Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea - We Are The Mighty
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Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Beijing issued a scathing rebuke on July 3 of a US warship’s patrol a day earlier near a contested island occupied by Chinese troops in the South China Sea — the latest irritant in the two powers’ increasingly fraught relationship.


The patrol, the second known “freedom of navigation” operation under the administration of US President Donald Trump, came as the White House appeared to grow ever more frustrated with China over its moves in the waterway and lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sunday’s operation, which involved the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Stethem guided-missile destroyer, was conducted within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago, a US defense official confirmed to The Japan Times.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
USS Stethem. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian A. Stone

China’s Defense Ministry lambasted the move in a statement, issuing what appeared to one of the strongest condemnations yet of the US operation which Washington says is aimed at affirming its right to passage.

The US “actions seriously damaged the strategic mutual trust between the two sides” and undermined the “political atmosphere” surrounding the development of Sino-US military ties, the statement said. The Chinese military, it added, would take bolstered measures in the waters, including “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols.”

The tiny islet is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and is not one of the seven fortified man-made islands located in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain, which is further south.

Late July 2, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched military ships and fighter jets in response to warn off the Stethem, which it said had “trespassed” in “the country’s territorial waters.”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement using the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.

The US, he said, “has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands.”

Lu said the US “deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea” and “is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation, and development,” adding that the patrol “constitutes a serious political and military provocation.

FONOPs represent “a challenge to excessive maritime claims,” according to the US Defense Department. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of land within their territory.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The patrol was believed to be the second near Triton Island, after a similar FONOP under the administration of President Barack Obama in January 2016. The July 2 operation was first reported by Fox News.

Ahead of the patrol, there has been growing speculation that the White House is frustrated not only with Beijing’s moves in the strategic waterway, but also its failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month, when he wrote: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi  China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

And on June 30, in a step that the White House said was not aimed at Beijing, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The sanctions came just a day after the US announced a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Earlier last week, the US State Department also listed China among the worst human-trafficking offenders in an annual report.

According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia expert at the Center for a New American Security think-tank in Washington, the July 2 FONOP was “not particularly provocative,” and was “basically a repeat of an earlier one.

“But given that the administration also announced North Korean sanctions and a Taiwan arms package, it’s hard to see the timing as pure coincidence,” Rapp-Hooper said. “This may not be an effort to pressure China to specific ends, rather a ‘snap back’ in Trump administration foreign policy, which was solicitous of Beijing for several months as it sought help on North Korea.”

“The White House now understands that Beijing will not solve this problem for it,” she added.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Photo from The Moscow Kremlin

Zack Cooper, an Asia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted the timing between previous FONOPs and the rapid-clip announcements of recent US actions against China.

“These four actions have come in just five days,” he said, adding that the last FONOP was just under 40 days ago, while the one before that took place more than 215 days earlier.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in a statement that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

“US forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis,” Knight said. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Photo from US Navy

“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” he added.

China has continued to militarize its outposts there — despite a pledge to the contrary — as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Now, with fewer constraints on a tougher approach to China across the board, experts say Trump could butt heads with Beijing over a number of issues.

“What we know for sure is that the Trump administration is now more comfortable with higher levels of friction with China than in previous months,” said Ely Ratner, a former deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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At least two killed in attack on NATO convoy

At least two American military personnel were killed in a murder-suicide attack on a NATO convoy in Afghanistan earlier today. A press release from Operation Resolute Support confirmed the attack and that casualties had been inflicted, while Stars and Stripes reported that a Pentagon spokesman had confirmed the number of casualties.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the convoy was hit on the southern edge of the city of Kandahar, the capital of the province of the same name in the country. Currently, about 8,400 American troops are in Afghanistan, alongside about 5,100 NATO personnel. The Trump Administration is considering whether or not to increase the American deployment by about 4,000 personnel.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
A U.S. Marine with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment guides a convoy of Marines returning from field training at Camp Wilson on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., on March 11, 2009. (DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris, U.S. Marine Corps)

These are not the first casualties the United States military has suffered in Afghanistan this year. In April, two Rangers were killed in a raid on the Taliban in Achin. Earlier this week, a UH-60 Blackhawk made a hard landing, injuring two American military personnel. NBCNews.com reported that the attack took place near the airport, which also served as a major military base for NATO personnel.

Stars and Stripes also reported that the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming to have killed two generals, 13 other troops, and destroying two armored vehicles. The Taliban have been known to exaggerate claims. They claimed they destroyed the Blackhawk that went down, and had killed all on board.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge, 11th ACR

The attack took place a day after a Shiite mosque in Heart province was attacked, leaving 29 dead and 64 wounded. No groups claimed responsibility for the attack. ISIS has gained a foothold in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have made gains in the country in recent months.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How and when to tell a job you might be PCSing

Are you PCSing soon? Or is a PCS in the works? While it can be hard to tell exactly when you might be leaving before hard orders are issued, in the military world, it’s pretty much a given that you will be leaving. If not anytime soon, then soon after that.


