Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning's sentence - We Are The Mighty
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Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

President Barack Obama commuted the majority of WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence on Tuesday, with only three days left in office.


Manning was convicted of violating the Espionage Act, among other charges, in 2013 after she stole secret documents from a computer system she had access to while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq and leaked them to WikiLeaks in 2010.

She received a 35-year sentence for the leak and has served seven years in Fort Leavenworth. She will now be freed in five months, on May 17.

Manning, a transgender woman, has attempted suicide twice while in prison.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said last week that he’d agree to be extradited to the US if Obama grants clemency to Manning.

The US has threatened to prosecute Assange over the 2010 leak. Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, to avoid extradition to Sweden where he has been accused of sexual assault.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told The New York Times on Tuesday that there’s a “pretty stark difference” between Manning’s case and that of former government employee Edward Snowden.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Chelsea Manning | via Twitter

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Snowden declared his support for Manning on Twitter.

“In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!” Snowden tweeted.

The president has not granted clemency to Snowden.

Obama pardoned 64 other people on Tuesday and shortened the sentences of 209 prisoners. Over his two terms, Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 people and granted 212 pardons.

Articles

Why one general takes the blame for the South losing at Gettysburg

General James Longstreet was one of the Confederate army’s most trusted and capable officers. After the Battle of Gettysburg and long after the end of the Civil War, Longstreet takes much of the blame for the southern loss at the battle – and sometimes for the loss of Civil War itself.

For many people who blame Longstreet for the loss (or show outright disdain for the man), it all goes back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg — specifically, Pickett’s Charge. It was an attack Longstreet didn’t order or want, but he still takes the blame for its failure. 

When Gen. Robert E. Lee gave the order, Longstreet openly voiced his disagreement with it. He relayed the order to Pickett anyway, but was very unhappy to do so. Longstreet didn’t think the Confederate army should have been so far north at all. He takes a lot of blame for the failure at Gettysburg overall, because it’s said he delayed his actions during the battle. 

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
U.S. Army

Whether it was a good idea or not, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg saw 12,500 Confederate soldiers charged an entrenched and fortified Union position protecting Cemetery Hill. The hill commanded a network of roads essential to command of the battlefield. The Union commanders predicted the attack and the chargers took at least 50% casualties.

The Army of Northern Virginia never recovered from the failed assault and the Confederate Army never recovered from the loss of at Gettysburg. It was the turning point in a battle that was the turning point of the Civil War. Longstreet saw it all coming and tried to talk Lee out of it, but to no avail. 

No matter what the armchair historians may say, Lee is actually responsible for the failed attack, and he knew it right away. He was so personally devastated by the losses incurred in Pickett’s Charge that he offered his resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who turned it down). 

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
In other words, Lee wasn’t up on his high horse… I’ll see myself out (Wikimedia Commons)

Longstreet takes a lot of the blame for Pickett’s Charge (and the defeat at Gettysburg) because he, for the most part, didn’t think the Confederate Army should have been there after the first day of fighting. 

It’s said that Longstreet dithered and delayed so much and so often throughout the battle that it was almost considered intentional sabotage. When it came to Pickett’s Charge, he openly disagreed with Lee, which earned him a transfer West after the Confederate retreat from Pennsylvania. 

Gen. Longstreet believed that it was more important to defeat Ulysses S. Grant in Tennessee and less important to invade the North. He felt so strongly that the disagreement went all the way up to Jefferson Davis. Lee argued that moving troops to the West would force his army to stay closer to Richmond. Davis sided with Lee, so the perception was that Longstreet’s disagreement and delays during the battle were mostly sour grapes. 

And since the battle – and Pickett’s Charge – was so pivotal to the Confederacy’s survival, the idea that Longstreet didn’t do his best is why he takes much of the blame.

Longstreet also takes a lot of blame in the eyes of Southern historians, especially propagators of the “Lost Cause” mythology, because of his postwar activities. Longstreet actively sought to rejoin the Union and earn a pardon. He eventually ended up working in a presidential administration – under President Ulysses S. Grant. 

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Longstreet after the war (Library of Congress)

As for who is actually responsible for the failure of Pickett’s Charge, when asked after the war, Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett went on the record as saying, “I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Listen to a sailor tearfully recall losing a shipmate in the deadly terror attack on his ship USS Cole

The US Navy released a powerful video Monday of retired sailors and a Gold Star mother recounting the deadly bombing of the destroyer USS Cole twenty years ago today.

