Retired Adm. James Stavridis commands respect from both sides of the political aisle in the United States. The former four-star admiral with 37 years of service was considered for the office of vice president for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and to be President Donald Trump’s Secretary of State.
On top of that, the list of Stavridis’ awards and honors, both during and after his time in the military, might be a mile long. He even jumped from one-star admiral to three-star admiral. He retired from the Navy in 2013 as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
So when he says the United States and Russia are running headlong into a potential all-out war, people listen.
Stavridis penned an opinion piece for Bloomberg in May 2021 saying the Black Sea would be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next provocation – and that the area is a potential powder keg just waiting to explode.
That is, depending on how the United States and NATO would respond to a seaborne invasion of Ukraine, one potentially designed to link the Crimean Peninsula to greater Russia. Right now, the two are separated by Ukrainian territory.
But an attack from the sea is the most likely next move for Russia.
Despite the removal of 10,000 or more Russian troops from its border with Ukraine, the retired admiral says there’s no reason to believe the crisis in Crimea is over.
With the Russian military already extending itself in so many areas, such as rebuilding Syria, aiding rebels in Ukraine, and militarizing space, that the cheapest means for Russia to flex its power would be a consolidation of naval power in the Black Sea.
The sea is surrounded by Russian allies and NATO members alike, and is full of potential sources of energy, chiefly oil and gas deposits.
Russia has already committed a number of provocations, including the capture of three Ukrainian military vessels and cutting off the Crimean Peninsula to foreign ships. He says any Russian military moves would include a mixture of tactics like those seen in the Russian annexation of the Crimea in 2014, cyber attacks, special operations and fast conventional attacks.
“No doubt,” Stavridis writes, “Putin has a maritime version of this playbook.”
He says fast patrol boats, cruise missile attacks, seaborne helicopters carrying special forces units, submarines, cyberattacks, and amphibious assaults are all tactics that would be used in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine from the Black Sea. Worst of all, NATO would not be able to respond fast enough.
Ukraine’s navy would be neutralized, Russia would control the northern part of the Black Sea, and Ukrainian land forces would be cut off from resupply. The U.S. and NATO could object to the seizure of territory, but it would do no good. Ukraine is not a member of the alliance.
Stavridis asserts that if Putin is determined to join his ill-gotten gains (Crimea) with the rest of Russia, an attack by sea is the most likely way. Since the United States and NATO have few, if any assets to assist Ukraine, the likelihood of success for Russia is high.
The best, and maybe only means of preventing that outcome would be the willingness of Ukraine’s western allies to commit to war to keep Russia out of Ukraine.
Featured image: Admiral Stavridis is welcomed in Russia. US NAVY PHOTO.
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By voice vote on Sept. 27, members of the panel recommended the full Senate consider the selection of Dunford. He’s a highly respected, combat-hardened commander who’s received high marks from Republicans and Democrats.
Dunford completes his first term Sept. 30. The committee held his confirmation hearing Sept. 26, with just days to spare to give him another tour of duty.
Trump in May nominated Dunford to serve a second two-year term as chairman as most military leaders serve two terms. President Barack Obama had tapped Dunford for the job.
Dunford took over as chairman on Oct. 1, 2015, after one year as commandant of the Marine Corps.
It was a big weekend for the Arizona Cardinals. The team has been struggling this season and they were looking to roll into Green Bay and hand the vaunted Packers their first loss at home. It was a special game for a number of reasons, but for Larry Fitzgerald, it allowed him to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign.
The star wideout is one of the greatest players in the NFL today, and his cleats bore the name and likeness of one of the NFL’s legends – Pat Tillman.
NFL uniform wear is incredibly strict, and the league is known to hand down steep fines to players who step onto the field out of regs. But during the “My Cause, My Cleats” weekend, 800 select players get to sport customized cleats that raise awareness and funds for their personal causes, from fighting colon cancer to ending sex trafficking. Larry Fitzgerald wanted to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. military.
As an Arizona Cardinal, that meant honoring the legacy of Pat Tillman.
Fitzgerald’s cleats were custom-made by Miami, Florida-based Marcus Rivero of Soles by Sir. He incorporated an image of Pat Tillman himself, as well as the name of former Arizona Senator, John McCain, who died earlier in 2018. The designer also added the name of Fitzgerald’s grandfather, who served in the Korean War.
