North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have dramatically reshuffled his senior leadership after expressing frustration with the negligence and irresponsible actions of some senior officials, offenses that have purportedly resulted in a “great crisis.”
Kim recently took a photo with top officials that confirmed suspicions a shake-up had taken place at the highest levels.
In the photo, Ri Pyong Chol, a top military official who held the rank of marshal and oversaw aspects of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, is seen standing not in the front row but a few rows back and was dressed in civilian clothing, according to NK News.
It appears that Ri is no longer a member of the Politburo Presidium.
Pak Jong Chon, another top military official, seems to have been demoted from marshal to vice marshal, and another officer, Kim Jong Gwan, looked to have lost his vice marshal status.
Photos also suggest that Choe Sang Gon, a science and education official, has lost his standing within the politburo, Reuters reported, noting that two other officials appear to have been promoted.
The apparent reshuffling of senior leadership follows a meeting in late June in which Kim chastised top officials for unspecified failings apparently linked to the COVID-19 situation.
North Korean state media reported that Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of important decisions of the [Worker’s Party of Korea] on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign associated with the worldwide health crisis.”
He said their “lack of ability and irresponsibility” created “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people.”
What that crisis may be is unclear, but there are indications that North Korea is facing a food shortage, economic challenges, and possibly COVID-19 outbreaks domestically.
The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling worker’s party, wrote recently that while some mistakes are forgivable, “causing critical harm to our party, country and people due to irresponsibility and negligence of duty is never acceptable,” The Daily Beast reported.
North Korea has always been very hard to read, and expert opinions on the subject tend to vary from person to person.
Bruce Bechtol, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst and an expert on North Korea, told The Daily Beast recent developments indicate “the country is in big trouble right now,” with other experts suggesting that more purges may follow.
Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has held talks with government representatives in eastern Afghanistan after years outside the country, his first public meetings with officials from the Western-backed government since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The meetings on April 28 came after Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in September. Under the deal, he was granted amnesty for past offenses in exchange for ending his violent 15-year insurgency against the government.
The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar’s forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since 2001.
The war in Afghanistan began in 2001 with the aim of removing the Taliban from power. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released)
Hekmatyar met on April 28 with Laghman Province Governor Abdul Jabar Naimi and Ghani’s security adviser, Juma Khan Hamdard.
He arrived two days earlier in the province, which lies between Kabul and the border with Pakistan, where he is believed to have been in hiding.
Naimi said Hekmatyar had “promised full cooperation” with the government and added that he hoped the peace deal would “revive hopes for enduring peace in Afghanistan,” according to a statement.
Hekmatyar had been expected to make a public appearance in Laghman on April 28, marked in Afghanistan as the 25th anniversary of the defeat in 1992 of the formerly Soviet-backed government by armed insurgents known as the mujahedin.
But the event was canceled without explanation.
A Hezb-e Islami spokesman told RFE/RL that Hekmatyar’s appearance had been rescheduled for April 29.
Hekmatyar’s supporters have erected large billboards across Kabul in anticipation of his first public appearance.
Hekmatyar founded Hezb-e Islami in the mid-1970s. The group became one of the main mujahedin factions fighting against Soviet forces following their invasion in 1979, and then one of the most prominent groups in the bloody civil war for control of Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister under the mujahedin government, was one of the chief protagonists of the internecine 1992-96 war. Rights groups accuse Hekmatyar of responsibility for the shelling of residential areas of Kabul in the 1990s, as well as forced disappearances and covert jails where torture was commonplace.
He was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. State Department in 2003.
Under the peace agreement, Hekmatyar will be granted amnesty for past offenses and certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners will be released by the government. The deal also includes provisions for his security at government expense.
In February, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions on Hekmatyar, paving his way to return to Afghanistan.
The controversial peace deal was a breakthrough for Ghani, who so far has had little to show for his efforts at ending the country’s 16-year war.
While the military wing of the Hezb-e Islami led by Hekmatyar has been a largely dormant force in recent years and has little political relevance in Afghanistan, the deal with the government could be a template for any future deal with fundamentalist Taliban militants who have also fought Kabul’s authority.
The U.S. has been determined to challenge the Chinese claims in the region. This past weekend, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) carried out an “innocent passage” through the South China Sea, coming within six miles of Triton Island. FoxNews.com reported that the Stethem was shadowed by a Chinese vessel.
A Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS Dewey (DDG 105), came within six miles of Mischief Reef this past May, after a pair of buzzing incidents between Chinese and American aircraft.
