Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.


The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.

A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.

It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.

The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
Sea of Japan / East Sea between North Korea and Japan.

It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.

A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.

It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.

Also read: This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.

The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.

Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):

“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.

“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”

She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.

“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.

Related: It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.

She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”

Further reading: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.

The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.

It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.

He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.

“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.

“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”

Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.

“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vultures are taking over a Customs and Border Protection radio tower

For a radio tower and surrounding buildings operated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) near the Texas-Mexico border, vultures are no joke. Around 300 of the carnivorous birds have roosted in its radio tower, and are creating communications issues thanks to their corrosive vomit and feces.

Quartz reports that CBP filed a request for information that includes details about the problems the vultures have created at the radio tower, which is now entirely coated in “droppings mixed with urine” that have also fallen on the ground and surrounding buildings below, where people work and equipment is kept.


Furthermore, a CBP spokesperson told Quartz that workers have anecdotes of the vultures dropping prey from as high as 300 feet above, creating a “terrifying and dangerous” work environment for the past six years.

Vultures regurgitate a corrosive vomit as a defense mechanism that can kill bacteria on their legs but also eat away at the metal radio tower, making it unsafe for maintenance workers to climb it and reducing the tower’s lifespan.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

An adult Turkey Vulture at Santa Teresa County Park, San Jose, California, USA.

(Photo by Don DeBold)

Large groups of vultures also smell like corpses – the species is known, of course, for feeding on dead flesh, or carrion. Undigested bones and fur can be found at the base of where vultures roost.

But CBP can’t kill the vultures, as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made that illegal in 1918. Instead, the agency is searching for a “viable netting deterrent” to stop the vultures from roosting on the radio tower. CBP told Quartz that it’s working with the Fish and Wildlife Agency, the USDA, environmental experts, and the Texas State Historical Preservation Officer to find a solution that doesn’t harm any of the vultures.

The agency also says there are no nests or baby birds in the tower. There are plans to clean and repair the radio tower before installing nets by August, before the natural heavy roosting cycle begins in the fall.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

MIGHTY TRENDING

A camera can now grab facial expressions from miles away

Here’s the brief story of an obscenely large picture.

It’s the brainchild of a company called Jingkun Technology, or BigPixel, taken from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai.

What it is not, contrary to chatter on social media this week, is some evil new Chinese satellite “quantum technology.”

It’s just a very, very big picture, and according to the company, more than 8 million people have explored it.

The company said the photo’s resolution is a mind-blowing 195 gigapixels.


MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Putin tells officials to ‘get ready’ for fight; Iran urges IMF to move on emergency loan

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.

“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.

Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.

Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.

In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.

Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.

“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.

Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”

“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.

Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.

Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.

“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.

“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.

Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.

Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.

U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”

Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.

In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.

The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.

On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.

More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.

During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.

The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.

Romania

Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.

More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.

The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.

Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.

An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.

The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.

The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.

Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”

Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro

North Caucasus

A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.

Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.

The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.

Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.

Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.

He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.

He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ross Perot pulled off one of the greatest Army-Navy Game pranks ever

College pranks leading up to a rivalry football game are par for the course, an expected ordinary event. But when Army meets Navy every year, the pranks are pulled by individuals trained to plan, lead, and meticulously execute military operations – and there is nothing ordinary about the students who attend the United States Military Academy or the U.S. Naval Academy.

This is especially true of one of Navy’s most famous alums, H. Ross Perot tolled Army in one of the greatest pranks in academy history.


Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

There was nothing ordinary about Ross Perot.

Perot died of leukemia in 2019 at age 89 but the self-made billionaire and businessman who may have changed the outcome of the 1992 election got his start at the Naval Academy, graduating with the Class of 1953. His prank, however, came before the 1975 Army-Navy Game, when Perot was not only out of the Navy, but already a billionaire. His company, Electronic Data Systems, had gone public seven years prior.

