Within a day of a second failed attack on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87), the USS Nitze (DDG 94), a sister ship, has launched strikes against three radar sites in Yemen. The strike came less than a day after the Mason had defeated the second attack.
According to a report by The Washington Examiner, three BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at the sites in Yemeni territory under the control of Houthi rebels. The Houthi rebels are believed to have been responsible for the Sunday and Wednesday attacks on Mason, but also the attack on HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now owned by a civilian firm in the United Arab Emirates.
“The strikes — authorized by President Obama at the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford — targeted radar sites involved in the recent missile launches threatening USS Mason and other vessels operating in international waters in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an official statement, also noting that the targeted radar sites were destroyed in the strikes.
The BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile comes in a number of varieties, including nuclear (BGM-109A), anti-ship (BGM-109B), conventional land-attack (BGM-109C), cluster munitions for land attack (BGM-109D), and a “Tactical Tomahawk” that is equipped with a TV camera (BGM-109E).
The land-attack and “Tactical Tomahawk” missiles have a maximum range of 900 nautical miles, and are armed with a unitary warhead (usually a thousand-pound high explosive warhead, based on those used on the AGM-12 Bullpup missile). The BGM-109D delivers a dispenser with 166 BLU-97 bomblets up to 700 miles away.
The Tomahawk has a top speed of 550 nautical miles per hour, and flies in at a very low altitude to evade radars. To date, a total of 2,267 missiles have been fired.
Here’s official U.S. Navy footage of the Tomahawk launch:
Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, released the following statement in the wake of the most recent events in the waters off of Yemen:
“The U.S. Navy remains on watch in the Red Sea and around the world to defend America from attack and to protect U.S. strategic interests. These unjustified attacks are serious, but they will not deter us from our mission. We are trained and ready to defend ourselves and to respond quickly and decisively. The team in USS Mason demonstrated initiative and toughness as they defended themselves and others against these unfounded attacks over the weekend and again today. All Americans should be proud of them.”
If you wanted to visit the carrier the Doolittle Raiders flew from, the USS Hornet (CV 8), you need to go to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, the place to look is near the Santa Cruz Islands, where a major naval battle was fought 74 years ago. It is notable for being the last time the United States lost a fleet carrier.
So, what made Santa Cruz such a big deal? Partly it was because the Japanese were desperately trying to take Henderson Field, and felt they had a chance to do so. They had pushed the United States Navy to the limit after the battles of Savo Island and the Eastern Solomons. A submarine had also put USS Wasp (CV 7) on the bottom with a devastating salvo of torpedoes that also sank a destroyer and damaged USS North Carolina (BB 55).
Admiral Chester Nimitz had sent Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, who had just recovered from dermatitis that caused him to miss the Battle of Midway. Halsey decided to hit the Japanese Fleet first. The orders: “Attack – Repeat Attack!”
American planes damaged the carriers Shokaku and Zuiho, as well as the heavy cruiser Chikuma. The destroyer USS Porter (DD 356) took a hit from a torpedo fired by the Japanese submarine I-21 (although some sources claim the damage was from a freak incident involving a torpedo from a crashed TBF Avenger). USS Enterprise took two bomb hits, but was still in the fight, and would later retire from the scene after surviving two more attacks.
USS Hornet was hit by three bombs, two suicide planes, and two torpedoes in the first attack. Despite that damage, she was mostly repaired by eleven in the morning. However, that afternoon, a second strike put another torpedo into the 20,000-ton carrier. Halsey ordered the Hornet scuttled.
USS Mustin (DD 413) and USS Anderson (DD 411) put three torpedoes and over 400 five-inch shells into the Hornet before they had to retreat in the face of a substantial Japanese surface force. USS Hornet would not go down until the Japanese destroyers Akigumo and Makigumo put four Long Lance torpedoes into her hull.
All in all, Hornet took ten torpedoes, two suicide planes, and three bombs before she went down. Her sister ship, USS Yorktown (CV 5) had taken three bombs and four torpedoes before she went down at Midway, having also survived two bomb hits at the Battle of the Coral Sea that had not been completely repaired.
