Japan’s TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea’s northeast.
In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.
Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.
North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.
Using the slider below, you can see the affects of the test detonations, especially along the mountain ridges:
The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.
If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.
If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.
According to a recent Better Business Bureau study, service members are more susceptible to fraud than average consumers. In fact, scammers using the name “Exchange Inc.” have been attempting to fool soldiers and airmen into thinking they are working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and boat engines.
“For years, scammers have used the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Steve Boyd, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “Some military members have sent money thinking they’re dealing with the Exchange, only to receive nothing in return.”
Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles or represent private sellers in completing transactions in the continental United States. Scammers have left consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.
Scammers have left military consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by using the name Exchange Inc. to dupe military consumers.
The scammers typically direct potential buyers to use multiple third-party gift cards to pay for purchases. Most recently, scammers required payment using Google Play gift cards. To verify any suspicious payment method requests, military shoppers can call Exchange Customer Service at 800-527-2345.
The Exchange operates solely on military installations and via ShopMyExchange.com. The Exchange does not act as a broker in private transactions and does not advertise in classified advertisement or resale websites.
Shoppers who believe that they may have been taken advantage of can file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Russia has dismissed allegations that its military struck U.S.-backed forces in war-torn Syria, injuring several allied fighters.
Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on September 17 that Russian strikes only hit targets in areas under the control of the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
Konashenkov that the Russian military informed the United States well in advance of its operational plans.
“To avoid unnecessary escalation, the commanders of Russian forces in Syria used an existing communications channel to inform our American partners in good time about the borders of our military operation in Deir al-Zor,” he said.
The comments come after the U.S.-led coalition battling IS militants in Syria said the Russian military on September 16 struck forces of a U.S.-backed Kurdish-Arab militia in Syria.
“Russian munitions impacted a location known to the Russians to contain Syrian Democratic Forces and coalition advisors,” a statement said. “Several SDF fighters were wounded and received medical care as a result of the strike.”
It added that coalition advisers who were present “were not wounded as a result of the Russian strike.”
Earlier, the SDF accused Russian jets of bombing its forces in Deir al-Zor Province, injuring six of its fighters in the last major IS stronghold in Syria.
The United States and Russia back separate military offensives in the Syrian war, both of which are advancing against IS forces in the east of the country near Iraq.
Russia and Iran back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year-old war, while the United States and Turkey support various rebel groups opposed to the Damascus government.
IS fighters, who captured large swathes of Syrian territory in 2014, are opposed by all sides and are being driven from most of their strongholds by the separate government and rebel campaigns.
Washington and Moscow have largely stayed out of each other’s way in their fight against IS in Syria, with the Euphrates River frequently serving as a dividing line.
The commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Lieutenant General Paul Funk, said in the September 16 statement that coalition officials “are available and the de-conflictation line with Russia is open 24 hours a day.”
“We put our full efforts into preventing unnecessary escalation among forces that share ISIS as our common enemy,” Funk said, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.
The statement added, “Coalition forces and partners always retain the right of self-defense.”
Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea Monday, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.
The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”
He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”
The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.
U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen
Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.
Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.
The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.
The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.
Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.
Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.
“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].
Florida Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she was with the wife of a fallen Special Forces soldier when the woman received a phone call from President Donald Trump. Wilson claims the president had some insensitive words for the grieving young woman.
“He said to the wife, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into,’ ” said Wilson. “How insensitive can you be?”
The call was to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger with three other soldiers on Oct. 4. The couple had two children and were expecting a third.
President Trump denied the accusation via Twitter, while the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the call as “respectful” and “sympathetic” but asserted that no recordings of the calls exist.
Johnson’s mother, who was also listening to the call, then stepped into the media spotlight by affirming Wilson’s story.
The White House has since criticized the Florida Congresswoman for politicizing the practice of calling Gold Star Families on the event that their loved one was killed in action. But President Trump opened himself to criticism on this issue as well, by falsely claiming that his predecessors never did anything like it
Enter former Marine Gen. John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff.
On Oct. 19, Kelly himself took the podium during the White House Press Briefing to explain to reporters what happens when American troop are killed in action, how the remains are transported, how the family is notified, and who sends their condolences.
Kelly set the record straight with how Presidents send their condolences and how it should be done. He confirmed that President Obama did not call his family – not as a criticism, just a fact. And Kelly advised Trump against calling too.
“I recommended that he not do it,” Kelly said. “It is just not the phone call they’re looking forward to. … It’s not a negative thing.”
