National Guard chief says 'tie goes to the soldier' in California re-enlistment bonus scandal - We Are The Mighty
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National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

The head of the National Guard said Oct. 26 that the Pentagon will continue to investigate re-enlistment bonuses paid to thousands of California National Guard soldiers a decade ago and will force those who wrongfully accepted them to pay the money back.


Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said his office is looking into more than 13,600 cases that could be fraudulent, but he admitted investigators have to prove that the soldier knew they were accepting upwards of $15,000 they didn’t qualify for.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Sgt. Jeffrey Nelan, a Infantryman with the 184th Security Force Assistance Team, California National Guard, plays with Afghan children during a leadership engagement at the Afghan Uniformed Police headquarters in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, Sept. 25, 2013. | U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Harold Flynn

“The tie goes to the soldier,” Lengyel said at a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington. “If their hands are clean where this soldier is doing their duty and doing their job, it is not our intent to try to enforce this hardship on them 10 years later.”

A nationwide furor erupted after a Los Angeles Times story revealed the California National Guard was demanding repayment with interest for some bonuses it doled out to its Guard troops as an incentive to re-enlist during the height of the Iraq war. The former head of the  state’s Guard incentive program was later convicted of filing over $15 million in false claims and the bureau began looking into the scope of the problem in 2012.

Some soldiers, the Times story alleges, have been forced to pay pack tens of thousands of dollars to the government after nearly a decade — some who sustained severe injuries during their subsequent deployments and have been financially ruined by the errors.

President Obama weighed in on the scandal Oct. 25 and reportedly ordered the Pentagon to speed up the audits, but he stopped short of asking for a blanket amnesty, the Times said.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter said in a statement the next day that he’s ordered a suspension of the paybacks and has asked his office to establish a more streamlined process to investigate fraud claims and allow Guard soldiers a speedier appeal.

“This process has dragged on too long, for too many service members,” Carter said. “Too many cases have languished without action. That’s unfair to service members and to taxpayers.”

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Guard officials claim over 13,600 questionable bonuses were paid out to California soldiers in the mid-2000s — some for re-enlistment incentives, others for education reimbursement. About 1,100 bonuses were given to soldiers who officials allege were not entitled to them, about 4,000 were error free and about 5,300 had paperwork errors. There are still about 3,200 that Guard officials are still trying to track down.

So far about 2,000 soldiers have been asked to pay back all or part of their bonus cash, Guard officials say.

Lengyel explained some of the more egregious cases included officers who took the cash to re-up when the money was intended to help fill the enlisted ranks, some who took bonuses to stay in certain jobs even though they were already in the process of changing their roles in the Army Guard and others who took re-enlisted bonuses despite being on track to take a slot at officer candidate’s school.

“Was there an intent to trick the system, to take advantage of the fact that apparently there’s some new sheriff in town who’s handing out bonuses?” Lengyel wondered. “Unfortunately with all of this was mixed in some proven intent to defraud the government, in some cases. There was some intent to take money knowingly that you weren’t entitled to by some people.”

But he added that likely the vast majority of soldiers who took the bonuses didn’t have any intent to illegally work the system.

“We think there are a lot of people out there who were 22-year-old soldiers who were given information that they thought by all means they were entitled to the money,” Lengyel said. “They were told they could take this money, they were told that they were entitled to this money, they took the money, the re-enlisted and they went about whatever they were doing and they were given bad data.”

Guard officials say there are more cases of alleged fraud in the re-enlistment bonuses for National Guard troops in other states, but that they pale in comparison to the California errors. Lengyel said in all about $50 million in questionable bonuses were paid out in California during the period, and the Guard is investigating each one individually.

The National Guard is granting exceptions, he added, particularly for those who were paid bonuses without submitting records that they were actually eligible. Lengyel said, for example, a bonus paid out to a soldier that didn’t forward a copy of a high school diploma will likely be given a pass since he couldn’t have joined the Guard without it in the first place.

“That’s a technicality by which this member shouldn’t be levied a fine,” Lengyel said. “The blanket rule is to do the right thing.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been outraged by the story, with some already calling for an investigation into the issue and forwarding language to an upcoming defense bill that would give some bonus recipients amnesty. National Guard officials say they did notify Congress of the potential for bonus fraud but nothing was done.