The White House has been calling out China on multiple fronts. Last month, at a conference in Singapore, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said China needed to stop “militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims” in the maritime flashpoint. A report also hammered China for failing to stop human trafficking.
Congratulations! You made it to the interview. Now what? The interview is a critical step in the hiring process. How you manage yourself, your responses, and the questions you have for the interviewer often determine what happens next.
Before you get to the interview, you’ve likely prepared a resume which identifies your skills, experience, and passion for your next career move. That resume piqued the interest of the employer who will interview you to see:
Are your in-person responses consistent with what you represented on your resume and application?
Can you articulate your offer of value to the company?
Will you fit in to the company culture?
Whatever else they can learn about you to help them make a hiring decision.
Preparing for the interview
Taking control of the interview requires that you be knowledgeable about the company, industry, and business environment the company operates in, the company culture, hiring manager, and the company’s competitors.
Be clear on your offer. What do you offer to the company you’re meeting with? What is your personal brand, and how do you align with the values of the company? How has your military career prepared you for the experience you are pursuing? This work needs to happen before you even apply for the job, but you should certainly refine your thinking as the interview nears.
Research the company online. Look carefully through their website (what the company says about themselves), but also look outside of their content. In Google, put the company name in the search bar and look through all the options – Web, Images, and News – to see what else you can find about them. You might then put words such as “ABC Company competitors” or “ABC Company reviews” to see what else you can find about the company you are interviewing with.
Research the hiring manager. Look at their LinkedIn profile – what common interests or experiences do you share? What someone puts on LinkedIn is public information. It’s not creepy to look through their profile to find synergies.
Know your resume. Be well versed on your background: dates, responsibilities, and positions you’ve held. If you have recently separated or retired from service, be sure to make it easy for the hiring manager to understand your military experience. If the company is not familiar with military candidates, spend the time “civilianizing” your experience to show how it relates to the position you are applying for.
Decide how you will show up. How do people at that company dress? Image is your first impression in an interview, and you need to understand how to present yourself to show you will fit in, but dress one notch above that. Hiring managers want to see that you are like them, but they look for you to dress in a way that shows respectfulness for the interview.
Taking control of the interview means you are clear about why this company is the right place for you. You understand how your values align with the company’s mission; you have researched the opportunities they offer; and you are focused on how your value and experience can benefit them. You feel empowered with information, confidence, and a clear game-plan to get onboard.
Of course, the interviewer has a great deal of power in this situation. They can decide they don’t like you, feel you are a good fit, or understand how you will assimilate in their company. We can only control ourselves and certain aspects of situations; we cannot control other people.
Be prepared for small talk. Some interviewers like to chat before the interview starts to calm the candidate down. Use this as a focused time to build rapport and set the tone for the interview. Think about what you will and won’t talk about before you arrive at the interview so you don’t misunderstand the casualness and say something inappropriate. Consider current events as good icebreakers provided they are not controversial (political and religious). For instance, you might talk about the upcoming holiday season but not the latest incident of gun violence in schools.
Focus on what AND why. Don’t ignore that the interviewer not only needs to understand your background and how it’s relevant to the open position, but they also need to feelsomething about you. We call this their “emotional need,” and it drives purchasing decisions. If the hiring manager feels you are too pushy, standoffish, or rigid, they might not feel you are a good fit. Focus on what this person needs to feel about you in order to see you as a fit for the company and the position. Make your case for why you are the right candidate.
Relate your experience as value-add. For each question asked, relate your military experience to show how you are trained and skilled for the position you’re applying to. You need to bridge what you have done in the past with what you can do in the future. The interviewer won’t have time to make this connection themselves. You can take control by showing patterns of success and results and direct their attention to forward-looking goals.
Ask focused questions. Interviewers expect you to ask questions. Take control of the interview by having these questions developed before you even arrive at the meeting. Be prepared to change the questions up if they are answered during the interview. You should have at least five questions prepared around the company’s vision and business goals, culture and work environment, veteran hiring initiatives, on-boarding process, and employee successes. This shows you are focused on finding the right fit for yourself, not just fitting your offer into any company that will have you.
Pay attention to your body language. During the in-person interview, keep your hands relaxed and in front of you. If you are seated in a chair and facing a desk, hold your notepad or portfolio on your lap. At a conference table? It’s permissible to lean on the table and take notes. Relax your shoulders, but remain professional in posture. Make good eye contact. This validates the interviewer by paying attention to their questions and comments. When you get up to leave, extend a confident and assuring handshake.Watch the interviewer. If they are relaxed and casual, then don’t sit “at attention.” You also can’t be too relaxed or it can appear disrespectful. Take your cues from the interviewer, but realize they work there, so they can act how they want. You want to work there; show you will fit in but also be mindful of the formality of the interview process.