In one heartbreaking scene, retired Master Chief Paul Abney breaks into tears as he remembers the loss of fellow sailor Operation Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Saunders. Abney said he stood watch with Saunders every day.


“Both of his legs were busted up so bad,” he recalled. “They were out of shape, they were all twisted on the Stokes stretcher they were carrying him on.”

Tears fill his eyes as he continues. “Still the same cheery personality, he gives me two thumbs up and says, ‘They’re taking care of me, master chief,’ as they were carrying him off on a Stoke stretcher.”

“He was the only shipmate who made it off and to the hospital that passed away over there,” he said. “Every other one that we got off the ship and triaged to get off soon enough they made it. The rest of them died before we ever got them off the ship.”

USS Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in a boat packed with explosives while in port in Yemen on October 12, 2000. The explosion tore a hole in the ship so large the crew spent several days containing the flooding that endangered the ship. “We almost lost her,” retired Command Master Chief James Parlier said in the video.

“The pressure of it knocked me back in my chair,” Abney said. “Along with it, all the lights went out. The next thing that I can really recall from the blast was this putrid, kind of acrid smoke. It was kind of hard to breathe. Everybody was choking from the smoke.”

Seventeen sailors were killed, and another 39 others were injured in the attack.

Among the deceased was James McDaniels. His mother, Dianne McDaniels, learned about the attack on the news. That evening, she was informed that her son was gone. “I’m glad he did what he did as far as serving because that’s what he wanted to do,” she said.

“These were young men and women that you knew personally. We had a crew of 275,” Parlier said. “Respectfully, to put them in a body bag is the worst thing I can ever think of.”

The attack was attributed to al Qaeda, which carried out attacks in the US a little over a year later on September 11, 2001.

It took a little over a year to repair USS Cole and return her to sea. Parlier said that when the ship was finally fixed and sailing again, he felt pride “because we told them son of a b——s that we were not defeated and that we were coming back.”

Remembering the Terrorist Attack on USS Cole (DDG 67), Oct. 12, 2000

www.youtube.com

In January of last year, the US military killed Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al Qaeda operative believed to have helped orchestrate the bombing of USS Cole, in an airstrike in Yemen.

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

Articles

Here are the five finalists competing to design the World War I Memorial

The World War One Centennial Commission was created in January 2013 and is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs to commemorate the centennial of World War I, including a national memorial to the soldiers who fought the war.


Unfortunately, none of the veterans of the Great War are alive today to see their honor, but despite bad weather, the Centennial Commission will formally announce the winning design team for the national World War I Memorial design competition on January 26, 2016.

Below are the five finalists for the memorial competition. Just click on the photo to get a closer look of the full-size proposal. The designs are open to public comment. Contact the World War I Centennial Commission here.

Concept 1: Plaza to the Forgotten War

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Submitted by the design team of Brian Johnsen, AIA; Sebastian Schmaling, AIA, LEEP AP; and Andrew Cesarz, at Johnsen Schmaling Architects, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Situated on a seam between the National Mall and the dense urbanity of downtown DC, the Plaza to the Forgotten War commemorates the service of World War I American Forces by creating a place that devotedly holds onto the memory of the tragic losses endured by the United States. The concept is simple, elegant and open with a strong and integrated form and meaning that reveals itself in layers. The memorial message is clear and there is great potential for the creation of an outstanding park. The field of lights presents a technological challenge that will need to be resolved and the Pershing Statue and walls will need to be integrated into the evolving design.

Concept 2: Grotto of Remembrance

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Submitted by Devin Kimmel, Principal at Kimmel Studio, LLC in Annapolis, Maryland

The style of the monument is inspired by the time of the Great War. It is neoclassical in form and concept, the space and elements combine to create a narrative about the current condition and the historic precedent of monuments. The plan develops a strong park concept and includes a number of elements that add interest and focus. The challenge in evolving the design will be creating a sense of openness balanced against the enclosure of the central space, a continued evaluation of the scale of the elements, and relationships of non-traditional elements (like the grotto) with memorable historic forms.

