The Afghan government is struggling to recover control of districts lost to Taliban militants while casualties among security forces have reached record levels, a U.S. government watchdog says.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) highlighted in its latest quarterly report on Oct. 31, 2018, the heavy pressure on the government in Kabul.
“The control of Afghanistan’s districts, population, and territory overall became more contested this quarter,” the agency said.
The Taliban have still not succeeded in taking a major provincial center despite assaults on the provinces of Farah and Ghazni in 2018, but they control large parts of the countryside, the SIGAR report says.
Data from Afghanistan’s NATO-led Resolute Support mission showed that government forces had “failed to gain greater control or influence over districts, population, and territory this quarter”, SIGAR said.
As of September 2018, it said the government controlled or influenced territory with about 65 percent of the population, stable since October 2017.
Afghan National Army soldiers prepare to depart from Afghan base Camp Maiwand in Logar province to go on a routine patrol.
(NATO photo taken by U.S. Navy Lt. Aubrey Page)
However, it reported that only 55.5 percent of the total 407 districts were under government control or influence, the lowest level since SIGAR began tracking district control in 2015.
SIGAR quoted the Resolute Support mission as saying the average number of casualties among Afghan security forces between May 1 and Oct. 1, 2018, was “the greatest it has ever been during like periods.”
Figures for casualties suffered by Afghan security forces are no longer available after Washington in 2017 agreed to Kabul’s request to classify the numbers.
Before that, according to figures published by SIGAR, there were more than 5,000 casualties each year.
General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said last month that Afghan casualties were increasing from 2017.
Looks like troops will stop doing drills in South Korea and actually be pulled out of there. Great. Now every unit is going to get some Joe who was just stationed there that’ll constantly complain about how “South Korea was so much better” than their new unit — despite constantly talking sh*t while there.
It’s always the same lower-enlisted troop. You know the type. They’ll show up just barely in time for First Sergeant to call “fall in,” they’ll be hungover and smell like cigarettes at every formation, and it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll defend their sh*tty actions with a limp, “well, in my last unit…”
Have fun with that, NCOs. No one will blame you for tree-line counseling those fools.
(Meme via Amuse)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
Mindless detail where you can joke with your buddies or being stuck in a training meeting, listening to how the good idea fairy will reshape the unit?
NCOs’ eyes are like the dinosaurs’. They can’t see you unless you move.
I learned it from Jurassic Park, so it has to be true.
(Meme via Valhalla Wear)
(Meme via ASMDDS)
(Meme via Gunner Boy)
(Meme via Military Memes)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
There’s a massive difference between being a “five-jump chump” and having your mustard stain.
Which basically cuts out every staff officer who wanted to impress the commander.
Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, and other former cast members of NBC’s The West Wing reunited to produce an advocacy video on behalf of Justice For Vets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation of a nationwide network of Veterans Treatment Courts in the U.S. criminal justice system.
Half of the U.S. military’s returning service members experiencing some form of mental health issues, one in five have some form of post-traumatic stress, and one in six struggle with substance abuse, both related to experiences in their service. Many of the 700,000 veterans in the criminal justice system are there because of their service-related trauma, addiction, or mental illness. This is not limited to the veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2008, Judge Robert T. Russell of Buffalo, New York noticed many of the returning faces in his courtroom were veterans. The rising number of veterans in the city’s treatment courts led to the creation of the country’s first Veterans Treatment Court. The idea was to create a support group among the niche population of veterans adopting, with slight modifications, ten key components as described in the U.S. Department of Justice Publication entitled Defining Drug Courts: The Key Components, combining those with the ten essential elements of Mental Health Courts.
These courts allow veterans to appear before judges who understand the unique challenges facing them. More than that, Veterans Treatment Courts give vets the the chance to participate in recovery with fellow veterans, to re-establish the esprit de corps kindled by their military service. The court becomes their new unit with the judge in the role of commanding officer. The new team members support each other and are mentored through their rehabilitation period.