When Trump decided to call he asked Kelly how to make the call and what to say. He told the president there’s no way he would ever understand how to make that call.
“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.
As he continued, Kelly emotionally recalled what Gen. Joseph Dunford, the casualty officer assigned to the Kelly family, told him when Kelly’s son was killed in action.
“He [Kelly’s son] knew what he was getting into… he knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war,” Kelly recalled. “When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”
Kelly then lashed out at Rep. Wilson for tarnishing what he believed was one more formerly sacred institution in America. He said he had to go walk among “the finest men and women on this earth. … You can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.”
Despite US efforts to convince other countries not to make deals with Russian defense firms, India’s defense minister told US lawmakers in July 2018 that New Delhi will go ahead with its purchase of the Russian-made S-400, one of the most advanced air-defense systems on the market.
“With Russia, we have had a continuous relationship of defence procurement of seven decades. We told the US Congress delegation, which met me in Delhi, that this it is US legislation and not a UN law,” Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the press on July 13, 2018, referring to the US’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which seeks to prevent foreign deals with Russian defense or intelligence firms.
“We have had this relationship, an enduring relationship with the Russians, and are going ahead with buying the S-400,” Sitharaman said, adding that the US secretaries of defense and state “have taken a position understanding of India’s position.”
Sitharaman said the S-400 deal was at an “almost conclusive stage,” and the system is expected to arrive within two and a half to four years of signing. Officials are expected to announce the deal in October 2018, before an annual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
India currently fields a host of Russian-made weapons systems, including the S-300 air-defense system, an overhauled Kiev-class carrier-cruiser, and squadrons of MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter aircraft.
India’s defense ties with Russia are longstanding, but the US has sought to expand its relations with the South Asian country for years. Since 2008, Washington has sold Delhi billion worth of arms, and the Pentagon recently renamed US Pacific Command as US Indo-Pacific Command to reflect India’s growing role in the region.
For India, the decision to buy the S-400 system was likely made out of practical concerns rather than for geopolitical motives, said Jeff Smith, a research fellow focused on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
“Simply put, the S-400 is considered a more affordable, albeit highly capable, missile-defense system when compared to competing US systems,” Smith said in an email, noting that the S-400 had attracted interest from other US partners, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia. (Turkey’s S-400 purchase has caused tension with NATO.)
“Additionally, the Indian military has great familiarity with their Russian counterparts,” Smith added. “The majority of India’s legacy platforms are Soviet origin, and Russia continues to be India’s top supplier of defense equipment, although by a shrinking margin.”
The deal has nevertheless run afoul of US attempts to isolate Russian companies with the CAATSA, which Congress passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.
US officials have cautioned India about making deals with Russian firms. Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, said in early 2018 that the US was disappointed with Delhi’s purchases of Russian-made weapons.
The S-400 deal in particular “threatens our ability to work interoperably in the future,” Thornberry said at the end of May 2018, around the same time India and Russia concluded negotiations over the sale.
The CAATSA would force President Donald Trump to put sanctions on actors that make a “significant transaction” with the Russian defense or intelligence sectors, which the legislation does not define, Smith said.
But it would likely cover India’s S-400 contract — thought to be worth .5 billion for five S-400 regiments, totaling as many as 240 of the system’s four-tube launchers, plus fire-control radars and command systems.
“For reasons beyond my comprehension Congress did not envision this would become a point of contention with Delhi, or foresee that it would be impractical to demand India immediately halt all defense trade with its top defense supplier for the past half-century,” Smith said.
Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have asked Congress to make exceptions for US partners using Russian-made weapons.
Mattis told lawmakers in Apri 2018 that there are countries “who are trying to turn away from formerly Russian-sourced weapons and systems” but need to keep supply lines open to maintain those weapons.
“We only need to look at India, Vietnam, and some others to recognize that eventually we’re going to penalize ourselves” with strict adherence to CAATSA, Mattis said at the time.
Congress has denied a Pentagon request for an expansive waiver for CAATSA-related sanctions, Smith said, but others on Capitol Hill are looking for ways to insulate Delhi and others who may get caught up.
“Among other things, the House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act included an amendment that would expand the president’s authority to delay or terminate CAATSA sanctions,” he said. The versions of the NDAA passed by the Senate and House of Representatives are now being reconciled.
