For over 20 years, American warfighters have worn the Joint Services Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) on the battlefield and during training for their CBRN protection. But its days are numbered. Brought into service in the 1990’s and now nearing the end of its shelf life, the JSLIST will be replaced by the Uniform Integrated Protective Ensemble, Increment 2 (UIPE II) in the very near future. What will UIPE II look like? That’s not certain at the moment, but there are some new technologies and advancements that are likely to have an impact:
Better materials – Anyone who has worn the JSLIST remembers the black powder residue that coated your skin and uniform after taking it off. That’s because it had layers of activated charcoal that consisted mostly of carbon. Nowadays, carbon beads are all the rage and can provide adequate protection at a lighter weight.
Lamination of materials – A recent breakthrough in research proved that removing the air gap between layers of materials can lower the thermal burden on the soldier by a large margin. Picture this…future CBRN suits will most likely be layers of materials. So if you have an outer shell, a carbon bead layer, an aerosol barrier, and a comfort liner sewn together in one suit, the thin layers of air in between those materials will heat up. But laminating them together squeezes out all the air and ends up making the soldier cooler. And not just a little, but a lot. That’s huge.
Undergarments – Using the same concept as lamination, undergarments can keep the warfighter cooler than an overgarment by removing the air next to the skin. Research has shown that wearing an undergarment as close to the skin as possible reduces the heat stress. It will take some getting used to, but the UIPE increment 1 suit consists of an undergarment under the duty uniform and is being fielded now.
Conformal fit – Once again, getting rid of all that air brings the temperature down, so a closer fitting uniform with less material reduces the thermal burden on the warfighter while also reducing the potential for snagging on surfaces as he does his mission.
Better seams and closures – Contamination doesn’t get through a suit unless it has a path and those paths are almost always along seams and closures. Seams and closures are frequently the weakest points that allow particles to get through, but several advancements will counter that.
Omniphobic coatings – Have you ever seen that video of ketchup rolling off a dress shirt? Well, it’s out there and it works. Now think of how effective that concept can be for chemical agents. If 50% of the agent sheds off the uniform and falls to the ground before it has a chance to soak into the suit, that’s half the contamination that can reach the trooper. Omniphobic coatings are still in their early stages of development, but they could be game changers when matured.
Composite materials – Just because you can make a suit out of one material doesn’t mean you should. Future suits will have different materials in different areas, like stretchy woven fabrics in the torso (where body armor is) and knit materials that offer less stretch but more protection in the arms and legs.
Overall lower thermal burden – Here’s where the money is. Almost all of these factors contribute to the one big advantage everyone who’s ever worn MOPP 4 wants to hear – less heat stress – which equates to warfighters being able to stay in the suit and do their jobs longer with a lower chance of being a heat casualty. Break out the champagne.
Flame resistance – Because catching on fire sucks. Most uniforms these days have flame resistant coatings or fabrics, but therein lies the challenge. When you add up all the other technologies, the big question is how do you do it all? How do you coat a suit with omniphobics and flame resistance while also laminating composite materials, making it conformal fitting and lowering the thermal burden while also providing an adequate level of CBRN protection, which is the most important aspect of all? Really smart people are working on that.
A family of suits – Common sense tells us one size does not fit all. The DoD has a history of procuring one suit for everyone, like the JSLIST is now fielded to all warfighters. But slowly that has been changing. Everyone has a different job to do while wearing CBRN suits. Some warfighters need a low level of protection for a short period of time while others need more protection for longer periods. A family of suits instead of one is the answer.
MOPP 4 sucks. It’s just a basic tenet of warfighting. We embrace the suck and drive on, but with the progress CBRN suits have made recently, we won’t have to embrace quite as much suck as before.
When you stop and think about it for any length of time, it seems a miracle that the global economy spins on as well as it does. As the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has shown, any decent disruption to the global supply chain causes ripples from tourism to iPhone supply that cost billions. Nevertheless, there’s a level of resilience in the global economy, and even though predictions are sounding dire, there isn’t quite panic in the streets yet. So, if you really wanted to cause global havoc and cause your enemies to suffer, what would it cost? Billions? Trillions? Or maybe just the price of a second-hand car? Enter the sea mine.
More than 90% of global trade occurs by sea. This makes strategic maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb in the Middle East, some of the most strategically important patches of water on earth. Close one or two of those down for any length of time, and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. This fact is not lost on most major players—hence the military patrols, diplomatic negotiations and international conventions in place to try to mitigate risks to these vulnerable spots.
You’d think it would take something pretty expensive and sophisticated to circumvent these controls, but no. A sea mine is cheap, easy to use, and highly effective at blockading chokepoints. The simplest types of sea mines—variations on the classic spiky ball bobbing in the water—cost only a few thousand dollars but can stop shipping in its tracks.
