Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.
During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.
During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.
“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.
“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”
“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.
Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.
During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.
Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.
Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.
“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”
“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.
The Pentagon is looking to boost counterterrorism cooperation with an elite Indonesian special forces group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Jan. 23 during a visit to Jakarta.
The special forces unit, known as Kopassus, has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including killings and torture, mostly in the 1990s. Mattis says the group has since reformed.
“That was upwards of 20 years ago, and we’ll look at it since then,” Mattis said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and other leaders.
Mattis’ visit aims to expand overall military cooperation with Indonesia, which is modernizing its military and has shown an increased willingness to push back against China’s territorial claims.
Indonesia is also dealing with the possible return of hundreds of Indonesians who fought with the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.
“We are out to expand in ways that respond to any requests from Indonesia on counterterrorism to include the special forces units,” Mattis said alongside his Indonesian counterpart.
Following those talks, Ryacudu said he would like Mattis to help relax the legal limitations on closer U.S. ties with the elite special forces group.
Kopassus’ alleged abuses include massacres in East Timor, the abduction and forced disappearance of student pro-democracy activists, and a torture campaign in Aceh during a now-ended insurgency. Rights groups say many of those responsible have not been held accountable.
Amid those concerns, the United States severed ties with Kopassus in 1999. In 2010, the Pentagon took initial steps toward reestablishing cooperation, but the ties have been limited and non-lethal, consisting of staff exchanges and low-level subject matter dialogue.
Mattis says he believes the group has reformed and would now stand up to the scrutiny of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights.
Joseph Felter, the top U.S. defense official on Southeast Asia, said the Pentagon sees “real value and potential in working with Kopassus as a partner in counterterrorism,” if the State Department were to loosen restrictions.
“They are a very, very effective counterterrorism unit,” Felter said.
The United States already has very close ties with the Indonesian military. Since 2013, Felter said the United States has sold more than $1.5 billion to Indonesia under the foreign military sales program, including the Apache helicopter and the F-16. And Felter says Jakarta is considering buying more F-16s.
“Anytime we can help a partner uphold a free and fair rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific, that’s what we’re here for,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia said.
On Jan. 24, Mattis heads to Vietnam, where China is likely to be a major focus.
The Pentagon last week unveiled a new National Defense Strategy that prioritizes the U.S. geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.
Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and has repeatedly clashed with Chinese ships in the area.
During his visit to Indonesia Tuesday, Mattis repeatedly spoke about the importance of the “rule of law” and “freedom of navigation” – comments apparently aimed at China.
Off the East Coast this month, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford, reached several major milestones in a matter of hours, marking the advancement of the carrier’s crew and its systems.
The Ford completed flight deck certification and carrier air-traffic control center certification on March 20, after it achieved Precision Approach Landing Systems certification and conducted two days of flight operations.
F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets from four squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing 8 conducted 123 daytime launches and landings and 42 nighttime launches and landings aboard the Ford over a two-day period, exceeding the minimum requirements for each by three and two, respectively.
“Our sailors performed at a level that was on par with a forward deployed aircraft carrier, and this was a direct result of the hardcore training and deployment-ready mentality we have pushed every day for the past year,” Capt. J. J. Cummings, the Ford’s commanding officer, said in a release. “Our team put their game faces on, stepped into the batter’s box and smashed line drives out of the park. It was fun to watch.”
The certifications, photos of which you can see below, are major achievements not only for the carrier but also for the Navy, as the Ford is now the only only carrier qualification asset — meaning it can conduct carrier qualifications for pilots and other support operations — that will be regularly available on the East Coast this year.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Jawann Murray, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet on Ford’s flight deck during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 21, 2020.
Before flight deck and carrier air-traffic control certification, the Ford did Precision Approach Landing Systems certification. PALS is a requirement for flight operations. along with air-traffic controllers, it aids pilots in night or bad-weather landings and guides them to a good starting position for approaches.
The Ford is doing an 18-month post-delivery test and trials period, now in its fifth month.
The carrier finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times.
