The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
Austin Tice is a former Eagle Scout, a former Marine Corps officer, and an award-winning journalist held in captivity in Syria. The Georgetown law student was on assignment there in 2012, covering individual stories set amid the background of the Syrian Civil War. Just five weeks after he arrived in the country, unidentified armed men released a 43-second video of Tice blindfolded and held hostage.
No one has claimed responsibility for his capture, unusual for such a propaganda war. After the first five years, his family was still trying to piece together what happened that led to Tice’s capture. Now, the reward for information leading to Tice’s whereabouts is more than $1 million.
No other information, photos, or video related to Tice has been released since.
Tice’s family is on a mission to get the Syrian government of Bashar al-Asad and the government of the United States to cooperate, using every available resource to locate Austin Tice and bring him home. They say the United States believes Tice is alive. He was last seen getting into a car in a Damascus suburb but was detained at a checkpoint shortly after.
When President Trump took office in 2017, the new State Department set up a back-channel with the Syrian government to secure Tice’s release. Unfortunately, that’s when the U.S. involvement in Syria began to thicken, The administration was forced to launch Tomahawk missiles at Syrian military sites, and the talks stalled.
As of December 2018, Tice’s parents divulged that they had received information that Tice is still alive and had survived his captivity. They believe he is being held by the Syrian government or one of its allies and the U.S. State Department has called on Russia to exert its influence is obtaining Tice’s release.
The Syrians insist they don’t know where Tice is being held, but the Tice family maintains that the best chance for the man’s release would come from direct talks between the United States government and that of the Syrian Arab Republic.
A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.
The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.
The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.
Michael Hayden, who previously served as CIA director and National Security Agency director, was hospitalized after suffering a stroke at his home late November 2018.
Hayden, 73, is “receiving expert medical care,” and his family has requested privacy, according to a Nov. 23, 2018 statement from the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy, and International Security at George Mason University.
“The General and his family greatly appreciate the warm wishes and prayers of his friends, colleagues, and supporters,” the Hayden Center said.
Hayden achieved the rank of a four-star general in the US Air Force and went on to lead the NSA from 1999 to 2005 for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; he led the CIA from 2006 to 2009.
National security experts offered their messages of support.
“Michael Hayden is one of this country’s noblest patriots, dedicating his life to America’s national security,” former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter. “A man of tremendous integrity, intellect, decency, he has been a role model for countless intelligence professionals over several decades. Speedy recovery, Mike.”
“On behalf of the men women of CIA, I want to wish Gen. Hayden a speedy recovery,” CIA director Gina Haspel said in a statement. “Mike’s long career of public service commitment to national security continue to be an inspiration to all intelligence officers. Our thoughts are with Mike, Jeanine, their family.”
Hayden, who regularly appears on CNN as a national security analyst, has become an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s administration. In August 2018, Trump was reportedly weighing the possibility of revoking Hayden’s security clearance in addition to other former White House and Justice Department senior officials who publicly criticized his policies.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.
The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.
SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.
SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.
The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.
Check out the video of the training exercise here:
CLEVELAND, Ohio — After getting a taste of wearing uniforms and drilling while attached to a JROTC unit in high school, New Orleans native Adrian Bruneau joined the Marine Corps on his eighteenth birthday.
“My father was a colonel in the Air Force and he was not very happy about that,” he recalls. “He came straight home and said, ‘Son, don’t you know people get killed in the Marine Corps? I said, ‘Dad, I’m pretty sure people get killed in the Air Force flying and whatever too.'”
Bruneau wound up spending 15 years in the Corps — 8 on active duty and 7 in the reserves — primarily working as an avionics technician. “If it had an electronic heartbeat in an aircraft I could work on it,” he says. “Whether it was nav gear, satellite gear . . . anything that was electronic — not electric, but electronic — that needed to be fixed I could fix it.”
But while Bruneau got a lot of satisfaction out of his military service, his real passion was politics, largely because his father had been in the Louisiana state legislature for 32 years. As soon as he got off of active duty, he walked into the State House and found a job as an aide to a state senator. After working as a staffer at the state level for awhile, he decided he wanted to try his hand at working on political campaigns.
“I asked Ron Forman — a candidate for mayor of New Orleans and a longtime mentor — if I could have a job on his campaign even though I was a Republican and he was a Democrat — a conservative one, but still,” Bruneau remembers. “It was an interesting race for mayor because it was right after Hurricane Katrina and there were a lot of issues to figure out for the people there. After that, things just kind of snowballed.”