It’s just a part of the lifestyle.

Why it’s a Potential Setback

As a military spouse who works as a civilian (but tied to military schedules and locations in “normal” careers), PCSing can throw a wrench right into your plans. Before you can promote, before you can achieve seniority … or just as you get settled, it’s time to move. That means finding another job, and wondering if you’ll have your frequent moves held against you.

But how do you tell your current job you’re PCSing? And when?

Look at Your Work Relationship

This is a tricky situation; there are horror stories of spouses suddenly being laid off once orders arrived. Don’t fall victim to this scheme. Consider the type of relationship you have with your current company and let it guide you. Do you get along well? Is there a hostile corporate environment where the competition is high?

Technically, you do not owe anymore more than two weeks of notice before you leave. But in most scenarios, it’s courteous to let your employer know when you’ll be leaving town 1) so they can start looking for a replacement and 2) you can be a part of the training process. OR secret option 3) you can start working with them on a remote position setup.

If you have a good relationship with work and get orders well in advance, tell them. Talk about possibilities for staying on, and what the change might look like. However, if you’re genuinely worried about getting the boot, keep mum. Your work is not owed any personal information, especially when you fear that sharing will hurt your income.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Staying on Remote

A growing option among military spouses is the ability to work for a single company remotely. With easier online access and accountability, telecommuting is not only viable as a long term career, it’s cost effective.

Bring up this move to your boss; go in with a plan so they aren’t worried about logistics. Talk about your hours, your workload, and how you’d love to stay on with them well into the future. Help your chances by including stats on remote work, platforms that can help keep everyone on track, and even savings that are in it for the company but not paying for an additional office seat.

Of course, the biggest perk to working as a remote employee is that your company gets to keep you. They don’t have to train a new worker or start over with brand nuances or expertise. Play up your specialties for a solid sell.

How To Drop the News

There doesn’t need to be anything formal about sharing military orders. A simple, “Hey we’re moving to Texas!” Or “Colorado will be seeing us soon.” Remember to drop in all the hard details, as well as the ones you don’t yet have. For instance, when you’re moving, how long you’ll be there, what it means for your availability, and any specific report times.

There can be light at the end of the tunnel by letting your current job know you’re moving, and when. Consider current working relationships and how that can plan into future moves for all involved, including the possibility of remote work.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here is the sniper rifle that the US Army, Marines, and the special operators all want to get their hands on

US military snipers in the Army, Marines, and the special operations community are getting new bolt-action sniper rifles, and they all want a certain one from Barrett.


The preferred choice is the Barrett Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) rifle, Task & Purpose first reported, citing budget documents and previous contracting information.

Rather than force snipers to choose between weapons capable of firing different rounds for different purposes, the multi-caliber rifle can be chambered in 7.62X51 mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

“There are three ranges associated with the three calibers, and there are different target sets that we are trying for at those ranges,” Army Lt. Col. Chris Kennedy, the lethality branch chief for the soldier division at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Insider.

“It gives more flexibility to the sniper as to what configuration to put it in and what targets they are going after,” he added.

In its fiscal year 2021 budget request, the Army asked for 536 MRAD sniper rifles for a little over million for the Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) program. The Marine Corps, which is also buying MRAD rifles for the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program, estimated that each one would cost about ,000.

The Army’s latest budget request described the rifle as “a multi-caliber, bolt-action sniper rifle, which is effective against personnel and material targets at extreme ranges.” The weapon is expected to replace the Army’s M2010 and M107 sniper rifles.

“What we are trying to achieve is to collapse those two systems into one instead of having the sniper choose one or the other,” Kennedy told Insider.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

The Army PSR, not to be confused with the older special operations PSR, is expected to be lighter, more accurate, and have a greater range than legacy systems.

The rifle, the budget request said, also “includes a sound suppressor and direct view optics (with fire control capabilities), which allows snipers, when supplemented with a clip-on image intensifier or thermal sensor system, to effectively engage enemy snipers, as well as crew served and indirect fire weapons virtually undetected in any light condition.”

The goal is to offer a passive sighting system that is not emitting anything that could give away a sniper’s position, Kennedy said.

The Army’s PSR is the same MRAD rifle for which Special Operations Command offered Barrett a nearly million contract last year. It was selected for the command’s ASR program as a replacement for the older PSR for special operations snipers, Military Times reported last March.

In the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, the Marines included a million request for 250 Barrett multi-caliber sniper rifles. The service wants the new rifles to “replace all current bolt-action sniper rifles in the Marine Corps.”

The recent budget request describes the rifle, part of the ASR program, as a “multi-caliber system featuring extended range, greater lethality and a wider variety of special purpose ammunition than current systems.”

The purpose of the PSR and ASR programs, according to the budget documents, is to provide US military snipers with capable modern rifles that will allow them to maintain standoff and overmatch against near-peer competitors.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Montenegro wants to know why Serbia is sheltering coup suspect

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Montenegro has summoned the Serbian ambassador to Podgorica after a suspect on trial over a failed 2016 coup attempt fled to Serbia’s Embassy to avoid detention.

