Here's how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Marine Corps veteran Adrian Bruneau at the RNC in Cleveland as a Louisiana delegate. (Photo: Ward Carroll)


CLEVELAND, Ohio — After getting a taste of wearing uniforms and drilling while attached to a JROTC unit in high school, New Orleans native Adrian Bruneau joined the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday.

“My father was a colonel in the Air Force and he was not very happy about that,” he recalls. “He came straight home and said, ‘Son, don’t you know people get killed in the Marine Corps? I said, ‘Dad, I’m pretty sure people get killed in the Air Force flying and whatever too.'”

Bruneau wound up spending 15 years in the Corps — 8 on active duty and 7 in the reserves — primarily working as an avionics technician. “If it had an electronic heartbeat in an aircraft I could work on it,” he says. “Whether it was nav gear, satellite gear . . . anything that was electronic — not electric, but electronic — that needed to be fixed I could fix it.”

But while Bruneau got a lot of satisfaction out of his military service, his real passion was politics, largely because his father had been in the Louisiana state legislature for 32 years. As soon as he got off of active duty, he walked into the State House and found a job as an aide to a state senator. After working as a staffer at the state level for awhile, he decided he wanted to try his hand at working on political campaigns.

“I asked Ron Forman — a candidate for mayor of New Orleans and a longtime mentor — if I could have a job on his campaign even though I was a Republican and he was a Democrat — a conservative one, but still,” Bruneau remembers. “It was an interesting race for mayor because it was right after Hurricane Katrina and there were a lot of issues to figure out for the people there. After that, things just kind of snowballed.”

He formed a corporation — “BHC” — to give him some business and legal protections. Bruneau says, “My dad told me, ‘Somebody’s going to blame you for something at some point in time, so you’d better have the legal protection to back it up.’ ”

He followed that race (that was won by high-profile figure Ray Nagin) with a pivot into judicial elections — “popularity contests for lawyers,” as he puts it. And he made it a point to work on both Republican and Democratic campaigns.

“New Orleans is a little blue dot in a sea of red,” Bruneau says as a way to justify his bi-partisan track record. But as his network and impact grew along with his desire to work beyond the border of New Orleans, a trusted friend who worked at the national level told him he had to pick a side.

Bruneau focused on the Republican Party, and his first job was working on the campaign of Ilario Pantano, another Marine Corps veteran, who was running to fill North Carolina’s Second District congressional seat. Pantano, who first came to national prominence after being accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, while serving as a platoon leader — an allegation for which he was ultimately not charged — lost the race. But that didn’t deter Bruneau from jumping right back on the campaign trail with another hopeful.

“It’s just like a military campaign, really,” Bruneau says while describing the nuts-and-bolts of running political campaigns. “You got your ground game, your air game, and your logistics. Air game is your media, your television. On the ground side, you organize people and get the fire going, which I actually enjoy better.”

He doesn’t enjoy the fundraising part of the process. “Not my space,” he says. “I just stay away from that. I’m a Marine. Go stick me in the ground and let me do my thing.”

Bruneau admits the political world can be frustrating at times. “You serve two masters,” he says. “The candidate always has a group of insiders — his ‘kitchen cabinet,’ people he’s had around him his whole life. Sometimes those people were helpful, but other times they’d get the candidate’s ear and I’d have to spend hours talking him out of a bad idea. I’ve seen good people lose because they listened to the wrong people and I’ve seen candidates who I never thought could win do so because they formed a good team and listened to them.”

This week, Bruneau is in Cleveland because he has another role in politics beyond running Gulf South Strategies, the current name of his consulting firm. He’s an RNC delegate from Louisiana.

“Back in 2012 my business partner and I reached out to the Trump campaign through the state party chairman, but soon thereafter we were told that Trump was going to endorse Mitt Romney,” he says. “This time, the Trump campaign came to us and said, ‘Hey, fellas, we think we’re going to do this again.’ ”

Bruneau advised the Trump campaign on who should be part of their team in Louisiana, and because of that effort, he was asked if he was willing to be an at-large delegate. He jumped at the opportunity.

