The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea - We Are The Mighty
Articles

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

The U.S. Coast Guard is ready to meet the Chinese military head on – but in a very Coast Guard way.


The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
A member of Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego stands safety watch aboard a 45-foot response boat-medium from Station Honolulu while participating in an exercise with French navy Floreal-class frigate FS Prairial (F 731), during Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. McKenzie)

Related: This is what a war between China and Japan would look like 

China claims sovereignty over a number of disputed islands in the South China Sea, and most of those claims are not recognized by international law. The U.S. Navy, under the guise of its mission to maintain freedom of navigation of the seas, regularly steams through these waters.

The Chinese consider these missions provocative. In October 2016, the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur sailed past the Paracel Islands – shadowed by three Chinese ships.

Beijing always threatens to respond to missions like these.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Chinese sailors travel in rigid hull inflatable boats while participating in a visit, board, search and seizure exercise between China, Indonesia, France and the United States, during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Chinese navy photo by Wenxuan Zhuliang)

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft thinks the freedom of navigation missions can be done much more diplomatically and he thinks the Coast Guard is the way forward.

“Look at China’s Coast Guard, it really is the first face of China,” Admiral Zukunft told Voice of America. “I would look at providing resources to provide the face of the United States behind a Coast Guard ship.”

The bright, white-hulled ships of the Coast Guard are much more familiar to Chinese soldiers and sailors.

“The U.S. Coast Guard has a very good relationship with the Chinese Coast Guard, with each side frequently boarding the other’s ships to carry out joint maritime law enforcement activities,” he said.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Coast Guard members participate in a counter-piracy exercise with Chinese sailors from Chinese navy multirole frigate Hengshui (572) aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752), during Rim of the Pacific exercise 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart)

There’s actually a – no kidding – Coast Guard arms race in the region underway.

Using lightly-armed Coast Guard ships might actually be better for diffusing tensions in the area, instead of using heavily-armed conventional naval forces. Even China’s massive new Coast Guard supercutters will not have heavy armaments.

Zukunft added that the U.S. Coast Guard also could help Vietnam, Indonesia, and other countries in the area develop maritime capabilities while keeping peace and security.

Articles

11 hiding spots for an E-4

Not every E-4 has an engine room to hide out in, but there are plenty of other places to skate.


Now, there’s a fine line between when you just need a moment to yourself and when you’re screwing over your comrades — don’t be the guy who crosses this line.

If you need to hide, do it in a place where you’re only just a call away. That way you can keep shamming and your buddies can still cover for you.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
You can’t win wars without ’em. (Image courtesy of Under the Radar)

This list is purely for entertainment purposes. If you get caught and blame it on an article you read — that’s on you.

11. In plain sight

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

If you look like you’re squared away, people will assume you are…and will be none the wiser if you conveniently aren’t around when there’s a call for parade practice volunteers.

10. Sick Call

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

Some say it’s “malingering.” Others say it’s “documenting it for the VA down the road.”

9.  Dental

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

As long as you actually show up, your leader shouldn’t see an issue with you getting your teeth taken care of.

8. Smoke Pit

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
(Meme via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

How many times have we all heard the phrase “if you smoke, take five to ten. If you don’t, I need you to…”

There’s a lot of new faces around the smoke pit whenever they hear that.

7. Alterations

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

Hey. You never know when the next Dress Uniform inspection is. Why not take the time to get it ready?

6. Post/Base Exchange (PX/BX)

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

You’d be amazed at how lenient everyone becomes when you say the phrase “Anyone want anything from the shopette?”

5. Inside a vehicle

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Motor Pool Mondays. Someone has to check to see if the air conditioner is working or not.

4. Latrine

via GIPHYIf you got to go, you got to go. Just turn the sound off your phone before you play games.

 9. Charge of Quarters (CQ)

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

Always try to get duty on a Thursday or the day before a four day starts. Who doesn’t want an extended weekend?

10. Barracks

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

Be sure to use buzz words like “spotless” and “maintained” before sneaking off to play that new game you picked up earlier at the PX/BX.

