NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal - We Are The Mighty
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NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China increases military spending by $175 billion

China plans to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2018 in an effort to modernize its armed forces.


Beijing proposed spending 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) on its military, according to its budget report presented ahead of the opening of China’s 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2018, according to Reuters.

Also read: The State Department is withering and China is taking advantage

Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will “advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”

He also said the military, the government, and its people must always be as “strong as stone.”

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
PLA troops undergo live-fire exercises in Djibouti. Source: Government handout.

China’s defense spending has increased following Xi’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Operations Command in April 2016. The budget grew 7.6% in 2016, and 7% in 2017.

Related: Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

At the time he was appointed, experts said Xi’s designation as Commander in Chief stressed his control over the country and its military power.

Xi has also pledged to modernize the army, promising to unveil a “world-class” armed forces by 2035.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force’s new handgun

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.

The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.


The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.

A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)

“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”

“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”

So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.

“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Five sobering 9/11 Memorials across the United States

After 9/11 we vowed that we would never forget. We set out to find those responsible for the horrific attacks and bring them to justice. To remember the people whose lives were taken that day, we erected memorials across the nation as focal points for grief and healing and as symbols of hope for the future. Here are five of the most beautiful, sobering and awe-inspiring.


NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

(Frederic Schwartz Architects—Wikimedia Commons)

1. The Rising—Westchester, New York

Naturally, New York is home to the most 9/11 memorials. The Rising in Westchester remembers the 109 Westchester residents who lost their lives on 9/11 with 109 steel rods intertwined like strands. They rise 80 feet from the ground, “reaching upward to the heavens,” according to the architect. It also includes the names of 10 additional victims who were former Westchester residents etched on stones. A 110th victim from Westchester was unintentionally omitted from the memorial. Since their identification, their name has been added to the stones.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

(9/11 Memorial Museum)

2. Postcards—Staten Island, New York

Dedicated on the fourth anniversary of the attacks, the Postcards 9/11 Memorial features two fiberglass structures that resemble postcards. It honors the 275 Staten Islanders who lost their lives on 9/11. Each victim is memorialized with a profile on a granite plaque that lists their name, date of birth and place of work at the time of the attack. The memorial frames the location across the water on Manhattan where the Twin Towers stood. Postcards was the first major 9/11 Memorial to be completed in New York City.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

(Steve Tobin)

3. Trinity Root—New York, New York

Sculpted by artist Steve Tobin, Trinity Root measures 12.5×20 feet and weighs three tons. The bronze sculpture memorializes the stump of a 70-year-old Sycamore tree that shielded St. Paul’s Chapel from falling debris on 9/11. Unveiled in 2005, the sculpture has since been moved to Trinity’s Retreat Center in Connecticut.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

(Boston Logan International Airport)

4. Boston Logan International Airport 9/11 Memorial—Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Logan International Airport houses a permanent memorial to the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11, both of which departed Logan for Los Angeles before they were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers. A landscaped path leads to a large glass cube that houses two glass panels etched with the names of every person aboard the two planes.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

(Public Domain)

5. Monument to the Struggle Against World Terrorism—Bayonne, New Jersey

Dedicated on the 5th anniversary of the attacks, this memorial stands 10-stories tall and was an official gift from the Russian government to the United States. The sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, drove by the American Embassy in Russia every day for work. Following the attacks, this daily commute would bring him to tears, inspiring the teardrop focus of the memorial. It highlights the 26 Russians who were killed on 9/11 and also memorializes the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. The memorial was originally gifted to the local government of Jersey City. After they rejected it, the memorial was placed in its current location in Bayonne.

There are dozens more memorials across the nation that honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks. In big cities and small towns throughout the United States, we keep our promise that we made all those years ago. We will never forget.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea claims that U.S. must step up for peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that Pyongyang has already taken steps towards denuclearization and is expecting Washington to make the next move.

Kim met with Chinese and Russian officials who were visiting North Korea for its toned-down 70th anniversary celebrations, and conveyed his frustrations on stalled talks with the US.

In attendance was Li Zhanshu, a third-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, who presented a letter from President Xi Jinping to Kim and reiterated commitment to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.


But Kim told Li that the regime had already taken steps towards denuclearization, like refraining from further nuclear and missile testing, and awaited the US to reciprocate in its actions. US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has continued to work on its nuclear program and missile arsenal.

