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

This is how many US troops are in Syria

After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.

The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.


As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.

The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.

Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.

US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS

The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
(US Army photo)

The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.

But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.

“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.

Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.

“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.

Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.

He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.

“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops still ready to fight North Korea despite canceled exercises, according to general

U.S. troops are still ready to “fight tonight” against North Korea despite the indefinite suspension of major military training exercises on the Korean peninsula, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.


Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea and the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, is confident “that we still have the readiness required to be able to respond to any aggression,” Air Force Lt. Gen. David Allvin told the House Armed Services Committee.

If Abrams “felt like he was not able to achieve the readiness to accomplish the mission for which he was assigned, he would certainly come up voicing that, and we’d be hearing that,” said Allvin, director of strategy, plans and policy for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. “The overall posture remains strong.”

The large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises were suspended in 2018 by President Donald Trump as too costly and “provocative” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who repeatedly branded them as practice for an invasion.

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

media.defense.gov

However, Allvin said that readiness has been maintained through more than 270 small-scale exercises with South Korean forces in 2019.

He said U.S. troops had conducted 273 of 309 “planned activities” with the South Koreans last year, giving the combined force the fighting edge to deal with any threat mounted by North Korea.

The readiness of U.S. forces is crucial as diplomatic leverage to maintain prospects for resuming long-stalled negotiations with North Korea on disarmament and denuclearization, said John Rood, the under secretary of Defense for Policy, but he cautioned that Kim’s next steps are impossible to predict.

Kim broke off talks last year after the U.S. refused to ease sanctions ahead of negotiations, and the North has since resumed test launches of short- and medium-range missiles.

A top North Korean official last month also threatened that the U.S. would be receiving a “Christmas gift” that the U.S. and regional allies suspected might be the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile or a resumption of underground nuclear testing, but there was no follow-through.

“We are watching very carefully what they are doing,” Rood said. “We don’t know clearly the reasons why North Korea did not engage in more proactive behavior, which they seemed to be hinting they were planning to do in December.”

To maintain pressure on the North, the U.S. is continuing to ask South Korea to pick up more of the cost for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula, he said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in balked last year at Trump’s suggestion that South Korea should boost its contribution from id=”listicle-2644992511″ billion to billion.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the chairman of the committee, said the South Koreans are unlikely to agree to a five-fold increase in their share for the U.S. presence.

“How are we going to walk our way through that rather difficult situation?” he asked.

Rood did not give specific numbers, but said the U.S. objective is a “larger burden sharing of the costs,” and one that “doesn’t unduly strain the alliance” with South Korea.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This airman is one of only 9 to receive Air Force Cross since 9/11

Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.


It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.

And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”

On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.

Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.

The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.

Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.

Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.

“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”

According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.

The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

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

Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.

“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”

Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.

“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”

Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.

On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.

“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”

Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.

In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.

According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
Calling in close air support is a pretty baller move. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.

There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.

Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.

Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.

Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”

“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

You’re throwing a football around in the yard with your neighbors. While stretching out as far as you can to catch the pass, you slam your head hard against a pole going for the ball. Seeing stars and feeling confused, you take a seat. Wouldn’t it be nice if a test could say whether you have a brain injury?


Brain injury can happen from a fall, while in combat, or during training exercises. Thanks in part to research funded by the Dept. of Defense and the U.S. Army, Banyan Biomarkers has created the first-ever brain trauma blood test. On Feb. 14, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration cleared marketing of the Banyan Biomarkers’ Brain Trauma Indicator, or BTI™.

Also read: Major advances occurring in traumatic brain injury care for veterans

The BTI can identify two brain-specific protein markers, called UCH-L1 (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1) and GFAP (Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein). These proteins rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours following an incident where a head injury occurs and can signify if there is bleeding in the brain. The two protein markers won’t be elevated if your brain is uninjured or if you have a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), otherwise known as a concussion.

“When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain,” said Kathy Helmick, acting director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “A hematoma, or blood in the brain, may indicate a more serious brain injury has occurred, which could require rapid evacuation for neurosurgery to remove a clot in the brain.”

