Local authorities in Beijing are responding to an explosion after one person detonated the device near the US Embassy in Beijing at around 1 p.m. local time on July 26, 2018, an embassy spokesperson said to China’s state-run newspaper Global Times .
The individual, identified as a 26-year-old man from the inner Mongolia region, was the only one injured in the incident and his condition was not immediately known .
One witness said she heard the explosion and saw a cloud of smoke near where visa applicants stand in line outside the US Embassy, according toThe Financial Times . The witness also reportedly said the area was under lockdown.
Another person said a woman was taken away by police after spraying gasoline on herself outside the US Embassy at around 11 a.m., according to The Global Times . It was unclear if the incident was related to the explosion.
India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawle, who was reportedly at the nearby Indian Embassy, said he heard the explosion and described it as a low-intensity blast, according to Republic TV anchor Aditya Raj Kaul .
Unverified videos that appear to have been captured from the scene show smoke and law-enforcement officials responding to an incident:
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In February 1968, two platoons of Marines from a combat base near Khe Sanh went out on a combat patrol. Ronald Ridgeway, just 18-years-old at the time, was one of those Marines. He and 26 of his fellow Marines would not be coming back that night, their patrol would live on, forever known as “The Ghost Patrol.”
A Marine lieutenant lost his way around the area and accidentally led his Marines into a devastating ambush. Ridgeway was shot in the shoulder. Others took much more serious wounds. When the ambush was over, the North Vietnamese walked through the grim melee, popping rounds into Marines to ensure their job was done. Ridgeway was grazed by a bullet that shook his body. The NVA figured he was dead.
So did the Marine Corps.
A 1973 photo of Ronald Ridgeway.
Many of the ambushed Marines were dead, including two of Ridgeway’s closest friends. Through the night, the young man survived an American artillery barrage and excessive bleeding. He woke to an NVA soldier trying to pull off his watch. For six weeks, the remains of those Marines were left. It turns out there were upwards of 20,000 NVA troops moving to assault the Combat Base at Khe Sanh, defended by just 6,000 Marines.
At first, Ridgeway was listed as missing in action, but after the survivors of the ambush made their way back to Khe Sanh and the battlefields couldn’t be cleared, there was little hope for him. The Marines declared him killed in action. His funeral was held Sept. 10, 1968 in St. Louis. His family and friends mourned the loss of their young Marine. By then, Ridgeway had been a POW for seven months.
Ridgeway in 2013.
The NVA soldier taking his watch didn’t kill him, he just put him in leg stocks and marched him to a jungle POW camp. Eventually, the young Ridgeway found himself in North Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton. He was beaten and starved, but he survived. He sat in a lonesome cell, with just a wooden bed and a bucket that he emptied in a courtyard once a day.
He was there for nearly five long years before the Paris Peace Accords meant he was headed home before the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. When the list of returning troops was released, Ridgeway’s family was shocked to see their son’s name included on that list.
Ridgeway getting a hug from then-First Lady of California Nancy Reagan and California Governor Ronald Reagan upon returning home in 1973.
“I came back in basically one piece,” he told the Washington Post. “I came back able to live my life. . . . We went over with a job to do. We did it to the best of our ability. We were lucky enough to come back.”
Another place he wanted to see his name listed was his own tombstone. He and his wife visited that several months after he returned home: “Ambushed Patrol Died in Vietnam Feb. 25, 1968… Ronald L. Ridgeway.”
One enlisted Coastie mutt – no disrespect, Sinbad was a “mixed breed” – earned a reputation that rivaled any sailor’s in any war before or since. He was one of only two non-humans to reach NCO status, even making Chief by the time of his retirement.
Sinbad was arguably the Coast Guard’s most famous mascot. He was enlisted into the USCG by Chief Boatswain’s Mate A. A. “Blackie” Rother of the Campbell. Sinbad was supposed to be a gift for Blackie’s girlfriend, but her building didn’t allow pets, so Rother took the dog back to the Cutter George W. Campbell.
A full-fledged member of the crew of the Campbell, Sinbad had to fill out his paperwork, wear his uniform, and was given pay commensurate with his rank. When World War II broke out in the Atlantic, Sinbad wasn’t about to play dead when it mattered most.
The dog wasn’t just for fun. He had a watch, a general quarters duty station, and his own bunk. Sinbad certainly didn’t roll over for anyone. When the Coast Guard wanted to use him as a PR tool in allied ports, the pup raised hell from Morocco to Greenland.
