The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.
No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.
His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”
The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.
Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.
The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.
“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”
In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.
Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.
Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik recently ripped China’s J-15 fighter jet for its many failings.
In 2001, China purchased a T-10K-3 (a Su-33 prototype) from Ukraine and later reversed engineered it into the J-15 fighter jet.
And Moscow, apparently, is still a little sour about it.
The J-15 is too heavy to operate efficiently from carriers, has problems with its flight control systems, which has led to several crashes, and more, Sputnik reported, adding that Beijing doesn’t even have enough J-15s to outfit both of its carriers.
“The J-15’s engines and heavy weight severely limit its ability to operate effectively: at 17.5 tons empty weight, it tops the scales for carrier-based fighters,” Sputnik reported, adding that “The US Navy’s F-18 workhorse, by comparison, is only 14.5 tons.”
“The Asia Times noted that Chinese media has disparaged the plane in numerous ways,” Sputnik added, “including referring to it as a ‘flopping fish’ for its inability to operate effectively from the Chinese carriers, which launch fixed-wing aircraft under their own power from an inclined ramp on the bow of the ship.”
Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
China’s first carrier, the Liaoning, is a Kuznetsov-class carrier like the Admiral Kuznetsov, and both use short-take off but arrested recovery launch systems.
Sputnik then piled on by interviewing Russian military analyst Vasily Kashin.
“Years ago the Chinese decided to save some money and, instead of buying several Su-33s from Russia for their subsequent license production in China, they opted for a Su-33 prototype in Ukraine,” Sputnik quoted Kashin.
“As a result, the development of the J-15 took more time and more money than expected, and the first planes proved less than reliable,” Kashin added.
But as The National Interest pointed out, the former Soviet Union regularly copied Western military concepts and products.
“Considering that China has the same habit, there is a poetic justice here,” The National Interest’s Michael Peck wrote.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
The beginning of World War II started with a brutal Nazi war crime.
On Sep. 1, 1939, German soldiers began their invasion of Poland, triggering the outbreak of World War II. The shelling of a Polish garrison at Westerplatte is commonly believed to be the first shot fired in the war, but the beginning actually happened five minutes prior, according to Deutsche Welle.
At 4:40 a.m., the town of Wieluń was bombed by the Luftwaffe as most of its 16,000 residents slept. There were no anti-aircraft, military, or economic targets of any importance, in the sleepy town just 13 miles from the German border. The target of the bombing was civilians.
Overall, 380 bombs fell on Wieluń, weighing a total of 46 tons. The first ones hit the All-Saints Hospital. 32 people died there – patients and staff. These were the first victims of the German air raids during World War II. The next target was the oldest parish church in Wieluń, St. Michael the Archangel, built in the beginning of the 14th Century. The Piarist building was the only surviving structure on the old square.
In total, as a result of the attack on Wieluń by the German air force, which lasted until 2pm, over 1200 people died. Certain sources note as many as 2,000 victims. Bombs dropped by the Stukas (Junkers Ju 87) destroyed 75% of the city. 90% of the city center was destroyed.
The people of Wieluń were the first to experience the German tactic of “blitzkrieg” (lightning) war, which was later used during the invasions of Belgium, North Africa, the Netherlands, and France. Just minutes after the bombing of the town began, the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began its bombardment of Westerplatte.
Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany, and the conflict lasted for six years at the cost of millions of lives. When it was all over in 1945, it ended with the surrender of the Nazis, and the exposure of the most shocking and brutal war crime the world had ever seen.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.
During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)
“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”
11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.
A Department of Defense report released on May 2, 2019, paints a troubling picture of sexual violence in the US military, with an almost 38 percent rise between 2016 and 2018, according to a Pentagon survey reviewed by INSIDER.
The report, which surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, reported that around 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in the past year — a significant leap from around 14,900 members in 2016, when a similar survey was conducted.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the prevalence of sexual assault in the military “unacceptable” in a memorandum sent across the Department of Defense, and reviewed by INSIDER.
“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Shanahan wrote. “We must improve our culture to treat each other with dignity and respect and hold ourselves, and each other, more accountable.”
U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.
The Pentagon has grappled with preventing sexual assault in the ranks for decades, and the latest survey shows their policies have failed to stem the problem as more troops report sexual abuse, nearly 90 percent of which was reportedly perpetrated by another member of the military.
Women in the military, and particularly young women between the ages of 17 to 24, are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault, the report found. Sexual assault rates for women were highest in the Marines, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The rates among men remained similar to the 2016 report.