The Department of Veterans Affairs plays an important role in guiding recovery of the veteran. The courts area “one-stop shop,” linking veterans with the programs, benefits and services. A Veterans Justice Outreach Specialist, or VJO, is present during hearing to give the courts on the spot information about health records, treatment options, disability benefits, and to make appointments. The VJO is not a member of the court, but plays a critical advisory role.
And there is a lot of evidence showing Veterans Treatment Courts work.
“The concept is creating a community,” Judge Marc Carter of Harris County, Texas told a crowd gathered to watch the Justice For Vets public service announcement in Los Angeles. “It’s not only important in Veterans Courts but in the entire criminal justice system. While they’re in treatment they have success, but when they’re back to their homes they face the same triggers that sent them to me in the first place. In the Veterans Courts we create that community. It can change their lives forever.”
There are now 264 Veterans Treatment Courts in 37 states, and one in Guam. 13,200 veterans are in the care of the courts and their community instead of behind bars, with 3,000 more veterans serving those courts as volunteer mentors. The structure, rigorous treatment and peer mentoring of Veterans Treatment Courts are producing more permanent positive treatment outcomes, returning more veterans to their communities, and saving the American taxpayer the cost of incarceration.
“Vets courts will continue to grow as they do in Texas,” Judge Carter said. “The value of bringing people back healthy to their communities as opposed to putting them in prison and returning them in the same conditions is immeasurable.”
The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.
A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.
The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.
A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”
Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.
The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.
Video footage from Russian news agency Anna News shows the inside of an abandoned US army base in Syria, where items such as half-eaten food, beds, and footballs appear to have been left behind.
According to the text below the video Fadel Nasrala, a correspondent at Anna News visited the abandoned US base in Manbij, Syria after the US military left and the Syrian Arab Army took control of the area.
The footage was posted on YouTube on Oct. 15, 2019,mi and features Nasrala touring the base and pointing out items which appear to have been left behind by the US army in their haste to leave the area.
The full video is available to watch below:
Сирия. Манбидж наш! Военные США оставили послание Syria. Manbij is ours! US military left a message
In what appears to be an office, the lights on the plug sockets on the wall are on, indicating the electricity was left on.
Electrical items are left on the work station and remain plugged into the wall.
An opened bag of animal crackers and a tube of Pringles were left on the table, along with a Sharpie, some energy bars, and a copy of Stieg Larsson’s book “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
A half-eaten packet of animal crackers and a copy of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ lie on the table in what looks to be an office.
Elsewhere in the camp, a bottle of grape juice cocktail is left without the lid on, next to a GameBoy.
In the cafeteria, trays of half-eaten food can be seen on the tables along with unopened tubs of food and trash that has not been cleared away.
In the cafeteria trays of half-eaten food appear to have been left.
The correspondent also leads the camera to a fridge full of soft drinks including Coca-cola and Pepsi. Judging by the sound of the fridge it is still switched on. In the corner of a different room Nasrala points out a football in a basket.
Scenes outside of the abandoned base show deserted vehicles.
A scene from outside the abandoned US military base in Syria.
A video from the Russian international television network RT on Twitter showed more footage of an abandoned US military base.
It is unclear whether this is the same US base that Anna News had access to above, but according to RT the base is located 7 km south west of Manbij.
The base was built three years ago after the area was cleared of ISIS militants, according to RT.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Franciscoadan Orellana, a Gretna, Louisiana, resident assigned to the Louisiana Air National Guard’s 159th Mission Support Group, donated one of his kidneys to his sister, Alejandra Orellana, April 11.
Alejandra’s health issues began 10 years ago when she was pregnant with her son. She suffered from eclampsia, high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes, which caused her son to be born premature at 31 weeks.
Although her son was healthy, the doctors said her veins had collapsed and her organs were shutting down. During the following years she experienced further complications, including being diagnosed with stage four chronic kidney disease.
“The whole family was there for me, but mainly my brother took the role of, ‘What do you need? or What can I do for you?'” she said. “He was really wonderful.”
Not wanting to continue with hemodialysis because of the stress on veins in her neck and chest, her doctor recommended peritoneal dialysis which uses the lining of the stomach as a natural filter. Ultimately, her kidney disease progressed and her case was presented to the kidney transplant board.