The lessons of the losses of USS Yorktown and USS Hornet would pay their own dividends. The United States would only lose one light carrier, USS Princeton (CVL 23), and six escort carriers for the rest of the war. Carriers like USS Franklin (CV 13) and USS Bunker Hill (CV 17) would survive severe damage in 1945, while USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Forrestal (CV 59) would survive frightful fires during the Vietnam War.
An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.
Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.
“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.
A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.
The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.
Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.
“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.
Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.
It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.
Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.
So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.
Legal jockeying is continuing between a top Russian opposition leader and the chief of the country’s national guard, disappointing everyone who was hoping they would settle their differences in martial combat after the head of the National Guard really, actually, apparently sincerely challenged the opposition politician to an old-fashioned duel.
Alexei Navalny, the head of the Russia of the Future Party and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, received a duel challenge from the head of the country’s national guard. The general in command said he was going to beat this beautiful face into mincemeat.
(MItya Aleshkovskiy, CC BY-SA 3.0)
In Post-Soviet Russia, military defends itself (and, allegedly, its tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains).
If you haven’t heard about the quarrel, it all started when Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, noticed that the head of the Russian National Guard seemed to be living well beyond his apparent means while the government was paying exorbitant prices for supplies for the armed services.
Navalny tends to get arrested anytime he accuses someone too senior of corruption — arrests which the European Human Rights Court view as politically motivated in every case they’ve reviewed about Navalny — and he was subsequently arrested soon after making the accusations against Zolotov.
Putin’s ex bodyguard says he can make mincemeat out of Alexei Navalny
(It’s important to note that, even assuming that the August 2018 arrest was political, it could’ve been for other political reasons than the accusations against Zolotov. Navalny is always angering Putin by pointing out corrupt practices, and there are usually four or five political reasons for the Kremlin to jail him at any time.)
In September, while Navalny was in prison, Zolotov challenged his accuser to a duel at any place. While our sources say that trial by combat isn’t a thing anymore, even in Russia, admit that you would pay to watch a possibly-corrupt general fight his political opponent. Zolotov reportedly said that he would beat Navalny into mincemeat within minutes.
Fortunately for pedants and unfortunately for blood-seekers, Navalny accepted but specified that the weapons would be words.
Yeah, he answered a challenge of a duel by accepting it as a debate. Dangit, Navalny, you may be a social-media savvy anti-corruption activist, but you have no idea how to entertain the crowd at a coliseum. We want blood.
A flight from Pyongyang to Hanoi is just 13 hours and 15 minutes. But no one wants to sit on a plane that long, least of all Kim Jong Un, Marshal and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. He prefers the 70-hour train ride, just like his father and grandfather before him – although for vastly different reasons.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good smoke break?
Kim’s grandfather was Kim Il-Sung, architect of the Korean War and still-ruling President of North Korea, despite being dead for more than 25 years. Kim Il-Sung first caught a taste for train travel during the Korean War, when every hardened structure he ever set foot in was probably bombed to smithereens within hours of the UN forces realizing there were still structures to bomb in North Korea.
Even after the war ended, he enjoyed the security of a private, armored train and built his palaces to be accessible only by rail. The grandfather Kim even toured all of Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe via rail. It doesn’t hurt that the North Korean railway system is the most reliable way to get around, either. How else are you going to randomly give advice to farmers when you know nothing about growing wheat?
“Look at all this magnificent grain we photoshopped in.”
His son and Kim Jong Un’s dad, Kim Jong-Il had a different reason. Kim Jong-Il was deathly afraid of flying and never traveled anywhere via air. Kim, the father, had a luxury armored train with some 22 different cars, each carrying an important detail, including equipment to allow for the train to travel on different countries’ railway gauges.
Kim’s trains ran in groups of three: the first train ran twenty minutes ahead of the others to ensure the safety of the rail line and maybe take the brunt of an assassination attempt. The second carried the Dear Leader and his closest entourage, along with everything he might need, including lobsters and Hennessey. The last train had his communications, his staff, and the things he actually needed to run the government.
