North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, presided over the launch of a new anti-ship cruise missile system on June 8 in Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast. And though the missiles performed well and struck their target, it was a pretty weak showing.
The missiles flew about 125 miles, South Korea said, and fired from tracked launchers with forest camouflage. The missiles themselves were not new, according to The Diplomat, but they showed off a new launcher that can fire from hidden, off-road locations within moments of being set up.
But those are about the only nice things you could say about these missiles.
In the photos released by North Korean media, it’s clear the missiles are striking a ship that isn’t moving.
The ship appears anchored, with no wake. Photo by Rodong Sinmun
In a combat situation, the ships would move and take countermeasures. For the US, South Korean, and Japanese navies, that often means firing an interceptor missile.
North Korea also lacks the ability to support these missiles with accurate guidance. The US would use planes, drones, or even undersea platforms to observe and track a target.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
North Korea waited to test these missiles until two US aircraft carrier strike groups armed to the teeth with missile defense capabilities left its shores, perhaps to avoid embarrassment should the US knock them down.
Unlike its practice with ballistic-missile tests, which are banned under international law, the US did not publicly comment on this launch. North Korea is well within its rights to test a cruise missile in international waters.
Photo by Rodong Sinmun
But despite the rudimentary technology used in the launch, North Korea did show that it poses a real threat. Not only do the missile launchers leverage the element of surprise, but they represent yet another new missile capability.
In a few short months, North Korea has demonstrated a range of capabilities that has surprised experts and military observers. Though the missiles don’t pose a threat to the US Navy, Kim showed he’s serious about fighting on all fronts.
French President Emmanuel Macron said April 22, 2018, that he is bringing a living tribute to “Devil Dog” Marines who fell in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood to the White House as a symbol of the two nations’ enduring ties.
The oak sapling from the battle site will be presented to President Donald Trump in hopes that it will be planted in the White House garden, Macron said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program from the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Macron arrives in the U.S. April 23, 2018, on a three-day visit that is expected to focus on the way forward in Syria following the April 13, 2018 missile strikes, and on France’s concern that Trump may pull the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to halt Iran’s nuclear programs.
“Retreat? Hell, we just got here”
The battle of Bois de Belleau, or Belleau Wood, about 60 miles north of Paris near the Marne River in the Champagne region, has entered Marine Corps lore. It’s best known among Marines as the place where they were first called “Devil Dogs” for their fierce defense in June 1918, that blunted the German spring offensive.
A dispatch from the German front lines to higher headquarters described the Americans blocking their way and mounting counter-offensives as fighting like “Teufel Hunden,” or “Hounds of Hell.”
At one point, French forces moving to the rear to regroup urged the Marines to join them. The response from a Marine, attributed to either Capt. Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, or Maj. Frederic Wise, was, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”
(Illustration by Georges Scott)
Once they consolidated their positions, the Marines would attack six times through mustard gas and withering machine-gun fire before the Germans were driven from the wood. An estimated 2,000 Marines were killed.
An official German report later described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen.”
Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, marveled at the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” of Belleau Wood in a quote that has also become part of the Marine legend.
“The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle,” Pershing said.
He added that, “the battle of Belleau Wood was for the U.S. the biggest battle since Appomattox and the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy” to that time.
The oak sapling Macron will give to Trump was taken from a site near the so-called “Devil Dog Fountain,” where U.S. troops gathered after the battle of Belleau Wood. The fountain’s spout is in the shape of the head of a bull mastiff.
(Photo by G.Garitan)
The gift of the sapling is not the first time Macron has sought to firm up relations with a world leader by playing to their affections for the armed forces and military pageantry.
During a state visit to China early 2018, Macron gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a horse from the elite French Republican Guard. Macron had remembered that Xi was impressed with his official escort of 104 horsemen during a visit to Paris in 2014.
July 2017, in Paris, Trump was similarly impressed by the military formations and fly-bys at the annual Bastille Day Parade. The parade in France was believed to have been a factor in Trump’s decision to order a military parade in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day 2018.
Trumps, Macrons to dine at Mount Vernon
On April 23, 2018, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, will join Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a private dinner at the historic Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate of George Washington. Macron will also address Congress and attend an official state dinner at the White House.