The Campbell saw plenty of action. She once rammed an enemy U-boat and was also strafed by a Nazi aircraft in the Mediterranean. During a fight with U-606, the ship was severely damaged and the CO ordered that essential personnel only would remain on the Campbell. Sinbad stayed aboard ship.
Signing his enlistment papers with a pawprint, he served on Atlantic convoy duty with the rest of the Campbell crew. Just like a sailor, he had to be disciplined. One author wrote:
“Sinbad is a salty sailor but he’s not a good sailor. He’ll never rate gold hashmarks nor Good Conduct Medals. He’s been on report several times and he’s raised hell in a number of ports. On a few occasions, he has embarrassed the United States Government by creating disturbances in foreign zones. Perhaps that’s why Coast Guardsmen love Sinbad, he’s as bad as the worst and as good as the best of us.”
The precocious pup did earn medals, however. His awards include the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Navy Occupation Service Medal.
The crew loved Sinbad, even if no one really took responsibility for the dog. They said he earned his enlistment by drinking coffee, whiskey with beer chasers, and having his own shore liberty. He was reportedly the first off the ship at every port.
He would hit the bars hard, hopping up on empty bar stools, where his whiskey and beer habit was tended to by every bar in the area. He never paid for a drink but returned the ship “bombed” every night, with only an aspirin to tend to his hangover the next day. Sometimes his drinking led to a Captain’s Mast. He was demoted in rank for actions that generally made him a bad dog. These include:
• Missing a sailing in Italy; captured by the Shore Patrol.
Captain James Hirschfield told the media that as long as Sinbad was aboard, nothing bad could happen to the ship. In a nod to Capt. Hirschfield’s statement, a statue of Sinbad is on the deck of the current Famous-class Cutter Campbell. It is considered bad luck for anyone below the rank of Chief to touch Sinbad or his bone.
In his retirement days, the aging pup was sent to Barnegat Lifeboat Station in northern New Jersey, After 11 years of service. He slept, watched the ocean, and waited for Kubel’s Bar to open in the mornings until he died in 1951.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to maintain U.S. dominance in space as China, Russia, and other countries make advances in the race to explore the moon, Mars, and other planets.
“America will always be the first in space,” Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.
“My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” Trump said. “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us. We’ve always led.”
While the United States has dominated in space since the 1969 moon landing, China recently has made significant advances, while Russia — which at the beginning of the Space Age in the 1950s had the world’s most advanced space progam — recently has mostly stagnated amid budget cutbacks.
Trump said he wants to stay ahead of strategic competitors like China and Russia, but he said he wants to nurture the space ambitions of private billionaires like Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the Blue Origin space company.
(Photo by JD Lasica)
“Rich guys seem to like rockets,” Trump said. “As long as it’s an American rich person, that’s good, they can beat us,” he said. “The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers.”
In his latest directive on space matters, Trump called for the Pentagon to create a new American “Space Force” that would become the sixth branch of the U.S. military — a proposal that requires congressional approval and is opposed by some legislators.
“We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal,” Trump said.
The U.S. armed forces currently consists of the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard.
“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space,” Trump said.
The Pentagon, where some high-level officials have voiced skepticism about establishing a separate Space Force, said it will work with Congress on Trump’s directive.
“Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.
Since his election, Trump has repeatedly vowed to send people back to the moon for the first time since 1972 — this time, he says, as a preparatory step for the first human missions to Mars in coming decades.
He has also promised fewer regulations to make it easier for private industry to explore and colonize space.
The U.S. commercial space sector already is booming under NASA policies that have shifted the role of the government away from being the sole builder and launcher of rockets for decades since the 1960s.
The U.S. space agency now mostly sees its role as working with private space companies like SpaceX and Orbital ATK to develop new space capabilities and carry them out.
SpaceX, which NASA currently pays to take cargo to the International Space Station, and Boeing are expected to start regular astronaut missions to low-Earth orbit in 2018.
Since 2012, when NASA’s space shuttle program ended, the U.S. space agency has also relied on Russian Soyuz spaceships to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.
Trump has said he wants to privatize the space station after 2025 — another idea viewed as controversial in Congress — so Washington can spend more on NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
“This time, we will establish a long-term presence” on the moon, Trump said on June 18, 2018.
NASA is working with private industry on its most powerful rocket ever, called the Space Launch System, to send astronauts and their equipment to the moon and one day, Mars. It also wants to build a lunar outpost.
While seeking to create a new Space Force at the Pentagon, Trump also signed a directive on June 18, 2018, handing the Pentagon’s current authority to regulate private satellites to the Commerce Department.
He also issued a directive on space-traffic management, which is aimed at boosting the monitoring of objects in orbit so as to avoid collisions and debris strikes.