In November 2016, after numerous tests and reviews of her medical history, Alejandra Orellana’s case was accepted and she was placed on a transplant waiting list. That’s when Franciscoadan took action and informed his family that he would donate one of his kidneys.
“I still remember telling my family the good news, and my sister responding, ‘No, I couldn’t live with myself if something were to happen to you,'” Franciscoadan said. “That’s when I told them I wasn’t asking them for permission and immediately started the process of testing to see if we were a match.”
Out of five siblings, Franciscoadan and Alejandra are particularly close. Franciscoadan describes his sister as the backbone of the family, a confidant who is very supportive of his career in the military.
Franciscoadan was determined to donate a kidney to his sister, regardless of personal health risks or career consequences. Knowing that a health issue could potentially have an effect on his military career, he met with his commander and the 159th Medical Group for advice.
“When Staff Sgt. Orellana first told me about his desire to determine his compatibility I was not surprised he was contemplating this,” said Air Force Col. Brian Callahan, the 159th Mission Support Group commander. “When he sees a need, he automatically goes into a ‘fix it’ mode.”
Over the next few months, Franciscoadan underwent a series of tests and interviews. To ensure he was a match and was healthy enough to donate, he had between 20-30 vials of blood drawn, X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.
He also had to meet with social workers, psychologists, financial advisors, and the transplant team to make certain he wasn’t being coerced and to assure he was acting of his own free will.
“The fact that it was his sister only increased his desire to find a successful outcome. He went through all of the testing and when it was determined he was a match, there was no turning back,” Callahan said. “He went through all of the proper steps to determine if this would impact his military service and, upon hearing there wouldn’t be, he went full speed ahead to help his sister. He attacks his work with that exact fervor.”
Franciscoadan said his military training and mindset is what allowed him to act swiftly and expedite the screening process.
“Warrior ethos came into play. This is a mission,” he said. “It’s a confidence, being in the military. There’s a warrior mind frame and sometimes you don’t get a chance to the think; you just execute.”
The seven-hour surgery was successful, and the siblings were soon on the road to recovery. Overcoming this challenge has strengthened their relationship and allowed them to grow even closer.
“Our relationship is stronger than ever, just like my family’s relationship is stronger than ever,” Franciscoadan said. “It’s humbling to know that you have that support always.”
Alejandra’s new kidney took effect immediately. She was retaining fluid before the surgery, but that is now going away and she hopes to soon reach an ideal weight to be eligible for a pancreas transplant as she continues her battle with diabetes.
Today, she looks to the future as an advocate for organ donations and plans to speak at schools, businesses, and fundraisers to educate people about the screening process and motivate them to act.
As for Franciscoadan, he wants people to understand that donating a kidney was a privilege and an honor. He has a healthy life, and continues to serve his country, and be an active community volunteer with one kidney. He is scheduled to deploy next year, once he is fully recovered.
“I have noticed that life will put you in situations where all you can do is act. It is at those times when you must stop thinking and simply execute,” Franciscoadan said. “I truly feel God gave me two healthy kidneys knowing that when the time came, I would have the ability to give one up.”
U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.
In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.
After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.
“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”
During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”
“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”
“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.
The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.
(U.S. Army photo)
Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.
Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.
About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.
The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.
The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.
The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.
The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.
“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”
It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”
TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.
“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.
The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.
The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.
Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.
The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.
The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.
The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.
There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.
Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.
This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”
These words constitute the Spartan Pledge, a solemn oath meant to reverse the disturbing trend of suicide among veterans of the U.S. military and active duty personnel.
According the 2018 Annual Suicide Report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, 541 service members died by suicide in 2018, including 325 active duty troops. The data collected for this report show the suicide rate is 24.8 per 100,000 service members, up from 21.9 in 2017 and 18.7 in 2013. These 2018 numbers represent a six-year high.
Similarly, the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is bleak as well: 6,139 U.S. veterans took their own lives in 2017 — 16.8 per day, up from 5.9 in 2005. This rate is one and a half times that of the general (non-veteran) population.
Boone Cutler on deployment when he was a member of the U.S. Army.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler’s Facebook page.)
