Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

On Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force flight surgeon John Baxter showed up to work at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to a full load of patients and completing physicals — just like any other day.

Halfway through his morning while getting his next patient, he saw that a civilian airliner had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

While with the patient, Baxter said he noticed the background noise in the Pentagon changed. It seemed quieter than usual. Then, he heard shouts. He opened his door and saw people running and shouting, and smoke in the hallway.


At first, Baxter didn’t know if there was an explosion, a fire or some other event. Despite the unknowns, he assembled his team of flight surgeons, a nurse and medical technicians. They grabbed medical kits and traveled as a group. Their emergency plan was to meet up with other medics at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Clinic.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

A red flower sits atop of every bench to remember the fallen on Sept. 11, 2001, during the Pentagon Memorial Observance Ceremony in Washington D.C., Sept. 11, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Tech. Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Then they heard the news: there were casualties in corridor 5.

Baxter’s team ran to the spot. They found Army veteran Brian Birdwell, who was in excruciating pain from burns. It was a situation that Baxter was unexpectedly prepared for: Months earlier, in an emergency exercise, the flight clinic trained for the same scenario that unfolded on 9/11: a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

John Baxter still serves at the Pentagon, though now as a civilian flight surgeon. For this week’s Born the Battle Podcast, Baxter details his story of 9/11 and the days that followed.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Former Navy SEAL commander: You have to know when to follow

Former Navy SEAL commander Leif Babin knows that, as a leader, it can be difficult to keep an ego in check. But it’s necessary.

“As a leader, you’ve go to be decisive, you’ve got to make calls, you’ve got to be ready to step up and lead even in the most difficult circumstances,” he told Business Insider. “And yet, if you want to be the most effective leader, you absolutely have to be a follower as well.”

Babin was one of two platoon leaders reporting to Jocko Willink, who led US Navy SEAL Team 3 Task Unit Bruiser in the Iraq War. The two founded the leadership consulting firm Echelon Front in 2010, and their firm has worked with more than 400 businesses.


In their new book, “The Dichotomy of Leadership,” Babin shares a story of a mission that illustrates his point of how a leader must also be a follower.

During the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, Babin led a night mission where his SEALs were providing cover for Army soldiers and Marines. The late Chris Kyle, of “American Sniper” fame, was Babin’s point man. At one point, the team gathered on a roof to determine where they would set up a sniper overwatch. Babin and his leaders decided they would move to a certain building for that, but Kyle countered with a different selection that was not close to Babin’s choice.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Jocko Willink.

Babin outranked Kyle, but he also recognized that Kyle had the most experience with sniper missions of anyone on the team, including himself.

“‘Leading’ didn’t mean pushing my agenda or proving I had all the answers,” Babin wrote. “It was about collaborating with the rest of the team and determining how we could most effectively accomplish our mission. I deferred to Chris’ judgment.”

It was a call Babin said turned out to be the right one, and led to a successful mission. In the book, Babin reflected on a moment when he was a fresh platoon leader, and a stubborn refusal to acknowledge a suggestion from a team member who was lower in rank but had more experience led to a failed training exercise. It was fortunate he learned the lesson before deploying.

“Had we gone with my initial choice — had I disregarded Chris and overruled him because ‘I was in charge’ — we would have been highly ineffective, disrupting virtually no attacks, and that might very well have cost the lives of some of our brethren,” Babin wrote.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is quietly staging missiles for war in Baltic

NATO forces are converging on Norway for Trident Juncture, which will be the alliance’s largest military exercise in nearly two decades.

But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.

Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.


It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.

Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.

Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.

It was “the biggest move we’ve seen” in regard to Russian military activity in Kaliningrad, a US defense official said at the time. The Kremlin said it had a “sovereign right” to put forces there.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Russian crew members service an Iskander missile.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.

Other imagery detailed in June 2018 by the Federation of American Scientists showed renovations of what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site.

Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.

That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.

Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”

“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.

The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”

Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.

St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”

Russian officials reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in early 2017 that they would be willing to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO if there was a war in the Baltics.

‘There’s a big regional adversary right there’

Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.

The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.

More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.

Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”

The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.

EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.

The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.

North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.

Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.

The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.

Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.

Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.

The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.

“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi killed in combat

A son of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in battle in the Syrian province of Homs, IS’s propaganda agency Amaq announced.

Hudhayfah al-Badri was killed in an “operation against the Nussayriyyah and the Russians at the thermal power station in Homs,” the group said in a statement late on July 3, 2018, showing a photo of a young man holding an assault rifle.



Nussayriyyah is IS’s term for the Alawite religious minority sect of President Bashar al-Assad.

IS maintains only a small presence in Syria after being targeted for elimination by Syrian and Russian forces as well as U.S.-backed rebel forces in the last year. It is now estimated to control no more than 3 percent of Syria’s territory.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

President Bashar al-Assad

U.S. and Iraqi officials have said they believe IS leader Baghdadi remains alive in Syria near the Iraqi border.