Montenegro’s Foreign Ministry said it requested Serbia’s official position on the matter on Nov. 26, 2018, three days after Branka Milic walked out of the courtroom during a hearing, complaining that her rights had been violated.

Podgorica’s High Court ordered Milic detained, but the accused later surfaced at the Serbian Embassy.


The Montenegrin Foreign Ministry’s statement said Serbian Ambassador Zoran Bingulac confirmed Milic was at the embassy and that Serbia was “aware of the legal procedure and the necessary obligations.”

Milic’s defense lawyer, Jugoslav Krpovic, urged authorities to provide guarantees that the “psychological violence” against her client ends.

“She didn’t escape from the trial. She escaped from abuse” by the court, Krpovic said.

Milic, who holds Serbian citizenship, was detained in October 2017.

She is among 14 suspects on trial for plotting to overthrow Montenegro’s government in October 2016.

Montenegrin authorities say Serbian and Russian nationalists plotted to occupy parliament during parliamentary elections, assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and install a pro-Russian leadership to prevent the small Balkan nation’s bid to join NATO.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Milo Djukanovic.

The authorities accuse two Russian GRU military intelligence officers of organizing the failed coup plot.

The investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider said they had identified the two GRU officers allegedly involved.

Moscow denies involvement, however.

Montenegro in June 2017 became the 29th member of NATO, a step that was bitterly criticized by Russia and opposed by some Montenegrins who advocate closer ties with Moscow.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

First female Marines apply to MARSOC

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Maricela Veliz | U.S. Marine Corps


Just weeks after previously closed military ground combat and special operations jobs were declared open to women, the Marine Corps’ special operations command has had its first female applicants.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of MARSOC, told Military.com the command has already received several requests from female Marines to enter the assessment and selection pipeline to become a critical skills operator. While Osterman could not specify how many women had applied, he said the first female applicant surfaced only days after the Jan. 4 deadline Defense Secretary Ash Carter set for new jobs to open.

“The very first week of January … we had one female applicant on the West Coast,” Osterman said. “Unfortunately, there was something in the prerequisite stuff she didn’t have, a [general technical] score or something. It was, ‘get re-tested and come on back,’ that kind of thing.”

Osterman said MARSOC is actively soliciting and recruiting qualified female Marines to join the command’s ranks. The command does not have, as Osterman put it, a “street to fleet” recruiting program; rather, it recruits from within the ranks of the Marine Corps.

To qualify for MARSOC critical skills operator assessment and selection, a Marine must be a seasoned corporal or a sergeant, or a first lieutenant or captain. The Marine must also have a minimum GT score of 105 and a minimum physical fitness test score of 225 out of 300, and be able to pass a command swim assessment and meet medical screening criteria.

“We’ve actively identified all the females in the Marine Corps writ large who meet all the prerequisites just like with our normal screening teams,” Osterman said. “We’ve notified or contacted every one of them and let them know, ‘it’s open, you’re eligible.'”

MARSOC submitted its broad implementation plan to the Secretary of Defense at the beginning of January after receiving input from the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command, Osterman said. In terms of training and job skills, he said, the command does have an advantage over the Marine Corps in that there were already clear gender-neutral physical standards in place for critical skills operators, while the Corps has only recently created such standards for infantry jobs.

MARSOC’s training pipeline is notoriously grueling. After a three-week initial assessment and selection period that tests physical fitness and a range of other aptitudes, Marines enter a second, 19-day assessment and selection training phase. Applicants who make it through both AS phases can then begin a nine-month individual training course that covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and many other skill sets.

Osterman said Wednesday that 40 percent of Marines who enter the MARSOC pipeline go on to become critical skills operators.

“When [Marines] go into assessment and screening, it’s a very holistic psychological profile. It’s swim, it’s physical fitness, but we don’t even count the PFT as part of the evaluation. It’s much more comprehensive than that,” Osterman said. “It’s a pretty sophisticated standardization system which is nice in that, again, we already had this and it’s gender-neutral already.”

MARSOC is also making plans to prepare its leadership for the advent of female trainees and operators, Osterman said.

A December study by the Rand Corporation found that 85 percent of 7,600 surveyed operators within all of SOCOM opposed the idea of serving alongside female counterparts. Many cited fears that female operators would harm combat effectiveness and provide a distraction down range.

Acknowledging the study, Osterman said he planned to hold a town hall meeting for MARSOC leadership to discuss the implementation of Carter’s gender integration mandate and to discuss thoughts and concerns.

“The tone and tenor from my perspective is, the concern was mostly about standards,” Osterman said of the Rand report. “Our standards are as they’ve always been and we’re not changing them.”

On a personal note, Osterman said he could see benefits to having female operators downrange.

“There are things that women can do, as I’ve seen many times in Afghanistan and Iraq, where there’s a lot of value added in the combined arms kind of approach,” he said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 inspiring quotes by the Navy SEAL admiral who oversaw the bin Laden raid

Retired SEAL Adm. Bill McRaven had an illustrious 37-year career in the Navy.