“A lot of people have said, ‘Gee whiz, Adrian, you’re crazy supporting Trump,’ ” he admits. “I said, ‘Nope, I read his book when I was a junior in high school and I’ve been fascinated by his business every since.’ ”

Bruneau admits that his path has been unorthodox, but he thinks politics is a viable follow-on career for those leaving the military.

“I tell former servicemembers that getting into politics is a relatively easy transition to make,” Bruneau says. “Politicians naturally have an appreciation for military service and are inclined to hire vets.”

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This VA hospital could have infected hundreds of vets with deadly diseases

A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.


Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Tomah VA Medical Center Building 400. (Photo from Tomah VA Flickr)

According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.

The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.

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This is how the US military is training its F-35 pilots to fly through Russian air defenses

The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.


The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Air Force officials said.

Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian-made threats.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

Air Force senior leaders have explained that Russian and Chinese digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) can change frequencies and are very agile in how they operate.

Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.

Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another, and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.

Russian media reports have recently claimed that stealth technology is useless against their air defenses. Russian built S-300 and S-400 air defenses are believed to be among the best in the world; in addition, The National Interest has reported that Russia is now working on an S-500 system able to destroy even stealthy targets at distances up to 125 miles.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Air Force planners recognize that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese. Air Force F-35 developers emphasize that, while there is no particular conflict expected with any given specific country, the service wants to be ready for any contingency.

While training against the best emerging threats in what Air Force leaders call “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech, fast-developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, developers said.

The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.

In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, are technology an F-35 pilot could use to try to identify and evade enemy air defenses. AESA on the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities.

Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection, and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats.

In the event that an F-35 is unable to fully avoid ground-based air defenses, the fighter can use its speed, maneuverability, and air combat skill to try to defend against whatever might be sent up to challenge it.

Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 83 F-35As are operational for the Air Force.

F-35 Weapons & 4th Software Drop vs Enemy Air Defenses

Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.

While the Air Force will soon be operational with the F-35s most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.

Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons, and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.

Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the US variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.

In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.

These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.

Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities, and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, or GBU-12, JSF program officials said.

Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.

Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM, and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.

The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.

Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.

The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

F-35 25mm Gun

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said. The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.

“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said at the time.

The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.

Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.

“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F-35A airframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.

The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.

“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.

The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.

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The Air Force will have lasers on planes soon

By 2020, the U.S. Air Force expects to have “directed energy combat weapons pods” on its jets. During the Air Force Association Air Space conference, the Air Force General with the most Air Force name ever, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said “I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon. That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”


Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
DARPA Air Force Laser Concept

The lasers will be a weapon against unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), missiles, and other aircraft, according to Gen. Carlisle. The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy, thinks of lasers as a defensive weapon. The Army, Navy, and Marines’ laser weapons are designed shoot down incoming artillery shells, rockets, and drones, their objective is developing a defensive weapon to shoot down incoming high-speed ballistic and cruise missiles.

The Air Force’s ideas for laser tactics is actually much more aggressive then Gen. Carlisle would lead us to believe. Since directed energy weapons can shoot multiple shots at the speed of light on a single gallon of gas, the Air Force sees a nearly unlimited weapon, capable of taking out not only incoming missiles, but also their source.

“My customer is the enemy. I deliver violence,” Air Force Lt Gen. Brad Heithold, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, told an audience at a directed energy conference in August 2015. Heithold wants the chance to mount such a laser onto one of AC-130 gunships.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
For the uninitiated, this is what the current gun on the AC-130 looks like.

Laser weapons are becoming much more compact and capable of being mounted on aircraft as small as a Predator drone. Portability is what makes the difference in battlefield development. Such a laser used to be the size of a passenger jet. The previous restrictively large sizes were based on their cooling methods. Liquid lasers that have large cooling systems can fire continuous beams, while solid state laser beams are more intense but must be fired in pulses to stop them from overheating.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
It’s like Star Wars lasers vs. Star Trek lasers. So that debate might be settled soon too.

Now, General Atomics is field testing a DARPA-funded weapon it calls “High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System” (or HELLADS), which is roughly five feet long.