After the interview
After the interview, if there are things you need to follow up on (e.g. a list of references), send that email as soon as possible. Be sure to thank the interviewer for the meeting and confirm your interest in the position. Don’t hesitate to include a bullet point list of highlights from the interview that reinforce you are the right candidate for the job.
Then send a handwritten thank-you note to everyone you interviewed with. Be specific about points in the discussion, and reinforce how you are a great fit for the company.
Interviews are only one step in the hiring process, but they are critical. You might have a series of interviews with multiple people at the company before an offer is made. Be prepared to show up consistently and authentically in each case to prove you are the person they believe you to be!
Female Soldiers may now wear dreadlocks and male Soldiers whose religious faith requires beards and turbans may now seek permanent accommodation.
Army directive 2017-03, signed earlier this month, spells out changes to Army Regulation 670-1, the uniform policy, for the turban, worn by male Soldiers, the under-turban; male hair worn under a turban; the hijab, which is a head scarf worn by females; and beards worn by male members.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Moore, the uniform policy branch sergeant major inside the Army’s G-1, said the policy change was made largely as a way to increase diversity inside the service, and to provide opportunity for more Americans to serve in uniform.
“This is so we can expand the pool of people eligible to join the Army,” Moore said. “There was a section of the population who previously were unable to enlist in the Army. This makes the Army better because you’re opening the doors for more talent. You’re allowing people to come in who have skills the Army can use.”
Female Soldiers have been asking for a while for permission to wear “locks,” or dreadlocks, Moore said.
“We understood there was no need to differentiate between locks, corn rows, or twists, as long as they all met the same dimension,” Moore said. “It’s one more option for female hairstyles. Females have been asking for a while, especially females of African-American decent, to be able to wear dreadlocks, and locks, because it’s easier to maintain that hairstyle.”
The Army directive says that each lock or dreadlock “will be of uniform dimension; have a diameter no greater than 1/2 inch; and present a neat, professional, and well-groomed appearance.”
All female Soldiers can opt to wear the dreadlocks, Moore said.
The Army has granted waivers to Sikh Soldiers since 2009 to wear a turban in lieu of issued Army headgear, and allowed those same Soldiers to wear the turban indoors when Army headgear would normally be removed. Moore said for those Soldiers, the waivers were permanent, but that it was unclear Army-wide that this was the case. That is no longer true, he said.
The new policy is that religious accommodation for Soldiers wanting to wear the turban needs to be requested only once, and that the accommodation will apply to them for their entire Army career.
In an Army directive dated Jan. 3, then-Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning made official the policy regarding the wear of turbans, beards, hijabs, and under-turbans.
“Based on the successful examples of Soldiers currently serving with these accommodations, I have determined that brigade-level commanders may approve requests for these accommodations, and I direct that the wear and appearance standards established in … this directive be incorporated into AR 670-1,” Fanning wrote in the directive.
“With the new directive, which will be incorporated into the Army regulation, religious accommodations are officially permanent for Soldiers,” Moore said.
Also a change: whereas in the past requests for such accommodation rose to the Pentagon before they could be approved, permission can now be granted by brigade-level commanders. Bringing approval down to that level, Moore said, speeds up the approval process dramatically.
That was the intent, Moore said. “They are trying to speed up the process for the Army and for the Soldier.”
Moore said the same religious accommodation rules apply for those Soldiers seeking to wear a beard for religious reasons, and to female Soldiers who want to wear a hijab as well.
If brigade-level commanders feel it inappropriate to approve the accommodation for some reason, he said, then they can recommend disapproval, but it must be channeled to the GCMCA for decision. Under the new policy, requests for religious accommodations that are not approved at the GCMCA-level will come to the secretary of the Army or designee for a final decision.
Still at issue for Soldiers is wear of a beard in conjunction with a gas mask.
“Study results show that beard growth consistently degrades the protection factor provided by the protective masks currently in the Army inventory to an unacceptable degree,” Fanning wrote in the Army directive. “Although the addition of a powered air-purifying respirator and/or a protective mask with a loose-fitting facepiece has demonstrated potential to provide adequate protection for bearded individuals operating in hazardous environments, further research, development, testing, and evaluation are necessary to identify masks that are capable of operational use and can be adequately maintained in field conditions.”