Although they have had differences on climate change, tariffs, and Syria, Macron said he was committed to working with Trump and he sidestepped the possible repercussions from the long-running special counsel investigation swirling around the White House.
“I never wonder [about] that,” Macron said of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I mean, I work with him. I work with him because both of us are very much at the service of our country on both sides,” Macron said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Here, in this office, I’m not the one to judge and in certain way, to explain to your people what should be your president,” Macron said. “I’m here to deal with the president of the United States. And people of the United States elected Donald Trump.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Yes, the movie has uniform errors and some technical mistakes. But, for a film about space aliens and government conspiracies, “Independence Day” actually represents the modern American military pretty accurately.
1. (1:00) America’s next great enemy begins its attack by waltzing past former U.S. military positions unopposed.
Seriously, the moon used to be America’s playground, then we abandoned it. If we had just left a residual force on the moon, we could’ve caught the alien menace and rooted it out before it got a foothold. Thanks, Obama.
2. (7:15) America’s problems start with the enemy attacking satellites.
Whether it’s China shooting a satellite with a missile or the aliens crashing into satellites, America suddenly faces some serious competition in orbit.
3. (9:25) U.S. communications equipment is quietly sabotaged.
China steals data, the aliens quietly broadcast data to control a countdown. It’s different sides of the same coin.
4. (12:20) Washington splits into Hawks and Doves before anyone has any idea what’s going on. Marine general rolls his eyes.
One civilian: Let’s just ignore it.
Another civilian: Lets kill it with missiles!
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: You’re all idiots.
5. (14:53) The U.S. has no clue what is happening in Russia until it shows up on the news.
Guy: Mr. President! You might want to see this!
Cut to T.V. screen showing spaceship over Moscow.
Guy: There are aliens over Moscow?
Um, did you not know those spaceships were there before? They’re kilometers wide and you watched them enter earth’s atmosphere, headed that direction. And you didn’t realize where they went until it showed up on the news? You have spies and embassies and stuff right?
6. (17:30) Plan for the alien threat is “God help us” until someone can think of something better. No need to put together a working group or anything.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: And what happens if the aliens do become hostile?
President: Then god help us.
Chairman: Oh, well. It’ll just be IEDs all over again, then. A huge threat that we just hope will go away until a few thousand people or more are dead.
7. (24:30) Marine assumes everyone around him is running because they’re cowards. Doesn’t even entertain the thought that they may know something he doesn’t.
8. (35:43) The Marine’s girlfriend is a stripper.
9. (53:00) Marines are too busy cutting jokes to pay attention to the mission briefing.
This is despite the fact that the enemy has already destroyed three cities and the Marines are about to fight an enemy that neither they nor any other human has ever faced.
10. (1:09:00) The Air Force and CIA were collecting intelligence on aliens for decades but didn’t share information with any decision makers when aliens showed up.
11. (1:44:00) All the other world militaries have consolidated their forces into mobile, international strike groups that can hide from alien incursions. America has kept their troops segregated from foreign forces and consolidated on fixed military installations.
12. (1:44:15) Other militaries of the world let America take the lead. Because, ‘Murica and apple pie.
O.K., this scene is obviously super ‘Murica. But it seems like at least one or two of the other countries would have doubted the American plan or been reluctant to follow the U.S. into a questionable scheme. And they certainly would have been working on their own plans that may be better than, “We’ll use a human computer to infect an alien computer because we don’t know how computer code works.”
13. (1:51:04) Combat pilot won’t start the world-saving mission until he gets his cigars, fulfilling his superstitions.
14. (2:12:30) Americans celebrate their victory without reservation, ignoring the fact that it came at the cost of dozens of American pilots’ lives. They also conveniently forget that there could be smaller alien ships still flying around the world. Those fighters you just parked would probably be useful in presence patrols to protect the very limited number of survivors.
Happy Independence Day, folks. Now watch one of the most motivating speeches in military movie history:
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s old secret service ID card from the 1980s was found in an East German secret police archive on Dec. 11, 2018, and it shows the young man pouting and staring proudly into the distance.