Iran famously mined the Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s for that very reason, and appeared to be repeating similar tactics last year in both mine and torpedo attacks on tankers traversing the Strait of Hormuz as the sabre-rattling with the US heated up. The Houthis in Yemen are doing their own mining in the Red Sea, ostensibly to protect their ports from Saudi attack. However, in recent weeks, an Egyptian fishing boat in the Red Sea reportedly struck a Houthi mine, killing three of its six crew, and there are reports of Houthi-laid mines drifting off from their original sites and heading who knows where.
The effectiveness of sea mines as a strategic tool lies not just in their immediate threat to an individual ship, but in the time and cost that must go into clearing waters suspected of harbouring mines. Such operations, even in a relatively limited area, can take weeks, months or even years. Australian operations to support mine clearance in Kuwait after the first Gulf War in 1991, for example, stretched for almost five months, searched two square kilometres and dealt with 60 mines. For comparison, the Bab el Mandeb chokepoint is 29 kilometres across at its narrowest point and stretches down some 500 kilometres of Yemeni coastline. And the Houthis may have access to hundreds or even thousands of mines.
The Strait of Hormuz is a slightly roomier 39 kilometres across, but with exponentially higher volumes of oil and gas trade squeezing through its narrow waters. If the sea lines of communication of the Middle East were shut for any length of time, the results for the global supply chain could be catastrophic. To put it in perspective, the Kuwaiti mine-clearance operation of a couple of square kilometres took months; Australia’s current strategic oil reserves, which are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern supply via Singapore, would last around 28 days. Even if Australia reached internationally mandated minimum fuel reserves of 90 days, that’s still well short of the time the Kuwait operation took.
There isn’t even a lot of legal limitation on employing sea mines. Unlike with land mines, there are no treaties in place to ban the use of sea mines, or even a clear definition what counts as one. Given the ubiquity and longevity of mines, there’s plausible deniability in laying a few Soviet-era sea mines here and there.
But how likely is it really that someone will employ sea mines to stop the world? If you’re a state reliant on the global supply chain for your own existence, the answer is: not very. Moored or floating mines in the Strait of Hormuz would do as much (or more) damage to Iran’s economy and geopolitical standing as they would to anyone else’s, and Iran’s leadership is well aware of that. Most non-state actors that have access to such mines are hesitant to use them offensively for similar reasons.
But what about someone with nothing to lose, poor impulse control or a dangerous combination of both? An officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or a Houthi leader with a halfway-decent sense of strategy and self-preservation would probably baulk at more aggressive use of sea mines in high-profile locations. But IRGC Quds Force leader and key regional networker Qassem Soleimani is dead, US President Donald Trump is surrounded by advisers intent on backing Iran into a corner, and Iran’s Houthi partners are on the offensive and have a history of using cheap weaponry to great effect.
This isn’t the time to be watching the strategist who stockpiles a thousand mines; this is the time to be watching the zealot who only wants one.
After the US downed a Syrian jet making a bombing run on US-backed forces fighting ISIS, Russia threatened to target US and US-led coalition planes West of the Euphrates river in Syria.
But while Russia has some advanced surface-to-air missile systems and very agile fighter aircraft in Syria, it wouldn’t fare well in what would be a short, brutal air war against the US.
The US keeps an aircraft carrier with dozens of F/A-18E fighters aboard in the Mediterranean about all the time and hundreds of F-15s and F-16s scattered around Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan.
According to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, Russia has “about 25 planes, only about ten of which are dedicated to air superiority (Su-35s and Su-30s), and against that they’ll have to face fifth-gen stealth fighters, dozens of strike fighters, F-15s, F-16s, as well as B-1 and B-52 bombers. And of course the vast US Navy and pretty much hundreds of Tomahawks.”
“Russians have a lot of air defenses, they’re not exactly defenseless by any means,” Lamrani told Business Insider, “But the US has very heavy air superiority.” Even though individual Russian platforms come close to matching, and in some ways exceed the capability of US jets, it comes down to numbers.
So if Russia did follow through with its threat, and target a US aircraft that did not back down West of the Euphrates in Syria, and somehow managed to shoot it down, then what?
“The US coalition is very cautious,” said Lamrani. “The whole US coalition is on edge for any moves from Russia at this point.”
Lamrani also said that while F/A-18Es are more visible and doing most of the work, the US keeps a buffer of F-22 stealth jets between its forces and Russia’s. If Russia did somehow manage to shoot down a US or US-led coalition plane, a US stealth jet would probably return fire before it ever reached the base.
At that point the Russians would have a moment to think very critically if they wanted to engage with the full might of the US Air Force after the eye-for-an-eye shoot downs.
If US surveillance detected a mass mobilization of Russian jets in response to the back-and-forth, the US wouldn’t just wait politely for Russians to get their planes in the sky so they can fight back.
Instead, a giant salvo of cruise missiles would pour in from the USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group, much like the April 7 strike on Syria’s Sharyat air base. But this time, the missiles would have to saturate and defeat Russia’s missile defenses first, which they could do by sheer numbers if not using electronic attack craft.
Then, after neutering Russia’s defenses, the ships could target the air base, not only destroying planes on the ground but also tearing up the runways, so no planes could take off. At this point US and Coalition aircraft would have free reign to pass overhead and completely devastate Russian forces.