A statement released by the White House said the move “seeks to reduce the growing threat of orbital debris to the common interest of all nations.”
The Defense Department says there are 20,000 pieces of space debris and 800 operational U.S. satellites circling the Earth, a number that grows every year.
When you watch the movies, SEALs usually have inserted into enemy territory via a free-fall jump, often the high-altitude, low-opening method of free-fall parachuting. But SEALs are maritime creatures and thus tend to also be very proficient in entering via sea routes.
The way this is usually done is through the use of the Mk 8 Mod 1 SEAL Delivery Vehicle. The problem is that this is a “wet” submersible. The SEALs are exposed to the water, and have to be in their wetsuits. It doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? Well, the SEALs are looking to change that through the acquisition of a dry manned submersible. This will allow the SEALs to make their way in without having to be exposed to the elements.
A SEAL Delivery Vehicle is loaded on USS Dallas (SSN 700).
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Journalist Dave Fliesen)
Now, this was tried before, with the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, or ASDS. This was a project intended to enter service in the 2000s, capable of carrying 16 SEALs inside. However, the price ballooned bigger and bigger, and it was reduced to a prototype. That prototype was lost in a 2008 fire while re-charging its lithium-ion batteries. Thus, SEALs continued to soldier on with their “wet” submersibles.
But the need for a “dry” submersible remains. According to information obtained from Lockheed at the 2018 SeaAirSpace expo at National Harbor, Maryland, that company is working with Submergence Group to market “dry” submersibles for a number of applications. Two submersibles are currently available, each able to operate with a crew of two and up to six divers.
The Advanced SEAL Delivery System showed promise, but the prototype was lost in a 2008 fire.
(U.S. Navy photo)
The S301i comes in at 29,500 pounds fully loaded, can operate for a day, and has a top speed of seven and a half knots. It has a maximum range of 45 nautical miles at three knots. The S302 is 31,000 pounds, and featured a 60 nautical mile range at five knots. It also boasts an endurance in excess of 24 hours. While these submersibles aren’t quite up to the promise of the ASDS, they could still give SEALs a dryer – and more comfortable ride – in as they prepare to go into hostile territory.
Senior U.S. Army leaders are pushing a campaign to enhance recruiting, toughen physical fitness training, and extend Basic Combat Training to prepare soldiers for a major future conflict.
Secretary of the Army Mark Esper spoke March 26, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium about his vision for the Army of 2028 that calls for a larger, more physically fit force.
“To meet the challenges of 2028 and beyond, the total Army must grow,” Esper said. “A decade from now, we need an active component above 500,000 soldiers with associated growth in the Guard and Reserve.”
The Army requested 4,000 soldiers be added to the active force as part of the proposed fiscal 2019 budget. The increase would boost the active-duty ranks from 483,500 to 487,500.
The Army must focus on “recruiting and retaining high-quality, physically fit, mentally tough soldiers who will deploy and fight and win decisively on any future battlefield,” he said.
“A decade from now, the soldiers we recruit today will be our company commanders and platoon sergeants. That’s why we are considering several initiatives, to a new physical fitness regime to reforming and extending basic training in order to ensure our young men and women are prepared for the rigors of high-intensity combat,” he added.
Esper did not give details about extending Basic Combat Training, which currently lasts 10 weeks. But the Army has already begun reforming BCT.
By early summer 2018, recruits will go through a new Army BCT, redesigned to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing enhanced emphasis on drill and ceremony, inspections, and pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.
The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic, as well as being careless with equipment, uniforms, and appearance, according to Army Training and Doctrine Command officials.
The Army has also been considering adopting the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test: A six-event fitness test designed to better prepare troops for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to help them survive in combat.
Gen. James McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said that the service is also considering improving the screening processes it uses to better prepare recruits coming into the Army.
“We are going to put more screening systems in place to make sure that when young men and women enter the Army, they are ready to meet the standards,” McConville said.
Training and Doctrine Command has done a “great job of implementing the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which is a four-event physical-fitness test to make sure that young men and women get in shape before they go to initial military training,” he said.
“Then once they get into initial military training, we are screening them again to meet the physical demands of being in the Army,” McConville said.
The Army is also testing a concept that involves assigning fitness experts to two Army divisions, he said.
“We are putting physical therapists, we are putting strength coaches, we are putting dieticians into each of the units so when the [new] soldiers get there, we continue to keep them in shape as they go forward,” McConville said.
“We are going to have to take what we have, we are going to have to develop that talent and we are going to bring them in and make them better,” he added.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said the service is also going to have to get better at how it approaches recruiting.