The actual HELLADS system doesn’t have video of tests yet but here’s a similar American-Israeli system being tested to take out incoming mortar rounds.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11v=LThD0FMvTFU

 

NOW: The U.S. military kindly asks you to trust its death robots

OR: The Navy’s new weapon system is a laser pointer on steroids

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The latest Medal of Honor is the 11th to come from Afghanistan’s ‘Wild East’

“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.


Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Photo: US Army

Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.

Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.

“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”

Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.

On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Photo: US Army courtesy photo

At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.

All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.

“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”

In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.

The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.

Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.

“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”

The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.

Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.

Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.

“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.

Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.

The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated.  They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”

Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”

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This is how the Old Glory Relay brings veterans and their communities together

Team Red, White  Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. This effort is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.


But while having lots of members and a host of chapters across the country is a great thing for a young veteran service organization, there’s a challenge in keeping it all connected. That’s why Executive Director Blayne Smith and his colleagues decided to link up with Team Red, White  Blue’s various members with a little run among friends.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
(WATM Photo: Tim Kolczak)

And what if this little run wasn’t so little? What if it spread across the entire country?

“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” Smith said. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”

So in 2014, on a shoestring budget and with just a couple company reps doing most of the logistical legwork, the Old Glory Relay was born. Now spanning 4,216 miles and involving upwards of 1,300 runners and cyclists, the 2016 Old Glory Relay will see an American flag passed between participants — including veterans and their supporters — down the West Coast, across the desert Southwest, through the Deep South, and ending in Tampa, Florida, after 62 days culminating in a Ruck March on Veterans Day.

“For this year we decided to go even bigger. It’s a bit more ambitious, it’s a longer route but more members and more chapters will get to participate,” Smith said. “There’s something really powerful about running a few miles carrying an American flag. It’s really invigorating to run with it and hand it off to the next person knowing you’ve done your part to get it across the country.”

With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the race began at the Space Needle in Seattle on Sept. 11. The relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.

Team Red, White  Blue has done a ton of legwork to prepare for the relay, mobilizing local chapters to help carry the flag and get their communities energized to cheer runners along. Smith said school kids, local police and fire stations and residents along the way all turn out to motivate the runners and keep the relay going. And while the event is geared toward unifying the chapters and its members in a good cause, it’s the spirit of shared sacrifice and appreciation for the men in women who served in uniform that really makes the Old Glory Relay special.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
(WATM Photo: Tim Kolczak)

“This is what happens when you slow people down enough to move on foot through a town with an American flag and see what happens. All those human connections start to happen,” Smith said. “America is a beautiful place. But the most beautiful terrain in America is the human terrain, and you don’t see it if you don’t slow down. And that’s what this is all about.”

You can support Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay by following the Old Glory Relay website, sharing your own photos and videos with the hashtag #OldGloryRelay, and by tracking Old Glory via the “OGR Live” webpage for up-to-the-minute information on the runners’ and cyclists’ status.

Text OGR to 41444 to learn more and donate!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bnzsvQRWhs
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The Apache is about to get more lethal against jets and helicopters

The Apache is the big brother in the sky that grunts love to see, hear, and feel flying above them. Its racks of Hellfire missiles are designed to destroy heavy tanks and light bunkers with ease, its rockets can eviscerate enemy formations, and its chain gun is perfect for mopping up any “squirters.”


But the vaunted Apache is getting a lethality upgrade that will allow it to more easily carry the anti-air Stinger missile, reports IHS Janes.

The Stinger missile was originally designed as a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. Operators aim the weapon, and it detects the infrared energy of the target. When the missile is fired, it homes in on that signature for the kill.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Soldiers fire the Stinger Missile on Sep. 6, 2016, during training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. The air-to-air version of the missile will be easier to mount on Apache helicopters purchased after 2017. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Kyle Edwards)

Apaches currently cannot carry a dedicated air-to-air weapon unless the operators buy an upgrade kit. Even then, the missiles have to be mounted on the outer wingtips instead of on actual weapons pylons.

But missile maker Raytheon and Apache maker Boeing reached an agreement in May to incorporate the attachments for the air-to-air Stinger missile into all new Apaches starting in 2018, Jane’s reports.