Russia would likely manage to score a couple intercepts and even shoot down some US assets, but overall the Russian contingent in Syria cannot stand up to the US, let alone the entire coalition of nations fighting ISIS.
Russia also has a strong Navy that could target US air bases in the region, but that would require Russia to fire on Turkey, Jordan, and Qatar, which would be politically and technically difficult for them.
This scenario of a hypothetical air war is exceedingly unlikely. Russia knows the numbers are against them and it would “not [be] so easy for the Russians to decide to shoot down a US aircraft,” according to Lamrani.
And Russia wouldn’t risk so much over Syria, which is not an existential defense interest for them, but a foreign adventure to distract from Russia’s stalled economy and social problems, according to Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia’s foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Russia is not a great power by most measures, like GDP, population, living standard,” Borshchevskaya told Business Insider. “Russia has steadily declined. It’s still a nuclear power, but not world power.”
In Syria, “a lot of what Putin is doing is about domestic policies,” said Borshchevskaya, and to have many Russian servicemen killed in a battle with a US-led coalition fighting ISIS wouldn’t serve his purposes domestically or abroad.
Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.
The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.
Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.
Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)
The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.
On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.
Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.
In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.
In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.
Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.
The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”
Regimes rise and fall. The Roman Empire lies in ruins and most of the former European colonies have regained their independence. Yet, each of these regimes leaves a long-lasting print on the land they rule. By shaping the laws, the economy and the livelihood of the inhabitants’ leaders control the culture. Some of these legacies are so beneficial that they endure through history. For example, the democracy of Ancient Greece is the foundation of many modern Western governments. Other leaderships shape their country for the worst, leaving nothing but poverty, instability and oppression behind. Those regimes, covert tyrannies or open dictatorships, are often lead by the incompetent or the uncaring. Those that rule with an iron fist and refuse to allow any opposition from threatening their position. When personal power is more important than the good of the people, the entire country pays the price.
When thinking of Iran, one pictures Sharia law, bearded men and women covered from head to toe. Yet, this image of the country is less than fifty years old. Unlike many dictatorships, Iran is not an underdeveloped country. The setback brought about by the Islamic Revolution has more to do with human rights than with the economy. The economy has not suffered much from the change of regime. On the other hand, the population and particularly the women and the LGBTQ+ community, have had to face immense difficulties. Before 1979, Iranian women enjoyed rights equal to those of the Western countries.
Women were an important part of the workforce. They had roles in politics and art, and even gained the right to vote in 1963. Most of these rights were reversed by the new theocratic government. Women who do not respect the oppressive Sharia law face fines, lashes, jail time or even death, depending on the gravity of the offence. Homosexuality is outlawed and punishable by death. Political repression is severe and the use of torture or imprisonment without trial is common against dissidents. No music, film, book or cultural support can be created and distributed without official permission. Freedoms of speech and press are non-existent. The development of a country is not only measured by the economy, and although Iran’s GDP is growing, it’s defined by its systematic violation of basic human rights.
2. North Korea
What better example of the consequences of tyranny than comparing the development of two neighboring countries with a common history and culture but who are now ruled by very different regimes. Korea was split in two at the end of WWII in 1945. Kim Il Sung came into power in North Korea in 1948. His failed attempt at reuniting the two countries in 1950 resulted in a bloody war that left both Koreas devastated. Although at the beginning of his rule, North Korea was able to expand its economy, to the extend that economist Joan Robinson called it a “miracle,” that trend stopped in the 1970s. Kim Il Sung consolidated his power and instituted a cult of his person, turning himself into a god-like figure.
His seat and status were passed down to his son, Kim Jong Il, and his grandson, Kim Jong Un, current president of North Korea. Their successive authoritarian rule has led to possibly the worst human rights track record in the world. According to the UN “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” Compared to the technologically and humanely advanced South Korea, North Korea has an obsolete and decrepit infrastructure. Its people face chronic power outages, shortages of food and basic necessities, and a total absence of the most basic freedoms. There, to disagree is to condemn three generations of one’s own family to hard labor or death. The reunification of the two Koreas, two parts of the same original country, still seems a very long way down the road.
The legacy of Omar Al-Bashir, former leader of Sudan, is a bloody ethnic cleansing in Darfur and a country broken in half. Al-Bashir orchestrated a coup in 1989, only four years after the previous dictator, Gaafar Nimeiry, was ousted from power. If Nimeiry had caused the economic ruin of the country through indiscriminate borrowing, he brought about ten years of peace and stability – before encouraging conflict between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north by attempting to impose the Sharia law. On the other hand, Al-Bashir was able to somewhat stimulate growth in the country, but his brutal regime was marked by gruesome conflicts. The war in Darfur, which started in 2003, is an armed conflict between ethnicities that is regarded as attempted genocide.