Moore said that until further testing is completed, and alternatives are found to protect bearded Soldiers in environments that are affected or are projected to be affected by chemical weapons, Soldiers with beards may be told to shave them in advance, with specific and concrete evidence of an expected chemical attack.
If a chemical warfare threat is immediate, Moore said, instructions to shave their beards would come from higher up, at the General Court-Martial Convening Authority-level — typically a division-level commander.
Likewise, Soldiers who seek religious accommodation to wear a beard will not be allowed to attend the Army schools required for entry into chemical warfare-related career fields, Moore said.
For wear of the beard, Moore said, the new directive allows for beards to be as long as the Soldier wants, so long as the beard can be rolled up and compressed to less than two inches from the bottom of the chin. Additionally, for those Soldiers wearing a beard under a religious accommodation, the rules for wearing a mustache are also new. Mustaches may extend past the corners of the mouth, but must be trimmed or groomed to not cover the upper lip.
Maj. Kamaljeet Kalsi, a civil affairs officer in the Army Reserve’s 404th Civil Affairs Battalion at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is a Sikh Soldier who wears both a turban and a beard. He said he welcomes the new policy change as an indication that the Army is now looking to both accolade his faith, and to open its doors to talent in the United States that might have been previously untapped.
“It means a lot to us,” Kalsi said. “And not just to Sikh Americans, but I think Americans that value religious freedom and religious liberty, and value diversity. I think it means a lot to all of us. To me it says the nation is moving in a direction that the founders intended, a pluralistic democracy that represents all. I think we’re a stronger nation when we can draw from the broadest amount of talent, the broadest talent pool. And it makes us a stronger military when the military looks like the people it serves.”
Capt. Simratpal Singh, with the 249th Engineer Battalion prime power section, said the policy is for him about acceptance.
“On a personal level, it means that I can serve freely and without having to worry about any stipulations or constraint,” he said. “That’s all I want: is to serve in the U.S. Army just like any of my peers.”
Because the next edition of AR 670-1 is expected to be published next month, the Army will not be able to include the new rules. But Moore said Soldiers can expect to see these most recent changes in the AR 670-1 that comes out at this time next year.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Airman 1st Class Ian Wilkerson, a 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communication navigation specialist, checks the radio systems of an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter during a preflight inspection April 26, 2016, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Maintenance and inspections are conducted before and after every mission to ensure aircraft safety and longevity.
Pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron use the Jaws of Life to tear apart a vehicle’s roof to remove a mock victim during a combat search and rescue demonstration at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, April 21, 2016. Pararescuemen and members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron demonstrated the rescue during a Chief of Staff of the Air Force Civic Leader Program visit.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the US Army.
A helicopter crew, assigned to 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, based at Fort Wainwright, transport supplies and equipment with a CH-47F Chinook helicopter during high-altitude mountain operations at Denali base camp, Alaska, April 24, 2016.
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 22, 2016) U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, Solo pilots perform at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base Air Power Expo 2016. The Blue Angels are currently celebrating their 70th show season and are schedules to perform 66 demonstrations at 34 locations across the U.S. in 2016.
GULF OF ADEN (April 26, 2016) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). Boxer is the flagship for the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion is staged during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christopher D. Robson, water purification specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 24 practice drills during a Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command night raid exercise at Tactical Air Combat Training System Airfield, near Yuma, Arizona, April 21, 2016. This exercise was conducted during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 2-16. WTI is a seven week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) cadre. MAWTS-1 provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Houston helicopter aircrewman looks out from an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter while conducting an overflight assessment and search for anyone in distress after recent flooding in southeast Texas, April 19, 2016.
Good Samaritans and U.S. Coast Guard Heartland crews rescued nine mariners after their boat rapidly began taking on water.
During the Cold War, the Soviets made a new type of vehicle called a ground effect vehicle (GEV). These vehicles earned their own classification because they aren’t quite airplanes or hovercrafts but something in between.
Ground effect is the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface of the Earth, which reduce the drag and lead to greater cruise efficiency, according to AVweb. Pilots simply describe it as “floating.”
Although the Soviets didn’t discover the ground effect phenomenon, they did take full advantage of it by making these behemoth low-flying vehicles.
“We’re trying to get normal people — civilians who wouldn’t normally have access to military equipment — a little bit of hands-on knowledge,” said Drive A Tank’s owner Tony Borglum in the video below.
