North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves - We Are The Mighty
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North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Female soldiers in North Korea military parade | Wikimedia Commons


With everything from the fear of deadly snakes to alleged executions by anti-aircraft guns, it’s understandable why many North Koreans desire to flee the Hermit Kingdom.

What’s interesting to note, however, is the economic class of defectors that have found their way out of North Korea. According to a survey from the Korean Unification Ministry, the percentage of defectors from the “middle-class” rose from 19 percent in 2001 to 55.9 percent after 2014.

The increase stems from the fact that more defectors from higher statuses in the North possess the resources to escape, said the Unification Ministry.

So far this year, 894 North Koreans have escaped the country, compared to the 777 in the previous year during the same period. The Unification Ministry claims that this 15 percent increase is on track to bring the total amount of defectors to 30,000 by the end of the year.

Although the reasons to cross the border, or in some exceptional cases remain away from, are numerous, it’s noteworthy that one of their highly publicized punishments in North Korea seems to have decreased: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is estimated to have executed about 130 officials in the 5 years he’s been in power, while Kim Jong Il, his father, had put to death over 2,000 officials in a 6 year span.

The latest high-profile defection comes from Thae Yong-Ho, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London, who has since been accused by his former country of leaking state secrets, embezzlement, and child rape. As one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials to have defected, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that others will eventually follow suit.

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11 ways the military can build a stronger, more modern force

The U.S. military personnel system is badly outdated and must be reformed dramatically to allow the armed services to recruit and retain men and women with the skills needed to deal with today’s vastly different threats and technology, a high-profile panel of defense experts said March 20.


North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Experts want to reform a military personnel system that hasn’t been changed significantly since 1947. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A new report developed by 25 former military and civilian defense officials — including top enlisted leaders, former generals and lawmakers on defense committees — for the Bipartisan Policy Council emphasized giving the armed services much greater flexibility to manage their personnel than they’re allowed to do now.

The existing personnel system “is outdated. The last time it was changed was in 1947, coming out of World War II,” said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, one of the four co-chairmen of the study.

“We’re at a time that if we don’t reform our personnel system, we will begin to undermine our defense,” Panetta warned.

To increase flexibility, the report recommended:

1. Letting people stay longer

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Everyone knows chiefs run the Navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The experts recommend replacing the traditional “up-or-out” structure and its rigid timelines for promotion with a “perform to stay” model for advancement.

2. Entering as a staff officer or NCO

Instead of coming in as a buck private or 2nd lieutenant, the report suggests allowing lateral entry at advanced rank for individuals with critical skills, such as those with cyber and information technology expertise.

3. Going back and forth

The experts suggest letting service members more easily move between active and reserve status and allowing temporary breaks in military service for education or family reasons.

4. Reform military compensation

The authors suggest replacing the current military pay table — which provides increases for longevity and increased rank — to “ensure compensation is commensurate with increased responsibility and performance.”

5. Kick malingerers out

The experts say the services need to institute annual involuntary separate boards to “remove low performers in over-manned specialties.”

6. Reform TRICARE

The authors suggest increasing TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees to cover 20 percent of coverage cost, and waiting until 2038 to grandfather all current service members.

They also suggest offering a new TRICARE option for dependents that would leverage a private employer’s contributions and reduced TRICARE cost.

7. Healthcare reform

The military experts recommend establishing pilot programs to test use of commercial health insurance benefits for reservists and their family members, military retirees and family members.

The report also suggests increasing access to higher quality of Defense Department-provided child care.

8. Help the spouses

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
The study authors recognize how important it is for the military to maintain a strong work-life balance. (Photo: U.S. Military)

The study authors also want to improve ways to help military spouses get and keep jobs, including giving service members more say in duty station changes.

9. Boost the force

And to reduce the stress on families from the high operational tempo, the report recommends adding military personnel.

The report also calls for greater efforts to expand the military’s outreach to a broader segment of Americans, including:

10. More ROTC

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Army ROTC cadets attempt the Ranger obstacle course. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Expand Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education, including post-graduate and community college.

11. Women in the draft

Require women, as well as men, to register with the Selective Service and make all registrants take the military entrance examination.

To enable the services to increase end strength and provide the training and tools service members need, the report’s authors emphasized the need to repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act, with its arbitrary limits on defense spending, and return to a regular budget process that would enable defense leaders to plan ahead for the forces and equipment they need.