Which is probably just more cases of Hennessy.
For Kim Jong Un, much of his new life has been maintaining his grip on power. In this respect, he has decided to emulate his grandfather in many ways that are recognizable to the North Korean public – from the way he dresses, to the hats he wears, to the way he visits farmers for his “on the spot guidance.” His father was never as popular as his grandfather. Kim Jong-Il came to power after the fall of the Soviet Union when subsidies to the North Koreans ended and created a famine. Life for the average North Korean suffered under Kim Jong-Il.
So it’s no surprise he makes his visits to the populace via rail, just like Kim Il-Sung did.
Kim Jong Un comes in to Hanoi like a very, very slow wrecking ball
The trains still reportedly travel in groups, with many on the train reporting no loss in luxury from when his father was alive, despite an increase in international sanctions. The train’s armor means it can only crawl from one stop to another, at a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour.
Which is why the leader took 70 hours to arrive at his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to talk denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
TBILISI — The United States and Britain have joined Georgia in blaming Russia for a massive coordinated cyberattack last year that took thousands of Georgian websites offline and even disrupted TV broadcasts.
Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimer Konstantinidi told a news conference in Tbilisi on February 20 that the cyberattack was planned and carried out by Russia.
“The investigation conducted by the Georgian authorities, together with information gathered through cooperation with partners, concluded that this cyberattack was planned and carried out by the main division of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Konstantinidi said.
Meanwhile, the United States and Britain said in separate statements that the attack was carried out by a unit of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency known as Unit 74455 and Sandworm.
Sandworm is known as a single group of hackers within the GRU and security experts have linked it to such cyber breaches as the theft of 9 gigabytes of e-mails from the French presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron, a similar campaign against the Democratic National Committee in the United States in 2016, as well as the malware that hit Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and spread globally.
Britain has also linked the group to two attacks against Ukraine in 2017, including NotPetya and BadRabbit, which affected the nation’s financial and energy sectors as well as the Kyiv Metro and Odesa’s airport.
“The United States calls on Russia to cease this behavior in Georgia and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, adding that Washington would provide assistance to Georgia to help improve the country’s ability to fend off such attacks.
“We also pledge our support to Georgia and its people in enhancing their cybersecurity and countering malicious cyber actors,” Pompeo added.
Russia denied involvement in penetrating Georgian government websites.
“Russia did not plan and is not planning to interfere in Georgia’s internal affairs in any way,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Russian news agencies.
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately comment.
More than 2,000 state, private, and media websites as well as two private television stations — Imedi and Maestro — were knocked out on October 28. The targeted websites included those of the president’s office and local municipality offices.
In many cases, website home pages were replaced with an image of former President Mikheil Saakashvili, and the caption “I’ll be back.”
With the rise of cyberattacks, Navy ships are now equipped with defense from hackers.
Russia has fraught relations with its southern neighbor, which is seeking to join Western organizations, including the European Union and NATO, moves that Moscow opposes.
Russia fought a five-day war with Georgia in 2008 after which Russia recognized the independence claim of two breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which comprise 20 percent of its territory.
Russia is one of only a few countries that recognizes the two regions’ independence.
In World War II, airborne units were really in their infancy. The Germans pioneered their use in combat, and the United States built perhaps the largest airborne force in the world, with five airborne divisions.
But these divisions had a problem. There weren’t many planes to transport them for large-scale airborne ops. Today, most transports used in airborne operations have rear ramps for loading cargo (like, jeeps and artillery). Back then, they didn’t.
The C-47 Skytrain was based on the DC-3 airliner. The C-46 Commado was also based on an airliner.
Yeah, paratroops could be dropped, but they could be scattered (thus creating the rule of the LGOPs). How would they drop the heavier equipment, and keep the crews together? The answer came with the development of gliders. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pioneered the use of them, but the U.S. and Great Britain built lots of them.