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

The first thing a doctor tries to rule out with suspected brain injury is the potential for serious complications, like losing consciousness, going into a coma, or death. According to the research results and FDA clearance, the blood test can help medical professionals determine the need for computed tomography (CT) scans in patients suspected of having a concussion. It also can help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.

Related: Here’s how this Marine learned to cope with traumatic brain injury

Prior to discovering these biological protein markers, medical professionals had to rely on symptom reporting and other more subjective means to evaluate patients with few signals of more serious head injury.

“This technology helps us identify red flags after you suspect a head injury so that you can get the person to definitive care,” Helmick explained. “Most times, the blood test will be negative and the medical provider will continue with a concussion evaluation.”

Lt. Col. Kara Schmid said U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command will “begin limited user testing with the device in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.” Schmid is a project manager for the Neurotrauma and Psychological Health Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “Improvements could make the device more supportable by the military health system.”

The Department of Defense has been seeking a method for diagnosing and evaluating TBI in service members for over a decade. According to DVBIC, over 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Approximately 82 percent of those TBI cases are classified as a concussion.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
More than 294,000 military service members have suffered from traumatic brain injury. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

According to Kelley Brix, MD – who is a branch chief for interagency research and development at the Defense Health Agency – the need for diagnosing milder forms of brain injury sparked research questions that were funded as part of a greater TBI research portfolio.

“The research question became centered on if the brain releases anything detectable into the blood stream when there is damage,” said Brix. “The answer is yes. This is a big project with a successful outcome. But, it’s only part of our large portfolio looking at improved ways to diagnose and treat TBI.”

Helmick says knowing whether blood, swelling, or bruising on the brain has taken place helps with understanding the severity of the TBI.

More: Helmets just got new technology to protect your brains

“These two proteins give us a window of insight into what is going on in the brain,” said Helmick. “We have lacked objective devices and data in TBI, especially with concussion. The reason biological markers are so important is because they are accurate, sensitive, and objective.”

Making the machine required to run the blood test smaller and more portable is a work in progress, as currently it’s intended for use in a laboratory. Logistical constraints of the BTI device make deployment to the force a challenge.

“There is active work going on to reduce the 3-4 hour timeframe for getting test results, which could make it even more usable for austere environments,” Helmick said. “This blood test is an example of a significant public-private success and a huge advancement in the field of TBI.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

New restaurant options are coming to Army and Air Force Bases

Panda Express and Muscle Maker Grill are among the new restaurants coming to Air Force and Army bases in 2019, officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) told Military.com.

AAFES manages restaurant contracts on Army and Air Force bases, including deals with familiar brands such as Subway and Starbucks. Other restaurants, like P.F. Chang’s, currently at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and coming soon to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are contracted by base morale and welfare officials.


On-base food fans will get a break from Burger King and Taco Bell, as officials open a variety of new options and expand others.

Chinese fast-food restaurant Panda Express will open this year at Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Benning and Fort Stewart, Georgia; and Travis Air Force Base, California, AAFES officials said.

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

Panda Express.

(Flickr photo by Rick Obst)

Healthy menu-focused Muscle Maker Grill will open additional locations at Benning; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; and, according to the company’s website, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Qdoba, which opened on several bases last year, including Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Lee, Virginia; and Fort Stewart, Georgia, will add more military locations.

While a Change.org petition to bring Chick-fil-A to bases continues to circulate and had collected nearly 88,000 signatures as of this writing, AAFES officials declined to comment on whether the restaurant will make an on-base appearance.

AAFES officials said they also will be bringing in a few less well known restaurant chains.

Chopz, a fast-food outlet that offers healthy options focused on salads, subs, burritos and wraps, will open at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, they said. And Slim Chickens, a fast-food chain primarily located in Texas and Oklahoma, will open locations at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Fort Hood, Texas, later in 2019, they added.