His billions might have been the key element in helping Perot troll – or rather toll – the entire West Point campus on the eve of the biggest game of the season. According to the 1989 book “The Long Gray Line” by Rick Atkinson, Perot had to somehow enlist the help of a West Point chaplain to even get started.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

Money. Money is how he enlisted an inside man.

At zero dark thirty on the night before the 1975 Army-Navy Game, Perot, with the help of an Army chaplain, the U.S. Military Academy’s bell-ringer, and a Midshipman friend infiltrated the West Point campus and shattered the quiet of the Hudson Valley night.

They scaled the stairs of the West Point Chapel, locked the doors behind them and played “Anchors Aweigh” (Navy’s fight song, for the uninitiated) while singing at the top of their lungs. As barracks’ lights all over campus switched on and cadets flooded their ways to the chapel, Perot and company banged out the Marines’ Hymn on the bells as a follow-up.

Perot taunted the oncoming cadets before surrendering to the mob, who promptly handed the eccentric billionaire over to the waiting Military Police. Perot presumably accepted a slap on the wrist and Navy bested Army 30-6.

Ross Perot, we hardly knew ye.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coast Guard starts the new fiscal year with big narco sub busts

After several years of increases, Coast Guard seizures of cocaine at sea declined slightly during fiscal year 2019, but that fiscal year ended and the 2020 fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, 2019, and runs to Sept. 30, 2020, began with major busts.

During the 2018 fiscal year, Coast Guard personnel removed 207,907.6 kilograms, or just under 208 metric tons, of cocaine worth an estimated $6.14 billion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Barry Lane said in an email.

The amount of cocaine removed by the Coast Guard is the sum of all cocaine physically seized by Coast Guard personnel and all cocaine lost by smugglers due to Coast Guard actions, according to a Homeland Security Department Inspector General report for fiscal year 2018.


Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

The amount of cocaine lost by smugglers is at times “an intelligence-based estimate of the quantity of cocaine onboard a given vessel that is burned, jettisoned, or scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence when Coast Guard presence is detected,” according to the report.

The 2019 total is the second year of decline, following the 209.6 metric tons seized in 2018, according to the Inspector General report. The 223.8 metric tons seized in 2017 was up from 201.3 metric tons in 2016 and 144.8 metric tons in 2015.

Narco subs

The Coast Guard has led efforts to intercept narcotics coming to the US by sea from South and Central America, working with partners in the region through Operation Martillo, which involves ships and aircraft scouring the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.

High-seas busts happen regularly, yielding not only drugs and drug smugglers but also intelligence on the groups behind the shipments.

In July 2019, the Coast Guard’s newest cutter, Midgett, caught a “narco sub” carrying 2,100 pounds of cocaine and three crew in the Eastern Pacific Ocean as the cutter made its first trip to its homeport in Hawaii.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

US Coast Guard personnel unload bales of cocaine seized from a “narco sub” in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

“Narco sub” is often used as a catch-all term, sometimes describing true submarines or semi-submersibles but usually referring to low-profile vessels.

They are all typically hard to spot in the open ocean, but the Coast Guard has seen a resurgence of them.

In September 2019, Coast Guard cutter Valiant tracked down another narco sub in the eastern Pacific, pursuing the 40-foot vessel over night and into the early morning. It was stopped with 12,000 pounds of cocaine aboard, but Coast Guard personnel were only able to offload about 1,100 pounds because of concerns about its stability.

The Valiant’s seizure closed that fiscal year, and the crew of the cutter Harriet Lane opened the current one with another, stopping a semi-submersible smuggling vessel in the Eastern Pacific on October 23 and seizing about 5,000 pounds of cocaine.

Boarding teams from the Harriet Lane got to the smuggling vessel just before midnight, taking control of it before four suspected smugglers aboard could sink it using scuttling valves.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

US Coast Guard personnel aboard a “narco sub” stopped in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2019.

(US Coast Guard)

‘A mission enabler’

Coast Guard officials have pointed to narco subs as a sign of smugglers’ ability to adapt to pressure.

