Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
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Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

US defense secretary Jim Mattis said August 14 “all options — from withdrawal, to using private contractors, to adding thousands of US forces to the fight — remain on the table for Afghanistan.”


Mattis repeated the White House and Pentagon were ‘very close’ to finalizing a new strategy to present to President Trump.

Mattis, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have worked for months to craft strategy options for President Donald Trump.

Mattis said both withdrawal and a private contracted force were still under consideration. “The strategic decisions have not been made,” Mattis said. “It’s part of the options being considered.”

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Military Times previously reported on Trump supporter and former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince’s efforts to outsource the now 16-year Afghan war to private contractors, including offering a privatized air force for Afghanistan.

Military Times also reported that Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, has refused to meet with Prince. It is not clear whether that refusal has frustrated Trump.

According to NBC News, Trump has asked both Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to replace Nicholson as the top US general in Afghanistan. due to the president’s frustration with how that campaign is going.

On August 14, Mattis defended Nicholson, saying he “of course” supports him. But Mattis could not say whether the White House similarly supported him.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Gen. John Nicholson. (Dept. of Defense photo)

“Ask the president,” Mattis said. “[Nicholson] has the confidence of NATO. He has the confidence of the United States.”

The new strategy for Afghanistan was expected about a month ago. Mattis said he was still confident a decision was close.

“We are sharpening each of the options so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one so that there’s no longer any new data you are going to get, now just make the decision.”

Articles

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.


Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.

“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.

“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.

Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.

“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”

Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”

To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.

While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.

“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”

Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.

Articles

These animals fought like animals on the battlefield

Until the introduction of modern machinery, animals have played an often-decisive role in warfare.


For instance, the Mongol’s masterful use of horses allowed Genghis Khan and his generals to carve out the largest land empire ever known.

In the book Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals, author Jared Eglan curated amazing insights into how militaries have used a stunning menagerie of animals in combat.

From a 440-pound bear to pigeon-guided missiles, here are nine notable examples of wartime animals.

War elephants

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Army Archives

Elephants, with their massive stature and fearsome tusks have been employed in warfare since ancient times. Elephantry units were first incorporated in militaries in India, but throughout time, famous generals including Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great all used elephants to literally crush their opponents.

War elephants were usually deployed in the center of the line, where the imposing beasts would charge at up to 20 mph towards the enemy. They were also used to carry heavy materials across difficult terrain before tanks and helicopters were an option.

Unlike horse-mounted cavalry, elephants didn’t fear infantry lines bearing spears, their muscular and articulate trunks could navigate a wall of spears much better than a charging horse.

The mere sight of elephants charging was enough to break lines and cause many armies to flee in terror. Only cannon fire made the war elephants impractical. The giant animals were resilient against musket fire, but provided a huge target for cannons.

Off the battlefield, militaries still found ways to make use of elephants. As recently as 1987 Iraqi troops allegedly used elephants to transport heavy weaponry for use in Kirkuk.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Mine-hunting dolphins

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Navy

In 1960, the US Navy first began its studies on dolphins. At first, the studies were limited to testing how dolphins were so hydrodynamic, with efforts on applying the findings towards improving torpedo performance.

However, by 1967 the US Navy Marine Mammal Program evolved into a major project. The program, which is still ongoing, began training dolphins for mine hunting and force protection missions. In the case of mine hunting, dolphins were trained to locate underwater mines and release buoys over their location, allowing the Navy to safely clear the weapons.

During the Iraq War in 2003, such dolphin-led operations led to the clearance of over 100 mines in the port of Umm Qasr. Additionally, dolphins have been trained to guard harbors against enemy divers. When a diver approached, the dolphin was trained to bump a buoy device onto the person’s back which drags them to the surface.

“These animals are released almost daily untethered into the open ocean, and since the program began, only a few animals have not returned,” according to the Navy.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of AnimalsUS Navy

Anti-tank dogs

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: Military archives

The Nazi betrayal of the Soviets during World War II caught the Russians completely off guard. In a desperate attempt at staving off the Nazi advance into their territory, the Soviets originally attempted to train dogs to place bombs in front of tanks before running back to safety.

When this proved too difficult a feat for training, the Soviets instead began strapping bombs to dogs that were activated by a small lever rising from an attached pouch on the dog’s side. When the dog would dive under a tank, the lever would strike the tank’s chassis and detonate.