The committee that conducted the study and drafted the report included five retired flag or general officers, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, former high-ranking officials from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, former members of Congress who served on the Armed Services Committees and the chief executive of Blue Star Families, a support organization.

The report is titled “Building a FAST Force,” with the initials standing for Flexible, able to Adapt and to Sustain the force and to be Technology oriented.

Articles

These 6 military hacks won’t work in civilian life

Transitioning from the military can be tough for a lot of reasons. There’s the trip to buy a civilian wardrobe, the lost camaraderie, and the sudden absence of awesome problem-solving tools.


Few things are as frustrating as spending hours with an HR rep talking out something you could’ve solved in uniform in minutes with one of these 6 techniques:

1. Take it to the woodline (or the boiler room, or wherever)

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Photo: US Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Michael Walker

When service members simply can’t find common ground, they dip into a secluded space and duke it out. Win, lose, or draw, the fighters don’t come back until they’ve made peace with each other. But this isn’t exactly an accepted way to settle the temperature setting of the office thermostat.

2. 10 minutes prior to the 10 minutes prior

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Photo: flickr/Robert Couse-Baker

Padding the timeline allows commanders and planners to know that everyone will be in position on time for a mission … because the troops had to arrive three hours early to inspect gear, practice movements, and just sit around wondering why they’re awake so early. Civilians really don’t go for arriving at 6 a.m. to make a 9 a.m. meeting. Try this at the office and someone is getting a call from the union.

3. Working parties and troop details

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Need to get a row of 12 massive connexes unpacked in a single day? Then first sergeant needs four people from each platoon.  Since the military owns all of the time of its members and those members are trained above all else to work together, the military can just throw men at a problem until it’s solved. But imagine a bunch of accountants being sent from their spreadsheets and calculators to put up tents.

That’ll go well . . .

4. Acquired gear

When units need something too quickly for the supply office to take care of it, there’s an ancient military tradition of “acquisition” that will get what you need as long as no one asks questions. The civilian world has too many bean counters and snitches for this to work though. If a copier mysteriously appears in one department, someone will check the serial number to learn where it came from.

5. “Suck it up and drive on.”

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Harry Brexel

Of all the techniques here, this is the one that many civilians most need to learn. Troops know that they don’t go to sleep until the mission is done, their weapon is clean, and someone is on watch. If you’re tired or in pain, suck it up and drive on. It’s also known as, “Ruck up.” Tell your co-workers to ruck-up and your supervisor may be asking why he’s on tap to pay massive amounts of overtime.

6. Call for fire

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Photo: Crown Copyright/Staff Sgt. Mike Harvey

There’s not a lot of problems that 155mm artillery rounds or a nice BRRRRRT from an A-10 can’t solve. In the civilian world, solving problems head on instead of working the system often results in nothing but more problems.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters talks to WATM about his concert for (and by) wounded vets

We Are The Mighty sat down with Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello to chat about the ‘Music Heals’ concert that was held last week in DC to create awareness about MusiCorps — a program that uses the healing power of music to assist wounded vets with their rehabilitation.


And here’s the setlist from the amazing show held at DAV Constitution Hall on October 16:

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

And check out this video from the show of the band playing the Pink Floyd classic, “Comfortably Numb,” featuring wounded warrior and former Army captain Greg Galeazzi on lead guitar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7urjTOyaZpo

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Pictures show USS McCain collision flooded crew berths, comm spaces

Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday between the USS John S.  and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer’s hull.


The collision east of Singapore between the guided missile destroyer and the 183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21. Significant damage to the hull resulted in flooding to nearby compartments, including crew berthing, machinery, and communications rooms. Damage control efforts by the crew halted further flooding. The incident will be investigated. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.

The  had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said “significant damage” to the  hull resulted in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it said.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
A photo of the freighter that allegedly hit the USS John McCain. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia’s coast but sailed on to Singapore’s naval base under its own power. Malaysia’s Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the Singapore Strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin showed a large rupture in the side near the waterline. Janes, a defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) wide.

One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting surgery for an arm injury.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Local authorities brief the media on the USS McCain collision. (AP photo via NewsEdge)

He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn’t say what happened. “I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure.”

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or oil spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the tanker at its last port inspection in July.

Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said three ships and five boats as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy’s 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.

The Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., replaced its website with a notice that says it is cooperating with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore’s investigation and with “other responding agencies.” It says “thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing U.S. Navy sailors.”

