How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn’t referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft’s flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation’s laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.

The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.

According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.


“It is our responsibility to truly understand the intersection of politics and policy as members of an apolitical organization,” said Maj. Gen. Steven L. Basham, former director for Secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison, who is now the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa Command. “We are not only the Air Force liaison to Congress, but we are also liaisons for Congress to the rest of the Air Force.”

Lt. Col. Joe Wall, deputy chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, salutes a staff vehicle to welcome Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, before a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Basham says that individuals selected to become legislative liaisons are intuitive, broad and flexible thinkers. Despite donning a suit or business attire during their time on the Hill, aspiring liaisons or fellows are required to have exceptional professional bearing and appearance, exceptional organizational skills, performance and knowledge of current events in national security affairs and international relations are also desired.

“We bring phenomenal people into this program,” Basham said. “As a matter of fact, we want individuals who are experts in their career field who have the ability to look across the entire United States Air Force. When we’re working with Congress or a staff member, they don’t see a bomber pilot or a logistician; they see us as a United States Air Force officer or civilian who is an expert across all fields.”

According to Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, budget operations and personnel director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, the opportunity to serve as a legislative liaison and then as a legislative fellow to a member of congress provided him valuable experience in understanding how the government and democracy work. His time working at the Hill “left an indelible impression” in his mind.

Maj. Michael Gutierrez, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, and Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, corresponds with legislators in preparation for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“As a squadron, group and wing commander, I frequently relied on my understanding of the legislative process to help inform my bosses and teammates on how they could positively affect their mission through the right congressional engagement at the right time,” he said. “I also left the experience with a keen understanding of the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration. Those lessons serve me well today, and I share them with younger officers every chance I get.”

Airmen working on the Hill come from diverse career backgrounds. Historically, the liaison and fellowship programs were only open to officers but have opened to senior noncommissioned officers and civilians in recent years. Typical responsibilities of fellows include assisting with the drafting of legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy and serving as congressional liaisons to constituents and industry. Fellows are required to come back to serve as legislative liaisons later on in their careers and into positions where they can utilize their acquired knowledge of the legislative process.

Maj. Christopher D. Ryan, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, discuss Air Force inforamation with Dan S. Dunham, military legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Legislative Liaison Office,said the first step to being a legislative liaison is making sure that the liaison understands the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force’s vision and priorities. As members of the Senate legislative liaisons, she and her team work primarily with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its members, as well as any members of the Senate who have Air Force equity. Along with preparing senior leaders for hearings or meetings with legislators, they provide members of Congress and their staff information that helps in their understanding of current Air Force operations and programs.

“I wish I knew what I know now from a legislative perspective when I was a wing commander because I didn’t understand the power of the congressional body back then,” she said. “Every installation has challenges. Every installation has aging infrastructure. Every installation has lots of different things that they’re working through, and I did not engage with my local congressional district as much as I would have if I had I been up here and understood that (our representatives) really do want to help.”

Dan S. Dunham, a military legislative assistant who works for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said the legislative liaisons are who they “turn to first” whenever they have Air Force-related questions – may it be on budgets, programs or operations.

Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, deliver his opening statements during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“Air Force and Congress can be a tall order – both sides have different chains of command and different constituencies to which they are answerable,” he said. “That can significantly increase the risk of miscommunication. The legislative liaison fills a critical role in bridging that gap and they are frequently the ones we rely on to be the primary facilitator for getting answers and information for our bosses.”

Along with having constant interaction with the highest echelons of Air Force leadership and the key decision makers, due to the sensitive nature of information exchange at this level, legislative liaisons must be capable of thinking on their feet and making informed decisions.

“We bring individuals in who sometimes have to make the call when talking with the staff on what information they should provide,” Basham said. “I think the level of trust they have for their senior leaders having their back when they make that call is invaluable.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a better way to open North Korea to the world

International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.

In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.

Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.


But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.

North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots

“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.

In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.

North Korea’s most carrot-looking missile, the Hwasong-14.
(KCTV)

Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.

No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.

Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.

Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.

Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”

North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.

President Donald Trump
(Photo by Michael Vadon)

Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.

“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.

A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.

This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.

Also, Kim seems to genuinely want infrastructure help, reportedly telling South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” in his country.