Troops, military families and veterans can stay on top of military discounts, from travel accommodations to auto and entertainment deals. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to get full access to all discounts.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the biggest ways the Marines prepares you for college

College is an amazing thing. In fact, there’re few better ways to spend your time after the Marines than going to get an education in whatever way you see fit. Chances are, you got out because you were done with the military lifestyle and you were ready to move forward with your life. You were ready to find the next big challenge.

Contrary to what your chain of command told you, getting out of the military does not guarantee that you’ll spend your days living in a van down by the river. Not only did you build an arsenal of great life skills while in the service, you also earned yourself the G.I. Bill, which, in some cases, pays you to go to college.

Don’t be nervous at the prospect. The truth is, the Marines (or any other branch for that matter) has prepared you for the adventure of college in ways you might not have noticed.


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

Take the big tasks, break them into smaller ones.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas Hopkins)

Task organization 

Organizing your college life is a lot like writing a mission order: You take the biggest task and break it into manageable chunks. Having this kind of organizational talent can make group projects easier, too — if you think you can trust the other group members to carry out their assigned tasks, anyways.

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

Hurry up and wait will definitely apply in a lot more areas of your life.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Master Sgt. Keith A. Milks)

Time management

When you get out of the Marines, it’s going to be hard to break out of the “fifteen minutes prior” mentality. You’ll be showing up everywhere super early, even if no one is waiting to yell at you for being late. Unlike a lot of kids fresh out of high school, you’ll already know how to make the time you need to do the work that needs to be done.

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

You know where your limits are and you’ll continue pushing them.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)

Not settling for bare minimums

As Marines, we’re taught to never settle. We’re taught to push ourselves to be our absolute best — and this helps a lot in college. You might experience a little anxiety over an exam or project, but when it comes time to deliver, you’ll exceed your expectations — because that’s just who you are now.

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

You won’t stop until the job gets done.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Discipline

This can’t be stressed enough. Marines are able to train themselves to set a goal and work toward it at any cost. Our laser focus helps us avoid distractions until the mission is not only accomplished, but done with 110% effort.

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

Good thing you can sleep anywhere, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian Slaght)

Sleep deprivation

In college, there are times where you’ll miss out on plenty of sleep because of deadlines. Luckily, you’ve spent enough time in fighting holes and on duty that you know how it feels to be truly tired, and it’ll never stop you from continuing to perform like you’ve had plenty of sleep.

Articles

This is how much US military leaders like their new orders from the White House

US military commanders deeply appreciate the autonomy and hands off approach the Trump administration takes to battlefield operations, Operation Inherent Resolve commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told Pentagon reporters Aug. 31.


Townsend explained that the Trump administration has “pushed decision making into the military chain of command,” as opposed to the widespread micromanagement of military operations seen under the Obama administration. “I don’t know of a commander in our armed forces who doesn’t appreciate that,” he said.

“Our judgment here on the battlefield in the forward areas is trusted. And we don’t get twenty questions with every action that happens on the battlefield and every action that we take,” Townsend said. “I think every commander that I know of appreciates being given the authority and responsibility, and then the trust and backing to implement that.”

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson.

US Special Envoy to the counter-Islamic State coalition Ambassador Brett McGurk told reporters in early August that gains against ISIS have “dramatically accelerated” under the Trump administration, highlighting the terror group’s loss of territory.

President Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that US rules of engagement were too restrictive in the ISIS fight during the 2016 campaign. Throughout the early months of his presidency he has loosened rules of engagement and launched dozens of drone strikes under looser authorities.

“There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a US defense official told the Wall Street Journal in April in the midst of high tempo operations against the terrorist group.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new film shows the potential of stem cells for wounded vets

The Census Bureau says there are 3.8 million wounded veterans living in America today. That’s as many wounded veterans as there are people living in the states of New Hampshire, Hawaii, and Maine combined.

What’s even more heartbreaking, though, is that many of these veterans feel ignored and misunderstood by the country they gave their blood and bodies to serve.