After that 18-month period, it will likely return to the shipyard for any remaining work that couldn’t be done at sea.
Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Derrick Williams, USS Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck leading chief petty officer, goes over flight deck operations inside Ford’s flight deck control, prior to flight operations in the Atlantic, March 23, 2020.
The Ford’s carrier air-traffic control center team assisted the flight-deck certification and had to complete its own certification in concert with it. CATCC certification was the culmination of a process that started at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Florida last year.
Since that process began in October 2019, instructors from the training center have been working with Ford sailors during every phase — testing the sailors’ practical knowledge, reviewing their checklists, and observing their recovery operations.
That training was vital to the Ford sailors’ success this month. “We had no rust to knock off,” said Chief Air Traffic Controller Lavese McCray. “We’ve tested and trained for so many operations that it made the [certification] scenarios look easy.”
Inspectors from Naval Air Forces Atlantic praised the carrier air-traffic control center sailors in their certification letter, according to the release.
“It was very apparent the entire CATCC team put forth a great deal of effort preparing for their CATCC certification,” the letter said. “All CATCC functional areas were outstanding. Additionally, the leadership and expertise exhibited by the Air Operations Officer and his staff were extremely evident throughout the course of the entire week.”
The certification process is meant to test pilots and crews on operations they’ll face when deployed. In one recovery scenario, aircraft were stacked behind the Ford in 2-mile increments, waiting to land every minute, which deployment-ready aircraft carriers are required to be able to do. The Ford landed aircraft 55 seconds apart.
“The human element critical to [flight deck certification] is the relationship between ship’s company and the air wing in the ‘black top ballet’ of flight deck operations,” the release said. “During hours-long evolutions, the teams work together to communicate pilots’ status, their requirements, and provide them services.”
The March 20 certifications came a day after the Ford’s 1,000 recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft using its Advanced Arresting Gear on March 19 at 5:13 p.m. Moments later, the ship had its 1,000 launch with its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.
The Ford’s first fixed-wing recovery and launch using AAG and EMALS were on July 28, 2017.
AAG and EMALS have been two of the most nettlesome of the Ford’s many new technologies, exceeded in their growing pains perhaps only by the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are still not finished.
The Ford has the first new carrier design since the 1960s, which added to the difficulty of its construction. AAG and EMALS are both meant to support the greater energy requirements of future air wings and operate more safely than similar gear on older Nimitz-class carriers.
The Ford’s accomplishments come as the Navy grapples with a fleet-wide challenge in the coronavirus. The service’s first case came on March 13, when a sailor on the USS Boxer, in port in San Diego, tested positive. The first underway case came on Tuesday on the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday that three cases were detected on the Theodore Roosevelt. He said those were the first cases on a deployed ship and that the affected personnel were awaiting transfer off the carrier.
The “Big Stick,” which carries some 5,000 crew, visited Vietnam earlier this month. The Navy’s top uniformed officer said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear if the cases stemmed from that visit.
“Whenever we have a positive on any ship … we’re doing the forensics on each one of those cases to try and understand what kind of best practices, or the do’s and the don’ts, that we can quickly promulgate fleet-wide,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said at the Pentagon.
Asked about specific policy changes, Gilday said, “we’re on it” but “no specifics yet.”
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Christopher Nardelli, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, arranges the “ouija board” in Ford’s flight deck control, during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 22, 2020.
There are no reported cases on the Ford, which Gilday said Tuesday was also carrying “a couple of hundred shipyard workers” who were “working on many of her systems to continue to keep her at pace and on schedule” for deployment.
“We’re very proud of the fact that they are out there at sea with us and that they’re so committed to the Navy,” Gilday said of the shipyard workers.
But the Navy secretary said Tuesday that the service was in touch with industry partners to let them know it was aware of the challenge posed by the coronavirus.
“We rely particularly on our shipyards and our depots … We need them to continue to operate because you can’t lose those skills. We have to keep them maintained. So we’ve been very clear and very consistent in talking to our commercial partners,” Modly said.