Putin, who worked for the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency at the time, worked alongside the Stasi — East Germany’s Ministry for State Security — from 1985 to 1990. East Germany was under Soviet Union’s control at the time.
The ID was issued in 1986, when Putin was 33, The Stasi Documentation Archive said on Dec. 11, 2018.
He was a “subordinate officer to a KGB liaison officer” at the time, the archive said.
The front of the card showed Putin’s photo, the location of his service — Dresden — and the ID’s issue number — B 217590.
There are several stamps on the back of the card, which were stamped every three months and ended in late 1989. It’s not immediately clear what they represent.
Stamps on Vladimir Putin’s old Stasi ID card.
A spokesman for the Stasi Documentation Archive said it was normal for KGB agents stationed in East Germany to be issued passes giving them entry to the German Stasi offices, Reuters reported.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the news agency: “As is well known at the time when the Soviet Union existed, the KGB and the Stasi were partner intelligence agencies so you probably can’t rule out an exchange of such identity cards.”
After leaving the Stasi and the KGB, Putin went on to work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.
He served as director there from 1998 to 1999, before becoming president in 2000.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. President Donald Trump appears increasingly willing to defy some of his top generals, as his administration grapples with how best to deal with Iran.
Trump is facing a May 2018 deadline to recertify the Iran nuclear deal and signaled again March 20, 2018, that he is not afraid to pull the U.S. out of the agreement unless other signatories are willing to make major changes.
“A lot of bad things are happening in Iran,” the president said during a visit to the White House by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“The deal is coming up in one month, and you will see what happens,” he added.
Trump has long been critical of the 2015 Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aimed to contain Tehran’s nuclear program and block the country’s pathway to building nuclear warheads.
In January 2018, Trump said he was waiving nuclear sanctions against Iran for the “last time,” demanding U.S. lawmakers and Washington’s European allies “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws.”
But since then, top U.S. military officials have pushed back, repeatedly describing the deal as mostly beneficial, even as they continue to voice deep concerns about Tehran’s aggressive behavior across the Middle East.
“As I sit here today, Iran is in compliance with JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action],” the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General John Hyten, told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 20, 2018.
“From a command that’s about nuclear [threats], that’s an important piece to me,” he said. “It allows me to understand the nuclear environment better.”
Hyten’s comments follow those made to the Senate Armed Services Committee by the commander of U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. operations in the Middle East.
“The JCPOA addresses one of the principal threats that we deal with from Iran so, if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said CENTCOM’s General Joseph Votel.
“Right now, I think it is in our interest,” Votel added. “There would be some concern [in the region], I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA.”
Both Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, have argued that staying in the deal is in the best interest of the U.S.
“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thinks it was OK,” Trump told reporters after announcing Tillerson’s removal. “I wanted to break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently.”
The man tapped to replace Tillerson, current U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, has gained a reputation for favoring a much tougher approach to Iran.
“The deal put us in a marginally better place, with respect to inspection, but the Iranians have on multiple occasions been capable of presenting a continued threat,” Pompeo said during an appearance in Washington in October 2017.
“The notion that the entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism or their terror threat or their malignant behavior has now, what, two years on, proven to be fundamentally false,” he added.
Those concerns, both from the U.S. intelligence community and from defense officials, have only grown.
Top defense officials have criticized Iran for what they described as malign and destabilizing activities in places such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and even Afghanistan.
When aspiring operators are being screened for selection into Delta Force, a collection of the most elite soldiers in the Army, they have to pass a series of rigorous and challenging tests, including a ruck march that they begin with no announced distance, no announced end time, and no encouragement. If they can complete this grueling ruck march, they will face a selection board and possibly join “The Unit.”
If they fall short, they go home.
Delta Force was pitched and built to be an American version of Britain’s Special Air Service by men like Col. Charles A. Beckwith, a Special Forces leader who had previously served as an exchange officer to the 22 SAS. Originally stood up in 1977, Delta was always focused on counter-terrorism.
Unsurprisingly, Beckwith got the nod to lead the unit he had helped pitch. He looked to the SAS itself for methods to winnow out those who might not be resolute at a key moment in battle, and embraced their stress event: a superhuman ruck march.
