A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:
After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.
Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.
Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.
The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.
After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”
The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.
In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.
Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.
The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.
Eleven militants were reportedly killed and no coalition forces were killed or wounded, according to US Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho. She added that two of the militants were wearing suicide vests.
“The purpose of the mission was to set the conditions for future partner-led operations against violent extremist organizations in the region,” Reho said in The Times. “There was no aspect of this mission focused on pursuing enemy militants, and the combined force was postured to respond as necessary in case contact with the enemy occurred.”
But according to an anonymous military official familiar with the incident, the mission was to sweep through a potentially dangerous area so that Nigerien troops would be able to build an outpost.
Though Reho did not disclose why the Defense Department did not notify others of the incident, a House Republican aide told The Times that other lawmakers were notified of the December 2017 attack after it occurred.
Lawmakers previously pressured the White House and Pentagon for more information on the circumstances surrounding the ambush in October 2017, after military officials appeared to leave several congressional leaders in the dark.
“That’s not how the system works,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said to CNN in October 2017. “We’re coequal branches of government. We should be informed at all times.”
The firefight was initially referenced in an unclassified report given to lawmakers this week as part of a broader report on the legality of using military force, according to The Times. The report notes that US-Nigerien troops were attacked “by elements assessed to be part of ISIS,” and that coalition forces “responded with armed force in self-defense.”
US Army Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc, the former commander of US Special Operations in Africa, said that US troops and local training partners were attacked around 10 times from 2015 to 2017, The Times reported. Though enemy combatants were killed in these attacks, no US troops were reportedly killed.
The incident highlights some of the danger in conducting military operations in West Africa, just as military officials aim to curb the number of riskier missions. US Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, and Sgt. La David Johnson were killed in October 2017 after they were ambushed by ISIS-affiliated militants.
Before the advent of stealth technology, the variable that mattered more than any other in terms of tactical aircraft survivability and lethality was speed. So in 1955 the U.S. Air Force issued a request for a high-altitude, long-range bomber that could go Mach 3 while carrying either a conventional or nuclear payload. After a few trips to the drawing board and some mods to the Air Force’s requirements, North American Aviation was awarded a developmental contract based on their submission.
Enter the B-70 Valkyrie, a revolutionary scream-machine that was nearly four times as fast as the legacy B-52s it was designed to replace. The Valkyrie was huge — 185 feet long and 30 feet tall with a maximum takeoff weight at a whopping 542,000 pounds. The bomber was powered by six General Electric J-93GE turbojet engines that could each deliver 30,000 pounds of thrust in full afterburner. But it’s massive size and power was belied by sleek lines that made it arguably the most aesthetically-pleasing aircraft ever built.
The B-70 had a crew of four — a pilot, co-pilot, bombardier, and defense systems operator each seated in comfortable cocoons with clamshell doors. In the event of an emergency each cocoon could rocket away from the aircraft individually.
The Valkyrie used “compression lift” — a phenomenon that occurs when a conical body (the fuselage) under the center of a wing pushes air to the sides, which increases pressure and therefore lift — to travel upwards of 7,500 nautical miles supersonic. At takeoff the wingtips were straight, but a high speeds they’d angle down as much as 65 degrees to create the necessary compression.
The bomber had a number of unorthodox moving parts including movable canards on the nose and a ramp in front of the windscreen that would raise at high speed to create a more aerodynamic airframe (and it also gave the pilot very poor visibility in that regime).
Mach 3 creates a lot of air friction, and friction creates heat, so the Valkyrie was built with honeycomb stainless steel and (sparingly, like 9 percent) titanium, which was expensive and in short supply back in those days.
North American was funded to built a single test aircraft — designated the XB-70 — at a cost of $750 million. The inaugural test flight was delayed by maintenance and other technical issues by three years. All of the Valkyrie’s revolutionary subsystems came with their own problems — honeycomb structures broke, hydraulic systems hemorrhaged fluid, and control surfaces didn’t fit right.
