The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at a group of Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf on Jan. 8. The incident comes less than two weeks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
According to Reuters, the shots were fired after the Iranian vessels ignored requests by radio to slow down as they approached the American warship and came within 900 yards.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired on U.S. Navy vessels using Iranian-built Noor anti-ship missiles this past October. The destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) defeated three attacks in the space of a week, and USS Nitze carried out a retaliatory strike on radar sites. This past September, while campaigning for the White House, Trump vowed that Iranian vessels harassing U.S. Navy forces would be “shot out of the water.”
The Iranian vessels were described in the Reuters report as “fast attack vessels.” These vessels, sometimes called “Boghammers,” are speedboats with a variety of weapons, including rocket launchers and heavy machine guns.
According to “Combat Fleets of the World,” Iran has over 180 of these vessels. During the Iran-Iraq War, they were used to attack oil tankers.
A July, 1988 skirmish between those speedboats and the cruiser USS Vincennes and the frigates USS Sides and USS Elmer Montgomery lead to the downing of an Airbus passenger jet.
The USS Mahan is the first of seven Flight II Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. These ships have a five-inch gun, a 29-cell Mk 41 VLS forward, a 61-cell Mk 41 VLS aft, Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems, and two quad Mk 141 launchers for the RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile.
So, what might make it into a Trump defense budget? Will some weapons make it that might have been on the chopping block? Will we see larger production runs of other systems? Here’s a look to see what will happen.
1. Long-Range Land Attack Projectile
While recently cancelled, this GPS-guided round could easily make a comeback with sequestration off the table. The round’s price tag jumped to $800,000, largely because the Zumwalt buy was cut from 32 to three. That said, LRLAP may very well face competition from OTO Melara’s Vulcano round, which is far more versatile (offering GPS, IR, and laser guidance options) and which is available in 76mm and 127mm as well as 155mm.
Figure, though, that a guided round will be on the table.
2. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Zumwalt-class destroyers, Freedom-class littoral combat ships, Independence-class littoral combat ships, and Small Surface Combatants
While the Obama Administration re-started production of these ships, the fleet total is at 272 ships as of this writing. On his campaign website, Trump is pushing for a Navy of 350 ships.
One way to get these additional ships is to increase the current and planned building programs. The Navy has five such programs underway or in RD – and all could readily see more production as Trump looks to make up a 78-ship gap between his goal and the present Navy.
Expect the Coast Guard to get in on the largesse as well. Of course, if they just bought the Freedom-class LCS as their new Offshore Patrol Cutter, they could probably get a lot more hulls in the water. Licensing some foreign designs might help, too.
3. F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Trump has promised to build 1,200 fighters for the Air Force alone, and the Navy and Marines need planes too.
The F-22’s production was halted at 187 airframes in 2009, but Congress recently ordered the Pentagon to look into re-starting production of the Raptor. A restarted F-22 program (maybe with some of the avionics from the F-35) wouldn’t be a surprise, given the China’s J-20 has taken to the air.
You can also expect that the F-35 and F/A-18E/F will be produced in larger numbers. This will help address the airframe shortfall that lead the Marines to raid the boneyard to get enough airframes after they had to call timeout to address a rash of crashes.
4. XM1296 Dragoon
The Army bought 81 of the recently-unveiled Dragoons to help face off against the Russians. That said, Europe may not be the only place we need these vehicles – and we may need a lot more than 81. It may be that the XM1296 could push the M1126 versions to second-line roles currently held by the M113 armored personnel carrier.
5. V-280 Valor and SB-1 Defiant
The Army is looking to move its rotary-wing fleet into the next generation. The Trump White House will probably make a decision of one or the other option – but Trump may decide to boost manufacturing by going with both airframe options (like the Navy did with the Littoral Combat Ship).
The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle met the budget axe at the hands of Robert Gates in January 2011. With Trump’s promise to increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, it may not be a bad idea to bring this baby back.