It wasn’t an insane distance, just 74 kilometers — or 40 miles. That’s certainly further than most soldiers will ever carry a ruck, but not an eye-watering number.
Col. Charles A. Beckwith, the first commander of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta.
(U.S. Army Special Operations Command)
But SAS candidates conducted this training at the end of what were already-grueling weeks of training. And on the day of the final march, they were woken up early to start it.
But the real mind game was not telling the candidates how far they had to go or how far they had already gone. They were just told to ruck march to a set point that could be miles distant. Then, a cadre member at that point would give them a new point, and this would continue until the candidate had marched the full distance.
Beckwith told his superiors that he needed two years to stand up Delta Force, partially because he felt it was necessary to incorporate this and other elements of SAS selection and training into the pipeline, meaning that he would need to recruit hundreds of candidates to get just a few dozen final operators. President Jimmy Carter wanted a new anti-terrorism unit, and senior Army brass were initially loathe to wait two years to give it to him.
According to his book Delta Force: a memoir by the founder of the military’s most secretive special operations, Beckwith had to fight tooth and nail to get enough candidates and time for training, but he still refused to relax the standards. Beckwith successfully argued that, to make a unit as capable or better than the SAS, the Army would have to fill it with men as tough or better.
This couldn’t just be men great at shooting or land navigation or even ruck marching. It had to be those people who would keep pushing, even when it was clearly time to quit.
To make his argument, he pointed to cases where capable men had failed to take appropriate action because, as Beckwith saw it, their resolve had failed. He pointed to the 1972 Olympics in Munich where great German marksmen failed to take out hostage takers early in the terror attack because they simply didn’t pull the trigger.
Beckwith needed guys who could pull the trigger, he knew that the SAS process delivered that, and he didn’t want to risk a change from the SAS mold that might leave Delta with people too reluctant to get the job done during a fight.
And so, the “Long Walk” was born into Army parlance. This is that final ruck march of selection. It’s 40 miles long, it’s conducted on the last day of training when candidates are already physically and mentally completely exhausted, and the rucksacks weigh 70 pounds.
Oh, and there is an unpublished time limit of 20 hours. And candidates can’t march together, each gets their own points and has to walk them alone. And, like in the SAS version, they don’t actually ever know the full course, only their next point.
Members of Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta guard Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
Finally, while the first classes conducted the Long Walk at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, later iterations had to conduct the exercise in the mountains of West Virginia, adding to the pain and exhaustion.
Even men like future Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who came to the course after the existence and general distance of the Long Walk were known, talked about how mentally challenging the uncertainty would be. He lost 15 pounds in the tough training that led to the march, and then he struggled on the actual event.
In his book, Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom, Boykin says that he was exhausted by the 8-hour mark. Having started before dawn, he would still have to walk deep into the night with his heavy ruck to be successful, praying that every point was his last.
But the next point wasn’t the last. Nor was the one after that, or the one after that. The cadre assigning the points cannot cheerlead for the candidate, nor can they tell the candidate if they’re doing well or if they’re marching too fast. Either the candidate pushes themself to extreme physical and mental limits and succeeds without help or encouragement, or they don’t.
In Boykin’s class of 109, only about 25 people even made it to the Long Walk, and plenty more washed out during that test. Freezing in the weather and exhausted from the weight, terrain, and distance, Boykin did make it to the end of the course. But, interestingly, even completing the prior training and the Long Walk does not guarantee a slot in Delta. Instead, soldiers still have to pass a selection board, so some people train for months or years, are marched to exhaustion every day for a month during training, have to complete the Long Walk, and then they get turned away by the board, are not admitted, and don’t become capital “O” Operators.
Delta Force has undoubtedly made America more lethal and more flexible when it comes to missions, but there are strict standards that ensure that only the most fit soldiers can compete in this space. And the Long Walk forces everyone but the most tenacious out.
The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.
According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.
“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”
The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.
The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.
Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.
When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.
“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”
Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.
AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.
The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.
Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.
News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.
One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.
“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”
For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.
Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.
“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”
Iraqi federal and Kurdish forces exchanged fire at their shared border on Oct. 20, capping a dramatic week of maneuvers that saw the Kurds hand over territory across northern Iraq.