Soviet propaganda claims that around 300 German tanks were destroyed in this manner. However, the majority of the program proved to be a failure. The dogs were trained on Soviet diesel tanks, instead of German gasoline tanks, so during deployment the dogs had a habit of running towards Soviet vehicles based on scent.

The anti-tank dog program continued until 1996.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

War pigs

Pigs have been recorded in multiple ancient texts as one of the most effective counter-weapons to war elephants. War elephants were reportedly terrified of the squealing and charging of pigs, so both the Romans and Alexander the Great made use of them in campaigns against enemies that fielded elephants.

In one particularly brutal scenario, the use of incendiary pigs was also recorded.

Eglan notes in Beasts of War that “Antigonus II Gonata’s siege of Megara in 266 BC was broken when the Megarians doused some pigs with combustible pitch, crude oil or resin, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy’s massed war elephants.

The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming, squealing pigs, often killing great numbers of their own soldiers by trampling them to death.”

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Bat bombs

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Developed by the US for use against Japan during World War II, the bat bomb was literally that. Each bomb would contain 26 trays that each held 40 hibernating bats. Each bat was meant to be outfitted with an individual incendiary device that was set to detonate after a specified amount of time.

The bombs could deploy their own parachutes, giving the bats time to fly out and look for places to roost. The US was planning on dropping hundreds of the bombs over Japan’s industrial cities in Osaka Bay.

As Japanese cities at the times were largely constructed of wood and paper at the time, the bombs would have caused thousands of fires and burned large sections of Japanese cities to the ground. The project was ultimately superseded by the atomic bomb.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Defensive sea lions

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Navy

The US Navy Marine Mammal Program, in addition to studying and deploying dolphins, also employed California Sea Lions.

Trained in the same facilities, and even sometimes working on the same missions together, the sea lions helped to protect US harbor installations and ships against enemy divers as well as retrieving text equipment that is fired from ships or dropped from planes.

The sea lions are naturally excellent divers, out performing even experienced human divers at a fraction of the price.

The Navy first used sea lions to recover a test anti-submarine rocket from a depth of 180 feet in November 1970.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals, US Navy

Pigeon-guided missiles

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Army

Pigeon-guided missiles were developed by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner during Project Pigeon. Although the project was ultimately canceled because of the impracticality of the weapons, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles showed promise.

The missile had an array of lenses at the front that projected an image of the target to an interior screen. The pigeons were conditioned to peck at the target on the screen. The pigeon’s pecks corrected the missile’s flight path.

Although the project was canceled in 1944, it was revived in 1948 by the US Navy. However, after missile guidance systems were proven effective in 1953, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles was finally laid to rest.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

A soldier-bear

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

Wojtek was born in in 1942, but by the end of World War II he was a corporal in the Polish Army.

After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Brigade began a long trek south toward Persia. It was then that they encountered Wojtek.

The bear became a mascot for the troops in its youth. The bear would frequently drink alcohol and smoke, even eat, cigarettes with the men.

After a long journey, Wojtek’s company finally reached Egypt where they prepared to reenter the war zone through Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.

Wojtek, at a massively strong 440 pounds, carried weapons and munitions much faster than the men in his company. Eventually, Wojtek became so symbolic of the company that they immortalized them on their emblem.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of Animals

Cat spies

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: NSA Archives

The acoustic kitty was a CIA project in the 1960s that set out to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and other Soviet embassies.

Cats used in the project had microphones implanted in their ear canals, and radio transmitters in the base of their skulls. In theory, the cats would become mobile, albeit unpredictable little spies reporting immediately back to the CIA.

In the first deployment of an Acoustic Kitty, the cat was unleashed around a Soviet compound in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but a taxi struck and killed the cat almost immediately.

Predictably, the CIA abandoned the project due to the difficulty of getting a cat to do pretty much anything on command. The project reportedly cost $20 million.

Source: Beasts of War: The Militarization of AnimalsNSA Archives

 

Articles

These Coast Guard special operators fight terrorists and secure American ports

The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.


Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.

During training exercises in 2014 and 2015, the MSRT was tasked with securing a moving ferry with 5,000 passengers, eliminating hostage takers onboard, and disabling a radiological device before it could be detonated. The MSRT has also been called on to provide an evacuation capability for the President of the United States and other dignitaries at the U.N. General Assembly.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.

Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.

“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.

See more photos of them below:

A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Milke Lutz

Articles

Sailor accused of spying for China, Taiwan cuts deal with feds

The U.S. Navy abandoned efforts to convict a Taiwan-born Navy officer of spying for China or Taiwan, striking a plea deal on May 4 that instead that portrays him as arrogant and willing to reveal military secrets to impress women.


The agreement was a marked retreat from last year’s accusations that Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. gave or attempted to give classified information to representatives of a foreign government.

But it still appears to end the impressive military career of a man who came to America at 14. joined the staff of an assistant secretary of the Navy in Washington, and later was assigned to a unit in Hawaii that flies spy planes.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Then Lt. Lin about Navy vessel. (Photo from UNSI.org)

, 40, now faces dismissal from the Navy and up to 36 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for early June.

During the day-long court-martial in Norfolk, admitted that he failed to disclose friendships with people in Taiwan’s military and connected to its government. He also conceded that he shared defense information with women he said he was trying to impress.

One of them is Janice Chen, an American registered in the U.S. as a foreign agent of Taiwan’s government, specifically the country’s Democratic Progressive Party.

said he and Chen often discussed news articles she emailed him about military affairs. He admitted that he shared classified information about the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

He also divulged secrets to a woman named “Katherine Wu,” whom he believed worked as a contractor for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She actually was an undercover FBI agent.

“I was trying to let her know that the military profession in the United States is an honorable and noble one,” told Cmdr. Robert Monahan, the military judge. said the military is less prestigious in Taiwan.

also had friends with other connections, including a woman living in China whom he met online, and a Chinese massage therapist who moved to Hawaii.

said he gave the massage therapist a “large sum of money” at one point, although he didn’t say why.

also admitted to lying to superiors about flying to Taiwan and planning to visit China. But he said he did it only to avoid the bureaucracy that a U.S. military official must endure when traveling to a foreign country.

“Sir, I was arrogant,” he told the judge.

A Navy press release about attendance at his naturalization ceremony in Hawaii in December 2008 said he was 14 when he and his family left Taiwan.

“I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land,'” was quoted as saying. “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland.”

Articles

Navy personnel chief to sailors: you have a voice in ratings overhaul

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Chief petty officers stand at attention during a chief pinning ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on Sept. 16, 2016, in the Atlantic Ocean. | U.S. Navy photo by Christopher Gaines


Vice Adm. Robert Burke is the chief of naval personnel. He assumed the role in May and is responsible for the planning and programming of all manpower, personnel, training and education resources for the U.S. Navy. This views expressed in this commentary are his own.

There has been a lot of discussion since we announced the Navy’s rating modernization plan on Sept. 29. I’ve been following the conversation closely, and it’s clear that many were surprised by this announcement.

While there is rarely a right or perfect time to roll out a plan as significant and ambitious as this rating modernization effort, I firmly believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so. Throughout our rich, 241-year history, the U.S. Navy’s consistent advantage has come from its Sailors. You are our asymmetric advantage in an increasingly complex world — you are our prized possession, our secret weapon. In recognition of that, we continuously work to ensure that we develop and deploy our Sailors in the most modern and effective system possible. This is just our latest effort to modernize our personnel system — one of hundreds we’ve made in the past.

The objectives of this effort are simple: flexibility, flexibility and flexibility. First, we will provide flexibility in what a Sailor can do in our Navy, by enabling career moves between occupations to ensure continued advancement opportunity and upward mobility as the needs of a rapidly adapting Navy change. Second, we will provide flexibility in assignment choice — a Sailor with the right mix of plug-and-play skills will have more choices for ship type, home port, timing, sea/shore rotation, even special and incentive pays! Finally, we will provide you more flexibility after you leave the Navy, by providing civilian credentialing opportunities — in other words, giving you credit in the civilian job market for your Navy education and experience.

This effort will take us several years to complete, and we will include you in the process as we work through it — we’re just getting started and you will be involved as we go. Many questions remain unanswered, and we’ll get to them — together. There will be fleet involvement throughout.

Here’s the rough breakdown of the project, as we see it today:

— Phase 1 (now through September 2017) — redefine career fields and map out cross-occupation opportunities. Identify career groupings to define those rating moves that can be done, and that also translate to civilian occupational certifications.