Since most of the RD on this vehicle has already been done, it might make sense to give the Corps a new amphibious fighting vehicle — and it will save time and money.
The U.S. Air Force and Ukrainian defense ministry have confirmed that a fighter aircraft crashed October 16, killing two pilots and leading to speculation that one of the dead is a U.S service member. The crash took place at Clear Skies 2018, an exercise featuring the militaries of nine nations and more than 50 aircraft.
The aircraft crash took place at 5 p.m. local time in Ukraine, and appears to have involved a Su-27UB, a two-seater combat trainer/fighter jet. The U.S. has confirmed that a service member was involved and Ukraine has stated that two pilots were killed in the crash, identifying them by their nationality and branch of service.
“We regret to inform that according to the rescue team, the bodies of two pilots have been discovered: one is a serviceman of the Ukrainian Air Force, the other is a member of the US National Guard,” a statement from the Ukrainian General Staff said.
Su-27UB fighter aircraft.
“We are aware of a Ukrainian Su-27UB fighter aircraft that crashed in the Vinnytsia region at approximately 5pm local time during Clear Sky 2018 today,” U.S. Air Force public affairs official said.
The Air Force later updated their press release with another statement. “We have also seen the reports claiming a U.S. casualty and are currently investigating and working to get more information. We will provide more information as soon as it becomes available.”
The Air Force has not confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died, but did say that it is investigating the incident. The U.S. will typically collect all the major details before declaring a service member is deceased, often waiting until a doctor has made the official declaration.
If it is confirmed that a U.S. pilot has died in the crash, public affairs officers will likely not release any new details until 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin in order to allow the family to communicate the loss internally and begin grieving before the deceased’s name is made public knowledge.
They likely will not release much more after that until the investigation is complete.
The incident took place during Clear Skies 2018, which began October 8 and is scheduled to conclude on October 19. The U.S. is one of nine countries involved in the Ukrainian-hosted exercise designed to build interoperability with that country and NATO.
The exercise focused on air sovereignty, air interdiction, air-to-ground integration, air mobility operations, aeromedical evacuation, cyberdefense, and personnel recovery. It takes place as Ukraine is increasing its military capabilities and continuing hostilities from a Russian-backed separatist movement has claimed lives in its eastern regions.
After the littoral combat ship USS Freedom sustained major engine damage July 11 because a seal malfunction allowed seawater to seep in, the commander of Naval Surface Forces quietly ordered all LCS crews to observe a stand-down, halting operations to review procedures and engineering standards.
“Due to the ongoing challenges with littoral combat ships, I ordered an engineering stand-down for LCS squadrons and the crews that fall under their command,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said in a statement. “These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.”
The reviews were completed by Aug. 31, Navy officials announced Monday, adding that every sailor in each LCS crew with a role in engineering will observe retraining.
The training, officials said, will take place over the next 30 days. During that time, leadership of the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, will review the current LCS training program and recommend any other changes they see fit.
The school’s engineers will also supervise current and future training efforts. They will develop a knowledge test and specialized training for LCS engineers, to be deployed to them by Oct. 5. A separate, comprehensive LCS engineering review is being conducted by the commander of SWOS, Capt. David A. Welch, and is expected to take between 30 and 60 days.
“From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline,” officials with Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement.
The Freedom, the first of its class made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Marinette Marine, returned to its San Diego homeport Aug. 3 to address the damage it sustained to one of its diesel propulsion engines, which Navy officials said will require an engine rebuild or replacement.
It remains unclear what caused another LCS, the USS Coronado, to be sidelined with damage to one of its flexible couplings assemblies Aug. 29.
Upon its return to Pearl Harbor Sept. 4, the Coronado was met by a group of maintenance experts sent by Rowden to inspect the ship, officials said. The experts investigated the ship’s engineering program, but no information has been released about the cause of the problem or whether it might be related to previous engineering casualties.
“A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” officials said.
The Coronado, so far the only trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS made by Austal USA to suffer an engineering casualty, had been just two months into its maiden deployment.