It’s one of the only places in the world where you can drive a tank and shoot a machine gun under one roof that’s not owned or operated by the government, according to MarKessa Baedke-Peterson.
With packages ranging from $449 to $3,699, this military theme park will have you behind the wheel of a 15-ton armored vehicle through a course of woods and mud. The course ends at the car crushing area where visitors get to destroy perfectly intact Priuses (and other vehicles) by running them over.
But that’s not all. After the tank course, attendees get to shoot anti-material rifles like the Barrett 50 Cal. and belt fed machine guns like the M1919 Browning.
“Now that’s one badass motherf–ker,” Baedke said.
This video shows what a day is like for people who visit Drive A Tank:
Morgan Freeman is the latest target of Russian ire. The 80-year-old actor is in a video from The Committee to Investigate Russia, warning Americans that Russia is at war with the U.S. and that Americans should respond “before it’s too late.”
“We have been attacked,” the video begins. “We are at war.”
The CIR website is a repository of information and stories concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. It details the investigations, the investigators, media coverage, and the players surrounding the incidents. Freeman’s part is the voice and face of the video urging Americans to take a more concerned stance and demand the U.S. government admit the meddling that took place.
Russia isn’t happy about the video or Freeman’s participation in it.. State-run media outlet Russia Today said the video shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“Many creative people easily become victims of emotional overload while not possessing credible information about the true state of things,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RT, calling CIR’s effort a “follow-up to McCarthyism.” Peskov went on to say these things eventually fade away and that statements like Freeman’s “are not based on real facts and are purely emotional.”
“Imagine this movie script,” Freeman continues in the video, “A former KGB spy, angry at the fall of his motherland, plots a course for revenge. Taking advantage of the chaos, he works his way up through the ranks of a post-Soviet Russia and becomes president. He establishes an authoritarian regime and then sets his sights on his sworn enemy, The United States. And like the true KGB spy he is, he secretly uses cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world. Using social media to spread propaganda and false information, he convinces people in democratic societies to distrust their media, their political processes, even their neighbors. And he wins.”
Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, says Freeman is being used the way Colin Powell was in the lead-up to the 2003 U.S.-led Invasion of Iraq.
“We’ll find out who stands behind this story faster than we learned about the contents of the vial,” Zakharova said, referring to a vial Powell held up in a speech as he made the American case for war to the United Nations. “The finale will be spectacular, I can’t wait to see it.”
Meanwhile, Russian media called Freeman “hysterical,” even going so far to bring a panel of psychiatrists on to question the Oscar-winner’s state of mind. A weatherman even chimed in, saying the actor is overworked and smokes too much marijuana. Russian psychological experts say he may be subject to a Messianic complex from playing God and the President of the United States in so many movies.
The video ends with Freeman calling on President Trump to address Americans from the Oval Office:
“My fellow Americans, during this past election, we came under attack by the Russian government. I’ve called on Congress and our intelligence community to use every resource available to conduct a thorough investigation to determine exactly how this happened.”
Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.
It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.
And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.
It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.
Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.
The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.
“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”
Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”
Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.
All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.
On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.
“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”
Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.
In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.
According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.
About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.
There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.
Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.
Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.
Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”
“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
WATM recently posted an article (inspired by 13 Hours: The Secret Heroes of Benghazi) about transitioning out of the military into a career in private security contracting. That feature generated a great deal of interest and discussion. Based on that, we did some intel and came up with this list of 20 private security firms for those interested in taking the next step:
GRS is the private security contractor that employed the surviving operators who’s personal accounts are featured in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. GRS is designed to stay in the shadow, work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.
ACADEMI, formerly known as “Blackwater,” was founded by former Navy SEAL Erik Prince in 1997. Prince is famous for explaining his firm’s purpose by stating: “We are trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”.
SOC is ranked as one of the global Defense News Top 100 List of defense companies and has provided security services for over a century. It provides security, facility management and operation, engineering, explosive ordnance storage and disposal, international logistics and life support services. Customers include the U.S. Department of State, Energy, Defense and Fortune 500 companies.
4. Triple Canopy
Triple Canopy was founded by former U.S. Army Special Forces operators and today, more than 80 percent of its employees have served in the U.S. military. Most of its security specialist positions require experience in military operations, military police, security police, emergency medicine and more.
Aegis security and risk management company serves over 60 countries around the world with clients including governments, international agencies and corporations. Aegis runs a global network of offices, contracts, and associates and provide security from corporate operations to counter-terrorism.