Vet groups have been quick to side with California guardsmen, arguing it’s unfair to put so many soldiers in financial peril due to a former military official’s malfeasance.

“If any of these people were misled about their own eligibility for the bonus with the intent to keep them on, they shouldn’t be held responsible for that,” said John Hoellwarth, National Communications Director for AMVETS. “We think the benefit of the doubt has to be with the soldiers,”

Lengyel said his office is sending investigators to California to help speed up the process of determining whether a bonus or incentive was paid in error in hopes of helping affected soldiers get on with their lives.

“We’re focused on helping those service members who were doing the right thing and served their country and thought they were entitled to a bonus to get this out of their past and out of their way,” Lengyel said. “And we want to help California do that, and help the service members do that as quickly as we possibly can.”

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Pentagon revs up Hellfire missiles to attack ISIS

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jon Soles


Ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched HELLFIRE missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment.

The war against ISIS has depleted existing inventory of the weapon and generated a fast-growing national and international demand for HELLFIRE missiles, Army officials told Scout Warrior.

“Production of HELLFIRE has increased for quantities ordered in Fiscal Year 14 and Fiscal Year 15,” Dan O’Boyle, spokesman for Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, said in a written statement.

As the principle manufacturer of HELLFIRE missiles, the Army provides the weapon to national and international entities to include the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy arsenals, among others. Overall, there as many as 15 or more international customers using HELLFIRE missiles, many of them partners in the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS.

While Army officials did not provide specific numbers of production increases or plans to provide particular allied nations with HELLFIREs, the Pentagon has requested $1.8 billion in its 2017 budget for munitions, bombs and missiles needed to replenish or maintain stockpiles and sustain the attacks against ISIS.

As part of a separate effort, the Air Force did request and receive $400 million in reprogrammed dollars to address an air-to-ground munitions shortage, particularly with Hellfire missiles.

“The Air Force worked with the Army to re-prioritize HELLFIRE missile deliveries to the Air Force, requested additional funding for HELLFIRE missiles, reduced aircrew training expenditures, and is working a procurement plan to increase production to reconstitute munitions stocks as quickly as possible,” an Air Force official told Scout Warrior.

While precision-guided air-to-ground weapons are typically needed during aerial bombing efforts, they are of particular urgent value in the ongoing attacks on ISIS. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision all the more pressing.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bryanna Poulin

In service since the 1970s, HELLFIRE missiles originated as 100-pound tank-killing, armor piercing weapons engineered to fire from helicopters to destroy enemy armored vehicles, bunkers and other fortifications.

In more recent years, the emergence of news sensors, platforms and guidance technologies have enabled the missile to launch strikes with greater precision against a wider envelope of potential enemy targets.

HELLFIRE Missile Technologies and Platforms

These days, the weapon is primarily fired from attack drones such as the Air Force Predator and Reaper and the Army’s Gray Eagle; naturally, the HELLFIRE is also used by the Army’s AH-64 Apache Attack helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Marine Corps Super Cobras, among others. Although not much is known about when, where or who — HELLFIREs are also regularly used in U.S. drone strikes using Air Force Predators and Reapers against terrorist targets around the globe.

The HELLFIRE missile can use radio frequency, RF, guidance – referred to as “fire and forget” – or semi-active laser technology. A ground target can be designated or “painted” by a laser spot from the aircraft firing the weapon, another aircraft or ground spotter illuminating the target for the weapon to destroy.

There are multiple kinds of HELLFIRE warheads to include a High-Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, weapon and a Blast-Fragmentation explosive along with several others. The HEAT round uses what’s called a “tandem warhead” with both a smaller and larger shaped charge; the idea is to achieve the initial requisite effect before detonating a larger explosion to maximize damage to the target.

The “Blast-Frag” warhead is a laser-guided penetrator weapon with a hardened steel casing, incendiary pellets designed for enemy ships, bunkers, patrol boats and things like communications infrastructure, Army documents explain.

The “Metal Augmented Charge” warhead improves upon the “Blast-Frag” weapon by adding metal fuel to the missile designed to increase the blast overpressure inside bunkers, ships and multi-room targets, Army information says. The “Metal Augmented Charge” is penetrating, laser-guided and also used for attacks on bridges, air defenses and oil rigs. The missile uses blast effects, fragmentation and overpressure to destroy targets.