Beyond simply making and wearing the custom cleats, the Cardinals wide receiver gave a special experience to two U.S. Army veterans and Pat Tillman scholars, Joseph Wheaton and Jameson Lopez. Wheaton is a native of northern Maine who joined the military after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lopez is member of the Quechan Tribe from Arizona’s Colorado River Valley.
The Cardinals wide receiver gave the two scholars a tour of the Cardinals facility, a chance to meet the trainers and staff, and presented them each with a Pat Tillman Cardinals jersey.
Fitzgerald’s custom “My Cause, My Cleats” wear, honoring Pat Tillman, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and his own grandfather, a Korean War veteran.
The mission of the Tillman Foundation is to empower military veterans and military spouses to become the next generation of great American leaders. More than 580 Tillman Scholars around the country are tackling the widespread issues surrounding national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights, and education.
“I’ve always just had so much respect for everything the organization and foundation has done,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and the Cardinals improved to 3-9 with a win over Green Bay at home as Fitzgerald caught three passes for 48 yards wearing his custom Pat Tillman-inspired cleats.
Audie Murphy was an American actor known for his Western films. However, his initial claim to fame came from being the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of World War II. He was born in 1925 in a small Texas town to poor sharecroppers. Murphy joined the Army in 1942 after falsifying his birth certificate to ensure he could enlist before he was eligible.
During WWII, Murphy was credited with killing 240 members of enemy forces and capturing or wounding many others. In his three years of active service, he became a legend among the 3rd Infantry Division, and is considered one of the best fighting combat soldiers of this or any other century. The U.S. Army has declared that there will never be another Audie Murphy. That is most likely the case too, with modern day technology and modern warfare, it is unlikely any soldier will ever live up to the legend of Audie Murphy.
Murphy became the most decorated soldier of WWII by earning 33 awards and decorations. He was awarded every decoration for valor the United States offers, some more than once. These awards included the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an individual. His awards from the war also included five decorations from France and Belgium.
Audie Murphy was released from active duty on September 21, 1945. After his release, he went to Hollywood at the invitation of actor James Cagney who had seen his picture on the cover of Life Magazine. After years of hardship, struggle to find work and sleeping in a local gymnasium, Murphy finally received token roles in his first two films.
Murphy’s first starring role came in 1949. In 1950, he received a contract with Universal-International (now known as Universal). He starred in 26 films over the next 15 years, 23 of which were Westerns. Murphy also filmed 26 episodes of a Western television series which went to air on NBC in 1961. Despite good reviews, Murphy’s series was deemed too violent. Only 20 episodes were aired before it was cancelled.
Audie Murphy suffered from what is known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was plagued for years by insomnia and depression. By the mid-1960s, Murphy became dependent on a prescribed sleeping medication, Placidyl. When he realized he had become addicted to the medication, he locked himself inside of a motel room, stopped taking the pills and suffered through the withdrawal symptoms for a week.
Murphy used his fame to help advocate for the needs of U.S. veterans. Unlike most during that time, he chose to speak out about his experiences and struggles with PTSD, known as “Battle Fatigue” at the time. He called out the U.S. government to look closer at and study the emotional impacts of war and urged them to extend health benefits to address PTSD and other mental health issues of returning war veterans.
On May 28, 1971, while on a business trip, Audie Murphy’s plane crashed just outside of Roanoke, Virginia. He and five others, including the pilot, were killed in the crash. Murphy was 45 at the time of his death.
On June 7, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His gravesite, which is near the amphitheater, is the second most visited grave at Arlington, surpassed only by John F. Kennedy’s grave.
Audie Murphy remains a legend among the members of the U.S. Army. While he was well known for his work as an actor in Hollywood, his memory will live on as a true American hero.
Russian dissident activist Pyotr Verzilov and those close to him are under around-the-clock protection by German police while he receives treatment for a suspected poisoning, his former wife says.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the punk art collective Pussy Riot who has a child with Verzilov, said in an interview with Current Time TV that police in Berlin implemented the security measures after a friend of the activist reported being followed by unidentified men.
“They sleep in the same building as police, and if they go somewhere, then it’s only in a police minivan,” Tolokonnikova told Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, on Sept. 25, 2018.
Verzilov, 30, fell ill in Moscow on Sept. 11, 2018, with symptoms that his friends say included diminished eyesight and an inability to speak or move.