11. Behind your rank

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

It’s called a “Sham Shield” for a reason. Push that duty onto someone else while you wait for close of business formation.

*Bonus* At Fort Couch

If none of these places work for you and you just have to sham, PCS to Fort Couch. No one will get on you to do anything. You really will be on your “own f-cking program.”

via GIPHY
Articles

The 12 best quotes from ‘Apocalypse Now’

We’ve picked out the best military movie quotes of all time, singled out the greatest lines from “Full Metal Jacket” specifically, and now it’s time to turn our attention to “Apocalypse Now.”


The Vietnam-war classic from Francis Ford Coppola yields a number of classic lines that fans can quote at will, from Kilgore’s comments about napalm to an intelligence officer’s use of the phrase “with extreme prejudice.”

These are WATM’s picks for the top 12 quotes from the 1979 film.

1. Col. Kilgore: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory.”

2. Capt. Willard: “Saigon… sh-t. I’m still only in Saigon.”

3. Col. Kilgore: “Someday this war’s gonna end.”

4. Capt. Willard: “Terminate the Colonel?”

Civilian intelligence official: ” … Terminate with extreme prejudice.”

5. Capt. Willard: “Oh man… the bullsh-t piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.”

6. Capt. Willard: “Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500.”

7. Capt. Willard: “‘Never get out of the boat.’ Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin’ all the way… Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole f–kin’ program.”

8. Col. Kilgore: “If I say its safe to surf this beach, Captain, then its safe to surf this beach!”

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

9. Chef: “I just wanted to learn to f–kin’ cook, man!”

10. Capt. Willard: “Who’s the commanding officer here?”

Soldier: “Ain’t you?”

11. Col. Kilgore: “Charlie don’t surf!”

12. Col. Kurtz: “The horror … the horror.”

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

NOW: This video shows how ‘Full Metal Jacket’ was made

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of June 23

We found a bunch of military memes that made us laugh, then we whittled it down to our 13 favorites, and then we tried to become the invisible man, which didn’t work.


And so you should look at these memes.

1. One of the worst bits of news you can wake up to (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Even worse, you have to call your family and they want answers you don’t have.

2. It’s an endurance race, and you can’t possibly win (via Valhalla Wear).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Your colon won’t win, either.

3. Awesome burn, Marines (via Team Non-Rec).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Not sure how you’re capable of unf-cking anything but a crayon factory, but good burn.

ALSO SEE: The Air Force can forget about buying more of the world’s most advanced fighter 

4. Somebody won at every round of “Nose Goes” as a kid (via Shit my LPO says).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Hope he brought something to read up there. He shouldn’t come down until sweepers is done.

5. Come on, what’s an oil change more or less between friends? (via Military Memes)

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

6. This is why the Army should bring back specialist 5-9 (via Military Nations).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
That way, we can separate the hard workers who aren’t ready for leadership from these guys.

7. You’re gonna shoot down U.S. planes, huh? (via Decelerate Your Life)

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Better make sure the pilot can’t eject, ’cause Mattis will kill his way to rescue the aircrew and fully expect them to have necklaces of Russian ears by the time he gets there.

8. He is the one. He is the E4 Mafia Don (via Shit my LPO says).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Most phones have an option to mute a certain caller. Just make sure to turn the alerts back on on duty days.

9. Drill sergeants are experts in keeping everything in perspective (via The Salty Soldier).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

10. The real invisible man was the only known case of a chief warrant officer 6 (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

11. Unfortunately, you’re about to see everything 730 more times, Thomas (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
And you know, your reenlistment window will open soon ….

12. In the real world, it’s suppressive fire and you still hope to kill someone, or it’s targeted shots and killing them is the entire point (via Valhalla Wear).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

13. Some even prefer it that way (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Just don’t let them inspect your teeth unless you watch them wash their hands.

Articles

How the Coast Guard is going to play a big role in preventing terrorism in America’s ports

Security at shipping ports around the US, including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said July 20.


As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats.

“The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that,” Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Port of Los Angeles. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

While he was aboard, members of the Coast Guard conducted a training demonstration, simulating the boarding of a ship with a radiological threat.