The AGM-114L HELLFIRE is designed for the Longbow Apache attack helicopter platform; the weapon uses millimeter-wave technology, radar, digital signal processing and inertial measurement units to “lock-on” to a target before or after launch.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Spike Call

The AGM-114R warhead is described as a “Multi-Purpose” explosive used for anti-armor, anti-personnel and urban targets; the weapon uses a Micro-Electro Mechanical System Inertial Measurement Unit for additional flight guidance along with a delayed fuse in order to penetrate a target before exploding in order to maximize damage inside an area.

The AGM-114R or “Romeo” variant, which is the most modern in the arsenal, integrates a few additional technologies such as all-weather millimeter wave guidance technology and a fragmentation-increasing metal sleeve configured around the outside of the missile.

The “Multi-Purpose” warhead is a dual mode weapon able to use both a shaped charge along with a fragmentation sleeve. The additional casing is designed to further disperse “blast-effects” with greater fragmentation in order to be more effective against small groups of enemy fighters.

“The “Romeo” variant is an example of how these efforts result in a more capable missile that will maintain fire superiority for the foreseeable future,” O’Boyle said.

Additional HELLFIRE Uses

Although the HELLFIRE began as an air-to-ground weapon, the missile has been fired in a variety of different respects in recent years. The Navy has fired a Longbow HELLFIRE from a Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, to increase its lethality; the Navy’s 2017 budget request asks for Longbow HELLFIRE missiles, beginning with the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.   Also, the Army has fired the weapon at drone targets in the air from a truck-mounted Multi-Mission Launcher on the ground and international U.S. allies have fired the HELLFIRE mounted on a ground-stationed tripod.

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12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

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9 Times Countries Forgot to Un-Declare War

Throughout history, a number of conflicts, due to the quirky nature of international diplomacy, never officially ended.


Of course, these “extended wars” have never actually had any bearing on international relations.

Instead, the ongoing de facto peace overrode any technicalities on the world stage. However, the patching up of these diplomatic irregularities has been used by countries still technically at war to boost their current ties and gain media attention.

We have listed nine such examples of extended wars below.

Greece and Persia

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Greco-Persian Wars, 499 B.C.

De facto peace: 449 B.C.

De jure peace: 1902

In 499 B.C., the Persian Empire attempted to conquer the various city-states of Ancient Greece. Ultimately, the Persian efforts were unsuccessful, and the two civilizations remained at war with some intensity until the Persians called off their invasion attempts in 449 B.C.

However, despite the war having ended centuries ago, Greece and Persia never officially mended their relationship until 1902. At that point, after 2,393 years of conflict, Persia (having not yet renamed itself Iran), appointed its first Greek diplomat.

Rome and Carthage

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Punic Wars, 264 B.C.

De facto peace: 146 B.C.

De jure peace: 1985

The conflict between Rome and Carthage was one of the defining moments of the creation of the Roman Empire. Between 264 B.C. and 146 B.C., the two empires fought a series of three wars known as the Punic Wars, which culminated in the Roman conquest of Carthage.

As Rome seized and destroyed Carthage, there was no need for the two countries to formally sign a peace treaty. However, that did not stop the mayors of Rome and Carthage from signing a treaty of symbolic friendship and collaboration in 1985. The sign of goodwill had been consistently floated until that point by both Tunisian and Italian governments.

Isles of Scilly and the Dutch Republic

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: First Anglo-Dutch War, 1651

De facto peace: 1654

De jure peace: 1986

In 1651, the Dutch Republic declared war on the Council of the Isles of Scilly, a small island archipelago under the British crown. The islands were harboring pirates who interfered with Dutch shipping. However, the conflict between the Isles of Scilly and the Dutch Republic quickly was subsumed into the wider First Anglo-Dutch war.

Although the Dutch and British concluded their conflict in 1654, the Council of the Isles of Scilly were technically not included in the peace process. As such, the small islands and the Dutch remained at war until a Dutch ambassador visited the islands and formally concluded a peace settlement in 1986.