“When 87 percent of the people we recruit have someone in their family that has been in the military, it starts to beg the question, ‘Are we expansive enough in our recruiting efforts?’ ” McCarthy said.
“Are we sophisticated enough in the way we communicate to the entire country and recruit the best quality individuals?” he said. “So our sophistication has got to get better, from the tools that we have to find the people to the manner in which we communicate.”
Editor’s Note: This story was first published on TheConversation.com in May 2018. It does not discuss the most recent development in the region, but is still a great guide to the state of tensions between the two countries.
After Donald Trump announced that the US would unilaterally pull back from the historic 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, Iranian forces in Syria fired rockets into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for the first time. The Israelis retaliated by targeting Iranian forces and positions in Syria. That attack, which killed 23 people, was the biggest Israeli assault on Iranian positions in Syria since the civil war there started in 2011.
For a moment, it looked like two of the Middle East’s major political and military players to the verge of a full-scale military conflict. An Israeli-Iranian war could throw the Middle East into one of its most destructive clashes in modern history, one that could polarise the world’s powers, dragging in the US, a reliable ally of Israel, and Russia, Syria’s strongest ally and hence Iran’s strategic ally. And yet, neither has so far chosen to escalate further. Why?
For its part, Iran knows that its capacity to strike back is limited. But more than that, the two countries’ history and military development makes an explosive conflict unlikely.
While Israel has openly clashed with its Arab neighbors before — notably Egypt, Jordan, and Syria — it has never engaged in a direct military showdown with Iran. In fact, it’s easy to forget now that before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran and Israel enjoyed a close relationship. They were the US’s two main Middle Eastern allies, and Iranian oil was delivered to Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Things only changed when the Iranian Shah was ousted in 1979; after that, the revolution’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed Israel a “foe of Islam” and cut off all ties with it.
Spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
But then came the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88. This grueling conflict had a huge impact on Iran’s military doctrine, and the experience of it underpins the country’s geopolitical and national security concerns to this day. The reality of war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compelled the Iranian government to prioritiZe a more defensive foreign policy; where it participates in other conflicts, it usually prefers to do so via proxies rather than by direct military action.
As a result, to the extent Israel considers Iran a major existential threat today, it’s particularly worried about Iranian involvement in other Middle Eastern conflicts. It has more than once fought Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, most recently in 2006. And while the protracted conflict in Yemen, for example, is in many ways a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iranian-backed forces could use Yemeni territory to strike Israeli targets.
But even if a conflict erupted on one of these fronts, there’d be another calculation to factor in: the two countries’ very different military assets.
The bulk of Iran’s arms stockpile is domestically developed and manufactured, its own-brand rockets and missiles tested in the field mostly by Hezbollah. But in recent years, Iran has also been procuring weapons and technical expertise from nations antagonistic toward the West: China, Russia, and possibly (in nuclear form) North Korea.
Israel’s main strength is its exceptional military power. Its weapons systems include the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defence shields, extremely precise defence tools that can pulverise perhaps more than 90% of hostile missiles in mid-air.
Israel also commands air power unrivalled in the Middle East; it recently took possession of the US-manufactured F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which it is augmenting with its own technology. On top of all this, in 2016, the US agreed to increase its military aid to Israel to US.8 billion a year until 2028.
IAF F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israeli Air Force, 2016.
And yet, Israel too is less than confident about the consequences of an conflict with Iran. However formidable its strategic and technological edge, it’s still unable to fully mend political and diplomatic fences with many of its Arab neighbours. It lives in hostile surroundings, constantly vulnerable to attack on almost all fronts. A major war with another heavily armed power is the last thing it needs.
At arm’s length
One advantage Iran does have is its array of proxies and non-state allies, which allow it to project hard power far closer to Israel than it would want to send regular forces. It has a valuable ally in Hamas, which controls Gaza; in Lebanon, Hezbollah could be prepared to assist if necessary. It could also exploit Sunni/Shia splits across the Middle East to secure the support of Shia volunteer armies. And since Saddam Hussein’s fall, Iran has been hugely influential in Iraq, which is struggling to establish a political order that can accommodate Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis.
Yet even with all this influence at its disposal, Iran would clearly prefer not to end up escalating a military conflict with Israel. Aside from the military implications, to do so would squander what moral and diplomatic support it’s gathered since the US’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
So for now, both sides are being cautious. Israel’s recent airstrikes targeted raid on military installations, not individuals — an acknowledgement that a heavy casualties might put Iran under pressure to retaliate. Meanwhile, Iran’s domestic debate on whether and how to respond is still rumbling, with progressives insisting the nuclear deal must be safeguarded while their hawkish countrymen would prefer a more confrontational stance. The government has yet to decide which road to take.