“We would like the United States to take some kind of action that is reasonable, then we would like to move forward along the process of a political solution,” Kim told Li during their meeting, according to the Asahi Shimbun, citing Chinese state media.

The North Korean leader added that the country is “taking measures by sticking firmly to the agreement” made with President Donald Trump during their summit in June 2018, though he did not expand on what measures had been taken, Asahi added.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

Moscow official Valentina Matviyenko said on Sept. 10, 2018, that Kim appealed to Russia to help ease crippling sanctions imposed against the regime, given the “steps they have been taking” in line with Kim’s agreement with Trump, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported.

“Those are very serious steps aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said, adding that Kim expects “reciprocal” measures by the US because “it is impossible for only North Korea to take unilateral steps on denuclearization.”

The relationship between the US and North Korea remains uneasy

Relations between North Korea and the US have grown stale in recent months, though both sides appear to be open to dialogue.

In August 2018 Trump canceled a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing lack of “sufficient progress” towards denuclearization, and days later North Korea’s state newspaper accused the US of plotting to “unleash a war” on them while continuing to negotiate “with a smile on its face.”

But on Sept. 10, 2018, the White House said it’s planning another summit between Trump and Kim after it received “further evidence of progress” with Pyongyang in the form of a “very warm and very positive” letter. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no details have been finalized, and said it will not release the full letter unless Kim agrees it should be made public.

On Sept. 9, 2018, Trump praised Kim’s muted 70th anniversary celebrations, which didn’t feature its usual showcase of nuclear weapons, as a sign of progress.

“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” he tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat veteran addresses homelessness with tiny homes

When former Army Cpl. Chris Stout saw his fellow veterans struggling with homelessness, he set out to solve the problem by going small — really small. Tiny, even.

On Veterans Day, 2015, Stout and three other combat vets started the Veterans Community Project (VCP), a non-profit that builds communities of tiny homes, providing a host of services for veterans.

During a 2005 combat tour in Afghanistan Stout was wounded and transitioned back to Kansas City, Missouri. Like many wounded warriors, he struggled with physical and mental injuries. He knew that he felt better when in the company of other veterans and, for a short time, worked as a veteran counselor connecting vets to services they needed. But it wasn’t enough.


“I often would use my own money to put up vets in a hotel room,” Stout said. “I felt like there must be better way to get vets the services they needed, as well as housing.”

With its focus first on the great Kansas City, Missouri area, VCP wants to use the region as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. Long term, they aspire to eliminate veteran homelessness nationwide.

Veteran’s Community Project

www.youtube.com

“We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”

Homelessness is one of the major contributors to the high suicide rate of veterans, he said. According to the latest 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study, that rate is 22 per day among younger veterans aged 18 to 34.

In the VCP program, veterans get more than just a home; they get a community of like-minded veterans supporting each other.

“It’s very much like the barracks lifestyle, except that each veteran has their own home,” Stout said. “They’re taking care of each other. We also have a community center for them to gather and share camaraderie.”

The founders of VCP say on their website they are a team of “connectors, feelers, and doers on a mission to help our kin, our kind. We move with swift, bold action, and will always serve with compassion.”

Stout and his partners use their military logistics prowess to ensure that their housing communities are located along convenient bus lines and provide every veteran a free bus pass to allow easy transportation.

“We like to have them say, ‘What do you provide?’ That way we can ask them, ‘What do you need?’ And then we can start being the connectors,” Stout said. “At least 60 percent of the people that we serve, we’re serving them because of a poor transition from the military.”

And it’s thanks, in part, to his work with that community that he’s accumulated a wealth of good advice on how to survive the transition from the military into the civilian world.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

Chris Stout, Army veteran and Founder of the Veterans Community Project.

Chris Stout’s top 5 transition tips

  1. Connect with other veterans in your community. They will have learned lessons and have guidance more valuable than a brochure.
  2. Ask for assistance before it’s too late. When Plan A doesn’t pan out, be prepared to execute a Plan B and ask for help pulling yourself out of the hole.
  3. You’re not alone. You’re not the first to struggle with the VA, and you’re not the first to struggle with home life. Know that there are people who understand and can help sort it out. Often, when veterans transition, they view it as if they are the only ones traveling this road or the first blazing the trail. That’s not the case
  4. If you’re a veteran, act like one. That means accepting responsibility, be on time, hold yourself accountable, have integrity and do not act entitled.
  5. Work as hard as you did while you were in the service each and every day. It doesn’t matter what you decide to do when you get out; if you keep the drive, you will be OK.