An official database for ports in Asia shows the Alnic was last inspected in the Chinese port of Dongying on July 29 and had one document deficiency, one fire safety deficiency and two safety of navigation problems.

The database doesn’t go into details and the problems were apparently not serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port authority.

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concern for the  crew.

Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. When reporters shouted questions to him about the , he responded, “That’s too bad.”

About two hours later, Trump tweeted that “thoughts and prayers” are with the  sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.

The 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer is named after U.S. Sen. John  father and grandfather, who were both U.S.admirals. It’s based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.

 said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are “keeping America’s sailors aboard the USS John S  in our prayers tonight — appreciate the work of search rescue crews.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas military community rallies to saves turtles

Amid the historic snowstorms and frigid temperatures that battered the Lone Star state earlier this year, members of one Texas military community gathered to save hundreds of green sea turtles left cold-stunned along the shore. 

According to Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Corpus Christi (DDCT), the water in Corpus Christi Bay dipped to 31 degrees, which is significantly colder than the turtles can tolerate. As a result, the animals went into a “cold-stunned” state, a condition similar to hypothermia. Some perished, others bobbed listlessly in the water, while many others still washed up on shore, where they caught the attention of the military community.

“We knew with the weather changing that the turtles would be in danger,” Cheryl Jason, a Navy spouse, said. She, along with her husband, Capt. Christopher Jason, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (NASCC), monitored the animals along base beaches. Once they realized the turtles were suffering, Christopher rescued several in his kayak. 

Cheryl posted a photo of their efforts on social media and the mission quickly went viral. “Volunteers from all ranks, dependents, retirees came into action,” she said.

Marine spouse Shannon Slocum saw the post and decided to head to the beach to see the situation for herself.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Emma and Ellie Slocum pose with rescued turtles. Their family helped transport more than 150 animals.

“We arrived down there with our kids in tow and were devastated to find at least 50 cold-stunned sea turtles who were washed up along a very small beach area on the base,” Slocum said, adding that they had no idea nearly 800 more turtles would drift to the shore in the days after. 

Slocum worked as fast as she could but was soon overwhelmed by the sheer volume of animals washing ashore. She too turned to social media for help. 

“I took a quick video of what we were doing and posted it to the Corpus Christi Spouses Facebook page, and people responded to help in droves.”

Helpers got to work with quick and creative thinking and assisted in any way they could, Slocum said, noting that people used everything at their disposal including kayaks, paddleboards, and rescue diving gear. Her husband, 2nd Lt. Mark Slocum, and a friend created an impromptu pulley system made of a laundry basket and ropes.

Read: Army veteran feeds 1,000 in Texas storm. 

“From that small effort alone, I think they pulled up 12 turtles that otherwise had no way of being rescued.”

Over the next three days, Slocum and her family, with the help of the Padre Island National Seashore, transported more than 150 cold-stunned sea turtles to rescue facilities.

Navy spouse Emily Kalbach, a GS employee who works at NASCC, and her daughter joined the effort, offering support, towels, and gloves to the volunteers. In the days that followed, she used her minivan to transport hundreds of turtles from the beach to the DDCT facility.   

“I can’t quite put words to the heaviness of the situation,” Kalbach said. “The anxiety we felt, fear, the awe, all those feelings that drive people to react and take action when a need arises.”

When buildings at NASCC proved too cold, base leadership connected with a variety of agencies, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, to find appropriate facilities and ensure the turtles were being cared for properly. 

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

DDCT’s employees spent the night wrangling turtles that tried to scurry away, keeping the animals’ eyes moist, and having a squadron of pilots take “turtle watch.” Their efforts helped to save 750 turtles. 

Biji Pandisseril, NASCC’s environmental director, said that it was a group effort, as everyone from officers and enlisted, retirees, Coast Guardsmen, DOD civilians, and on- and off-base individuals took part.

“This was not only a good example of the military helping the environment, but also a great example of diverse people coming together for a common good,” said Pandisseril. 

The Texas State Aquarium says it admitted and cared for more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles at its Wildlife Rescue Center, nursing them back to health in a large, heated rehabilitation saltwater pool. Since the rescue, it has released approximately 950 of the animals back into their habitats.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing partnership with NAS Corpus Christi,” Texas State Aquarium Senior Vice President and Chief Operation Officer Jesse Gilbert, said.  