But whatever happens in the immediate future, Israel and Iran remain bitter foes, both heavily armed and tied up in a mess of geopolitical interests. Were a war to break out between them, they would gravely damage each other, but neither is likely to rise as the ultimate victor. That both seem to be fully aware of this reality is perhaps the most important thing standing on the way of what could be a true catastrophe.
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Carmen Cheney
NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan.
“No foreign invader has ever won a war in Afghanistan.”
It’s one of the first things the instructor told the next rotation of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) as we began our training for our deployment to Afghanistan. While I don’t believe his point was, “It’s a fool’s errand to try and change that statistic,” over a decade later, I wonder if that is what he was trying to tell us — even then.
We were encouraged to read “Three Cups of Tea” so we could learn about building schools in Afghanistan. I read it as requested, and as I walked through each chapter, I wondered if the leadership who had highly recommended the book had actually read it themselves.
“Three Cups of Tea” shares the story of Greg Mortenson, who began working to build schools in Pakistan. When Mortenson met with village elders, he learned they first needed a bridge, not a school. It took listening, a number of projects and lots of time to make progress in this one village. The U.S. was trying to make an impact with rotating teams that were under-equipped and only in the country for nine months.
A hope was placed on the PRTs. We were supposed to change the tide in the war: Win their hearts and minds.
Although we received months of training, nowhere in our manual did it say how we actually could “win hearts and minds.” We found ourselves in a country trying to do a job without everything we needed. We were managing huge construction projects with a pencil and a laptop. There was no support from the leadership when we expressed our concerns or the challenges we were facing.
As a Civil Engineer, I was tasked to manage projects and create new ones. We were required to follow the plans from Kabul. We were told to construct two-story schoolhouses in a community where people lived in makeshift shacks and mud huts. When we expressed our concerns about how these blueprints included generators (which the Afghans didn’t have fuel for), buildings (the Afghans had no idea how to maintain), and the overall lack of planning from the local Kapisa government, we were told we needed to focus on submitting more projects.
Our words fell on deaf ears.
When we told leadership we were limited due to the new rules that prevented our office from taking on more projects, they encouraged us to have more members on our team get the training certification so their name could be on the project instead of ours. The names didn’t matter — we were still tasked with managing projects that were doomed to fail from the start.
The focus was not on winning hearts and minds. Instead, it was encapsulated in how good of a performance report could be written by the dollars spent and projects created.
The PRT had lost their way. Now, as Afghanistan falls, I want to be shocked and surprised, but I’m not.
For a long time, I stopped thinking about my deployment. It hurt too much to think of the pain I endured. For so long, I questioned if anything I did mattered. What was it all for?
To cope with my deployment, I focused on the ways the deployment changed me into the person I am today. I made three close friends that I group chat with almost daily. I learned I am more capable than I ever thought. I took the courage and strength to create a business and help others share their story. Instead of focusing on our collective failures, I am trying to find the nobility in the services we rendered while we were there. It’s difficult to process 20 years of war “ending” with the Taliban back in control… with our interpreters and those who worked for us left in a panic, trying to escape. It’s hard for me to process and not to feel anything but anger. If nothing else, when we look back at these decades, may we learn from our biggest mistake: trying to change hearts and minds when we should have been listening.
Despite the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and most of Syria, the extremist group still has around 20,000 to 30,000 militants in the two countries, according to a United Nations report.
The report circulated on Aug. 13, 2018, said the estimate came from governments it did not identify. It includes a “significant component” of foreign fighters.
The militants were equally divided between Iraq and Syria, said the report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Many of the key IS operatives were being relocated to Afghanistan, where the group has between 3,500 and 4,000 fighters and is growing, the experts said.
The militant group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also has significant affiliated supporters in Libya, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.
Military training in Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2018. This training is critical to enabling local security forces to secure their homeland from ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)
Islamic State overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, but by January 2018, the group was confined to small pockets of territory in Syria.
According to the UN report, IS “is still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells.”
The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, the experts said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”
They said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than the IS group in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia, and Africa’s Sahel region.
A host of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice became effective Jan. 1, modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.
The changes strike a balance between protecting the rights of the accused and empowering commanders to effect good order and discipline, said Col. Sara Root, chief of the Army’s Military Justice Legislation Training Team.
“We’re pretty excited,” Root said. “It’s a healthy growth of our military justice system.”