— Phase 2 (now through September 2018, will run parallel with Phase 1) — examine the best way forward for how we best align our processes for:

  • Recruiting and initial job classification;
  • Planning for accessions — the numbers and mix of skills for folks we recruit;
  • Advancements — how do we define what is required for advancement if you are capable of several skill sets? Do we eliminate advancement exams altogether?
  • Detailing processes;
  • Pay processes — to include things like SRB, Assignment Incentive Pay, etc.; and
  • Reenlistment rules.

— Phase 3 (now through September 2018) — updating underlying policy documents, instructions, things like applicable BUPERSINST, OPNAVINST, and the Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards Manual. This will include changes to how we handle things like Evaluations and Awards.

— Phase 4 (began last year, expect to go through September 2019) — identify and put in place the underlying IT systems. This is probably the most complex and game changing aspect of the project.

— Phase 5 (September 2017 through September 2018) — redesign the Navy rating badges. The idea is to hold off on this until we settle on the right definition of career fields, to better inform the conversation on the way ahead in this area.

— Phase 6 (September 2019 and beyond) — continuous improvement, further integration with all Sailor 2025 initiatives.

I am committed to ensuring you have a voice in the way ahead. Toward that end, I am aggressively expanding the membership and avenues of communication into the Navy-wide working group that has been assembled to tackle this project. As we go forward, your feedback matters and we want to hear from you during each phase of the transformation. You can expect lots of discussion on this as we learn and adapt the plan to make it deliver on the objectives. Have conversations with your Senior Enlisted Leaders, who are armed with how to move those conversations forward. You also have a direct line to me in order to make sure your ideas are heard — send them to NavyRatingMod@gmail.com.

We are proud members of numerous different tribes within the Navy — our occupations, warfare specialties, ships and squadrons — we must always remember that there is one Sailor’s Creed and we are one NAVY TEAM supporting and defending our Nation. This modernization will make us more capable as individuals and a Navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reporter almost decapitated by a helicopter during a segment

A reporter with the Russian The Caucasus Post media outlet risked being decapitated while filming a news segment featuring some low-flying Mi-24 helicopters in anticipation of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.

The scene speaks for itself: you can clearly see the journalist presenting her report from the runway as several Hind gunships fly close to her. As many as 14 Mi-24s can be seen in the footage with the second one literally buzzing the journalist with the stub wing endplate missile pylon missing her head by a few inches…


Take a look:

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The ‘bizarre story’ of how Russia’s most advanced air defense system was ‘lost’

China became the first foreign buyer of Russia’s S-400 in 2014, but the delivery of the air-defense system, considered one of the most advanced the world, was marred when a ship carrying it encountered a storm in early 2018.

According to the CEO of Russian defense firm Rostec, the components damaged were more important than first known.

At the IDEX defense conference in the United Arab Emirates February 2019, Sergey Chemezov said that the gear damaged in the storm included the 40N6E, which is the export version of S-400’s 40N6 missile, according to Stephen Trimble, defense editor at Aviation Week.


The 40N6 is the longest-range interceptor of the S-400’s three missiles. The export version of the missile can reach just under 400 kilometers, or roughly 250 miles. The system also comes with a command-and-control system, a radar system, and a launcher.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)

While the delivery of the S-400 to China had previously been confirmed, whether the 40N6E was included was not known for sure, which led Trimble to ask Chemezov about it, expecting to get a standard “no comment,” he said on the most recent episode of Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast.

“He not only confirmed it. He also told us this sort of bizarre story about the fate that befell [the missile] on its way … to China,” Trimble said.

Chemezov made clear that the missiles “were on a ship, and the ship got hit by a bad storm, and … ultimately all the missiles were lost. He didn’t explain exactly how they were lost, but he said that they all have to be replaced and that they are now building the replacements for the missile, because of either damage sustained in the storm, or they were just destroyed in the storm somehow.”

Reports of the damage emerged not long after the delivery started in early January 2018.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

An S-400 radar unit.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

Maritime trackers monitoring ships’ automatic identification systems did notice a vessel that left St. Petersburg with an AIS code indicating it had explosives aboard, Trimble said. That ship hit a storm in the English Channel and returned to port.

Russian state media outlet Tass said in January 2019 that “part of the equipment included in the first shipment” to China had been “damaged by a storm and returned to Russia.”

