Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back - We Are The Mighty
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Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Chatter about a new wave of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq have been making the rounds for days. Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller made it official. 

As Miller began his announcement behind the backdrop of the Pentagon press room, he spent time pointedly stating that the moment was owed, “To the many patriots who had made the ultimate sacrifice and their comrades who carried forward their legacy.” He reminded those watching of the over 6,000 American lives lost in the war and how over 50,000 American lives were forever changed by visible and invisible wounds.

Miller spent Tuesday morning briefing members of Congress. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who rarely goes against Trump’s decisions, objected to the withdrawal. He wasn’t the only Republican in Congress to do so. Joining him in concern was Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman and Florida Congressman, Marco Rubio (R).

Although concerns were raised by a number of military and congressional leaders in the days prior to the announcement, on Tuesday, Miller made the troop withdrawal official. “I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countiries,” Miller stated. “By January 15, 2021, our forces – their size in Afghanistan – will be 2,500 troops. Our forces and their size in Iraq will also be 2,500 troops by that same date.”

Miller was recently appointed as Acting Secretary of Defense after the President fired Mark Esper from the position via Twitter.

According to CNN, prior to his firing Esper sent a classified memo to the White House, which detailed conditions that hadn’t yet been met for a safe withdrawal of U.S. troops. There is speculation that the memo combined with Trump’s apparent loss of the presidency led to Esper’s firing.   

Despite reported military leadership objection to the withdrawal without conditions met and the leaked memo indicating it was a unanimous chain of command objection, Miller forged ahead today announcing President Trump’s official order. “This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives… supported by the American people and does not equate in a change of U.S. policy or objectives. Moreover, this decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over several months,” Miller stated. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley stated to NPR in October that, “The whole agreement and all of the drawdown plans are conditions-based. The key here is that we’re trying to end a war responsibly, deliberately, and to do it on terms that guarantee the safety of the U.S. vital national security interests that are at stake in Afghanistan.”

“I have also spoken with our military commanders and we all will execute this repositioning in a way that protects our fighting men and women,” Miller stated. He continued, “Today is another critical step in that direction and a result of President Trump’s bold leadership…we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home.” 

The Acting Secretary of Defense did not offer any reasoning to the accelerated troop withdrawal despite conditions not being met, nor did Miller take any questions following the reading of his prepared statement.

MIGHTY STORIES

Mighty Stories: Remembering my big, bad Green Beret, SSG Michael H. Simpson

Mighty Stories is a weekly WATM feature highlighting the stories of veterans, active duty and military families. This week’s feature is Krista Simpson Anderson – Army wife, Gold Star wife, founder of the nonprofit The Unquiet Professional.

I grew up in Hampton, Massachusetts – a little town right outside of Springfield. My father served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967-1971, but it was before I was born. My mom’s side of the family also served, but it wasn’t something we talked about. I was blissfully ignorant about military life.

I met Mike in June 2006. He was a friend of my cousin’s. My cousin was deploying to Iraq and my aunt was having a deployment party for him. She flew in a few of his friends that had been in the Old Guard with him, and she called me and asked me to help her with the guys flying in.

I walked into the Toasted Owl Tavern in Northhampton, and there he was.


It was love at first sight. I remember my cousin saying to me, ‘I’m going to disown you both if you get married.’ But we were fixed on each other. The whole world could have come crashing down around us and we wouldn’t have noticed.

In August 2006, Mike’s whole unit transferred to Germany. I went out to visit him for Thanksgiving. In September of 2007, he deployed to Iraq. He came out to Rhode Island to my family’s home before he left and we spent a week together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time of his deployment, so I took a couple of different jobs, one in St. Thomas, one in New York. But we stayed in contact.

In April 2008, during his mid-tour leave, he invited me to his brother David and sister-in-law Kelsey’s wedding in Texas. During their rehearsal dinner in his parents’ backyard, he went to give his best man’s speech and we all thought it would be something funny. He was so goofy, it was hard to imagine him doing something serious. Now mind you, he served in the military in the Old Guard so he clearly had to be serious for work. But the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘Be each other’s compass.’

I was blown away.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Mike and Krista. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

That night, he walked me to my room – we were all staying with his parents – and he told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. And he asked me, ‘Will you be my wife?’ I knew that it had been a long night of celebrating so I told him that if he felt the same way in the morning we could talk about it. I went to sleep dreaming of the rest of our lives together.

The next morning over a cup of coffee at the counter, Mike looked at me and said, ‘I don’t feel any differently than I did last night. I want you to be my wife. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.’ I said yes, of course. We kept this a secret because it was not our day – it was David and Kelsey’s wedding day, and we knew his oldest brother, Isaac, was going to be proposing to his now wife, Vanessa, the next day. We told his sister, Abby, and then swore her to secrecy.

A few days after the wedding we announced our good news and decided to marry as soon as Mike returned from his deployment.

Mike went back to Iraq a week later, and returned in October 2008 to Germany. We met back up in Tennessee for Isaac and Vanessa’s wedding in November. December 20, 2008, we married in Rhode Island, and the first week of January he returned to Germany. We decided to live apart until his orders came through to start the Special Forces Qualification course so he wouldn’t need to extend in Germany.

I went to Germany to see him in February for his birthday, and I came home and found out I was pregnant with our first son a month later. I was working at a restaurant as a manager and living with my parents in Rhode Island awaiting orders. By September 2009 we were finally living together in Fort Bragg, NC and our son Michael was born October 22nd.

I remember taking “SF101” (Special Forces 101) for the spouses and the emphasis was put on how long our husbands would be away from home. Everything was about not getting our hopes up for birthdays, holidays, special occasions and being a family during those times. They really wanted to prepare us for the let downs of our military career. No one ever told me the incredible things our husbands would be doing while away from home and that every mission would be for the good of our nation. No one ever told me about the amazing and wonderful things we would be doing for our families while they were away. No one ever told me how, as spouses, we would show up for each other, in good times and in bad. No one ever told me that we would all be changing the world together – them abroad and us on the homefront.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Mike, Krista and their two boys. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

Mike graduated in March 2011 and then reported July 10 for a Special Forces billet at 4th BN, Charlie Company, 1st Special Forces Group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I got out there August 1 with Michael who was just about two, and pregnant with Gabriel. We closed on our first house on my birthday, September 23.