The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.

Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 ways marksmanship simulations can improve your fire teams

The fire team is the most important unit of the Marine Corps’ infantry. The Corps is always looking for new ways to make its fire teams more effective on the battlefield. From equipment upgrades to weapon replacements, there’s always room for improvement. But one thing they have yet to figure out is what Marines at the lowest levels can do during their free time. Well, why not reserve some time at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer?

At the bottom of the Marine Corps task organization is the four-person fire team and they are, by far, the most critical asset in the entire hierarchy. The more lethal each individual team, the more lethal the unit as a whole and the ISMIT gives troops the opportunity to practice their shooting skills without firing real bullets on a live range. It’s like playing Nintendo Duck Hunt with military guns and honestly, it puts a lot of current virtual reality gaming to shame with its fun factor.

But beneath that, there’s a deeper level of training value that can make a unit much more effective and especially more lethal, given the right prompt and simulation.

Here are some ways the ISMIT can improve your unit at the fire team level:


Unit cohesion will keep your troops motivated.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Takoune H. Norasingh)

Build unit cohesion

The best thing you can get out of going to the ISMIT is bringing your troops closer together. You can start with some simple, basic simulations and move on to having full blown shooting competitions where the winners are rewarded. It really gives your team a chance to put their money where their mouth is.

Meanwhile, everyone is growing closer as they talk more sh*t.

You want your team to have deadly precision.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Yamil Casarreal)

Train accuracy

The air rifles you get to use at the ISMIT aren’t going to be adjusted for you so their shots will be all over the place. This helps you refine your ability to adjust your aim based on shot impact since you’re going to spend the first few rounds figuring out where your shots are hitting.

The more you train these positions, the better you’ll become.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)

Practice solid shooting positions

This is key for basic marksmanship and you can practice this without having to shoot but it’s extremely helpful for a shooter to learn how their position affects their accuracy and the ISMIT does just that.

Instead of the laughing dog, you get actual people who will make fun of you after the game is over.

Giphy

Practice on moving targets

There are simulations that take you into a city or a desert where you get to shoot at enemies. Whether it’s zombies or insurgents, you get a feel for having a target that’s maneuvering and you can practice using a bullet as a stop sign.

You want to be able to retain as much ammo as possible without sacrificing your aggression.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Taylor W. Cooper)

Practice ammo conservation

One competition you can have with your fire teams is seeing who can get the highest number of hits with the lowest amount of shots. This really puts you to the test and makes you focus on taking your time with each shot to ensure a solid hit. This becomes a valuable lesson because your team will be able to save ammo they might need for follow-up missions.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what other countries thought about the US Civil War

It may seem weird that another country would just show up to war to have a look, but it used to be a fairly common activity, one the United Nations still practices. A military observer is a diplomatic representative of sorts, used by one government to track the battles, strategies, and tactics used in a war it isn’t fighting, but may have an interest in watching — and learning from.

Professional soldiers were embedded within fighting units, but were not considered diplomats, journalists, or spies. They wore the uniform of their home country and understood the importance of terrain, technology, and military history as it played out on the latest battlefield. The Civil War had no shortage of interest from the rest of the world.


England, France, and Germany all sent observers to both sides of the fighting as early as 1862. They were concerned with the technologies related to metallurgy, rifling of cannons, explosive shells, cartridge calibers, and, of course, the new observation balloons used in the war. German observers were concerned with the power of militia and volunteer forces in the face of a standing, professional army. These observations formed many of the tactical developments used in later conflicts, especially World War I.

General Helmuth von Moltke the Elder had strong opinions on the U.S. Civil War.

The Prussians, with an aforementioned interest in the superiority of professional armies, didn’t think much of the armies fighting the war. While noting the tactics used by American fighting men, Prussian observers thought the New World’s way of war was inferior to the Prussians’.

One Prussian captain, Justus Scheibert, divided the war into three phases. The first was made up of the disorganized skirmishes. At this point, neither side had really come to grips with the war and their own strategic capabilities. The second phase, which ran from 1862 through the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, was defined by a refinement in battlefield formations, which were used to great effect by both sides. After Gettysburg through to the war’s end, the fighting became defensive for both sides, where belligerents fought for inches of battlefield instead of mounting a great retreat or advance.