Huéscar and Denmark

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: Peninsular War, 1809

De facto peace: 1814

De jure peace: 1981

In 1809, as the Napoleonic Wars were raging throughout Europe, the tiny Spanish hamlet of Huéscar declared war on Denmark. Denmark at the time was a staunch ally of the French Empire, and the town was eager to wage war against Napoleon and his allies.

However, the town’s declaration of war was quickly forgotten — even by the town itself. The actual declaration was only rediscovered by chance in in 1981. Following the discovery, the Danish ambassador to Spain formally concluded peace with the town.

Lijar and France

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: 1883

De jure peace: 1983

Like Huéscar, Lijar was another Spanish village that took it upon itself to unilaterally declare war. In 1883, Lijar’s town council declared war on France following ill treatment of the Spanish King Alfonso XII by a French crowd.

Despite the declaration of war, Lijar and France never exchanged blows. And, in 1983, France sent its consul general from the Spanish city of Malaga to Lijar for a formal peace celebration between the would-be combatants.

Andorra and the German Empire

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Wikipedia

Declaration of war: World War I, 1914

De facto peace: 1918

De jure peace: 1958

Following the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the tiny European nation of Andorra was one of the first states to declare war on the German Empire in 1914. This was despite the fact that the nation had no standing army, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Amazingly, despite Andorra’s early declaration of war, it was one of the last states to declare peace. Sidelined at the Treaty of Versailles, which formally concluded World War I, the country did not sign a peace agreement with Germany until 1939, right before the outbreak of World War II.

Costa Rica and the German Empire

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Google

Declaration of war: World War I, 1918

De facto peace: 1918

De jure peace: 1945

Much like Andorra, Costa Rica was also not included in the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

As such, the small nation remained technically at war with Germany throughout both World Wars, with peace only being achieved after Costa Rica was included on the Potsdam Agreement that ended World War II.

Allies of World War II and Germany

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
National Archives

Declaration of war: World War II1939

De facto peace: 1945

De jure peace: 1991

In an ultimate display of the difficulties of ending a war, a final peace agreement between Germany and the Allied Powers was not reached until nearly 50 years after the war ended. Following the Nazi surrender and the end of the war in Europe, a formal peace treaty between Germany and the Allies was stalled by the Soviets.

As such, the US passed a resolution in 1951 that acted as a substitute for a peace treaty. This action was emulated by other Allied powers. It was not until German reunification was completed with the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany, put into effect on March 15, 1991, that Germany was ultimately able to gain full sovereignty, make alliances without foreign influence, and World War II ended with a formal peace treaty.

Principality of Montenegro and the Empire of Japan

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Google

Declaration of war: Russo-Japanese War, 1904

De facto peace: 1905

De jure peace: 2006

In 1904, the Principality of Montenegro declared war against Japan in support of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War. Due to the extreme distances separating the two countries, neither country saw combat with the other.

As such, when Russia and Japan signed a peace treaty, the Principality of Montenegro was not included. However, following Montenegro’s secession from Serbia in 2006, Japanese officials visited the Balkan country to both recognize the country’s independence and to deliver a letter declaring the official end of the war between the states.

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What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

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How this Marine inched his way to knock out a Japanese machine gunner

On May 1, 1945, the 5th Marine Regiment arrived at the Shuri line in Okinawa, Japan, to support the war-torn 27th Army Infantry Division. As the Marines patrolled the dangerous area, a Japanese machine gunner opened fire on the incoming grunts, killing three and wounding a few others.


After taking cover, Sgt. Romus “R.V.” Burgin decided that he needed to take action and bring the fight to the enemy.

“I was with some of those Marines out there for two and a half years, and whenever somebody gets hit it’s just like your family,” Burgin states in an interview. “That’s when I decided he needed knocking out right quick.”

Related: This is how the first Asian-American Marine officer saved 8,000 men

At that moment, the Japanese machine gunner was completely hidden, and Burgin needed to locate the threat immediately. He knew what direction the incoming fire came from but he needed to acquire a proper distance to call in for support.

Burgin stepped out into the open and proceeded in the direction of the shooter, hoping to spot the enemy gunner’s muzzle flash — and making himself a target.