Members of the Coast Guard’s new California-based Maritime Safety and Security Team descended from helicopters with assault rifles and stormed the ship. Kelly watched from a deck above as they charged up stairwells and searched the ship as part of the exercise. Other crew members climbed up ladders from a smaller boat that pulled alongside.

“What they do, they do for you,” Kelly said.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
USCG photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul Rios

As the vessel passed stacks of shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly said it is essential for law enforcement and Coast Guard personnel to constantly train and be prepared for any threats.

Kelly said he believes the current security levels at US shipping ports is adequate, but his agency must continue to research new technology to keep up with changing threats. His biggest concern, he said, is contraband, including illegal drugs that are shipped in from other countries.

“It is all about protecting the nation and doing it as fast as we can so normal legal commerce, normal legal people can come in and out of the country and be inconvenienced at the minimum,” Kelly said.

Articles

China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.

“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”

Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.

The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
USS Hopper (DDG 70) fires a RIM-161 SM-3 missile in 2009. (US Navy photo)

In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.'”

The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.

The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.

The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.

China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.

U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.

Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.

Articles

5 times parasites affected the course of wars

Some of the most consequential actors in past wars weren’t the soldiers storming the ramparts, the generals issuing orders, or even engineers who designed the weapons and armor necessary to win. Sometimes, wars were decided by much smaller combatants: bugs and worms.


Before the rapid increase in medical knowledge around World War II, parasites caused epidemics that claimed entire formations and tipped campaigns forcefully for one side to the other.

From the Revolutionary War to World War I, here are five times that pests defeated an army:

1. Constant fevers spread by mosquitoes crippled British forces in the Revolutionary War

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
The British only assaulted Breed’s Hill because they heard mosquitoes don’t like it there. (Painting: The Battle of Bunker’s Hill by E. Percy Morgan)

Both British and American forces in the Revolutionary War scheduled offensives in the South around “the sickly season,” the hot summer months where mosquitoes and the diseases they spread were likely to claim hundreds or thousands of lives in an army on the march.

Both sides suffered when they forgot their lessons, but the worst afflicted was probably British forces in the Carolinas in 1780-1781. The British captured Charleston before the sickly season set in but was ravaged in the months following. Senior officers, doctors, and thousands of soldiers were infected with malaria and yellow fever among other diseases and entire formations became combat ineffective.

This slowed the progress of the British Army and forced it to fight at times it otherwise would not have. Patriots, who were less affected, capitalized by forcing battles when the British were sick and claiming victory when the British pulled out of diseased areas. By mid-1781, the generals were done fighting mosquitoes in the South and moved most of their forces north to Virginia.

2. Lice and typhus saved Russia from Napoleon

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
No one painted Napoleon’s troops covered in lice, so enjoy this image of them freezing to death on the long march back to France instead. (Painting: Napoleon’s withdrawal from Russia by Adolph Northen)

The Russian winter and the burning of Moscow get a lot of credit for destroying Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, but top honors should probably go to the Polish summer and the legions of lice it created in 1812. Lice secrete the typhus germ in their feces, and typhus causes severe fever, vomiting, and death.

When Napoleon and his 680,000 men went on the march into Russia, they had to cross through Poland and its lice epidemic. It was there that his men began to catch typhus which spread through the ranks. The disease and the resulting desertions as soldiers fled the infected camps took away half of Napoleon’s fighting force before he fought any major battles with the Russian Army.

3. Napoleon’s men also got whooped by mosquitoes and yellow fever

Général_Toussaint_Louverture There’s no evidence that Toussaint Louverture could command mosquitoes, but there also is no specific evidence that he couldn’t. (Painting: New York Public Library)

Before Napoleon’s Grande Armée fell to lice, a smaller force sent to Haiti – then known as Saint-Domingue – was destroyed by yellow fever carried by mosquitoes. The emperor sent 33,000 men to put down the government of Toussaint Louverture in Haiti and turn the island back into a French slave colony.