The service has pursued what Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called a “push-out-the-border strategy,” sending ships into the Pacific to bust drugs at the point in the smuggling process when the loads are the largest.

But Schultz and other officials have cautioned that the service can see more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, the Coast Guard has “visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz told Business Insider in November 2018. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that.”

Stopping drugs, as well as the Coast Guard’s other missions, are opportunities to employ new technology, Schultz said in October 2019.

“That counter-drug mission, where you’re trying to surveil the eastern Pacific Ocean … you can take the entire United States and turn it on a 45-degree axis and drop it there, it’s the equivalent of patrolling North America with five or six police cars out of Columbus,” Schultz said during an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“You’ve got to bring some technologies in … We’ve fielded small unmanned systems, the Scan Eagle, on the back of our national-security cutters,” Schultz added. “We haven’t fielded them all out yet, but hopefully by the end of next year every national-security cutter will have a Scan Eagle. That’s a mission enabler.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the first husband-wife team to fly the B-2 bomber in combat

Rows of chairs were filled with family members, close friends and fellow military members. As the ceremony began, all eyes were on the couple standing up front.

Thirteen years earlier, the scene was nearly identical. Back then, John was wearing his Air Force uniform, though Jennifer was wearing a wedding gown. Now, they were wearing flightsuits with oak-leaf rank on the shoulders.

And, the same friend spoke at both events. Jared Kennish first made his remarks as the best man, and now as a colonel and the 131st Bomb Wing Operation’s Group commander at Whiteman Air Force Base.

“It’s an honor to speak as John and Jennifer Avery retire from the Air Force, just as it was to speak at their wedding,” Kennish said. “This couple has made history.”


Lt. Col. John Avery and Lt. Col. Jennifer Avery were the first husband-wife pilot team to fly the B-2 Spirit.

Their two, 20-year-long careers culminated with the couple’s joint retirement ceremony on Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

Jennifer retires with more than 1,600 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri Air National Guard. John retires with more than 2,500 flying hours in the active-duty Air Force and Missouri ANG.

The Air Force retirement is a traditional ceremony that signifies the completion of an Airman’s long, honorable career of service to his or her country.

“This is a thank-you for a job well-done,” Kennish said, “and an opportunity to highlight the history made by this couple – both individually and together.”

Of the hundreds of B-2 pilots to come after John and Jennifer, just two other married couples are among them. It’s just one of their many distinctions. Being first is a theme for the Averys.

Growing up in Miami, Jennifer said she was “shy and maybe even a little insecure – uncertain of myself.” After high school, she headed to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. She carried with her a childhood memory of visiting an Air Force base in Charleston, South Carolina. “I’ll never forget my Uncle Bill taking me into a flight simulator. That stuck with me, even to this day. I thought flying was incredible.”

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

John and Jennifer Avery, both B-2 Spirit pilots, smile for a photo on their wedding day Feb. 5, 2005. Their shared military careers culminated at their joint retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

Jennifer graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and, as a member of ROTC, received a commission in the Air Force as a second lieutenant.

“I knew exactly what I wanted to do next,” she said.

Jennifer earned her pilot wings in June of 1997, which eventually took her to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1 Lancer – and begin making history.

She was the first female B-1 pilot to go to combat, flying four sorties over Kosovo in support of Operation Allied Force in 1999. Not long after, Jennifer applied to fly the B-2 Spirit, based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

“I was drawn to the challenge of flying this unique aircraft that has a mission so vital to deterrence and global safety,” she said of the .2 billion stealth bomber that is capable of both nuclear and conventional missions. “To be one of the few pilots to fly this aircraft that is the backbone of nuclear security was an amazing prospect.”

She was accepted into the program and began training shortly thereafter. Her first flight in the B-2 was on Feb. 12, 2002, making her the first woman to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. Now, 16 years later, seven other women have become B-2 pilots and others are now in training.