In 2010, retired U.S. Army paratrooper Boone Cutler decided it was time to do something about these tragic statistics. Cutler came from a family with a long-standing tradition of military service. His father served in Vietnam, his grandfather in World War II. “My grandpa was actually the longest held POW in World War II,” Cutler said. “We take a lot of pride in that and give him a lot of respect. He was captured the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and was held from December 8 until the end of the war.”
Cutler was inspired to join the Army after learning about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. “I remember the headline,” he said. “The 82nd Airborne Division had just jumped into Panama. I left home at 17 and joined the Army Airborne Infantry when I was 18. He later reclassed his military occupational specialty (MOS) and joined the psychological operations (PSYOP) community. Cutler deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005 as a PSYOP Team Sergeant. Serious orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries sent him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for two years. While there, doctors told him he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a diagnosis he had no intention of accepting at the time.
The years that followed were difficult. Cutler was on several prescription drugs, and he grappled with violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts. In 2010, he was shocked to learn that he wasn’t alone. In a conversation with his closest “battle buddy” from Iraq, Cutler asked his friend if he’d ever considered suicide. “Every day,” his buddy answered.
Holy fuck, thought Cutler. How could guys be so close on active duty — literally covering each others’ backs in a kinetic environment, know everything about each other, every hiccup, every burp, every fart … literally everything … and we don’t know this about each other after we come home?
Shortly thereafter, he called another friend who had been on his team. He discovered that teammate was struggling, too. He had been contemplating taking his own life and hadn’t left his home in two years. This was the genesis of the Spartan Pledge — a battle drill that, in Cutler’s words, helps warfighters “know what to do when they don’t know what to do.”
“We made an agreement,” Cutler said. “We knew we couldn’t actually stop each other from killing ourselves, but it was kind of a respect thing — if you’re going to do that, I can’t stop you. But don’t leave me spinning around on this planet for the rest of my life, wondering what happened and if there was something I could have done. Now [the pledge] is two sentences, but it literally started out as, ‘Motherfucker, you’d better call me.'”
Around this same time, Cutler learned about GallantFew, a then-new organization with a mission to help veterans in transition. GallantFew executive director Karl Monger soon became a close friend and mentor to Cutler. While talking on the phone, the topic of veteran suicide came up, and Cutler mentioned how he and his buddies were dealing with it. Monger stopped him mid-sentence. “Boone,” he said. “I think you’ve really got something there. This is something we should promote.” GallantFew began to introduce the pledge through its network, during one-on-one meetings with veterans in crisis. From there, it took root around the country and continued to grow organically.
A 2017 video, aptly titled “The Spartan Pledge,” featured commentary by Cutler and conversations with others who were inspired to “pay the pledge forward” in unique ways. Army veteran and Redcon-1 music artist Soldier Hard shared his idea to incorporate the pledge into his concerts. “Every warfighter knows about taking an oath,” he said. “We take oaths very seriously. Why not invite warfighters in the audience to come up on stage and take the Spartan Pledge?”
The video also featured U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince, who told Cutler he wanted to honor the victims of 9/11 — those who died in the attacks, as well as our fallen military in the Global War on Terrorism. Prince had collected some steel from the World Trade Center wreckage. He and former U.S. Marine and commercial airline pilot Steve “Luker” Danyluk proposed to forge that steel into a commemorative sword. Two months later, the project was complete.
U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince used steel collected from the wreckage of the World Trade Center to forge this commemorative sword.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
“Every warfighter who joined in this current era is there because of what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11,” Cutler said. “So we’ve come full circle now by creating a sword out of that tragic event that inspires people to live. That’s humbling. That’s something that touches your heart. When people touch that sword, it’s like connecting with all the souls that were lost.”
In 2011, Cutler launched a weekly talk radio show in the Reno, Nevada, area, called “Tipping Point with Boone Cutler,” which served as a platform for the former paratrooper’s raw, no-holds-barred style. That show aired through 2016. These days, Cutler spends his time spreading the word about the Spartan Pledge and connecting with his brothers and sisters in arms, both active duty and retired. “We’ve built a solid network from all walks of life,” he said. “We put our differences aside to save lives. It’s an amazing unifier.”
