force loadmaster from the 17th Special Operations Squadron prepares to airdrop a package onto Le Shima Range, Okinawa, Japan, during a mass launch training mission June 22, 2017. Aircrews must consider a number of variables in order to execute a precise and effective airdrop, to include wind speed, aircraft velocity, altitude, location and timing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Every day, this is the type of stuff that Air Force Special Operations Command does to support America’s top commandos.

Articles

The Invisible War On The Brain

The cover story of National Geographic magazine’s February issue, “The Invisible War on the Brain,” takes a close look at a signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars—traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by the shock waves from explosions. TBIs have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with life-altering and sometimes debilitating conditions, the treatment of which can be extremely complicated. At Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, soldiers paint masks that help them cope with their daily struggles and help them reveal their inner feelings. We invite you to see the service members’ masks and read the full story here.


Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session. “I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.), Afghanistan 2011-12. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Wearing his mask—half patriotic, half death’s-head—Hopman confronts the battery of medications he takes daily for blast-force injuries he sustained while treating soldiers as a flight medic. “I know my name, but I don’t know the man who used to back up that name … I never thought I would have to set a reminder to take a shower, you know. I’m 39 years old. I’ve got to set a reminder to take medicine, set a reminder to do anything… My daughter, she’s only four, so this is the only dad she’s ever known, whereas my son knew me before.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Army Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman, Iraq 2006-08. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

“Detonation happened, and I was right there in the blast seat. I got blown up. And all this medical study—nobody ever thought that they [blast events] were very harmful, and so we didn’t log them, which we should because all blast forces are cumulative to the body. On a grade number for me, it would probably be 300-plus explosions … I’m not going to not play with my children. I’m not going to let my injuries stop them from having a good life.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Tam (Ret.), Iraq 2004-05, 2007-08, (with wife Angela and their two children). (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Tiffany H., as she prefers to be known, was “blown up” while helping women in a remote Afghan village earn additional income for their families. Memory loss, balance difficulties, and anxiety are among her many symptoms. The blinded eye and sealed lips on her mask.

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany H., Iraq 2007-08, Afghanistan 2010-11. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Suiting up before attempting ordnance disposal “is the last line. There’s no one else to call … It’s the person and the IED … and if a mistake is made at that point, then death is almost certain. They call it the long walk because once you get that bomb suit on, number one, everything is harder when you’re wearing that 100 pounds … Two, the stress of knowing what you’re about to do. And three, it’s quiet, and it seems like it takes an hour to walk.”

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert “Bo” Wester (Ret.), Iraq 2007, 2008-09, Afghanistan 2010. (Photo by © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Brain injuries caused by blast events change soldiers in ways many can’t articulate. Some use art therapy, creating painted masks to express how they feel. (Photos by © Rebecca Hale /National Geographic)

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq

Articles

The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

Gen. David Petraeus: ISIS Isn’t The Biggest Threat To Iraq
Wikipedia


Early Tuesday morning, Obama announced a four-part plan to ensure the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a goal that has eluded the president since he promised to shutter the facility during his 2008 campaign.

The plan would bring some of the 91 remaining detainees to maximum security prisons in the United States, while others would be transferred to foreigns countries. Although Obama called on Congress to lift a ban barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S., the White House has also left open the possibility of unilateral action should Republican lawmakers refuse to cooperate.

“The plan we’re putting forward today isn’t just about closing the facility at Guantanamo,” Obama said to the nation from the Roosevelt Room. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”

With history in mind, it seems significant that the speech was given on this day, in this venue. Exactly 113 years ago, following the Spanish-American War, Teddy Roosevelt signed an agreement with Cuba to lease parts of Guantanamo Bay to the United States for use as a naval station.

This agreement was actually a follow-up to the Platt Amendment, a 1901 resolution that dictated seven conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops from Cuba, along with an eighth condition stipulating that Cuba include these terms in their new constitution. The amendment gave the United States full control over a 45 square-mile portion of Guantanamo Bay, in order to “enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba.” The deal was officiated on behalf of the Cubans by Tomás Estrada Palma, an American citizen who would become the first president of Cuba.