Working Pictures, an independent film company dedicated to producing content with purpose, wants to help change that with the release of Wise Endurance, a documentary profiling two brave veterans — and the collective of stem-cell physicians providing them with cutting-edge treatment for their combat injuries.


One of these veterans is Roger Sparks, a former Air Force Pararescueman and Silver Star recipient who served during the bloody Operation Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. Sparks is now a veteran advocate who is seeking stem-cell treatments for his and his fellow combat veteran’s blast-induced, traumatic brain injuries.

This specific treatment is called autologous stem cell therapy, where stem cells are harvested directly from the patient’s own fat tissue. The removed stem cells are separated from the fat and reintroduced intravenously to boost healing.

During the film, both Sparks and his 14-year-old son, Oz (who has Cerebral Palsy and type 1 diabetes), experienced noticeable results from their stem cell treatments. Oz’s results are visible — the show follows Oz as he moves from non-verbal to speaking. The results, captured on film, lead the collective to encourage other doctors to offer the same service to veterans, with a plan to use the findings as part of a national study and database to further the treatment of concussive injuries using adipose derived stem cells.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
Master Sgt. Roger Sparks, a pararescueman with the 212th Rescue Squadron.

Sparks introduces Pararescueman team member Jimmy Settle, who was shot in the head during Bullbog Bite (Settle’s memoir, Never Quit, is a national best-seller). The treatment was so effective for Settle that he began to heal his inability to freely touch his face. The former track champion also was able to resume running again, which he had previously been unable to do.

These successes in autologous stem cell therapy have inspired Sparks to become an advocate for his fellow combat servicemen. As a result, Sparks, Cell Surgical Network’s doctors, including Dr. Kyle Bergquist, Dr. Mark Berman, Dr. Elliot Lander, and Dr. Larry Miggins, and the filmmakers have established Healing Our Heroes Foundation — a non-profit organization whose goals are to treat combat veterans with adipose-derived stem cells and study the initial, promising results.

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan
Staff Sgt. Jimmy Settle.

Because there are no medical treatments for TBI, stem cells could be a real game-changer in the health of our wounded warriors.

A national network of providers have already committed to treating a significant portion of the population of former combat veterans through the efforts of the Wise Endurance team, and further fundraising is being planned through the sale of the documentary and donations.

The film is available online for purchase on the film’s website. Proceeds will go to fund the Healing Our Heroes Foundation, which will provide treatment, travel, and accommodation for the veterans, as well as cover the costs of studying the outcomes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Clinton VP prospect Adm. James Stavridis has a history of deep thoughts

Multiple news outlets are reporting that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is taking a serious look at former Navy Adm. James Stavridis as her potential running mate.


The news comes nearly a week after sources close to the Donald Trump campaign indicated the real estate mogul is seriously considering former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his running mate, an outside-the-box choice that would bring a registered Democrat and an Iraq war critic onto the 2016 Republican ticket.

The Clinton campaign’s look at Stavridis has been widely applauded by former colleagues of the once-Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, some of whom consider him a “warrior scholar” with deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape and a thought leader in national security policy.

“Admiral Stavridis is one of the finest military officers of his generation,” former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy told Reuters in a statement. “He is a person of great ability and integrity, and an exceptional leader. He has the talents, experience, judgment and temperament to serve the American people at the highest levels of our government.”

A year before his retirement from the Navy in 2013, Stavridis was given a speaking slot at the prestigious Ted Talks, where he discussed his vision for a new global strategic policy in which security would be “built with bridges instead of walls.” The video has reportedly been viewed over 700,000 times.

Stavridis now serves as the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, one of the most prestigious graduate schools of foreign and national security policy in the United States. Before that, the 1976 Naval Academy graduate served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and the top military official at Southern Command.

According to his official bio, Stavridis has written six books and published hundreds of articles on leadership and strategic policy. And his accomplishments extend well beyond the lecture hall and onto the ship’s bridge, where he was awarded the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet (USS Barry DDG-52) in the mid-1990s, and he was awarded the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership after his command of Destroyer Squadron 21 in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.