It led to a major humanitarian crisis, as civilian populations were the primary targets of attacks from either side. Al-Bashir’s government was accused of financing some of the rebel groups. South Sudan took its independence in 2011 to break away from Al-Bashir’s rule but remained in a state of unrest due to its violent past. Since the end of Al-Bashir’s tyranny in 2019, the new government has abolished the Sharia law and is working towards democracy. However, the inflation that started in 2012 has seriously damaged the economy and the conflict in Darfur hasn’t stopped. Sudan still has a long way to go to find peace again.
One of the most recent examples of a country’s fall to dictatorship is Venezuela. Until a few years ago, it was the richest country in South America. Its economy has now completely collapsed and the current president Nicolas Maduro has become an autocrat. Amidst the worst economical crisis the country has ever known, Maduro leads a reign of terror on journalists, protestors, and his opponents. In 2017, at least 46 protestors were killed by the government security forces.
Meanwhile, the people are dying from starvation and a sharp increase in malaria cases. The inflation has gone up over 1,300,000% since Maduro’s election in 2012, while the GDP growth in 2018 was -16%. It hasn’t been positive since 2012. The people of Venezuela now have no money, no jobs, no medicine, no food — and no freedom. It is difficult to see a way out. The country’s leader is more concerned about staying in power than he is about his citizens’ wellbeing.
Zimbabwe was once called the “breadbasket of Africa.” It was the second-largest economy on the African continent after Egypt. When Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980, its agricultural products were widely exported, feeding people all over Africa. Unfortunately, the reign of Mugabe has led the country to economical ruin. It is estimated that $1 billion out of its $13 billion annual GDP is lost to the corruption of Mugabe’s government. Although the country boasts one of the best educational systems in Africa, the graduates have no place to go as the unemployment rate reaches 80%, the highest in Africa.
Hyperinflation is so severe that local currency is worthless and has been replaced by U.S. dollars or South African rands. Mugabe has encouraged the expulsion and the murders of white farmers, leaving large areas of arable lands unexploited or in the care of incompetent hands. This lead to massive shortages in food and other commodities. The only reason Mugabe has been able to stay in power until November 2017 is because of the brutality of his regime. Through corruption, intimidation and violence, he has won election after election, all the while stealing the country’s resources and leading the once fertile country of Zimbabwe to ruin.
One day in 1964, TV producer Sherwood Schwartz received a strange message – from the U.S. Coast Guard. And that wasn’t the only message. Schwartz received a series of telegram forwards from the Coast Guard. He had just launched a new show on CBS about seven castaways stranded on a desert island…and Americans were demanding that the Coast Guard mount a rescue.
In a paper for the Center for Media Literacy, William F. Fore wrote that Schwartz was “mystified” by the telegrams. Concerned and delusional viewers were angry that the Coast Guard couldn’t spare one ship to send for those people.
“For several weeks, now, we have seen American citizens stranded on some Pacific island,” one viewer wrote to the Coast Guard. “We spend millions in foreign aid. Why not send one U.S. destroyer to rescue those poor people before they starve to death?”
Part of what was mystifying to the producer was the existence of a laugh track on the show.
“Who did they think was laughing at the survivors of the wreck of the U.S.S. Minnow?” Schwartz told Entertainment Weekly. “It boggled my mind. Where did they think the music came from, and the commercials?”
In his book “Inside Gilligan’s Island,” Schwartz recalled discovering the telegrams for the first time. When the show was only ten weeks old, Schwartz received a call from a Commander Doyle of the U.S. Coast Guard. Having spent time in the Army as a Corporal, Schwartz was still impressed by rank, and took the call.
Doyle told Schwartz he would tell him the important message over the phone, but he wasn’t sure the Hollywood producer would believe him. So a few days later, Doyle was in Schwartz’ office, presenting the producer with a number of envelopes containing messages, like the one above, demanding to rescue the Minnow.
The telegrams he received from Doyle stayed with Schwartz his whole life. He noted that there is a subset of people watching who believe everything they see.
“It seems to me a great opportunity for producers to accentuate the positive in those viewers,” Schwartz wrote, “Instead of inspiring the negative.”
The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built for the United States Air Force Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstrator program, under the USAF Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology project portfolio.
Artificial Intelligence refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, for example — recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action — whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.
The Air Force is utilizing AI in multiple efforts and products tackling aspects of operations from intelligence fusion to Joint All Domain Command and Control, enabling autonomous and swarming systems and speeding the processes of deciding on targets and acting on information gleaned from sensors.
An illustration depicting the future integration of the Air Force enabling fusion warfare, where huge sets of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data are collected, analyzed by artificial intelligence and utilized by Airmen and the joint force in a seamless process to stay many steps ahead of an adversary. Illustration // AFRL
Sensors are data collection points, which could be anything from a wearable device or vehicle, all the way up to an unmanned aerial vehicle or satellite. Anything that collects information, across all domains, helps comprise the “Internet of Battlefield Things.”
This mass amount of data is processed and analyzed using AI, which has the ability to speed up the decision-making process at the operational, tactical and strategic levels for the Air Force.
Dr. Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, stands in the Human Autonomy Lab where research focuses on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence.