At the same time the tactical world began to change. Better ICBMs made Air Force planners wonder whether they needed long-range bombers at all. And the introduction of the Soviet-made SA-2 surface-to-air missile rendered even the speedy B-70 vulnerable. Based on these factors as well as the projected cost of the Valkyrie, the Eisenhower administration grew sour on the program. The Air Force reduced the program funding to a single asset that would be used for experimental research testing only.
But the presidential election of 1960 changed the landscape. President Kennedy believed the Valkyrie was important in the arms race. The program budget was upped by $265 million and the test plan was reworked to include warfare capabilities and not just research.
A year later the Kennedy administration understood the Eisenhower administration’s issues with the airplane, and the Valkyrie was once again relegated to a research program — however the requirement was reworded with the caveat that if the Air Force requirement necessitated the need for the B-70 the program would be quickly modified to also test for combat operational capabilities.
The Valkyrie’s maiden flight occurred on May 11, 1964 out of Edwards Air Force Base. The plan was to take the airplane supersonic on the first flight, but a landing gear problem kept them subsonic. The XB-70 also had a minor hydraulic fire but managed to land safely.
North American XB-70A Valkyrie in flight. (Official USAF photo)
The airplane finally went supersonic on it’s third test flight and eventually broke a number of speed records including 70 sustained minutes of supersonic flight, 50 of them at greater than Mach 2.
But the test team also discovered that extended supersonic flight punished the airframe beyond its existing design limits, and they had to modify parts of the intake system and fuselage as the test plan went forward.
The first XB-70 reached Mach 3 only once — on it’s 18th test flight on October 14, 1965 — and that speed did substantial damage to the leading edge of one of the wings. (Luckily nothing was sucked into the intakes.) After that the airplane was limited to no greater than Mach 2.5.
A second XB-70 was built after comprehensive wind tunnel testing that yielded a modified design of the intake system, the hydraulics, and the wings. The new design made the airplane more stable, especially at high speeds. On May 19, 1966 the second Valkyrie flew Mach 3 for 33 minutes.
But test problems persisted. One flight forced test pilot Joe Cotton to jump a circuit breaker with a paper clip to get the landing gear to come down. (Basically, a $750 million airplane was saved with a 39 cent paperclip.)
Then one of the contractors pushed the notion of a “family photo,” an idea that proved to be the true beginning of the end for the Valkyrie. General Electric wanted to use a private Learjet to shoot both film and still photos of the XB-70 flying in formation with a T-38, F-4, F-104, and an F-5 — all GE-powered jets.
The requisite approvals were obtained, and on June 8, 1966 the four Air Force test jets launched to rendezvous with the XB-70 at the end of a test event. The five-jet formation flew around the Edwards AFB airspace for about 40 minutes without incident while the Learjet got the desired footage and photos. But as the formation was breaking up to return to base, disaster struck.
The F-104 drifted left until its left wing hit the XB-70’s right wing. At that point the Starfighter flipped over and rolled inverted over the top of the Valkyrie, striking the vertical stabilizers and left wing of the bomber. The F-104 exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing. With the loss of both rudders and damage to the wings, the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. NASA Chief Test Pilot Joe Walker (who was flying the F-104) and Carl Cross (the XB-70’s co-pilot who was on his first Valkyrie flight) were killed. Al White (XB-70 pilot) ejected, sustaining serious injuries, including one arm crushed by the closing clamshell-like escape crew capsule moments prior to ejection.
The investigation concluded that Walker was unable to properly perceive his motion relative to the Valkyrie, leading to his aircraft drifting into contact with the XB-70’s wing. The accident investigation also pointed to the wake vortex off the XB-70’s right wingtip as the reason for the F-104’s sudden roll over and into the bomber. There was also a lot of CYA and finger-pointing among Air Force leadership regarding who had actually approved the “family photo,” and ultimately the punishment for improperly vetting the event fell to the lowest levels of the chain of command.
Although the remaining Valkyrie continued to fly test events, the mishap crushed any chance of the airplane being used as an operational asset. On February 4, 1969 the XB-70 flew to Wright-Patterson AFB to be made into an exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force — the final flight for a powerful and visually stunning airplane the likes of which will never be seen again.