According to the National World War II Glider Pilots Association’s web site, the United States built over 13,000 CG-4A Waco gliders. Each of these gliders could carry 15 troops, or a Jeep and four paratroopers, a trailer, up to 5,000 pounds of supplies, an anti-tank gun plus operators, or a 75mm artillery piece and its crew.
About 6,500 glider pilots were trained during World War II, taking part in eight missions from Sicily to Luzon. In the 1950s, advancements in transport aircraft, both fixed-wing and rotary-wing, led to the glider units being deactivated in 1952. But the gliders helped deliver firepower, troops, and supplies during World War II – when that ability was needed.
The video below shows how gliders were used during the Normandy invasion.
U.S. Marine Corps pilots are trained to operate advanced aircraft in often dangerous situations. These pilots are the only aviators in the U.S. military who are taught the basics of infantry tactics prior to flight school. This ensures every Marine is a rifleman. Though the chances of an aviator leading a platoon of infantry Marines are slim to none, there are cases where pilots are embedded in infantry units.
Capt. David “Tuck” Miller, a CH-53 Super Stallion pilot, is one of those pilots. Miller, a native of Queenstown, Maryland, is a Forward Air Controller with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, “Lava Dogs.”
“As a CH-53 pilot, I always have the opportunity to transport grunts in the back of my aircraft so this is just one more way where I can work closely with them and support them,” said Miller.
As the FAC, Miller is in charge of directing close air support and other offensive air operations. FACs are pilots who are tasked out from the aviation field to directly support ground combat units. The FACs are typically senior aviators who have spent at least two years in a fleet squadron, according to Miller. The prospects are sent to Tactical Air Control Party School to learn the fundamentals of close air support and how to call for fire. This allows the pilot to be a valuable asset when finally attached to an infantry unit.
“He speaks from the air side of the house and he knows what the pilots are saying and what they are looking for from us infantry guys, so he’s able to bridge that gap between the two communities,” said 1st Lt. Harry Walker, the fire support team leader.
Once the pilots touch base with the infantry units, they are indoctrinated into a completely different culture for almost two years.
“Coming from the air wing and going head first into an infantry battalion, it’s a little bit of a culture shock just because you do have all those hikes and spend a lot time in the field,” said Miller. “After I graduated from [The Basic School], I don’t think I spent one night in the field and then the first night I was out with the battalion I slept under the stars, but it’s still good to be here.”
The FAC billet is a not only beneficial for the infantry units but also great for the pilot executing the position, according to Miller.
“For them it’s all about the mission,” said Miller. “So as an aviator, it pushes me to be more studious and when I get back to the cockpit, I’ll be a better aviator.”
The Lava Dogs are currently forward-deployed for six months to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program. The battalion is tasked to provide a forward-deployed combat ready unit for in support of theater requirements.
This post originally appeared on WATM in November 2017. We just thought it was so good you might want to read it again.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur is well known for his exploits in WWII and Korea. What is often overlooked is his exemplary combat record as a leader in the 42nd “Rainbow” Division in World War I.
At the outset of the Great War, MacArthur was appointed Chief of Staff of the 42nd Division and promoted to a wartime rank of Colonel. He and the rest of the division arrived in France in November 1917.
The 42nd entered the line in February of 1918 and MacArthur wasted no time getting into the war. On February 26, MacArthur and another American officer accompanied a French unit on a nighttime raid of a German trench. MacArthur gained valuable experience for his own troops to employ but, more importantly, greatly aided in the effort to capture German prisoners for interrogation. The French awarded him with a Croix de Guerre while Maj. Gen. Charles Menoher awarded him a Silver Star.
Then on March 9, MacArthur joined Company D, 168th Infantry Regiment in an attack of their own. Being their first major action, MacArthur’s presence and coolness under fire inspired the men and they quickly carried the enemy position. MacArthur himself described it as a “roaring avalanche of glittering steel and cursing men.” For his bravery in the attack, MacArthur was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was also lightly wounded and received his first Purple Heart.
MacArthur received a promotion to Brigadier General on June 26, 1918 after he and the men of the 42nd held the line against the German Spring Offensive for 82 days.