He formed a corporation — “BHC” — to give him some business and legal protections. Bruneau says, “My dad told me, ‘Somebody’s going to blame you for something at some point in time, so you’d better have the legal protection to back it up.’ ”
He followed that race (that was won by high-profile figure Ray Nagin) with a pivot into judicial elections — “popularity contests for lawyers,” as he puts it. And he made it a point to work on both Republican and Democratic campaigns.
“New Orleans is a little blue dot in a sea of red,” Bruneau says as a way to justify his bi-partisan track record. But as his network and impact grew along with his desire to work beyond the border of New Orleans, a trusted friend who worked at the national level told him he had to pick a side.
Bruneau focused on the Republican Party, and his first job was working on the campaign of Ilario Pantano, another Marine Corps veteran, who was running to fill North Carolina’s Second District congressional seat. Pantano, who first came to national prominence after being accused of murdering innocent civilians in Haditha, Iraq, while serving as a platoon leader — an allegation for which he was ultimately not charged — lost the race. But that didn’t deter Bruneau from jumping right back on the campaign trail with another hopeful.
“It’s just like a military campaign, really,” Bruneau says while describing the nuts-and-bolts of running political campaigns. “You got your ground game, your air game, and your logistics. Air game is your media, your television. On the ground side, you organize people and get the fire going, which I actually enjoy better.”
He doesn’t enjoy the fundraising part of the process. “Not my space,” he says. “I just stay away from that. I’m a Marine. Go stick me in the ground and let me do my thing.”
Bruneau admits the political world can be frustrating at times. “You serve two masters,” he says. “The candidate always has a group of insiders — his ‘kitchen cabinet,’ people he’s had around him his whole life. Sometimes those people were helpful, but other times they’d get the candidate’s ear and I’d have to spend hours talking him out of a bad idea. I’ve seen good people lose because they listened to the wrong people and I’ve seen candidates who I never thought could win do so because they formed a good team and listened to them.”
This week, Bruneau is in Cleveland because he has another role in politics beyond running Gulf South Strategies, the current name of his consulting firm. He’s an RNC delegate from Louisiana.
“Back in 2012 my business partner and I reached out to the Trump campaign through the state party chairman, but soon thereafter we were told that Trump was going to endorse Mitt Romney,” he says. “This time, the Trump campaign came to us and said, ‘Hey, fellas, we think we’re going to do this again.’ ”
Bruneau advised the Trump campaign on who should be part of their team in Louisiana, and because of that effort, he was asked if he was willing to be an at-large delegate. He jumped at the opportunity.
“A lot of people have said, ‘Gee whiz, Adrian, you’re crazy supporting Trump,’ ” he admits. “I said, ‘Nope, I read his book when I was a junior in high school and I’ve been fascinated by his business every since.’ ”
Bruneau admits that his path has been unorthodox, but he thinks politics is a viable follow-on career for those leaving the military.
“I tell former servicemembers that getting into politics is a relatively easy transition to make,” Bruneau says. “Politicians naturally have an appreciation for military service and are inclined to hire vets.”
A military family had their U-Haul stolen in Georgia during their PCS to Louisiana. Inside the moving van was their infant son’s ashes.
Benjamin and Kassandra Benton were high school sweethearts. When Kassandra found out she was pregnant with baby Wyatt, she didn’t believe the doctor — she was a Neuroblastoma cancer survivor at just seven years old and her entire abdomen was “nuked,” as she called it. “Some people may remember me from Extreme Home Makeover; I’m the one who made necklaces to raise money for kids with cancer,” she shared.
But she was pregnant and 14 weeks along. Kassandra was considered high risk and went into labor at home unexpectedly at just 24 weeks. Ben delivered baby Wyatt who wasn’t breathing while Kassandra continued to hemorrhage. EMS personnel rushed them to the hospital where they were both saved. But they’d spend five months watching Wyatt fight for his life.
Ben headed to Air Force basic training not long after Wyatt’s birth. Kassandra kept him up to date through letters. “Some of the bad things I’d leave out scared that Ben would get discouraged and drop out. It was hard,” she said.