6. Blue Hackle
Blue Hackle is a security contractor to multiple sectors including oil and gas, mining, construction, and governments. They provide stability to commercial enterprises, as well as developing governments, according to its website.
7. GardaWorld Government Services
GWGS specializes in protecting U.S. government personnel and interests wherever they’re needed. They train in security, crisis response, risk management and close protection.
8. ICTS International N.V.
ICTS International N.V. was founded in 1982 by security experts, former military commanding officers and veterans of government intelligence and security agencies. They set the standard for the aviation security industry.
9. AKE Group
AKE Group provides security and consultant services ranging from emergency evacuation and crisis response to kidnap avoidance. They provide close protection to war reporters, executives and VIPs.
G4S was founded in 1901 in Denmark and today has operations around the world in over 100 countries with more than 611,000 employees. G4S goes where governments can’t—or won’t— maintain order, from oil fields in Africa to airports in Britain and nuclear facilities in the U.S., G4S fills the void. It is the world’s third largest private-sector a employer and commands a force three times the size of the British Military, according to Vanity Fair.
11. Armed Maritime
Armed Maritime Security offers services to commercial and private vessels operating off the east and west coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Its board of directors consist of former diplomats, Army and Naval Officers from Britain, Finland and Sweden. Its security teams are drafted from current, serving members and former members of the Swedish, British, Finnish Elite units.
12. Control Risks
With operation in over 150 countries around the world, Control Risks provides security services to governments, fortune 500 companies and private citizens. It specializes in cyber, operational, maritime and travel security in hostile areas and actively hires people with experience in military, law enforcement, business consultancy, security services and intelligence.
13. Beni Tal – International Security (BTS)
BTS serves military and government organizations with its own private military. It has expertise in guerrilla warfare and non-conventional terrorism and provides solutions for land, air, naval and intelligence forces.
14. Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain is a UK based private security contractor that specializes in private, government and commercial protection. Its close protection operators are designed to blend seamlessly into family and professional life for true incognito security.
15. Chilport (UK) Limited
16. Chilport specializes in Canine security and training. It supplies dogs for search and rescue (SAR), drug sniffing, bomb detection and more.
16. GK Sierra
Based in Washington DC and Portland, GK Sierra gathers intelligence for the CIA. It has operators around the world specializing in corporate investigation, intelligence, digital forensics and encryption.
Prosegur is one of Spain’s leading security contractors with over 158,000 employees around the world. Its clients consist of entities in non-English speaking countries in Asia, Europe, Oceania and Latin America. It specializes in manned guarding, cash in transit and alarms.
18. Andrews International
Andrews International is a Los Angeles, CA based company with services around the world. It provides armed and unarmed security to government services and the department of defense.
Erinys provides security services to gas, oil, shipping and mining companies in Africa and the Middle East. They provide regional and country expertise by hiring and training locals.
20. International Intelligence Limited
International Intelligence employs former law enforcement, military and intelligence personnel to operate in hostile environments. It offers private investigation, intelligence, surveillance and forensic services to corporations, government agencies, embassies and police forces.
The real vets turned private security operators from the 13 Hours film explain their experience during the attack on Benghazi. The part about being a private security operator starts at 01:15.
The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.
Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.
But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.
Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola, a former Army infantry officer and West Point graduate (class of 1977) was announced as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of the Army.
VIncent Viola (far left) presents the National Italian American Foundation’s first Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Award for Distinguished Military Service to Gen. Ray Odierno and his son, Capt. Anthony Odierno. (Photo U.S. Army)
According to a report by the Washington Examiner, Viola, who served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), is the executive chairman of Virtu Financial. Viola also chaired the New York Mercantile Stock Exchange at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
After 9/11, he founded the West Point Combating Terrorism Center.
“Whether it is his distinguished military service or highly impressive track record in the world of business, Vinnie has proved throughout his life that he knows how to be a leader and deliver major results in the face of any challenge,” the Trump transition office said in a statement. “The American people, whether civilian or military, should have great confidence that Vinnie Viola has what it takes to keep America safe and oversee issues of concern to our troops in the Army.”
In a statement, Viola said he looked forward to serving.
“I will work tirelessly to provide our president with the land force he will need to accomplish any mission in support of his National Defense Strategy,” Viola said. “A primary focus of my leadership will be ensuring that America’s soldiers have the ways and means to fight and win across the full spectrum of conflict.”
Retired Army Col. James Hickey, commander of the brigade that captured deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, had been reported to be a front-runner for the position, along with Van Hipp, the long-time chairman of American Defense International, Inc.