After a few steps, the brave Marine’s plan began to work, drawing the enemy’s fire once again. Burgin dodged the incoming fire, two rounds ripped through his dungarees — but the quick-footed Marine was safe.

Little did the Japanese gunner know, he’d just given away his position. Burgin spotted his target and called in the enemy’s coordinates for a mortar strike.

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

After the first round missed, the Marine made a slight adjustment and scored a direct hit with the second attempt.

“I got a direct hit with the second round. Machine gun went forward and the [enemy] went backwards,” he said.

Check out the American Heroes Channel‘s video to see this outstanding Marine take out an enemy gunner for yourself.

(American Heroes Channel, YouTube)
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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

When the check engine light comes on… U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeremiah Davidson with the 153rd Maintenance Group, Wyoming Air National Guard replaces a turbine overheat detector on a C-130H Hercules aircraft, Sep. 26, 2016 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

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U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Charles Delano

Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson

ARMY:

1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers buddy-carry a simulated casualty to a casualty collection point during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 11, 2016.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen

4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division paratroopers evacuate a simulated casualty during training conducted by U.S. Army Alaska at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 8, 2016.

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U.S. Army photo by Justin Connaher

NAVY:

CORONADO, Calif. (Nov. 14, 2016) The brightest moon in almost 69 years sets behind the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The ship is moored and homeported in San Diego. It is undergoing a scheduled Planned Maintenance Availability.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Abe McNatt

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 14, 2016) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 conducting an aerial refuel near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Nov. 15, 2016.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Brosilow from MCAS Cherry Point.

Dr. Ernest James Harris, Jr., a Montford Point Marine, received the Congressional Gold Medal on November 12.

“Anyone who knows a Marine, knows they are a Marine regardless of race, religion or creed and nowhere this is truer than in war.”

—U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Marine Corps photo

COAST GUARD:

Here is a portrait of one of our many courageous shipmates from Air Station Miami.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Hoisting operations. Thumbs up.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Articles

Here’s the trailer for “Dunkirk,” the first war film from the guy who directed “The Dark Knight”

Christopher Nolan has now applied his moody and precise visual style on World War II. The “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” director tells the story of the “Miracle at Dunkirk,” a large-scale evacuation that saved approximately 338,000 Allied troops.


Related: This is how the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’ saved World War II for the Allies

“Dunkirk” features frequent Nolan collaborator and “Mad Max: Fury Road” star Tom Hardy, Academy Award winner and “Bridge of Spies” star Mark Rylance, and Shakespeare master and robot-spider enthusiast Kenneth Branagh.

“Dunkirk” opens July 21, 2017. Watch the trailer below.

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Green Beret dies in accident during anti-Boko Haram mission

A Green Beret was killed in a Feb. 2 vehicle accident while deployed to Niger, We Are The Mighty has learned.


According to an Africa Command spokeswoman, Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas died and another Green Beret was wounded in the incident, which took place while they were traveling between military outposts in the West African nation.

“The service members were part of a small military team advising members of the Nigerien Armed Forces who are conducting counter-Boko Haram operations to bring stability to the Lake Chad Basin region,” Capt. Jennifer Dyrcz, a spokeswoman for United States Africa Command, said in an e-mail.  “This happened during a routine administrative movement between partner force outposts when the accident occurred. It is clear at this time enemy forces were not involved,”

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, Thomas was in Niger as part of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. Each Special Forces Group specializes in a different region of the world. The 3rd SFG specializes in operating Sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Niger.

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Warrant Officer 1 Shawn Thomas. (US Army photo)

“The cause and circumstances of the accident remain under investigation. We will release more details if and when appropriate,” Dyrcz added. “To be clear, we take accidents like this seriously, and will do everything we can to ensure the proper safety measures are in place to protect our service members.”

While Boko Haram is best known for its attacks in Nigeria — notably the kidnapping of over 200 girls from their school near Chibok in April 2014 — a State Department report from 2013 notes that the group has also operated in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Stars and Stripes reported that the United States military has been launching reconnaissance missions with unmanned aerial vehicles from the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

Nigeria carried out air strikes last August, killing some high-ranking members of the group. Last November, two couriers with the group were killed while in possession of a shopping list that included a number of libido enhancers and drugs to treat venereal disease.