The Freedom and the Coronado are the third and fourth littoral combat ships to experience engineering casualties inside a 12-month span.
Last December, the LCS Milwaukee broke down during a transit from San Diego and Halifax, Nova Scotia when a clutch failed to disengage when the ship switched gears. The ship had to cut short the transit in order to be towed to Joint Base Little Creek, Virginia, for repairs.
In January, the LCS Fort Worth was sidelined in Singapore when it broke down in what officials said was a casualty caused by engineers failing to properly apply lubrication oil to the ship’s combining gears. After eight months in port in Singapore for repairs, the Fort Worth departed for its San Diego homeport in August.
A Marine blinded by an improvised explosive device, an Army sergeant who rescued a sailor wounded by an IED, and a Coast Guard technician who did rescue work in the hurricanes will be among the special guests at the State of the Union address Tuesday.
In announcing the list of First Lady Melania Trump’s 11 special guests, the White House said among them would be retired Cpl. Matthew Bradford, who was blinded and lost both legs when he stepped on an IED in Iraq in 2007.
After multiple surgeries and therapies, Bradford became the first Marine with such severe injuries ever to re-enlist, the White House said. Bradford re-enlisted in 2010 and has since retired.
Bradford, now 30, originally from Winchester, Kentucky, was assigned to work with other wounded Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when he re-enlisted.
Joining Bradford in the First Lady’s section in the House balcony for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress will be Staff Sgt. Justin Peck, who has served eight years in the Army.
Stacy was severely wounded by an IED while clearing the second floor of a hospital building. Ignoring the threat from other IEDs, Peck rushed into the building, applied a tourniquet, put in an endotracheal tube and was “directly responsible for saving Chief Petty Officer Stacy’s life,” the White House said.
Another special guest will be Coast Guard Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Ashlee Leppert. While working out of the Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans last year, Leppert helped to rescue “dozens of Americans imperiled during the devastating hurricane season,” the White House said.
In announcing the list, White House Press Secretary said the three service members and the other eight special guests “represent the unbreakable American spirit” that Trump will cite as being a major factor in U.S. successes at home and abroad.
Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s hoping you were too smart to engage in the Black Friday madness. But regardless of whether you’re killing time standing in line at the store or hiding out in the bathroom to get away from your crazy aunts, here are 13 memes to keep you occupied:
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte may need to organize an intervention with his family, since some of his cousins are Islamic militants hellbent on toppling his government.
Duterte claimed in an interview last week that some in his own family had joined militant groups that had been fighting in the Philippines for decades, including the so-called Islamic State, which has partnered with local insurgencies who wish to become affiliates.
“To be frank, I have cousins on the other side, with MI and MN,” Duterte told the Philippines news site Rappler, using shortened acronyms for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also known as MILF, and the Moro National Liberation Front. “Some, I heard, are with ISIS.”
Though Duterte is known for his bloody war against drug dealers, the insurgency in the southern Philippines has been growing in recent years, and ISIS has made significant progress in the region. Both the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Maute have reportedly pledged allegiance to the terror group.
A bomb blast at a night market in Davao City killed at least 14 people and injured more than 60 in September, and on Christmas Eve, 13 people were injured in a bombing outside a church in Midsayap, Rappler reported. Just this morning, Reuters reported that insurgents attacked a prison in the south and freed more than 150 inmates. Initial information pointed to the MILF group’s involvement.
When asked what he would say to his cousins who may have joined ISIS if he were in the same room, Duterte told Rappler: “Let’s be understanding to each other. You are you and I am I, and I said, if we meet in one corner, so be it.”
Philip Hollywood grew up in a Navy family, so when World War II started he enlisted in the Navy — at the ripe young age of 17. After his combat training, he was assigned to the USS Melvin, a destroyer homeported in the Philippines.
The Melvin fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, which turned out to be the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly the largest in history. Leyte Gulf was also the first time the Japanese used coordinated kamikaze attacks.