Master your military transition

Looking for more transition tips? Military.com has you covered. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have military news, updates, and job resources delivered directly to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This sniper crawled nearly 2 miles to kill one enemy general

Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock is a legend of Marine Corps history. One of the most lethal snipers in history, he even repeatedly succeeded in killing snipers sent to hunt him. In one of his last missions on a tour in Vietnam, he crawled nearly two miles to kill a Vietnamese general and escape.


Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss the legend of Gunny Carlos Hathcock:

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

When the mission came down, he didn’t have all the details but he knew tough missions at the end of a tour were a recipe for disaster. Rather than send one of his men, he volunteered for the mission himself.

“Normally, when you take on a mission like that, when you’re that short, you forget everything,” Hathcock said in an interview. “Ya know, tactics, the whole ball of wax, and you end up dead. And, I did not want none of my people dead, and so I took the mission on myself.”

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Photo: Marine Corps Archives

Hathcock was flown towards the objective, but was dropped well short of the target so he wouldn’t be given away. He made his way to a tree line, but still had 1,500 yards to move from the tree line to his final firing position. So, he started crawling.

“I went to my side. I didn’t go flat on my belly, because I made a bigger slug trail when I was on my belly. I moved on my side, pretty minutely, very minutely. I knew I had a long ways to go, didn’t want to tire myself out too much.”

As he crawled, he was nearly discovered multiple times by enemy soldiers.

“Patrols were within arm’s reach of me. I could’ve tripped the majority, some of them. They didn’t even know I was there.”

The complacency of the patrol allowed Hathcock to get 700 yards from his target.

“They didn’t expect a one-man attack. They didn’t expect that. And I knew, from the first time when they came lolly-gagging past me, that I had it made.”

The talented sniper made his way up to his firing position, avoiding patrols the whole way and slipping between machine gun nests without being detected.

He arrived at his firing position and set up for his shot.

“Seen all the guys running around that morning, and I dumped the bad guy.”

Hathcock took his shot and punched right through the chest of the general he was targeting. At that moment, he proved the brilliance of firing from grass instead of from the trees.

“When I made the shot, everybody run the opposite direction because that’s where the trees were,” he said. “That’s where the trees were. It flashed in my mind, ‘Hey, you might have something here.”

Per his escape plan, Hathcock crawled to a nearby ditch and crawled his way back out of the field. For the first time in four days, he was able to walk.

“So, I went to that ditch, little gully, and made it to the tree line, and about passed out when I stood up to get a little bit better speed.”

Articles

Sangin falls to the Taliban

The Taliban captured a key district center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday while in the country’s north, an officer turned his rifle on sleeping colleagues, killing nine policemen, officials said.


The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.

The British who took over southern Helmand in 2006 were headquartered at Camp Sebastian, which at its peak was the center for 137 bases in Helmand. Most of Britain’s more than 400 military deaths occurred in Helmand province — in Sangin alone, Britain lost 104 soldiers.

Since the withdrawal of foreign NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and with only a smaller, U.S.-led advise and training mission left behind, Sangin has been seen as a major tests of whether Afghan security forces can hold off advancing Taliban fighters.

Also read: US forces are quickly cutting off ISIS’ only escape route in Syria

The district’s police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.

Speaking to The Associated Press over the phone from several kilometers (miles) away from the district center, Rasoul said the district headquarters had been poorly protected and that at the time of the Taliban siege, only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty.

Afghan security forces were now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many forces would be involved.

“We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district,” Rasoul said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Afghan military would seek the help of international coalition forces in the area.

NATO spokesman William Salvin said in a statement that Afghan troops remained in Sangin district but had relocated several kilometers (miles) outside the district center. He said the relocation was necessitated because of the extensive damage to the district center by the Taliban.

In Kabul, a lawmaker from Sangin, Mohammad Hashim Alokzai, urged the military to move quickly to retake the district, saying its fall could have devastating consequences for Helmand, where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has in the past months also come under constant and heavy attack by the Taliban.

“The seizure of Sangin is a major tactical triumph for the Taliban,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Thursday. The insurgent group “has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan nearly 16 years after it was removed from power.”