After a short rest, the division was quickly put back into the line to prepare for the German offensive in the Champagne-Marne sector. As the German onslaught surged forward under a rolling barrage, MacArthur once again joined his troops on the line to steady their nerves. As the Germans broke through the forward lines, MacArthur shouted encouragement and rallied his men for a fight. The German advance was broken up and MacArthur received a second Silver Star.
After successfully holding the line, the division was moved to Chateau-Thierry to relieve the 26th Division and to maintain pressure on the retreating Germans. MacArthur led his men in a brutal offensive day after day in small unit actions and raids. As they approached the Main Line of Resistance, MacArthur led several large scale assaults to drive the Germans out of strong points and villages. One village changed hands eleven times before the Americans finally laid claim to the smoldering ruins.
Then on July 29, MacArthur led a valiant assault against the Germans at Seringes et Nesles. Under intense enemy fire, the men forded a stream and rushed up the slopes of the defenses before driving off the German defenders. For his part in the action MacArthur was awarded a third Silver Star.
Just days later, MacArthur was placed in command of the 42nd Division’s 84th Infantry Brigade after its former commander was relieved of duty. One of MacArthur’s first orders of business was to personally conduct a reconnaissance of German positions thinking that they might have withdrawn. He and a runner crawled through the mangled corpses and dying wounded of the German defenders left behind. In a tense moment MacArthur’s runner took out a machine gun position with a grenade before they could be spotted.
Eventually they reached the brigade on their flank and determined that the Germans had indeed withdrawn. MacArthur went straight to division headquarters to report his findings. After he explained his mission to his superiors, and passed out from not having slept in four days, the corps commander, Gen. Hunter Liggett, exclaimed “Well, I’ll be damned, Menoher, you better cite him!” MacArthur received his fourth Silver Star.
After another rest, MacArthur led the 84th Brigade in the main assault against the Germans at St. Mihiel on September 12, 1918. After months of fighting, MacArthur knew the German tactics; they would hold the center of the line while leaving the flanks weak. To counter this, his assault plan would fix the German center and then envelope the flanks. It worked, and on the first day of the attack the 84th Brigade drove farther than any other unit and suffered less casualties. They also captured some 10,000 German prisoners. This garnered MacArthur his fifth Silver Star.
Two weeks later, during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, MacArthur’s unit was ordered to conduct a diversionary raid against German strong points in their sector. MacArthur made a great show of it and, while accomplishing his diversionary mission, managed to suffer less than 20 casualties. For his exceptional leadership he was awarded a sixth Silver Star.
As the offensive continued on, MacArthur continued his valiant leadership. When his corps commander ordered the taking of a position — or to “turn in a list of 5,000 casualties” — MacArthur heartily replied, “We’ll take it, or my name will head the list.” MacArthur’s soldiers fought through bitter cold and determined resistance with mounting casualties, but they finally took the position. MacArthur was recommended for a promotion to Major General and a Medal of Honor. Instead, he received his second Distinguished Service Cross, which in the citation states: “On a field where courage was the rule, his courage was the dominant feature.”
Next, in the mad dash to take Sedan, MacArthur was awarded his seventh Silver Star when he averted a disastrous overlap of units from the 42nd and 1st Divisions by personally leaving friendly lines to communicate with the units involved at great personal risk to himself. During this period of fighting, MacArthur, known to not carry his gas mask as it impeded his movement, was gassed, earning a second Purple Heart.
For his exceptional service to the 42nd Division he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and also briefly made the division’s commanding officer in November 1918. His seven Silver Stars were a military record that stood until David Hackworth earned ten during fighting in Korea and Vietnam.
Soldiers and their spouses now have two big ways to advance their professional goals, thanks to two new Army initiatives. Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston recently spoke with We Are the Mighty to explain the Army’s new Credentialing Assistance Program and the changes to the Army’s Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program, both designed to give soldiers and their spouses better career options.