In March 2003, she would do again what no other woman before her had accomplished.

Jennifer flew a mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, becoming the first woman to fly the B-2 in combat. Today, she is still the only woman to have flown the B-2 combat.

“Jen is a trailblazer,” Kennish said. “Her career has been nothing short of spectacular. And the same can certainly be said for John, who chased Jen from South Dakota all the way to Missouri.”

Move to Missouri

John grew up in Great Falls, Montana, where he watched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from a nearby base fly overhead.

“I really wanted to fly,” John said. “And I joined the Air Force because I wanted to fly cool planes. I knew being a military pilot, I would be serving my country and have a pretty incredible day-to-day job at the same time.”

He completed an economics degree at Carleton College, Minnesota, and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant through the U.S. Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) in 1999. He earned his pilot wings in 2000, and soon was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, to fly the B-1.

Jennifer was already there and remembers wondering, “Who’s the new pilot?”
The first time John saw her, he remembers wondering why she was late to the parachute safety class they were both taking. And, that he wanted to meet her.

John and Jennifer began dating, though it was less than six months later that she left South Dakota for her next assignment to fly the B-2 stealth bomber. It wasn’t long after that John also applied and was accepted to fly the B-2 something he said he would not have pursued if it weren’t for Jennifer.

“I wanted to fly the B-2 because that was the plane my future wife was going to fly,” John said. “That, and it’s without a doubt the world’s most elite aircraft. As a pilot, there’s nothing more rewarding. Knowing your job is to protect our country, while deterring enemies really is an amazing job to have.”

Whiteman Air Force Base

Now both at Whiteman AFB, John and Jennifer resumed dating. Jennifer accepted John’s marriage proposal during a vacation in Germany, where John had nervously carried around a diamond engagement ring in his pocket until “just the right moment.”

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

Lt. Cols. Jennifer and John Avery sit together during their retirement ceremony Sept. 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)


On Feb. 5, 2005, the couple married in Colorado. Deployments and training kept them apart during their first four months of marriage, though they did end up with overlapping short-term assignments in Guam and were able to live together on the island. They were thankful to be together then, but always careful to not request preferential treatment because of their marriage – or when they had children, first their son Austin, now 12, and then their daughter Elizabeth, now 9.

Balancing demanding mission and training schedules continued to compete with family life.

Jennifer remembers John’s deployment when Austin was just a baby and the guilt she felt when he was the last child to be picked up at daycare, as well as the exhaustion from single-parenthood and a demanding job. Day-to-day was tough, plus Jennifer faced moving for her next assignment while John was required to finish his assignment at Whiteman.

So in 2007, rather than face separating her family, Jennifer decided to leave her active-duty career.

“That was the hardest day,” Jennifer remembers. “That drive to work was emotional. But, I felt in good conscience it was the right decision. At the same time, a lot of people believed in me. I’d had so much support along the way, including from John. In the end, I knew it was only myself I needed to worry about letting down and I hadn’t disappointed myself. I felt like I had accomplished so much and I’m proud I did those things. More than anything, I just want my kids to be proud of their mom.”

After holding civilian positions at Whiteman AFB, Jennifer joined the Missouri ANG at Whiteman and resumed flying as a B-2 pilot. Again, her path was unprecedented as the first and only female B-2 pilot in the ANG.

By 2008, John also transitioned to the Missouri ANG at Whiteman AFB, and was selected as part of the first group of Guardsmen to fly the B-2. He became the first ANG member to attend B-2 Weapon Instructor School and then the first to become an instructor at Whiteman AFB.

Additionally, John was also the first Guardsman to fly the B-2 in combat during a sortie above Libya in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011.

For the Missouri ANG, the Averys exemplified what it means to be Guardsmen, said Col. Ken Eaves, commander of the 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB. “I’m proud of anybody who serves, but these two, they’ve done it with such distinction. They have continued the Guard’s legacy of excellence and dedication.”