So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.
If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.
But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.
So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.
The festival was supposed to be a luxury getaway weekend full of music with concerts in a remote Bahamas setting, full of five-star dining and whatever else the absurdly rich do. What happened when the private jets dropped off their passengers was less festival, more “Lord of the Flies.”
Here are a few ways the military would have prepared these people to get along before Piggy did and civilization went with him.
1. You know better than to volunteer to spend days on an abandoned beach.
Those dome tents look pretty comfy, reflecting the light like that. A lot nicer than the military’s waterproof tarp tent that sleeps 12 and keeps in all the body odor and humid air you could possibly want.
2. Those pigs are food.
Sure, they’re adorable. And probably protected. But when the chow hall is only handing out cheese sandwiches and lettuce, there’s bound to be a negligent discharge sooner or later.
3. You know food could always be a lot worse.
America’s super-rich are probably not used to having to rough it for a long weekend. Why would they be? If I could afford a $2,000 concert ticket, I would probably be a wifi-enabled cyborg. So it’s not really a surprise that the biggest food complaint appeared to be the fact that their “five-star dining” turned out to be a cheese sandwich.
It looks pretty rough, sure, but have you ever been to a tent city midnight meal? Midrats aboard a carrier?
Sure, airmen get meat, but can you name that meat? No? enjoy your cheese sandwich.
4. You know which leaders to trust but more importantly, which to avoid.
While Ja Rule should have been a red flag to most of us, doing some basic research would have revealed that Fyre Festival co-founder Billy McFarland appears unable to open a McDonald’s franchise, let alone a multi-million dollar music festival on a deserted island. These buyers were begging for death.
5. The lawsuit pretty much describes life in the Marine Corps infantry.
The line “dangerously under-equipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance” is used in $100 million class-action lawsuit against the Festival.
Except the Marines are still successful and usually have a plan to get back home.
6. You’re used to leadership passing the blame for failures.
Poor objectives? Terrible leadership? Lack of clear goals? Welcome to the suck. Again: Ja Rule as the unit leader should have been a red flag – but you’re on that island no matter what, so embrace it. No one is going to willing own up to it. And even if they do, the communication will be clear as mud.
“I truly apologize as this is not my fault… but i’m taking responsibility” pretty much says everything you need to know.
U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as the country’s next ambassador to the United Nations in a round of senior staff changes halfway through his four-year mandate.
Trump made the announcement of Nauert’s appointment to reporters as he departed the White House on Dec. 7, 2018, for a trip to Kansas City.
He also said he had picked former Attorney General William Barr to fill the top job at the U.S. Justice Department again, and that he would make another personnel announcement with regard to the joint chiefs of staff on Dec. 8, 2018.
“She’s very talented, very smart, very quick and I think she is going to be respected by all,” Trump said of the 48-year-old Nauert.
If her nomination is approved by the Senate, Nauert, a former ABC and Fox News anchor and correspondent, will succeed Nikki Haley, who announced in October 2018 that she would leave the UN post at the end of the year.
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Nauert, who joined the State Department as spokeswoman in April 2017, was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs in 2018. She is an unusual choice for the UN diplomatic post as she has no prior political or policy-making experience.
Barr, who held the same position in the administration of the late President George H.W. Bush, will succeed Jeff Sessions, who Trump forced to resign in November 2018 amid rising pressure on the White House from the Russia-collusion investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Lawyer Matthew Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general after Sessions stepped down.
“As the former AG for George H.W. Bush and one of the most highly respected lawyers and legal minds in the Country, he will be a great addition to our team. I look forward to having him join our very successful Administration!” Trump tweeted after making the announcement.
Despite President Donald Trump’s national-security advisers’ note reminding him “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory during their call on March 20, 2018, Trump did anyway.
When asked whether Trump thought Putin’s election victory was free and fair during a press briefing that day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred.
“We’re focused on our elections,” she said. “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”
During another press briefing in February 2018, Sanders argued Trump had been “tougher on Russia in the first year than [former President Barack] Obama was in eight years combined.”