Cutler was a featured guest at the 2019 VetXpo conference in Dallas in October, which was sponsored by the GallantFew. His presentation, one of the many highlights of the weekend, was a spot-on snapshot of the state of the veteran community, the civilian world’s perception of warfighters, and why warfighters have such a challenging time with transition.
A dog tag stamped with the Spartan Pledge.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
He shared his observation that, after Vietnam, Hollywood and the media habitually portrayed warfighters as “crazy vets.” As late as 2010, nearly half of all human resources managers said it was “difficult to hire” veterans due to PTSD — but they didn’t have a real understanding of PTSD. Cutler concluded that it was “PTSD phobia” that made it difficult to hire veterans, not PTSD itself. If PTSD was truly the problem, he continued, a woman who was raped or a person who lived through a natural disaster or a car wreck would also be difficult to hire. Yet, strangely, that did not seem to be the case — only veterans with PTSD posed this difficulty. Fortunately, due to advancements in mental health and organizations like GallantFew, the civilian population is beginning to understand PTSD, those affected by PTSD are talking about it more openly, and the associated phobias are fading.
As critical as he was of the civilian population, Cutler made it a point to hold his fellow warfighters accountable, too. He acknowledged that the transition to the civilian world is difficult, calling it a “different set of rules.” In the military, it is understood that everything can change and adjustments must be made. “If we’ve adjusted to those environments,” Cutler challenged the audience, “why are we so stubborn to adjust to this one?”
His answer was startlingly simple: At a time when most young people are learning to become independent — starting families, getting careers and making their own decisions — those who join the military are entering an authoritarian environment, in which they rely upon someone else, a squad leader, to tell them what to do and when to do it. The upshot? Warfighters have to develop their own “inner squad leader.”
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
“My squad leader talks to me all the time,” he admitted. “I’m gonna do some stupid shit. BAM! Squad leader talks to me: ‘Don’t do that.’ Every one of us needs to build that squad leader [into your brain] who tells you what to do. You’re not doing your PT? Squad leader ought to have a knee up your ass pretty quick!” As you can imagine, Cutler’s presentation was peppered by frequent, self-deprecating laughter.
However, the humorous tone quickly turned somber when he invited Annette, a Gold Star mother, to join him at the front of the room. Cutler shared Annette’s story with the audience, recounting how her son had tragically ended his own life after transitioning out of the military. He then asked everyone to come forward, circle around, and lay hands on Annette while he led the group in the Spartan Pledge.
“I authored it,” he said later about the pledge, “but it doesn’t belong to me. It’s important to me that your readers know [the Spartan Pledge] is hallowed ground. There’s a fiefdom everywhere in our community these days, so I don’t want to attach my personality to this thing. To be clear, I legally own it, but that’s just to make sure no one pulls any bullshit.”
The Spartan Pledge has been featured on a NASCAR vehicle, inked on the bodies of warfighters, and incorporated into special ceremonies across the country. In the final minutes of Cutler’s 2017 Spartan Pledge video, he said that people frequently ask what he plans to do with it next.
“I’m just the author,” he said, laughing. “I’m not doing anything with the Spartan Pledge because it belongs to the community. The question is: What are you going to do with it?”
Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq
During World War II, US Marines moved from island to island, fighting bloody battles against entrenched Japanese forces determined to dominate the Pacific. Now, as the possibility of conflict with China looms, the Marine Corps is dusting off this island-hopping strategy.
Last week, US Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit led a series of simulated small-island assaults in Japan, the Corps announced March 21, 2019.
Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, on March 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)
The 31st MEU, supported by elements of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing; members of the Air Force 353rd Special Operations Group; and Army soldiers with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, practiced seizing Ie Shima Island.
After the Marines seized the island’s airfield, US troops quickly established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point. Additional force assets, such as Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, then moved in to deliver extra firepower.
An F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 being refueled at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point during simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Ie Shima Training Facility on March 14, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
Rocket artillery units brought in aboard the C-130Js carried out simulated long-range precision-fire missions while the stealth fighters conducted expeditionary strikes with precision-guided munitions.