The new build will also move the mounting location for Stinger missiles from the outer wingtips to the dedicated weapons pylons.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
The Apache helicopter is a deadly killer of ground targets that is becoming more capable against enemy air assets as well. (Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Matson)

It will then be much easier for Apaches to engage enemy air assets, something that attack helicopters are surprisingly good at. During the military’s Joint Countering Attack Helicopter exercises in 1978, helicopters with air-to-air weapons racked up a 5:1 kill ratio against jets.

Even if Boeing adds Stinger missile mounts to Apaches, that doesn’t guarantee the Army will buy them. The service is still fighting a long battle about whether it will keep any Apaches in the National Guard due to shortfalls of the aircraft for active duty missions.

So, there’s a very real chance that the Army would rather keep all of its Apaches supporting ground troops rather than re-tasking some to provide anti-air coverage — no matter how cool it would be to see an Apache shoot down an enemy jet.

Still, many of America’s allies like using the Apache to protect their ground units from enemy aircraft. For those who can’t afford many dedicated fighters, a more Stinger-capable Apache gives them the ability to quickly shift anti-air coverage during combat.

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An open letter to Colin Kaepernick from a military veteran

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
(Photo: Billy Hurst, AP)


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

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

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

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

Let’s dissect this a little.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hundreds of strangers honor lonely WWII vet at wake

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
FoxNews.com


Hundreds of strangers paid tribute at a Kentucky funeral home to a “humble” survivor of World War II’s Normandy Invasion whose caregiver had worried that no one would come to his funeral.

Vet Warren McDonough was 91 when he died Saturday. He never married and his only known survivor was a nephew in Florida. The big crowd who attended his wake Thursday night at Ratterman’s Funeral Home in St. Matthews showed up in response to a call from Lena Lyons, who runs a boarding home where McDonough spent his final days.

Lyons told WHAS-TV McDonough deserved to be remembered because of what he did for his country. He was part of the first wave at Omaha Beach and earned a Purple Heart. But he never talked about his wartime experience—except for one time, she said.

“He said he pretended to be dead until they all went away,” she told WHAS-TV. “He said, ‘And then I inched slowly across other bodies and I went across this one guy and his lips were moving and I got up close to him and he was saying the Lord’s Prayer.’ And he said. ‘I laid with him and stayed with him and prayed with him until he died.'”

More strangers are expected to attend McDonough’s funeral Friday at Fairmont Cemetery in Central City. He is being buried with full military honors.

At the wake George Southern and other members of the Kentucky and Indiana Patriot Guard stood at the entrance to the funeral home in the cold as an honorary color guard, WLKY-TV reported.

“He gave his life and his days for us to have this freedom to do this and we stand in honor of him,” Southern told the station.

Lyons said McDonough wrote his own obituary but did not include everything.

“Nothing about the Purple Heart or his Medal of Courage, nothing, not even that he was in the Army, let alone that he went to Normandy,” she told WLKY. “He was a very humble man.”

Lyons told WHAS McDonough always said he was not a hero.

“I was just doing what I was supposed to do,” she quoted him as saying.

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This artist flies with the Air Force to capture its modern history in paint

Rick Herter is one of the most prolific artists in the world of aviation art. His work hangs in private collections, museums and both corporate and military headquarters. So how did Herter get so good at painting aircraft? Part of it is his firsthand experience with them.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Pieces like “Heading Home Reflections” highlight Herter’s combined love of art, aviation, and history (Rick Herter)

Herter’s fascination with aircraft and history first came from illustrations of the Battle of Britain in Time Life Magazine. He loved the drawings of Spitfires and Messerschmitts dogfighting over the Tower of London.

Working on a southwest Michigan farm as a boy, Herter also regularly saw Cessnas and Piper Cubs flying the navigational route directly overhead. However, his love of flight was propelled furthest on his 13th birthday.