Root and three members of her team spent the last year traveling to 48 installations to train 6,000 legal personnel and law-enforcement agents about the changes. Her two-day classes included everyone from judges to law clerks, and privates to generals, she said, and even 600 from other military services.
Many of the changes came about after a review by the Military Justice Review Group, consisting of military and criminal justice experts whose report made recommendations to Congress.
“We’ve had a lot of changes to our system [over the years], but piecemeal.” Root said. She explained that the Review Group convened to take a thorough and holistic look at the system to standardize military law and update the Manual for Courts Martial.
Many of the MJRG’s changes were incorporated into the Military Justice Act of 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and then Executive Order 13825 signed by the president March 8. Additionally, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper signed a directive Dec. 20 that clarifies definitions for dozens of offenses taking effect this week.
“We’ve really needed that much time,” Root said, from 2017 to now, in order to train all members of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Those attending her classes then needed time to train commanders and others on the installations, she added.
One of the changes replaces the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. The amendments also now provide legal separation as a defense.
In the past, service members could be charged with adultery even if they had been legally separated for years but were not divorced. Now legal separation from a court of competent jurisdiction can be used as an affirmative defense, Root said.
Also in the past, prosecutors had to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction for adultery, Root said. Now oral sex and other types of sexual intercourse are included.
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, prepare and practice for their initial drill evaluation on Peatross Parade Deck Sept. 14, 2018 on Parris Island, S.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Protecting Junior Soldiers
UCMJ Article 93a provides stiffer penalties for recruiters, drill sergeants and others in “positions of special trust” convicted of abusing their authority over recruits or trainees.
The maximum sentence was increased from two years to five years of confinement for those in authority engaging in prohibited sexual activities with junior Soldiers. And it doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual or not, Root said, it’s still a crime.
Article 132 also protects victims and those reporting crimes from retaliation. An adverse personnel action — such as a bad NCO Evaluation Report, if determined to be solely for reprisal — can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay and a dishonorable discharge.
Article 123 provides stiff penalties for Soldiers who wrongfully access unauthorized information on government computers. Distributing classified information can earn a maximum sentence of 10 years confinement, but even wrongfully accessing it can get up to five years in jail. Unauthorized access of personally identifiable information, or PII, is also a crime. Intentionally damaging government computers or installing a virus can also bring five years in the clinker.
Article 121a updates offenses involving the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards or other access devices to acquire anything of value. The penalty for such crimes has been increased to a max of 15 years confinement if the theft is over id=”listicle-2632036233″,000.
If the theft is under id=”listicle-2632036233″,000 the maximum penalty was increased from five to 10 years confinement, and this crime also includes exceeding one’s authorization to use the access device, for example, misusing a Government Travel Card.
Cyberstalking is also now included as a stalking offense under Article 130 of the UCMJ.
Support for military sexual assault victims and the number of reported offenses have increased in recent years, resulting in more investigations and courts-martial involving sexual assault charges.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)
A “bench trial” by a judge alone can now determine guilt or innocence for many offenses. Almost any charge can be referred to such a forum, except for rape and sexual assault, which requires referral to a general court-martial. However, if the offense has a sentence of more than two years, the accused has a right to object to such charges being referred to a bench trial and could request a special or general court-martial.
If found guilty at a bench trial, Root said a Soldier cannot be given a punitive discharge and the max sentence would be limited to no more than six months forfeiture of pay and no more than six months confinement. The judge can still adjudge a reduction in rank.
“It’s a great tool that we’re really excited to see how commanders use it out in the formations,” Root said.
More than half of the cases in the Army actually are settled by plea agreements in lieu of a contested trial, Root said. Commanders have always had the authority to limit the max sentence with a plea agreement, but she said now they can agree to a minimum sentence as well. This might result in a range for the judge to sentence within, for example, no less than one year confinement, but no more than five years confinement.
If a case goes to a non-capital general court-martial, the panel has now been standardized to eight members. In the past the size of the panel could vary from five to an unlimited number, but often around 10-12 members. Now each general court-martial must begin with eight panel members, she said, but could continue if one panel member must leave due to an emergency during trial.
Special courts-martial will now be set at four panel members. A court-martial convening authority can also authorize alternate members to be on a special or a general court-martial, she said.
Capital offenses such as murder require a 12-member panel.
For a non-capital court-martial, three-fourths of the panel members must agree with the prosecution to convict the accused, she said. For instance, if only five members of an eight-member panel vote guilty, then the accused is acquitted. A conviction for a capital offense still requires a unanimous verdict.