Unfortunately, the Haitians they would fight were largely inoculated to yellow fever, but the French were not. France initially gained the upper hand by recruiting support from factions in the Haitian forces. But the French lost 90 percent of their men to mosquitoes and the disease. When their local allies learned about the re-introduction of slavery and turned on the French, Napoleon recalled the survivors.

4. Civil War soldiers in the South were often afflicted with hookworm

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
What’s better than manning cannons while wearing thick uniforms in the Carolina heat? Doing that while hookworms ravage your mind and body. (Photo: Public Domain)

Southerners before the Civil War had a reputation for being dimwitted and lazy, something doctors later found out was due to the epidemic levels of hookworm that existed there. Hookworms invade through bare feet or fingernail beds and spread throughout the human body where they can live for five years, causing malnutrition and exhaustion while slowing brain function.

While both Northern and Southern armies caught the parasites during the war, the South had it worse. And, the Confederates had to recruit more deeply from a population that had been afflicted with worms in their youth. People who caught the worms during developmental periods often suffered from developmental defects like stunted growth or mental deficiencies.

5. Lice and typhus massacred the Russians in World War I

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea

Seriously, body lice are just the worst. In World War I, every army had to deal with constant lice infestations. But most were lucky in that only more mild diseases like trench fever were spread. Typhus struck Serbia in 1914 though, and the disease spread across the Eastern Front.

At least 20,000,000 Russian soldiers contracted the disease and half of them died. The Germans refused to invade some areas to prevent the disease spreading to their ranks and so were able to avoid their own epidemic. The Russian Army eventually dissolved and Germany was able to send troops west, prolonging the war.

In World War II, recognizing the risks of an outbreak among their troops, Germany forced a Jewish doctor to create a vaccine for typhus.

 

Articles

Back in 2000, the CIA made 8 predictions on what life would be like in 2015

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
George W. Bush’s presidency was influenced by the CIA’s 2000 report Photo: Wiki Commons


Back in 2000, just before George W. Bush became president, the CIA published a 70-page report on what the world would be like in 2015.

We’re now halfway through the year and it turns out that several of these predictions were on the money.

Here’s a rundown of some of the predictions, according to a December 2000 story from The Telegraph.

“International affairs are increasingly determined by large and powerful organizations rather than governments.” Verdict: True, such as the rise of the Islamic State. On the other hand, there is also a new cadre of actors that cross the line between private actors and the state such as the Chinese hackers suspected of stealing information about millions of U.S. government employees, and the possibly-not-North Korean hackers who took down Sony last year.

“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.

“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.

“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.

“Energy resources will be sufficient to meet demand.” Verdict: Nailed it. U.S. oil production has soared in recent years, and the US is poised to become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas in the coming years, too.

“China’s economy will grow to overtake Europe as the world’s second largest but still behind the United States.” Verdict: True-ish. By some measurements, China’s economy is now larger than the US economy but by other measures, it is not quite as large as the EU.

“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.

“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

This is why Russia’s newest carrier jet is such a dud

The Russian-built MiG-29K “Fulcrum” multi-role fighters purchased for use off the Indian navy’s carrier, INS Vikramaditya, are breaking. This marks the latest hiccup for Russian naval aviation, going back to the Kuznetsov Follies of last year’s deployment, as Russia plans to replace its force of Su-33 Flankers with MiG-29Ks.


According to a report by the London Daily Mail, serviceability of the Fulcrums has dropped to below 16 percent in some cases. The Indian Navy had planned for the Fulcrums to last 25 years, and to also operate from the under-construction INS Vikrant, which is expected to enter service in 2023.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
An Indian MiG-29K purchased from Russia. (Photo: Indian Navy CC BY 2.5 IN)

The MiG-29K made its combat debut over Syria in 2016, primarily flying from land bases after being ferried over by the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. One MiG-29K made a splash landing during that deployment, which came to be called the Kuznetsov Follies. Land-based versions of the Fulcrum have turned out to be second-best in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, and the Eritrea-Ethiopia War.