Concept 3: The Weight of Sacrifice

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Submitted Joseph Weishaar of Chicago, Illinois

A simple intervention of a platform into the existing landscape of Pershing Park provides a quietly elegant place within the park. Relocation of the walls and statue of the Pershing complex give new meaning to the individual elements. The result is an integral expression of park and memorial. The subtleness and art of the sculpted relief walls will enhance the narrative of the place—utilizing art as architecture. To execute a memorial and park that maintains the inherent elegance of the concept, a strong collaboration between designer and artist will be the key.

Concept 4: An American Family Portrait

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Submitted by STL Architects in Chicago, Illinois

The design concept is founded on paying tribute to the American men and women who participated in World War I through a memorial collage of photographs integrated into the park design. By seamlessly blending framed memories into the landscape, it provides an experience that is both park and memorial, open and inviting exploration. The park is organized by a northwest-southeast axis visually connecting it to the Capitol. While this concept has the potential of a truly unique park, the thematic, technical, and curatorial issues of the story boxes will require resolution. The statuary design, scale, and execution will need to be an integral part of the interpretive and memorial experience.

Concept 5: Heroes’ Green

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Submitted by Maria Counts of Counts Studio in Brooklyn, New York

The concept seamlessly blends memorial, park and garden into a new type of public space. There is a strong sense of movement through the space, balancing park-like qualities with memorial episodes and providing opportunities for integration of art as an integral part of the memorial experience. The sculptural landscape in itself is symbolic and will provide a welcome respite to the visitor. The inherent potential of “inventing” a new typology of civic space that works well as a memorial is the challenge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In Turkmenistan, whatever you do, don’t mention the coronavirus

ASHGABAT — Authorities in Turkmenistan have yet to admit there are any cases of the coronavirus in the country. Now, officials are making sure the word doesn’t appear in print or casual conversations either.

RFE/RL correspondents in the capital, Ashgabat, report that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.

The word “coronavirus” also has disappeared from newly published state brochures on disease prevention in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation.


Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

In place of old brochures instructing citizens about ways to prevent the spread of the virus, new publications replace the word “coronavirus” with words like “illness” and “acute respiratory diseases.”

“The Turkmen authorities have lived up to their reputation by adopting this extreme method for eradicating all information about the coronavirus,” said Jeanne Cavelier, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The lack of any report confirming even one coronavirus infection in Turkmenistan has raised suspicions and criticism about the country’s official data on the pandemic.

Countries that border Turkmenistan — including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan — have registered dozens of infections.

To the south, nearby Iran had reported more than 44,700 infections by March 31, including nearly 3,000 deaths.

Turkmenistan’s government sealed off Ashgabat on March 20 without any public announcement by authorities or state media about the reasons for the closure.

Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.

Concern over the outbreak among locals, along with the restrictions, has pushed food prices to record highs.

“This denial of information not only endangers the Turkmen citizens most at risk but also reinforces the authoritarianism imposed by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov,” Cavelier said on March 31. “We urge the international community to react and to take him to task for his systematic human rights violations.”

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

Articles

Woman helping to put faces to names on Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence


A mere mention of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in D.C. is enough to evoke emotional thoughts of the living remembering their fallen. On a daily basis, veterans, family members, friends and strangers alike are visibly impacted by the seemingly endless stretch of black granite that bears the names of 58,307 men and women who lost their priceless lives – or remain missing – due to that war. Some reach out their hand to touch the wall, some reverently read  names, and thousands each year will leave behind an item in tribute (NPS approximates that 400,000 items have been kept in the collection since 1982). Eight summers ago, one visitor walked away with an experience that compelled her to help others literally see the veterans whose names were represented on that wall.

During a vacation with her husband to Washington, D.C. in 2008, Janna Hoehn of Kihei, Maui was one of the 4 million a year who visit “The Wall”. This was an important visit for her.  She purposed to write down one name and learn more about that individual.

“Vietnam was my entire high school years, I recall the way the returning Veterans were treated. It always has stayed with me.” said Hoehn, “I have always had a huge place in my heart for Vietnam Veterans. Standing in front of the Vietnam Wall profoundly changed my life … I never dreamed how it would affect me.”

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Janna Hoehn | KRGV.com

As she read through the etched names of soldiers, she noticed some had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross. The explanation of those symbols would aid her in choosing a soldier’s name:

“I asked a man standing next to me why most the names had a diamond carved between the names, but a few had a cross, he explained to me the cross was an MIA. If the remains were ever returned to America then the cross could be easily made into a diamond. That is why I chose the name I did, I wanted an MIA after he explained it to me.”