Army Special Operations Command had not responded to e-mails requesting further details about the accident.

Articles

That time the US collected Soviet radar technology via the moon

A U-2 spyplane captured a strange photo in 1960; the Soviets had built a massive new antenna near a missile test range. The CIA and others immediately suspected that the array was part of a new radar system and wanted to figure out what its capabilities were, but it was deep in defended space.


So American intelligence decided to try a newly discovered option. In 1946, the U.S. Army Signal Corps had bounced communications signals off of the moon, proving that it had a suitable surface for relaying signals. The Navy spent the next decade building a system that would allow communications between far flung ships and bases by reflecting the signals off the moon.

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So the CIA, after they ruled out further collection by aircraft, decided for a literal moonshot. They would train highly sensitive antennas on the moon and wait for the Soviets to scan an object in front of the moon. When the radar energy that passed the target struck the moon and bounced back to the earth, the CIA could collect information from it to figure out how the new radar worked.

But the effort required truly massive receiving antennas. Most of the available antennas that would suffice were 150 feet wide and the best was a proposed 600-foot dish that was never completed. Even then, the CIA needed to get lucky and be looking at the same moment that the Soviet Union was using the radar in the direction of the moon.

They would get insanely lucky.

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Meanwhile, the Army and Air Force were just pissed that Russia was irradiating their future moon bases. (Illustration: U.S. Army Project Horizon)

The first break came in 1962 when the Soviet Union inadvertently reflected radar data out, not from the moon, but from their own atomic testing. The nuclear detonation created an ionized cloud that reflected signals and allowed some limited intercept.

In 1964, the CIA was able to start regularly collecting data from the Soviet site, dubbed the “Hen House Site,” after it reflected off the moon. A specially modified receiving station in Palo Alto, California, picked up the signals.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

To the surprise and delight of the CIA, the Russians began tracking the moon with the radar for practice, giving the U.S. up to 30 minutes at a time of continuous data. A CIA historical document detailing the effort said:

We expected to see a regular scanning, or “search” mode, and a tracking mode, where the beam follows a target. Both of these have been observed. In the latter, the Soviets, apparently just for practice, have set the radar to track the moon for as much as half an hour. This makes the intercept job much easier, as we then see the signal continuously rather than in short bursts as the beam swings by the moon.

The radar system was estimated to be quite sophisticated, capable of not only identifying and tracking individual targets but of tracking multiple targets and quickly switching focus between them. The system was so fast that the CIA felt confident it was controlled by a computer.

All in all, it made the system a serious threat to American efforts. It would later come to light that the system was designed to track and potentially defeat ballistic missiles. If successful, it could have negated the American nuclear deterrent.

Thanks to the efforts of the CIA, though, America was able to get a jump on the Russians and steal back the advantage.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (Aug. 13 edition)

Here’s the news:


Now: That time the Nazis invaded the US in 1942

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Britain is looking to robots for resupply under fire

Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.


Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.

But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.

To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.

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British forces may be able to asks robots for more ammo in the not-so-distant future. (Photo: US Army Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

There are guidelines for the competition, but the Ministry of Defence also put forward two vignettes to show the battlefield challenges it wants technology to overcome.

In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal
A new technology competition out of Britain wants to find ways to get supplies to troops under fire, making sure they always have enough ammo and medical supplies to get the job done. (Graphic: Crown Copyright)

The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.

The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.

For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.

Articles

This is what happens when you try to invade and conquer Russia

For centuries, many civilizations have tried (for one reason or another) to subdue or kill the Russian Bear.


Most of them failed.

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Those Mongols tho.

To successfully plant their flag atop the Kremlin, an invader must consider a few things that’ll certainly affect the outcome before mobilizing forces and gassing up the fleet.

1. The Russian Winter.

Pro Tip: Pack your woobie.

In 2014, Vice’s Oscar Rickett asked IHS Jane’s military expert Konrad Muzkya just what it would take to conquer Russia and just how a nation might go about it. His first question is one that sticks in the minds of any student of military history: How does anyone beat the Russian winter?

 

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In case you thought you could handle winter like a Russian, this is how they celebrate Epiphany in the Russian Orthodox Church.