Scheibert believed that the construction of defensive fortifications that allowed officers time to make careful decisions replaced the skill of trained professional officers in quick decision making. Like many historians in the decades following the war, he cited Union manpower and industrial output as the chief tools of victory for the war while praising Confederate General Robert E. Lee for his innovations that allowed Confederate troops to stay relatively fresh and punch above their weight class, even when outnumbered.

Despite proclaimed neutrality, thousands of British citizens volunteered on both sides of the conflict.

The British, meanwhile, were horrified at the war’s destruction and bloody death toll. The British government wanted the horror to stop and felt compelled to pressure the United States to accept a negotiated, two-state solution. London could not understand Lincoln’s motivation for keeping the Union together by force in a democracy where people are supposed to be able to determine their own futures by voting. Neither Britain nor France understood why the North and South both rejected publicly making the war about its central cause: slavery. They simply did not understand the politics of the U.S. as well as President Lincoln and did not understand the Confederate government’s chief fears as Jefferson Davis saw them.

London was also turned off by the Confederate threat of an embargo of cotton exports to Great Britain. It turns out they played this hand much too early, as British merchants would seek alternatives and replacements for Confederate cotton as early as 1861. But as the level of death and destruction rose, both Britain and France began to plan to intervene for the South. Even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation angered European powers, who saw the limited emancipation as nothing more than an attempt to incite a mass slave uprising to save face in losing the war.

The only thing that saved the Union from a combined French-British intervention was the risk or war with the United States and that the South had not yet proven that it could fight the Union Army to a greater defeat on the battlefield.

British observer Arthur James Lyon Fremantle visited much of the Confederacy in 1863. His exploits were well-documented.

One British observer actually visited nine of the eleven Confederate States during the war. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, just 25 years old, took leave of the British Army to travel to Texas via Mexico, moving through nearly the whole of the Confederacy, He met Generals Lee, Bragg, and Longstreet, to name the most important, along with Confederate officials, including President Jefferson Davis. After observing the Battle of Gettysburg (where he met the Prussian Captain Scheibert), he crossed the lines and moved north to New York, where he left for home.

The Britisher remarked that Texas was the most lawless state in the Confederacy, that even Confederate generals were notably impoverished, but were in such good humor that they could ride their confidence into battle. As for the generals themselves, he thought it was amazing that a general like Longstreet would lead men into full-frontal assaults, and that a man like General Lee would speak to individual troops while taking responsibility for the losses on the field.

Unidentified; State Department Messenger Donaldson; Unidentified; Count Alexander de Bodisco; Count Edward Piper, Swedish Minister; Joseph Bertinatti, Italian Minister; Luis Molina, Nicaraguan Minister (seated); Rudolph Mathias Schleiden, Hanseatic Minister; Henri Mercier, French Minister; William H. Seward, Secretary of State (seated); Lord Richard Lyons, British Minister; Baron Edward de Stoeckel, Russian Minister (seated); and Sheffield, British Attache.

(Diplomats at the Foot of an Unidentified Waterfall – NY State, August 1863)

The French were interested in a Union loss and the creation of a new republic, carved from the remnants of the United States because they were determined to recoup the losses suffered at the hands of the British during the colonization of the new world. France’s criteria for intervention were much the same as Britains, but were dashed after the Union victory in the war and any preparations made to use Mexico to capture former French territory west of the Mississippi were scrapped.

Though the world’s other powers didn’t think much of the war and its fighting for the duration, the preparations they all made throughout the war and in the years immediately following shows the lasting impact it had on global politics. In all, visitors from Germany, Britain, Italy, France, Russia, Nicaragua, and Austria all visited various battles of the war. The lasting legacy of this impact is the continued debate over what might have been, even more than 150 years later.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia absolutely hates these American weapons in Europe

The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System is primarily a defensive weapon (Aegis was first used in English as a synonym to “shield”), but it can also be used to attack enemy land and sea targets. Many American allies have sought to have Aegis installed on their ships or land installations, a trend that Russia hates and often protests.


The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex fires during a flight test in December 2018.