“We are also concerned about the health of their people. We don’t want them putting them at risk either,” Modly added. “But we just need to be aware of what they’re doing in that regard, so that we can adjust our expectations about what they can deliver and when they can deliver.”
As young America faces a draft panic, let us consider the example of Elvis Presley. At the height of his run as the King of Rock and Roll, the world’s biggest pop star received his induction notice from Uncle Sam and did a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, beginning in 1958.
Not only did he leave millions of dollars on the table during his two-year stint, he turned down sweet offers from both the Army and the Navy that would’ve allowed him to serve as an entertainer instead of a grunt.
If Elvis hadn’t embraced a fried-food-and-pharmaceuticals diet in the ’70s, he might have lived long enough to celebrate his 85th birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Instead, he died on the toilet on Aug. 16, 1977, at the age of 42. It’s true, Elvis fans: The King has now been gone longer than he was with us here on Earth.
Elvis asked for (and got) an extension so he could make “King Creole” before induction. Since this is arguably Presley’s best movie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Draft Board for allowing him to finish it before reporting to boot camp at Fort Hood, Texas.
Presley was assigned to the 3rd Armored Division at Freidberg, Germany. Over the next 16 months, he was allowed to live off base with his recently widowed father but otherwise enjoyed a standard-issue service. He was promoted to sergeant in January 1960.
While in Germany, Elvis picked up three habits that would define the rest of his life and career: pills, Priscilla and karate. Pvt. Presley first took amphetamines while on maneuvers and was a fervent evangelist on the subject for the rest of his life. Fourteen-year-old milkid Priscilla Beaulieu turned out to be the love of his life. He later moved her family to Memphis and eventually married the girl he called “Satnin” when she turned 21. While the King never mastered the martial art, he continued to study it, and his future live shows were peppered with random karate kicks onstage.
Presley was discharged in March 1960 and returned to show biz with the movie “G.I. Blues.” Fans were excited to see Elvis in uniform on-screen but, unfortunately, the movie set the tone for the turkeys that were to dominate the rest of his movie career.
Most of today’s biggest pop stars already have too much ink to be eligible to serve, but the ghost of Elvis will be eager to see which teen idols step up to serve if things escalate this week in the Middle East.
Happy birthday to the King.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A pair of skydivers nearly had an unfortunate run-in with two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets in the skies above southern England earlier this year, a British air safety board reports.
The US fighters out of RAF Lakenheath, home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, were flying at 345 mph above Cambridgeshire on April 17, 2019. Above Chatteris airfield, a popular skydiving location the fighter pilots were not aware was active, two parachutists were in freefall at roughly 120 mph, Stars and Stripes reported, citing a UK Airprox Board report released this past summer.
The skydivers captured video footage of the fighters passing beneath them.
“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath,” the report read, further explaining that “once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in freefall.”
An F-15E Strike Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Couillard)
There was a debate about how close the fighters actually came to the skydivers, Airprox explained, adding that the board eventually concluded that “safety had been reduced much below the norm.” The pilots did not see the parachutists, nor were they aware of any planned jumps.
Chatteris airfield, according to the Airprox report, notifies Lakenheath every morning of its planned activities. The board agreed that “there was very little more that Chatteris could have done from an operational perspective to prevent” this near-miss, which was the result of problems both on the ground and in the air.
In response to this incident, the 48th Fighter Wing is briefing crews again and reminding everyone of the need to steer clear of the Chatteris skydiving site.
An Air Force F-15C Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
RAF Lakenheath is “using this incident to reinforce the vital importance of situational awareness and attention to detail for all of our air traffic controllers and aircrew,” Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, told Stars and Stripes.
“UK airspace is incredibly complex and often congested, and the safety of our aircrew as well as those we share the skies with is our number one priority,” he added. The Airprox report noted that prior to the near-miss with the skydivers, the F-15s had been forced to change course to avoid a KC-135 refueling tanker that was determined to be “on a collision course with the formation.”