“The Kamikazes… that was scary to me. Anyone who says they weren’t scared, I don’t think they’re telling the truth,” says Hollywood. “It was a new experience trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive.”
The battle was much more than fighting kamikaze attacks. Two days into the fight for Leyte, a Japanese task force of two battleships, a heavy cruiser, and four destroyers tried to steam through the narrow Surigao Strait to support the main force in the Gulf. The Japanese ran into six American battleships (five of which were sunk at Pearl Harbor, but were repaired and brought back to service), four heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, 28 destroyers, and 39 torpedo boats in Surigao’s narrows.
In a video produced by AARP, Hollywood recalls his memories of the battle, the kamikaze, and how it felt to sink the Japanese battleship Fuso.
Hollywood died shortly after this video was produced.
“Phil Hollywood was the last of a dying breed,” says TJ Cooney, one of the video producers. “I am so thankful for the time that I had with Phil to make this story, he was an amazing man and truly an American hero and treasure. He is going to be sorely missed and never forgotten.”
The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.
Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away. It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.
Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.
Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.
When most ships are decommissioned, they eventually will head to the scrapyard. Mostly, their fate is to become razor blades.
Others become artificial reefs, providing a tourist attraction for divers and a home for fish. But some vessels escape these fates for a more noble end: They are sunk as targets.
And that’s not new.
Back in the early 1920s, the United States used old battleships as targets to test how well air-dropped bombs could sink ships. In fact, since the end of World War II, ships have been sunk as targets – often to test how well current or new weapons work, or to provide crews with training that is quite realistic in using their anti-surface warfare systems.
The 1946 Operation Crossroads was perhaps one of the most dramatic examples. In two tests, the Navy detonated atomic bombs amongst a fleet of obsolete ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato, the German cruiser Prinz Eugen, and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3). A total of 14 ships sank outright, while the Prinz Eugen sank five months later.
Perhaps the largest ship to be sunk as a target was the aircraft carrier USS America (CV 66). This ship displaced almost 85,000 tons when fully loaded, and had a 31-year career, including service in the Vietnam War, Operation El Dorado Canyon, and Desert Storm.
On May 14, 2005, the America was sunk after the testing by controlled scuttling, which included remote systems monitoring the effects of underwater explosions that took place over four weeks.
The video below shows the sinking of a pair of Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates and a Newport-class landing ship. Often smaller systems will be used before they unleash the really powerful missiles – and last, but not least, the torpedoes.
As the nation mourns the passing of one its finest patriots, current and former members of the Marine Band remember President George H. W. Bush as a man whose love of music and uncommon graciousness elevated the unique relationship between the Chief Executive and “The President’s Own.”
“Although President Bush served as our Commander-in-Chief before my time in ‘The President’s Own,’ the close relationship he developed with the Marine Band is well-known,” Music Adviser to the White House and Marine Band Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “We have been fortunate to have had wonderful moments with every president we serve, but President and Mrs. Bush’s gratitude for our Marines and for the special music we provide in The People’s House was especially warm and always engaging. He never missed an opportunity to connect with those around him and thank them for their contributions, and the men and women in the band who got to know President Bush both during his administration and in the many years beyond will always remember his ever-present appreciation and admiration for all those who served our nation alongside him.”
Col. John R. Bourgeois, USMC (Ret.), Marine Band Director from 1979-96, recalled memories of President Bush with great ease. “Of all the presidents I served, he was the most conversive and was the kindest man in the world,” he said. He recounted how the president would make a point to bring the guest of honor from each state dinner over to Bourgeois and the Marine Chamber Orchestra to make introductions. “It was very much like being a part of the family,” Bourgeois said. It was during President Bush’s administration, in February 1990, when Bourgeois led the Marine Band on an historic 18-day concert tour of the former Soviet Union as part of the first ever U.S.-U.S.S.R. Armed Forces band exchange. “The president was integral to making that tour happen and while we were there we saw the end of the Soviet Union,” he said.
“The President’s Own” remembers and honors George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America.