Grinston said that under the Army Credentialing Assistance Program, active, Guard and Reserve soldiers would be able to receive up to $4,000 annually to use toward obtaining professional credentials, in much the same way that tuition assistance is currently available. In fact, a soldier can use both tuition assistance and credentialing assistance, but the combined total cannot exceed $4,000.
“The world has evolved and some of these credentials are equally important to a college degree,” Grinston said. “We want to give all opportunities to our soldiers, and not just limit them to a 4-year degree. We have the best soldiers in the world and they do incredible things in the Army, and they should be able to keep doing those things when they get out. It’s good for them and it’s good for the military – we’re making better soldiers, as well as better welders and better medics.”
Soldiers are now able to use credentialing assistance for any of the 1,600 professional credentials currently available in the Army Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) portal, and the credentials they pursue do not have to align with the soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS). Right now, the most popular credential soldiers choose to pursue is private airplane pilot, he said.
“We allow you to get a credential in your interest because your interests may change over time. I don’t think we should limit our soldiers to their MOS. It’s all about making a better soldier, and at some point, everyone leaves the military, so I don’t think we should limit them to their MOS.”
Grinston said the Credentialing Assistance Program reflects the priority Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville set to put people first, and he said that commitment extends beyond the soldier to the soldier’s spouse and family, too. That’s why the Army is doubling the maximum amount available under the Spouse Licensure Reimbursement Program from 0 to id=”listicle-2645503326″,000 and expanding the program so that spouses who move overseas will also be eligible to be reimbursed for licensing fees.
“We ask a lot of our spouses, we ask them to do a lot of things. We want them to be able to get relicensed, but we’ve been making them pay for that out of pocket,” Grinston said. “If we’re going to put people first, we need to put resources behind that.”
The motivation for changing the spouse licensing reimbursement program came from experiences Grinston has seen with his wife, a teacher, as she tries to re-enter the workforce.
He also said it arose out of the small group meetings he regularly holds with Army spouses around the country. During a session at Ft. Knox, a military spouse told him that she was a behavioral health specialist and that when they moved, the state of Kentucky required her to take more credits in order to be licensed.
“We still have a long way to go, but I’m working with state reciprocity so we can do more for spouses as we move them from one location to the next,” Grinston said, noting that that particular spouse’s story really struck him. “We need behavioral health specialists to work. We need them right now.”
He said that the Army is working with every state to align licensure requirements so that a spouse who is licensed and working in one state will be able to continue working when their family moves with the Army. Internally, the Army is also looking at ways to streamline the screening process for jobs at Army Child Development Centers (CDCs) so that a spouse who has already passed the background screening and is working at one CDC will not have to resubmit to the screening process when the family moves.
“If you’ve already gone through the background screening for, say, the CDC at Bragg and now you’re moving to Hood, you shouldn’t have to go through the screening again,” Grinston said. “We need CDC caregivers, now. If we hire more, we can add a classroom, and that’s 10 more kids off the waitlist. Less of our kids on the waitlist, that’s another way we can put people first. People first is something we’ve always tried to do, and now we’re trying to do it even better.”
Federal officials plan to crackdown on what they view as predatory lending schemes — reminiscent of the toxic practices seen during the housing boom — targeted at thousands of veterans nationwide who have VA home loans.
The abuses involve serial refinancings that generate hefty fees for lenders and loan brokers but leave borrowers in worse financial shape than they were before the transaction. Lenders are dangling teaser interest rates, “cash out” windfalls, and lower monthly payments, sometimes using shady marketing materials that resemble official information from the Department of Defense. Not infrequently, officials say, borrowers end up in negative equity positions, owing more on their loan balance than their house is worth.
Officials at the Government National Mortgage Association, better known as Ginnie Mae, say some veterans are being flooded with misleading refi offers and are signing up without assessing the costs and benefits. Some properties are being refinanced multiple times a year, thanks to “poaching” by lenders who aggressively solicit competitors’ recent borrowers to refi them again and roll the fees into a new loan balance.