As soon as our household goods arrived, Mike was off on a TDY (Temporary Duty) so I set up the house with my two year old and called my Mom and Aunt in for reinforcements to paint beige the mustard yellow walls and ceiling our new home offered.

When home, Mike was a present and incredibly fun daddy. He played this game called Daddy T-Rex. He would hold Gabe and chase Mic around the house, pretending to be a dinosaur. They would also lie on the floor and play Legos, have mini race-car races all the while tapping into Mike’s very present childlike spirit. He’d say to me, ‘I can’t wait until they’re older so we can do more fun things.’ He couldn’t wait to play basketball, soccer and teach them to ride bikes.

On 6 April 2013, Mike deployed with his company to eastern Afghanistan. Less than three weeks later I received the call every military spouse prays they’ll never get.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Mike, right, with a battle buddy. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

The day before the call, Mike and I were texting back and forth and I was telling him how grateful I was to be his wife. I asked him to marry me all over again. I said, ‘I love you more today than I ever have. You have brought so much joy to my life that it overwhelms me. Will you marry me… Again?’ We were going to meet in Mexico with our families around Christmas and I told him I wanted to do it then. He wrote back, ‘Yes!’

On April 27, I had just put Gabriel down for a nap (he was 16 months) and I heard my phone ringing. I ran down the stairs to an ‘Unknown’ caller and answered what I can only assume must have been the last ring. It was (now Lieutenant Colonel) Major Jamie Alden, and he said ‘Hi, Krista? This is Major Alden.’ It didn’t even dawn on me why the company commander would be calling me from Afghanistan.

He asked me where I was, and I told him I was at home. He asked where the boys were, and I told him Mic was in the other room and I’d just put Gabe down for a nap.

He said, ‘I need you to sit down.’

You know that feeling when it seems that your brain starts going numb and it begins to rush through your whole body? Luckily I made it to the other room and sat down near the boys’ toys – on a bean bag chair.

‘Michael is alive, but he is in critical condition. There was an accident; he hit an IED while riding an ATV. He has a lower right leg amputation and there has been severe trauma to his right arm. We know there is shrapnel damage, we just are not sure where and the extent. Again, he is alive, but he is critical.’

I had to stop him. I couldn’t process anything and I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember anything else he was saying. I ran across the street and banged on my neighbor Kate’s door, and her daughter opened it. She was supposed to be coming over anyway to watch the boys since we had a neighborhood clean-up scheduled and I was president of the homeowners association. She ran to stay with the boys while Kate got on the phone with Major Alden. It took some convincing for him to speak to her but he finally agreed, understanding my emotional state.

I watched her as she spoke to him but I couldn’t hear her. I could hear sounds, just not the words, as if my ears were blocked. Kate handed the phone back to me and I thanked him, and he reminded me that we were family, that his wife Susan would be calling me soon, and that everything was going to be okay.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Mike, before the attack. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I got off the phone and had to start making phone calls. I walked with my phone in my hand across the grass toward our friends, Alan and Angie’s, house. They were laying out a tarp for mulch on their driveway when they looked over. It must have been written all over my face because they rushed to me and caught me before I fell to my knees. Alan was the commander of an EOD unit on JBLM and assured me everything was going to be ok. Angie was by my side and provided support in any way I needed.

I wanted to close my eyes and wake up from the nightmare but I couldn’t. I was a Green Beret’s wife and the mother of two future Green Berets. I said to myself, ‘Pull yourself together, handle your business- he’s not dead and is going to need you to be strong!’

I stood outside, barefoot, on the cold pavement. The bottoms of my feet still get cold remembering those moments. I tried calling Mike’s parents but there was no answer. I tried calling my parents and no answer again. I called his brother Isaac, who was also a Green Beret who was in North Carolina doing his instructor rotation. I said, ‘It’s Mike. He’s alive but he hit an IED and he’s in surgery. It’s critical.’

I can still hear his scream.

Isaac had witness IED attacks before and he knew the gravity of this news. Isaac and Vanessa would make the calls to the rest of the Simpson family as I continued my calls from the floor of our parish where I sat and prayed. Once my parents were notified, my mother arrived from Rhode Island to our home in Olympia, Washington, 12 hours later.

1st Special Forces Group (1st SFG) at JBLM welcomed me in every morning to call Afghanistan for updates. LTC David Haight would call Bagram ICU and translate their medical report for me whether at that morning meeting or 1am. We would share our information, formulate a plan and I would leave the table every morning stronger than I arrived. Monday, 29 April, I called the hospital myself. The doctor that answered told me he was sorry, but that Mike didn’t have a gag or corneal reflex and that he would not live.

I thanked him and his team for caring for him so well. I went downstairs to tell my mother before the boys awoke and then retreated to my room where I called my cousin Alicia and friend Andrea. I begged Alicia to wake me up and take this away.

The medical team cared for Mike so well they were able to transfer him from Afghanistan to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany. We got the green light to go to Germany as soon as Mike was in the air from AFG. They couldn’t cut orders or book our flights until they knew Mike was surviving the altitude. They performed emergency surgery on the plane and worked tirelessly to keep him alive even though they knew the outcome. When they arrived in Germany, one of Mike’s closest friends from the Special Forces Qualification Course was there awaiting his arrival. Casey served with another Special Forces Group and was training in the area when we received the news.

As I traveled to Germany, my Casualty Assistance Officer (CAO) SFC Gerry DeMarzo and Chaplain Johnny Elder escorted me. What a blessing they were for so many reasons I couldn’t possibly list in short. The ‘behind the scenes’ had so many issues getting us all there but with the help from the Green Beret Foundation, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, USO, Fisher House Foundation and Care Coalition on top of 1st SFG, I arrived and met Mike’s parents, siblings and spouses to be with Mike.

Upon arrival, my only request was that I got to see him first. I wanted to clean him up before his mom saw him. Silly, but it was all I could think of. I got to the hospital and Casey was at the door with SFC Doug Way. (They both never once left us. Casey stayed at Mike’s bedside and Doug would either be standing outside his hospital room or kneeling outside the room praying.)

I never lost hope.

‘Maybe he will heal and maybe the doctors were wrong,’ I kept telling myself.

Casey and Doug greeted me, offered their condolences and I entered the room.

There he was.

My big bad Green Beret laying broken and vulnerable. I had never felt so helpless in all of my life.