After his initial treatment in the Russian capital, he was transferred to the Charite hospital in Berlin, where a doctor told a news conference that “it was highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning.”
Tolokonnikova, who returned to Moscow on Sept. 23, 2018, after visiting Verzilov at the Berlin hospital, said the German police protection came after Verzilov’s friend, Hunter Heaney, noticed unidentified men following him in Berlin on two separate occasions.
“We don’t know who it was. I didn’t see anyone. There is speculation that it could have been officers of Russian security services or people affiliated with them who then leaked the photographs of us to the REN-TV network,” Tolokonnikova said, adding that she was buying underwear for Verzilov at the time the images were taken.
Heaney, a friend of Verzilov who has visited the activist in the hospital, told RFE/RL that he noticed two men watching the front door of his apartment in central Berlin on Sept. 22, 2018.
The following day, he saw one of those men in the passenger seat of a red compact car “that pulled out on a deserted street I had just walked down and doubled back…to come in my direction and sped off as I looked closely in the windows,” Heaney said in an e-mail.
Heaney, who said he provided information about the car to police, confirmed that he and others close to Verzilov are now under constant police protection.
Verzilov on Sept. 25, 2018, posted his first lengthy tweet since he fell ill, writing: “I’ve been relatively conscious now only for the past three days, and before that it was like being in a black hole.”
“I am spending my days in the friendly company of wonderful poisons. But not polonium-210 or Novichok, but something new and surprising,” he added.
Novichok is the Soviet-developed toxin that British authorities say Russian operatives deployed in the March 2018 poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England. Radioactive polonium-210 caused the 2006 death of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London.
Another doctor at the Charite hospital, Karl Max Einhaeupl, said that there was so far no other explanation for Verzilov’s condition other than poisoning and that there was no evidence that the activist was suffering from a long-term illness.
He added that the symptoms indicate a disruption of the part of Verzilov’s nervous system that regulates the internal organs, but that the substance responsible for the poisoning hasn’t been yet determined.
Tolokonnikova said it remains unclear precisely how or when Verzilov might have been poisoned and that his associates did not notice anything suspicious before he fell ill.
“That tells us that most likely this operation was not carried out by idiots, but rather with relative sophistication,” she told Current Time.
Tolokonnikova said she believes Verzilov’s alleged poisoning may be linked to an investigation he was working on into the the killing of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in July 2018.
Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko were killed on July 30, 2018, in the C.A.R., where they were working on a documentary about the possible activities there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary group with alleged Kremlin ties.
Tolokonnikova said that the day before he fell ill, Verzilov, publisher of the Russian news outlet Mediazona, received a report from an associate in the C.A.R. investigating the killings.
“As far as I know, [Verzilov] is interested in pursuing this investigation further, because the current report is far from finished,” she said.
In combat, logistic resources are arguably the most important assets needed to sustain soldiers. “Beans and Bullets” is a common Army phrase utilized for decades that puts a special emphasis behind the importance of logisticians and their capabilities.
Since arriving into theater soldiers of the 824th Rigger detachment, North Carolina National Guard, and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade have teamed up to tackle the demanding requirements of rigging equipment and air dropping resources to sustain the warfighter.
Aerial resupply operations is a valuable asset to U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. It is the most reliable means of distribution when ground transportation and alternate means have been exhausted. Aerial resupply enable warfighters in austere locations to accomplish their mission and other objectives.
“Aerial delivery is extremely vital and essential to mission success,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Freddy Reza, an El Paso Texas native, and the senior airdrop systems technician with the 101st RSSB. “Soldiers in austere environments depend on us to get them food, water, and other resources they need to stay in the fight.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load rigged pallets of supplies on to a C-130 aircraft. Soldiers conduct their final aerial inspection with Air Force loadmasters before delivery.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
All airdrop missions require approval authority through an operation order. Once approved, parachute riggers from both units work diligently to get the classes of supplies bundled and rigged on pallets for aerial delivery in under hours 24 hours.
Since arriving to Afghanistan, this team has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of supplies varying from food, water, and construction material. Mission dependent, sometimes the rigger support team is responsible for filling the request of more than three dozen bundles, carefully packing the loads and cautiously inspecting the pallets before pushing them out for delivery.