A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia A cartoon protesting the Platt Amendment | Wikipedia

Three decades later, the 1934 Cuban–American Treaty of Relations repealed most provisions of the Platt Amendment as part of FDR’s “good neighbor policy.” The effort, ostensibly intended to give the Cuban government greater sovereignty, made the lease on Guantanamo permanent unless the United States abandoned the base or both countries agreed to terminate the agreement. The new treaty also updated the yearly lease payment from $2000 in U.S. gold coins to $4035 in U.S. dollars. This amount has remained unchanged in the 82 years since.

Since the Cuban revolution of 1959, the Castro government has cashed only one of these checks (this one supposedly by accident), keeping the rest untouched as a means of protest against what they consider an “illegal” occupation. According to the U.S., cashing even one check renders the treaty valid.

The use of Guantanamo as a prison began in 1991, following the overthrow of Haiti’s first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. While the CIA secretly leant support to death squads killing Aristide’s supporters, the White House announced that it would be using Guantanamo as a “tent shelter” for those fleeing violence in Haiti. Of the 30,000 refugees interned at Guantanamo, those who presented discipline problems were held on a site that would later become Camp Xray, also known as the Guantanamo detention camp.

Following Bush Sr.’s disputed decision to send the exiles back to war-torn Haiti, the Supreme Court ruled that the Haitians were not entitled to U.S. rights because Guantanamo Bay fell under the sovereignty of Cuba. Interestingly, this rationale for the United States not technically having sovereignty over the land would come up again, twelve years later, as George W. Bush’s administration argued that Guantanamo prisoners should not be constitutionally entitled to habeas review.

This is all to say that, even before it became an international symbol for the War on Terror, the policies leading to and enforcing the U.S. ownership of Guantanamo Bay have been extremely controversial. As renewed attention is focused on the use of Guantanamo as a terrorist detention center, it’s well worth considering how this small Cuban harbor became a U.S.-run prison in the first place.

Articles

The veteran’s guide to getting a job on Capitol Hill

Purpose:


This “how to” guide is for veterans who are interested in working on the Hill. Staffers are the most common Hill positions in both the House and Senate. Personal staffers work for members and professional staffers work on committees. Most offices separate policy topics into portfolios and oftentimes veterans are most qualified to cover the Department of Veterans Affairs, foreign affairs and/or DoD/military. However, based upon the veterans’ education and career field they may be qualified for other portfolios.

How to Search for the Perfect Hill Position

  • Sign up for HillVets Insider
    1. HillVets Insider often posts positions that are being exclusively offered to veterans via HillVets
    2. HillVets also proactively sends resumes to positions and postings as an official “HillVets Recommended Candidate” when we come across members that we believe are good fits for open positions.
    3. As such be sure to provide HillVets Insider with your latest resume even after you land your first job!
  • Get on a job list
    1. Tom Manatos (free for Veterans participating in the Veterans Congressional Fellowship, costs $5 per month)-best resource, stays up to date on new jobs and takes down positions that were filled. Updated daily. Register at http://www.tommanatosjobs.com/
    2. Scott Baker (free)—good place to start but is not always up to date and positions that are filled may stay on the list for weeks. Emails sent out weekly. Email Scott Baker at m.r.baker@gmail.com and ask him to add you to his job lists.
    3. Brad Traverse. Is another Capitol Hill job board that requires a subscription. $10 registration, $5 monthly dues. Traverse and Manatos are generally accepted as the lead job posting subscriptions; Manatos started in the democratic space, Traverse in the Republican space, both have moved towards posting jobs for both parties. http://www.bradtraverse.com/joblistings.cfm
  • Network through HillVets and build a team to help you with your job search. This is key as staffers know each other and if there is a position open in an office a staffer friend can inquire and pass your resume on to the office of interest. Offices receive hundreds of resumes for positions and any way to get yours noticed is a plus.
    1. Compile an email list of staff, or people that know staffers, that you have met with.
    2. When you apply for an open position let them know that you did so and ask if they know anyone in that office. Recommend your emails subject lead with your name and the member office as these emails can be easily screened if the busy staffer does not know anyone in the said office. For example John Doe (you)/Rep. John Doe
    3. Never assume that staffers from the opposite party can or will not be helpful in your hunt! This is a common mistake that we have seen over and over again. We have had young veterans insinuate we could not help them because we were on one side of the aisle or the other when in fact we have hundreds of friends on both sides many of which may be close friends. The reality in Washington, if you are going to be good, or have been here for any period of time, you not only have a few contacts on the other side, but a lot, so keep this in mind as you network!
  • Questions to ask yourself
    1. What states do I have a connection to?—Offices like to hire people from their state. Start with your home of record but also explore states where you were assigned to in the military, or where you went to school.
    2. What kind of job do I want on the Hill?
      1. Policy—legislative assistants (LAs) are assigned portfolios and work on legislation in those areas. For most separating military personnel interested in policy work, this is the most appropriate position for you but may be very difficult to land out of the gate.
        1. Legislative Correspondents—work for LAs by handling mail, taking meetings, and assisting with research. Some offices have LCs doing LA work, which is great but the LC is most likely being paid less than an LA.
      2. Communications—All offices have communication directors and assistants.
    3. When can I start work?—If you are coming off of active duty think about when you will be taking terminal leave and when you can actually start a new position. Networking and applying for positions is important but create a timeline for yourself from the earliest you can begin a position.
    4. Who do I know that is currently or previously worked on the Hill?—these people are your new best friends. Talk to them about your interest in the Hill and get their advice and perspectives. Congressional offices all work a little differently and you want to know if there are offices to avoid.
    5. Do I have a preference for House or Senate positions?—the House and Senate operate differently and have different cultures. There is much to be learned in both chambers and people often work or intern in both. As you network ask people how they like the Senate or House and the differences that they perceive in each.