“The world around us is changing at a pace faster than ever before. New technologies are emerging that are fundamentally altering how we think about, plan and prepare for war,” said Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper. “Whichever nation harnesses AI first will have a decisive advantage on the battlefield for many, many years. We have to get there first.”
In 2019, the Air Force released its Annex to the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy, highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence capabilities to 21st century missions.
The strategy serves as the framework for aligning Air Force efforts with the National Defense Strategy and the Department of Defense Artificial Intelligence Strategy as executed by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. It details the fundamental principles, enabling functions and objectives necessary to effectively manage, maneuver and lead in the digital age.
“In this return to great power competition, the United States Air Force will harness and wield the most representative forms of AI across all mission-sets, to better enable outcomes with greater speed and accuracy, while optimizing the abilities of each and every Airman,” wrote then-Acting Secretary of the Air Force Donovan and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in the annex. “We do this to best protect and defend our nation and its vital interests, while always remaining accountable to the American public.”
The personnel chiefs for the Navyand Marine Corps revealed Tuesday that both services are considering updating their policies to require mandatory processing for administrative separation for troops found to have engaged in abusive social media activity, a move that would make online violations akin to drug use and sexual assault.
Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com that a task force organized to address the aftermath of a social media scandal implicating Marines is considering the option.
The scandal centers on a private Facebook page called Marines United, where hundreds of active-duty troops and reservists apparently viewed and exchanged nude and compromising photos of female service members without their consent. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the illicit activity has since expanded beyond the page to other groups and users, NCIS officials said last week.
“There is mandatory processing for administrative separation in a number of different cases. Use of drugs requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual harassment requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual assault requires mandatory administrative processing,” Brilakis said, following a congressional hearing on military social media policies on Capitol Hill.
“We are considering whether events wrapped up in Marines United, those things, would rise to the level where the commandant would recommend or direct me to begin mandatory administrative processing for separation,” he said.
Processing does not guarantee that an individual will be separated from the service, but it does direct that the relevant commander begin a review, and an administrative board review the case of the service member in question. Such a move would require a change to the Marine Corps separations manual, Brilakis said.
The Navy, which organized a senior leader working group in the wake of the scandal, is considering a similar step, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel Tuesday.
“We are reviewing the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and Navy policy governing mandatory administrative separation to ensure they are adequate,” he said.
The fact that both services are considering such a move, reserved for violations for which the military has a zero-tolerance policy, underscores how seriously the military is now addressing the problem of social media harassment and the pressure from lawmakers to produce results fast.
Similar policies implemented in the 1980s to combat drug use in the services resulted in a huge reduction. According to Defense Department statistics, 47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995. More recently, the military has worked to apply the same approach to sexual harassment and assault, though the results to date have been more muted.
The policy reviews come as multiple lawmakers express outrage at service members’ alleged behavior and call for decisive action.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire, called on the military to boot offenders, reading aloud from an enlistment document that states troops will be subject to separation if their behavior falls short of military standards.
“I don’t know why we have to debate and you tell them at the very beginning and you sign off saying their behaviors are unacceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to then pursue many various avenues. Do you still have the power to throw them out if it’s very clear they can’t do this?”
Brilakis, however, emphasized that everyone in uniform deserves due process and will continue to receive it.
“Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes,” he said.
United States Naval Academy midshipmen take a course titled “Ethics for Military Leaders” during their third class (sophomore) year. Among the topics they deal with is the utilitarian calculus behind the first use of nuclear weapons.
The decision to drop the nuclear bomb that killed tens of thousands of the civilian inhabitants of the city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 was made while the United States was at war with Japan. Henry L. Stimson, the American Secretary of War at the time, later explained that he advised President Truman to drop the bomb on the basis of utilitarian reasoning.
I felt that to extract a genuine surrender from the Emperor and his military advisers, they must be administered a tremendous shock which would carry convincing proof of our power to destroy the Empire. Such an effective shock would save many times the number of lives, both American and Japanese. . . . The face of war is the face of death; death is an inevitable part of every order that a wartime leader gives. The decision to use the atomic bomb was a decision that brought death to over a hundred thousand Japanese. . . . But this deliberate, premeditated destruction was our lease abhorrent choice.
Objecting to this kind of utilitarian justification for killing the inhabitant of cities with nuclear weapons, philosopher-theologian John C. Ford wrote:
Is it permissible, in order to win a just war, to wipe out such an area with death or grave injury, resulting indiscriminately, to the majority of its ten million inhabitants? In my opinion the answer must be in the negative . . . it is never permitted to kill directly noncombatants in wartime. Why? Because they are innocent. That is, they are innocent of the violent and destructive action of war, or of any close participation in the violent and destructive action of war.
So what do you think? Is killing the innocent always wrong, no matter what the consequences? Would you side with Stimson or Ford about the morality of dropping the bomb? Do you agree that in some circumstances the use of nuclear weapons is morally permissible?
And a tenet of Utilitarianism is that each person counts for one and only one. On this view then is there a difference between the moral worth of the lives of a civilian and a combatant? Should there be a difference?