(Missile Defense Agency Mark Wright)

Aegis is a bit of a legend in the military community, especially air defense. The core of the system is an extremely capable radar that can operate through a months or even years-long cruise at sea if properly maintained. This, of course, allows the operators to track threats from ballistic missiles to navy vessels to surfaced submarines. But, when properly wedded to missiles, the Aegis gets the ability to attack these targets on land, at sea, or in the air.

For America’s allies around the world, this can be a godsend. Japan has to constantly worry about the possibility of a Korean nuclear missile attack. So, a package deal for highly capable radar and compatible missiles is highly desirable. But when Japan bought two of them for use ashore, Russia lodged protests.

Russia is a regional power. While it doesn’t have the might or clout of the Soviet Union, it did inherit a lot of the Soviet treaties and nearly all of the Soviet nuclear weapons when that nation collapsed. And so it doesn’t want to see its own missiles made obsolete in the unlikely chance of war with Japan, especially when it can lodge protests under treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

But when it comes to Europe, Russia is even more sensitive. The Soviet Union used to hold sway over all of Eastern Europe, but American diplomatic expansion after the Soviet collapse has allowed the U.S. to find friends in places like Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, and more that border Russia or its enclave at Kaliningrad.

And for the past few years, an American and European agreement has seen Aegis systems deployed on land in places like Romania and Poland with more sites to come. But Aegis Ashore has one huge difference from the Aegis systems at sea: what missiles its launchers can house and fire.

While Aegis ships at sea can be equipped with everything from Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles to the entire family of Navy Standard Missiles, Aegis Ashore was initially equipped with just the ballistic defense missile known as Standard Missile-3. But some American leaders have floated the idea of adding the missiles SM-2 and SM-6, missiles capable of killing enemy cruise missiles, jets, and helicopters.

Aegis Ashore Site in Poland under construction in August 2019.

(U.S. Navy Lt. Amy Forsythe)

For Russia, this creates obvious problems. While it has sought to fight in the so-called “grey zone” just short of open warfare in the last few years, it has previously invaded neighbors like Georgia and would like the option of doing so again. A network of missiles that could shred its jets would make the situation worse.

But Russia’s diplomatic protests against Aegis are all aimed at the Tomahawk missile, a potential treaty-violating weapon that would truly terrify Russia if deployed near its borders in large numbers. Aegis at sea can control these missiles and rain them down on America’s enemies like it did against Syria.

When America fired Tomahawks in the recent Syria strikes, Russia declined to engage the missiles or American bombers with its own air defenses, possibly because it isn’t certain it can actually take down the Tomahawks in significant numbers. Though, again, Aegis Ashore is specifically configured to be incapable of firing Tomahawks.

Russia is so against Aegis Ashore installations that it deployed strategic bombers to Crimea earlier this year to threaten the installations and NATO.

But as long as Aegis systems are going in across the world, Russia is going to be protesting. The Tomahawk problem is just the part they can protest against. It’s likely that the real problem for Russia is its missile threat being negated and its bombers and fighters threatened.

But, you know, sucks to be you, Russia. Get on our level.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘America’s Tall Ship’ makes first visit to Norway since 1963

It’s not necessarily the ship that comes to mind when you think about America flexing its muscles abroad to project seapower and dominance.

But when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” came into port here [Oslo, Norway] May 5, 2019, for the first time since 1963, the locals were eager to see it. More than 1,300 people visited the ship May 5, 2019; the vessel sees 90,000 tourists each year, officials said.

The ship trains hundreds of cadets each summer on the basics of navigation and seamanship — something the service believes can still make a tough and ready Coastie despite the emergence of a near-peer power competition.


It’s not always about learning on the newest technology. The Coast Guard thinks some things are just meant to be done old school.

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

“They don’t come here to learn how to sail, although that is a bonus,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Johnson, the training cutter’s command chief, master-at-arms and food service officer for the last three years.

“We’re teaching you how to work as a team,” he said during an hour-long tour of the ship. “And it’s tradition.”

Two groups of 150 cadets each will soon embark on the service’s 12-week summer program. The first group is comprised of third-class cadets, the second of first-class cadets.

The cutter will likely hit its max capacity of 234 crew with each group; 50 enlisted and eight officers man the ship year round. Roughly 40 percent of the trainees are women, Johnson said.