For the active-duty Air Force, seeing its pilots continue to fly the B-2 with the Missouri ANG is certainly a win, said Justin Grieve, 509th Bomb Wing Operations Group commander. “At Whiteman, we train elite aviators to fly the world’s most strategic airplane. Whether they do that through active duty or the Guard, we’re all B-2 pilots defending the homeland.”

It’s that partnership between an active-duty wing and a Guard wing, called total-force integration, that the Averys helped execute, Eaves said, adding, “Jennifer and John have been trailblazers in the truest sense of the definition. Literally making history on active duty and in the Guard, that wasn’t something they set out to do. It’s just who they are.”

Working together

The B-2 brought John and Jennifer back together, and also made them the team they are now, the couple said.

Air Force regulations don’t allow spouses to fly in the same aircraft with each other, but John and Jennifer did fly one sortie together in the T-38 Talon training jet before they were married.

There was an equal division of labor and no struggle for control in the aircraft, Jennifer remembers, much like at home. Through the years, the couple learned to divide parental and domestic duties, as well as to make sacrifices for the benefit of the other.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

From left, U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish stands next to Lt. Cols. John and Jennifer Avery during their joint retirement from the Missouri Air National Guard, Sept 7, 2018, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alexander Riedel)

“We were able to support each other and fully appreciate the other’s successes and failures because we knew exactly what the other person was going through,” John said.

“We’re a team,” Jennifer said simply.

The Averys have no doubt this unity will continue now that they’ve left the Air Force. The family of four moved to Boise, Idaho, which fit their criteria of living in a medium-sized city in the West, near the mountains and full of outdoor recreation.

The kids started their new schools. John flies the B-767 for FedEx and Jennifer works as a Department of Defense consultant for flying-related acquisitions. Both have private pilot’s licenses.

“We’re excited for this next phase of our lives,” John said.

Retired, together

At their official retirement September ceremony at Whiteman AFB, standing in front of their families and closest friends, John and Jennifer were presented medals for outstanding military service and certificates of appreciations from the president of the United States before the reading of the orders declaring they were “relieved from duty and retired.”

Reflecting back on the rigors of pilot training, the long hours and irregular schedules, life’s daily demands, the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, the stresses of leadership positions, worry from combat deployments, John and Jennifer remember the good.

“Yes, it was hard,” John remembers. “There was a lot of give and take on both sides. We look back though, and have the best memories.”

“We did it. All the way through,” Jennifer said. “Together.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch how 3 veterans ski to their old Iraq battlegrounds in ‘Adventure Not War’

Often when service men and women return home from a long military deployment, they can have a sense of feeling lost being back stateside.


Many troops believe they still have plenty of unfinished business “over-there,” extending years down the line after their return. In the interim, they can be found struggling with various forms of depression.

Many veterans seek counseling, but one former Army captain found relief by revisiting the place that caused him so much anxiety — Iraq.

“We all have to ultimately take care of our own healing process and so that’s where I wanted to go back,” Iraq veteran and former Army Capt. Stacy Bare says.

Related: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

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U.S. Army captain, Iraq veteran, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Stacy Bare smiles bright while on his cathartic journey. (Source: Adventure Not War/Screenshot)

In February 2017,  Bare, CEO of Combat Flip Flops and Army Ranger Matthew Griffin, and former helicopter pilot Robin Brown embarked on a ski ascent and descent from Mt. Halgurd  — the tallest mountain in Iraq — to the hallowed battlegrounds from which Bare once served.

This incredible journey of healing spawned filmmaker Max Lowe to create the compelling documentary Adventure Not War.

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This film shows a rarely seen beauty in a location known for devastation. For Bare, it created a stable place for healing wounds that are deeper than those seen on the surface.

Also Read: These entrepreneurs survived Shark Tank and share their secrets with vets

During their two-week journey, Stacy, Robin, and Matthew traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to work alongside the non-profit Tent Ed, providing educational resources to children displaced by war.