“This entire mission profile simulated the process of securing advanced footholds for follow-on forces to conduct further military operations, with rapid redeployment,” the Corps said in a statement. The exercise was part of the Corps’ efforts to refine the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept, which is the modern version of the World War II-era island-hopping strategy.
A Marine with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, bounding toward a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)
“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China, and one of the traditional missions of the Marine Corps is seizing advanced bases,” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week. “If you look at the island chains and so forth in the Pacific as platforms from which we can project power, that would be a historical mission for the Marine Corps and one that is very relevant in a China scenario.”
As its National Defense Strategy makes clear, the US military is facing greater challenges from near-peer threats in an age of renewed great-power competition. In the Pacific, China is establishing military outposts on occupied islands in the South China Sea while seeking to extend its reach beyond the first island chain.
With the US and Chinese militaries operating in close proximity, often with conflicting objectives, there have been confrontations. A close US ally recently expressed concern that the two powers might one day find themselves in a shooting war in the South China Sea.
Marines with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, engaging targets while assaulting a defensive position during a live-fire range as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s simulated Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations at Camp Schwab.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. T. T. Parish)
“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both US and allied interest in the region,” Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the Joint Staff, said at the Pentagon in May 2018.
“The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” he said when asked whether the US had the ability to “blow apart” China’s outposts in the South China Sea. “We had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before.”
It’s just a “historical fact,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Photo courtesy Benjamin Jones, a visual information specialist for the Long Beach VA Medical Center.
These days, Jeff Henson is doing what he believes has been his calling in life. He’s showing people who have attempted or have had thoughts of suicide that there is another way.
The Air Force Veteran (pictured above) is a volunteer at Save A Warrior. The nonprofit provides counseling in mental health, wellness and suicide prevention to Veterans, active-duty military and first responders. More than 1,100 men and women have gone through the program since it began eight years ago.
Many of these people, Henson explains, are missing “their family, their tribe” with whom they once built a friendship and camaraderie in the military or elsewhere. A lot of them not only have PTSD, he says, but PTSD and moral injury, which is essentially a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.
A Veteran may feel guilt, shame or self-condemnation for violating his or her moral beliefs in combat by killing someone, witnessing death or failing to prevent the immoral acts of others.
The will to live
Henson believes moral injury is a form of “complex PTSD” that can also stem from negative circumstances in one’s childhood.
“We introduce a Veteran to a tribe of 12 other Veterans who came to Save A Warrior at the same time as total strangers. They can leave as ‘brothers’ with an understanding that it’s not always what happened down-range that has them stuck in life. We provide hope and magic that is the will to live.”
Henson has been there himself. Diagnosed with PTSD and void of hope, he went through the Save A Warrior program in 2016 while in Veterans’ treatment court in Orange County, California.
Flashbacks from the Gulf War
His court time stemmed from a domestic violence incident in 2013. At the time, he was experiencing many of the classic PTSD symptoms: nightmares, mood swings, anxiety, depression, isolation and flashbacks. When the incident happened, he had flashed back to a moment when he unintentionally witnessed a decapitation in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, during the Gulf War in 1990, and he lost control.
Study links PTSD with criminal justice involvement
Earlier this year, a VA study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that Veterans with PTSD — compared to those without — are six times more likely to experience run-ins with the law.
The researchers say it is unclear what is driving the ties between PTSD and criminal justice involvement. They say the general strain theory may partially explain the results. That theory asserts that the risk of criminal behavior is higher among people who have experienced traumatic events and report negative effects, such as high levels of anger or irritability,
It gave me hope
Meanwhile, as part of getting his life back together, the 59-year-old Henson is pursuing a doctorate in psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
He’s also trying to give back to the organization that gave him so much.
“Save A Warrior did not save my life, but it gave me hope,” he says. “It’s the difference between `being alive’ and `living.’ It’s also about being of service. I’m one of the shepherds who helps people through the process that I went through.
“When we’re kids, we’re told by our parents not to use four-letter words,” he adds. “I dispute that because hope is a four-letter word. And hope is powerful.”
Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.
VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.
He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.
“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”
Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.
“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.
The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.
Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.
“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.
“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.
Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.
“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”
About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.