Around the same time, Russian news agency RIA quoted the spokeswoman for Russia’s military and technical cooperation service as saying parts of the S-400 systems on their way to China were damaged in a storm at sea. The spokeswoman described the components as “secondary” without giving any details.

But the S-400’s missiles are an essential component — the 40N6 even more so.

The revelation “was a very surprising development in this story of this export and completely unexpected,” Trimble said. “I can’t really think of something like this ever happening before, because it’s not just any missile. This is probably one of the most important, strategically, weapon systems in the world right now, and this is the most powerful effector, or missile, within that system.”

“Those missiles now may be at the bottom of the English Channel, which is just an incredible twist in the whole story,” Trimble added.

In May 2018, China received its first regimental set of the S-400 when the third and final ship arrived with “the equipment not damaged during a December storm in the English Channel and the damaged equipment after repairs,” a diplomatic source told Tass at the time.

An S-400 regiment consists of two battalions. Each battalion has two batteries. A standard battery has four transporter erector launchers, each with four launch tubes, as well as fire-control radar systems and a command module. Reports about how many regimental sets China was to get vary from two to six.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

Russian S-400 air-defense missile systems.

The South China Morning Post said in the final days of December 2018 that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force tested the S-400 in November, shooting down a “simulated ballistic target” moving at the supersonic speed of nearly 2 miles a second at a range of nearly 150 miles.

The S-400 and Russia’s efforts to sell it abroad have become a point of contention with the US.

In September 2018, the US hit China with sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which is meant to punish Russia over its interventions abroad and interference in the 2016 US election.

But other US allies have expressed interest in the S-400, complicating matters for Washington. Despite warnings that the US would rescind F-35 deliveries and that the system wouldn’t work with NATO weapons, Turkey has forged ahead with an S-400 buy, saying in February 2018 that the purchase was a done deal.

India has also agreed to buy the S-400, though Chemezov said New Delhi has yet to make an advance payment, which “was a bit of a surprise,” Trimble said. Buying the S-400 could open India to US sanctions, though there is a wavier process in the CAATSA legislation that could be applied to Delhi.

And despite the Trump administration’s wooing of Saudi Arabia — which includes White House senior adviser Jared Kushner personally negotiating a discount with the Lockheed Martin CEO for the firm’s Terminal High Altitude Air Defense system — the Kingdom is reportedly still interested in the S-400.

“Chemezov refused to talk about the S-400 and Saudi Arabia, and he was very blunt about why,” Trimble said. “He said that if we talk about these kinds of deals, that gets our potential customers in a lot of trouble with the US government, so what we’re doing is negotiating silently, which isn’t a very silent way of negotiating, but that was how he put it.”

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson had strong words for the National Guard and the Pentagon after allegations emerged that the DoD is forcing California Guard troops to reimburse the government for enlistment bonuses it paid in error.

“It is beyond the bounds of decency to go after our veterans and their families a decade later,” he said in a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty. “These are rounding errors to the Pentagon, but these demands for repayment are ruining lives and causing severe hardships for service members whose sacrifices for the nation can frankly never be adequately be repaid.”

Johnson was referring to a Los Angeles Times story that alleges the National Guard is forcing nearly 10,000 guardsmen from California to repay reenlistment bonuses they were awarded 10 years ago.

According to the paper, more than 14,000 California Guardsmen were awarded the reenlistment bonuses as a result of the Army’s incentive program to retain soldiers during the height of the Iraq war.

The U.S. government investigated the California Guard reenlistment bonuses and found a majority of the requests had been approved despite the soldiers’ not qualifying for the bonus. There has been no suggestion that any of the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses were aware that they did not qualify for them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe was the California Guard’s incentive manager at the time, and that after the Pentagon discovered the overpayments 6 years ago, Jaffe pleaded guilty to fraud. She was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three other officers associated with the fraud also pled guilty, receiving probation after being forced to pay restitution.

Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of the California Guard, accused the nearly 10,000 soldiers of owing a debt to the Army.

In his statement to The Los Angeles Times, Beevers claimed that the soldiers were at fault and that the Guard couldn’t forgive them. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law,” he said, not addressing whether the Guard was breaking the law by reneging on the contracts.

Several of the Guardsmen went on to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom sustained injuries as a result.

Military Times reports that the Pentagon is searching for ways to overcome the issue. “This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.