This argument has become a frequent line of defense Trump officials have used when pressed about the administration’s complicated relationship with Russia.
Trump, whose response to the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election has been lukewarm at best, is often perceived as being hesitant to confront the Kremlin’s aggression.
But the Trump administration has actually taken some concrete actions against Russia. Here are five examples:
Trump originally signed the sanctions bill — officially called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — August 2017, albeit begrudgingly.
The sanctions bill also imposes a wide range of sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
2. Closing of diplomatic facilities
After Congress approved Russia-related sanctions summer 2017, Russia expelled 755 American diplomats from the country.
In response, the Trump administration ordered Russia to close three of its diplomatic facilities in the US, including its consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, DC and New York City.
3. Arms sale to Ukraine
In December 2017, Trump announced his support for the sale of lethal munitions to the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s Donbas region, a move that angered Russia, which has been engaged in a hybrid war in the region for the past four years.
The State Department officially approved $47 million weapons sale in early March 2018. It included Javelin launchers and anti-tank missiles.
The US, the UK, France, and Germany all blamed Russia for the attack.
Although Trump initially failed to deliver a forceful condemnation of Russia for the attack, other officials in his administration picked up the slack.
“Over the past four years, Russia has engaged in a campaign of coercion and violence, targeting anyone opposed to its attempted annexation,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“We stand behind those courageous individuals who continue to speak out about these abuses and we call on Russia to cease its attempts to quell fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the attack “clearly came from Russia” and US Ambassador to the US Nikki Haley said the US stood in “absolute solidarity” with the UK after the attack.
A full day after the UK blamed Russia, Trump told reporters that “as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” Referring to the UK’s findings, he added, “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
National-security experts were baffled and alarmed by Trump’s delayed reaction to the chemical attack.
Trump then joined a statement with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreeing that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” than that Russia was to blame for the attack.
5. Trump officials repeatedly criticize Moscow
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley have been particularly critical of Russia.
On March 7, 2018, Nauert condemned Russia in a tweet, saying that it ignored a UN ceasefire agreement in Syria by bombing civilians in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta.
Her criticism elicited a direct response from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which told Nauert to “calm down.”
“Your propaganda machine is out of control — you’re spamming all of us,” the MFA added.
In January 2018, Nauert condemned Russia for supporting separatists in the country of Georgia. Trump recently promoted her to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Haley has also been critical of Russia over a variety of issues, including Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.
As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.
Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.
Jesse Iwuji, NASCAR driver, shows Luke Airmen tires that are used for the race during their visit through the garages at the Camping World 500 Mar. 19, 2017, at the Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Alexander Cook)
We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.
As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.
Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.
Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:
Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations
Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.
He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.
Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.
From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.
Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.
Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.
Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!
When America’s Strategic Air Command is ordered to Defense Condition 3 (DEFCON 3) or above, it disperses its nuclear bombers fully-armed across the U.S. and certain allied countries so that the bombers are harder to target. This keeps America’s second strike capability intact and hopefully deters an enemy from launching its own nuclear weapons.
The dispersal plan generally calls for the planes to go to Air Force bases rather than civilian airports, but it hinges on a few factors. First, there have to be enough Air Force bases ready to receive the planes and the bases can’t be needed for other missions.
During the Cuban missile crisis, SAC was ordered to DEFCON 3 and carried out its dispersal plan Oct. 22, 1962. Bases in and near Florida were mostly blocked off because they were needed to host troops for a potential invasion of Cuba. Also, they would have been destroyed too quickly in an attack for a crew to attempt to take off. So 183 nuclear-armed aircraft were sent to 33 military bases and civilian airports in the U.S., including the four civilian airports below.
Four bombers were sent to Mitchell Field. One of the co-pilots on the flight told a reporter years later that the crew was ordered to fly for at least four hours to ensure their flight pay would be protected in case they couldn’t get training flights for a while. Since they arrived at Mitchell Field in under four hours, the pilots flew a holding pattern for a few hours over Milwaukee in inclement weather at a lower altitude than their planes were designed to optimally fly while fully armed with nuclear weapons.