A U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government told the AP that talks about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq were ongoing.
The U.S. official emphasized that discussions were in early stages and that “nothing has been finalized.” Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In his statement, Haider al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once IS militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges.”
While some U.S. forces are carrying out combat operations with Iraqi forces on and beyond front lines in the fight against IS, al-Abadi has maintained that the forces are acting only as advisers, apparently to get around a required parliamentary approval for their presence.
Any forces who remained would continue to be designated as advisers for the same reason, the Iraqi government official had told the AP.
Regardless of how the troops are designated, talks about maintaining American forces in Iraq point to a consensus by both governments that a longer-term U.S. presence in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once IS militants are driven out — a contrast to the full U.S. withdrawal in 2011.
Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000, before the complete withdrawal in 2011.
The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since expanded, given the Iraqi forces’ need for support.
There are few things in the world so sacred they’re guarded 24/7/365 by armed sentinels. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery certainly qualifies as hallowed grounds. Consequently, when a woman ignores the “Do Not Cross” signs, squeezes past the barriers and tries to get a selfie, the Sentinels act REAL QUICK to put her in her place. We’re not exactly sure when this video was taken (although the ever-reliable folks on reddit tell us this is “new video footage”) but the moral of the story is always the same: Respect the fallen. Read signs. Obey armed guards.
If you’ve never seen the changing of the Guards or visited Arlington National Cemetery, try to find a way. It’s one of life’s most humbling, incredible places. Just make sure you read the signs.
Through the ages, one of the consequences of warfare has been large numbers of unidentified dead. Sometimes unidentified remains resulted from poor record keeping, the damage that weapons of war inflicted on bodies, or the haste required to bury the dead and mark gravesites. In the United States prior to the Civil War, unidentified remains were often buried in mass graves. At Arlington National Cemetery, these include unknown soldiers and sailors from the War of 1812 who were discovered buried at the Washington Navy Yard and reburied at Arlington National Cemetery in 1905.
During the Civil War (1861-1865), high casualty rates and lack of personal identification led to large numbers of unknowns originally buried along marching routes or battlefields. The system of national cemeteries was established in 1862 to ensure the proper burial of all service members. Still, many unknown remains were recovered in the years following the Civil War. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are individual Civil War unknown burials as well as the remains of 2,111 Union and Confederate soldiers buried beneath the Tomb of the Civil War Unknowns. While exact numbers are unknown, estimates indicate that nearly half of the Civil War dead were never identified.
During the Spanish-American War (1898), the U.S. military’s policy was to repatriate (return to the United States) the bodies of service members who died abroad. New Army regulations required that soldiers be buried in temporary graves with identifying information. The Army’s Quartermaster Corps, which oversaw burials and repatriation of bodies, employed a burial corps. Identification rates went up to significantly.
World War I and the Creation of the Tomb
During World War I, U.S. service members received aluminum identification discs, the precursors to “dog tags,” to aid the process of identifying remains. The War Department created a new unit in the Quartermaster Corps, the Graves Registration Service, to oversee burials. During and after World War I, however, Americans debated whether bodies should be repatriated. With more than 100,000 U.S. casualties (compared to fewer than 3,000 in the Spanish-American War), repatriation was more challenging.
France and Great Britain, which suffered significantly higher casualties and more unknown dead than did the United States, barred repatriation of their citizens’ remains. To ease the grief of their citizens, France and Great Britain each repatriated and buried one unknown soldier on Armistice Day, November 11, 1920. Great Britain buried its Unknown Warrior inside Westminster Abbey in London, and France buried its Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. These unknowns would stand in for other British and French service members whose remains could not be identified.
The American policy, by contrast, gave options to families of the war dead. If requested by the next of kin, the remains of service members who died in Europe would be transported to anywhere in the United States at no cost to the family. Or, families could choose to bury their dead at permanent U.S. military cemeteries to be established in Europe.
In December 1920, New York Congressman and World War I veteran Hamilton Fish Jr. proposed legislation that provided for the interment of one unknown American soldier at a special tomb to be built in Arlington National Cemetery. The purpose of the legislation was “to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race in the late war and who typifies, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead.”
In October 1921, four bodies of unidentified U.S. military personnel were exhumed from different American military cemeteries in France. On October 23, 1921, the four caskets arrived at the city hall of Châlons-sur-Marne (now called Châlons-en-Champagne), France.
Town officials and members of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps had prepared the city hall for the selection ceremony. Early on the morning of October 24, 1921, Maj. Robert P. Harbold of the Quartermaster Corps, aided by French and American soldiers, rearranged the caskets so that each rested on a shipping case other than the one in which it had arrived. Major Harbold then chose Sgt. Edward F. Younger of Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 50th Infantry, American Forces in Germany, to select the Unknown Soldier. Sgt. Younger selected the Unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets.