The costs to the veterans can far outweigh the relatively modest reductions in monthly payments. In an analysis of questionable refinancings, Ginnie Mae found “many” examples where the borrowers were persuaded to switch from a long-term fixed interest rate to a lower-rate, short-term adjustable, but saw the principal amount owed to the lender jump by thousands of dollars. In an average fixed-rate to adjustable-rate refi, according to data provided to me for this column, borrowers added $12,000 to their debt in order to reduce their monthly payment by $165. Just to break even on that deal would take more than six years, according to Ginnie Mae, and could push unsuspecting borrowers into negative equity.
A typical pitch for one of these loans was received recently by a veteran and his wife who live in Silver Spring, Md. Along with a fake “check” made out to the veteran in the amount of $30,000 — all he had to do to get the cash was sign up for a refi — were come-ons like this: a new 2.25 percent interest rate, no out-of-pocket expenses, a refund of his escrow money, and up to two months with zero mortgage payments.
“Call now and lock in your rate before rates go any higher,” urged the lender. In small print on the back of the check were a couple of key disclosures: Homeowners would have to switch from their current 3.75 percent fixed rate to a “3/1” adjustable rate that could increase 36 months after closing and rise to as high as 7.25 percent during the life of the loan. There was nothing about fees or the fact that opting for the refi could add to the family’s debt load.
VA home loans are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and often have no down payment. Lenders who originate them receive guarantees of a portion of the loan amount against loss in the event of a default. Ginnie Mae bundles VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans into mortgage bonds, which are then purchased by investors who receive guarantees of timely payments.
In an interview, Michael R. Bright, acting Ginnie Mae president, said some of the abuses he is seeing hark back to 2005 and 2006 — heyday years of the boom before the bust. “We’re seeing borrowers refinance three times in less than six months and (their) loan balances going up.” Homeowners also are dumping fixed-rate loans for riskier adjustables.
“That was the play back then” during the boom, he said. Now it’s back.
Bright declined to name mortgage lenders who are most aggressively involved in abusive refis, but he said violators of agency rules face financial penalties and loss of eligibility to participate in bond offerings — essentially closing down their funding source.
Bottom line for VA borrowers: Look skeptically at all refi promotions. Run the numbers to see whether refinancing will leave you better off — or deeper in debt.
Members of the U.S. military community competed against one another Sept. 29, 2019 in another installment of Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
The event was held to determine who were some of the strongest men and women on Okinawa.
“Today went great,” explained Taryn Miller, an adult sports specialist for Marine Corps Community Services. “The weather was awesome. The competitors had a lot of energy. There was a lot of camaraderie along with a competitive edge among everybody.”
Okinawa residents and service members traveled from all across the island to participate in this event.
The competitors were divided into five different weight classes. Two female weight classes and three male weight classes.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, lifts an atlas stone during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)
The first event was the yoke carry, which consisted of a competitor carrying a set weight 50 yards in a race against time. The second was a farmer’s carry 100 yards followed by 10 log cleans and presses for time. The third event was the atlas stone lift, which involved the competitors lifting three different stones and placing them on a platform for time.
Competitors with the highest combined score in their weight class at the end of the competition were declared the winners.
The champion from the female weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kathryn Quandt, a future operations officer with 9th Engineer Support Battalion.
The champion from the male weight class up to 150 pounds was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ezekiel Garza, a motor transportation mechanic with III Marine Expeditionary Force Support Battalion, executes a log clean and press during the Okinawa’s Strongest: Battle of the South, Sept. 29, 2019 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Brennan Beauton)
The champion from the male 150-to-200 pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Kermeen, a faculty advisor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy on Camp Hansen, and the champion from the male over-200-pound weight class was U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Ian Dernbach, a heavy equipment operator with III MEF Support Battalion.
The island-wide Okinawa’s Strongest competition will feature winners from both the Battle of the North and South and will take place in November 2019 on Camp Foster.
“Today’s event had a lot of similar movements that you will see in the event coming up in November 2019 which will have eight different stations as opposed to the three that we had here today,” said Miller. “This was a great way for competitors to get a feel for what it’s going to be like at the big one.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.