All I could manage was a whisper… ‘Dear Lord, please help us.’

On 1 May 2013, as we all stood around Mike’s bed, Dr. Betts informed us that Mike was in fact brain dead. I asked, ‘Can his brain heal?’ rationally knowing the answer, but I had to ask. ‘No ma’am, the brain can not heal from these injuries,’ he said. I nodded my head in understanding, saw the very real pain in his parents’ and siblings’ faces, said, ‘Thank you,’ and then ran out.

I ran left out of the room, through the ICU doors into the hall toward the stairs, down the stairs and out of the hospital hoping I could run away from this earth-shattering moment in my life and somehow, when I returned, everything would be ok – Mike would wake, he would rehab and our lives would go on … Together.

I stopped and Gerry and Doug were not too many steps behind me. Gerry never let me out of his sight for a moment; he was my greatest advocate and protector. He always told me he took care of our family the way he would have wanted his family taken care of if something were to have happened to him. When I returned to the hospital, I went back in and I didn’t leave Mike’s side except for an hour to take care of the paperwork I needed to sign.

The rest of that day we would call all the family and friends we could connect with so they could say their goodbyes. I would call and inform them of Mike’s diagnosis, tell them how sorry I was but that it was time for them to say goodbye if they wished. I would put the phone down on Mike’s pillow next to his ear, believing he would receive their love and pain through their words.

I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to say whatever they wanted and needed to for some closure. Our family and friends stateside would say goodbye as well as Charlie Company, 4th BN, 1st SFG. Mike’s team was sure he would survive, so my news was heartbreaking to them … Mike was their brother.

One of Mike’s friends and teammates brought me to my knees with his heartfelt message that his wife would transcribe for me later. His words were, ‘For Mike: Hey buddy. Have no fear, you’re the realest Green Beret now. You did it all. Thanks for all the bravo advice and an invitation to be a part of your family. I will never forget our time together and will do anything for your family. R.I.P. brother. I love you. One more thing – thank you for the greatest sacrifice one can make. My prayer to you … Now I lay you down to sleep, I pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, bless Mikey Lord, his soul to take.’

Once the last call was made I think my body and mind knew it and I needed to rest. I asked the hospital staff if they could move Mike over so I could lie next to him in his hospital bed. I laid there and just listened to his heart beat. I prayed until I drifted off to sleep. Around 4 am, the nurse came in and wanted to change his dressings and clean him up. I asked if I could help, so she brought in soapy water and a washcloth. She changed his dressings while I cleaned him up. Around 9 pm, they came in to get him for organ donor surgery. I stayed with him while they got him ready to be moved. I walked to the door holding his hand as they started to wheel him out, and didn’t want to let go.

This was it.

I would never see his chest rise and fall or hear his beating heart again. ‘I’M NOT READY!’ I screamed in my head.

But … with as much grace as I could, I leaned down and kissed him one last time and whispered, ‘I love you all the world. I promise you I will take care of our boys, and we will always remember you.’

They wheeled his bed out and I stood in the empty, cold hospital room alone. ‘What now?’ I asked. ‘How do I live without you?’

We came back from Germany to Dover for the dignified transfer on 7 May 2013. He was supposed to be the only casket on the flight, but seven other soldiers were killed just days before, so we were with their families. These families didn’t have what we did. They didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. They watched their loved one get on the plane for deployment and then their casket come off in Dover.

It started to rain as we stood out on the tarmac, so hard it was sideways. My mother in law had an umbrella and was also trying to wrap me in her jacket to protect me. I told her I was okay without it, because I wanted to feel everything; the rain, the heartache, the fear. I had to face that moment.

As the caskets were taken off the plane I could hear the rain and the wailing from mothers and fathers who lost their sons, siblings who lost their brothers, spouses who lost their husbands and children who lost their fathers. I felt as though I was hovering over myself, looking down in disbelief that this was now my journey.

I flew home to Washington after being gone for 10 days. I could never spend a few hours away from my boys without missing them terribly. This time I was afraid to see them. What would I say? How would I tell them their Daddy wasn’t coming home?

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Mike’s dignified transfer. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

I sat Michael (age 3) down and asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’

‘Yes Mommy,’ he said.

‘Even though you can’t see Him?’ I asked.

‘Yes of course Mommy!’ he replied.

‘You know Daddy is a soldier?’

‘Yes,’ he answered.

I looked into his eyes and softly said, ‘Well, Daddy is going to be God’s soldier now.’

‘But I will miss him,’ he said.

‘Me too.’

It would have been easy to sit down and focus on all the tragedy. My husband, my best friend, the father of my two beautiful boys was gone. I was a 35 year old widow who didn’t have enough time with the love of my life. Mike and I always told each other, ‘This love happens once in a lifetime,’ and it was gone.

My future and dreams broke into a million pieces and I had no idea how I would become whole again. And yet, somehow, I had to choose to see the incredible blessings that were happening all around us. The support from our family, friends and community; the military representatives that were assigned to us that created a beautiful journey; it was all a gift as much as my husband’s sacrifice was a gift to us all. Everybody who walked into our lives … it was nothing short of perfect.

On 30 May 2013, our Memorial Day, Mike was interred with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery by his original Old Guard unit where he served when he first joined the military in 2003.

There are many things I remember about that day. It was so hot I could feel the heat from the pavement radiate through the bottom of my sandals – a stark contrast from the cold I felt on my bare feet the day I got the call that Mike had been hit.

I remember walking for what seemed like forever with our two children, hoping to make it through the ceremony.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Michael with his Daddy T-rex at Mike’s memorial. Photo courtesy of Krista Simpson Anderson.

And I remember thinking that this place, Arlington National Cemetery, had always been one of my favorite places to be. It’s so peaceful. It’s filled with a clear and strong sense of honor and courage, but in that moment I didn’t feel brave at all.

There were over 100 people in attendance to show their love and support, not just for Mike, but for us as well. My dear friend Andrea Rinaldi was one of them. She stayed by my side through it all, from the very beginning of our journey, and selflessly gave of her time and heart. The service, experience and support of so many was humbling, and I will always be grateful.

Finally, I remember the boys and I receiving the folded flags. How do you process receiving a folded flag in the place of your Daddy when you’re only three years old? Michael was given the flag, but really only wanted his Daddy T-Rex. As I held our 16 month old, I watched as Gerry, our Casualty Assistance Officer, took a knee, and took Michael’s flag for him. I love this picture – this moment in time – as it truly captures how Gerry so beautifully served our family.