The ship, which has only basic radars for navigation, will also host a number of international cadets during the training program. Members “from as far as Micronesia” have come to learn team building and leadership on the Eagle, designated WIX-327, he said.

Coast Guard Academy cadets learn how to furl sail on the Eagle‘s bowsprit under the tutelage of a petty officer while sailing among the British Virgin Islands in 2013.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Life onboard the ship is meant to give cadets the “life as an enlisted person” experience, demanding strength and discipline, he said. They’ll climb to the top of the mainmast, which towers above the deck at 147 feet. Most cadets know that “someone still has to put the flag up” and furl the sail by hand.

“They still climb the rigging,” Johnson said, adding that the small boats need to be lowered by hand.

He said two cadets have gone overboard during his tenure: one while touching up the hull en route to Ireland and another who lost balance on the rigging and fell into the water.

“They’re both OK,” said Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the service.

Helm station on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle.

The cadets will take their meals in five shifts, retire to the berthing quarters to sleep, and leave the ship to explore cities when “there isn’t work that needs to be done,” he said.

The 295-foot vessel is rooted in training. Built in 1936, it was formerly known as the Horst Wessel and operated by Germany for its cadet training program during World War II before it was captured by the British in 1945. It was then traded to the U.S. a year later.

During a four-year service life extension program, completed last year, more than 1,500 square feet of original German hull plate was removed and replaced, Johnson said. The ship was home-ported in Baltimore, Maryland, while the upgrades were being finished.

The Eagle requires “constant maintenance,” and the cadets and crew know it, he said. During its 19-day trip across the Atlantic en route to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom last week, two sails split during bad weather. One split more than once.

The New York Fire Department vessel, Firefighter, honors the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as it rests anchored at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

“I think they even got the sewing machines out” to fix them, Johnson said. There are layers of baggywrinkle — old, fringe-like rope — meant to protect the sails from chafing.

The ship has been largely Atlantic-based, sailing to the Caribbean and various European locations. The Eagle has visited Australia, but otherwise hasn’t made its way to other parts of the Pacific Rim. “Not yet, anyway,” Johnson said.

The Eagle, which can hit 17 knots max speed under sail, heads next to Kiel, Germany, to pick up the first summer class of cadets. It will then sail to Copenhagen, Denmark; Antwerp, Belgium; the Netherlands; the Azores; and finally back to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which will be its homeport after this summer.

The German-turned-American trainer will also participate in events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 2019

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter..

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why you can’t climb the arm of the Statue of Liberty anymore

More than 100 years ago, European powers were in the middle of World War I and looking everywhere for potential enemies and allies. In 1916, even President Wilson believed it would soon be inevitable for the U.S. to enter the war on the side of England and the Triple Entente. Then, an explosion on July 30, 1916 shattered windows in Times Square, shook the Brooklyn Bridge, and could be heard as far away as Maryland.

But the effect that would have lasting impression was the shrapnel that peppered the nearby Statue of Liberty.

New York Harbor in 1916.
(National Board of Health)

German saboteurs moved to hit a munitions plant in New York City’s Black Tom Island (an artificial island near Liberty Island) that was already making weapons and ammunition bound for Britain and France. They did it in the early morning hours on the poorly lit, poorly defended ammunition depot.

View of the debris of the Lehigh Valley pier wrecked by an explosion of munitions on Black Tom Island, New Jersey. Five dead and $25,000,000 worth ($500,000,000 in 2018) of property destroyed.
(National Archives)

It was part of a two-year German campaign of sabotage in the United States and shook far away America to its core. The outrage over the previous year’s sinking of the RMS Lusitania and the loss of 120 Americans aboard that ship already began to turn American public opinion against Germany.

The Great War had finally come home in a big way.

This was not the first explosion or “accident” that occurred in munitions plants or on ships bound for Europe. German agents operating out of New York and its port facilities hired German sailors and Irish dock workers to plant bombs and incendiary devices on ships and in plants working on war materials. The number of accidents aboard those ships skyrocketed. But the Black Tom incident was different.

Two million tons of explosives were set off in a single instant. Five people died and it’s fortunate more people weren’t killed, considering the size of the blast. The buildings on the landfill island were smashed and flattened.