It was apparently that course change, combined with various other influencing factors, that sent the fighters over Chatteris and put the skydivers in danger.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When America’s big business lends its support to the men and women in uniform, it’s usually about giving a good, old-fashioned military discount. While military members and veterans alike love and appreciate getting a deal as a nod to their service, it’s always a surprise when someone goes the extra mile. Be it someone on the staff, a kind business owner, or a company policy, the appreciation given to service members and their families is always appreciated in return.
But what Super 8 by Wyndham does for military members and their families is more. Yes, right now, they’re offering a twenty-percent military discount and 500 Wyndham Rewards bonus points through December 10th to military members and their families, but they always go the extra mile for service members who are miles away from their homes.
This is one of those ideas that undoubtedly sprang from a big-hearted employee. The Super 8 in Adrian, Mich. had an employee by the name of Juice Majewski — a veteran. Majewski was the chain’s maintenance manager and his boss, Jennifer Six, came from a family of military veterans. Six honored his service by creating a veterans-only spot in the Adrian Super 8’s parking lot. When corporate leaders saw the initiative, they decided to take the idea nationally. Now, every Super 8 in North America features preferred parking for vets.
The Human Hug Project
Super 8 is a proud partner of the Human Hug Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of raising awareness for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Members of the Human Hug Project visit VA facilities across the nation in order to spread love and awareness for veterans and their families.
Founder Ian Michael is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Gino Greganti is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Erin Greganti is a Marine Corps wife who knows exactly what service members’ families go through when a loved one returns home from war. Super 8 helps the HHP by providing places to stay as they make their way across the U.S. to visit all of the VA’s healthcare facilities.
Recently, Super 8 by Wyndham designed a one-of-a-kind Jeep to showcase the latest and greatest amenities found in their newly revamped guest rooms. From the built-in coffee maker to the upholstery that looks like one of the comfortable beds you’d find in a Super 8, this monster of a vehicle is a hotel room in a car.
Super 8’s parent company, Wyndham Hotels Resorts, supports those who are working hard to make a living by using veteran-owned supplier companies.
From maintenance companies to security services to bedding manufacturers, it takes a full complement of amenities and facilities to make guests comfortable — Wyndham knows that by working with veteran-owned businesses, they’ll constantly achieve their mission of giving you a fantastic place to rest.
So next time you hit the road, whether it’s to visit an on-base family member or a spontaneous road trip, know that Super 8 is there to support you all the way.
Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.
It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.
Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it’s really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They’re currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.
Logically speaking, you’d think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they’d have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.
(“Sinking of the Titanic,” Willy Stower, 1912)
To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it’ll have the proper amount of lifeboats.
As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn’t 1912, they’ll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.
You can only do the “I’m flying, Jack!” once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin’ cold.
(National Park Services)
With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.
The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.
Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It’s been a repeating cycle: They’ll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it’s a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.
Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around K to id=”listicle-2614623238″.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial “cool factor” of being on the Titanic II fades, you’re left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won’t be able to afford tickets.
The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.
The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.
This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It’s fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.
They’re likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we’re looking at imminent disaster.
Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.
This is a Somali pirate’s wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won’t stop pirates from trying to take what’s not theirs.
Obviously, it’d be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they’re keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.
I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.
Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.
Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.
But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.
So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.
To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.
In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.
The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.
The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.
For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. has never sought the limelight in the more than 17 years that he’s been in the Navy, but today the eyes of the nation were on him as he received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.
Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six rescue team sent to rescue an Dilip Joseph, American doctor and aid worker who’d been taken hostage by the Taliban. During the mission, Byers showed extreme courage and warfighting prowess by continuing into a room and shielding the doctor while taking out two insurgents after the SEAL in front of him, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, was hit by fire in the doorway.
The justification for the Medal of Honor was based largely on the Joseph’s testimony as captured in his book Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope and Rescue by SEAL Team 6, which was published in 2014. In the book Joseph writes that he was sure his Taliban captors were going to kill him before the SEALs showed up.
The ceremony at the White House was attended by many members of the special operations community as well as other Medal of Honor recipients. Byers family was also present in force. During his remarks President Obama noted that in addition to the SEAL’s immediate family almost 50 members of his extended family were in attendance.