The commando served in the elite SEAL Team 6 before he was fired by the unit’s commander, Richard Marcinko.

Following his firing, McRaven rose through the ranks, eventually commanding the Joint Special Operations Command.

While he served alongside America’s most elite fighters, he oversaw the capture of Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, and the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

The retired SEAL has had his share of controversy, most recently butting heads with President Donald Trump over the president’s attacks against the media and move to strip the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who’s been a harsh Trump critic.


Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Then-Adm. Bill McRaven at his retirement ceremony in 2014.

(Photo by SSG Sean K. Harp for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

1. “Changing the world can happen anywhere, and anyone can do it.”

This was just one of many famous quotes to come from a 2014 University of Texas commencement speech.

University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address – Admiral William H. McRaven

www.youtube.com

2. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

In the now famous speech that has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube, McRaven gave University of Texas’ graduating class advice on how to change the world.

His first tip: Make your bed.

McRaven explains the mantra, which later became the title of a #1 New York Times bestselling book, will help people start each day by accomplishing a task — then one more, and another. It also helps emphasize the importance of the “little things.”

“And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made,” he said. “And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

(U.S. Navy)

4. “Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up a ‘sugar cookie.'”

In Navy SEAL training, sailors who failed at basic tasks had to perform extra training at the end of each day. These SEAL hopefuls had to jump into the surf then roll around until completely covered with sand — earning the nickname ‘sugar cookie.’

During his UT commencement speech in 2014, McRaven said that many who became frustrated that their hard work didn’t pay off often quit. The lesson, he said, was that the true test is how one recovers from failure.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

McRaven, then head of US Special Operations Command, in Afghanistan in 2013.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

6. “The great [leaders] know how to fail.”

McRaven addressed cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point during a ceremony for its seniors who had 500 days left until graduation. His speech, called “A Sailor’s Perspective on the Army,” detailed leadership lessons he learned from Army officers during his 37 years in service.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

McRaven reenlists a Navy SEAL in November 2013 at Camp McCloskey in Afghanistan during a Thanksgiving visit.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jared Gehmann)

7. “If you want to be a SEAL, you must do two things: Listen to your parents and be nice to the other kids.”

McRaven gave this piece of advice to a young boy who wrote the SEAL asking if the Navy’s most elite commandos were quieter than ninjas.

8. “It’s not just about holding people accountable, it’s making sure the people around you understand that their effort is worthwhile.”

During a speech at UT’s Moody College of Communications in February 2017, McRaven talked about the connection between leadership and communication.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

McRaven presents a flag to a family member of a deceased US Navy SEAL during a ceremony in Ft. Pierce, Florida in 2012.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Ginther)

9. “You may be in charge, but it’s never about you and you can’t forget that.”

During his speech at Moody College, McRaven said leaders always need to be aware of the impacts their decisions make on their subordinates.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

McRaven speaks to service members at Joint Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas in January 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ave Young)

10. “There is nothing more important to a democracy than an active and engaged press.”

After his speech at Moody College, McRaven published his thoughts about the American press and President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks against the institution.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

McRaven salutes at his 2014 retirement ceremony.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Harp)

11. “I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well.”

McRaven authored a blistering rebuke of President Trump’s move to revoke the security clearnace of John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director who has been a harsh critic of Trump.

In the Washington Post op-ed, McRaven defended Brennan as a “man of unparalleled integrity” and said it would be “an honor” to have his own security clearance revoked along with Brennan’s.

Trump responded by calling McRaven a “Hillary Clinton fan.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran-owned company gives back by turning discarded military items into fashionable accessories

The idea of turning “swords into ploughshares” — that is to say, converting military technology and/or equipment into materials with a peaceful civilian purpose — is a very old concept. The phrase comes from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah 2:3-4:


And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

This is where Sword Plough draws its name. The company sells unique designer handbags and accessories made from discarded military surplus items. Co-founded by the daughters of a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, Col. (ret.) Joseph Núñez, Sword Plough is a veteran-owned-and-operated business, dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.

One daughter, Emily Núñez Cavness, is SP’s CEO, and is also an active duty Army 1st. Lt. serving with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Emily co-founded Sword Plough with her sister Betsy Núñez, who is the Chief Operations Officer.

 

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Emily Betsy

“We have received such an incredibly positive and supportive response from our community,” Núñez Cavness says. “We’re still a young company, but we’re growing fast and we have a lot happening in the new year. In addition to expanding our product line, we have a number of exciting brand partnerships in the works and we’re planning to grow our wholesale business to brick and mortar shops throughout the country.”

See all of Sword Plough’s repurposed military surplus products

“What sets Sword Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line,” she continues. “People, Purpose, Planet, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on improving veteran employment and supporting American jobs, bridging the civilian-military gap, repurposing surplus material, and donating 10% of our profits back to veteran organizations.”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Purchases of this “Urban Rucksack” from Sword Plough directly benefit Operation Finally Home

One of their biggest passions is supporting veteran entrepreneurship.