“The results are disturbing and a clear indicator the Marine Corps must reexamine its sexual assault prevention efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement in response to the findings.
The survey also found increases in sexual harassment and gender discrimination compared to 2016, behavior that could ultimately lead to sexual assault.
The memo described a list of steps that the Department of Defense plans to implement in response to sexual assault, such as launching a Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program so members can confidentially report offenders, bolstering recruitment efforts, and better preparing enlisted leaders and first-line supervisors to properly respond to sexual misconduct reports.
The Pentagon also established a sexual assault accountability task force last month, at the urging of Arizona Sen. Martha Mc Sally, the GOP lawmaker and 26-year military veteran who revealed in March that she had been raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.
Martha McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“As a result of this year’s report, the Department is reevaluating existing processes used to address sexual assault and taking a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, which include taking preventative measures, providing additional support and care for victims, and ensuring a robust and comprehensive military justice process,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told INSIDER.
Lack of confidence
Thursday’s report hints at a culture in which members may be hesitant to come forward about their assaults, especially as the majority of alleged perpetrators are also in uniform.
In total, 89 percent of alleged offenders were service members, the report found, and 62 percent of assailants had been friends or acquaintances with the victim. Alcohol was involved in 62 percent of sexual assault situations.
For service members who did come forward to report sexual assault, 64 percent described a perceived negative experience or retaliation for speaking out. Maxwell, the spokesperson, told INSIDER that there were 187 allegations of retaliation against victims who reported sexual assault in the past year.
“No one in the Department of Defense should have to fear retaliatory behavior associated with a sexual assault report,” she said, adding that measures are being taken by the department to better respond to retaliation.
While sexual assaults in the military had been on the decline since 2006, when more than 34,000 members had reported misconduct, a 35 percent increase in assaults between 2010 and 2012 led military leaders in 2013 to declare “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the ranks. While the percentage of sexual assaults did decline in 2016, that trend reversed course in 2018.
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote in his memo. “Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission, and will not be tolerated.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
It is 100 years to the day, June 26, 1918, since an obscure wood 50 miles from Paris, the Bois de Belleau, was captured by U.S. forces in a protracted battle of World War I. During those weeks the wood had become a focal point of American military hopes, an early and vital display of the American Expeditionary Force’s capability on the battlefield. The bloody encounter occupies a special place in the annals of U.S. military history. Patrick Gregory looks at what happened there and asks why the battle still stands out.
In late April 2018, a photo opportunity featuring the presidents of the United States and France and their wives planting a tree was beamed across the world. What seemed to attract as much publicity at the time was the fact that the young tree in question was removed soon after the ceremony, taken into temporary quarantine. What achieved less attention was where the sapling had come from or why — Belleau Wood.
As with most such scenes of slaughter of the First World War, the Bois de Belleau is as quiet now as it doubtless was before the fighting which erupted there in June 1918. And that fighting was brutal. What happened there was an important moment in the contribution of the United States in the First World War. It was also an important moment in the development of the U.S. Marine Corps.
(Library of Congress photo )
By May 1918 the U.S. had been a combatant in Europe for over a year; yet American troops, still arriving in France, had to date only played a supporting role. That was all going to change. American Expeditionary Force commander John Pershing had stubbornly resisted Allied efforts to co-opt his men — a regiment here, a regiment there — to add to their own ranks, remaining determined to train and assemble a fully-fledged army of his own.
The moment of truth now arrived to test those men in battle: May 28, 1918, the first full U.S.-led offensive of the war. Led by Pershing’s trusted First Division, the ‘Big Red One’ under Robert Bullard attacked at Cantigny in northern France, 20 miles from Amiens. Of limited strategic value, perhaps, but the three-day battle was a success, demonstrating that the Americans could fight. It was a shot in the arm for the AEF, a much needed psychological boost after all the months’ waiting.
However, of more immediate concern to the Allies was a new and deadly enemy offensive which had been unleashed during this time 50 miles south-east: one cutting easily through Allied lines and driving further south towards the river Marne, leaving German forces within striking distance of Paris.
On May 30 two separate American divisions, the 2nd & 3rd, were ordered into the Marne area, arriving from different directions east and west. A machine gun battalion of the latter secured the south bank of the river at the key bridgehead of Château-Thierry, as other of their number began to take up position.
But the main action of the weeks ahead would lie north-west of the town, involving men of the 2nd Division; in particular, two of their regiments, a brigade of Marines led by Pershing’s old chief of staff James Harbord. It would be their efforts to secure a woodland there that would capture headlines, helped in part by the purple prose of journalist Floyd Gibbons.