Getting the First Job: So you are on a couple of job lists, you have some hill buddies, and you are actively looking for a position…now what!!!

  • Create a phenomenal resume and cover letter.
    1. The Resume—Almost always 1 page, rarely 2. The only purpose of the resume is to get you an interview. The resumes purpose is not to tell your life story and highlight things that only you will care about, it should tell the employer what your value is to them if they hire you. You are not applying for a military awards package OR a GS federal job. Your resume should be something in between. Offices get hundreds of resumes for positions and do not have time to read 10 page resumes and will not understand 20 acronyms.
      1. If printing, use high quality, heavier weight, and off-white paper. This will set you apart in a stack of hundreds and shows attention to detail
      2. Ask people on the Hill if you can review their resumes
  • Look at how Hill staffers place their resumes on LinkedIn
  1. Ask other HillVets members to review your resume
  2. Highlight your military experiences, particularly deployments
  1. The Cover Letter—You can use general language for the cover letter and then tailor for specific positions and offices. Do not make your letter longer than 1 page, and relate your military experiences to what you want to do on the Hill. Generally these should explain why you are interested in the position, the skills you have to offer, and what makes you a unique/best fit for the position.
  2. Ask at least 5 people to closely review your cover letter and resume for grammar mistakes and advice on how to make both stronger.
  • You Got an Interview!
    1. Reach out to your Hill network (previously highlighted) and ask if they know anything about the office or member.
    2. If you are interviewing with a personal office you will most likely interview with the Legislative Director and/or Chief of Staff. Most offices will prefer someone with Hill experience, which includes internships and fellowships. This is where you have to sell your military experience and overcome lack of prior Hill experience (if that is your situation).
      1. Be likable, warm and friendly to everyone in the office. Offices have too many candidates to choose from to not select someone that feels like a good fit for their office and culture. Smile!
      2. Inspection ready is the dress code of the day, seems obvious but we have had to address this before…
  • Think about general skills that you obtained from being a military officer or NCO such as: leadership, responsibility, general understanding of the military, experience working with all kinds of people, communication skills, professionalism.
  1. Think about what your career field experiences bring to the position. Remember that you have the advantage of serving in the military and try to think of your understanding of the military prior to your service. A majority of staffers have NO military experience and limited understanding of how DoD works. That is a huge selling point.
  2. If you have connections to the state make sure to explain your connection. Did you grow up in the state? Go to school there? Were you assigned to an installation in the state? If you are applying for a military portfolio position, know the military installations in the state. Explain why you care about the state.
  3. Do your research! Know a bit about the member, their issues, what committee the member sits on and explain what you can bring to the table. Know if the member is a veteran, which branch did they serve; do you have anything in common?
  1. You did great on your first interview and now you are called back to meet the member! Very exciting and means that you get to meet a member of Congress and are shortlisted for a staff position.
    1. Think about your first interview and topics that you spent time discussing. What points do you feel made you strong? Emphasize those in the interview with the member.
    2. Do more research on the member. Be familiar with legislation they have introduced. Be ready to talk about the stuff they care about (which is germane to the position you are applying). Be personable and the job is yours!