Stavridis also led the Navy’s Deep Blue think tank, a service policy shop that often challenges leadership and technology assumptions and pushes new innovations for Navy strategy and tactics.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leading veterans organizations unite in battle against COVID-19

Six of the leading veterans organizations are joining forces, forming a coalition to combat COVID-19. Team Rubicon is at the helm.

The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination (VCV) includes Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Student Veterans of America, Team Red, White & Blue, The Mission Continues and Wounded Warrior Project. All are united in the commitment to aid local and state officials in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to American citizens across the country.  

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination ad

Navy veteran and Team Rubicon President and Chief Operating Officer Art delaCruz is deeply familiar with tackling disasters and challenges, something many veterans have experience in. It’s for this reason that delaCruz believes veterans are uniquely positioned to make a tangible difference in fighting the invisible enemy that is COVID-19, and winning. 

Team Rubicon has been in the fight against Coronavirus since March 2020 and the VCV is what delaCruz feels is the next vital mission. “In 2019 we ran 119 operations and we ran close to 380 last year,” delaCruz shared. In 2020 TR was on the ground distributing personal protective equipment, administering COVID-19 tests, handing hurricane disaster relief and supporting neighbors in need. “Even with 140,000 volunteers we began to stretch our capacity,” he said.

“We were staring at this national problem where we knew that 350 million or so citizens needed to be vaccinated. We knew that the people who were really on the front-line, the true warriors, these nurses and doctors had been at it for 10 months and we thought ‘how can we help?’” delaCruz explained. 

In November 2020, hope was on the horizon. Vaccines were receiving their emergency approvals after successful trials, and, “This,” delaCruz said, “was the answer.” One of the Special Forces doctors in a TR strategy meeting said, “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations save lives,” delaCruz shared. It was this striking realization that led TR to forming the VCV. 

Veterans coalition for COVID-19 vaccination

With over 18 million veterans throughout the country, TR knew they needed support to activate them all. So, they brought the big guns. “We made a decision to see if we could collect everyone together and get them aligned around this mission. Come late December we started this scaffolding and framework. We had our first meeting on December 17… and we launched,” delaCruz said. 

On December 15, TR was in the Navajo Nation giving their first vaccination. “They were the most devastated community in the country. Their hospitals only staffed at 5% of normal,” delaCruz shared. Soon, they received a call from Chicago’s Emergency Management team, requesting their help. “By December 28, our volunteers were training with the city personnel and they are now at seven distribution points of Chicago… and that’s just the start.”

By providing resources of a million-strong veteran coalition, the VCV will assist in ensuring access to vaccinations. When President Biden announced his COVID-19 national strategy for response, five of his pillars were identical to what VCV had identified for their mission. Addressing trust, opportunity and equity were among the most important, according to delaCruz.

“A man or woman who’s been off to combat or served, they have legitimacy and a voice. Now we are using that voice to build trust. Military veterans also come from every culture and community across the country so it’s probably the most diverse organization in the US, so who better to bring the message that vaccination is something the nation should do to move forward,” delaCruz said. 

It is the hope of TR and the VCV that the country will come together to unite in this fight. DelaCruz explained that it’s not unlike the victory gardens or rationing for the needs of the military during World War II. This is a new, pivotal moment where that same urgency and sacrifice is needed. 

The VCV is not only battling the virus, they are attacking false and misleading information. “It’s combat against misinformation … It’s about demonstrating leadership upfront that we believe in science and vaccinations, which are important to get the nation back on its feet ,” delaCruz stated. 

To help with tackling misinformation, VCV is being supported by the global advertising technology company Amobee and AdTechCares, which has over 50 partners. These organizations are committed to developing ongoing Public Service Announcement campaigns to ensure credible information is distributed about vaccine efficacy. 

“Vaccinations may be an individual act but that individual act has tremendous, tremendous societal value. Just like the collective self-sacrifice in World War II, this act of vaccinations or supporting vaccinations in any way possible, it touches everyone,” delaCruz said. “Americans have traditionally risen to the occasion during the hardest of times … we have an opportunity here to make it happen again.”