She chose the name of Major Gregory John Crossman from Michigan. She found out that he was a 26-year-old pilot whose plane went down. April 25, 2016 marked 48 years that he has been missing in action.

She wanted to put a face to this name and story. “Putting a face with a name changes the whole dynamic of the Vietnam Wall. It makes that person real. [It is] someone’s loved one, a son, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew, best friend…” she said.

Later, she heard about Faces Never Forgotten, an effort by the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall Foundation to “put a face and a story to each name on The Wall”.  Hoehn sent over Gregory’s photo, and about a week later, was contacted by Jan Scruggs, the program’s founder and president. He called to thank her for the photo, and enlisted her to help find photos of Maui’s fallen. “I was honored to do so.”, Hoehn said. In 6 months she found all 42 photos for the Maui fallen, then went on to help complete the entire state of Hawaii.

Her mission was far from over. She is committed to the difficult task of tracking down these photo of the fallen state by state. At the time of writing, she has to find photos of fallen Vietnam veterans in seven states. Those being: California (many), Texas (many), Washington (16),  Colorado (15), Alaska (4), Utah (3), and Nevada (1).

The photos are displayed online on the “Wall of Faces”. The VVMF hopes to break ground by 2018 on a physical museum site. They will further recognize the fallen heroes by enlarging their photos on a floor to ceiling display on their birthdays.

Learn more about The Wall of Faces here. To provide missing information from the Wall of Faces (photos, biographical information), you can email Janna directly.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why US F-35s will deploy aboard foreign carrier for first time

A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy’s new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“It’s going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.

A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.


This approach will be a “tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK,” Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.

(Royal Navy)

The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.

An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet,” then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.

Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. “They’re working together … on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right,” Rudder said, according to Military.com. “It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it’s going to be a very interesting data point and operational success.”

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

Articles

How 9/11 unfolded, through the eyes of the pilot of Air Force One

Most Americans who lived through the events of Sep. 11 remember where they were on Sep. 11, 2001, whether it was on the ground in New York or watching the chaos unfold on television.


Col. Mark Tillman (Ret.) had an inside view of the day’s events, being right there with the President of the United States as the pilot of Air Force One. Tillman, who retired from the Air Force in 2009, recalled the events of that day in a 2014 video by Tech Sgt. Nicholas Kurtz.

“We were sitting in Sarasota, Florida. We could see everything unfolding on television,” he says. “The first plane hits the tower. Then you can see the second plane hit the tower. Then the staff starts getting into gear, advising the president of what is going on.”

After takeoff, Tillman and his crew endured a number of close calls. Confused air traffic controllers told the pilot there were planes headed in his direction on two occasions. Then an ominous message was received from the vice president, according to The Daily Mail: “Angel is next,” using the classified callsign for Air Force One.

“I had to assume the worst. I assumed the president was about to be under attack.”

Watch:

NOW: 7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These are the first units to get Army’s cutting-edge night vision technology

Army Futures Command on Sept. 25, 2019, began equipping the first of two combat brigades, selected so far, to receive the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B), a capability that modernization officials promise will improve marksmanship, day and night.

The ENVG-B is a wireless, dual-tubed technology with a built-in thermal imager that is part of a capability set modernization officials started fielding to soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The Army has also selected 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, as the next unit to receive the new capability in March 2020, Bridgett Siter, spokeswoman for the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, told Military.com. The service plans to buy as many as 108,251 ENVG-Bs to issue to infantry and other close-combat units.


Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston and senior modernization officials celebrated the fielding as the first major achievement of Army Futures Command.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B).

(US Army photo)

“This is a historic event; I am really proud to be here,” Grinston said during a discussion with reporters at Riley. “So, we can say we stood up the Army’s Futures Command, and then today we are delivering a product in two years.”

The service announced its plan to create the command in 2017, but didn’t activate it until August 2018.

During the process, the Army has conducted 11 user evaluations, known as Soldier Touchpoints, in which soldiers and Marines have field-tested the prototypes of ENVG-B and “helped us get this right,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, director of the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and chief of infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In addition to the creation of Army Futures Command, officials credited the work of the cross-functional teams — made up of requirements experts, materiel developers and test officials — that make it possible to field equipment much faster than in the past.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, Technical Advisor, Soldier Lethality-Cross Functional Team, gets ready to step off for an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire using the Enhanced Night Vision Google- Binocular during a Soldier Touchpoint on the system July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

The structure “really enables us to move faster as an enterprise than we have ever been able to move before, in being able to derive and deliver capabilities for our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier.