Aerial delivery operations have substantially contributed to the success of enduring expeditionary advisory packages and aiding the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade while they train, advise, and assist Afghan counterparts.
“This deployment has helped developed me to expand my knowledge as a parachute rigger,” said Spc. Kiera Butler, a Panama City, Florida native and Parachute Rigger with the 824th Quartermaster Company. “This job has a profound impact on military personnel regardless of the branch. I take pride in knowing I’m helping them carry out their mission.”
Item preservation is important; depending on the classes of supply, some items are rigged and prepared in non-conventional locations. Regardless of the location the rigger support team does everything in their power to ensure recipients receive grade “A” quality.
“During the summer months it would sometimes be 107 degrees, with it being so hot we didn’t want the food to spoil so we rigged in the refrigerator. This allowed the supplies to stay cold until it was time to be delivered,” said Butler. “It was a fun experience and we want to do whatever we can to preserve the supplies for the Soldiers receiving it.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade rigged several bundles of food and water at the Bagram, Afghanistan rigger shed. The rigged supplies will be loaded on to an aircraft and delivered to the requesting unit.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
The rigger support team continuously strives for efficiency. Through meticulous training, they have been able to execute emergency resupply missions utilizing Information Surveillance Reconnaissance feed. This capability allows the rigger support team to observe the loads being delivered, ensuring it lands in the correct location.
When they are not supplying warfighters with supplies, Reza and his team conduct rodeos to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Army logistical cell, and NATO counterparts on how to properly rig and inspect loads for aerial resupply.
“During training we express how important attention to detail is, being meticulous is the best way to ensure the load won’t be compromised when landing,” said Reza. “Overall it was a great opportunity to train and educate our Afghan National Army counterparts on aerial delivery operations.
This training will enable the Afghan National Army logistics cell to provide low cost low altitude — LCLA loads to their counterparts on the ground, utilizing C-208 aircrafts. This training is vital to the progress of the ANA logistics cell as they continue to grow and become more efficient.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Eyes roll at the sight of yet another transition story. We all get it; it’s hard to transition from military to civilian life. I have read many a story myself and note positively that everyone brings up a new eureka moment for me that I didn’t experience myself, but that I totally get. My transition story doesn’t boast any novel epiphany though it does come from the aspect of a career SMU pipe-hitter.
“You’re not on the pods anymore, Geo… you need to get off the pods and throttle back a bit. I mean not a bit but a whole, whole lot!” explained my boss, Conan, also from my same SMU in Fort Bragg, NC.
Pods refer to the two benches on the exterior of the MH-6 Little Bird helicopter on which two men on each side of the aircraft can ride into an assault scenario. To many of us, riding the pods into an assault objective hanging on with one arm and lighting up targets on the ground with the other arm was the penultimate of brash aggression and acute excitement of living life on the very edge.
(A complex brown-water insertion of a Klepper kayak. Photo courtesy of the author)
“SMUs will always be around, because no amount of technology will ever replace raw unadulterated aggression.” (SMU Squadron Commander)
I stood tall in my new office cubicle at my new job as a civilian, having just separated from the Service. My job/title was Project Manager. This was my new life, this square. “This is going to be great!” I pallidly promised my psyche. I fervently thanked the creator for the “shower door” on my cube that I could slide closed to prove to the world that I was not really there.
It was plastic, but it was translucent rather than transparent; that is, you could see through it, but only gross shapes rather than defined detail like… a shower door does. If a body were to remain very quiet and still, nobody could detect your presence in the cube. This thing I did fancy.
Carol from HR then stood in my open doorway in her blue office dress to welcome me and list the ground rules — the corporate culture of life in office cube city. She recited those edicts as they appeared chiseled in granite:
• “No, singing or playing of music;
• no cooking food;
• avoid speaker phones
• watch your voice volume
• deal with gas in the restroom
• always knock before entering a cubicle
• no “prairie-dogging”
In fact, whatever it is you find yourself doing in your cube for the moment just stop it!
“Er… no prairie-dogging? Yeah, so… what might prairie dogging be?” I posed.
“Well Mr. Hand, prairie dogging involves the poking of ones head over the top of one’s cubicle walls and… and looking around!” Blue-dressed Carol from HR became a blurred and indistinct pattern from the other side of my show door as I closed it in her incredulous face.
“Well, I never… I AM NOT FINISHED MR. HAND!”