Mike’s company would continue their deployment for six more months after Mike’s death. One of his teammates stated during his memorial, ‘This Team… This company… This regiment, will never forget your sacrifice. Each day when we don our kit and prepare for battle, we will do it in your honor. We will take the fight to the enemy and fight how you would have wanted us to. Never faltering… Never failing… and never forgetting. This fight is over for you brother, but know that it is not over for us. We will continue in your honor and remember you as a husband, a father, and a Green Beret.’

I attended the homecoming for the first flight that came in from Afghanistan. I was grateful to be there yet nervous about my emotions. As we waited in the company I was approached by a woman in the hallway. ‘Mrs. Simpson,’ she said. ‘I am not sure if this is an appropriate time but I wanted to introduce myself and tell you that I was one of Mike’s nurses in Afghanistan.’ I am sure I hugged her immediately and was so grateful to lay my hands on someone who was there, with Mike, during the scariest moments of his life. It was a blessing I can’t explain. She was one of many who saved Mike so our family could say goodbye. She was, and still is, my angel. I am blessed by her and her whole family to this day.

When the buses arrived carrying Mike’s company we all rushed outside to greet them. The minds and hearts of so many wives and children were eased and made whole again. I truly was so happy for them, yet I subconsciously waited for Mike to get off that bus. The last man embarked and I was sure Mike would be next. The door closed and the bus drove away.

In the distance, I heard the shriek of a little girl, calling, ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ and as I turned to look, I saw her run and jump into a man’s arms who wore the same uniform as all the other soldiers … the same one Mike would have been wearing, with the same wide arms he would have caught our sons in. But it wasn’t him and it never would be. My heart shattered all over again and I needed to turn and walk inside to face this emotion alone. I couldn’t allow anyone to think I was not grateful their husbands came home, because I was, wholeheartedly, but that didn’t take away my pain.

I went home that night with a folded flag that was flown over Mike’s camp in Afghanistan. My dear friend laid next to me as I cried myself to sleep and she didn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay.

Over the next several months I was constantly at the battalion, offering help, wanting to talk to them to make sure they were doing okay. I know it was difficult for them to see me since I was a reminder of the reality of Mike’s death. I know many struggled with his loss and I recognized very quickly that survivor’s guilt was a very real emotion. They needed to know that this was God’s plan, not ours, and He doesn’t make mistakes. My mission was to show them that we would honor Mike, grieve his loss but we would absolutely be okay. We were strong and proud, not weak and angry. Everyone grieves differently and there is not a right or wrong way to do it. I chose grace for me, my children and his team.

One of Mike’s teammates, Gus, had done the original inventory on Mike’s things. He was able to put all of his belongings into perspective. What he was wearing the day of his accident, what certain gear meant and what it was used for. He brought back command challenge coins from the memorial in Afghanistan where they all gathered on 11 May. Gus was able to retrieve and hand carry the patches Mike wore on his helmet, along with the memorial patch he had made for their team’s uniforms. Gus would come over and play with the boys, give me a moment of rest and help anyway he could.

So many of Mike’s teammates and their families would do the same. I was so grateful for the respite since the light at the end of the deployment tunnel was extinguished for me. Mike wouldn’t return to ease the natural burdens of parenting coupled with keeping up the household alone.

I always had family dinners. From the time Mike passed, I’d send out a text at 1:00 pm on a Sunday with, ‘Family dinner at 4’ and a few hours later the house would fill with joy and laughter. What better therapy than to be surrounded by those that loved us and Mike?

Gus and I would talk a lot about Mike, his feelings of survivor’s guilt (which they all had) and spent a lot of time together over the next couple years. I started to realize I cared for Gus more than I thought was possible and wanted to see where that would lead us.

I flew down to Texas for Easter – I needed to talk to Mike’s parents. His father said to me, ‘I have four requirements: He loves you, he loves the boys, he loves Jesus and that he always shows them it’s manly to love Jesus.’ His mother said, ‘I’ve prayed since the week after Mike died that you would find somebody.’ They were my greatest supporters. And they already loved Gus. He was already a part of our family. This was a no brainer for me.

I struggled with Gus being my secret-not so secret boyfriend. I had this organization that I’d founded as a widow of an active duty service member. I was afraid. I had lost my identity as a military spouse and then I found one as a military widow. It allowed me to talk about Mike and honor him. We were afraid of what our friends might think of our relationship and the judgement that would come. In July 2016, we broke up when I realized I needed time. Ten days later, he left for Nepal with his team and during those three months I recognized all of the things I was doing wrong. I thought I was honoring Mike every day but by not honoring Gus at all, was I really? By having someone in my life who wanted to love us, take care of us and honor Mike, yet I wasn’t willing to let him in – could I be dishonoring my late husband? I used to resent the ‘widow’ title but then I found myself not wanting to let it go.

I prayed so much and I came to the conclusion that I just needed to love Gus, and show him that he was a priority. He got back from Nepal and he was still very angry with me. We met a few times to talk, took it slow and then one day I boldly told him that we were going to get married. I knew the response could have broke my heart but he was worth it.

We were worth it.

He laughed and told me softly that I had to be crazy. One month later, Gus got down on one knee on the docks in Seattle, in front of our favorite Oyster Bar (Elliotts) and asked me to marry him. Two months later, we were married in Rhode Island among our family and friends. The priest who married us had married my parents, baptized Gabriel, did last rights for Mike and his funeral in Arlington, and had confirmed and married Casey and Sandy (Mike’s friend who was with him in Germany). It was perfect.

Thanks to Michael’s kind-hearted 1st grade teacher, Ms. Petruska, my boys decided to call Gus ‘Dad’ the moment we stepped off the altar, and have not called him anything but that since. They wanted and needed a father in their lives so badly and I don’t think I realized that until then. Michael and Gabriel both repeat Ms. Petruska’s words often – ‘We have a Daddy in Heaven and a Daddy on earth.’

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

A month after Gus and I married he deployed to Afghanistan. I woke up every morning and prayed that Gus was alive. He was so good about messaging me whenever he could to ease my mind, even though I never shared with him my fears. His heart and mind just works that way and he is always considering the times and moments I may go through in this journey and how they may be affecting me. He is constantly striving to make life easier. I pray I do the same for him.