With Napoleon and Hitler waiting with bated breath in the next world, Muzkya replies with his belief that guided munitions, nuclear weapons, and modern power projection capabilities nullify this historical advantage.

Related video:

 

“Any potential conflict with the West would most likely be fought in the air, space, and sea,” he told Vice. “Any use of land forces would be limited to capturing strategically important facilities — bridges, airfields, and the like.”

2. The size of Russia.

To give the failed invaders a little credit, the Russia conquered by the Mongols was a fraction of the size it was during the 19th and 20th centuries. But a little secret to the Mongols success might be preparation. The Khans took 17 years to finish off the Russians.

It wasn’t a lack of manpower, either. At the time of the French Invasion, Napoleon’s Grande Armée numbered 680,000 troops.

To give some perspective, that’s like deploying half of all the active U.S. military troops as riflemen. Which is a terrible idea.

Trying to conquer Russia is the equivalent of invading the U.S. twice, in terms of land mass. Just moving from St. Petersburg to Moscow is 400 miles. It took the Allies more than two months to reach Paris from the Normandy — which is just 167 miles away.

 

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(Business Insider)

Related: How long the US military would last against the rest of the world

Russia is 6.6 million square miles of cold, cold, cold, nothing. Which presents another problem entirely.

3. There’s nothing there.

Everything after Moscow is flyover country. An invading country can’t just not go into the steppe. Once the Russian people figured out the occupiers won’t go into the wilderness, that’s exactly where the insurgency will take root.

 

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This is what you’re fighting for. Are you prepared for that?

Even getting to all the nothing will take a Herculean effort. The Russian Army mans an estimated 280,000 effective fighting soldiers. When the going gets tough, it has to be assumed they will use the same human wave-style tactics used against the Nazis in WWII.

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And there’s a lot of nothing in the Steppe, which is highlighted in light blue.

What was a problem in the past for armies who had to forage for food or move supplies by train is not a problem for a global power like the U.S. military. All the same, after Moscow, there isn’t much in the way of infrastructure for things like tanks or places suitable for airfields — all things insurgent partisans in the area will have a field day targeting.

4. One thing at a time.

Anyone who wants to invade Russia should probably clear their schedule. The Mongols drove through the country because it was on the way to where they were going anyway. The Nazis were still fighting in North Africa and preparing for the invasion of Britain when Hitler launched Barbarossa. Napoleon was fighting an insurgency of his own in Spain.

National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

The United States and NATO, if they were to invade Russia, should probably withdraw from all the other conflicts they have around the world and concentrate on the problem at hand. Once there, keeping a unified front would be of the utmost importance.

An invader shouldn’t expect to actually conquer anything. In almost every invasion of their motherland, the Russian people have resorted to scorched-earth tactics — burning or otherwise destroying everything that might be of use to an enemy. As Muzkya notes in the Vice article, the Russians still move troops using trains. That hasn’t changed since WWII. It’s likely not much else has either.

5. Bring some friends … and an Air Force.

Muzkya cites an estimate of a half-million troops being necessary to properly subdue Afghanistan. He also notes that Russia is 26 times the size of Afghanistan and has a population of 143 million. Afghanistan has just 30 million. Even the Chinese military with its massive available manpower would have a difficult time creating a sustainable drive across Russia.

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But a military campaign is more than just people these days. The Russian Navy can’t project power in the same way the U.S. can – or anyone else, really. The country has only one aircraft carrier, and that deploys with a tugboat in case it breaks down.

The Russian air force, however, is still on the relative cutting edge, even if that edge isn’t as sharp as it once was. It has a fighter that can compete with the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Russia’s bomber force isn’t relevant in a defensive war because it’s more likely they’d use a nuclear attack before a conventional bombing campaign on their own soil.

6. Be prepared to die.

As for the use of nuclear weapons, Muzkya says that Russia has the right to use them to defend itself and any invader needs to be prepared for that.

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“Russia possesses second-strike capability,” he says. “And unless you’re ready to take a nuclear hit from Russia — which no one can — you need to embrace the notion of a total annihilation of your country.”

He predicts that Russia – all 6.6 million square miles of it – would be turned into a nuclear wasteland in the event of an invasion from China or the West, so talking about who wins is irrelevant.

Because everyone dies.

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