I popped one’s head up over the top of one’s cubicle and explained: “Yes, yes you are finished, Ms. Carol from HR… and please watch your voice volume — TSK!”
Within the hour my shower door flew open and there stood Conan, face awash with concern.
“Woah, now that is a great, big, fat, bulbous-assed no-go here in cube city—entering without knocking… tremendous transgression, Conan!” I warned.
“There was a complaint about you from HR, geo…”
We talked. Conan was right, and there was no dispelling that. I apologized and thanked him. We shook hands as we always did when we parted or met. So with a crappy first morning behind me, I vowed to make the best of the rest. I headed to the break room for a cup of coffee to calm myself down.
(Low-profile office cubicles offer no substantial privacy)
I embraced the notion that there might be nobody in the break room, but my crest fell for there were a man and woman seated at a table enjoying lunch. The noon hour had crept up on me though I scarce remarked. I held my breath and went about for that cup of Joe.
Men are great around just each other, but they get stupid and inclined to comport themselves like jackasses whenever a woman is around too. This fellow saw that I was engaged in an action that was somewhat contrary to break room policy, and he began:
“Excuuuuse me there, partner… but you’re not supposed to…”
“SHUT UP; SHUT THE PHUQ UP, PARTNER!!” I delivered to the man without even turning to look at him, not fully knowing from whence my outburst came.
“I’m screwed!” I thought, “I didn’t check the volume of my voice!” unable to sort through the gravity of which coffee offense I had committed just then. It was not the volume that was the greater offense, rather the content of my delivery.
The woman left the break room immediately at a cantor. Partner remained for the mandatory tough-guy extra seconds, me leaning against the counter, staring at him all the while sipping my incorrect procedurally-obtained break room coffee. He then sauntered out with backless bravado.
My shower door flew open without a knock. Once more, I reeled at Conan’s blatant disregard for cube rules. I endured the pod speech strewn with constant “I’m sorry, Conan” interrupts. This time his speech contained a threat annex to it. I needed to take that seriously. We two shook hands, as we always did when we parted or met.
A few months ago I was riding on the pods doing 90 MPH hanging on with one arm like a rodeo rider, spitting jacketed lead at targets on the ground, sprinting from the touched-down chopper at full speed smashing through doors and lighting up all contents… now I was born again into a world where the penultimate cringe comes from the shrimp platter at the buffet not being chilled down to the proper 54-degrees (Fahrenheit).
I had to turn this thing around, but wasn’t sure how. I accepted my plight with this eight-word phrase, one that I came to lean on in countless occasions: “We’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.” And so it went for the next 16 years there at that same job.
I didn’t have to re-invent myself as I feared, but I did develop a set of guidelines that would steer my path over the next more than a decade and a half. There were the company rules, and then there were my rules. My rules were better than the company rules. They were simple. Though I never formally wrote them down, I can list them still for the most part:
1. Don’t ever tell anybody what the real rules are
2. Don’t ever hurt anybody in the company or customer base
3. Don’t ever damage any company or customer property
4. Don’t ever wear corduroy pants on a day you might have to run many miles.
5. Don’t ever allow yourself to be stuck in a position with a boss who sucks.
6. Don’t ever cheat entering time into your pay invoice
7. Never litter
8. Never threaten another employee within earshot of a witness
9. Remotely bury any items that could get you fired or that you just don’t want to deal with
10. Never reveal the locations of buried items
11. Eventually, return all clandestinely-acquired tools and equipment
12. (most important of all rules) ALWAYS WORK ALONE!
(The author on left and teammate on right, lift off with an MH-6 for more gun runs, not giving one-tenth of a rat’s ass about the temperature of the shrimp platter.
(Photo courtesy of SMU Operator MSG Gaetano Cutino, KIA)
During the spring of 2003, the first medivacs were returning to Camp Pendleton from the battlefield of Iraq. Karen Guenther, a Marine Corps spouse who’s husband was deployed at the time, was working at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton, and saw firsthand the needs of the wounded arriving there.
Guenther immediately realized most of them were in need of basic health and comfort items, so she enlisted the help of some fellow military spouses and began assembling “welcome bags” full of toiletries, phone cards, and other items intended to make life better for the wounded Marines.
“We went out to local churches and Boy Scouts and had everybody help,” said Wendy Lethin, one of the first to join Guenther’s effort. “Everybody was very generous, but we realized there was much more than welcome bags needed.”