(Official White House Photo)
On a more light-hearted note, Bourgeois recollected an event on Dec. 7, 1992, when the Marine Band performed Hail to the Chief at a White House holiday reception for the president’s staff. At the end of the fanfare, an unlikely gentleman made his way through the crowd and took the podium: comedian Dana Carvey, known for his uncanny impression of the president. But it was the annual Gridiron Club dinner where Bourgeois witnessed President Bush in a truly nostalgic moment. It was March 1993 and Gridiron president, Los Angeles Times bureau chief Jack Nelson, sat at the center of the head table with newly-inaugurated President Bill Clinton on one side of him and former President George H. W. Bush on the other. As Bourgeois led the Marine Band to the dais for The Star-Spangled Banner, he saw both Clinton and Bush lean over to whisper to Nelson. Nelson later told Bourgeois that President Bush commented that there are many things he won’t miss about being president but the Marine Band isn’t one of them.
Few members of the Marine Band can boast of a better first performance at the White House than former Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Robert Boguslaw, USMC (Ret.). Although he had performed at the White House before May 14, 1992, this was the first time he performed solo in the private residence. As he played a medley of Broadway show tunes from “Carousel” and “Oklahoma,” President Bush and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stood in the well of his piano where he overheard the two leaders discuss perestroika and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “President Bush was always a gentleman and always came over to shake my hand and thank me,” he said.
Inaugural Parade of George H.W. Bush.
(George H.W. Bush Presidential Library)
Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Wilson, violinist and current string section commander, joined the Marine Chamber Orchestra in 1990, halfway through President Bush’s term. What impressed him about the president was that he always made a point to go out of his way to acknowledge and thank the musicians for their participation at assorted events, even if it meant shaking off his handlers to seek out the orchestra. It was during President Bush’s tenure that Wilson and several other musicians founded the Free Country ensemble and one of their early performances was at President Bush’s daughter Dorothy Bush’s wedding to Robert P. Koch at Camp David on June 27, 1992. In addition to Free Country, the Marine Band provided a brass quintet in the chapel for the ceremony and a dance band for cocktail hour. After the event, as the musicians packed up their instruments to leave, President and Barbara Bush found them to shake each of their hands, ask their names, and thank them for their music. Wilson said from that day forward, President Bush remembered his name and called him Pete each time he saw him at the White House. “He had an amazing ability with names and people,” Wilson said.
At a congressional picnic Wilson was singing with Free Country and he recalled President Bush seemed to appear from out of nowhere and shook hands with each of the musicians as they performed. Wilson considers it a point of pride that he was able to greet Bush and not lose a beat during the fast-moving lyrics of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” It was another event, however, that Wilson can never forget. The Marine Chamber Orchestra was performing at the White House on Jan. 16, 1991 and President and Mrs. Bush were greeting visitors in a receiving line. Wilson noticed then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell walk up to the president in his green service uniform to pull him away. Bush didn’t come back to the event. When Wilson returned to Marine Barracks Washington, the news on the television in the lounge was reporting the first bombing attacks on Baghdad and the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.
President Bush is accosted by a gorilla carrying mylar balloons in celebration of the President’s 65th birthday, South Lawn of the White House, June 12, 1989.
“We all recall how very kind and appreciative he was of everything the band did at the White House,” said Former Executive Assistant to the Director Capt. Frank Byrne, USMC (Ret.). “Mrs. Bush was also wonderful. I do especially recall the two Desert Storm victory parades, one in New York City and one in Washington. I marched and played in both. In NYC the crowds were so big that we hardly had room to get the band through the streets at certain points. There was ticker tape, but also all kinds of paper, including big stacks of continuous feed letter sized paper that were a challenge to get through. President Bush and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf were in the reviewing stand and were so happy and proud. It’s not often the band gets to do a big street parade in good, not freezing, weather and it was a thrill to participate.”