From Châlons-sur-Marne, the Unknown journeyed by caisson and rail to the port town of Le Havre, France. From Le Havre, the USS Olympia transported the Unknown Soldier’s casket to Washington, D.C. The Unknown arrived at the Washington Navy Yard on November 9, 1921. After arriving in Washington, D.C. on November 9, 1921, the Unknown lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. About 90,000 visitors paid their respects during the public visiting period on November 10, 1921.
On November 11, 1921, the Unknown was placed on a horse-drawn caisson and carried in a procession through Washington, D.C. and across the Potomac River. A state funeral ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery’s new Memorial Amphitheater, and the Unknown was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Nationwide, Americans observed two minutes of silence at the beginning of the ceremony. President Warren G. Harding officiated at the ceremony and placed the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military decoration, on the casket. Numerous foreign dignitaries presented their nations’ highest awards, as well.
Originally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier consisted of a simple marble slab. During its early years, thousands of visitors came to Arlington National Cemetery to mourn at the Tomb and to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier and the military personnel he represented.
The Tomb sarcophagus is decorated with three wreaths on each side panel (north and south). On the front (east), three figures represent Peace, Victory and Valor. The back (west) features the inscription: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
World War II and Korean War Unknowns
Following World War II, some Americans supported the idea of interring and honoring an Unknown from that war. However, the start of the Korean War in 1950 delayed those plans. In August 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the selection and interment of Unknowns from both World War II and Korea.
Fought on four continents, World War II complicated the selection of an Unknown. The chosen Unknown needed to represent all unidentified American dead, not just those from one theater of the war. In 1958, the Army exhumed 13 bodies from military cemeteries across North Africa and Europe and brought them to the Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial in France. On May 12, 1958, Major General Edward J. O’Neill placed a red and white wreath on one of the 13 caskets, selecting the Unknown who would represent the Trans-Atlantic (Europe and North Africa) Theater of World War II. The selected casket was then taken aboard USS Blandy for its journey to the United States.
To represent the Pacific Theater of World War II, the Army exhumed five bodies from Fort McKinley American Cemetery in the Philippines (now called Manila American Cemetery) and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (“The Punch Bowl”) in Hawaii. At the same time, they exhumed four bodies from the Korean War that were also buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. All nine caskets were brought to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. On May 15, 1958, Army Master Sergeant Ned Lyle selected the Korean War Unknown. The next day, Air Force Colonel Glenn T. Eagleston selected the World War II Trans-Pacific Unknown. Both caskets were flown to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being loaded aboard the USS Boston.
The USS Blandy and USS Boston met the USS Canberra off the coast of Virginia. On May 26, 1958, all three caskets were placed on the deck of the Canberra, with the Korean War Unknown placed between the two World War II Unknowns. Navy Hospital Corpsman 1st Class William R. Charette, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, then selected the World War II Unknown. The caskets of the World War II and Korean War Unknowns were then transported to Washington, D.C. aboard the USS Blandy, while the remaining World War II Unknown received a solemn burial at sea.
Both Unknowns arrived in Washington, D.C. on May 28, 1958 and lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for two days. Two days later, the Unknowns were transported to Arlington National Cemetery and interred in crypts to the west of the World War I Unknown.
Vietnam War Unknown
Before the Vietnam War ended, Arlington National Cemetery began making preparations to add a third crypt to the Tomb. However, many people believed that advances in technology would mean that all remains from Vietnam could eventually be identified.
In response to mounting political pressure to recognize a Vietnam War unknown, President Jimmy Carter and Max Cleland, Administrator of the United States Veteran Administration and a Vietnam veteran, dedicated a bronze plaque honoring American service members in the Vietnam War on Veterans Day, November 11, 1978, at Memorial Amphitheater.
By May 1984, only one set of recovered American remains from Vietnam had not been fully identified. In a ceremony held at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on May 17, 1984, Medal of Honor recipient Marine Corps Sergeant Major Allan Jay Kellogg, Jr. designated the remains as the Vietnam War Unknown. The casket was then transported to Travis Air Force Base, California aboard the USS Brewton.
In California, the Vietnam War Unknown was loaded on a C-141B Starlifter and flown to Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. The Vietnam War Unknown lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda from May 25 to 28, 1984. On Memorial Day, May 28, a military procession transported the casket to Arlington National Cemetery for burial. On Memorial Day 1984, President Ronald Reagan presided over the interment ceremony at Arlington. In his eulogy, Reagan assured the audience that the government would continue looking for the Vietnam War’s missing in action (MIA) personnel. Meanwhile, the Vietnam War Unknown would lay at rest at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for almost 14 years.
The Department of Defense and civilian partners continued working to identify remains recovered from Vietnam. Through these efforts, they reviewed evidence that suggested the Vietnam War Unknown was likely Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, a pilot who had been shot down in 1972. At the request of Blassie’s family, the Department of Defense exhumed the remains from the Vietnam Unknown’s crypt on May 14, 1998. Using DNA testing, scientists positively identified the remains as those of Blassie. In accordance with the wishes of his family,
Blassie was reinterred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri. The crypt designated for the Vietnam War Unknown remains vacant. On September 17, 1999 — National POW/MIA Recognition Day — it was rededicated to honor all missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.