“Betsy and I grew up on Army posts across the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to give back to the military and veteran community,” Núñez Cavness says. “One of the most rewarding parts of both serving in the Army and leading Sword Plough is the ability I have to bring the knowledge of starting a business to the veteran community. Many soldiers and veterans approach me with exciting ideas and ask for advice on how to start. Mentoring aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is one of my favorite things to do. Veterans already have so many of the leadership and management skills necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship or business. It is such an energizing experience to help chart realistic pathways to bring their ideas to reality.”

Since launching in 2013, Sword Plough repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, donated 10 percent of profits annually, and shipped over 10,000 products globally. Not a bad startup period.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
The Signature Tote was one of their first products and it continues to be one of the most popular bags.

Their father commanded Army forces at the company and battalion level, taught political science at West Point, and deployed to Haiti in 1994 in support of Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy. Their uncle, Kenneth Cameron, served in the Marine Corps. Cameron is a retired Colonel and was an aviator, test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to outer space.

Being from such a strong military family, Emily Núñez Cavness is herself an ROTC graduate of Middlebury College. She recalls her introduction to the civilian-military divide, which happened as she walked to a military science class one morning.

“I was abruptly stopped when an upperclassman walked out of the fine arts building,” she says. “He meandered toward me and asked, ‘Hi there, What play are you in?! I’ve never seen you around here.’ I didn’t have a lot of time to talk since I’d be late for my class, so I quickly explained that my uniform was not in fact a costume, but my actual government issued uniform for Army ROTC.”

This would be the first of many instances to leave an impression on her. They would come to help influence Sword Plough’s mission to empower veteran employment and bridge that divide in any way they can. But it doesn’t stop there. The summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury, Núñez Cavness found herself at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

“Even though I grew up in a military family on several Army Posts, this was the first time I was training next to Soldiers as a fellow service member rather than as a military kid,” she recalls. “We would spend almost every day quickly running from place to place in our helmets and boots, only to wait for hours under the hot sun until it was our turn to practice the parachute landing fall or how to properly pull a slip.”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

1st Lt. Emily Núñez Cavness

“It didn’t take long for these periods of downtime to become some of my favorite moments of the course because it was then that the students to my left and right would open up to me about their past experiences in the Army and their goals and hopes for the future. Some expressed an interest in leaving the military in the near future but were seriously worried about their job prospects after talking to veteran friends who had been unemployed for a long time after leaving military service. At the time, I didn’t always know what to say, but I never forgot those conversations. It seemed like such an injustice to me that a group of people who had sacrificed so much and become such proven leaders would face this type of adversity.”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
SP is dedicated to hiring veterans and making their products in the USA.

Fast forward one and a half years and Núñez Cavness is listening to Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, give her keynote speech during Middlebury’s first Social Entrepreneurship Symposium. She was talking about a business which incorporated recycling into its business model. The talk had young Núñez Cavness’ mind running 100 miles per hour.

“The way she described it immediately made me reflect on my own life,” Núñez Cavness said. “I asked myself, ‘what in my life is wasted on daily basis that could be harnessed and made into something beautiful?’ Having grown up on Army posts, I immediately thought back to the huge piles of military surplus I used to see that were going to be buried in a landfill or burned. As I looked around the audience, I noticed that every student had a backpack or bag of some kind propped up next to them. And then… it clicked! Why don’t I take the military surplus that would otherwise be discarded and turn it into stylish bags?”

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Their newer Wool Handbag and Wool Crossbody are also very popular items.

As part of its dedication to giving back to veterans, Sword Plough makes financial contributions to veteran-focused organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services, Feeding Our Vets, and Got Your 6. They support charitable organizations by donating their products for fundraisers.

These donations have helped recipients raise thousands of dollars through blind and live auctions. They also donate products to events which can raise general public awareness about veterans’ issues and the civil-military divide. To date, they have made more than $10,000 worth of product donations to organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation, the 3rd and Goal Foundationthe Headstrong Project, and more.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Find out more about Sword Plough’s quadruple bottom-line

Núñez Cavness designed the first three bags herself, but Sword Plough now has a creative director to design products. They also have a number of products designed by veterans.

“The military relies on cutting edge gear and technology to carry out its missions,” Núñez Cavness says. “This relationship with their equipment has definitely influenced the way we think about design and fashion. We repurpose military surplus equipment not only for the environmental benefits and vintage appeal, but also for its durability. Our team draws inspiration from cities that we live in, the people that we interact with, the feedback from the SP community of supporters, the history of the materials we use, and we try to honor tradition by constantly innovating and keeping functionality in mind.”

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8 resume-writing tips for veterans

I recently spoke with a recruiter from my current company and he mentioned the wide gap in quality of resumes he received from veteran applicants.


Here are eight tips to bolster your transition success. You do not need to take it as gospel, but these tips work:

1) Do not lie, omit, or embellish.

I once read honesty is being truthful with others while integrity is being truthful with yourself. Integrity and honesty are paramount in a resume. Do not say you were the Battalion Operations Officer when you were only the Assistant. The difference is large and will come out in the interview.