The MiG-29K is a single-seat multi-role fighter designed by the Mikoyan design bureau. According to GlobalSecurity.org, it carries a variety of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the AA-11 Archer, the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, and bombs. It has a top speed of 2,200 kilometers per hour, and a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. India has purchased a total of 45 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB fighters.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
The INS Vikramaditya has the ability to carry over 30 aircraft comprising an assortment of MiG 29K/Sea Harrier, Kamov 31, Kamov 28, Sea King, ALH-Dhruv and Chetak helicopters. The MiG 29K swing role fighter is the main offensive platform and provides a quantum jump for the Indian Navy’s maritime strike capability.

INS Vikramaditya started out as a modified Kiev-class carrier known as the Baku. The vessel was re-named the Admiral Gorshkov in 1991 before being placed up for sale in 1996. When in Russian service, the vessel was armed with six twin launchers for the SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship missile, 24 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 Gauntlet surface-to-air missile, two 100mm guns, eight AK-630 Gatling Guns, and ten 533mm torpedo tubes.

For Indian service, many of those weapons were removed, and a ski-jump ramp was added. The vessel can fire Israeli-designed Barak surface-to-air missiles, and still has four AK-630s.

Articles

US-backed forces were supposed to assault ISIS capital two weeks ago

The start date of the offensive to oust Islamic State fighters from the city of Raqqa and end the terror group’s state-building project has been announced several times in the past few months, often with great fanfare by commanders in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ ground ally in northern Syria.


The last announcement came in March when Kurdish commanders said an assault on the city would begin April 1.

Two weeks later that start date, like many others, has come and gone, prompting the months-long question: when will the U.S.-backed SDF offensive shift gears from isolating Raqqa, which is hemmed in on three sides now, to mounting an assault to retake the capital of the jihadists’ self-styled caliphate?

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
A Marine directs an F/A-18D Hornet returning to an undisclosed location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community, June 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Over the weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency AFP he would support whomever wants to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa, but mocked the delay in an assault on the city, which U.S. officials believe is being defended by around 4,000 IS fighters.

“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” he said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”

No firm answer about a new start date was forthcoming on April 15 from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when he met in Washington with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik.

The Turkish defense minister again complicated the U.S. effort to choreograph an agreement among multiple local and international players about a Raqqa offensive by pressing Ankara’s long-standing demand for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose fighters dominate the ranks of the SDF.

There were no signs that the Turkish request made persistently by Ankara in recent months, and relayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a February phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, will be heeded.

U.S. officials say they envisage the Raqqa battle will resemble the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local indigenous forces have been waging the struggle to retake the northern city of Mosul, the last IS major urban stronghold in that country.

Also read: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Some 500 U.S. special forces soldiers deployed in northern Syria are helping to train and advise SDF units.

Mattis later said at a press conference the U.S. remains in solidarity with Ankara when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants and Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but he made no mention of discontinuing the alliance with the YPG, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, or PYD.

The Turks, who fear the emergence of a Kurdish state in north Syria, maintain there’s no real distinction between the PYD and the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Mattis cited the long security relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, dating back to 1952 when Turkey joined NATO; but, in the wake of the April 16 constitutional referendum that greatly enhances the Turkish president’s powers, analysts say it is unclear how much Erdogan values his country’s alliance with the West, and whether his slim victory will embolden him to disrupt a Raqqa assault by the SDF.

Earlier in April, Erdogan ramped up the pressure on Washington, saying his government is planning new offensives in northern Syria this spring against groups deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including IS and the PYD’s militia.

In March, Turkish forces escalated attacks on the YPG in northern Syria, forcing the U.S. to deploy a small number of forces in and around the town of Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa to “deter” Turkish-SDF clashes and ensure the focus remains on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is being pummeled by airstrikes mounted by U.S.-led coalition forces and Syrian warplanes.

Local anti-IS activists say the air raids fail to distinguish between military and non-military targets; however, with IS fighters seeded throughout the city and surrounding villages, being able to draw a distinction is become increasingly challenging, say U.S. officials.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Airmen load pallets of nonlethal aid for the Syrian Opposition Coalition onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at an undisclosed base May 9, 2013. U.S. forces provided humanitarian aid to refugees of the Syrian civil war. (Dept. of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, U.S. Air Force)

“Civilians are now [caught] between the criminal terrorists on one side and the international coalition’s indiscriminate bombing on the other side,” said Hamoud Almousa, a founding member of the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is opposed to an assault on the city being led by the YPG.

