Check out these five military veteran comedians you should look out for in 2018.
5. Mitch Burrow
This Marine veteran served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Afterward, he started a career in manufacturing, but quickly realized that it sucked. He began his stand-up comedy career after driving down to the Comedy Store in La Jolla, drinking three shots of tequila and a couple of Budweisers, and getting on stage. Later, Mitch was told it went pretty well.
To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: MitchBurrow.com.
4. Thom Tran
After enlisting in the Army at 18, Thom spent most of his career as a Communications Sergeant and Civil Affairs Sergeant. Thom decided to become a comedian after sustaining an injury during combat operations.
In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and soon created The GIs of Comedy tour — a show that travels the world performing for both military and civilian audiences.
3. Isaura Ramirez
After serving 13 years in the Army, this former captain deployed to Iraq for 15 months. When she returned home, Isaura enrolled herself in a comedy class as a form of expression.
This Philadelphia native joined the Marine Corps at 18, serving as an infantry rifleman (0311) with 3rd Battalion 6th Marines. After leaving the Corps in the mid-90s, Rocco moved to Los Angeles where he’s had luck landing gigs, including headlining his act at several comedy stores throughout the U.S.
This comedian and Marine veteran also serves the community as a knowledgeable yoga instructor
Before James was cracking up audiences with his flawless stand-up routine, he was giving orders while stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. This former captain served in both Operation Desert Shield and Storm before exiting from the Corps.
Now, he performs wherever he can find work, but you follow him on his website JamesPConnolly.com.
They will be here all week and don’t forget to tip your waiter.
Got any vets you think will make us laugh? Leave a comment.
CBD is an emerging drug derived from the cannabis plant for its ability to reduce anxiety without “getting you high.” As federal restrictions relax, scientists continue to study CBD for its medicinal properties and companies continue to find great ways to administer it.
But does it actually work?
The short answer is: it sure seems to.
A recent preclinical study strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Studies are limited due to past federal restrictions, but so far the anecdotal evidence looks convincing.
What is CBD?
Cannabis (most commonly known as marijuana) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids. The two major components of marijuana cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC has a psychoactive effect, doctors and scientists have been able to procure CBD by itself, which is non-psychoactive (in other words, it won’t get you “high”) and has many promising medicinal properties that treat symptoms of chronic pain or anxiety.
In a survey conducted in 2017, 40% of cannabis users reportedly found CBD to be more effective than prescribed anti-anxiety medications. It should be noted that CBD can reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but like any medication, it should be used along with practical methods to treat the sources of anxiety (such as therapy, wellness and fitness programs).
How to use CBD
There are many ways to enjoy CBD — and many different doses. Because it does not produce a psychoactive effect, you may be able to use a small dose of a tincture under your tongue for quick relief without compromising your concentration or if you have work you want to accomplish.
Maybe it’s the end of the work day and you want to relax for the evening. A CBD bath bomb can give you a larger dose absorbed by the skin at a slower rate for a dreamy evening. A CBD lotion can be part of your morning routine to calm your muscles and start your day off right.
CBD is an emerging medicinal offering with many different possible applications: liquids, capsules, edibles and topicals. Each one will result in a different experience. Furthermore, the strength of the dose is measured by miligrams and should be experimented with slowly (for example, I enjoy beverages with 10-25mg of CBD, but my evening bath bomb might have 100-200mg).
Overall, if you are seeking a way to help manage anxiety, talk with your health care provider about whether it’s safe to try CBD (remember, it is a drug — it can affect other medications you are taking), and then begin to experiment with different applications and doses slowly.
One of the more important national security jobs in Washington, D.C. — Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia — will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, reports Breaking Defense.
Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says.
According to Breaking Defense, he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte.
Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.
Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics.
This new job does.
Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:
South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations.
He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.
The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.
About 90 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune carried out a mock air assault in Iceland in October 2018 as part of the initial phase of NATO’s largest war games since the end of the Cold War.
The NATO war games, called Trident Juncture 2018, will begin on Oct. 25, 2018, in Norway and include more than 50,000 troops from 31 countries.
According to NATO, the purpose of Trident Juncture is “to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.”
But the war games are also largely seen, by the East and West, as de facto training for a fight with Russia.
Along with the carrier USS Harry S. Truman, the US has sent about 14,000 troops to the games, and the initial mock air assault was to help prepare Marines for a large-scale amphibious assault to be carried later in Norway.
Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.
But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.
In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.
The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?
The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.
The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”
This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.
One statement from North Korea’s state-run media likened ongoing military exercises involving US and South Korean forces to a rehearsal for an invasion, returning to a talking point from 2017, when Trump and Kim were trading nuclear threats.
In a later statement, a North Korean official expressed “violent anger” at the US’s behavior and said Pyongyang would have to “reconsider” the meeting with Trump.
The official offered Trump an ultimatum: Cede to North Korea’s demands, or lose the summit.
When Kim started discussing the prospect in early 2018, Trump and his top officials cheered the move as proof that its unique approach to North Korea had worked.
But in statements on May 15, 2018, North Korea said Trump had employed the same tired ideas that had failed in the past, asserting that its “treasured” nuclear program had brought it international power.
Now, after Trump has repeatedly hyped his progress with Pyongyang, it is Kim, the leader of a rogue state, dangling the prospect of a summit to gain concessions from the US.
What North Korea demands and how Trump might cave to it
North Korea’s recent statements push back on longstanding US-South Korea military exercises and call for Trump to back off of his demand for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”
Already, it looks as if the US may cave to save the summit. South Korea’s Yonhap News reports that the B-52, a US nuclear bomber, could be pulled from air combat drills in a nod to North Korea’s new demands.
But before that, Trump’s top officials had minced words about the aim of talks with North Korea and the possible definitions of “denuclearization.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been to North Korea twice in the past month or so, has in a series of recent interviews described slightly different aims of the talks.
While Pompeo often speaks in absolute terms, saying total denuclearization and removal of nuclear facilities must come before Washington eases off Pyongyang, he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on May 13, 2018, that talks with North Korea would seek to ensure that “America is no longer held at risk by your nuclear weapons arsenal” and ending Kim’s chemical and biological weapons program and missiles “that threaten the world.”
Adam Mount, the director of the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, tweeted that, in other words, Pompeo said the US would accept “a standard that could permit retention of nuclear warheads, facilities, material, and possibly short range missiles.”
Lewis added: “I think Kim wants that photo with the President of the United States, paying tribute to him, for the front page of the Rodong Sinmun,” North Korea’s state newspaper.
Similarly, the historic diplomatic meeting may play well for Trump, motivating him to meet Kim’s conditions for talks.
North Korea’s recent hardline statements contradict what a South Korean official told reporters in March 2018 — that Kim had said he “understands the South’s stance” on the military exercises, which were happening at the time.
Basically, Kim seemed fine with the exercises when he was trying to get meetings with the US and South Korea, but now that he’s secured those talks, he has started to object.
“North Korea is back to its old game of trying to raise the stakes prior to a meeting,” said Bruce Klingner, the former chief of the CIA’s Korea division. “But Kim risks undermining the good will he had built up through his diplomatic outreach since January 2018.”
Now the question for the Trump administration is whether to call Kim’s apparent bluff or quietly meet his demands.
But by backing off from complete denuclearization, Trump could end up with a bad deal — and if he calls Kim’s bluff, the two leaders could land right back on the nuclear brink.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The offensive to destroy ISIS in Syria took a big step forward recently with US military advisers, helicopters, and artillery helping position a force of about 500 soldiers near a strategic damn outside of Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital.
The US military, along with Kurdish forces and the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Foces rebel group, have moved to put a stranglehold on Raqqa with shelling, air support, and ground forces at the last route in and out of the city, according to a press release.
Operation Inherent Resolve, the 68-nation mission to destroy ISIS, flew in fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed rebel group, behind enemy lines to a strategic dam.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” Col. Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve told the Times.
“Seizing Tabqah Dam will isolate Raqqah from three sides and give the SDF the strategic advantage and launching point needed for the liberation of the city,” said the release. But while the US says they’re mainly backing local forces, they seem poised to take on a more active role with conventional forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Raqqa.
The Pentagon has been considering sending as many as 1,000 ground troops to help take back Raqqa from ISIS, which would signal a reversal of the Obama-era policy to fight ISIS via train and equip methods and airstrikes.
The coalition says they’ve conducted more than 300 airstrikes around Raqqa in the past month.
Syrian Democratic Forces with their Syrian Arab Coalition fighters prepare for an offensive to liberate Tabqah Dam from ISIS Mar 22 in Syria pic.twitter.com/2Ho1SQYhL1
Raqqa, situated along the Euphrates river in the mostly barren Easter Syria has been ISIS’ main Syrian stronghold since 2014.