Congress expanded judges’ authorities to issue investigative subpoenas earlier in the process, for example, to obtain a surveillance video from a store. One of the most significant changes is that now military judges can issue warrants and orders to service providers to obtain electronic communications such as email correspondence.
In the past, trial counsel had to wait until preferring charges to issue investigative subpoenas. Now, with the approval of the general court-martial convening authority, trial counsel can issue subpoenas earlier to help determine whether charges are necessary. For electronic communications, the government previously had to rely on federal counterparts to assist with obtaining electronic communications.
“Being able to have these tools available earlier in the process is going to be helpful for overall justice,” Root said.
The changes also call for more robust Article 32 hearings to help the commander determine if an accused should go to trial, she said. For instance, a preliminary hearing officer must now issue a more detailed report immediately after an Article 32 hearing’s conclusion. In addition, both the accused and the victim now have the right to submit anything they deem relevant to the preliminary hearing officer within 24 hours after the hearing specifically for the court-martial convening authority to consider.
Aimed at speeding up the post-trial process, immediately following a court-martial, audio can now be provided to the accused, the victim, and the convening authority in lieu of a verbatim transcript which will be typed and provided later, but prior to appeal.
A number of other procedural changes are aimed at making the military justice system even more efficient, Root said.
More changes to punitive offenses also take effect this week. For instance, the definition of burglary has changed to include breaking and entering any building or structure of another, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense under the UCMJ. In the past, burglary was limited to breaking and entering the dwelling house of another in the nighttime.
The penalty for wearing unauthorized medals of valor has increased from 6 months to a max of one-year confinement along with forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge. This includes wearing an unauthorized Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, or valor device. The maximum penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still only six months.
Regarding misconduct that occurred prior to Jan. 1, the changes to the punitive articles are not retroactive, Root said. However, some of the procedural changes will apply to cases that were not referred to trial before Jan. 1.
All members of the JAG Corps are trained in the changes and ready to go, Root said.
“We’re pretty proud that our commanders are really at the center of this,” she said, “and it just gives them some more tools for good order and discipline.”
Career advancements will be postponed for more than 159,500 sailors and officers as the Navy cancels selection boards, advancement exams and Reserve drill weekends to try to stem the spread of the dangerous novel coronavirus.
The Navy is suspending all active-duty and Reserve advancement selection boards scheduled to meet on or after March 24, manpower officials announced Thursday. The delays will affect all promotion, advancement, milestone and other selection boards.
The decision was the latest made to “protect the health and safety of our force,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr. said in a service-wide message. The boards are postponed until further notice, he added.
Navy officials announced earlier in the week that Reserve drill weekends and advancement exams would also be temporarily halted. The moves will lead to promotion delays for more than a third of the Navy’s active-duty and Reserve forces.
“COVID-19 mitigation efforts affect the advancement processes of more than 159,500 sailors,” Cmdr. James Stockman, a spokesman for Naval Education and Training Command, told Military.com.
Navy leaders say postponing advancement exams, selection boards and other events is necessary to stop large-group gatherings, cut down on unnecessary travel, and allow personnel to keep safe distances from one another — all of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are necessary to reduce the spread of the virus.
Holding selection boards would require members to travel to Millington, Tennessee, where the groups convene, a Navy news release announcing the cancellations states. Once there, sailors could be required to work in large groups.
That was also a factor for advancement exams, Stockman said. While the number of sailors taking the advancement exam in the same room varies by command, in some fleet-concentrated areas, such as San Diego or Norfolk, Virginia, there could be up to 1,000 people testing in the same location, he said.
Delaying advancement exams is an unprecedented move for the Navy. Stockman said the service has never before implemented fleet-wide rescheduling of the tests.
Nowell said he is committed to ensuring no sailors are harmed by the selection board delays. That includes new policies to ensure that retroactive dates of rank can be set and allowances for back pay made, if necessary, the news release states.
Once the coronavirus risk is lowered and boards can proceed, Nowell said the rescheduled dates will generally follow the originally planned order.
All the same rules about who’s eligible for consideration before the original boards will still apply, Nowell added. No additional candidates will be considered.
Some smaller selection boards might meet virtually, the chief of naval personnel added.
While there’s no online version of advancement exams, Stockman said the Navy is aggressively pursuing them.
“A pilot for a high stakes [Navy-Wide Advancement Examination] online exam is being explored for 2021,” he said. “However, an E-4 through E-6 advancement cycle includes 90,000 Sailors, so the venues for online testing would still result in group gatherings.”
The Navy also relaxed grooming standards as a result of the virus to help cut down the number of haircuts needed; delayed fitness tests; and canceled boot camp and Officer Candidate School graduations.