According to Gilbert, the rapid response of the community is the reason so many animals stand a chance of surviving rehabilitation and ultimately being released back into the wild.

Looking back on the experience, Slocum says tight-knit communities such as Corpus are built to field these types of situations. 

“I have to say, as a military spouse/family, especially a seasoned one, you learn very quickly what it means to adapt and overcome difficult situations. We made do with what we could, and at the end of the day, we were just really proud of our efforts.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines experiment with first-of-its-kind 3D printing operation

Marines from Marine Corps Systems Command and 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory conducted the first known 3D concrete printing operation with a three-inch print nozzle at the CERL headquarters in early August 2019 in Champaign, Illinois.

The CERL, MCSC and 7th ESB team tested a new continuous mixer and three-inch pump for this print operation after successfully printing multiple structures, including a barracks and a bridge using, a two-inch pump and hose.

“This is really the first time we’ve ever printed something large with this system,” said Megan Kreiger, project lead for the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures — or ACES — team at CERL. “It is experimental right now and we are trying to push the technology forward. This is the first time in the world anyone has really tried using these larger bead systems with these larger pumps.”


Increasing from a two-inch to a three-inch nozzle allows Marines to print larger structures faster and with less waste, according to Kreiger. The teams have envisioned printing with up to a four-inch nozzle in the future.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory pose with a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, 2019, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

While this was the first known printing of concrete with a three-inch hose and nozzle, the exercise was also significant because it incorporated a continuous mixer similar to the one currently fielded to Marines.

“The new mixer we are testing is a commercial model of a mixer that is already within the Marine Corps repertoire in the Airfield Damage Repair Kit,” said Capt. Matthew Audette, project officer for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell at MCSC. “That means we don’t have to field a new piece of gear in addition to the printer to make this work.”

This time the team printed a bunker that was designed by the Drafting and Survey combat engineers from 7th ESB based on practical field experience.

“The Marines from 7th ESB are the ones who designed what we are printing today,” said Audette. “They came up with the plans themselves, [Computer Aided Designed] the model, sliced it and then fed it through the printer.”

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory construct a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

The 7th ESB Marines plan to build a conventional bunker similar to this 3D-printed version and compare them in blast or demolitions testing on a range.

The combat engineers envisioned a system like this being deployed to a forward operating base, and being operational within a few days of arrival. The system would quickly print small structures that can be transported to entry control points and operating posts in an efficient and timely manner using fewer Marines and less material.

According to ACES team data, 3D printing concrete structures reduces cost by 40 percent, construction time by 50 percent and the use of concrete materials by 44 percent. Additionally, it more than doubles the strength of walls, improves thermal energy performance by 10 times, reduces manpower by 50 percent and reduces the overall need for hard labor.

“With vertical construction, we are still in the realm of what we were doing 100 years ago,” said Audette. “Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop this technology we are reducing the man-hours involved, the labor involved and the materials involved.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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This is how the 1/9 Marines became ‘The Walking Dead’

In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.


But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.

Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.

More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.

When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.

The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.

In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.

Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.

A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.

January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.

The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.

In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.

The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.

The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.

The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What the possibility of a new Army PT test actually is

The Army has had a love-hate relationship with its PT tests. It seems like every few months, soldiers catch wind of a new APFT that is definitely coming, so they should start getting ready. This has been circulating through the Private News Network for over a decade and has steadily been covered by military journalists since 2011.

While the actual events in proposed tests differ from year to year, each potential revision generally includes adding to the existing three staples (push-ups, sit-ups, and a 2-mile run) some events more consistent with the military lifestyle. They also usually change up the grading system to either being a single, unified scale for everyone in the Army or something so convoluted that no one can easily figure them out at 0530.


North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Also unanswered: “Is the VA cool with all of the back-problem claims they’re about to receive?”

(U.S. Army National Guard photos by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)

Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey has been very open about feedback and answering soldiers’ questions about the test, as seen in an article on Army Times. Nonetheless, the ever-looming question of, “will it actually happen this time?” remains unanswered.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

But at least scoring a 300 gave soldiers their very much owed bragging rights.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Seong Joon Kim)

The Army Physical Fitness Test was first introduced in 1858 at West Point and has been evolving ever since. In the 20s, it was standardized and the 40s gave us a seven-event system that was bonkers. There were minor changes made to the system until the APFT as we know it came into being in 1980.