Check out the Stept Studios’ video below to witness how these three brave veterans ventured back to Iraq and revisit the various places in which many Americans used to fight.


(Adventure Not War, Stept Studios)
MIGHTY TRENDING

How flying ambulances make battlefield evacuations possible

The morning starts early with an alert about four hours before takeoff. Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron begin several mandatory tasks before boarding the aircraft. Nurses go over mission details, as medical technicians pack more than a thousand pounds of equipment on a flatbed that is ready to load onto the plane. They must take all their usual gear, including bandages, intravenous fluid, regulators, defibrillators, suction units, and various other pieces of medical equipment. They take these supplies partially as a precaution, as they don’t know what they may need to keep patients stable in the air above the Middle East.


These teams, the aircrew, and aircraft are flying ambulances for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

The 379th EAES, deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, is one of the only two aeromedical evacuation squadrons in the AOR available to pull wounded warriors off of the battlefield and make sure they get the care they need.

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U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Deveril Wint (right), medical crew director, and Capt. Elise Cunningham, a flight nurse, both with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, pack equipment up after a mission to pick up sick patients in Afghanistan, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Nov. 25, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

According to Lt. Col. Julia Moretti, 379th EAES commander, their job is to transport wounded warriors to a higher echelon of care.

“We take them from the battlefield all the way home,” Moretti said.

If military personnel get injured or sick on the battlefield, the wounded initially receive first aid buddy care. If life-saving surgery is needed, the patients are flown to the nearest hospital abroad.

That is where 379th EAES comes in. They bring the injured service member back to Al Udeid AB. If they require more intensive care, they will then be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and if they can’t be fully treated overseas, they will return to the U.S.

“The goal is to keep them at the lowest level of care, rehab them, and then get them back into the fight quickly as possible,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Ausfeld, 379th EAES first sergeant.

In addition to the AE teams, the squadron also has Critical Care Air Transport Teams, which are specialized medical teams comprised of one doctor, an intensive care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. If AE teams are the flying ambulance, CCATT is the ICU.

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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Miguel Rodriguez, a medical technician with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, inputs patient data to a computer during a mission to pick up patients in Afghanistan, Nov. 25, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

If patients can be treated and return to work while deployed, they will stay in the AOR. However, if they have a more severe condition and can’t physically manage doing office work as they recover, they will return home.

As the war has progressed, the severity, type, and amount of injuries have decreased significantly. In the early 2000s, the teams would care for 20-30 patients that would require transporting on a litter.

“Now that is the exception, and we’re glad to see we aren’t having that many now,” Moretti said.

Aeromedical evacuation teams are made up of two nurses and three medical technicians. All members of AE are considered flight crew and, on top of all the medical expertise they must know and practice, they also need to know all about the aircraft they are flying on. They have to know how to put together seats, install stanchions to hold patient litters and how the electricity works for their machines aboard the aircraft, among many other details.

Also Read: This is why wounded troops don’t spend entire wars in field hospitals anymore

AE teams are also required to have the knowledge to perform their duties on a wide variety of aircraft, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, and C-21.

The AE teams here exemplify total force integration in that active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard members combine to create the medical teams. In fact, only a small percentage of the teams are made up of active duty Airmen.

“The Guard and Reserve components are a key part in the Aeromedical Evacuation world,” Moretti said. “Around 88 percent of AE is Guard and Reserve augmenting active duty. It’s a team effort with all the components to transport and care for our Wounded Warriors.”

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Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron discuss mission details on a C-130 Hercules during a mission to pick up sick patients in Iraq, over the skies of the Middle East, Nov. 11, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

According to Moretti and Ausfeld, the job of an AE Airman is a rewarding one.

“It’s a great feeling helping our wounded warriors,” Moretti said. “Taking care of our own that were injured or became sick while protecting us, it’s a small way to give back. We pamper the patients and give them the best tender, loving care we can.”