His mother, an amateur artist herself, took him to their local airport to fly in an airplane. With a former WWII B-24 pilot at the controls, Herter’s half-hour in the air solidified his love for all things aviation.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Herter calls “If Only I Could Fly” an autobiographical piece (Rick Herter)

Through the rest of his childhood, Herter hung out at the airport in his spare time. A family friend occasionally took him flying in a Cessna 182. “I tried to fly as often as I could from the age of 13 until I went away to college,” Herter recalled.

In 1984, Herter graduated from Spring Arbor University with a BA in art. He initially went into the advertising industry as an illustrator with a diverse portfolio. However, after meeting with the art director of an ad agency, Herter decided he needed to specialize in just one subject. Naturally, that subject was aviation.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Herter still paints other scenes like “Summer of 1944, The Daylight Arrives” (Rick Herter)

His foray into aviation art came in the form of an air show poster. Thirteen weeks before the show, Herter walked into the director’s office and said, “You guys need a souvenir poster and I’m the guy to do it for you.” With continued confidence, Herter donated the art and worked with a local print shop to donate the posters to the High on Kalamazoo Air Show. The poster went on to win a national award and Herter began receiving commissions the next year.

Herter worked commissions all across the country. Within two years, he was approached at an air show by an Army colonel who was a fan of his work. The colonel referred Herter to the Air Force Art Program at the Pentagon to which he submitted his portfolio and was accepted in 1987.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
“Into The Wind, The Enterprise on Yankee Station” (Rick Herter)

AFAP artists create and donate art free of charge to capture the service’s modern history. To best do this, artists like Herter generally travel Mil-air and stay on bases with service members during a mission. In fact, taxpayer dollars are only used to reimburse their travel per diem. The artists have furnished all the art supplies necessary to create the AFAP’s 10,000+ piece collection.

Using Herter’s work for recruiting purposes, the Air Force Recruiting Service nominated him for their highest form of recognition, the American Spirit Award, which he won. “It was quite an honor,” Herter humbly noted, “and it still is an honor.” Other notable recipients of the award include Bob Hope, Dolly Parton and Ted Turner.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
“Ground Zero, Eagles on Station” (Rick Herter)

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, Herter received a call from Russell “Rusty” Kirk, the director of the art program. The Secretary of the Air Force tasked Kirk with finding an artist to paint the first F-15s as they arrived over the World Trade Center on that infamous day. Kirk offered the job to Herter who gladly took on the challenge.

In January 2002, Herter travelled to Langley Air Force Base where he met with the Air National Guard Squadrons that responded over Manhattan on 9/11. In the back seat of an F-16, he flew with the 119th Fighter Wing and joined F-15s of the 102nd Fighter Wing in a Noble Eagle combat air patrol over New York.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
“First Pass, Defenders Over Washington” (Rick Herter)

“We flew down Manhattan and we started to make the turn at the south end, and you could look straight down past the Eagles and see Ground Zero,” Herter recalled. “As I came over the site, I could see the massive pile of debris…I was stunned.” From this mission came two of Herter’s most renowned paintings, “First Pass, Defenders Over Washington” and “Ground Zero, Eagles on Station.”

In addition to Noble Eagle, Herter flew with the first wave of Air Force transports that brought the 82nd Airborne Division into Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. He also flew on multiple combat missions in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
“Century of Flight” (background) covers 29,000 square feet and took Herter and another artist 16 months (Western Michigan University)

Outside of his military work, Herter has been commissioned by top aviation companies like Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce and Delta Airlines. He also holds a Guinness World Record. Herter painted the mural “Century of Flight” at the Air Zoo Aerospace & Science museum in Kalamazoo. Measuring 32×900 feet, it is the largest indoor, hand-painted mural in the world. Still, Herter remains humble about his achievement in the record book.

“On the other side of the page is the guy who can stick the most marbles up his nose,” he joked. “I’m proud to just say it was a big piece of art.”

Herter has also flown with the other branches of the military to capture their aerial histories. Through his work, Herter hopes to be able to communicate the service and sacrifices of the armed forces to the rest of the country.

“I’ve met so many incredible troops…and for me, truly, as a civilian who has never had to deploy, it blows you away,” Herter said. “I wish more civilians had a chance to see those things.”