The aftermath of the Black Tom explosion.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

The shrapnel that exploded in every direction damaged the Statue of Liberty and didn’t just scar her lovely face, it popped the rivets that connect the arm that bears the torch of freedom, forcing the the arm to be forever closed to tourists. For a little while, even the years following the end of World War I, Black Tom was all America could talk about.

That is, until a new Germany rose from the ashes of the Kaiser’s Empire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel and Iran trade threats after trading missile strikes

Iran and Israel engaged in a war of words two days after an exchange of missile fire in Syria, with a prominent Iranian cleric threatening to “raze” two Israeli cities if it “acts foolishly” and attacks Iranian forces in Syria again.

Israel’s defense minister issued his own warning, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will face only “damage and problems” unless he kicks the Iranian military presence out of his country.


Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman said Assad should especially beware of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.

“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force. They are not helping you, they are only harming,” Lieberman said.

“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.

On May 10, 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran is believed to have attacked Israel with rockets.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country. A war monitor said the missile exchange left 23 fighters dead.

Israel has warned it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence close to its borders in Syria, where Iranian military advisers, troops, and allied Shi’ite militia have since 2011 played a key role backing Assad in his civil war against Sunni rebels.

Iran on May 10, 2018, called Israel’s accusations, which were supported and corroborated by the United States and Western allies, “fabricated and baseless excuses” to stage attacks in Syria.

A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, warned that the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.

“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure…to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” he said in remarks during Friday Prayers that were carried on Iranian state television.

A prominent Iranian ally in Lebanon joined the verbal volley on May 10, 2018, warning that both Israel and the United States will face retaliation for repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria that monitors say have killed dozens of Syrian, Iranian, and Hizballah fighters in recent weeks.

United States President Donald Trump.

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hizballah, told the Associated Press in an interview that some 1,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in northern and eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist group may be in danger.

“There are American interests in Syria and if there is a larger war, I don’t think even the American president can bear the consequences,” Berri said.

The White House on May 10, 2018, repeated its demand that Iran stop its “reckless actions” against U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

After a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” the White House said.

“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines practice maneuvers that should keep China on its toes

Everything that is old may indeed be new again.

During World War II, US Marines moved from island to island, fighting bloody battles against entrenched Japanese forces determined to dominate the Pacific. Now, as the possibility of conflict with China looms, the Marine Corps is dusting off this island-hopping strategy.


Last week, US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit led a series of simulated small-island assaults in Japan, the Corps announced March 21, 2019.

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, on March 13, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

The 31st MEU, supported by elements of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing; members of the Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group; and Army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, practiced seizing Ie Shima Island.

After the Marines seized the island’s airfield, US troops quickly established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Additional force assets, such as Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, then moved in to deliver extra firepower.

An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 being refueled at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point during simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Ie Shima Training Facility on March 14, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)

Rocket artillery units brought in aboard the C-130Js carried out simulated long-range precision-fire missions while the stealth fighters conducted expeditionary strikes with precision-guided munitions.

“This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations, with rapid redeployment,” the Corps said in a statement. The exercise was part of the Corps’ efforts to refine the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept, which is the modern version of the World War II-era island-hopping strategy.

A Marine with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, bounding toward a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China, and one of the traditional missions of the Marine Corps is seizing advanced bases,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “If you look at the island chains and so forth in the Pacific as platforms from which we can project power, that would be a historical mission for the Marine Corps and one that is very relevant in a China scenario.”

As its National Defense Strategy makes clear, the US military is facing greater challenges from near-peer threats in an age of renewed great-power competition. In the Pacific, China is establishing military outposts on occupied islands in the South China Sea while seeking to extend its reach beyond the first island chain.

With the US and Chinese militaries operating in close proximity, often with conflicting objectives, there have been confrontations. A close US ally recently expressed concern that the two powers might one day find themselves in a shooting war in the South China Sea.

Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, engaging targets while assaulting a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both US and allied interest in the region,” Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said at the Pentagon in May 2018.

“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” he said when asked whether the US had the ability to “blow apart” China’s outposts in the South China Sea. “We had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.”