Iraqi forces shelled Kurdish military positions north and south of Altun Kupri, a town of about 9,000 people just outside the country’s autonomous Kurdish region, a day after Brig. Gen. Raad Baddai gave warning he was going to enter the town.
Organized Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, as well as irregular forces, responded with rocket fire.
By mid-day, Iraq’s Defense Ministry said anti-terrorism forces, the federal police, and the country’s Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Front militias had taken the town.
But the peshmerga’s general command disputed that claim, saying Kurdish fighters fought off the advance and destroyed 10 humvees and an Abrams tank.
Ercuman Turkmen, a PMF commander, said from inside the town his forces were being targeted by sniper fire. Speaking to the AP by phone, he said he had no orders to enter the Kurdish autonomous region.
There were no casualty reports but AP reporters saw ambulances outside the town.
The boundaries of the country’s Kurdish region have long been disputed between Baghdad and Irbil, the Kurdish capital, but Kurdish forces this week withdrew in most areas to positions they last held in 2014, effectively restoring the contours of the map to the time before the rise of the Islamic State group.
They pulled out of nearby Kirkuk after brief clashes and handed over surrounding oil fields nearly without a fight, but they held on to Altun Kupri, making a symbolic last stand in front of the vastly more powerful Iraqi army.
“The Kurdistan Peshmerga Forces have resisted heroically in this confrontation and have recorded a great honor,” the peshmerga general command said in a statement released mid-day.
Altun Kupri is the last town on the federal side of the border on the road between Kirkuk and Irbil.
Kurdish forces entered Kirkuk in 2014 when Iraq’s army melted away ahead of the Islamic State group’s blitz across northern and western Iraq.
The city, home to over 1 million Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen, emerged at the heart of the dispute over whether Kurdish authorities should return the territories it acquired during the war on IS. They have lost an important stream of oil revenues with the loss of the city, dealing a serious blow to aspirations for independence.
Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani championed a non-binding vote for Kurdish independence in September. Baghdad condemned it and instead demanded the return of the disputed territories, precipitating the crisis.
The peshmerga are vastly outmatched by Iraq’s federal armed forces and the Iranian-sponsored militias that fight alongside them. Both the Kurds and the federal forces are accustomed to calling and receiving coalition air support as part of their shared war on the Islamic State group.
“There’s nothing we can do about it, honestly. I’m urging the coalition forces to come and help us.” said peshmerga fighter Ibrahim Mirza. “No doubt we have martyrs.”
Kurdish authorities sent reinforcements to the front lines. An Associated Press team saw a convoy of dozens armored vehicles arriving at the Kurdish side of the front, and fighters waiting in the town of Kustepe, on the Kurdish side of the border.
Thick black smoke rose from a checkpoint north of Altun Kupri after it was hit by a shell, and ambulances rushed from the front lines into Kurdish areas.
Altun Kupri is 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Kirkuk.
This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league has invited 15 Medal of Honor recipients to participate in the official on-field coin toss ceremony before Super Bowl LII officially kicks off.
Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, who earned his distinguished award during the Battle of Iwo Jima, is scheduled to conduct the traditional coin flip at Sunday’s game.
The other Medal of Honor recipients in attendance include:
The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.
While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.
Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today’s ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.
An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.
That’s not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.
If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.
Imagine the worst happens. The person you have loved, your service member spouse, dies. Maybe you have been married for ten years. Or maybe you have been married for fifty years. But you navigated the craziness of military life together only to be told you need to forfeit your Survivor Benefit Plan, the money meant to help you survive this time. This was a part of your deceased service member’s well-planned safety net for you, and the government has yanked it away at your most fragile moment.
It’s called the Widow’s Tax. But it’s not a tax.
Learn more about it here. The date on the article: 2016. But you’ll find articles and editorials on this topic for many years. No one has solved the problem beyond slapping band-aids on it.
No one is getting rich off of the government here. We’re talking widows and widowers whose lives could be greatly impacted by losing the up-to-$15,000 a year in payments they should be (but aren’t) receiving. And the widows and widowers behind trying to correct this error, they are only asking that we change it from now forward. They are not asking to get the hundreds of thousands of dollars back that some of them are owed. You read right: widows and widowers fighting for money that is owed to them.