“I remember several occasions at the White House that President Bush, upon seeing members of the Marine Band, would pause his entourage just long enough to personally thank the members of the Marine Band and relay how much he, the First Lady and the staff appreciate our musical contribution,” said former bassoon player Master Sgt. Dyane Wright, USMC (Ret.). “He stated that the music by members of the U.S. Marine Band is what they enjoyed the most about their White House events.”
“I will always remember President and Mrs. Bush as being unfailingly gracious, kindhearted and appreciative toward the members of the Marine Band,” recalled Former Director Col. Timothy W. Foley, USMC (Ret.).
The late Marine Band pianist Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Corrado, USMC (Ret.), served ten presidents from 1958-2003. His wife Martha reflected on “Charlie’s” many, many encounters with President Bush and recalled in particular when the president requested Corrado to perform at his residence at Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 10, 1991, while he and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu of Japan prepared for the upcoming Economic Summit of the Industrialized Nations in London. “I was jealous that he got to go!” she said. “He played in the sunroom while the meetings took place and the family was very appreciative of him being there.”
George H.W. Bush poses with Marine Band Drum Major MSgt Gary Peterson at the annual Alfalfa Club Dinner.
Former principal cello Master Gunnery Sgt. Marcio Botelho, USMC (Ret.), remembered an equally memorable performance for President Bush: “It was my first year in the band and sometime between April and June I was at home when I got a call from work. The question was, ‘How quickly can you get to the Barracks? Because we have to go to the White House.’ I came in right away and we immediately departed to the White House. Only three of us went, since we were the only available musicians: concertmaster Master Sgt. Bruce Myers, violinist Gunnery Sgt. Jim Diehl, and myself. President Bush was having a working lunch with Lothar de Maizière, the newly-elected prime minister of the old GDR (East Germany) and the White House staff had discovered that the PM had been a musician. At the time we were told he had been a cellist. Anyway, we rushed in to the house, put our cases in the mezzanine level holding room and went up to the state floor. President Bush and the PM had dined in the state dining room and we set up in the Blue Room. No sooner had we set up, the president and his guest walked in and took a seat about six feet from us. Bruce called out a tune: Haydn’s London Trio No. 3, 1st movement. We played it, they thanked us, we returned to the barracks. Possibly the shortest performance I ever played at the White House.” Botelho was also quoted in a Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990 issue of the Marine Band’s newsletter Notes saying, “It’s surprising because even though we are performing background music, people often make it a point to compliment us. In fact, at all of the state dinners the President and Mrs. Bush have greeted us and thanked us at the end.”
President George H.W. Bush escorts Queen Elizabeth II of England during a State Dinner at the White House on May 14, 1991.
(Official White House Photo)
In 2011, the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library requested a Marine Band uniform for a new exhibit featuring a baby grand piano from the Bush’s collection. Then-Drum Major Master Gunnery Sgt. William L. Browne, USMC (Ret.) prepared the uniform and personally fitted the mannequin that would wear it. After Browne took the uniform to the tailor for alterations and cleaning, he carefully packed it in his carry-on luggage and traveled to College Station in December 2011 to ensure that it was installed correctly. He arrived to find the mannequin sitting at the piano with permanently bent legs that presented some technical challenges. He assisted curator Susanne Cox in putting the mannequin in place on the bench at the piano and made last minute adjustments to the fit and appearance. One thing he couldn’t adjust, however, was the length of the mannequin’s hair. “I know how hard it is to give a mannequin a haircut so I made an exception just this once,” he said with a wry smile. Browne was honored to participate in this exhibit for the senior former President Bush. “Every time I’ve seen him at an event, he and Mrs. Bush always made a point to come over to thank the band,” he said. “At my very first presidential event as Drum Major in 2008, President Bush stopped me in the hallway to say how much he appreciated the band and how good it was to hear us.”
The Marine Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Col. Fettig, will perform one last time for President Bush at his funeral service at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Selections include Gustav Holst’s Nocturne from A Moorside Suite, Kevin Siegfried’s arrangement of “Lay Me Low” from Shaker Songs, Aaron Copland’s Our Town, Paul Christiansen’s arrangement of “My Song in the Night,” John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen, and Samuel Augustus Ward’s “America, the Beautiful.”