It’s just a “historical fact,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Discovery’s ‘Deadliest Catch’ features Coast Guard’s search for survivors

Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.

A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.


The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).

“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.

The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.

Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.

“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”

The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.

Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.

Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.

His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.

“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”

Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.

Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.

Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.

Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.

On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.

“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”

Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.

Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.

“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.

The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.

Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.

“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.

As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.

“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”

Visit Deadliest Catch on Discovery for information on upcoming episodes.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines save airman’s life in Okinawa

Seven United States Marines played a vital role in saving the life of a U.S. Airman with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron in Okinawa, Japan Dec. 31, 2018.

The airman, whose name is being withheld out of respect for the family’s privacy, was involved in a motor cycle accident along Japan National Route 331. A group of Marines witnessed the accident and rushed to the scene as first responders.


Marine Sgt. David Lam, an assistant warehouse chief with 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group and San Jose, Calif., native was one of the first Marines on the scene, ordered the group of Marines to call emergency services and directed traffic along the busy road to allow ambulances to arrive.

“I never would have imagined myself being that close to an accident. It was an oh-snap moment,” Lam said. “I couldn’t fathom how quickly everything was moving.”

United States Marine Corps Cpl. Devan Duranwernet, a training non-commissioned officer with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Duranwert, a native of Charleston, S.C., started to support the injured airman’s body by stabilizing their head to ensure they didn’t move from being in major shock.

Assisting Lam were 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; 1st Lt. Jose Diaz with 9th Engineer Support Battalion; Gunnery Sgt. Memora Tan with 1st Bn., 4th Marines and Cpls. Devan Duranwernet, Joseph Thouvenot and Gerardo Lujan with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. Each Marine played a vital role in saving the airman’s life.

“Their quick actions and willingness to get involved are commendable and exactly the type of actions you would expect from all military members that may find themselves in this sort of situation,” said Air Force Maj. James Harris, the Squadron Commander with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron.

Diaz, from Orlando, Fla., rushed to the injured to begin cutting off layers of clothing, which helped identify the airman’s wounds. He then ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood for splints to support any broken bones.

United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jose Diaz, the motor transportation platoon commander with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save a U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Diaz, a native of Orlando, Fla., ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood to create splints to support the airman’s broken bones and started cutting off the layers of the injured airman clothes to see all the wounds.

“I saw bones sticking out of the airman’s body and knew I would need some kind of splint to support the injuries until emergency services arrived,” Diaz said. “We took action and worked together [relaying on] past training and knowing we needed to help.”

Duranwernet, a Charleston, S.C. native, stabilized the injured airman’s neck and spine while providing comfort through the shock.

Emergency services loaded the airman on to a helicopter with assistance from Tan, a native of Orange County, Calif. Elliot, from Katy, TX, used the airman’s cell phone to call their command and accompanied the airmen to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot, the Operations Officer with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Elliot, a native of Katy, Texas, stayed with the injured airman providing body support stabilization, he also flew back with the injured airman on the helicopter to the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa as an escort.

“I rode in the helicopter to give the airman a friendly face, to be there with them, to let them know everything was going to be okay,” Elliot explained.

The airman was given emergency medical treatment to stabilize their condition then transported to another location for follow-on treatment and recovery. According to 353rd Special Operations Squadron leadership, the airman is expected to make a full recovery.

Harris said the Marines were the only reason the airman was still alive. He explained that “if the Marines didn’t respond when they did or how they did the airman could have lost his arm or worse.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This firing range lets you shoot the weapons of your dreams

In America, you can do a lot of things at a firing range — for the right price. Shoot a sten gun, a .50-cal, or an AK-47 — you can even drive a Sherman tank over a car. This is America and if there’s anything Americans seem to hate, it’s limits on firearms. But while America is not alone in their undying love for battlefield weapons, there are some limits to what you can do without breaking the law.

Related: How to drive a tank and shoot artillery without being in the military

That sh*t goes out the window in Cambodia, though. You know Cambodia, right?


You might remember a little something.

Bring your own GoPro.


Cambodia has had gun control laws in place since the 1990s, but unlike countries where guns are tightly regulated, tightly controlled, and tightly monitored, Cambodia hasn’t had the will or political impetus to enforce many of the laws. Citizens once carried an array of assault weapons and explosives.