“Liberating [Raqqa] does not come by burning it and destroying it over its people who have suffered a lot from the terrorist group’s violations,” he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists for its information, said that four civilians — two women and two children — were killed April 17 in an airstrike believed to have been carried out by coalition warplanes on the Teshreen Farmarea north of Raqqa.

The Observatory says between March 1 and April 10, airstrikes killed 224 civilians. They included 38 children under the age of 18, and 37 women.

Another mainly Arab anti-IS activist network, Eye on the Homeland, complains at the lack of international condemnation about the civilian casualties from the airstrikes, arguing civilians caught in the conflict are being treated inhumanely.

“We assert that the liberation of civilians from all forms of terrorism requires that military forces acting in the area avoid civilian killing, displacement, and the destruction of their properties whenever possible,” the network said recently on its website.

It warned the deaths will “be used to by terrorist organizations in their propaganda to convince civilians that these military forces do not have their interests at heart” and will “only further fuel radicalization.”

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 7

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

Tech. Sgt. Michael Christiansen, a 100th Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, draws back a bow and arrow March 28, 2017, at RAF Mildenhall, England. Christiansen was selected to represent U.S. Air Forces in Europe at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago where he will compete in the rifle, pistol, recurve archery and sitting volleyball events.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Micaiah Anthony

Retired Air Force Col. and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, April 2, 2017, at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Army:

A U.S. soldier surveys a training ground near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 14, 2017. The Soldier was part of a security detachment supporting Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators and advisers with Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air. As part of Resolute Support Mission, TAAC-Air works in tandem with Afghan counterparts to foster working relationships and fortify confidence in the mission.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – U.S. Army Soldiers and European military candidates observe the chemical decontamination portion of the U.S. Army Europe Expert Field Medical Badge evaluation in Grafenwoehr, Germany on March 20, 2017. Approximately 215 military members from the U.S. Army and eleven European partner nations attended this biannual evaluation in hopes of achieving the coveted U.S. Army EFMB.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt Brian Kimball

Navy:

MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

ATLANTIC OCEAN (April 4, 2017) Sailors clean and maintain an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 in the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its carrier strike group are underway conducting a sustainment exercise in support of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

Marine Corps:

CAMP BEUHRING, Kuwait – Lance Cpl. Alexander Seick, a communications specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 11, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), closes the feed tray of an M240B medium machine gun after conducting a functions check during a sustainment training exercise near Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, March 5. Marines can use the M240B’s high rate of fire to provide suppressive fires, subduing enemy threats while moving toward an objective. The 11th MEU is currently supporting U.S. 5th Fleet’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Xzavior T. McNeal

YUMA, Arizona – U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, take cover from shrapnel behind a blast blanket while conducting urban demolition breach training for Talon Exercise 2-17, Yuma, Arizona, March 30, 2017. The purpose of TalonEx was for ground combat units to conduct integrated training in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Santino Martinez

Coast Guard:

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Seattle and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles conduct night time hoisting training on April 4, 2016. Crews conduct weekly training to remain proficient at hoisting, even in adverse weather conditions.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Logan Kellogg

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Warner, a rescue swimmer at Air Station Kodiak, performs an ice rescue during training at Upper 6 Mile Lake on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, March 17, 2016. During the training, members from Air Station Kodiak, Sector Anchorage and the National Ice Rescue School in Essexville, Mich., worked together to perform ice rescues from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Meredith Manning

Articles

How Tolkien’s war experience shaped ‘The Lord of the Rings’

 

“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”


These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.

In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.

Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Tolkien’s Battalion, The 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. (Photo via Wikicommons)

Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.

When the second edition of The Lord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”

He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.

Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.

Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
‘Somme 1 July 1916 Tragedy and Triumph’ by Andrew Robertshaw

Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.

One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.

Afterward, Frodo was left alone.

War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.

The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”

Check out this video for more:

(YouTube | The Great War)

Articles

10 incredible proposal sites for service members

Presented by Shane Co.