Financial Expectations

  • You are likely going to make less money as a Hill staffer than you did on active duty.
    1. Again personal offices vary on pay. Legistorm (legistorm.com) is a service that provides information on Hill staffers, including their income. You can view the most recent salaries of staffers for free on the site to get a sense of how much you can expect to make in a given office for a given position. The salary of the recently departed staffer is likely listed if you know who that is or you can compare the pay rates of the various staffers in the current position you are interviewing for.
    2. Some negotiation of salary is normal but remember these jobs are very competitive and the office may refuse to increase the salary offer. Then you must decide if this is a position you want.
  • Benefits:
    1. Health Insurance: Currently Hill staffers must buy their health insurance off of the insurance exchange unless they are in a Committee office, then they may be eligible for the same insurance held by federal employees.
    2. Leave days: Varies by offices. Some offices will take into account your federal service and give you more days. The good news is that you will never be charged leave on weekends or federal holidays!

Conclusion: Working on the Hill is an amazing experience and if you get the opportunity to do it…Do IT! However, it is high tempo, intense, and tough work. Be ready to experience a learning curve and accept that you are starting a new career in a new environment. HillVets is here to help you move into this realm. We believe that more veteran voices are needed on the Hill to provide our experiences and perspectives to members and staffs for the good of our Nation. The right job is out there and we are ready to help you find it. Stay Positive, these are not easy jobs to land and competition is fierce. Typical timeframes to find your first job is months, so keep that in mind. Keep piling through the “no’s” to get to your first “yes.” The first one is the hardest one by far.

Happy Hunting!

Jennifer Mitchell is the Military/Veterans’ Affairs Legislative Assistant for Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL). As a Military Legislative Assistant, Jennifer advises Senator Kirk and his staff on military and VA appropriations and policy issues. She also works to address Illinois veteran issues including access to healthcare. Jennifer is a licensed attorney and attended law school at Chicago-Kent College of Law. 

 

Prior to her current position in Sen. Kirk’s office, Jennifer was an active duty Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer and is currently an Air Force Reserve officer. As a JAG, Jennifer assisted hundreds of military members, retirees, and their family members on a variety of legal issues ranging from bankruptcy to family law to will preparation. She practiced military justice by administratively disciplining and prosecuting military members for violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Jennifer also specialized in federal labor and employment law where she negotiated union contracts and defended the Air Force against discrimination and wrongful employment cases. 

Articles

Today in military history: Greek soldiers sack and burn Troy

On June 11, 1184 BC, Greek soldiers, hiding in an elaborately-built wooden horse, opened the gates to the city of Troy and laid waste to the once famed city.

Renowned historian Homer tells the story of how Paris, a prince of Troy, eloped with Helen, who happened to be Queen of Sparta. 

The King of Sparta, Menelaus, was understandably less than thrilled. Helen was dubbed “the face that launched a thousand ships” as Menelaus did just that and set sail for Troy to exact his revenge.

The Greeks laid siege to Troy for ten years but were unable to beat Troy’s impenetrable city walls. One day, they built a massive wooden horse and left it at the city gates as an offering. 

Believing they won the war, the Trojans took the horse into the city as a war trophy. As Troy slept soundly that night, Greek warriors snuck out of the horse and opened the gates for the Army outside. Once inside the walls, they sacked and burned the once great city, killing nearly everyone inside.

Scholars and historians continue to debate whether the Trojan War was history or myth. Excavations conducted by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and others provide evidence to suggest that the city of Troy was indeed real, and located in modern Hisarlik in Turkey. As for Paris, Menelaus, Helen, or the great Achilles, it’s subject to speculation. Classical Greeks treated Homer’s work as history while many believe the epics to have been exaggerated.

Nonetheless, Homer’s rendition of Troy, its downfall, and the glory of Greece remains one of the most significant pieces of military literature for all of mankind.

Featured Image: Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s body around Troy, from a panoramic fresco of the Achilleion by painter Franz Matsch 1892.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information