North Korea’s state-sponsored news agency issued a rare press release on Feb. 12, in which the regime’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was said to have “expressed satisfaction” after the country’s delegation arrived back from a trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the propaganda outlet for the regime, claimed that Kim Jong-un said South Korea’s “specially prioritized” efforts to accommodate North Korea’s delegates were “very impressive,” according to a translation from KCNA Watch.
North Korea sent a delegation that included Kim Jong-un’s sister and head of its propaganda department, Kim Yo-jong, and the nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to South Korea ahead of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
After North Korea agreed in January 2017, it took several steps that, at least on the surface, appeared to be an effort to thaw its relationship with South Korea. The regime sent Kim Yo-jong there, the first time the regime’s ruling family visited the South in decades, as cameras fawned over images of her smiling with South Korean president Moon Jae-in.
During this trip, Kim Yo-jong invited Moon to visit North Korea. A potential visit by Moon would be the first meeting of Korean leaders in Pyongyang since then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for an inter-Korean summit in 2007.
North Korea’s recent statement and actions are a stark departure from its usual, bellicose rhetoric, and that has prompted White House officials and foreign-policy experts to be cautious about the overtures.
Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly floated the possibility of diplomatic engagement with North Korea, said on Feb. 12 that President Donald Trump’s campaign of “maximum pressure” would continue.
“Despite potential talks, and irrespective of if they happen w/USA or S. Korea, new strong sanctions are coming very soon and the maximum pressure campaign will only intensify until North Korea abandons its nuclear program,” Pence tweeted. “All our allies agree!”
And despite being seen cheering for the joint-Korean Winter Olympics team and having luncheons with the North Korean delegation, Moon — who has been accused of being swayed by North Korea’s “charm offensive” — has given some indication that he remains wary of North Korea’s motives.
Instead of explicitly agreeing to North Korea’s invitation to Pyongyang, Moon responded by suggesting the two countries “accomplish this by creating the right conditions,” and encouraged the North to “actively pursue” talks with the U.S.
Moon is also believed to have signaled his commitment to exerting pressure on North Korea. According to Pence on Feb. 10, “both of us reiterated to each other tonight that we will continue to stand strong and work in a coordinated way to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.”
The Air Force recently released two new videos of A-10 Warthogs taking out Taliban narcotics production facilities in Afghanistan, as the Trump administration continues to quietly ramp up the US’ nearly 17-year war in the country.
The videos are rather shocking. One shows several missile strikes that turned the black and white video nearly all-white for a few seconds before flames can be seen rolling up.
“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018, after the Air Force dropped a record number of smart bombs from a B-52 on Taliban training facilities.
“There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”
But a BBC study published in late January 2018 showed that the Taliban operates in about 70% of Afghanistan, and fully controls about 4% of the country.
The Taliban’s numbers have also reportedly grown three-fold in the last few years. In 2014, the Taliban’s forces were estimated to be about 20,000. Currently, they’re estimated to be at least 60,000-strong.
The US announced in November 2017 that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes.
“October and November 2017 were two of the deadliest months for civilians,” according to the latest SIGAR report. “Press reports stated several civilians were killed during the November 2017 bombings.”
These casualties “could erode support for the Afghan government and potentially increase support for the insurgency,” the SIGAR report said.
Around the same time that Nicholson announced that the US would hit the Taliban “where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” Afghan farmers told Reuters that drug labs only take about three to four days to rebuild.
Analysts speaking to Reuters characterized the US’ strategy in Afghanistan as a pointless game of “whack-a-mole.”
On March 13, 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the US is seeing signs that the Taliban are interested in returning to the negotiating table with Kabul.
“Mattis offered few details about the Taliban outreach and it was unclear whether the latest reconciliation prospects would prove any more fruitful than previous, frustrated attempts to move toward a negotiated end to America’s longest war,” Reuters reported.