Do not omit certain military additional duties either. Unit Movement Officer, for example, is a powerful resume bullet, especially if you’re applying for positions in logistics, supply chain, or purchasing.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
DOD Photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

2) Do not de-militarize your resume.

We cannot bridge the military-civilian divide if we diminish what we’ve done during service. People going from Wall Street to manufacturing do not change their previous official positions on a resume, so you should not either.

You were not a “Mid-level Logistics Coordinator” — I “logistics coordinate” every time I do a DITY move. Sheesh. You were a “Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4),” responsible for millions dollars worth of equipment, travel funding, and other logistics needs for a high operational tempo military unit of 500-800 people.

Put quantifiable performance measures (e.g. coordinated redeployment of 800 people and associated equipment without loss; received a commendation for the exceptional performance of my team) and any recruiter will see the worthiness of your work. The interviewer will ask pointed questions so you can showcase your talents and they will learn more about the military rank structure and terminology.

3) Do showcase your talents.

If you briefed the Under Secretary of the Army or a General Officer, put that down. Your yearly efficiency reports are replete with this information. Try this format: Cause (redeployment), Action (coordinated), Effect (no loss), Reward (commendation).

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
DoD photo by John Snyder

4) Do review your resume and have someone else review it.

Bad grammar, misspelled words, or omitted words are resume killers. Use spell check on the computer, then print it out and go to town with a red-ink pen. This is the type of stuff a mentor is more than willing to do for you.

5) Do put your awards down, especially valor awards or awards for long-term meritorious service.

Simply put: Bronze Star with Valor device = Yes

MacArthur Leadership Award = Yes

Army Service Ribbon = No.

Items like a Physical Fitness Award or the Mechanics Badge should be left off unless they are relevant to the job you are seeking.

6) Do not list specific military skills, unless you’re applying for certain contracting, federal, or law enforcement jobs.

Simply put, again: CDL or foreign language proficiency = Yes

HMMWV training or marksmanship badges = No.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
Army photo by Sgt. Steve Peterson

7) Do list your references in this way: one superior, one peer, and one subordinate.

Imagine the power of a corporate recruiter finding that your Battalion Commander, the captain you shared a hallway with, and one of your NCOs all speak highly of you.

The combination of their views can speak wonders. Let it work for you. It shows you are a good employee, a team player, and a leader all at once. If you can only list two, list the superior and the subordinate.

8) Do make your resume a living document.

Customize it as needed for various jobs, and highlight different points accordingly. “Leadership in a high-stress environment” creates a stable framework to delve deeper into what you have accomplished. Focus on tangible, specific, quantifiable, and consistent results.

Do not think for a second that your military service will not get you the job you want. Leadership under high-stress situations comes in many forms, in training and in combat. Sell yourself. Win.

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The US Army is building a new crash test dummy

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
(Photo: U.S. Army)


Over the course of fighting America’s most recent wars, troops faced the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs on a daily basis. More than a decade later, the U.S. Army is building a new crash test dummy to better understand the physical risks these crude but deadly weapons pose to soldiers downrange.

In addition to registering the location of impacts and stress during tests, the new design will be coupled with an extensive database to help predict how likely an individual is to suffer a serious injury. The ground combat branch has dubbed the program the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin, or WIAMan. As anyone in the military probably already knows, “WIA” is also the acronym for “wounded in action.”

The Army hopes that the new device will help provide more information on just what happens when a bomb goes off underneath a vehicle. “There is a wide range of test conditions and environment parameters” and “no two sets of system responses are the same,” engineers and scientists working on WIAMan explained in a briefing in June.

The individuals from the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command and the Army Research Laboratory sat down with defense contractors to talk about the state of the program. The service wants to start looking for a company to make WIAMan dummies by the end of 2017.

But just building a prototype machine that fits the requirements has been a long and complex process. The Army kicked off WIAMan more than five years ago as the bulk of American forces were starting to leave Iraq.

By that point, IEDs were a well-known threat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, huge bombs routinely ripped through unarmored Humvees and better-protected vehicles. The Pentagon had responded by rushing mine-resistant trucks, bomb detectors and jammers and other gear to troops in the field. Though this equipment saved lives, it did not eliminate serious injuries.

During Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, explosives had accounted for more than three quarters of all military injuries, according to a study Dr. Narayan Yoganandan, Chairman of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Neurosurgery and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, led and published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2013. Explosions underneath vehicles specifically were likely to cause severe damage to the pelvis, spinal column, legs and feet, Andrew Merkle, a principal professional staff member at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, and his colleagues explained in another 2013 piece.

At that time, Army researchers had to rely on modified auto industry manikin, called Hybrid III. The manufacturer, Humanetics, only intended the original dummy for testing head on collisions in commercial cars. On top of that, the design reflected an outdated 1970s body shape.

Instruments in this surrogate person only show damage and strain in broad areas and joints. To help engineers and scientists log potential injuries, the Army’s version only has five so-called “biofidelity response corridors,” or BRCs.