Herter’s work can be viewed on Facebook, Instagram, and his website.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Herter after a flight with the Tigers of the 79th Fighter Squadron (Rick Herter)

Feature Image: Composite of Herter after a flight with the 79th squadron and “Spirit Visitation” by Rick Herter

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These 9 TV shows and films are ‘6 Certified’ because they get it right for vets

Got Your 6 has unveiled the latest round of “6 Certified” projects, recognizing film and television programs that work to normalize the depiction of veterans.


Programs to receive the honor of being “6 Certified” include the feature film “Max,” episodes of “Fargo,” “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” “Marvel’s Daredevil,” “Saturday Night Live,” USA Network’s forthcoming “Shooter,” and “West Texas Investors Club,” among others.

This third round of projects to receive “6 Certified” status was discussed onstage Sunday at an ATX Television Festival panel for NBC’s “The Night Shift.” This panel examined the power of television to shift public perception, with panelists including the cast and creators of “The Night Shift” and Got Your 6’s executive director Bill Rausch. “The Night Shift” was a part of Got Your 6’s inaugural round of projects to be “6 Certified.”

“With ‘6 Certified,’ we are celebrating the content creators who are accurately and responsibly portraying our nation’s veterans,” said Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6. “Transitioning out of the military can be difficult; however, every veteran returning home is a civic asset, ready to lead a resurgence of community, and these latest projects to be ‘6 Certified’ truly embody this narrative.”

Got Your 6 announced the following projects to be awarded with “6 Certified” status:

1. “Day One”

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This Oscar-nominated short film was created by soldier-turned filmmaker Henry Hughes who wrote the film based on his own experiences working alongside a female Afghan translator. The piece was written and directed by a veteran, and accurately portrays the complexities of military service. Henry Hughes, Marie Cantin, Mitchell Sandler, Michael Steiner

2. “Fargo” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This episode of the American crime series presents two multidimensional, multigenerational veteran characters through the two officers working to investigate a series of murders and related crimes. MGM Television, FX Productions, 26 Keys Productions

3. “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” (Season 2, Episode 2)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The veterans of Got Your 6 were used as a resource and were invited into the writers’ room of this romantic comedy series, which led to the integration of veteran content in this episode to add additional depth to various characters on the show. Universal Cable Productions, Bravo Media

4. “Live to Tell” (Season 1, Episode 1)

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Created by Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”) and his non-scripted shingle Film 45, this military docuseries gives viewers a personal, intimate and revealing look into recent U.S. Special Operations Forces missions, as told by those who experienced the front lines of the ongoing War on Terror. Film 45, HISTORY

5. “Marvel’s Daredevil” (Season 2, Episode 7)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This episode of the Netflix original series responsibly and accurately portrays veterans via the character of Frank Castle, The Punisher, who insists that his legal representation not perpetuate veteran stereotypes of PTSD in order to defend his actions. ABC Studios, Marvel Entertainment, Netflix

6. “Max”

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This feature film is focused on themes of service and was co-written by a military veteran, who develops a realistic and meaningful depiction of veterans through the lead veteran character. MGM, Sunswept Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures

7. “Saturday Night Live: Adam Driver” (Season 41, Episode 10)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This episode of the iconic comedy show begins with host Adam Driver, who touches on his military service before becoming an actor. This brief and comedic celebration of the veteran experience is a realistic depiction of the wider veteran narrative. NBC, Broadway Video, SNL Studios 

8. “Shooter” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

This upcoming American drama series is based on the best-selling novel “Point of Impact” by Stephen Hunter and the 2007 Paramount film starring Mark Wahlberg. The series, starring Ryan Phillippe, follows the courageous journey of Bob Lee Swagger, a highly-decorated ex-marine sniper who is coaxed back into action after a period of self-imposed exile when he receives intelligence of an attempt to assassinate the President. Premiering Tuesday, July 19 at 10/9c on USA Network, “Shooter” centers around a veteran utilizing his military training to wage good. Universal Cable Productions, Paramount Studios, USA Network

9. “West Texas Investors Club” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

In this episode of the reality business series, investors and businessmen Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam help a budding entrepreneur realize that hiring skilled veterans and integrating them into their model will help grow his business, bucking negative stereotypes and celebrating a narrative that views veterans as leaders and civic assets. The Company, CNBC

“Industry leaders and content creators have the unique ability to shift perceptions and create conversations in popular culture,” said Got Your 6 review committee member Bruce Cohen, producer of “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” “By moving away from inaccurate, stereotypical depictions of veterans, creators can help foster better understanding between the veteran and civilian communities.”