Planes at the airport were filmed on the tarmac on Oct. 26, 1962. SAC had been upgraded to DEFCON 2 at this point, meaning they expected nuclear war to pop off at any moment and they had to be prepared to get all of the bombers into the air within 15 minutes of an alert.
In a report issued May 1, the Pentagon said that nearly 6,200 military members said that sexually explicit photos of them were taken or shared against their will by someone from work, and it made them “uncomfortable, angry, or upset.” And, across the services, female Marines made up the largest percentage of women who complained.
More than 22,000 service members said they were upset or angry when someone at work showed or sent them pornography. And, again, female Marines represented the highest percentage of complaints from women.
The responses reflect a growing concern across the military about inappropriate social media behavior. The scandal came to light last month when sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page. The revelation triggered a wide-ranging criminal investigation that now encompasses all the services, and has prompted changes and restrictions in military social media policies.
The latest survey results, however, make it clear that the issue has long been simmering in the military.
Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention office, said the results “tell us that this is a problem and we have to start having more conversations about social media behavior.”
The survey was released as part of the annual report on sexual assault and harassment in the military. It found that reports of sexual assaults in the military increased slightly last year, and more than half the victims reported negative reactions or retaliation for their complaints.
Defense officials, however, said the anonymous survey done as part of the report showed some progress in fighting sexual assault, as fewer than 15,000 service members described themselves as victims of unwanted sexual contact. That is 4,000 fewer than in a 2014 survey.
Because sexual assault is a highly underreported crime, the Pentagon has used anonymous surveys for several years to track the problem. The survey was sent to more than 735,000 service members between June and October 2016, and more than 150,000 responded.
The two social media questions were asked for the first time in last year’s survey, Galbreath said, because the issue was becoming more of a concern.
According to the data, 1.3 percent of military women said someone took or shared explicit photos of them against their will. When divided according to military service, 2.3 percent of female Marines made that complaint, compared to 1.5 percent of female soldiers, 1.6 percent of female sailors and .5 percent of female airmen.
On the pornography question, 4 percent of military women said someone showed or sent them sexual explicit material that made them upset or angry. Six percent of female Marines had that problem, compared to 5 percent of female sailors, 4.5 percent of female soldiers and 2.1 percent of female airmen. The percentages of men complaining were much smaller overall.
The Marine Corps is the smallest military service, so while the percentages were the largest, the actual numbers of people affected were likely smaller than the other services.
Separately, the data released by the Pentagon on May 1 showed there were 6,172 reports of sexual assault filed in 2016, compared to 6,083 the previous year. The largest increase occurred in the Navy, with 5 percent more reports. There was a 3 percent jump in the Air Force. The Army and Marine Corps had slight decreases.
For more than a decade, the Defense Department has been trying to encourage more people to report sexual assaults and harassment. The agency says greater reporting allows more victims to seek treatment.
On retaliation, it found that 58 percent of victims last year said they faced some type of “negative behavior,” but only 32 percent described circumstances that could legally be described as retribution. This includes professional retaliation, administrative actions, or punishments. In 2015, 38 percent reported such actions.
Retaliation has been a difficult issue to sort out, and the Defense Department has been adjusting its measurements for several years. It seeks to differentiate between more serious workplace retribution and social snubs that, while upsetting, are not illegal.
The anonymous survey, meanwhile, showed a steady decline in the number of service members saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact, which can be anything from inappropriate touching to rape.
Of the 14,900 people who said they experienced some type of unwanted sexual contact, 8,600 were women and 6,300 were men.
The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics took place from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, 2021. Team USA was represented at the games by 240 Paralympic athletes. Among them were 18 veterans and three active duty service members, many of whom took home medals at the Beijing, London and Rio Paralympics. For 2020, six of them won nine medals for the US.