A host of lawmakers have stepped forward to condemn the Pentagon for harassing the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses, calling for congressional investigations into the matter. Though as of publication, no presidential candidate other than Johnson had addressed it.

Calling on President Obama and Congress to act immediately on the impacted Guardsmen, Johnson said, “The Pentagon needs a good dose of common sense far more than it needs these dollars, and making our service members pay for the government’s incompetence is beyond the pale.”

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
In a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty, Governor Johnson called for immediate action to be taken to keep the faith with California National Guardsmen.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Educational considerations for parents weighing homeschooling

Over the last century, with the introduction of compulsory attendance and development of the modern public education system, teachers have largely held the responsibility of educating America’s youth. COVID-19 brought about the shuttering of our nation’s schools and education was very quickly thrust into the spotlight as parents found themselves back at the helm.

The sudden closure of schools brought about a cascade of consequences educators, parents and government officials were forced to triage. The bulk of this responsibility fell to parents, as they worked to fit a titan of a system into a quickly-changing scenario, with contradicting information, within the fluid environment of a home.

Though these efforts were nothing short of heroic and should be celebrated, the result has left many parents with a sense of trepidation as fall approaches.


As we approach the new academic year, homeschooling has taken on a new level of interest. In fact, a national poll completed in May indicated that 40% of parents were more likely to homeschool after the lockdown ends.

Across the nation, parents are seeking out information that will help minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on their children’s education. Though they will ultimately have to weigh the options and choose the best fit for their family, there are a number of considerations for each.

District-directed learning and virtual academies

As mandates are passed down by governors, school districts are working to determine how to implement safety measures while balancing the educational needs of their students. As of now, district-directed learning hasn’t been fully fleshed out across the country as the plans are contingent on COVID numbers. Interest in virtual academies are at an all-time high, as parents are looking for options that won’t be impacted by rising COVID numbers. Virtual academies provided public education from state-certified teachers, adhering to the same testing, attendance, and accountability standards as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

Among the benefits of district-directed and virtual learning is adherence to curriculum standards and special education guidelines. Students are expected to attend classes where they will interact with their teachers and receive feedback on their progress. Parents are expected to help facilitate learning and adhere to the structure of the school system.

Homeschooling

Though there are a number of homeschool curriculums that effectively “copy and paste” the structure of public education into the home environment, the foundation of homeschool is built with the child and family center. To these ends, it’s highly individualized and fluid. For those who are new to homeschooling, there are a number of considerations to help guide you.

Legalities

Homeschool is regulated at the state level, meaning that each state has different requirements. Research is key for military families. Home School Legal Defense Association has a number of resources regarding state and special education laws. Additionally, homeschool families will often utilize an umbrella school for guidance to complete their state requirements, making a potential return to public school easier.

Curriculum

Homeschool curriculums cover a wide range of educational philosophy. From classical style to unschooling, there is a curriculum fit for every family. Most families use multiple curriculums depending on the need and number of children. Some curriculums have module-based learning where students access videos, relieving some of the pressure from parents. Many curriculums are designed with multiple grades in mind, allowing for families to teach certain subjects to multiple-level learners at once. There are online curriculum quizzes designed by veteran homeschoolers to help you find your best fit.

Time

One point that tends to take public-school parents by surprise is the amount of time many homeschoolers dedicate to desk-work. Overall, homeschoolers spend a fraction of the time at a desk compared to their public-school peers. Additionally, the rate with which homeschoolers move through the material is highly individualized. For instance, if the curriculum provides 20 lessons on a certain topic, but the student has demonstrated mastery in 7, they move forward to the next concept. Conversely, if a student is struggling, parents are able to recognize it and take additional time to help ensure success.

Socialization

Though families are also facing tough decisions about how to proceed in the fall, co-ops have historically been sources of a great community and learning among homeschoolers. The size and design of each co-op vary greatly as each community serves a different purpose. Though many co-ops are also awaiting further guidance smaller gatherings may continue to have fewer restrictions. Additionally, you can connect with a few like-minded families and create a co-op, allowing your students to continue to have a social connection with peers during this time.

Though the circumstances that have led us to this point have been, in many ways, catastrophic; parents should be empowered by policy and lawmakers to make the best educational decisions for their children. At a time when uncertainty is the only constant, embracing alternative forms of education may just be the thing that allows this generation of students to excel.