The current test focuses on three fitness groups: upper body, core, and endurance. You are then scored according to the average performance of others of your age and gender, giving you a rough idea of how physically fit you are. The test is combined with a “tape test” to measure body fat, but this portion is often skipped if the soldier is obviously not overweight.

The main criticism of the test that’s been in place for 38 years is that it doesn’t accurately identify if a soldier is fit for combat. A scrawny 18-year old could score a 300 and still won’t be able to carry anyone else in the unit should the worst happen.

According to Army Times, here’s what the new test will look like. Note that all events are now graded on a “go/no-go” scale. From the moment the first dead-lifts start, soldiers are only allowed brief rests before moving to the next event. The entire test would take 50 minutes.

  • Deadlift between 120 and 420 pounds, depending on the individual soldier. You must do three reps in five minutes.
  • Two-minute rest.
  • Standing power throw. You’ll be required to toss a 10-pound medicine ball overhead and backward. You’ll have three minutes to make one practice throw and two for a grade. The longest distance is recorded.
  • Two-minute rest.
  • Hand-release push-ups. You lower your chest to the floor and lift your hands off the ground between each rep. You’ll be required to do the most reps in three minutes.
  • Two-minute rest.
  • Sprint-drag-carry. In four minutes, you will go 25 meters out and 25 meters back five times. Each repetition will include a different activity. Meaning you’ll sprint, drag a sled, run a lateral shuffle, or carry two 40-pound kettle bells, and then sprint again.
  • Two-minute rest.
  • Leg tuck. You will be required to hang from a pull-up bar and, with your body parallel, pull your knees to your elbows. Do as many reps as possible within two minutes.
  • Five-minute rest.
  • Two-mile run on a track or a paved, level road, with a 20-minute maximum.
North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

In the very likely scenario that this will happen (because my faith in some soldier’s intelligence is laughable) please send those photos to US Army WTF Moments.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Army Sgt. Priscilla Desormeaux)

See any red flags in there? The overhaul brings about some serious concerns that have been largely avoided with the three-event test. The sit-ups are out entirely and the regular push-ups have been modified into “hand-release push-ups,” in which you must clap your hands mid-rep.

There’s an obvious risk involved in rushing a company full of soldiers through a mandatory test while instructing them to blindly throw a heavy-ass ball behind them. There’s a less obvious risk involved in requiring dead lifts. The fact is, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, an improper dead lift is going to devastate your back. There’s also the risk of soldiers slipping up on the hand-released push-ups and eating pavement — which is nothing more than funny if it doesn’t involve a trip to the dentist.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

While it’s only in the hearsay-phase, if the test were to be in ACUs, it’d make things even worse.

Then there’s the cost factor. Only two of the seven events don’t require some sort of special equipment to perform. In order to keep up with the “two-minute rest” condition in the test, units are going to need to dish out a metric a*s-load of cash to buy enough equipment to test everyone. Add to that the money needed to store all that equipment when it’s not in use and the costs of keeping all the equipment in working order — the bill is starting to add up.

This is all without addressing the most polarizing aspect of the new test: it uses a single grading system for all soldiers. There’s a reason for the current grading system — it’s based off of averages for each gender and age group. Realistically speaking, a 41-year old female who’s been in the military her entire adult life would obviously not do as many push-ups as a fresh, 18-year-old football jock.

The current test compares her to women in her age group. It accurately tells the command that, yes, her 300 score means she’s kicking all of her like peers. Pitting her in a dead-lift competition against Mr. Teenage Quarterback just doesn’t make any sense.

There are many, many roadblocks ahead for an updated PT test. Since the onset, critics have been vocal and yet many problems remain unaddressed, so don’t hold your breath on this one happening by 2020 as projected. Army brass is keen on this test so, if it does happen, expect a lot of backlash, back problems, high costs, and countless classes on proper dead-lift form.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s another potential reason for North Korea’s nuclear provocations

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Monday said it was “fair to say” that North Korea, which has a history of sharing its nuclear capabilities, could be approached by potential customers, such as Iran, to sell secrets about its missile programs.


“The North Koreans have a long history of being proliferators and sharing their knowledge, their technology, their capacities around the world,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview on Monday.