Obama also joked that Byers’ mother first question when she heard her son was receiving the Medal of Honor was, “Can I go to the ceremony?” Focusing on her in the audience the East Room, the president smiled and said, “Yes, mom, you can go.”
Byers has deployed 11 times since 9-11. His previous awards include the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He is the eleventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 9-11.
SEAL Team 6, officially known as DEVGRU, which is short for “Development Group,” is a very secretive part of the special operations community used for the Pentagon’s most sensitive missions. DEVGRU came to the public’s attention in 2011 during Operation Geronimo, the mission to take out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Oscar Davis Jr. wasn’t in uniform. He had no maroon beret. And the 92-year-old could hardly be expected to jump from an airplane.
But in a room filled with 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers on Saturday, Davis fit right in.
“He’s still one of us,” said Capt. Andrew Hammack, commander of A Company, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. “He’s just not currently reporting for duty.”
More than 70 years ago, a much younger Davis was assigned to “Animal” Company of the 505th PIR. He served with the unit in Holland and then Belgium during World War II.
It was in the latter, amid the Ardennes forest and the Battle of the Bulge, that Davis was wounded.
With the Germans shelling his unit, Pvt. Davis — then assigned as a radiotelephone operator — was knocked down by a large piece of shrapnel.
Only the radio on his back protected him from sure death. But the German artillery barrage also knocked down a tree and through a stroke of bad luck, that tree landed on Davis, pinning him and causing a significant spinal injury.
The young paratrooper would spend three weeks paralyzed from the waist down, but would ultimately rejoin his unit in Germany.
The wait for recognition for his injuries, however, was much longer.
In a dining room at Heritage Place in Fayetteville, where Davis now lives, the old paratrooper finally received his Purple Heart Medal, 72 years, one month, and two weeks after he earned it.
The medal, awarded to troops who are wounded or killed in action against an enemy of the United States, traces its roots to the nation’s oldest military medal, the Badge of Military Merit that was first awarded by Gen. George Washington.
Davis had long ago been told he would receive the honor. But the award paperwork was never signed amid the business of the war.
Decades later, he said the medal was worth the wait, smiling from ear to ear as Lt. Col. Marcus Wright leaned down to pin it to his jacket.
“This has been some day,” Davis said. “I couldn’t believe all this was going to happen. I just want to thank the lord.”
Friends, family, and more than two dozen soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division attended the ceremony.
Wright, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, presided over the event.
“All I can say about this is, ‘Wow,'” he said. “I’m absolutely honored to be here today.”
Wright said Davis was part of the division’s storied history. And played an important role in the 82nd Airborne earning one of its many nicknames.
Following the war, with the division assigned to occupation duty in Berlin, Wright said Davis and another soldier were working a checkpoint when an officer’s vehicle drove past.
Davis and the other paratrooper snapped to attention “like any good enlisted soldier,” Wright said. When the vehicle passed them, they relaxed, but realized the car had slowed to a stop just past their post.
They watched as the car backed up through their checkpoint, as the two soldiers again snapped to attention, he said. Then the vehicle pulled forward again, as the paratroopers snapped to attention a third time as the car finally drove off.
A short time later, the sergeant of the guard arrived and informed the paratroopers that famed Gen. George Patton was in the vehicle. And that he was so impressed by their discipline that he had to drove by and see it again.
Patton would give the 82nd Airborne Division its nickname of “America’s Guard of Honor,” saying, “In all my years in the Army and all the honor guards I have ever seen, the 82nd’s honor guard is undoubtedly the best.”
Wright said there’s little doubt Davis contributed to the good impression the division’s paratrooper had on Patton.
“This fine young gentleman here is part of that legacy,” he said. “This is part of our history.”
After the medal was awarded, dozens of people waited in line to shake the veteran’s hand and offer their congratulations. Soldiers from A Company presented Davis with a unit coin and a shirt.
The medal ceremony was the culmination of nearly two years of work by the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a Harnett County-based volunteer organization that has helped more than 100 veterans receive military awards that are owed to them.