I won’t tell you that I didn’t struggle through those six months but I can tell you I found peace in God’s plan and chose to continue to trust that His plan was greater than mine. Tragedy and loss does not have to define you or dictate the rest of your life. My story didn’t end with the loss of Mike; it began with a new chapter of hope and my choice of joy. It continued with honoring Mike and Gus giving me the greatest gift… he never makes me choose as he continues to give me the freedom to love them both.

Five years to the day that Mike touched American soil in Dover, Delaware for his dignified transfer, I landed in Washington, DC with Gus, for the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year events with Military Spouse Magazine that would change my life. Five years to the day that Mike was flown back to Joint Base Lewis McChord to land at Grey Army Airfield, I was awarded the overall Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year. I know it’s right where I need to be, that God’s timing is perfect, and that Mike would be so proud of me. And I also know I couldn’t have done any of this without Gus or my children.

Tragedy did not dictate my life in a negative way. My goal is that other people can see that, and feel that. I remember looking at other Gold Star Spouses like Lisa Hallett and thinking, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And I want other people to look at me and find hope, too.

Mike was very proud to sacrifice his life. And I am so proud to honor him.

Arlington National Cemetery is where my friend Andrea suggested a fundraiser for those who supported us and ultimately where The Unquiet Professional was born. So many organizations supported us, from the volunteers with the USO who carried my kids through the airport, the Green Beret Foundation being there for everything, or wear blue: run to remember, where I found a healthy and meaningful way to heal. I wanted to be able to pay that love back.

We now provide healthy and empowering opportunities for Gold Star Families, Veterans and their families. When Andrea suggested fundraising, she saved me that day. She saved me from the possibilities of not being able to live out my grief in a positive way. I heal as I strive to help others do the same with my ‘twice in a lifetime love’ by my side every step of the way.

Memorial Day is my favorite holiday of the year. We feel Mike’s presence and his loss every single day no matter what life brings us. But on Memorial Day, everyone thinks of all of our fallen heroes. People say when you’re having your bbq and your beer you’re not remembering the sacrifices, but I say celebrate. Celebrate their lives. Remember them.

Honor Staff Sergeant Michael Simpson and other heroes this Memorial Day by participating in The Unquiet Professional’s Virtual Memorial Day Mile. Join their Facebook group here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy says it wants to shrink the Marine Corps by more than 2,000 Marines

The Department of the Navy revealed in its latest budget request that it wants to reduce the overall active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps by 2,300 Marines.


The fiscal year 2021 budget request “funds an active duty end strength of 184,100” for the Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy said in an overview of its planned budget for the coming fiscal year released Monday.

The department said that the current plan for the “reduction of active duty Marine Corps end strength is part of larger reform initiatives aimed at internally generating resources through divestitures, policy reforms, and business process improvements to reinvest in modernization and increasing lethality.”

The reduction is expected to apply to less critical aspects of the Corps, such as those that “do not have a defined requirement in the National Defense Strategy.”

In the FY 2020 budget request, the Navy projected a steady increase in the active-duty end strength of the Marine Corps, but that no longer appears to be the case.

Last summer, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger, now the commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a smaller Corps might be necessary should resources be constrained.

“Among the most significant challenges I will face as the Commandant if confirmed will be to sustain readiness at high levels for our operating forces while concurrently modernizing the force under constrained resource limits,” he said, USNI News reported.

“We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment,” Berger told lawmakers.

“We will also need to divest of our legacy equipment and legacy programs and also consider potential end strength reductions in order to invest in equipment modernization and necessary training upgrades,” he added.

The Department of the Navy reduced its overall budget by billion compared to last year’s budget.

Overall, the US military will increase in size by roughly 5,600 troops, the Department of Defense budget request revealed, according to Military Times.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of January 17th

In case you missed it, a 59-year old OEF veteran is reenlisting after a nearly ten year break in service. It took about a year to get the waivers and to cut the red tape, but Army regulations still require him to go through Basic Training all over again in June. I mean, that is what it is, but his military record kinda shows even more of how pointless that is…

His story begins when he enlisted in the Marines in ’78, got out and became a cop, reenlisted during Desert Storm as an infantryman, stayed in long enough to go to Afghanistan as PSYOPs, got out again to become SWAT, and now he’s looking to do it all over again.

I’m just saying – I know that the drill sergeants probably give him the appropriate amount of guff that’s required in Basic and understand that his knowledge of previous conflicts can be instrumental to teaching the younger troops. But imagine being that young, dumb trainee who thinks they’ve got jokes for the “old dude in his platoon” only to learn that he’s been kicking in door before their parents were born.


If only to be a fly on that wall… Anyways, here’s some memes.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Vet TV)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via United States Veteran Network)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Call for Fire)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Not CID)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Leatherneck 4 Life)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via ASMDSS)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Lists

These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.


Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.

Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.

There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.

Mexico

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
Mexican army members salute during a ceremony honoring the 201st Fighter Squadron at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Mexico, March 6, 2009. (DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump.)

Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.

Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.

During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”

Read Now: A judge ruled this veteran is a US citizen. Now he faces deportation to Mexico

Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”

In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.

“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.

Guatemala

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
Guards with guns in Guatamala City. (Image Wikicommons)

Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.

“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.

Also Read: 22 brutal dictators you’ve never heard of

For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.

Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.

United States

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
That’s nice, Ted.

Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.

The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.

They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.

Articles

Army still testing Ripsaw ‘Luxury Super Tank’

The U.S. Army continues to test a lightweight tracked vehicle known as Ripsaw that’s now being pitched to the consumer market as a “luxury super tank.”


A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey to assess how they could be used in future combat operations. Indeed, on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, head of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, rode in one of the vehicles with a driver as part of a demonstration.

Related: SOCOM plans to test Iron Man suit by 2018

The company describes the 750-horsepower, optionally manned vehicle — which is capable of reaching speeds of almost 100 miles per hour and costs roughly $250,000 — as a “handcrafted, limited-run, high-end, luxury super tank developed for the public and extreme off road recreation.”

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

For one, it’s too light. At 9,000 pounds, the EV2 is closer in size to the Humvee than a tank. For example, the Army’s M1A2 Abrams main battle tank tips the scales at more than 70 tons. Indeed, the Ripsaw isn’t even in the same weight class as an M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicle or M2/M3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.