Baghdadi, who is originally from Iraq, has been dubbed the “most wanted man on the planet,” with the United States offering a million reward for his capture. He had four children with his first wife and a son with his second wife.

In September, 2017, the last voice message attributed to Baghdadi called on his followers worldwide to “resist” their enemies.

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

Intel

DARPA’s new drones show that robots are winning their war against us

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder
Photo: DARPA


Man is not required.

While most drones require an operator to control them, the ones in DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program fly themselves. Although not perfect in its current phase, the program’s first flight test exceeded expectations.

Related: 5 jobs future recruits will enlist to get

“We’re excited that we were able to validate the airspeed goal during this first-flight data collection,” said Mark Micire, DARPA program manager. “The fact that some teams also demonstrated basic autonomous flight ahead of schedule was an added bonus. The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAV’s perception range and compensate for the vehicle’s’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds.”

Advancing algorithms and extending perception range. That’s what we thought.

Now watch this video of DARPA’s first test flight:

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how female veterans get the mental health care they need

Women veterans are more likely to die by suicide than women who did not serve in the military, and, in a 2011 survey (the most recent survey of this kind), 46 percent of women veterans in California reported a current mental health problem. Los Angeles County, meanwhile, is home to approximately 20,600 women veterans, the fourth-highest population of any U.S. county.

Women Vets on Point (WVoP) has one goal: to connect women veterans in Los Angeles County with compassionate mental health care delivered by providers who understand their experiences and needs.

WVoP is led by women veterans, including Kristine Stanley, who served in the Air Force for 24 years. She recalls that she struggled in her first year after leaving the military and didn’t know where to turn for help.

“I want my fellow women veterans to know they are not alone,” said Stanley, program coordinator for WVoP at U.S.VETS. “I know they may feel invisible or forgotten, or that no one realizes they’ve served. That all changes with Women Vets on Point. If they have ever put on a uniform, this program is for them.”

At www.womenvetsonpoint.org, women veterans can:

  • Connect with a WVoP team member. Team members listen to women’s stories and help them find mental health care providers who have experience working with women veterans on challenges related to post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, domestic violence, and more.
  • Get referrals for services that can assist with legal, employment, housing, and child-care needs.
  • Hear stories of hope and recovery from other women veterans.
  • Locate tools and resources to help them better understand their symptoms.
Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) attached to Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conduct a security patrol in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 3, 2011. The FET aids the infantry Marines by engaging Afghan women and children in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)

In creating WVoP, U.S.VETS partnered with Education Development Center (EDC), a nonprofit that advances innovative solutions to improve education and promote health. EDC was selected because of its experience in using technology tools to facilitate effective mental health treatment.

“There are very few programs tailored specifically for women who served,” said EDC project director, Erin Smith. “EDC’s research enables us to recommend solutions for some of the challenges women veterans may face. The bottom line is that earlier access to treatment can mean higher quality of life. And we know how to help women engage with treatment in ways that work with all of the other responsibilities they are carrying.”
Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Claire Ballante holds an Afghan child during a patrol with Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment in Musa Qa’leh, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2010. Ballante is part of a female engagement team that is patrolling local compounds to assess possible home damage caused by aircraft landing at Forward Operating Base Musa Qala.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres)

Many of the challenges faced by women veterans are distinct from those faced by male veterans or other women, and these challenges may be poorly understood by the public. According to Stanley, some people assume that women veterans can’t have experienced trauma if they didn’t serve in a traditional combat role. Another common misconception is that women veterans’ challenges are related only to military sexual trauma.

“Women Vets on Point knows what misconceptions are out there,” said Stanley. “And we know that the needs of women who served have not been sufficiently addressed. Women Vets on Point is going to make serious changes for women in this community and hopefully make the journeys of women veterans easier in the future.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Corpsman saves family from crushed car

“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.

At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.

Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.


“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.

Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.

The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.

After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.

“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.

It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.

“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.

He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.

Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.

Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.

“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.

Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.

He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.

Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.

“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.

The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.

Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.

After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.

Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.

Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.

An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.

Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.

“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.

With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.

He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.

Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.

On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.

“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.

Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make the most of your next PCS

Every few years you pick up your life leaving your friends and all that has become familiar to follow the love of your life to a new duty station. PCS…

No matter how many times you move, that same excitement and crazy anxiety to start all over again appears. It is so easy to lose yourself in chaos.

The chaos of getting things settled, finding a job, or just trying to find that normal day to day for your kids!


Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Starting over is never easy.

Everything is so foreign no matter how much research you do. It is easy to fall into the shadow of the military world around you or just that mom-life, forgetting just who you are. Being able to establish yourself from scratch takes a lot out of you especially when you do it over and over again.

It is easy to say the last place you were was the best. But really each new place is what you make of it.

Finding yourself, or in other words, allowing yourself to bloom is key to thriving in a new place.

But the question is where do you even start? Who are you or who do you want to be?