Sangin is also one of the biggest opium markets in Afghanistan, which saw over 4,800 metric tons produced countrywide in 2016 — more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Efforts at poppy eradication in Afghanistan have been severely restricted because of the insecurity in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where the bulk of the crop is grown.

Opium, which is used to make heroin, is a major source of income for the insurgents and the Taliban levy taxes on opium that moves through its territory.

“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Helmand — it’s strategically located near Pakistan, it’s a bastion of the opium trade,” said Kugelman. “Perhaps the biggest reason why the British focused so much on Sangin is that they had invested so much over the years in trying to stabilize the place — and had suffered many combat deaths in the process.”

In northern Kunduz province, police spokesman Mafuz Akbari said the insider attack on Thursday that claimed the lives on nine policemen took place at a security post and that the assailant escaped under the cover of darkness.

Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks. In such incidents, attackers who turn their rifles and kill colleagues usually end up stealing their weapons and fleeing the scene to join insurgents.

Akbari said the assailant had gone over to the Taliban. He also claimed that the attacker and the Taliban gathered the bodies of the dead policemen and set them on fire.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied that a policeman had been involved or that the Taliban had burned the bodies of the policemen.

The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. The region is remote and not accessible to reporters.

Afghan forces have come under intensified pressure by insurgents in both Helmand and Kunduz.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine vet crawled across Boston Marathon finish line, honored fallen friends

A Marine veteran crawled across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, after his legs gave out late in the race.

Micah Herndon, of Tallmadge, Ohio, persisted because he was running in honor of three friends who died in an IED attack in Afghanistan.

“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through,” Herndon told CBS Boston.


On Jan. 9, 2010, Herndon was riding in a vehicle with fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer when they struck a 400-pound IED, Herndon told the Washington Post.

Marine Veteran Crawls Across Boston Marathon Finish Line

www.youtube.com

Juarez and Hamer died on impact. Ballard, who Herndon described as his best friend, died later of his injuries.

Herndon went on to survive two more IED attacks, and told The Post he got into running as a way to deal with the tough transition back to civilian life.

“There’s a reason why I’m here,” he told the paper. “I’m just trying to find out what that reason is for.”

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

Herndon ran with his friends’ names on bibs attached to his shoes.

(CBS Boston)

Herndon had hoped to finish the race in under three hours, in order to qualify for the New York City Marathon in November. He was on pace to make that goal for most of the race, but his legs started to give out when he hit Heartbreak Hill, an incline near the 20-mile marker, according to The Post.

He started feeling discomfort in his Achilles’ tendon that eventually caused his legs to give out entirely, leading him to finish the race on hands and knees.

Video shows volunteers clearing space for Herndon to he could crawl across the finish line. He was then put in a wheelchair and taken to get medical attention.

While he is still recovering from the race in Boston, he told The Post that he plans to get back to running as soon as possible, calling it his “therapy.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get your own free ‘Space Force’ ringtone

If you’re in the military or are a veteran and haven’t heard about the Space Force yet, it’s time to climb out from under that rock you’ve been living in. There’s a sixth branch of the U.S. military now, and it’s going to be a department of the Air Force.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
The men’s department.

Although the Air Force has released very limited guidance on what the new branch will do, how it will roll out, or basically anything at all except that it’s called the ‘Space Force’ and will exist one day, the excitement the idea of a space force brings the military community is palpable.

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Judged solely by the sheer volume of Space Force memes.

Also Read: 5 boring details a Space Force private will get stuck on

So if you’re excited to do your part, you can fully engulf yourself in the burgeoning Space Force culture, you can now enjoy the first Space Force song, sure to be shouted at the top of many a Spaceman’s lungs every morning during Space-ic Training.

This songified version of President Trump’s Space Force announcement was created by The Gregory Brothers, whose YouTube page is packed with pop culture songification. Due to the popular demand for the song to be made into a ringtone via the popular Air Force Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco, the Gregory Brothers responded immediately.

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal
Thanks Air Force amn/nco/snco.

Check out: Why the name of the space-based branch should be Space Corps

Good luck getting this song out of your head now that it goes off every time your mom or dad calls you. You can get your free Space Force ringtone from The Gregory Brothers at their Patreon page.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Guess how much longer the Afghan president thinks foreign troops will have to help defend his country

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said he believes most foreign troops will be able to leave the country “within four years.”