“It’s been humbling to watch the trajectory of ‘6 Certified’ as it grows into the dynamic program we all knew it could be,” said Charlie Ebersol, chairman and founder of The Company. “Being able to recognize content and creators from all different networks and studios is one of many things we in entertainment can do to help shift public perception of today’s veterans. It’s really exciting to see the diversity of programming in this slate of projects while still being connected and sharing a common goal.”

Launched in January 2015 with support from the First Lady Michelle Obama, the “6 Certified” program was created to encourage the entertainment industry and content creators to choose asset-focused narratives when telling veteran stories, and to challenge the stereotypical depictions of veterans as broken heroes.

To become “6 Certified,” a project must contain a representative and balanced depiction of veterans and fulfill at least one of the following pledges:

  • Do your homework – Research or consult with real veterans, family members, or subject matter experts in an effort to create accurate representations
  • Cast a veteran – Hire a veteran actor to play a substantial role
  • Hire a veteran writer – Employ a veteran writer to contribute to the narrative
  • Portray a veteran character – Develop a multi-dimensional veteran character
  • Tell a veteran story – Develop a narrative with meaningful and accurate veteran themes
  • Use veterans as resources on set or in writers’ rooms – Have veterans present for consultation throughout the filmmaking process

After the project has met the requirements for certification, it may be submitted by a studio or production company once the project enters post-production. After the submission is complete, the project will be evaluated by the “6 Certified” Review Committee; a group of subject matter experts who review all submissions and grant “6 Certified” status. The current members of the “6 Certified” Review Committee are Rajiv Chandrasekaran, journalist and author; Bruce Cohen, producer of “American Beauty” and “Silver Linings Playbook”; Greg Silverman, president, creative development and worldwide production, Warner Bros. Pictures; Charlie Ebersol, chairman and founder of The Company; Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6; Laura Law-Millet, Army veteran and Chief Operations Officer at the GI Film Group; and Major General (Ret) Sharon K.G. Dunbar, vice president, human resources, General Dynamics Mission Systems. Additional information on certification is available at http://www.gotyour6.org/6-certified/.

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This civilian ‘navy’ is deploying to help Florida after Hurricane Irma

Louisiana’s famous Cajun Navy, the volunteer civilian group that with its small boats helped rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, wants to assist Florida after Hurricane Irma.


Rob Gaudet, one of the volunteer network’s organizers, spoke Sept 7. to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to find out how the grassroots group might be of most help.

“They’re ready to go,” Rubio told the Miami Herald.

Irma is not expected to dump as much rain as Harvey, but forecasters worry about storm surge up to 10 feet in the state’s southern peninsula.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate

The Cajun Navy drove boats into Houston to pick up people stuck in the massive floods — turning into the so-called Texas Navy — but is now back in Louisiana, tracking Irma as it makes its way to Florida.

“There’s already boaters on their way and there already,” Gaudet told the Herald.

Gaudet, a software engineer, founded the Cajun Relief Foundation after boaters came together last year to rescue victims of a no-name flood in his hometown of Baton Rouge. During Harvey, the organization used social media to handle requests for assistance, alleviating crushed emergency responders.

Here’s how this USMC vet became a political consultant and RNC delegate
Image from Cajun Relief Facebook.

“There’s a team of dispatchers that dispatch the Cajun Navy, that work from their homes or they work from coffee shops, literally taking request off of social media,” Gaudet said, noting dispatchers can be — and are — anywhere in the country. “We use mobile technology that the boaters carry along with them, and so we dispatch them to perform rescues.”