“I’ve moved wounded warriors around the world, some with severe battle injuries,” Ausfeld said. “They’ll look you in the eyes and thank you for what you’re doing for them. It can catch you off guard and it can be hard to respond to. Because these warriors, these sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, have sacrificed their body and soul. We’re just making sure they get home.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why a North Korean defector fled the for the South

The 24-year-old North Korean defector who successfully made it across the North Korean border and into South Korea under a hail of gunfire was reportedly involved in a crime “that led to a death,” according to South Korean intelligence officials cited in Donga Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, on Jan. 23.


Chung-sung Oh reportedly confessed to the alleged crime, according to intelligence officials who are investigating his background as part of the standard procedure involving North Korean defectors. The National Intelligence Service, the primary intelligence agency in the country, was said to be looking into all circumstances of the alleged death, including whether it was a murder or an accidental death.

Related: Watch a North Korean defector dodging bullets to cross the DMZ

A reporter from Chosun Ilbo, another South Korean news organization, also said he received a similar unconfirmed report in December, in which Oh is believed to have been involved in a vehicle accident involving another person and may have defected in fear of being punished.

Oh, who has been recovering after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, is said to have a carefree personality, according to government sources. But those sources noted that his testimony seemed to change depending on his mood. The investigation is expected to extend beyond February.

If reports of Oh’s statement proves to be true, it could complicate the proceedings and exclude him from benefits for North Korean defectors, according to the South Korean newspaper. But because the government does not have an extradition treaty with North Korea, Oh does not appear to be at risk of being sent back to the North.

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A defector from North Korea dodges bullets as he crosses the DMZ.

Meanwhile, South Korean intelligence officials have publicly denied Oh’s testimony and said those involved with the matter had “never made a statement of that kind.”

The Ministry of Unification, the government body responsible for inter-Korean relations, said that it could not confirm the account because the investigation was still ongoing.

News surrounding Oh has become a hot-button subject in Korea after footage of his dramatic escape in November was captured in stunning detail. Following Oh’s rescue, those involved in the recovery, including his physician, have been the center of media attention in the country.

Articles

Pentagon approves new tanker for production

The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.


The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. | US Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee

“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.

Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.

Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.

Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.

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Concept image | Boeing

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”

Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”

Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.

The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.

The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.

The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways a grunt’s resume is more valuable than a POG’s

One of the biggest drawbacks of being in the combat arms is a perceived lack of post-service opportunities out here in the civilian world. A recently released grunt might take a look through job listings, see a laundry list of requirements, become convinced that applying is a pointless effort, and send themselves into a downward spiral. We’ve seen it happen too many times — we all know a brother- or sister-in-arms who has fallen down this hole.

This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there really isn’t much of advantage to being a former POG over being former infantry when it comes time to find a job. Unless that guy who was a computer analyst in the Army is specifically going into a civilian computer analyst job, you’re both on even footing.

In fact, when you cut away the military jargon from your resume and translate your skills into something a civilian employer can read, the grunts actually have the upper hand, based solely on the day-to-day lifestyle of combat arms troops.


This article isn’t meant to discredit a support troop’s career path. All troops can pull useful information out of this article, but it’s intended mostly for the grunts who don’t realize their true potential.

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It’s best if you let your resume do the talking…

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Your awards are proof for all the “fluff” in your resume

Let’s be honest; everyone is going to add some decorative fluff their resume. Employers expect this and have to weed through said fluff to get the heart of the issue. Even if you don’t embellish a little on your resume, prospective employers will assume you’re fluffing it up. It’s just how these things go.

Typically, grunts don’t have awards tossed to them like candy, so when they get one, it means something. So, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Go ahead and mention why you were given the award; that’s the real impressive part.