The binocular function of the ENVG-B gives soldiers more depth perception, and the thermal image intensifier allows soldiers to see enemy heat signatures at night and in the daylight through smoke, fog and other battlefield obscurants, Army officials say.

But when the system is teamed with the Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I), which is being fielded with the ENVG-B, soldiers can view their sight reticle as it’s transmitted wirelessly into the goggle.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

Sgt. Gabrielle Hurd, 237th Military Police Company, New Hampshire Army National Guard, shows her team the route they will take before embarking on an overnight hike to the summit of Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire, during an Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular Soldier Touchpoint, July 10-12, 2019.

(Photo by Photo by Patrick Ferraris)

“Now we are able to move that targeting data straight from that weapon, without wires, up in front of a soldier’s eyes,” Potts said, adding that the process is much faster and “makes a soldier far more lethal.”

“What you are seeing today is the first iteration of a capability fielding … and we are going to continue to grow this capability out so that we really treat the soldier as an integrated weapon platform,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Explainer: Why the U.S.-NATO exercises in Eastern Europe are important

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended several military exercises, but now that restrictive measures have been eased some are going forward, albeit in a scaled-down form.

Two kicked off in early June in Poland and the Baltic Sea, drawing particular interest around the world, and not just because of the logistics of holding them amid an ongoing pandemic. The proximity of the training to Russian territory is seen by many as a possible signal that the U.S. military is shifting its interest in Europe eastward.


What Are The Exercises?

The first exercise involves 4,000 U.S. soldiers and 2,000 Polish troops in northwestern Poland. The bilateral training features a Polish airborne exercise and division-size river crossing from June 5 to June 19.

Dubbed Allied Spirit, the exercise was supposed be linked to a much larger U.S.-led multinational exercise in Europe, including NATO members, called Defender Europe 20, which had to be significantly scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second one, Baltops 20, runs from June 7 to June 16 in the Baltic Sea region. The maritime-focused exercise, which has been held annually since 1972, involves 28 maritime units, 28 aircraft, and up to 3,000 personnel from 19 countries, with Finland and Sweden being the only non-NATO participants.

Both exercises are designed to show international resolve against any potential threat and improve the “interoperability” of national armies’ land, sea, and air assets.

How Has COVID-19 Affected The Exercises?

The pandemic has forced military commanders to modify and reduce the scale of Defender Europe 20. The exercise was originally planned to be the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years, involving 20,000 soldiers and nine NATO allies practicing military maneuvers in several European countries.

Before the pandemic shut down most of the continent, more than 6,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 pieces of equipment had already arrived in Europe. Most of the original plans were scrapped but the U.S.-Polish exercise received a green light in mid-May.

Baltops 20 has also been modified. There will be no land element to complement the air and sea operations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This means normally standard features of naval exercises such as amphibious landings, exchanging personnel between ships, and merchant vessel boarding will not take place.

Are The Exercises Directed At Russia?

The U.S. military and NATO have been quick to point out that all exercises are “defensive in nature.” Lisa Franchetti, the commander of the Naples-based U.S. 6th Fleet, told journalists that Baltops 20 should not be interpreted as a threat to any specific country and exercises are held in international waters and international airspace. Franchetti encouraged the Russian military to behave professionally.

However, many observers expect the Russian Navy to make close approaches to the exercises and that Russian jets may “buzz” allied planes, meaning that they will fly so close as to create “wake turbulence.”

A NATO official recently told RFE/RL that, in 2019 alone, allied aircraft took to the skies 290 times to escort or shadow Russian military aircraft across Europe. Even though the alliance doesn’t reveal numbers for specific regions, it is believed most of the incidents occurred around the Baltic Sea.

The Allied Shield exercise takes place in Drawsko Pomorskie, some 350 kilometers from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. When Defender Europe 20 was announced, Russia planned its own war games in direct response but called off its exercise as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Moscow has called on NATO to scale down military activity and move them away from Eastern Europe to reduce tensions.

Will The Russian Military Officially Observe The Exercises?