Rubio’s suggestion: that Gaudet’s volunteers, with their shallow-water boats, consider navigating narrow canals in South and Central Florida to reach victims if Irma’s storm surge leaves wide areas unreachable by car or deeper-water vessels.

“Biscayne Bay is like a basin,” said Rubio, a recreational boater himself. “It’s like a bowl of water that’s going to get potentially pushed inward.”

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Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

Despite North Korea’s claim its intercontinental ballistic missile launch shows it can attack targets anywhere it wants, experts say it will probably be years before it could use such a weapon in a real-world scenario.


The July 4 test demonstrated the North is closer than ever before to reaching its final goal of developing a credible nuclear deterrent to what it sees as the hostile policy of its archenemies in Washington.

But even for an experienced superpower, getting an ICBM to work reliably can take a decade.

Launching a missile under test conditions is relatively easy. It can be planned and prepared for and carried out whenever everything is ready, which makes success more likely. The real game-changer would come when the missile is considered operational under any conditions — in other words, when it is credible for use as a weapon.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons

For sure, the North’s Fourth of July fireworks were a major success.

Initial analyses indicate its new “Hwasong 14” could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawaii if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was instead shot at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean 930 kilometers (580 miles) away.

Hwasong means “Mars.”

“If a vague threat is enough for them, they could wait for another successful launch and declare operational deployment after that, and half the world will believe them,” said Markus Schiller, a leading expert on North Korea’s missile capabilities who is based in Germany. “But if they take it seriously, as the US or Russia do, it would take at least a dozen more launches and perhaps 10 years. Mind you, this is their first ICBM.”

Schiller noted the example of Russia’s latest submarine-launched missile, the Bulava.

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One of Russia’s SLBM-capable submarines, K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy. Photo by Schekinov Alexey Victorovich.

“They really have a lot experience in that field, but from first launch to service it took them almost 10 years (2004 to 2013),” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “They still have troubles — one of their test launches just failed.”

The bar for having an operational ICBM is also higher for the North if the United States is its target.

An ICBM is usually defined as a land-based ballistic missile with a range in excess of 5,500 kilometers (3,420 miles). That comes from US-Soviet disarmament talks and in that context makes good sense. The distance between Moscow and New York is about 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles).

But Narushige Michishita, a defense expert and professor at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out that although the range required for North Korea to hit Alaska would be 5,700 kilometers (3,550 miles) and Hawaii 7,500 kilometers (4,660 miles), reaching the other 48 states requires ranges of 8,000-12,000 kilometers (5,000-7,500 miles).

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Screenshot from Google Maps

“In the US-DPRK context, the 5,500 kilometer-range ICBM means nothing,” he said. “We must take a look at the range, not the title or name.”

Pyongyang made a point of trying to dispel two big questions about its missiles with the test: re-entry and accuracy.

It claims to have successfully addressed the problem of keeping a nuclear warhead intact during the descent to a target with a viable heatshield, which would mark a major step forward. The Hwasong 14 isn’t believed to be accurate enough to attack small targets despite Pyongyang’s claims otherwise, but that isn’t a major concern if it is intended to be a threat to large population areas, such as cities on the US West Coast.

The reliability problem, however, remains.

“These missiles are very complex machines, and if they’re launched again tomorrow it might blow up on the pad,” said David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “You don’t want to do that with a nuclear warhead on top.”

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Wright said he believes Kim Jong Un decided to start a number of different development programs for different missile systems a couple of years ago and that the frequency of launches over the past 18 months suggests those programs have moved forward enough to reach the testing stages.

“I have been surprised by how quickly they have been advancing,” he said.

Wright said the North is believed by most analysts to have a nuclear device small and rugged enough to be put on a long-range missile, or to be very close to having one.

But he said it remains to be seen if its latest missile can be further modified to get the range it needs to threaten the contiguous US, or whether that would require a new system with a scaled-up missile and more powerful engine.

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An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

“I suspect the latter, but don’t know yet,” he said.

The answer to that question matters because it has implications for how long it will take North Korea to really have an ICBM that could attack the US West Coast — and how long Washington has to take action to stop it.

What is Wright’s estimate?

“I would expect a couple years,” he said.

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