“India watchers are eager to see whether the provision survives the conference committee,” Smith added. “If it doesn’t, I expect the Hill to contemplate additional legislative remedies in the months ahead.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States has sharply criticized a European Union plan to help Iran get around U.S. sanctions by establishing alternative ways to pay for Iran’s trade with European companies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking at a New York conference on Sept. 25, 2018, said that he was “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed” when he heard of the plan announced a day earlier after a high-level meeting between European and Iranian diplomats.
“This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and international peace and security,” Pompeo told the United Against a Nuclear Iran group, accusing the EU of “solidifying Iran’s ranking as the No. 1 state sponsor of terror.”
Pompeo said he imagined Iran’s “corrupt ayatollahs” were “laughing” when they heard news of the proposed payment system, the details of which European leaders said are still being hammered out.
The plan carries out promises by European powers to keep honoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the U.S. announced in May 2018 that is was withdrawing from the accord and would reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
It represents the latest effort by the EU, France, Germany, and Britain to work with Iran, Russia, and China to keep carrying out the agreement, which granted Iran relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities, without the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, speaking in the same forum as Pompeo, mocked the EU for the plan’s lack of specifics.
“The European Union is strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through,” he said. “We will be watching the development of this structure that doesn’t exist yet and has no target date to be created. We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anybody else.”
Bolton said the United States will be “aggressive and unwavering” in enforcing its sanctions. He said Washington still expects Iran’s oil customers to end all of their imports by a Nov. 4, 2018 deadline.
U.S. President Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2018, that renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will come into effect on Nov. 5, 2018, with “more to follow.”
Pompeo questioned why nations would continue to trade with what he called an “outlaw regime,” which he said supports militant groups in the Middle East and sponsors attacks against Israeli targets around the world.
“There can be no question Iranian destructive activities are truly global in scope. It is therefore incumbent on every country to join our efforts to change the regime’s lawless behavior,” he said. “The ongoing, multinational, multicontinental nature of Iranian malign activity leaves no room for inaction or indecision.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, speaking late on Sept. 24, 2018, alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that the sanctions evasion plan was in the interest of global peace and pointed to UN inspectors’ findings that Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear deal.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The foreign ministers said in a joint statement that the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle they are creating to facilitate payments on trade with Iran is intended to “assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters there is “strong unity” between Europe and Iran on minimizing the impact of U.S. sanctions.
But despite the EU’s determination to keep trading with Iran, it has struggled to come up with mechanisms and legal protections that are strong enough to convince major corporations to keep operating in Iran.
Finding a way to pay for Iran’s oil exports — which are a major driver of economic growth in the country — has been a key sticking point. Trade in oil and other globally important commodities is almost always conducted in U.S. dollars, but U.S. sanctions prohibit Iran from using the dollar to conduct business.
Despite efforts by the EU, Iran, India, and China to maintain their imports of oil from Iran, a report from the Institute of International Finance on Sept. 25, 2018, found that Iranian oil exports have dropped significantly already in 2018, even though U.S. sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil exports do not go into effect until November 2018.
Exports of Iranian crude oil and condensates dropped by 800,000 barrels to 2 million barrels a day between April and September 2018, the banking group said.
Based on the drop already seen in Iranian exports, the group is projecting that Iran’s economy has fallen into a recession and will contract by 3 percent in 2018 and 4 percent in 2019.
The report said oil exports are falling even though Iran is selling key grades of oil at a deep discount and using its own tankers to ship products to China and India at no extra cost.
It said Iranian shippers are also providing generous payment terms and, in some cases, accepting euros and Chinese yuan instead of U.S. dollars in payment for the oil.
Once U.S. sanctions go into effect, the group said Iran will have to rely more on barter trades to maintain its oil exports.
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the biggest ship in the Russian navy and the most visible symbol of the Kremlin’s military power. This October, she will travel to the Mediterranean and carry out air strikes in Syria, according to a report from the Moscow-based Tass news agency.
There is a general rule for news about Russian warships. Like most things in life — don’t believe it until you see it. The first problem is that the Tass report, which reverberated throughout the Russian and Western press, relied on a single anonymous “military-diplomatic source.”
Nor is this the first time rumors have spread about the Admiral Kuznetsovgoing to war in Syria. The Russian navy denied a 2015 report which claimed as much.
But this is not to say you should totally disbelieve it, either. Recent activity surrounding the Admiral Kuznetsov may indicate an upcoming combat deployment.
First, here are several reasons to doubt it.
Admiral Kuznetsov has never seen combat, nor would she be of much practical military use. The 55,000-ton carrier has a bow ramp, not steam catapults, requiring her aircraft to shed weight before taking off. This means her planes will go into combat with less fuel or bombs than the ground-based fighters Russia has already deployed to Syria.