Cambodia’s civil war killed some 1.7 million people and displaced millions of others from the cities to the countryside. So it’s unsurprising that so many Cambodians are unwilling to part with their lethal protection. Even less surprising is that some Cambodians would choose to turn the large caches of antiquated firearms into a booming tourist attraction.


In recent years, many locals have turned in their weapons, but many others did not. It is still quite easy to get your hands on some of this hardcore hardware. As a tourist, though, you don’t need to acquire your own heat. Just like in America, one can be found for you — for the right price.

At the Cambodia Fire Range Phnom Penh, you can combine tour packages that will take you to Cambodia’s unique historic temples, like Angkor Wat, with massive firepower. They’ll transport you there for free, fill you up with all the free beer you can handle, and then take you back to the range so you can let loose with an RPG aimed at a makeshift grass hut loaded with fuel barrels.

If jungle temples and shoulder-fired rockets aren’t your jam, maybe you’ll be more apt to take in the beautiful, pristine beaches at Sihanoukville with a boat ride to some of Cambodia’s most remote, small islands. Then, once back at the range, you might prefer tossing hand grenades — or launching them with an M70.

The world is your flaming oyster.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What the F-22 will do in a war with China

The F-22 Raptor is kind of an underrated badass. Now overshadowed by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Raptor never really got its chance to stand out on its own. But with the U.S. Air Force increasingly butting heads with other air forces around the world, the real power of the Raptor is starting to show.


General Mark Welsh, then-Air Force Chief of Staff once told the story of a Raptor pilot who snuck up on an Iranian F-4 Phantom who was moving to intercept and shoot down a U.S. drone. After flying below two Iranian planes to check out their armaments, he pulled up to their left wing, surprising them, and told them to go home. They did.

Kinda like that, except when the Air Force does it, it’s real and not a movie. You’ll always have the sky dick, Navy.

The F-22 was born out of a desire to replace both the F-16 and F-15 with an air superiority fighter unrivaled in air-to-air kills. Even with the development of the F-35, there are those who still believe the F-22 is the superior airframe and that Raptor production stopped too soon.

They have a valid point.

Nowadays, the F-22 is mostly being wasted on patrols and alert missions or other exercises that don’t require the Raptor’s particular set of skills, according to a Government Accountability Office report. And since such missions don’t require the F-22 specifically, pilots aren’t able to trained to make use of capabilities unique to the aircraft, meaning it rarely has its full range of abilities realized.

In combat zones, the mere presence of an F-22 commands respect. Currently, Russian, Syrian, and Iranian aircraft are operating in the skies above Syria. In 587 encounters there, the Raptors forced the other aircraft to back off without further aggression.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet (front) taxis past a C17 aircraft after landing at Kadena U.S. Air Force Base on Japan’s southwestern island of Okinawa

The success (though limited) in Syria showcases not only the capability of the Raptors and their pilots, but also what other air forces’ pilots think of the airframe — and the potential for future roles in other battlespaces, specifically China.

The Commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Charles Brown, has an idea of what that role might look like. While the Chinese are certain to try to jam U.S. communications in the event of a conflict, Brown wants the F-22 to frustrate and confuse the Chinese. The idea has been dubbed “Rapid Raptor” and features four escort F-22s and a USAF C-17 transport plane to be deployable within 24 hours to go anywhere in the PACOM area of responsibility.

The “Rapid Raptor” idea calls for the Elmendorf AFB, Alaska-based 3rd Wing of F-22s to quickly disperse in the event of a conflict, being able to refuel from the C-17’s wing tanks wherever they go. The idea quickly spread to the rest of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet, most notably in Eastern Europe where F-22s are a deterrent to Russian aggression. The Air Force even wants to use the Rapid concept on other airframes.

In the event of a conflict, these spread-out fighter formations could more easily communicate through Chinese jamming via the use of satellite communications. They would also receive target orders this way. In the event of the Chinese disabling or destroying satellites, the small formations would have enough information to make informed battlefield decisions and operate independently.

“They get enough direction early enough from me so that they can actually go execute,” Brown told a group of reporters at the Pentagon. “When we look at our pacing threat of China, we got to think differently about how we do things.”