“Within four years, we think our security forces would be able to do the constitutional thing, which is the claim of legitimate monopoly of power,” Ghani said in an interview with the BBC broadcast on October 5.

He said that Afghan security forces turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban and “in terms of management and leadership, things are really falling into place.”

The Afghan government is struggling to beat back insurgents in the wake of the exit of most NATO forces in 2014.

A U.S. report found earlier this year that the Taliban controls or contests control of about 40 percent of the country, and security forces are also fighting against militants affiliated with the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has recently unveiled a strategy to try to defeat the militants after nearly 16 years of war, and officials said more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops are being sent to the country to reinforce the 11,000 U.S. troops already stationed there.

Trump has made an open-ended commitment to Afghanistan, saying U.S. troop levels will be based on “conditions on the ground,” not on “arbitrary timetables.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

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NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants to outfit dogs with tiny cameras and other cool gear

Man’s best friend has been fighting on battlefields for centuries, but the modern four-legged battle buddy is much more sophisticated than his predecessor with more advanced gear.

The modern US military has multi-purpose tactical dogs, search and rescue dogs, explosive detection dogs, and tracking dogs, among other types of canines, and the dogs have their own special equipment.


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U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Zamiska, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pulls security with a U.S. Air Force working dog, Jan. 6, 2013, during a patrol with the Afghan Border Police in Tera Zeyi district, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen)

The US Army, which is currently undergoing its largest modernization in decades, has been working hard to modernize the force, equipping soldiers with state-of-the-art gear, such as lightweight helmets that can withstand sniper fire and night-vision goggles that let them shoot around corners.

And military working dogs aren’t being left out of the modernization push.

Insider recently asked a senior scientist at the Army Research Office what’s next for military dogs, and he explained that there are a lot of interesting things on the horizon, despite the challenges of developing gear for canines.

“We are going to be able to help augment the animal with better cameras, better hearing protection, and better vision protection, and put those things all together so that we can get a smarter system out there,” Stephen Lee told Insider.

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A military working dog wearing the CAPS with goggles.

(US Army photo by Zeteo Tech)

All military dogs use a collar and a leash, but just as there are different types of dogs for different missions, such as pointy-eared dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for tactical operations and floppy-eared dogs like Labrador Retrievers for screening activities, the various types of military dogs tend to have varied gear kits.

“Like the multipurpose dogs might have a harness, a vest that contains stab proofing or some sort of insert armor,” Lee explained, adding that they might also have goggles, hearing protection equipment, and special booties for snow, sandy or rocky environments.

There are also cooling vests and specialized kennels that cool to help the canines better operate in hot areas.

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A US soldier carrying a military working dog.

(US Army)

And canine gear is continuously evolving.

“We are learning a lot from the robotics community because they need lightweight electronics. So we’re able to put small cameras on the dogs now and guide them at distances,” Lee said. “I’m excited about putting those new microelectronics on the canine.”

The US military has already made some strides in this area, equipping dogs with cameras, GPS trackers, and radios for better off-leash communication, but there is always the potential for more innovation.

The challenge, Lee told Insider, is that there is technically no military working dog research funding line in the military.

Lee has a PhD in physical organic chemistry and played an important role in the development of an artificial dog nose that is used for screening activities, but while it is an incredible tool, it lacks the ability to provide the full range of capabilities a working dog can.

“We spend billions of dollars making robots that can emulate dogs but don’t even come close,” he explained, adding that the military doesn’t really have any core research and development programs for dogs.

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A military working dog surrounded by a soldier’s gear.

(US Army)

Much of the canine-related research is carried out by industry and academia with input from the military and law enforcement and funding pulled from various pools.

For instance, Zeteo Tech, Inc., a Maryland-based outfit, has developed an innovative solution to help prevent hearing loss in dogs with the help of the Small Business Innovation Research grant provided by the Army Research Office.

But, while military working dogs may not receive the same level of attention that human soldiers do, those who work closely with them understand well their value in the fight.

Conan, a military working dog that was recently honored at the White House, helped special forces take down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the murderous leader of ISIS in October. Time and time again, canines have made important contributions to US military missions.

Lee told Insider that “we take for granted all that our dogs can do” on the battlefield.

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

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