(Library of Congress photo )
Belleau Wood was barely more than a mile long and half a mile wide, yet it would cost many lives to capture and would be reported across the world. “It was perhaps a small battle in terms of World War I,” says Professor Andrew Wiest of the University of Southern Mississippi, “but it was outsized in historic importance. It was the battle that meant that the U.S. had arrived.”
Yet as operations go — as brave and resolute as the troops were throughout — it was poorly planned and badly commanded, certainly in its opening phases. After adjacent areas were captured on the morning of June 6, the decision was taken to advance on the wood that afternoon from two directions, west and south. The former was led by a battalion of 5th Marines under Benjamin Berry; the southern attack undertaken by Berton Sibley’s battalion of 6th Marines, supported on their right by 23rd Infantry from the division’s other regular army brigade.
But little reconnaissance had been carried out in advance as to what to expect when they got there and only scant artillery fire was laid down beforehand. Inside, German machine gunners had taken up positions in defensive holes, behind rocky outcrops and shielded by dense undergrowth. Worse, the Marines now advanced towards them in rank formation over the exposed ground outside, with Berry’s western advance particularly exposed. They were slaughtered. By nightfall 222 were dead and over 850 wounded.
Bloodied but remaining focused on the task, the men went again the next day. And the one after that. Yet little headway was made. An intense 24-hour artillery barrage was belatedly ordered, followed by yet another assault. Headway was finally made but casualties continued to mount as the German troops clung on in the farthermost reaches of the wood. The 7th Infantry from the neighboring 3rd Division was called in for some days to help lighten the load.
The fighting labored on for three weeks and in its final stages, foot by foot, hand to hand, it intensified in savagery. Artillery shells and guns now gave way to bayonets and “toad-stickers,” 8-inch triangular blades set on knuckle-handles, as the Marines slashed their way through the last of their enemy. But finally word came through on the morning of June 26 from Major Maurice Shearer: “Belleau Wood now US Marine Corps entirely.”
(Library of Congress photo )
As the story goes, German officers, in their battle reports, referred to the Marines as Teufelshunde “Devil Dogs”; and journalist Floyd Gibbons also helped, singling out one gunnery sergeant in dispatches as “Devil Dog Dan.” Either way, the name and image stuck and went on to become a celebrated symbol of the Marines.
“It was the day the U.S. Marines went from being a small force few people knew about to personifying elite status in the US. military,” says Andrew Wiest. The corps had roots dating back to the American War of Independence, but from Belleau developed much of the corps’ modern lore and myth.
More significantly, and of strategic importance, their intervention at Belleau and that of their 2nd and 3rd Division colleagues in the surrounding area on the Marne put paid to the German advance, at what was a dangerous moment in the war for the Allies.
The commander of the U.S. First Division Robert Lee Bullard subsequently declared: “The Marines didn’t win the war here. But they saved the Allies from defeat. Had they arrived a few hours later I think that would have been the beginning of the end. France could not have stood the loss of Paris.”
On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with a vehicle after another soldier was wounded.
Police were first called to Centennial Bridge over the Missouri River, which spans across the border between Kansas and Missouri, after reports of a road rage incident at approximately 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday. By the time they arrived, the shooter had already been neutralized by a Soldier that had been waiting in traffic. According to Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens, responding officers arrived to find one Soldier nursing a gunshot wound and the suspect “trapped under the car” of another Soldier. Neither of the Soldier’s names have been released thus far.
Both the soldier who was wounded and the shooter were transported to a nearby hospital where both are now listed in “serious, but in stable condition.”
Fort Leavenworth soldier stops active shooter on bridge
According to reports, the shooter was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, and responding officers found bullet holes in a number of surrounding vehicles. According to witnesses on the scene, the shooter wasn’t seeming to target anyone specifically.
The Soldier, who is stationed in Ft. Leavenworth, was reportedly waiting in traffic when the shooting first began. Once he had assessed that it was an active shooter situation, he took quick action to pull his vehicle out of the line of traffic and sped directly toward the shooter. As the shooter was already firing rounds at surrounding vehicles, the decision to ram him was a risky one, and police are crediting his quick and decisive action for potentially saving a number of lives.
“What was a very, very dangerous situation, fortunately, was ended quite quickly,” Kitchens said in a press conference.
“The soldier intervened by striking the shooter with his vehicle, causing him to be critically injured, but ending the encounter with the active shooter and likely saving countless lives,” Kitchens continued.