This is on purpose. The Soviet Union designed Admiral Kuznetsov as a “heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser” to support a surface battle fleet, foreign policy writer Taylor Marvin pointed out.
This makes her less flexible than U.S. supercarriers, and it’s the reason she packs anti-ship missiles for sinking other vessels, but cannot launch fully gassed-up strike planes with heavy bomb loads suitable for attacking targets on land.
Worse, the conventionally-powered Admiral Kuznetsov has problems. Poor maintenance, defective steam turbines and shoddy boilers means she’s unreliable — which is why Russia sends an ocean-going tug with her, wherever she goes.
A video of one of these tugs hauling the carrier in bad weather during a 2012 voyage appeared last year. It has an utterly awesome and appropriately Russian soundtrack.
“Carrier operations, particularly high-tempo strike missions, are an extremely complex logistical and operational dance, with lethal consequences for mistakes,” Marvin wrote. “Since the USSR and Russia has had little opportunity to build these skills, and none to test them in combat, any strike missions from the Kuznetsov would be limited and mostly for show.”
Russia would take a big risk … for not much gain. This doesn’t mean the Kremlin wouldn’t take the risk. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest — although in a speculative fashion — that the Russians may be preparing to do just that.
For one, Admiral Kuznetsov is planning a voyage to the Mediterranean this fall. “It is true. There is such a plan,” Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of the State Duma defense committee, told Tass on June 28.
Su-33 and Su-25 jets recently landed on the flattop, last spotted sailing in the Barents Sea. MiG-29Ks — a carrier-launched version of the muscular, multi-role Fulcrum — will arrive “in the coming days,” according to a July 4 reportby Interfax.
The news agency reported that the arrivals are in preparation for a “long hike” planned “roughly in the middle of October.”
The MiG-29K and its two-seater KUB variant are Soviet-era designs revived for the Indian Navy after it purchased the Kiev-class flattop Admiral Gorshkov — renamed INS Vikramaditya — in 2004. However, the planes themselves are brand new, pack advanced avionics and can drop precision-guided bombs.
The Su-33 is an air-superiority fighter, and the Su-25 is a close air support plane. Tass’ source said the carrier will go to Syria with “about 15 fighters Su-33 and MiG-29K/KUB and more than 10 helicopters Ka-52K, Ka-27 and Ka-31.”
But it gets weirder.
Russia went to war in Syria in September 2015. That month, Admiral Kuznetsov was completing a three-month maintenance stint near Murmansk.
Then in October, she appeared in the Barents Sea … for combat training.
That’s unusual, because the Russian aircraft carrier is a snowbird; she heads south late in the year. More specifically, she sails into the Mediterranean, which she did during her four previous deployments — all during winter.
October is not winter. But the Barents Sea and the carrier’s home port at Severomorsk are beyond the Arctic Circle, where flight operations are particularly dangerous beginning in mid-October due to the polar night, when there is little light.
Sergei Ishchenko, a military commentator and former navy captain, found that perplexing. “Only extraordinary circumstances could have forced training flights from the carrier during the least suitable time of the year,” he wrote for the website Svobodnaya Pressa.
“It’s obvious that the war in Syria is that circumstance.”
Russia might not have a chance to deploy its carrier in combat again for awhile. In early 2017, Admiral Kuznetsov will head into dry dock for a two-year overhaul shortly after she returns from the Mediterranean. The war may be over by the time her repairs are done, giving the Kremlin a tiny window to signal military prowess with its flattop.
More curious is what’s happening with the MiG-29Ks.
These warplanes train at a runway with a ski-ramp in Yeysk, Russia, along the Sea of Azov. The Kremlin built this facility in 2012 as an alternative to a similar ramp runway in Nitka, Crimea — then part of Ukraine — which Russia leased. Russia captured Nitka during its February 2014 invasion, but the facility is apparently not suitable for MiG-29Ks.
And according to Ishchenko, the MiG-29K unit — the 100th Shipborne Fighter Aviation Regiment — was not fully trained as of January 2016.Admiral Kuznetsov is useless without those multi-role fighters and their pilots. “Victory in that war demands actual, not potential, power,” Ischenko wrote. “And the Admiral Kuznetsov still lacks its full combat power.”
Hence the reason why the carrier is back in the Barents Sea for the second time since last October, now with MiG-29Ks on the way … on a crash course for an upcoming combat mission.