Eventually, she had to call him to come home. Wyatt’s brain shunt was overrun with infection and there was nothing more they could do. “We decided instead of Wyatt living his whole life in the hospital, we’d take him into hospice where he could see the outside … where we could cuddle and enjoy his last days,” Kassandra explained.
On November 12, 2015 he took his last breath.
“We held him. We loved him and we made sure he felt that. He was our world and he still is. Because of Wyatt I have my two beautiful daughters,” Kassandra said. She went into labor early with both girls but because of her experience with Wyatt, she recognized the signs and got to the hospital early. Charlotte and Amelia are here because of him, Kassandra said.
The young family was on their way to Ben’s new duty station at Barksdale Air Force Base when they stopped at a motel in Georgia for the night. When they awoke, their U-Haul was gone. Although it was found days later, it was empty except for a few bags of clothes. Wyatt’s ashes, hand and footprints and hand mold were still gone. It was all they had left of him.
A local nonprofit near Barksdale Air Force Base has stepped forward to help. EveryWarrior is offering a $3,000 reward through the Covington, Georgia Police Department for the return of Wyatt’s remains. The military spouses at the base have also rallied behind the Benton family, establishing a GoFundMe page to support their needs.
In the end though, they just want Wyatt’s remains returned safely and don’t care about the rest of their stolen things. Kassandra has pleaded through every media interview for the person who took his ashes to please “have heart” and bring him home. For the Benton family, it feels like they are mourning his loss all over again.
In a Facebook post on March 6, 2021 she pleaded once again. “Keep sharing, keep looking, and keep the hope. I believe, I have to believe Wyatt will find his way back to me. It’s the only thing keeping me going. And a THANK YOU! To everyone who is helping us on this search, and who’s donated for my family, and who is praying for us. You are our village…”
If you have information about Wyatt’s stolen remains, please contact the Covington Police Department at 770-786-7605.
A “ridiculous mistake” is believed to have compromised the security of South Korea’s defense network, exposing critical military secrets, a South Korean lawmaker revealed Wednesday.
North Korean hackers are suspected to have been behind the theft of a massive cache of classified military documents late last year, including allied war plans. The plans detailed strategic operations to eliminate North Korean leadership in the event of a conflict, among other things, Minjoo Party Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee revealed Tuesday. The South Korean defense ministry initially claimed that nothing important had been compromised.
The hackers first breached the South Korean firm Hauri, Inc., which makes the antivirus software used by the South Korean military, The Wall Street Journal reports. The North’s cyber warriors then embedded malware into the antivirus software, facilitating access to military servers. The security breach was also possible because a connector jack connecting the secure military intranet to the internet was accidentally left in place after maintenance work at South Korea’s new military data center, Rhee explained.
The intranet was connected to the internet for more than a year, leaving secure networks exposed and vulnerable to attack. “It’s a ridiculous mistake,” Rhee stressed to the WSJ Wednesday. “They should have removed the connector jack immediately after maintenance work.”
North Korea has invested in asymmetric warfare capabilities, such as cyberwarfare, to give it a fighting chance against the superior conventional military capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. The North is believed to have several thousand hackers and support staff in its cyber divisions.
The rogue regime reportedly tried to infiltrate the networks of American power companies through peculiar “spearphishing” attacks, NBC reported Wednesday.
The North is believed to have perpetrated the infamous Sony Pictures hack, incapacitated and stolen millions of dollars from top banks, negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide through the spread of ransomware, and disrupted numerous systems across South Korea.
The attacks linked to North Korea appear to have been designed for interference with the distribution of noticeably anti-North Korea productions, the acquisition of funds as the international community increases economic pressure on the regime, espionage, and possible retaliation.
To better counter North Korean cyber threats and avoid costly mistakes like the one that led to the loss of important war plans, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo has ordered the military to take additional precautions. he shifted the blame to the previous administration and announced that the military will complete a review of the situation.
United States government security officials announced that a Russian-built Venezuelan aircraft “aggressively” shadowed an American aircraft over the Caribbean sea.
The US Southern Command, which is the agency responsible for security cooperation and operations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, tweeted to condemn the incident, which it said happened during an American mission that was monitoring for illegal trafficking.
“[Venezuela] SU-30 Flanker “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. EP-3 aircraft at an unsafe distance July 19, 2019, jeopardizing the crew & aircraft. The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in international airspace over [the Caribbean Sea.]”