Also, it doesn’t carry the same firepower. The EV2 is designed to accommodate the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, which can mount any number of weapons — including the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, Mk19 40mm automatic grenade machine gun, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. By comparison, the M1A2 tank’s main armament is the 120mm L/44 M256A1 smoothbore tank gun.

Finally, it doesn’t have any armor to speak of, just an aluminum frame with gull-wing doors. So it’s really more of a tracked DeLorean than a tank (see picture below).

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
A handful of the Ripsaw Extreme Vehicle 2, or EV2, products made by Howe and Howe Technologies Inc., based in Waterboro, Maine, are undergoing evaluations at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey. (Photo courtesy Howe and Howe)

Even so, the manufacturer says the Ripsaw is the “fastest dual tracked vehicle ever developed.”

And that may be why, several years after the vehicle was featured in “Popular Science” magazine in 2009, the Army remains interested in seeing how it might incorporate the EV2 into its combat formations. The service has tested the technology for at least a year — a soldier in 2016 operated a Ripsaw from a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier trailing a kilometer away, according to a press release at the time.

Here at Military.com, we’re fascinated by the technology and reaching out to the Army to learn more about how officials are evaluating this slick ride, which is almost guaranteed to get more popular in the months and years ahead.

See the Ripsaw in action below:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sailor killed at Pearl Harbor will be interred at Arlington

Navy Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz, killed at the Pearl Harbor attack, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery Dec. 7, 2018, on the 77th anniversary of the incident.

Bruesewitz, 26, of Appleton, Wisconsin, was assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) moored at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft Dec. 7, 1941. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced in November 2018 that Bruesewitz was accounted for March 19, 2018 and his remains were being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.


Assistant Secretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic who will be at the interment ceremony said he is honored to attend the ceremony for Bruesewitz.

“As battleship USS Oklahoma, which on Dec. 7, 1941, sustained multiple torpedo hits and capsized quickly, Petty Officer 1st Class Bruesewitz and other sailors were trapped below decks. He was one of the 429 Sailors who were killed that fateful day,” Slavonic said.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz’s name is etched in stone with the names of the 429 Sailors killed aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy photo by Tucker McHugh)

“Breuesewitz and his shipmates are remembered at the USS Oklahoma Memorial on Ford Island which was dedicated in their honor Dec. 7, 2007. Sailors like Bruesewitz who represent the ‘Greatest Generation’ gave so much and asked so little but when the time came to serve their Navy and nation, they answered the call.”

After Bruesewitz was killed in the attack, his remains were recovered from the ship, but they could not be identified following the incident. He was initially buried as an unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Forensic developments, like DNA analysis, allowed reexamination and eventual identification of his remains. Bruesewitz is the 118th crew member to be identified by the DPAA’s USS Oklahoma project. There were 388 personnel unaccounted for from the ship and 187 Sailors have been identified so far.

Renate Starck, one of Bruesewitz’s nieces, told us from Maryland that after Bruesewitz was identified and interment plans have started, the family requested that it be Dec. 7, 2018.

“Because we’ve been aware of loss of our uncle. Since he died, the family remembered him on this day. This is also easy for the young ones to remember. It gives us peace and forgiveness for his loss,” she said during a phone interview.

About 60 people, most of whom are family members and some close friends, will be attending the funeral ceremony at the Arlington National Ceremony which will begin at the administration building at 1 p.m.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Seaman 1st Class William Bruesewitz’s name is etched in stone with the names of the 429 Sailors killed aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma during the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

(U.S. Navy photo by Tucker McHugh)

A funeral service for him will be held earlier in the day starting at 7:50 a.m. at Salem Lutheran Church, Catonsville, Maryland, after which a procession to Arlington will take place. The Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore, dedicated their Dec. 1 and 2, 2018 performances of W. A. Mozart’s Requiem to Bruesewitz.

Explaining the historical process, a DPAA statement says that from December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the deceased crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu Cemeteries. In September 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service (AGRS) disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks. The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery, known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu. In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Bruesewitz.

In April 2015, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a policy memorandum directing the disinterment of unknowns associated with USS Oklahoma. On June 15, 2015, DPAA personnel began exhuming the remains from the Punchbowl for analysis. To identify Bruesewitz’s remains, scientists from DPAA and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA analysis, anthropological and dental analysis, along with circumstantial evidence.

USS Oklahoma crew members have been honored Dec. 7, 2018, each year with a ceremony held on Ford Island at the USS Oklahoma Memorial to include, post of the colors, principle speaker, honoring those who served on the USS Oklahoma, 21-gun salute and taps. Leis are placed on some white standards in honor of each crew member where a picture is placed on a standard when they are identified.

Additionally, there is a USS Oklahoma Memorial in Oklahoma, which has a listing of the crew members lost, near the Oklahoma Capitol honoring 429 Sailors who were killed on USS Oklahoma during the Pearl Harbor attack.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is bombing Afghanistan more than ever in 2018

The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.

Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.

Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.

The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
A U.S. Army soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry.u00a0Qalat, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2011.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.

President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.


Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.

“We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April 2017, after the Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon was dropped on an ISIS-K targetin northwest Afghanistan — the first battlefield use of that weapon.

In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.

The Taliban has deepened its involvement in the drug trade, and many of its labs are easily rebuilt.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
ISIS-K fighting positions targeted by airstrikes in Momand Valley, Achin District, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, Oct.u00a019, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo)

“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”

The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.

Miller acknowledged that the 17 years the US has spent in Afghanistan “is a very long time” but said he “cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date” for the deployment of the 16,000 US troops now in the country.

The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Mills, Security Forces rifleman attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, secures his eyes and ears as Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a controlled detonation of a Taliban-planted Improvised Explosive Device found on a road in Shinkai, Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2011.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”

“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”

When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”

Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.

“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Taliban kill 7, kidnap 6 along highway in western Afghanistan

Taliban rebels killed seven people and kidnapped another six along a highway in western Afghanistan, official sources told EFE Ingles July 12.


The incident, in which 10 rebels were also killed, took place on July 11 along a national highway near Farah, capital of a province by the same name, when the Taliban stopped several vehicles and captured more than 10 people, according to Nasser Mehri, spokesperson for the provincial governor.