“As North Korea continues to improve its ability to do longer-range missiles and to put nuclear weapons on those missiles, it is very unlikely, if they get that capability, that they wouldn’t share it with lots of folks, and Iran would certainly be someone who would be willing to pay them for it,” Pompeo said.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
U.S. Congresman Mike Pompeo speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. | Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore

Though the US believes it has solid information on North Korea’s capabilities, the reclusive nation’s ultimate intent in ramping up its weapons program remains an “incredibly difficult intelligence problem,” Pompeo added.

“We think we have an understanding,” Pompeo said. “We think Kim Jong Un wants these weapons for protecting his regime and then, ultimately, the reunification of the peninsula. But there’s still a lot that the intelligence community needs to learn.”

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

In August, The Washington Post reported that North Korea unexpectedly broke through a major hurdle in its nuclear-missile program after it was able to marry a miniaturized nuclear warhead with a missile. The report led to an increasingly bellicose verbal exchange between President Donald Trump and North Korea, with the hermit kingdom threatening the US territory of Guam.

On September 3, North Korea continued to rattle its global neighbors, conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. Following the test, the UN Security Council unanimously increased sanctions on North Korea — albeit a watered-down version to appease China and Russia — by imposing a cap on crude-oil imports and banning exports of textiles, according to Reuters.

“Look, I worry first and foremost about the threat from North Korea, in the sense that we have a place that is now in the cusp of having the capacity we’d hope they’d never have,” Pompeo continued, “with a leader who makes decisions, at the very least, in a very, very tight circle, in which we have limited access.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The CIA’s UFO files are now available for download

The CIA has released a trove of unclassified files related to unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Comprising more than 700 documents dating back to 1976, the CIA files reveal information about worldwide sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, which is the government term for UFOs.

The cache of documents is available for download at The Black Vault, an online archive that for years has been publishing declassified government UFO files, along with other declassified documents.

These documents can be downloaded from The Black Vault’s website for free.

The Black Vault’s founder, John Greenewald Jr., has been filing Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests with the CIA since 1996 — when he was only 15 years old — to gain access to the full sweep of the intelligence agency’s secret UFO files. The CIA ultimately compiled what it claimed was the sum total of its declassified UFO files onto a CD-ROM. Greenewald received a copy and posted it all online.

“Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings,” Greenewald said in a statement posted on his website.

An online clearinghouse for US government records, The Black Vault has reportedly filed some 10,000 FOIA requests to amass a total of 2.2 million pages of material for its archives. Those records cover a broad range of topics, spanning the gamut from the CIA’s UFO files to military programs, law enforcement investigations, and political correspondence. The site even includes a repository of US government documents related to cloning and mind control.

The CIA allegedly opened up its complete UFO archive last year, adding to the number Greenewald had already collected. The Black Vault’s online archive now includes all the CIA UFO files Greenewald has amassed over his years of research. Despite the mountain of material now available for free public download, Greenewald has speculated that there’s still more the CIA has not yet declassified.

“Although the CIA claims this is their ‘entire’ collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that,” Greenewald wrote in a post on The Black Vault’s website. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”

A 2009 CIA response to one of Greenewald’s FOIA requests stated that there were still classified documents related to UAPs that could not be publicly released. In the letter, the CIA cited the need to protect its intelligence collection methods and the identity of its personnel.

Online publication of The Black Vault’s UFO archive comes ahead of a June deadline for the Pentagon to release all of its UFO files to Congress — a provision attached to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed in December.

The mandate requires the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to compile an unclassified report on UAPs for congressional intelligence and armed services committees. In an addition to the unclassified portions, the report will include a classified annex — a provision that likely means any explosive information will remain hidden from public view.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves
A 1976 CIA document related to UFOs published online by The Black Vault. Screenshot of document downloaded from The Black Vault.

While many of Greenewald’s CIA files mention the terms UFO or UAP in passing or out of context, there are, buried within the reams of photocopied pages, some interesting clues about the US government’s longstanding interest in the matter. For example, an April 1976 report cites a request by an unknown CIA official (the name is redacted) for the CIA’s assistant deputy director for science and technology to “see if he knew of any official UFO program and also to answer some of the questions posed by [name redacted].”

Regarding UFO research, the CIA document says that the assistant deputy director for science and technology “feels that the efforts of independent researchers…are vital for further research in this area.”

“At the present time, there are offices and personnel within the agency who are monitoring the UFO phenomena, but again, this is not currently on an official basis,” the 1976 CIA document states, adding: “Any information which might indicate a threat potential would be of interest, as would specific indications of foreign developments or applications of UFO research.”