The tweet also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for offering military assistance to the country’s far-left leader Nicolas Maduro. The US, in addition to most Latin American and European countries, recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s claim to be the rightful leader of Venezuela.
“This action demonstrates [Russia’s] irresponsible military support to Maduro’s illegitimate regime underscores Maduro’s recklessness irresponsible behavior, which undermines [the international] rule of law efforts to counter illicit trafficking.”
The US Southern Command reportedly said in a statement that the aircraft was “flying a mission in approved international airspace” when it “was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”
‘The US routinely conducts multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners,” the command added.
Venezuela has been home to widespread chaos and unrest after a US-backed bid by the Venezuelan opposition to remove Venezuelan President Maduro failed in April 2019 after senior Venezuelan government and military officials flaked on promises to switch sides and instead stood by the president.
The movement to oust Maduro had enjoyed widespread civilian support but previously failed to gain support from the military.
The effort came months after Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January and urged the military to turn against Maduro.
The US Navy said on Wednesday that one of its aircraft was intercepted by a Russian jet while flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea.
The US Navy P-8A Poseidon, an anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft, was flying over the Mediterranean Sea when it was approached by a Russian Su-35 fighter jet, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa said.
“The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement.
The crew of the P-8A Poseidon experienced “wake turbulence” during the 42-minute encounter, the Navy said.
“While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy added. “We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents.”
A Russian Su-35 jet performed a similar maneuver toward a P-8A Poseidon over the Mediterranean Sea in June. The jet buzzed the US aircraft three times in three hours and conducted a pass directly in front of it.
“This interaction was irresponsible,” the Navy said in a statement at the time.
On both occasions, the Navy said its aircraft was flying in international airspace and was not provoking the Russian aircraft.
Russia performed another provocative test by firing an anti-satellite missile on Wednesday, US Space Command said.
Russia’s direct-ascent anti-satellite test “provides yet another example that the threats to US and allied space systems are real, serious and growing,” Gen. John Raymond, the head of Space Command and chief of space operations for US Space Force, said in a statement.
“The United States is ready and committed to deterring aggression and defending the nation, our allies and US interests from hostile acts in space,” Raymond added.
As 1941-America faced the prospect of entering World War II, Looney Tunes made a cartoon that perfectly captured the struggles of Army life. Surprisingly (or maybe not considering the timeless nature of serving), the jokes still work in the modern Army.
There are those annoying times that soldiers playing bummer Army games like “Never-Ending Ruck March” have to walk past a sign for civilian luxuries like trains.
The cartoon, voiced by legends like Mel Blanc, even takes shots at what it’s like to train with tight budgets, something service members dealing with sequestration can understand.
In 1941, the paratroopers appear to have been the most affected by budget cuts and having to use “simulated” gear.
The machine gunners get off easy since they can practice firing in 3 to 5-second bursts using food in the chow hall.
(The whole thing is pretty funny, so check it out below):
The good news is that part of Congress actually did its job as the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives passed a law, specifically, the latest National Defense Authorization Act, which specifies the budget for the Department of Defense, and allows for its expenditures. It also lays out some provisions for the Pentagon and its five branches to follow. This year’s NDAA is no different, but it has some new, noteworthy provisions.
And yes, there’s a 3.1 percent pay raise for U.S. troops. Glad we can all agree on something.
The Space Force
The NDAA allowed for the creation of the U.S. Space Force and the position of the Chief of Space Operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. The new branch’s structure will be similar to the way the U.S. Marine Corps is housed inside the department of the Navy, so expect a lot of jokes about how the Space Force is the men’s department inside the Department of the Air Force.
The Space Force will replace the current space command at the cost of .4 million.
Sadly, some still don’t have faces.
Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
The new compromise defense authorization bill will allow federal employees 12 full weeks of parental leave after having a child. The 8 billion bill allows the new provision for all 2.1 million federal workers. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, any adoption, birth, or fostering will receive the benefit. Employees must be employed for at least one year and stay for at least 12 weeks after taking the leave.
Don’t read the comments, it’s already been happening.
Desegregating Marine Corps Boot Camp
Women training at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island facilities will no longer be separated by gender, according to the new NDAA. The Corps is one of the last areas of gender segregation in the Armed Forces. Due to low volumes of female recruits, the Corps has already desegregated some basic training classes in South Carolina, but San Diego will remain segregated for a couple more years.