At least, that’s the theory. We’ll find out in a few months.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
Creed Bratton is mostly known for playing a fictional version of himself on NBC’s “The Office,” but more recently he’s been getting back to his roots: Music. Bratton, whose father died during World War II, showcased his guitar playing and singing chops recently before a live veteran audience in Hollywood, California.
The private concert was a “thank you” treat for veterans who worked on public service announcements highlighting the benefits of hiring former troops — resulting in short videos covering “What to Wear,” “Morning Routine,” and “The Bank” — comprised almost entirely of veterans in the entertainment industry. These productions gained nationwide attention and were made possible by CKD and The Easter Seals in partnership with Veterans in Film and Television.
Retired Staff Sgt. David Jonathan Thatcher, one of two last surviving members of WWII’s Doolittle Raiders, passed away in Missoula, Montana from complications of a stroke on June 22, 2016. He was 94.
On April 18, 1942, Thatcher was involved in the Doolittle Raid – United States’ first retaliation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier. The raid involved 16 B-25 Mitchell Medium bombers, 2 aircraft carriers, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers…and 80 brave souls – all of which had volunteered and trained for the “extremely hazardous” secret mission under the command of the famous Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle.
Thatcher’s aircraft, nicknamed the “Ruptured Duck”, was seventh to launch (is that ok to say because I say ‘take off’ in the next sentence) and was piloted by Ted W. Lawson. The goal for all 16 bombers was to take off from the USS Hornet and bomb military targets in Japan. It was not possible to land back on the Hornet, so the plan was to continue west for a landing in China.
The mission ended up launching 170 miles further out than anticipated, and all of the aircraft ran out of fuel before reaching the areas in China that were not occupied by the Japanese. As was the fate of two other bombers, Thatcher and his crew were forced to ditch their plane at sea. Lawson, the Ruptured Duck’s pilot and his co-pilot were both tossed from the B-25. Miraculously, all 5 crew members survived with serious injuries, with the exception of Thatcher. After regaining consciousness, he was able to walk and helped the others survive.
Doolittle would later tell Thatcher’s parents “… all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself, day and night.”
Thatcher was one of three awarded the Silver Star for acts of valor during the Doolittle Raid.
“Beyond the limits of human exertion, beyond the call of friendship, beyond the call of duty, he – a corporal – brought his four wounded officers to safety,” Merian C. Cooper, a logistics officer for the Doolittle Raid, wrote of Thatcher after debriefing the Raiders who survived.
In a 2015 interview with the Associated Press, Thatcher said: “We figured it was just another bombing mission,” only later did he realize that “it was an important event in World War II.”
“The Doolittle Raid was a pivotal point in the war and ‘very necessary,’ said Thatcher’s son-in-law, Jeff Miller in an interview with local paper, Missoulian. “But nobody talks about the rest of the story. These guys weren’t put on the sidelines. Too often, the story stops at the Doolittle Raiders.”
Thatcher went on to train in Tampa, Florida on B-26 bombers, and was “one of 12,000 troops to ship out of New York Harbor on the Queen Mary, which zigzagged its way across the North Atlantic to avoid detection by German U-boats. In the next several months, Thatcher flew 26 bombing missions over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Italy. He participated in the first bombing of Rome in July 1943.”
After retiring from the military, Thatcher worked for the USPS as a Postal Clerk. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, three of their five children and seven grandchildren.
The remaining Doolittle Raider is 101-year-old retired Lt. Col. Richard “Dick” Cole – Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot.
The language requiring the draft for women was added in committee and received little debate on the Senate floor, but has created a firestorm of controversy on and off Capitol Hill. It comes as the military services welcome women into previously closed ground combat units in keeping with a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter given late last year.
“It is my personal view that based on this lifting of restriction for assigning [job specialties], that every American that is physically qualified should register for the draft,” Neller said at the time.
In the House, which previously passed its version of the NDAA, an amendment requiring women to register for the draft passed narrowly with a 32-30 vote, even though its author, California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, voted against it.
“I’ve talked to coffeehouse liberals in San Francisco and conservative families who pray three times a day,” Hunter said April 27, as the House Armed Services Committee marked up the bill. “Neither of them want their daughter to be drafted.”
The Senate proposal was hotly debated on the floor June 7 by Republicans Ted Cruz, from Texas, and John McCain, from Arizona.
Cruz complained that the provision including women in the draft entered the bill through committee, rather than in public, open debate.
“I’m the father of two daughters. Women can do anything they set their mind to, and I see that each and every day,” Cruz said. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls in combat to my mind makes little or no sense. It is at minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so without public debate.”