Alfredo De Los Santos
Going by the nickname Freddie, De los Santos was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 1986, he moved to New York to finish high school. He attended the City College of New York where he studied graphic design and went on to work at NYU. Following the attacks on 9/11, De los Santos joined the Army. On October 20, 2009, he was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan where his vehicle was struck by an RPG. De los Santos was wounded in the attack and later lost his right leg above the knee. During his extensive rehabilitation period, he took up handcycling. He competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics but earned his first medal (bronze) in Tokyo in the mixed team relay. De los Santos still has a passion for art and uses graphic design and abstract painting to illustrate his combat experience.
Pinney was born and raised in Arizona. An avid cyclist, he graduated from Grand Canyon University with a BS in Sport Management. In 2000, Pinney enlisted in the Air Force and served as an inflight refueler. Over his 14 year career, he deployed to the Middle East over 10 times and flew over 100 combat missions. Shortly after returning from a tour in the Middle East, Pinney competed in a bicycle race where he was thrown over the handle bars of his bike. His spinal cord was injured and Pinney was medically retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. He was able to continue his passion for cycling with a gifted handbike from The Freewheel Foundation. Pinney joined the Air Force Wounded Warrior Team as well as the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team. Tokyo was his first paralympics and he took home bronze in the mixed team relay.
Morelli is a Pennsylvania native who commissioned as an Army engineer officer through Marion Military Institute. During her Army career, she served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, she was wounded in Afghanistan. An explosion caused severe brain trauma, blindness in her left eye, and damaged her neck and spine. Her cycling career began with a trip to her local bike shop and was propelled by her exposure to competitive cycling at the 2010 Warrior Games. At the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships Morelli broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record. In Rio, she took home two gold medals (road time trial, track pursuit) and earned another gold (time trial) plus a silver (individual pursuit) medal in Tokyo.
Hennagir joined the Marines in 2001 and served as a combat engineer. On June 16, 2007, in Zaidon, Iraq, he was wounded by an IED. This led to the amputation of both of Hennagir’s legs as well as four fingers on his left hand. While recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one of his recreational therapists encouraged him to try out wheelchair basketball. While he enjoyed the sport, it was wheelchair rugby that Hennagir really took after. Still a hard-charging devil dog, he preferred the physicality of wheelchair rugby and strove for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. He got that opportunity in Tokyo where he competed with Team USA’s wheelchair rugby team and helped to bring home silver.
Snyder was born in Nevada but grew up on the beach in Florida where he developed his ability as a swimmer. He went on to swim competitively in high school and at the U.S. Naval Academy where he captained the swim team from 2005-2006. He commissioned as a Naval Officer and completed the grueling 42-week Explosive Ordnance Disposal School. On Sept. 7, 2011, Snyder stepped on an IED in Kandahar. Although the resulting blast did not affect his limbs, Snyder was blinded and lost both of his eyes. A determined sailor and athlete, Snyder battled his disability and immediately began training for the Paralympics. Just one year after his injury, he competed in the London Paralympics and won silver in the men’s 50m free and gold in the 100m free and 400m free. He returned in Rio and won another silver medal (100m back) and three more gold medals (50m free, 100m free, 400m free). In 2018, Snyder transitioned to Paratriathlon. In Tokyo, he won the men’s PTVI race. He is the first U.S. man to win a Paralympic, or Olympic, medal in an individual event in triathlon.
Marks comes from a family with a legacy of military service. In 2008, shortly after her 17th birthday, she joined the Army. While serving in Iraq as a combat medic, Marks sustained bilateral hip injuries. In 2012, nearly two years after her injury, she discovered her gift for competitive swimming during her recovery process. Six months later, Marks was declared fit for duty. More importantly, she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. In 2014, Marks was in London for the inaugural Invictus Games when she became rapidly ill. She was placed on ECMO life support for respiratory failure. She continued to suffer from chronic regional pain syndrome, a result of her original injuries and her time on ECMO. Still, she took home bronze (4x100m medley relay) and gold (100m breaststroke) in Rio. In 2017, Marks underwent left below the knee amputation. Despite this, she continued to train and push herself to excel. Her hard work paid off in Tokyo where she won bronze (50m butterfly), silver (50m freestyle), and gold (100m back). She is an inductee in the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.
Feature Image: The 2020 Team USA Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony in Tokyo (Team USA)