The service had at least eight coronavirus cases as of Wednesday.
Sometimes you want to give up. Why does everything have to be so, so hard? Other times, you wish someone would just give you a manual for dealing with the whole thing. Surely there’s a way to know how to handle this disease?
Like the rest of marriage, loving someone who suffers from PTSD or who is trying to work through the ghosts of combat doesn’t come with a guidebook. And although the whole thing can feel very isolating (everyone else seems fine! Is my marriage the only one in trouble?) that doesn’t mean you’re alone.
Therapists who specialize in PTSD know that while some couples may put on a good show for the outside world, dealing with trauma is hard work and, no, everything is not perfect.
If you’re dealing with PTSD at home, you are not alone.
Husband and wife team Marc and Sonja Raciti are working to help military couples work through how PTSD can impact their marriages. Marc, a veteran, has written a book on the subject, “I Just Want To See Trees: A Journey Through PTSD.” Sonja is a licensed professional counselor.
The Racitis said there are five things that a spouse dealing with PTSD in marriage should know.
1. It’s normal for PTSD to impact the whole family.
If you feel like your life has changed since PTSD came to your home, you’re probably right. The habits that might help your spouse get through the day, like avoiding crowded spaces, may become your habits too.
“PTSD is a disease of avoidance — so you avoid those triggers that the person with PTSD has — but as the partner you begin to do the same thing,” Sonja Raciti said.
Remember that marriage is a team sport, and it’s OK to tackle together the things that impact it.
2. Get professional help
. The avoidance that comes with PTSD doesn’t just mean avoiding certain activities — it can also mean avoiding dealing with the trauma head on. But trying to handle PTSD alone is a mistake, the Racitis said.
“We both are really big into seeking treatment, getting a professional to really help you and see what treatment you’re going to benefit from,” Sonja said. “Finding a clinician who you meet with, and click with and really specializes in PTSD is so, so important.”
3. No, you’re not the one with PTSD. But you may have symptoms anyway.
The Racitis said it is very common for the spouses of those dealing with PTSD to have trouble sleeping or battle depression, just like their service member. That’s why it’s important for everyone in the family to be on the same page tackling the disease — because it impacts them too.
4. Be there.
As with so many issues in marriage, communication is key, the Racitis said. But also important is being supportive and adapting to whatever life built around living with PTSD looks like for you.
“You have to adapt — the original man you married has changed. The experience has changed him and that’s part of life,” Sonja says. “He has gone through something that has been horrific, and life altering and life changing, and together you’re going to adapt to that and you’re going to help support each other in that.”
5. Don’t give up.
It can seem very tempting to just give up and walk away, they said. After all, the person you married may have changed dramatically. And while splitting may ultimately be the right answer for you, it doesn’t have to be only solution on the table.
“Don’t give up,” Marc said. “It’s so easy to do. It’s the path of least resistance. But people who engage, people who actively engage — these are the marriages that survive.”
This week, both the British Ministry of Defense and the US Navy have made strides towards directed energy weapons that could change the face of warfare as we know it.
The British, for their part, are eyeing a laser system that could compliment the Phalanx close-in anti-missile system, which detects, tracks, and can destroy approaching threats at closer ranges than other missile defense platforms.
Currently, the Phalanx is a computer-guided system that relies on a 20 mm Gatling gun. The British are looking to do away with the gun and substitute a laser.
“It’s better to spend money on the laser than on the mount,” Andy Rhodes, a business development executive at Raytheon UK told Defensenews.com.
Lasers offer a number of advantages over traditional guns. As they rely only on electricity, lasers can be fired for less than $1 a shot. Also, no round will ever travel anywhere near as fast as a laser, which obviously travels at the speed of light.
“The potential of laser-based weapons systems has been identified as an opportunity and offers significant advantages in terms of running costs as well as providing a more appropriate response to the threats currently faced by UK armed forces,” the British MoD stated.
Additionally, lasers on lower power settings can be used to overwhelm enemy sensors and instruments.
The US Navy for their part has also taken a step towards directed energy weapons. On Monday, Raytheon delivered pulse power containers for the Navy to test out on a new railgun design.
Unlike lasers, railguns fire actual projectiles, however, they use directed energy to do it.
Raytheon says the pulse power containers, when incorporated into a completed railgun design, will be able to launch projectiles at speeds in excess of Mach 6, or about 4,600 mph. At those speeds, there is little need for an explosive round with a chemical charge.
“Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.
The Navy’s railgun could find itself aboard the Futuristic USS Zumwalt as soon as 2018,Reuters reports.
“The Navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. “To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers.”