John Elskamp, executive director of the foundation, said volunteers scoured an archive of war reports to find proof of Davis’ injuries.
The Purple Heart was the latest medal the group had recovered for Davis. In late 2015, the group helped the World War II veteran to receive the Bronze Star and other medals that were awarded to him in a ceremony at the U.S. Army Airborne Special Operations Museum.
The world’s most powerful military has a soft spot for kids and Christmas, and they show it every year through a number of toy drives and holiday events. Here are 5 annual operations designed to being Christmas cheer to kids in need:
1. Toys for Tots
The largest and best known of the military toy drives, Toys for Tots is ran by the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation as a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Nationwide, Marines and veterans collect new toys and run events year round to give Christmas cheer to children across the country. Other military services get involved by holding their own toy drives to donate to the Toys for Tots program.
In Santa’s Ruck March, soldiers and family members from two brigades at Fort Hood, Texas conduct a one-mile march with rucksacks filled with toys to Santa’s Workshop where all the toys are placed on large tables. The annual event supports over 3,000 Fort Hood children.
4. Fill the Boat Toy Drive
Hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Fill the Boat Toy Drive selects a charity that supports children every year to distribute toys collected in a large boat with Santa and Mrs. Claus presiding over the collection. In 2015, hundreds of toys were given to the Ronald McDonald House to distribute to children spending the holiday in the hospital.
5. Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Anderson toy drive
NATO is launching its largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mustering tens of thousands of troops in what the head of the Western alliance called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.
“The main phase of exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2018. “This is an important day because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.”
The drills are drawing criticism from Moscow amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.
Another source of discord is what NATO says is Russia’s deployment of a missile that violates a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.
“Trident Juncture sends a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all allies against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The exercise “is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together,” he said.
Without mentioning Russia by name, he said that “Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated” in recent years and that NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.”
“Trident Juncture will include around 65 ships, 250 aircraft, 10,000 vehicles, and 50,000 personnel. All 29 NATO allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said of the exercise, which will run in two phases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and Nov. 13-24, 2018.
“It is ambitious and it is demanding,” he said.
Moscow has frequently said that it views NATO’s enlargement to include former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states since the 1991 Soviet collapse as provocative, and Russia and NATO have repeatedly accused each other of aggressive action repeatedly in recent years.
Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.
A Russian T-72B3 during Zapad-2017.
The Defense Ministry said the weeklong Vostok-2018 (East-2018) war games involved some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
Speaking at a joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian defense ministries in Minsk on Oct. 24, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the scale of [NATO] operational and combat training near our borders is expanding, its intensity is growing. The bloc’s member states are practicing the objectives of conducting offensive combat actions.”
Describing the exercise, Stoltenberg said the personnel will be split into “South Forces” and “North Forces” that will “take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces. The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an ally — in this case Norway — after an act of armed aggression.
“This scenario is fictitious but the lessons we learn will be real,” he said.
Norway shares a short border with Russia in the Arctic.
President Donald Trump’s flurry of tweets to kick off the new year lasted into the late evening Jan. 2, as he launched another fiery message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I, too, have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Kim, in a televised speech on Jan. 1, had spoken of a “nuclear button” that was “always on my desk.”
“This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said. “This year we should focus on mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Though Trump touted a “nuclear button,” a physical button that a US president can push to initiate a nuclear strike does not appear to exist. Instead, a briefcase — referred to as the “football” — carries authentication codes and is carried by a military aide wherever the president goes.
Trump’s threat comes amid another warning from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who on Jan. 2 seemed dismissive of proposed high-level talks between South Korea and North Korea.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Haley said during a press conference. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”
Though current U.S. officials have panned negotiations between North Korea and South Korea, former U.S. officials — including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — and many analysts appear to have accepted North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and have approved the call for negotiations.
“I can well envision a scenario where they would juxtapose a missile test and as well agree to talk with the South Koreans, which I think would be a good thing,” Clapper said. “It would do a lot, I think, to relax some of the tensions. I think negotiation is the only way ahead here — to me, there is no other realistic option.”