During this same time, the spouses learned of parents of wounded Marines sleeping in their cars while visiting hospitals because they could not afford to stay at local hospitals, and they also helped to provide an adapted vehicle to a Marine whose wife was having difficulty lifting him into their truck
“That was kind of the idea for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said.
Guenther gathered her group of spouses around her kitchen table in her house aboard Camp Pendleton and started brainstorming what they should do to get their collective arms around all of the needs that they saw rapidly emerging. They researched existing non-profits and were surprised that there didn’t seem to be any that were doing what they had in mind.
“We had the right group at the right time,” Lethin said. “We read all kinds of books on non profits and did our research. And we agreed to the ideals and tenants of the organization that still guide us today.”
As stated on the Semper Fi Fund’s website, the organization’s mission is to provide immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post-9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families, ensuring that they have the resources they need during their recovery and transition back to their communities.
The Fund’s first official donation came for the Lighthouse Christian Church in Oceanside, California. The entire donation was given to the first three wounded Marines referred by the hospital with the thought that even if that was all that was raised it would at least help those three and their families at a difficult time in their recovery. Little did the organizers realize that that donation would be the first of many.
In the 12 years since the Semper Fi Fund has transformed the lives of thousands of wounded service members and their families. The Fund now has a dedicated staff supplemented by hundreds of volunteers around the world.
“I’m proud of what we do and how we do it,” Lethin said. “It’s a sacred duty to be able to do what we do.”
The Fund’s next major event is the “InVETational,” a charity golf tournament hosted by comedian and actor Rob Riggle (who, among other roles, is currently playing Col. Sanders in KFC commercials). Riggle is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who served as a public affairs officer in Afghanistan. The tournament will take place at Valencia Country Club in Los Angeles on Dec. 5.
“We are so excited that Rob is doing this for the Semper Fi Fund,” Lethin said. “He has the heart of our mission. He’s a Marine who knows the power and good of what we do.”
Little is known about day-to-day life there, even among people who study the country. According to one defector, government propaganda in North Korea is pervasive, and even self-proclaimed North Korean experts often don’t realize how much.
In 1997, North Korean defector Kim Young-il escaped while the country was experiencing a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million — despite the government claiming it was a prosperous time with plenty of food.
Even though Kim escaped the dictatorship, he told Business Insider in a recent interview that life remains the same in North Korea: Citizens are lied to and have to accept it. Within Korea, people major in North Korean studies in school, which Kim finds “silly.” He says these experts research North Korea and send information to the South Korean government, like reports that several factions are competing for power in North Korea, which could lead to the country’s downfall.
But Kim says this is false. “There is no difference between factions. There is only the family and the people. Kim Jong Un has total power. None of these factions are important. They just have a name. They have no power.” Kim continued: “Experts say there are two different factions that control North Korea, but it is only the dictator and his family that controls everything.”
Powerful people in South Korea are able to employ people who are loyal to them, but that’s not an option in North Korea because the highest levels of government choose who works where, said Kim.
“People in North Korea have no idea if the person working underneath them is a spy who is checking up on him or her. They have no idea who is trustworthy. People can’t form factions because everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone distrusts each other,” Kim said.
And as a defector, Kim said experts discount his experience. “These experts don’t see any value in the testimony of defectors,” he said. “They want to focus on the official documents of the North Korean government.” But Kim says these documents and official announcements “are not true. It’s propaganda.”
“The official announcements of North Korea is all false,” Kim said. “I experienced 20 years of North Korea and whenever there was a season of drought, the news would say there is a season of prosperity. What they officially say is all lies.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Current VA Secretary Bob McDonald and former VA Secretary James Peake just posted an op-ed at The Hill listing the things they believe Congress needs to do to help the VA right now:
While the Department is making significant progress, VA needs Congress’ help to achieve all of the breakthrough priorities on behalf of veterans . . . particularly in three pressing areas:
1. Untangle the seven different ways VA provides care in the community today
Today’s rules make the process inefficient, they cause confusion for both the veterans and providers, they are in place because of legislation added over the years, and they must be legislatively corrected.
2. VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships
VA needs the authority to enter into partnerships to make needed changes to our West Los Angeles campus and more quickly end veterans’ homelessness in the city with the largest concentration of homeless veterans.
3. VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the claims appeal process
VA needs Congress’s help to finally fix the broken process by which veterans appeal unfavorable claims decisions—a process conceived over 80 years ago that is unlike any other appeals process in the federal government. Over the decades, layers of additions to the process have made it more complicated, more unpredictable, less clear, and less veteran-friendly.
The U.S. Marine Corps is getting its first female rifleman and machine gunner later this year, service officials confirmed this week.
The two female enlisted Marines who have made lateral move requests to infantry jobs have been approved, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.
The Marine who applied to be an 0311 rifleman was a lance corporal, an official confirmed. The rank of the Marine approved to be an 0331 machine gunner is not clear. Kulczewski said the Corps is now in the process of meeting staffing requirements at the units that will receive the Marines.
In keeping with a Defense Department mandate and the Corps’ own plan for integrating female troops into ground combat jobs, any infantry battalion with female members must also have a leadership cadre of at least two female officers or noncommissioned officers who have been at the unit for at least 90 days. Kulczewski said it’s likely the Marines will not join their new units until December of this year.
While the units that will get the first female grunts have been identified by the Marine Corps, Kulczewski said, they have not yet been publicly announced.
The Marines who applied for infantry jobs are part of a small group of 233 women who were granted infantry military occupational specialties earlier this year after passing the Corps’ enlisted infantry training at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, in order to participate in the service’s research on integrating women into the previously closed units. While all the women are eligible to apply for infantry jobs, only the two enlisted Marines have done so to date.
Kulczewski said a more senior female infantry captain had also applied for a lateral move to a newly opened unit, but the request was denied based on the staffing needs of the Marine Corps.
After the two Marines reach their new units, the service will continue to research their progress. Kulczewski said the Marine Corps had created a 25-year longitudinal study to “assess all aspects and possible impacts throughout implementation.”
The Corps’ implementation plan requires that the commandant be informed directly of certain developments as women enter all-male infantry units, including indications of decreased combat readiness or effectiveness; increased risk to Marines including incidents of sexual assault or hazing; indications of a lack of career viability for female Marines; indications of command climates or culture that is unreceptive to female Marines, and indications that morale or cohesion is being degraded in integrated units.
Officials are also rolling out new training beginning this month aimed at ensuring all Marines understand the changes taking place. Mobile training teams will spend the next two months visiting bases and offering two-day seminars to majors and lieutenant colonels that include principles of institutional change, discussions of “unconscious bias” and specifics of the Corps’ integration plan. These officers are then expected to communicate this information to their units.
“The Corps applauds the time and efforts of those Marines who volunteered. Request like these help the Marine Corps to continue the implementation of gender integration throughout all military occupational specialties,” Kulczewski said. “The continued success of the Marine Corps as our nation’s preeminent expeditionary force in readiness is based on a simple tenet: placing the best trained and most fully qualified Marine, our most valuable weapon, where they make the strongest contribution to the team.”
Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have been told to flee Mosul or to blow themselves up.
According to al-Sumaria, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist group, issued the orders in a recent “farewell speech” to fighters in what is the last stronghold ISIS has in Iraq. Fighters were told to head to mountainous areas of Iraq and Syria as a first option, but if surrounded, they were to carry out a murder-suicide bombing.
Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released)
The report comes as continuing operations are underway to free western Mosul from the terrorist group’s reign of terror. CNN reported that Iraqi government officials have confirmed that ISIS forces are trying to run away.
“The terrorist organization Daesh (is) living in a state of shock, confusion, and defeat, and its fighters are fighting in isolated groups,” Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jaudat of the Iraqi Federal Police told the network.
“Our field intelligence units indicate that the terrorist organization is falling apart, and its leadership (is) running away from Mosul,” Jaudat added.
The fight against ISIS has claimed some American lives, but a September 2016 report by the Independent noted that coalition forces had killed 15,000 ISIS personnel for every American lost. This was before the Nov. 2016 death of Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton.
According to a DOD release, American forces carried out four strikes around Mosul, destroying, damaging or suppressing 19 fighting positions, 14 mortar teams, two vehicle bomb factories, four vehicle bombs, three tunnels, two recoilless rifles, an ISIS-held building, four supply caches, four mortar systems, 10 supply routes, two tunnels, a barge, a command and control node, and three tactical units.