Nichole is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst, professor, and school psychologist with a specialization in education law and policy. A homeschooling mom of four and Marine spouse of 13 years, Nichole and her husband are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

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The surprisingly few times the U.S. actually declared war

The armed forces of the United States are just over 200 years old and have been involved in at least 318 military operations, according the the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. That number doesn’t count humanitarian missions or CIA operations.


So it may surprise you that America has only been at war 11 times.

Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives the power to declare war exclusively to the Congress, without describing exactly how that should be done. Congress figured it out by June 17, 1812 when it gave its first authorization for war, against Great Britain.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
For better or for worse.

The only 11 Congressional declarations of war were:

  • Great Britain, 1812
  • Mexico, 1846
  • Spain, 1898
  • Germany, 1917
  • Austria-Hungary, 1917
  • Japan, 1941
  • Germany, 1941
  • Italy, 1941
  • Bulgaria, 1942
  • Hungary, 1942
  • Romania, 1942

That’s not to say all the other engagements were illegal or a violation of the Constitution. There were other times the Congress authorized funds for military actions and later, to support United Nations Security Council resolutions. It just means those other engagements weren’t officially a “war.”

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Pictured: Enforcing UNSC Resolutions

There’s a distinct difference between a war declaration and an authorization of military force. The most important is that an official state of war triggers a new set of domestic laws, like giving the President the power to take over businesses and transportation systems, detaining foreign nationals, warrantless domestic spying, and the power to use natural resources on public lands. The authorization of force doesn’t give the President these powers.

The current way the President as Commander-In-Chief uses the military is defined by the War Powers Resolution of 1973. It requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids them from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30-day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution to reign in President Nixon’s use of the military, even overriding his veto to pass the law.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan

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The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

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This is how US troops help spread ‘Americana’ throughout the world

There aren’t many places in the world where you can’t order a glass of American whiskey, sing along to the latest Top 100 song, or watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Hell, North Korea may be the only country in the world where you can’t easily buy a Coke.


American culture made its mark throughout the world, for better or worse. And it turns out, American troops are some of the country’s best cultural ambassadors.

It’s a time honored tradition for soldiers to “Americanize” Local Nationals where ever they go. The ice cream man in Baumholder, Germany, never failed to get a laugh out of my unit whenever he would use our slang through his thick German accent. The carpet salesman in Afghanistan kept up with the latest superhero films far more than any of us did. And Kuwaiti workers would clean out Porta-Johns, rocking blue jeans.

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The nations that U.S. troops have partnered with have had their economies grow drastically. One of the best places in the world to see this is in post-war Japan.

America provided a “Security Umbrella” to its former enemy, letting the island nation to focus more of its GDP on manufacturing and reentering the international marketplace. Today, Japan is the fourth largest export economy, with it’s top export going to the United States.

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Flyer for the Hell Fighters Band

As America shed it’s isolationist ways and entered World War I in Europe, the world got a glimpse of what we’ve been up to on the other side of the ocean. When stationed in Paris, African American soldiers brought with them jazz, swing, and ragtime music.

The soldiers, between conflicts, would perform their new style in music halls. French crowds went crazy for it. Lieutenant James Reese Europe and his Harlem Hellfighters traveled all across France and quickly became one of America’s first international celebrities.

Related: Here are 5 things the ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ did that cemented their place in history

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U.S Army photo by Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong

One nation that had plenty of American influence is South Korea. South Korean technology has boomed in recent years and has helped spawn K-Pop (The genre of music that gave the world Gangnam Style) and Hallyuwood (Korean film industry).

This East Asian country had U.S. troops stationed there since the ’50s. All males between age 18 and 35 have been conscripted for a mandatory two year obligation. With this, many of the Republic of Korea Army soldiers are also sent to train and serve with the U.S. Army.

KATUSA (Korean Augmentation to the United States Army) soldiers form strong bonds of friendship with their American counterparts. Through this program, many Koreans learn of American culture and vice-versa.

Mattis is keeping all options on the table for Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Guerra

No matter where US troops are sent, they are sometimes the first actual interactions locals have with Americans. Some places refuse to serve Americans, others welcome them with open arms.

As long as you’re not a jack a–, you’ll be embraced. Even if you are brash, just be funny.