No. U.S. military officials told RFE/RL that they “were not aware of any Russian notification to inspect exercise Allied Spirit in Poland.” The threshold for required observation in accordance with Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Vienna document on the transparency of military exercises is 13,000 troops — twice as many as will be present in Poland in June. Naval exercises such as Baltops 20 are not subject to notification and observation requirements enshrined in the Vienna Document.

Why Is The Presence Of U.S. Troops In Poland Politically Significant?

Because of what is happening in Poland’s western neighbor, Germany. U.S. President Donald Trump has authorized a plan to reduce the U.S. permanent troop presence in Germany by 9,500 from the 34,500 service members who are currently there. The move will also cap the number of American soldiers in Germany at 25,000. More than 1,000 of the troops leaving Germany may be redeployed to Poland, adding to the 4,500 already there on a rotational basis.

Poland, whose government enjoys close ties with the Trump administration, is pushing for an even bigger American presence on its soil and hopes to capitalize on its special relationship with the United States in the future. The very fact that a joint exercise has been resuscitated despite the pandemic can be seen in this light.

It can also be viewed against the backdrop of tensions between Washington and Berlin over everything from Germany wanting to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Germany failing to meet its NATO military-spending target, trade tensions, and a host of other disputes including the Iran nuclear deal and climate change.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

PTSD treatment helps veteran 48 years after firefights

“A few years ago I heard about the treatment from my friend in Washington state. I went on the computer and I checked a few things out, and I thought, ‘Why not? It’s time that you do something.'”

For Jerry, that time came 48 years after he had returned from Vietnam…


“Bullets are flying everyplace…”

“It was quite an experience coming back from ‘Nam, and I could tell I had changed an awful lot. And I think the biggest thing in my behavior was the fact that I was so jumpy. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m in the middle of Vietnam, and bullets are flying everyplace, and my bed is ringing wet.”

“What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. And Jerry didn’t want to jeopardize his career in the military by speaking up. He went on to finish two tours in Korea, then was stationed in Germany where he met his future wife and started a family. “I just felt that if I said there’s something wrong with me the Army wouldn’t need me.”

Instead of asking for help, Jerry buried himself in his work. “I was working around the clock. I was trying to control my mind, and I was trying to block it. I was in control most of the time.”

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence

But he also lost control. Stupid mistakes felt intolerable, and they could easily set him off. “I can talk like a sailor, and in talking like a sailor, I could take your head off and put it in your lap, and you’d never know it.”

Loose cannon

These types of outbursts affected his work-life. He later learned that his colleagues didn’t like to be around him because he was too unpredictable, too volatile. One called him a loose cannon, another told him years later that people were afraid of him. “What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Time passed. Jerry’s two sons grew into men. And more recently, his beloved wife became ill and passed away. For all those years Jerry had wanted to ask for help, but he didn’t know where to go. He couldn’t trust anyone.

Then one day a friend told him about the treatments at the VA. Treatments for PTSD. Eager to get help, but still skeptical, Jerry went in for an appointment.

“She was just that good.”

“I’ll tell you right now, as I sit here, when I walked in that room and saw that petite little thing sitting there, I said there is no way in hell this young lady has any clue about what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, and she can’t help me. I feel like an ass now but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. It didn’t take long. Within 30 minutes I knew I wanted to come back for my next appointment. I could have probably stayed there the rest of the week and talked to her. She was just that good. She was ready for me. I wasn’t ready for her, but she made me ready. She was good.”

Jerry finished his therapy, an evidence-based therapy called Prolonged Exposure, in nine weeks.

“I felt that the treatment helped me in the fact that I can control myself a lot better. I control my anger. I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before. I still have moments where I don’t know, something snaps or something build’s up or whatever [but] I accept life a lot easier. I’m more tolerant of people.”

“I’ll just say it this way. It takes a lot to piss me off. I’m so proud of that.”

Here’s a five-minute video of Jerry sharing his story.

Read more about Veterans’ experience with PTSD Therapy Here.

To hear more Veteran’s talk about their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment, visit AboutFace.

For more information on PTSD visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/. This site offers resources such as:

PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler was killed by an Islamic State booby trap in eastern Afghanistan Aug.16.


Butler was on a mission to clear a building on a partnered mission with the Afghan National Security Forces when his unit was struck. Eleven other members of the Utah National Guard were wounded in the incident but are expected to survive. Butler joined the Utah National Guard in 2008 and went on a Mormon mission trip to Africa as a young man.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Butler was on a mission with Utah National Guard troops during a raid. (US Army photo)

“He was an absolute force of nature,” his family spokesman told local Utah media. “Ultimately, what we do is very dangerous business,” his commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken when we lose one of our own. We know these people personally, they are our friends, we respect them and it’s very painful.”