The US, Inherent Resolve coalition partners, and local forces have been involved in a massive air and ground campaign to rid the country of the terrorist group while simultaneously carrying out similar operations in neighboring Iraq.
Syria: Our partners have rolled back ISIS territorial gains to the East, North, West of Raqqah, capturing over 7,400 sq km of territory.
If you bring up the name Wilford Brimley to people, they will probably mention a myriad of references that they connect him to. Whether it be movies, television shows, commercials, public service announcements or his persona, Brimley has made an indelible mark on the entertainment industry.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1934, Brimley dropped out of high school and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1953. He spent his entire time in the fleet stationed at the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and reached the rank of Sergeant before being honorably discharged in 1956.
After leaving the service, Brimley worked a variety of interesting jobs and worked for some pretty interesting people. For a time, he was a bodyguard of business tycoon Howard Hughes. He then worked various jobs as a blacksmith, ranch hand and cattle wrangler before ending up working with horses on Hollywood sets for Westerns. His friendship with actor Robert Duval is what pushed Brimley into moving from behind the camera to in front of it. He appeared in “True Grit” with John Wayne, the TV show “Kung Fu,” and had several appearances on “The Waltons.” By the end of the 70s, he was starring in “The China Syndrome” and on his way.
His breakthrough came during the 80s. He starred in the cult classic, “The Thing,” and then moved onto the two roles that would define his career. First he was in “The Natural” with Robert Redford and then starred in the role of a lifetime, in “Cocoon.” Although he was only 49(!) at the time and about 20 years younger than the other actors in the retirement community that somehow find a magical fountain of youth, Brimley had aged too much to make himself look much older. Star Wars fans remember that he also starred in one of the TV specials where he paired up with the Ewoks in “The Battle of Endor.”
The 90s brought Brimley to even more audiences. His turn as the evil security manager in “The Firm” hunting down Tom Cruise was memorable as was his roles in “My Fellow Americans” and “In Out.” On television, he had a memorable turn as the Postmaster General of the United States on the hit show “Seinfeld.”
Outside of TV and movies, Brimley also was known as a very successful pitchman. He was the face of Quaker Oats where he told many Americans that, “It’s the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it.” He was also a pitchman for Liberty Mutual Insurance for many years. Although his pronunciation of the word diabetes later made its way into becoming an internet meme, Brimley did have type 2 diabetes and made it a mission to use his celebrity to educate the public on getting tested and taking care of yourself if you were diabetic.
In addition to acting, Brimley was also known as a singer and musician. He famously surprised the audience during a taping of the “Craig Ferguson Show” with his harmonica skills.
Wilford Brimley Wins Craig Ferguson Golden Mouth Organ
Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.
Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.
Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.
Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.
F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)
The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.
The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.
But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.
“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.
“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)
Not just island defense, but a navy killer
Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.
“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.
Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.
(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)
But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.
The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.
In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.
For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?
That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.
This is his story:
Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’
The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.
Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.
Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.
“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)
Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.
Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.
After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,
“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
The resemblance is uncanny.
Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.
U.S. Army Master Sergeant John Hartley Robertson, a Green Beret, was in a helicopter shot down over Laos in 1968. His body was never found and was presumed dead. His name is on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and the Army officially lists him as Killed In Action.
In 2013, a fellow vet named Tom Faunce claimed to have traced the men killed in the crash to those taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese Army around the same time. The men were taken prisoner and tortured, but Faunce claims the men all survived. The claims sparked renewed interest in finding and repatriating possible POWs remaining in Vietnam for so long after the war.
In a documentary film called Unclaimed, Faunce teamed up with Emmy-winning director Michael Jorgenson to find a man they thought to be Robertson, then 76-years old, 44 years after the crash. The missing Green Beret was supposedly living in a village of south-central Vietnam. The man had no memory of being Robertson, had no memory of his children, his own birthday, or even the English language.
Master Sgt. Robertson’s family believed he could have survived the event and even claimed to have supporting documentation that he had been held in an NVA prison. Jorgenson maintained the U.S. government has had proof of Robertson’s survival since 1982, but did not do anything with the information.
Still, the filmmaker was skeptical and went to Vietnam with Faunce believing they would uncover a hoax. The man who would be Robertson, now calling himself Dan Tan Ngoc, said he was held, beaten, and tortured but eventually released into t he care of a local nurse, whom he married and with whom he later had children.