You can watch Chief Kitchen’s full statement about the incident in the video below:
Fort Leavenworth soldier saves ‘countless lives’ by ending active shooter situation on bridge
Thus far, the U.S. Army has not revealed the identity of the Soldier who stopped the shooting, nor have they made any official statements regarding the incident.
“It’s one thing to react under fire in a war zone — you’re in that mental state, even when you’re relaxing your mind is still kind of on edge all the time. It’s another thing to have the quick thinking and courage to do something like this stateside — shootings back home are extremely surreal,” former Army Ranger and author Luke Ryan told Sandboxx news. Ryan speaks from experience–having served in combat as a Ranger after surviving a school shooting as a student.
“They don’t feel real, and it takes your mind longer to sort out exactly what’s happening. Of course, in a violent situation like that, every second is precious and can mean another life lost. The soldier who stopped this shooter is commendable, not only for their courageous actions, but also their ability to think fast and act decisively. I don’t know what this soldier’s background is, whether they relied on years of combat experience or whether they were just a regular person reacting the best way they knew how — either way, hats off.”
An investigation into the incident, including what the motive for the shooting may have been, remains ongoing.
Everyone lies — it’s natural. To say you don’t lie is a lie in and of itself because you know damn well you’ve told a kid at some point that, “it gets better” knowing full-well it doesn’t — especially as an adult. In fact, the only real truth we have is that everyone lies.
So it makes sense that boots will lie their asses off to avoid punishment and, just like any other human, they’re bad at it. But even a bad liar can be convincing from time to time. Luckily, the Marine Corps developed the Combat Hunter Program, which enables those who receive the training to proactively assess an environment to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Like almost everything you learn while in the service, these lessons can be applied to other areas of life — one of those being lie detection.
Generally, by the time you take on boots, you’ve become wise enough to identify lies — probably because you told all those same lies when you were an FNG. But if you want to be extra sure that you’re getting the truth out of your newbie, watch for these cues:
If they’re this bad, be especially cautious.
In almost every case, when someone’s telling a lie, they’re nervous — they don’t want to get caught. When someone’s nervous, they have trouble controlling their perspiration.
Of course, this isn’t a foolproof metric, especially when there are external, environmental factors at play — you know, like the sun.
Unusually formal language
A person who is a little over-confident in their lie will usually use more formal language. Pay extra attention when someone drops the contractions. Look out for “did not”s and “do not”s in someone’s explanation.
While it makes sense for someone who’s nervous or ashamed to look away from the person they’re lying to, it’s also a very obvious sign. Someone who’s trying their best to be convincing knows this and will compensate by looking you directly in the eye.
Too many details
Liars have a tendency to over-explain their story. Usually, this tactic is reserved for the more experienced liars. After all, if you’ve spent time creating, remembering, and parroting a lie, you’re going to watch all of those painstakingly plotted details to emerge, right?
If they’re wearing sunglasses, you might want to have them removed.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Alex Kouns)
If someone is lying to you and hoping to drive the persuasion home, they might smile. Naturally, we smile at each other to signal to another person that we’re genuine but, as Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, suggests, an authentic smile is in the eyes — not the mouth.
On May 29, 1932, Washington D.C. was flooded with members of the The Bonus Expeditionary Force, also known as the Bonus Army.
Their mission? Demanding early payment of “The World War Adjusted Compensation Act,” a benefit approved by Congress for their service in World War I. The bill issued service certificates to veterans to be paid in 1945.
But three years into the Great Depression, thousands of veterans were unemployed. They, along with their families, began making their way towards Washington D.C. to ask the government to pay out their compensation early. Few were trickling in by May 23 but the big influx began on May 29 when hundreds of men arrived by train to widespread press coverage.
Retired World War I Brigadier General and Superintendent of Police Pelham D. Glassford permitted the veterans to camp on open ground and in vacant government buildings, allowing them to quickly organize into a peaceful and mostly legal occupation.
The movement grew to 20,000 veterans in the following months before the bill was eventually debated and defeated in Congress. President Herbert Hoover ordered the military to clear out the veterans’ camps which erupted into violence on July 28. Military regiments commanded by General Douglas MacArthur and Maj. George S. Patton charged the veteran demonstrators with cavalry, fixed bayonets, and tear gas.
Four years later, Congress with Democrats holding majorities in both houses, finally authorized the immediate payment of the $2 billion in World War I bonuses.
US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on Jan. 20, 2019, for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support US Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the US military’s geographic combatant commands.
Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in US history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.