Butler is the 10th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2017, many of whom were killed in the same geographical region fighting the terrorist group. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is the hilarious new podcast from the creators of Terminal Lance and Duffel Blog

Spending an hour listening to “After Action with Max and Paul” –a podcast about national security, military life, and other random bullsh*t – is like spending an hour with Max and Paul themselves. While you’re listening, you genuinely feel as if you’re hanging out with your best veteran friends… if your best veteran friends are prominent members of the Marine Corps veteran community, that is.


Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Look for this logo.

Max Uriarte is the mind behind “Terminal Lance,” a Marine Corps-based comic strip he created while he was still in the Corps. He also created Terminal Lance’s crowdfunded offshoot, “The White Donkey.” Since being published in 2016, “The White Donkey” has become a New York Times bestseller and Uriarte is working on an “omnibus” of Terminal Lance strips.

Paul Szoldra is the creator of Duffel Blog, the military-themed satire site that’s so popular with active duty personnel, civilians, and veterans from of all branches. He just released Mission Accomplished: The Very Best of Duffel Blog, Volume One.

The two are very busy. And they are really good friends. And it shows as you listen to their podcast.

“Me and Max hang out quite a bit and we always have these conversations” Szoldra says. “We’re just talking about the news or what’s going on in the military space, and it always bounces around so much. One day we both realized, hey, we should record this. This might be something people would like to listen to. So, we did.”

For all the joking about their other projects, they are extremely grounded in reality and it shows in what they choose to talk about — some of the most divisive wedge issues among the military-veteran community. The Trump trans-ban, North Korea, and whatever else may have come up that week, for example.

The issues many veteran-related blogs and websites are polarized about Max and Paul laugh and riff on – then they inject a dose of reality or humor to the discussion.

Paul: Most of the arguments against women in the infantry are really dumb. They could be dismissed pretty easily. Most of them against are basically like “men are shitty.” Or, like, “Oh, they’re gonna inconvenience everybody ’cause they gotta use different toilets,” or something. Really, like that’s gonna be so difficult?

Maximilian: I think what’s funny is men … we can get super feminist, political about this because this is sort of a larger issue too. … You know, men get so worried about women’s genitals. They’re like, “How are they gonna handle their period?” Let them worry about it.

Paul: They already go to the field. They already go to basic training.

Maximilian: “They’re bleeding down there. I don’t know, it’s a problem. What are they gonna do? I don’t think they should be there.” I don’t know. They handle it.

Paul: “And they attract bears. You know that, right? It’s science. Okay?”

Maximilian: I think there could be a discussion about the logistical difficulties, but it’s one of those things where we’re so past the point of debate. You can’t go back with it now. Right now it’s more like, “How do I make this work?”

Paul: Yeah, and everybody’s still yelling about, “Women shouldn’t be the infantry.” It’s like, well-

Maximilian: They’re already out there.

It’s not all about serious issues with Max and Paul. The same conversation recounted above eventually evolves into a discussion about women in the infantry in “Starship Troopers,” movies in general, and then dragons.

Obama commutes WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s sentence
Tune in to the podcast to find out how.

As with most discussions that turn to politics, not everyone will agree with Max. Or Paul. Or Max and Paul. But what you get is a really hilarious and irreverent back and forth that will make even the most closed-minded person crack a smile. They may even rope in one of their Marine friends via phone or Skype (in their second episode, they call Jack Mandaville, star of “Range 15” and outspoken “former Marine”).

“We’re sort of both leveraging our kind of pseudo-celebrity status to get the coolest guests that we can get,” Uriarte laughs. “We got a lot of great people coming on the show. Everyone seems to like it a lot.”

But there is something for everyone, not just Marines. And not just veterans. Max and Paul are two very talented, educated, and witty individuals — and it shows in their work, especially “After Action With Max and Paul.”

Here’s Mandatory Fun’s interview with Max Urierte in which he explains the  “After Action” podcast.

Subscribe to Mandatory Fun: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher

“After Action With Max and Paul” can be found and downloaded on Stitcher and iTunes and probably elsewhere, because this is the veteran podcast we’ve all been waiting for.

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