The Army fingerprinted Dan Tan Ngoc at a U.S. Embassy, but said it was not enough to prove Dan Tan Ngoc was indeed John Hartley Robertson. The film shows a reunion of the man who would be Robertson meeting a fellow vet he trained and Robertson’s own sister, Jean, who said “There’s no question. I was certain it was him in the video, but when I held his head in my hands and looked in his eyes, there was no question that was my brother.”
Except, he may not be.
In 2014, DNA testing proved Dan Tan Ngoc could not be John Hartley Robertson. Robertson’s niece, Cyndi Hanna, called the result “very disappointing.” Yet, the Robertson family still believes Ngoc is their missing loved one. Gail Metcalf, daughter of Robertson’s sister, Jean bases this on a oxygen isotope analysis performed on the man’s tooth. The family set up a Go Fund Me page to help raise money for DNA testing and Master Sgt. Robertson’s repatriation. Salt Lake City’s IsoForensics Inc., performed the test for the filmmakers and came to the conclusion it is “very likely” Ngoc grew up in U.S., a result the family takes to heart.
“We only want to do right by my Uncle John,” Metcalf told Stars and Stripes. “If that means exploring the possibility that the U.S. government has made a mistake or that the man claiming to be my uncle is actually another lost American and doesn’t know who he is, we intend to seek the truth on our own terms.”
U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.
Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.
The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.
New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
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An Army spouse has found her purpose after overcoming homelessness and creating her own organization that gives back.
When Marla Bautista was 18 years old, she was thrown out of her home by her abusive step-father with only a trash bag of clothes and a teddy bear that belonged to her deceased mother. For almost two years she lived a transient lifestyle staying in shelters, with friends and on the streets. It was the generosity of a local Catholic church that changed the trajectory of Bautista’s life.
“There were volunteers who handed out sandwich bags with hygiene items and they didn’t want anything from us. It was just ‘this is for you because you need it.’ And that was something that truly touched my heart. I promised myself that if I ever overcame that situation of homelessness that I would do the same,” she said.
Bautista and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ulisses Bautista, started serving their community as a family in 2011 and would later become The Bautista Project Inc. They began by using their own funds to distribute meals and hygiene bags for the homeless. Their nonprofit now provides basic living essentials, educational resources, support groups, veterans services and community resources for reintegration.
The impact they’ve created near their assigned duty stations has fostered an environment where the homeless can feel like they belong. With this, PCS’ing affects the Bautistas differently.
“Every time we move, we feel like we are leaving a community behind,” she said. But due to the vast amount of homeless in the U.S., there is always a new part of the community to impact.
In the state of Florida alone there are over 28,000 homeless Americans, of which 1500 are local to Hillsborough County in Tampa where the Bautistas currently reside. Although homelessness in America has decreased by 12% since 2007, according to the National Society to End Homelessness, there are still over 567,000 homeless people in the US.
The Bautistas have served the homeless population in Germany, Colorado Springs, New York and now Tampa.
Within a week of PCS’ing to south Florida, they were volunteering in a shelter.
“We have to reintegrate ourselves in that new community,” she adds.
Consistency matters. Her entire family goes out twice a month with meals and care packages, and instead of giving and going, they sit and interact with the locals in need. They get to know them and eventually build friendships.
In 2018 Bautista, with a desire to do more, began reaching out to her fellow military spouses and Facebook friends. With their help, her nonprofit has been able to provide winter jackets, gift a color printer to a shelter, create a small library of free books, raise funds to host a Christmas party at a homeless shelter getting what she calls “real gifts” for the attendees and shelter volunteers and distribute disposable masks. They also continue to collect uniforms to make belonging blankets for homeless youth in group homes or shelter setting.
The Army has been a vehicle allowing them to help in different parts of the world and Bautista’s husband shares her passion for giving to those in need, including homeless veterans. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs reports that as of January 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans in the U.S.
Bautista doesn’t judge any of them. “We’ve all fallen on hard times before. It just looks different for everyone,” she said.
One simple thing that she says anyone can do to start giving back is to purchase four gift cards at an essentials store or fast-food restaurants.
“That’s just and you can hand those out,” she says, adding that something this small can provide a meal for a person and the act can change their life.
To donate to The Bautista Project Inc. visit www.thebautistaprojectinc.org. You can purchase items from their Amazon Wishlist or donate directly to their nonprofit.