Why hasn’t this problem been solved?
There are about 64,000 surviving spouses who are impacted by the Widow’s Tax. It’s a relatively small group, and that makes solving the offset harder because it can be easily dismissed.
These military spouses didn’t come from a generation of hashtags. They didn’t have the Internet to organize as a group for some time. They were in a Widow’s Fog when it came to sign papers. And, when they learned about this offset, they probably thought it would be quickly remedied because: why would anyone think two programs that are entirely not related would require forfeiting monies for an annuity they paid into for years? It certainly wasn’t mentioned when their spouse paid into it.
According to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), a strong supporter of repealing the SBP-DIC offset: No other federal surviving spouse is required to forfeit his or her federal annuity because military service caused his or her sponsor’s death. Additionally, the offset does not apply to surviving military children. Only to the spouse.
Oddly, it also does not apply to widows or widowers who remarry on or after the age of 57.
In fact, the whole situation is odd and why it hasn’t been fixed, that’s the oddest part of all.
These military spouses have been waiting long enough. Now we must all get behind them. #repealwidowstax
This is the call to action!
Call Senators and ask them to cosponsor SA2411 an amendment to the Defense Budget Bill for 2019 with language identical to S.339. This amendment has the same language as S.339. This would eliminate the Widow’s Tax, which is the only insurance one purchases and then is legally prohibited from collecting. This impacts all active duty line of duty deaths and disabled military retirees who purchased SBP, whose SBP is reduced dollar for dollar by DIC, indemnity compensation paid by the VA as a small reparation and to indemnify or hold harmless the government for causing the death.
On Sept. 21, 2018, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System hosted our annual POW/MIA Recognition Day program. Three former prisoners of war (POW) attended including World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
Here is his story.
From Bartlesville to the Battle of the Bulge
Born on April 2, 1926, Fred Brooks turned 18 in 1944. Nearly nine months later, the native of Bartlesville, Okla. was sent to the front lines on Christmas Day during the Battle of the Bulge.
On January 10, 1945, Brooks and five other solders in the 4th Infantry Division were conducting a night patrol and entered a German village.
“We went into this little village at night to check it out, and there wasn’t anyone in that village when we entered it,” said Brooks. “When daylight came, the Germans were everywhere. They killed one and wounded two.”
Surrounded, the remaining soldiers were forced to surrender, and were transported to Stalag IV-B Prison Camp in Mühlberg, Germany.
Brooks said the Germans fed the POWs once a day, which was typically a small cup of vegetable soup.
World War II Veteran Fred Brooks.
“That’s all they had to give you,” he said. “The Germans had nothing to feed their own troops, let alone us.”
He said the Germans never harmed him, but he did have to endure the brutal winter conditions.
“My feet were frozen terribly bad,” he said. “I didn’t have one drop of medication. There was an elderly English man in the camp where I was at and he helped me tremendously to clean the wounds as best we could. It was a rough winter.”
On April 23, 1945, the Russians liberated Stalag IV-B and approximately 30,000 POWs.
“The Russians entered our camp during the night,” said Brooks. “The next day, I think there was three German guards left and the Russians hung them high in the trees. We were very happy to see (the Russians). They fed us.”
Approximately 3,000 POWs died at Stalag IV-B, mostly from tuberculosis and typhus.
World War II Veteran and former POW Fred Brooks has received his health care from the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System for approximately 30 years.
Brooks was reunited with the American Army and sent to the coast of France to wait for a transport ship home. While waiting, he met another soldier from Bartlesville, and the two made a pact not to tell their families they were coming home.
“When we got to the little bus station in Bartlesville, his wife was waiting on him,” he said with a laugh. “He had broken our vow not to call.”
From the bus station, Brooks walked a mile to his parent’s home.
“I got my parents up at 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It was unreal. My parents were just out of it to see me walking in the door. It really surprised them. They were very happy.”
After the war, Brooks worked in construction and retired at the age of 75. He still lives in Bartlesville.
Looking back on the war and his internment in a German POW Camp, Brooks credits divine intervention for his survival.