Team Rubicon and the VCV is imploring veterans to put on a new uniform and continue to serve this new and vital mission. It may be one of the most important fights to date. 

To learn more about how you can support the efforts against COVID-19 and vaccinations, visit www.TheVeteransCoalition.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dunford says path to peace requires Taliban reconciliation

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reiterated on Nov. 17, 2018, that reconciliation is the only way forward in Afghanistan and that political, economic, religious, and military pressure must be maintained on the group.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized to Yalda Hakim, a foreign correspondent of BBC World News, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the struggle in that country will require all aspects of government.

The chairman was participating in a Halifax Chat as part of the 10th annual International Security Forum here.


“Success in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” Dunford said. “That requires us to have political pressure, social pressure and military pressure. In the military dimension, our task is to make sure the Taliban realize that they cannot win on the battlefield.”

NATO and partner nations are working closely with Afghan national security forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban. At the same time, other agencies are working to improve economic conditions in the country. In addition, Islamic organizations are working to encourage the Taliban to talk with and ultimately join the Afghan government. Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have issued fatwas calling on the Taliban to lay down their weapons and talk peace, Dunford said.

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

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is interviewed by BBC World News correspondent Yalda Hakim in Canada during the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Nov. 17, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Part of the pressure was the recent elections in Afghanistan. “The elections that just took place, [were] largely successful and less violent, certainly, than people predicted,” he said. “And I think political transition in 2019 will also be critical in putting pressure on the Taliban.”

All this will combine to convince Taliban leaders that their future lies with reconciliation, the general said.

“But the key to success is to combine all of that pressure to incentivize the Taliban for, again, that Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.

Undergirding everything in Afghanistan is the South Asia Strategy. A key provision in that is its conditions-based approach. The Afghan government and Afghan people know that the world is with them in trying to move through this constant state of war. “And I would also say that the decision by NATO and partner nations to support the Afghan national defense security forces through 2024 absolutely affects the Taliban’s calculus,” Dunford said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These veterans are bringing about positive change with cardboard signs

The CFT has nothing to do with combat, Kuwait isn’t a real deployment, not every Marine is a rifleman, stop piggybacking off the XO—every service member has thought these things in some form at one point or another. You may have even said it aloud to a buddy. Putting a military spin on Dude With a Sign, Veteran With A Sign takes these thoughts that we have all had and actually says them.


VWAS is an Instagram page that started in March 2020 as a writing project by a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ Marine named Zach. He served two tours in Afghanistan as an infantryman and held every position in a Marine infantry squad up to squad leader. “GWOT was hot and COIN was cool,” Zach said as he recalled the intensity of combat operations over a decade ago. After separating from the Marine Corps, Zach continued to support his brothers and sisters in arms working for Centerstone, a nonprofit national network that offers essential behavioral healthcare to veterans. Like most veterans, Zach started following military memes as a way to connect with the community. However, he found that most of the memes were the same; heavy handed, punching down, and generally negative in nature. He decided to try something different.

As quarantines went into place across the country and people went internal both literally and on the internet, Zach saw an opportunity to test out his idea and seized it. His first sign read, “Take motrin Drink water Change your socks.” This military cure-all was followed by other popular sayings like “Hurry up and wait” and “Standby to standby.” VWAS’s posts are meant to help veterans with a type of humor that serves as a common language across the services. “Everything’s with a wink and a smile,” Zach said. However, the community was slow to catch on. The number of followers was low and Zach found that people just weren’t getting the joke. “It was annoying,” he recalled. By May, he wondered if he shouldn’t just shut the whole thing down. However, seemingly overnight, the community got the joke.