Guarding the Tomb
In March 1926, soldiers from nearby Fort Myer were first assigned to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The guards, present only during daylight hours, discouraged visitors from climbing or stepping on the Tomb. In 1937, the guards became a 24/7 presence, standing watch over the Unknown Soldier at all times.
The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” was designated as the Army’s official ceremonial unit on April 6, 1948. At that time, The Old Guard began guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Soldiers of The Old Guard also serve as escorts to the president and conduct military ceremonies in and around Washington, D.C., including military funeral escorts at Arlington National Cemetery.
Soldiers who volunteer to become Tomb Guards must undergo a strict selection process and intensive training. Each element of the Tomb Guard’s routine has meaning. The Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns and faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, and then takes 21 steps down the mat. Next, the Guard executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place his/her weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. The number 21 symbolizes the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.
Wreath Layings and Visitors Today
Laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has long been a way for individuals and organizations to honor the sacrifices of American service members. Presidents, politicians, public figures and foreign dignitaries have all paid their respects in this way. Honor Flights, which honor our nation’s veterans with all-expense paid trips to see the memorials in Washington, D.C., almost always visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and sometimes lay wreaths. The opportunity to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony is also open to the general public, including school groups. In addition, each year, millions of people from around the world visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Some visit to honor military service and sacrifice; some to mourn a loved one; and some because of the Tomb’s historical and national significance.
One hundred years after the World War I Unknown’s burial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continues to be a powerful symbol of service and sacrifice, mourning and memory.
French Emperor Napoleon was fresh from one of his greatest victories in July 1807. The previous month, his forces routed the Army of Russian Tsar Alexander I at Friedland. The victory ended the War of the Fourth Coalition, brought Russia into Napoleon’s Continental System and ended any threat to the empire from mainland Europe.
Napoleon decided to celebrate the victory of his glorious empire with a good old-fashioned rabbit hunt. Rather than wander through the woods for hours on end looking for rabbits (and potentially coming up with none at all), he assigned his Chief of Staff, Alexandre Berthier, to go and collect a large number of rabbits for the event.
Berthier did his job beautifully. Even, you might say, too beautifully. He collected what could only be described as “too many rabbits.” Some historians believe the Chief of Staff collected as many as 3,000 rabbits for the hunt. Nothing Napoleon ever did would ever be called “understated,” so 3,000 rabbits for a handful of men to hunt doesn’t seem so unbelievable.
He then invited all of the emperor’s top brass to the event, which began with a luncheon before the main event. The men ate as the rabbits sat in cages on the outskirts of a grassy field. After the meal, the hunters (Napoleon included) armed themselves and signaled their readiness. With guns in hand, the rabbits were released from their cages.
At this point, it’s important to know that rabbits are usually a flighty animal, easily frightened and known to dart away when in danger. Or for any reason at all. That’s probably what Napoleon and his generals expected to happen when the cages opened. That’s not what happened when the cages opened.
Instead of darting away, the rabbits began to make a beeline for the most powerful men of the world’s most powerful empire. What was probably pretty funny at first took a turn for the worse when the rabbits, seemingly unable to take any more oppression, were suddenly taking their outrage out on the Emperor and his men.
Now too close to simply shoot, Napoleon, his generals, Berthier, coachmen and servants all began to take swipes at the bunnies with riding crops, sticks, and whatever else they had handy. The four-legged assault still continued as they climbed up the men’s legs and coats. Napoleon and his generals were about to retreat for the first time.
Napoleon ran away to his carriage, as most other attendees likely did. Then the rabbits took a page out of the Emperor’s own playbook. They broke into two smaller, but still considerably large formations and surrounded the entire party. Only when Napoleon and the others drove off did the bunny onslaught stop.
Berthier apparently was so eager to ensure the bunnies were in place for the hunt that day that he didn’t acquire live rabbits from the wooded areas nearby. Instead, he picked up the rabbits from locals. These were not the flighty, frightened rabbits we see almost everywhere these days. They were tame, accustomed to humans, and likely ready for that day’s meal when the Frenchmen opened their cages. When they made their Monty Python-esque attack for the French brass, there’s a good chance they were thinking about having a luncheon of their own.
If we were to ask Napoleon today about his worst defeat ever, he would likely say it was Waterloo, the battle that finally ended his reign for good. But somewhere in the back of his mind, the day he faced down thousands of pointy ears might come a close second.
World Wrestling Entertainment, better known as the WWE, marked Memorial Day this year by sharing some of their best Tribute to the Troops moments. Tribute to the Troops is a recurring WWE program that hosts wrestling matches specifically to entertain service members deployed around the world.
One of the most popular clips they shared came from a 2003 fight between John Cena and Big Show. The match was held in Baghdad less than two weeks after American soldiers captured Saddam Hussein. It was the first WWE Tribute to the Troops and featured some great action performed in front of soldiers celebrating their victories over the Iraqi military.