“We’re going to live up to the name national-security cutter. We’re going to be doing a national-security mission.” Capt. John Driscoll, the Bertholf’s commanding officer, said in a video release. “When we get underway, we’re going to be working for the United States Indo-Pacific Command combatant commander, and we’re going to be executing national-security operations throughout the Pacific.”
Capt. John Driscoll, commanding officer of the USCGC Bertholf, holds a navigational brief with his crew, July 10, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Weydert)
Like other US military branches, the Coast Guard has continued operations during the shutdown that began Dec. 21, 2018. Some 41,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel and about 1,300 civilian employees are still working.
Unlike other military branches, which are part of the fully funded Defense Department, the Coast Guard is part of the Homeland Security Department, funding for which was not approved before the shutdown, which was prompted by a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over money Trump wants for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Many operations related to live-saving or national security, like the Bertholf’s deployment, have continued, but other activities — routine patrols, safety boardings, issuance and renewal of licenses — have been curtailed.
The service didn’t have funds to send its latest boot-camp graduates, who graduated Jan. 18, 2019, to their new assignments.
The Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials were able to move money around to ensure personnel were paid on Dec. 31, 2018, but they are unable to repeat that maneuver, and the Jan. 15, 2019 payday passed without a check for Coast Guard personnel.
“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that servicemembers in a US armed force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in a January 15 letter to service members.
If the shutdown lasts into late January 2019, some 50,000 retired Coast Guard members and civilians will likely go unpaid.
Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck after the cutter’s return to homeport in Alameda, California, from a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
Base pay for the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard who make up about one-third of the active-duty force is at or just below the poverty level, three retired Coast Guard master chief petty officers wrote in a Jan. 18, 2019 op-ed. “Most of these members do not have the resources to go without pay over any extended period of time.”
Efforts to help and expressions of support for Coast Guard members and their families have sprung up all over the country.
In New London, Connecticut, home to the US Coast Guard Academy and officially designated as a Coast Guard City, residents have set up food pantries and spread information about other kinds of support. Local businesses have offered discounts, and utilities have waived late fees.
But city relies on the roughly 1,000 people in the Coast Guard’s workforce there and the 1,000 cadets in the academy.
“The longer it drags on, the harder these impacts are going to be felt,” Mayor Michael Passero told the Associated Press. “It’s going to start to drain public resources, and it’s going to start to take away from our economic base at some point.”
Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)
In Kodiak, Alaska, residents rely on the Coast Guard for economic activity and for support living and working in one of the world’s most dangerous waterways, where fishing is a major enterprise.
Locals have donated fish and game to their neighbors. Some businesses are offering discounts to Coast Guard members and families; others are giving customers i.o.u.s instead of bills, according to The New York Times.
“I think it’s important that the people in the faraway land DC understand what’s going on in a small town,” Mayor Patricia Branson told The Times. “And how people are affected by all this nonsense.”
The Coast Guard itself has been able to offer some support.
In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, an independent nonprofit charitable organization that serves the Coast Guard, had expanded limits for interest-free loans and that all active-duty and civilian employees are now eligible.
Ray also said Coast Guard child-development centers “have deferred payment and suspended collection on delinquent accounts” for civilian and military members affected by the shutdown.
Coast Guard Station Juneau crew members prior to man-overboard training in Alaska, Jan. 24, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)
Ray’s letter sounded a note of caution about housing, saying the Coast Guard was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”
“However, the government does not have the authority to suspend or delay payments for these privatized contracts,” the letter adds. “We recommend providing the ‘letter to creditors’ available on the [Coast Guard] website to your housing manager that encourages flexibility until this situation is resolved.”
Some measures have been introduced to Congress that would ensure funding for the Coast Guard despite the shutdown, but those bills still need to pass both houses and be approved by the White House.
A week before the Bertholf left Alameda, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway organized by the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, with everything from fresh fruit to diapers.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Blake Gwinn, a maritime-enforcement specialist aboard Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, with his son Alex after a 95-day deployment in the eastern Pacific, April 22, 2016.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart)
“It’s worrisome. I have to put food in my family’s belly,” Coast Guard mechanic Kyle Turcott, who is working without pay, said at the Alameda event.
“I know it is hard for these crews to be leaving behind their dependents and spouses. It’s a thousand times more so when everyone is wondering when their next paycheck will be and how they can support” family left behind, Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, said in the video release.
“There’s been an incredible outpouring of support for the families here in the Alameda region. The tension and the anxiety for the crew is real,” Fagan said. “We stand by to help support those families that are left behind the same way that we’re going to support the crew as they sail for the western Pacific.”
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