“According to initial information, they killed seven of the kidnapped passengers,” explained Mehri, adding that five of the victims were former members of the Afghan security forces.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
The flag of the Taliban. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Mehri added the insurgents were planning to capture more people when the Afghan troops arrived and there was a shootout.

A police official from the province, who asked not to be named, told EFE that at least seven passengers are still being held hostage by the Taliban, and that security forces have launched a rescue operation in areas around the incident spot.

In 2016, the Taliban abducted hundreds of people from the country’s unsafe highways, including members of the security forces traveling in buses or in specific vehicles.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
Intersection of Highway 1 and Route 606 in Delaram, Afghanistan. (Photo from Leonard J. DeFrancisci)

Afghanistan is witnessing its most violent phase since 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown with the help of the United States.

The situation has worsened following the end of NATO’s combat mission in 2015.

Since then, insurgents have been gaining ground in various parts of Afghanistan and currently control, influence, or are in dispute with the government over at least 43 percent of the territory, according to the US.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Army is training to fight in Megacities

In one city block, future soldiers could find themselves in an intense gunfight with enemy militants. In another, soldiers might crawl through debris to rescue trapped residents or deliver needed supplies. At the city’s opposite end, U.S. troops could be attempting to quell a civilian riot.

As urban populations worldwide continue to rise, the probability of these scenarios increases.


From the metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo with its 36 million inhabitants, to the massive clutter of rush hour traffic in Seoul, mega cities present a jarringly daunting obstacle to the future of world combat operations, Army senior leaders said at the 2018 LANPAC conference.

“The complexities that go on in this scale almost are unimaginable,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik, former commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

Additionally, if current trends continue, two thirds of the world’s population will reside in large, metropolitan areas, according to United Nations projections. Threats to megacities take increased importance in the Asia-Pacific, where a majority of the world’s megacities are concentrated.

Making matters worse, many of the cities sit inside the Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile chain in the Pacific basin rampant with volcanic eruptions and unpredictable seismic activity. Some nations, such as Japan, sit on one of the most active tectonic plates in the world. Densely populated cities that include Bangkok and urban centers in Bangladesh are prone to natural disasters.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
Paratroopers assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment provides security on a hallway during a nighttime air assault of a simulated enemy compound during urban warfare training at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
(Photo by Spc. John Lytle)


U.S. forces scarcely encountered operations in megacities in World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

“The challenge of megacities is unlike (anything) we’ve had to deal with in history,” said Dr. Russell Glenn, G-2 director of plans and policy at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.


With so much of a nation’s population contained in a compact, urban space, megacities pose a vastly different challenge from the deserts of the Middle East soldiers have grown accustomed to.

“Every act you do in a city reverberates,” said Gen. Stephen Townsend, TRADOC commander, who spoke via video teleconference at LANPAC.

Military units in rural areas, deserts and small villages can contain the aftereffects of combat. In a large urban environment, skyscrapers, large structures and traffic can cause a domino effect that spread throughout a city.

Glenn added that smaller subsystems comprise a megacity that in turn is part of a much larger system that can extend worldwide.

A new kind of war

To prepare for the complexities of urban warfare, TRADOC has created simulations for soldiers to prepare for urban terrain. Weeks of coordination and planning must be implemented for a few hours of training, but Army leaders believe it will prepare soldiers for future conflicts. Townsend said the Army has considered increasing the scale and size of their urban-simulated training centers. He added facilities can never match the scale needed to truly simulate warfighting in a megacity environment.

“Our simulations have not kept up with changes in our formations — changes in warfare,” Townsend said. “So we’ve got to advance our simulations.”

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
Lt. Gen. Michael Bills, 8th Army commanding general, discusses warfighting in a large city environment during the 2018 AUSA Conference.
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)


In March 2018, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division spent close to a month training for combat in underground tunnels and structures at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. They simulated chemical attacks. Soldiers learned to spontaneously alter current operating procedures to adapt to a city environment.

The Army has been working on a synthetic training environment to bolster its capabilities, while also incorporating space and cyber capabilities more than before. Multi-domain operations will be crucial, commanders said.

Urban ‘flow’

No amount of planning, study or preparation can prepare a military unit for the unique rhythm of a major city or what Townsend labeled the “flow.” The city’s flow can’t be clearly defined but its impact can never be understated, the general said. It can be felt during rush hour traffic or by careful observation over time. A city’s social infrastructure carries more importance than its physical infrastructure, noted Glenn. But understanding how a megacity’s population moves and lives can provide valuable insight for learning a city’s unique intricacies.

To better understand a city’s flow, Townsend said the Army must consult with a city’s police force, fire department and its citizens. In April 2018, the Army held a panel discussion in New York City to discuss logistics and how through interagency cooperation a force might handle the environment’s unique challenges. Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, Townsend and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill joined the panel.

“The point that came through … more clearly emphasized more than any other was the need to understand our partnership,” Glenn said. “Take advantage of those military and civilian (relationships), only then can we fully understand the environment that we’re working in.”

Glenn said that if wartime conditions necessitate it, a military unit can impose or alter flow, so long as it benefits the friendly population and minimizes friction.

Mosul opened the door

The July 2017 re-capture of Mosul from ISIS forces presented perhaps a blueprint for the future of urban warfare.

As the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, Townsend said he observed firsthand strategies deployed by the Iraqi army to regain control of the city.

Townsend believes potential adversaries noticed too.

“I think the enemy has watched Mosul,” the general said. “I think they will deliberately go to the cities and dig in there to fight because they know it takes away a lot of our technological advantages … the range of our weapons is degraded — the effects of our weapons are degraded.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)



“So I think we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.”

Townsend saw the difficulties of urban warfare in the northern Iraqi city which has a population of less than one million. His unit’s command control systems lagged and struggled to keep pace with the conflict. He said digital maps and imagery were impacted.

“The urban landscape changes so rapidly,” Townsend said. “Our C2 systems, our targeting systems … became outdated quickly because the urban landscape was changing faster than we could update our imagery.”

Growing threat

By 2030, the UN predicts the world’s 30 mega cities will also double to 60. Large-scale cities will increase from 45 to 88. America’s potential enemies, China, Russia and North Korea will take advantage of this trend.

“Wars are basically won or lost where the people are — where the population is,” Townsend said.

The Army’s solution: better training, preparation and greater trust. At TRADOC, more soldiers are receiving training in an urban environment. Soldiers must also learn to trust, not only first-responding agencies but accepting greater responsibility, Townsend said.