Early on, Zach began consulting with his Marine Corps buddy Jay. The two served together in Afghanistan with Zach becoming Jay’s squad leader on their last deployment. “We stayed in touch after the Marines,” Jay said, “but we went from good friends to best friends with VWAS.” While working toward a business degree, Jay helped to direct the social media strategy of the page and grow its followership by tagging friends, sharing posts, and trying to line up just the right hashtag. When Zach considered shutting it down, the page was hovering around 600-800 followers. The next day, it had jumped to 1,200. In a week, it more than doubled to 2,500. After a week and a half, VWAS had over 10,000 followers. “We found a common unified voice for the page,” Jay said.

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

Zach (left) and Jay (right) hold signs written by the other (veteranwithasign)

As the page grew, so did its message. Zach and Jay realized the social responsibility that had been placed on them and crafted their posts accordingly. While they still made humorous signs like “Mortarmen Are Infantry That Can Do Math”, they also used their platform to bring attention to serious topics with signs like “Text Your Buddies…It Could Save A Life” and “Where Is Vanessa Guillén??” The two also carefully crafted the identity of the page with the character of the Warfighter. Wearing OD green skivvies, black sunglasses, and a hat, the Warfighter persona aims to focus attention on the message of the sign while also representing all types of veterans. “Anyone who puts on the uniform is fighting the war,” Jay said. From S1 and supply to mechanics and logisticians, “everybody is the warfighter in their own way.” Zach says that the concept was inspired by the 2006 film V for Vendetta, in which a masked man fights against a fascist tyrannical government. V’s face, hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask, is never seen in the film and the mask becomes a symbol of freedom and rebellion against the oppressive regime. Jay reinforced this idea when he talked about donning the skivvies, hat, and shades to hold up a sign. “In that moment, I’m the Warfighter.”

Expanding the VWAS community, Zach and Jay started taking suggestions from followers who had a message that they wanted to share. Working with Zach and Jay to craft and home the message, the follower would then don the Warfighter outfit, assume the identity, and hold up their sign for the world to read. One such collaboration was with a veteran and former law enforcement officer who goes by the Instagram name donutoperator—the sign read, “Military Experience Doesn’t Equal Law Enforcement Experience.” Another major expansion for VWAS came when Tim Kennedy shared a post in which Zach held up a sign reading, “No One Hates Successful Veterans Like Veterans” while his friend held one reading, “He Sucks”.

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

“Wives aren’t the only ones wanting to be called by rank” (veteranwithasign)

“There’s a current cultural problem with the veteran community. It feels as if we eat our own,” Kennedy said in his sharing of the post. “We need to be supporting each other. We need to back each other.” While Zach and Jay hope to continue to grow the page as a forum of free speech, there’s no room on VWAS for negativity. The page receives dozens of DMs and comments on a daily basis, and while Zach and Jay like to respond to all of them, they simply ignore the constant suggestions to do signs bashing on veteran-owned apparel or coffee companies.

“That’s just being a bully,” Jay said, “and no one likes a bully.”

On the other hand, many DMs to the page come from concerned friends looking for resources to provide to battle buddies who they think might be suicide risks. Zach and Jay take the time to identify the most appropriate and effective resources and pass the information on with best wishes. “That’s what this is all about,” Zach said, “helping veterans laugh more and hurt themselves less.” While veteran suicides have gone up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, VWAS wants to do more than just acknowledge the problem or point fingers at the VA. “That doesn’t solve anything,” Zach said. “Instead, I look at it like, ‘They’re doing what they can do and we’re doing what we can do.'”

Doing 22 push-ups for 30 days on Facebook can be a good way to bring awareness to the problem of veteran suicide, but there is a simpler course of action that addresses the problem directly. Call your buddies. Take the time to talk, catch up, and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you care about them and are always there for them. The feeling of loneliness and hopelessness that tragically brings so many veterans to take their own lives can be combated with a phone call from a friend.

Be that friend.

Here are some resources designed to prevent veteran suicide:

Veterans Crisis Line—1-800-273-8255 and press 1

Veterans Crisis Line for deaf or hard of hearing—1-800-799-4889

Veterans Crisis Text—838255

Veterans Crisis Online Chat— https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat

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