McCain countered that including women in the draft was a matter of equality.
“Women who I have spoken to in the military overwhelmingly believe that women are not only qualified, but are on the same basis as their male counterparts,” McCain said. “Every leader of the United States military seems to have a different opinion from [Cruz], whose military background is not extensive.”
Currently, U.S. law requires most male citizens and immigrants between the ages of 18 to 25 to register in the selective service system. The Senate NDAA would require all female citizens and U.S. residents who turn 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, to register as well.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah introduced an amendment that would have removed the draft language from the bill, but it was unsuccessful. Another Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky, filed an amendment that would have gotten rid of the draft altogether, but it too failed to get traction.
The House and Senate must now reconcile their versions of the NDAA in conference before final passage.
Chuck Sweeney left the Navy as a commander in 1980, after a 22-year pilot career that included 200 combat missions, 4,334 flight hours, and 757 carrier landings.
In one week of that career, Sweeney earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses, awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight,” for his actions over Vietnam.
Sweeney, president of the national Distinguished Flying Cross Society, spoke with Insider about the unusual way he got his start as a carrier pilot, his time fighting in Vietnam, and the week he was awarded three DFCs in September 1972.
Despite his awards, “I’m no different than most other people,” Sweeney said in the 2017 documentary “Distinguished Wings over Vietnam.”
“I just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time.”
“I have a lot of friends who said they were interested in flying early on, and they always wanted to be a pilot,” Sweeney told Insider. “I really didn’t. I wasn’t against it. I just never thought about it.”
But after he was drafted in 1958, he decided to join the Navy “and see the world.”
His first assignment took him to Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland as an aeronautical engineer — not exactly one of the exotic destinations Sweeney had in mind.
Sweeney first flew the S-2E anti-submarine aircraft, then volunteered to be an attack pilot, flying the A-4 Skyhawk, while he was earning a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
“They were losing a lot of pilots,” in Vietnam, Sweeney told Insider. “They were being killed or captured.”
After combat missions in Vietnam and Laos, Sweeney trained pilots in Lemoore, California. But his shore duty didn’t last long.
In July 1972, he was sent to the USS Hancock to replace Cmdr. Frank Green, the executive officer of Attack Squadron 212, who was missing in action after his aircraft was shot down.
“The next morning, I was flying my first strike against North Vietnam,” Sweeney told Insider. “Back in those days, things were happening fast.”
Sweeney’s first DFC came after a high-stakes rescue in the waters just off North Vietnam.
Lt. William Pear’s aircraft was hit and landed in the treacherous territory, and Sweeney coordinated his rescue from the cockpit of his A-4, even as he himself was under anti-aircraft fire.
“Most of the time, if you landed over North Vietnam, 99 times out of 100, you’d be captured,” Sweeney said. “But we got him back and kept him out of the Hanoi Hilton.”
Pear was the last A-4 pilot to be rescued during the Vietnam War, Sweeney said in an interview for the Distinguished Flying Cross Society Oral History Collection in 2005.
Days later, Sweeney led aircraft from the Hancock in a strike and was awarded his second Distinguished Flying Cross.
“We had 35 aircraft going after a target in North Vietnam, and I was leading the whole strike,” he said.
“I had planned numerous strikes and led them in training, but this was the real thing,” Sweeney said in a 2005 oral interview in the book “On Heroic Wings.”
They successfully completed the strike but met frightening resistance. North Vietnamese MiGs took off and headed toward Sweeney’s strike group, although they eventually stood down, and the group was under heavy anti-aircraft fire.
“For doing the job that I was trained to do I was awarded my second DFC,” Sweeney said in “On Heroic Wings.”
Sweeney’s third DFC came the next day, when he led three other aircraft in an alpha strike on the outskirts of Hanoi.
On a strike that close to the North Vietnamese capital, “You knew the defenses were going to be heavier,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney and other pilots dodged North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) as they headed to their target, a major railyard.
“The rule was, to avoid being hit, when [the SAM] looked like a flying telephone pole, you made this maneuver around it, kind of away from it,” Sweeney said.
“Lo and behold, this thing” — the SAM— “came up, and as it got closer, I thought ‘Oh, this has Chuck Sweeney’s name on it.'”
Sweeney managed to avoid the missile but got separated from the rest of his group and caught up just as they were preparing to attack their target.
Sweeney’s group hit a loaded train and avoided even more anti-aircraft fire as they headed back to the USS Hancock.