“As powerful as our mission command systems are, they are all challenged by the environment — the complex terrain that is a city … modern city,” Townsend said.

“You can’t go more than one floor deep without losing (communication) with everybody who’s up on the surface.

“So this whole notion of conveying commanders’ intent, and empowering subordinates … to achieve that commanders’ intent, and trusting them to do that is exactly how we’ll have to fight in even small cities.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A walrus just attacked and sunk Russian navy boat

In a kind of odd man-versus-nature moment, a Russian navy boat was attacked and sunk by a walrus during an expedition in the Arctic, the Barents Observer reported Sept. 23, 2019.

The Altai, a tugboat of the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet, sailed to the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic carrying researchers from the Russian Geographical Society.

“The polar latitudes are fraught with many dangers,” the research group posted in a recent press update.

One of those dangers is apparently walruses, a monstrously large animal that can weigh up to a few thousand pounds and can be quite ferocious when threatened.


To get ashore from the Altai, the researchers and other expedition participants had to rely on smaller landing craft.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

The Altai sitting offshore as a landing craft appears to move in.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

During one landing, the “group of researchers had to flee from a female walrus, which, while protecting its cubs, attacked an expedition boat,” the Northern Fleet said.

The navy added that “serious troubles were avoided thanks to the clear and well-coordinated actions of the Northern Fleet servicemembers, who were able to take the boat away from the animals without harming them.”

The Barents Observer reports that a drone was being operated in close proximity to the walruses. It is unclear if this is what triggered the aggression.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

A walrus.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

While the Russian military makes no mention of any equipment losses, the Geographical Society had a bit more to say on what happened.

“Walruses attacked the participating boat,” the research group explained. “The boat sank, but the tragedy was avoided thanks to the clear actions of the squad leader. All the landing participants safely reached the shore.”

This wasn’t the Russian navy’s first run-in with walruses.

This past May, photos believed to be from 2006 surfaced online of a large walrus napping on top of a Russian submarine.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.


About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
A CH-47 aircrew from Fort Bliss drops off soldiers during an air assault training operation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka)

“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.

These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.

The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.

Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.

The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.

Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.

The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.

Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.

“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.

The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 7 national military parades held by the US

There’s been plenty of buzz surrounding President Trump’s proposed military parade. As is par for the political course these days, there are plenty of people who argue for it — and just as many arguing against. Whether such a parade is good for the military, the United States, or the Trump Administration isn’t for me to decide, but what can be said completely objectively is that Trump is not the first sitting Chief Executive to want to throw such a parade.

As is often the case, the best thing to do before looking ahead is to look behind — let’s review the other times in history the United States has held a military parade, and what those celebrations did for our nation.


In the early days of the republic, it was very common for the Commander-In-Chief to review troops, especially in celebration of Independence Day. This tradition stopped with President James K. Polk, however. His successor, Zachary Taylor, did not review the troops on July 4th and the tradition fell by the wayside.

Since then, we’ve hosted parades only during momentous times. Each of the following parades celebrated either a U.S. victory in a war or the inauguration of a President during the Cold War (as a thumb of the nose at Soviet parades).

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

A sight for sore eyes. General Grant leans forward for a better view of the parading troops as President Johnson, his Cabinet, and Generals Meade and Sherman look on from the presidential reviewing stand. “The sight was varied and grand,” Grant recalled in his memoir.

(Library of Congress)

1. Grand Review of the Armies, 1865

Just one month after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the new President, Andrew Johnson, wanted to change the mood of the mourning nation, especially in the capital. Johnson declared an end to the armed rebellion and called for the Grand Review of the Armies to honor the American forces who fought the Civil War to its successful conclusion.

Union troops from the Army of the Potomac, Army of Georgia, and Army of the Tennessee marched down Pennsylvania Avenue over the course of two days. Some 145,000 men and camp followers walked from the Capitol and pat the reviewing stand in front of the White House. Just a few short weeks after the review, the Union Army was disbanded.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

US Marines march down Fifth Avenue in New York in September, 1919, nearly a year after the end of World War I. General John J. Pershing led the victory parade. A week later, Pershing led a similar parade through Washington, D.C.

2. World War I Victory Parades, 1919

A year after the end of World War I, General John J. Pershing marched 25,000 soldiers from the American Expeditionary Force down 5th Avenue in New York City, wearing their trench helmets and full battle rattle. He would do the same thing down the streets of Washington, DC, a little more than a week later.

Parades like this were held all over the United States, with varying degrees of sizes and equipment involved.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

A float carried a huge bust of President Franklin Roosevelt in New York on June 13, 1942.

3. The ‘At War’ Parade, 1942

In 1942, New York held its largest parade ever (up to that point) on June 13, 1942. For over 11 hours, civilians and government servants marched up the streets of New York City in solidarity with the American troops who were being sent to fight overseas in World War II.

4. World War II Victory Parades, 1946

When you help win the largest conflict ever fought on Earth, you have to celebrate. Four million New Yorkers came to wave at 13,000 paratroopers of the 82d Airborne as they walked the streets in celebration of winning World War II. They were given one of NYC’s trademark ticker-tape parades, along with Sherman tanks, tank destroyers, howitzers, jeeps, armored cars, and anti-tank guns.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

Army tanks move along Pennsylvania Avenue in the inaugural parade for President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 21, 1953.

5. Inauguration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953 

Fresh from a trip to the ongoing war in Korea, newly-minted President Dwight Eisenhower received a welcome worthy of a former general of his stature. Equally impressive was Ike’s inauguration parade. It was not just a celebration of the military’s best ascending to higher office, it was a reminder to the Soviet Union about all the hardware they would face in a global conflict with the United States.

Acting Defense Secretary announces troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, despite leadership push back

The Presidential Review Stand during Kennedy’s inaugural parade.

6. Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, 1961

Keeping with the Cold War tradition of showing off our military power during international news events, like a Presidential inauguration, President John F. Kennedy also got the military treatment, as his military procession also included a number of missiles and missile interceptors.

7. Gulf War Victory Celebration, 1991

President George H.W. Bush was the last U.S. President to oversee a national victory parade. This time, it was a review of troops who successfully defended Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield and expelled Iraq from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. The National Victory Celebration was held Jun. 8, 1991, in Washington and Jun. 9. in New York City — it was the largest since the end of World War II.

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