By comparison, WIAMan will have more than 800 BRCs. This means that instead of simply sensing impact on a section of chest or foot as a whole, the manikin would report dangerous forces on particular ribs or the soles or heel specifically.

The prototype dummy was structured around a 50th percentile male soldier. After the Pentagon removed the last restrictions preventing women serving in combat roles in December 2015, the full production run will have to include female body shapes.

Combined with an extensive and growing knowledge-base of injury data, WIAMan should not only be able to highlight possibly dangers but predict them, too. This means that when the Army considers a new tank or truck in the future, researchers might be able to gauge the likelihood of the drivers and occupants suffering specific injuries if they run over a roadside bomb.

And capturing more data from the dummy itself means engineers won’t have to try and cram secondary cameras or sensors inside armored vehicle compartments or truck cabs to gather additional significant information. These spaces are cramped to begin with and these sensitive systems are often damaged in testing.

A “blast test of a surrogate vehicle structure … provided realism,” another one of the June presentations noted. “However, it is costly, not repeatable and occupant response cannot be fully observed.”

Unfortunately, WIAMan alone won’t be able to fill all of the Army’s research gaps by itself. The manikin will not be able to test for a slew of effects beyond an underbody blast.

In its prototype form, the soldier stand-in cannot determine whether troops might be at risk from shrapnel or burns. In Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs often set off fuel or ammunition in vehicles leading to serious burns.

In 2006, the Marine Corps notably banned leathernecks from wearing synthetic clothing, including popular Under Armour undershirts, because of their low melting points. The Corps found evidence that the garments could fuse to skin with horrific results in a fire.

More importantly, WIAMan will not be able to help gather badly needed information about the potential for traumatic brain injuries, commonly called TBIs. Concussions and other TBIs have been increasingly linked to long-term brain damage and increased risk of serious health conditions.

Since 2000, the Pentagon has diagnosed more than 340,000 active service members with various kinds of TBIs, according to statistics compiled by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Medical professionals classified 5,000 of these cases as “penetrating,” instances where an actual object pierces the skull and physically hits the brain.

By far, the majority of the instances are “mild,” a synonym for concussions.  However, research shows that people who suffer from multiple instances of these injuries suffer far from mild consequences.

While scientists are still studying the exact relationship between concussions and other health issues, there is significant correlation between the injuries and a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also seen in boxers and other professional athletes, this is a form of dementia characterized by declining memory, cognition and motor control and itself linked to depression, suicidal behavior, and aggressive outbursts.

American troops have already spent some 15 years in a state or near constant combat operations. Given the rise of new terrorist groups like Islamic State, the Pentagon’s high operational tempo seems unlikely to change in the near future.

In the meantime, soldiers and other service members will likely continue to suffer TBIs and other injuries from IEDs. Though not perfect, WIAMan will give scientists and engineers critical information to help protect our men and women in uniform.

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Coast Guard finds sunken ship 100 years later

A hundred years ago in a blinding fog, a U.S. Coast Guard ship was sailing off the coast of Southern California when it smashed into a passenger steamship.


The USCGC McCulloch sank within 35 minutes and lingered on the ocean floor undisturbed by people for a century.

On the 100th anniversary of the vessel’s June 13, 1917, disappearance, the Coast Guard announced that it found the shipwreck — not far from where it went down. And officials plan to leave it there.

Strong currents and an abundance of sediment would make moving the delicate ship too difficult, officials said in detailing the discovery of the San Francisco-based USCGC McCulloch. They also paid tribute to its crews, including two members who died in the line of duty, but not in the crash.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Todd Sokalzuk called the ship “a symbol of hard work and sacrifice of previous generations to serve and protect our nation” and an important piece of history.

The ship sank shortly after hearing a foghorn nearby and then colliding with the SS Governor, a civilian steamship. The McCulloch’s crew was safely rescued and taken aboard the steamship.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard discovered the wreck last fall during a routine survey.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
USCGC McCulloch (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers focused on the area of the shipwreck 3 miles (5 kilometers) off Point Conception, California, after noticing a flurry of fish. Sunken ships offer a great place for fish to hide. The site is about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.

Commissioned in the late 1800s, the McCulloch first set out to sea during the Spanish-American War as part of Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron in the Battle of Manila Bay.

Cutters based in San Francisco in the late 1800s and early 1900s represented American interests throughout the Pacific. They also played important roles in the development of the Western U.S.

After the war, the cutter patrolled the West Coast and later was dispatched to enforce fur seal regulations in the Pribilof Islands off the coast of Alaska, where it also served as a floating courtroom in remote areas.

The archaeological remains, including a 15-inch torpedo tube molded into the bow stem and the top of a bronze 11-foot propeller blade, are draped with white anemones 300 feet (90 meters) below the surface, officials said. A 6-pound gun is still mounted in a platform at the starboard bow.

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Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The US Army will soon receive its first prototypes of a newly-engineered up-gunned Stryker infantry vehicle armed with a more lethal, longer-range 30mm cannon as compared with the currently installed .50-cal machine guns.