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Deployment stories usually do well with civilians who have no idea what life in the military is actually like.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Your deployment history can solidify your communication skills

Writing about your deployment history is, in a word, complicated. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with veterans of combat zones. Some employers unjustly see veterans as unqualified because they assume we all have post-traumatic stress and are difficult to work with — despite the fact that that’s discrimination clearly forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Still, civilian employers, no matter the industry, are looking for three key traits in an employee: Communication skills, leadership potential, and management ability. There’s no question that a deployment checks these three boxes. If you’ve deployed, then you have a proven ability to “communicate with a team and higher-ups under extremely stressful conditions.”

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They don’t need to know about your salty attitude until you’ve been on board for several months.

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

Your leadership skills are needed for promotion in civilian workplace

Employers want a new hire for one of two reasons: They’re either looking to fill a vacancy to complete a specific task or they’re trying to bring someone on for the long-haul, someone who will rise within the ranks and remain loyal to the employer.

Support guys, like that Army computer analyst from the earlier example, might be a shoe-in for that one entry-level position, but it’s the grunt they’ll be looking at for the long-term. Grunts take on leadership roles from the first moment they’re assigned a boot private to babysit watch over. What the civilian employer wants to hear is that you “oversaw and aided in the growth of subordinates over the course of several years.”

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Civilians won’t know that you were volun-told or needed to make rank. It just sounds extremely impressive to the uninformed.

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Your military schooling is tangible proof of management skills

In every complete resume, the final portion is reserved for educational history. Typically, this is where an applicant lists their high school diploma and college degrees, but it’s also used for technical schools and any kind of additional education. Good news, grunts: this is also where you put those random schools you were sent to.

Officer Candidate School and NCO Academies definitely count. Put those on there. Plus, most NCO schools are given overly “hooah” names. Go ahead and tell me what sounds better: “Warrior Leader Course” or “Los Angeles City College?”

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Follow wherever your heart takes you. You’ll find someone out there willing to pay you money to do it.

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Your college degree will cover down on anything else missing on the resume

At the end of the day, your military experience looks good and it makes for a great topic of discussion during the interview, but you can’t expect anything more than a foot in the door if you don’t meet the required qualifications.

Thankfully, using that GI Bill that you earned can help boost your odds in any field you’re pursuing. Once you’ve finished your degree, the job market is ripe for the picking, and your military service will give you an edge over the competition.

For further instruction on how to best translate your military history into a fantastic civilian resume, please check out this article by the folks over at Zety. They’re professionals who dedicate themselves to this very subject. It’s a great read.

Articles

US special operators, artillery, gunships support Raqqa offensive

United States Special Forces have been deployed on several fronts around the Syrian city of al-Raqqa, supporting the offensive of the Kurdish militias and other allied factions laying siege to the city, according to a British war monitor.


US troops are deployed to the north, east, and west of al-Raqqa, considered the capital of the caliphate of the Islamic State, and includes US special ops units, US Marines artillery (155mm/M-777’s), and US Apache helicopter gunships supporting the advance of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led armed alliance that launched an offensive to retake the city, according to the UK’s Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The US-led coalition’s aircraft are also providing the Kurdish fighters with intensive air support.

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Syrian Democratic Forces march in Raqqa in 2016

Currently, there are clashes between the SDF and the US Special Forces on one side against IS, on the other, at the former base of Division 17, North of al-Raqqa; also on the outskirts of the Haraqala area and around the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the West.

SOHR said the SDF controls 70 percent of the al-Meshlab area, on the eastern side of al-Raqqa, where progress is being hampered by IS snipers and mines, although the Kurdish militia stated on Wednesday it completely controlled the area.

There are no civilians left in this district since they were evacuated days ago by the radical fighters, who have dug trenches and tunnels to defend the area, the NGO said.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons

For their part, the SDF reported in their Telegram account that they have managed to break into the neighborhood of al-Jazra in the western part of al-Raqqa.

On June 5th, this force launched an offensive on the city.

This offensive comes on the third anniversary of the proclamation of its caliphate on June 29, 2014, by IS in Syria and Iraq.

Currently, there are some 500 US troops deployed in Syria.

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