A Sept. 23, 1976, document includes the subject line: “To immediate director – with personal request to investigate UFO sighted in Morocco.” Another file recounts Russian news reports about UFO sightings at the time of a “mysterious blast” in the Russian town of Sasovo in 1991. According to the CIA document, which includes an English translation of the Russian news report, some residents of Sasovo observed a “fiery sphere” in the sky prior to a “highly powerful explosion” that ripped off roofs and broke windows.

In April, the Department of Defense released three videos — one from 2004 and two from 2015 — taken by US Navy pilots showing what the military defines as UAPs.

The revelation of these unexplained aerial encounters sparked speculations in some quarters about the possibility of extraterrestrial life operating vehicles in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, lawmakers in Washington are more concerned that these events could, in fact, be evidence of America’s adversaries putting advanced new weapons into action — including over US soil.

A group of US senators has drafted an order for the director of national intelligence to report to Congress about what UAP encounters have already been recorded and how that information is shared among US agencies. The report calls for a standardized method of collecting data on UAPs and “any links they have to adversarial governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”

The report also calls for the director of national intelligence, or DNI, to prepare a report for Congress on the sum total of reported UAPs. The report instructs the DNI to report to Congress “any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy’s new strategy in Europe is allegedly confusing Russia

The National Defense Strategy document released in January 2018 emphasized dynamic force employment as a method to maintain the US Navy’s combat capabilities while changing the duration and intensity of its deployments.

It was intended to be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”

According to Adm. James Foggo, head of US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the chief of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, it’s already working — leaving Russia guessing about what the Navy is doing.


North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

The USS Harry S. Truman transits the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)

When asked for an example of the successful use of dynamic force employment on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” Foggo pointed to the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group’s recent maneuvers.

“They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theater for the entire deployment. We had other plans,” Foggo said. “But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”

“Then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Adm. Franchetti’s command of BaltOps 2018 in the Baltic Sea,” he said, referring to Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the US 6th Fleet, which operates around Europe.

“So the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BaltOps operation with airpower from the Adriatic.”

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

A US sailor takes a photo of Jebel Musa from the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, Dec. 4, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Joseph A.D. Phillips)

Baltic Operations, or BaltOps, is an annual US-led exercise that was one of more than 100 NATO exercises in 2018, held during the first half of June 2018. After that, Foggo said, the Truman strike group returned to US for about a month.

“I don’t think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels,” he added.

“In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn’t go there. She went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle.”

The Truman left its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of August 2018, and about six weeks later it became the first US aircraft carrier since the early 1990s to sail into the Arctic Circle.

“It was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture [live exercise], and she was a force multiplier,” Foggo said, referring to NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.

“This is the first time that we’ve operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War,” Foggo added. “I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

The Truman strike group eschewed the traditional six-month deployment that carrier strike groups have normally undertaken, sailing instead on two three-month deployments.

Between April and July 2018, it operated around the 6th Fleet’s area of operations, including strikes against ISIS in Syria, as mentioned by Foggo.

After five weeks in Norfolk, it headed back out, operating around the North Atlantic and the Arctic — forgoing the traditional Middle East deployment.

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the end of November 2018 that the first dynamic-force-employment deployment had gone “magnificently” and that the strike group had carried out more types of missions in more diverse environments that wouldn’t have been possible with a normal Middle East deployment.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, joins sailors for a Thanksgiving meal on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 22, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)

“I would say that the Navy by nature is predisposed to being dynamic and moving around. It is very good to kind of get back into that game a little bit,” Richardson told the press in the days before Thanksgiving 2018.

The stop in Norfolk July 2018 was a working visit for the Truman and the rest of its strike group.

The strike group departed the 6th Fleet area of operations on Dec. 11, 2018, and returned to Norfolk on Dec. 16, 2018, marking the transition from its deployment phase to its sustainment phase, when the group’s personnel will focus on needed repairs and maintaining their skills.

In July 2018, “we came back in working uniform and we got to work,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, the commander of the Truman strike group, said in late November 2018, according to USNI News. “This time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be a Cyber Soldier in the field

Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.

Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.


All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”

While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.

During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.

“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Capt. Adam Schinder, commander of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), provides command and control for ECSD cyberspace operations specialists supporting training for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”

The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.

“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.

North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.

(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)

“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”

Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.

Avery, the newest soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.

Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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