Called the Stryker Enhanced Lethality Program, the effort was implemented as a rapid-development acquisition program to better equip 9-man infantry units with combat arms to support their missions, maneuvers and ground-attacks.

“It is really about mobile protected fire power for the Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In the Combat Vehicle Modernization Plan it talks about every vehicle having an organic blend of those capabilities… mobility, protection and firepower,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
US Army photo

General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), which builds and engineers the new enhanced lethality Stryker vehicles, will deliver the first eight prototype vehicle in December of this year, Wendy Staiger, Stryker Program Director, GDLS, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, Tim Reese, Director of Strategic Planning, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

“It shoots at a rapid rate of one, three or five-round bursts when you pull the trigger,” Resse explained.

The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds, Reese added. During live-fire testing at Fort Benning, Ga., the 30mm cannon was able to demonstrate firing ability out to ranges of 3,000 meters; this is about twice the range of existing .50-cal guns. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and  allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.

Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
US Army photo

As a result, having an up-gunned, highly-mobile wheeled Stryker vehicle can massively supplement Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs) on the move in hostile warfare circumstances, Basset explained. Also, a gun with greater range and fire-power could better allow forward-positioned infantry units to attack enemies and conduct operations with massively enhanced fire support.

“IBCTs are great in terms of getting Soldiers to the fight but they do not have that staying power unless there are combat platforms that will let them do that. They can hit targets that otherwise they would be engaging with Javelins,” Bassett said.

The new gun, to be fully operational by 2018, incorporates a number of additional innovations for Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles and Reconnaissance Vehicles.

“The medium cannon has a feed system with links pulling into the breach. This is a link-less feed system. The ammo is in canisters attached to the breach of the gun and rounds are pulled into the breach one at a time. It is much less prone to jamming,” Reese said.  “It Uses the same firing control handle as the current machine gun and same physical display channels.

Deterring Russia

The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.

While US Army leaders did not, quite naturally, specify that the weapon is intended to counter Russian forces on the European continent, they do often speak candidly about Russian aggression in Ukraine and other areas. In fact, a RAND study months ago determined that the Russian military could invade and overrun the Baltic states in merely 60-hours given the small amount of NATO forces in the area. It is not surprising, given this scenario, that the Pentagon and NATO are amidst various efforts to strengthen their force posture in Europe.

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
US Army photo

It appears to be no accident that this initiative to better arm Stryker infantry carriers comes at a time when the US Army and US European Command are deliberately revving up arms, multi-national training exercises with NATO allies and armored mobility for its forces in Europe – as a direct counterbalance or deterrent to Russia’s aggressive posture in the region.

For instance, last year’s US European Command’s Dragoon Ride convoy across Europe was, among other things, designed to demonstrate the mobility, deployability and responsiveness of NATO armored forces across the European continent. There have been several additional exercises, involving US Army collaboration with Eastern European NATO allies since this convoy and many more on the immediate future.

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Ft. Hood-area woman leaves behind a legacy of 500,000 hugs

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea
(Photo: KCEN)


“You can’t wrap love in a box, but you can wrap a person in a hug.” – Anonymous

US Air Force Veteran Elizabeth Laird, better known as the “Hug Lady” of Fort Hood, recently passed away at 83 years old. Over the years she wrapped her arms around more than 500,000 soldiers, according to the estimates of Army officials.

Initially, Laird volunteered to shake soldier’s hands. According to an interview with NBC’s Today Show, one soldier offered to give her a hug after she shook his hand. She went from handshakes to hugs from that moment on.

In 2003, she and Command Sgt. Maj. William “Joe” Gainey signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing her mission: Laird was now officially authorized to hug every Fort Hood soldier departing or arriving. She was there with open arms – no matter the time, weather, how large or small of a group, family circumstances, or her own cancer diagnosis.

“[She] wanted to make sure someone here at home is interested and waiting for them to come home again,” Laird’s son Richard Dewee said.

Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, released a the following statement on Laird’s passing:

On behalf of the Soldiers, Airmen, Civilians, and Families of III Corps and Fort Hood, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family of Mrs. Elizabeth Laird, known throughout Central Texas as “The Hug Lady.” She has long been associated with Fort Hood for her dedication, support, and genuine care for our Soldiers, Families and Civilian employees. For more than a decade, she has been personally saying farewell to our troops as they deploy and greeting them as they return. It is with heavy hearts that we express our gratitude for Elizabeth, not only for her service with the U.S. Air Force, but also in recognition of her tireless efforts to show her appreciation for our Soldiers and her recognition of their many sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones; she will be deeply missed.

Laird’s niece Becky Triplett posted the following on her Facebook page:

“When I talked to her the last time, she had been invited to the Rachel Ray show. When I asked if she was going she said ‘No I don’t think so, it wouldn’t be fair to the soldier coming or going. They deserve that hug more.’ She left a very good legacy. RIP Aunt Betty.”

An online petition to name the Fort Hood Deployment Center in Elizabeth Laird’s honor can be found here.

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