The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
U.S. Marine LCpl Blaise Vogelman from MWSS-273 Marine Corps Air Station, gets down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend Gabby Farrell after coming home from a 7 month deployment to Afghanistan on September 17, 2012. Photo by Sgt Angel Galvan

With hundreds of military bases around the world, troops have a lot of options on where to pop the big question. Here are some of WATM’s top picks:

1. Neuschwanstein Castle – Schwangau, Germany

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Steffen Dubouis, Flikr

Neuschwanstein is the inspiration for the castle in Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” Constructed in the 1800s, it’s about a four hour drive from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) and Ramstein Air Base. If you’re stationed in Germany and you want to make your girlfriend feel like a princess, Neuschwanstein is the ultimate fairy tale castle.

2. Puente Nuevo de Ronda – Ronda, Spain

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Klomiz, Flikr

Any beach city near Rota Naval Base, Spain would make an incredible place to propose. But if you’re the adventurous type, then Ronda, Spain is where you want to go. This historic city has been around since the time of Julius Caesar. It’s home to some of Spain’s most famous sites and oldest bullfighting ring.

3. São Miguel Island – Azores, Portugal

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Feliciano Guimarães, Flikr

São Miguel is the largest of the nine Azores Islands and just a short flight or boat ride away from Lages Field, Air Force Base, Portugal. It’s a bustling island with dozens of festivals year round. Best part of all, your money will go a long way. Petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and a glass of beer or wine will only set you back about €1 a pop.

4. Waikiki Beach – Honolulu, Hawaii

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Daniel Ramirez, Flikr

Exotic doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of being stationed in the U.S. unless you’re in Honolulu, Hawaii. Less than an hour away from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Waikiki is one of the best beaches in America. While the place is a bit touristy there’s plenty to see and do — like surfing!

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
giphy

5. Sailing – Honolulu, Hawaii

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Prayitno, Flikr

One of the best things to do with your girlfriend in Hawaii is to go sailing. Snorkeling or scuba diving provide the perfect atmosphere leading up to the big question. Swimming with dolphins and exotic fish will keep her distracted before you hit her in the feels with your engagement ring. (Just remember to keep it in a safe place.)

6. Underwater – Guam, U.S.A

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Rob Rider, YouTube

While most hotels and tourist areas in Guam are in Tumon Bay, a trip down Marine Corps Drive will lead you to Fish Eye Marine Park, which is perfect for scuba diving beginners. If swimming with the fish and barracudas aren’t your thing, there’s always Puntan Dos Amantes just North of Tumon, also knowns as Two Lovers Point.

7. Sydney Harbor Bridge – Sydney, Australia

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Ruth, Flikr

Carrier Air Wing 5 has frequent trips to the land down under and Sydney provides hundreds of proposal possibilities. We recommend the top of Sydney Harbor Bridge with the Opera House in the background for the picture perfect proposal.

8. National monument

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Ring of Finger, YouTube

Your proposal can’t be more patriotic than getting on one knee in front of a national monument while wearing your uniform. Take your pick from one of the hundreds of monuments across the nation.

9. On a Navy ship

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Airman Xavier Rodriguez Rivas, an aviation ordnanceman, proposes to his girlfriend, Jubeliz Maldonado, on the navigation bridge aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73). George Washington is currently in a Selective Restricted Availability in its homeport of Fleet Activities Yokosuka. US Navy photo

This day is more for her than it is for you. While proposing at home, in this case a Navy ship, is no big deal for you, it will mean the world to her.

10. If you’re deployed, there’s always Skype

The Coast Guard wants to be the face of America in the South China Sea
Spc. Rafael Campos, a parachute rigger for the 421st Quartermaster detachment 4, and some of his fellow riggers gathered Nov. 2 to set up for the momentous occasion of proposing to his girlfriend in California (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Adrianne Vinson, Public Affairs, 421st Quartermaster )

This soldier overcame the distance between him and his girlfriend. Whatever your plans are for proposing, just don’t forget the ring. (And here are some engagement ring ideas from our friends at Shane Co.)