Being a military spouse or a parent makes up just one tiny piece of that. A new duty station gives you the opportunity for improvements and new goals.

You always wanted to open up your own business, well now is your opportunity.

Take the leap and start taking college courses. Get your degree!

Find your voice again by advocating for your new community.

Volunteer to help out at the local food pantry.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

(Photo by Rémi Walle)

Just because you are putting down temporary roots does not mean you have to give up on you and what you want! There are many different programs offered at every duty station to help you thrive. From classes on networking, and job assistance to educational resources and volunteer programs. These things put into place to help you benefit yourself.

Mask your fears and try something new.

Do not hide out counting down the days until you move again.

Join the gym, or go to a playgroup with your kids.

Meet new people, you never know when you will find those lifelong friends. You should feel confident in yourself and all that you do or want to do.

Nothing should hold you back from you being exactly who you aspire to be. You only have one life so make each place you live the best.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

Here’s why NBA ‘badboy’ Dennis Rodman is visiting Pyongyang

Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman said Tuesday that he is “just trying to open a door” by going to North Korea in his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.


Rodman, who has made several trips to the country, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he headed toward immigration at Beijing airport, from where he is expected to fly to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.

Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder

Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.

His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.

Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.

“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed that Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.

Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.

North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.

Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offences as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.

Articles

A Navy SEAL has died in the fight against ISIS

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.


Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder
Navy SEALs fight against insurgents in Iraq in this 2007 photo. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Johansen Laurel

Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.

ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.

The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.

Two other U.S. service members have died in the fight against ISIS. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed Mar. 19 by an ISIS rocket attack while securing a newly-established U.S. base with other Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The fighter who most likely killed Cardin was later killed in a U.S. drone attack.

Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.

Roughly 3,700 troops are deployed to Iraq and 50 have been deployed to Syria. An announced deployment of 250 more troops to Syria will bring the total there to 300.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has said that the fight against ISIS is serious, and America isn’t backing down.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female Marines have arrived at the Combat Training Battalion

For the first time in Marine Corps history, women are attending a previously male-only combat training course in California.


Marine Capt. Joshua Pena said 40 female Marine students checked-in March 6, 2018, to the Marine Combat Training Battalion at Camp Pendleton.

The move comes at least seven months after senior Marine leaders said they were considering the change, amid criticism that much of the early training excludes women.

Also read: 5 things you didn’t know about the first female Marines

The entry-level course is for Marines who’ve finished boot camp and aren’t assigned to infantry jobs. It lasts about a month and involves basic combat training, including patrol and convoy operations, marksmanship, and the use of grenade launchers and machine guns.

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder
U.S. Marine Corps recruits run 800 meters during an initial Combat Fitness Test on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., May 13, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Thibodeau)

Pena said the female Marines will be fully integrated with the men, and that their inclusion triggered no changes to the course instruction. He said that, eventually, as many as 1,700 women would go through the combat training there each year.

Currently, Marine boot camp on the West Coast is only for male recruits. Women attend boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina, where they are separated from the men for portions of the training. Congress members have been critical of that policy, and the Corps has been reviewing it.

Related: Some Marines say first female infantry officer will face backlash in fleet

Until now, half of the Marine Corps’ male recruits would go through their initial training on the West Coast where they had no female colleagues. A key reason for the limits is the shortage of female recruits. Women make up just 8.7 percent of the Corps.

But Marine leaders have been eyeing changes with the belief that giving the men greater exposure to women recruits during training could foster better relations and greater respect over time.

Articles

First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.


Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.

“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”

Borne the Battle: Air Force veteran John Baxter, 9/11 responder
FILE – Soldiers participate in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s Cultural Support Assessment and Selection program. | US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Klika

The graduation of first 10 women from the infantry course comes a little more than a year after Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School in August 2015. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from a gender-integrated Ranger course two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.

“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”

Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.

Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.

“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.

Female infantry officers will leave Fort Benning and go to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Wesley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.

“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.

Griest and Haver are following the same path.

Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.

“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.

Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.

“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”

Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.

“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia denies it is in talks with U.S. about expanded G7

Russia is not in talks with the United States about its potential role at an expanded Group of Seven (G7) summit later this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on July 4.

“We have not had negotiations of this kind and are not having any,” Ryabkov told TASS.


Ryabkov’s comments countered those of John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, who told RBC TV on July 3 that Washington was “engaged with the Russian Foreign Ministry and with the other G7 governments about whether there is an appropriate role for Russia at the G7.”

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the prospect of Russia’s return to the group of leading economic powers in May when he announced plans to postpone the meeting until September because of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time he said he would expand the list of invitees to include Australia, Russia, South Korea, and India.

Russia was formerly in the group but was expelled in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Trump said it was “common sense” to invite President Vladimir Putin to rejoin the group, but other G7 countries, including Canada and France, have objected to the idea.

Ryabkov also said an expanded G7 meeting should include China.

“The idea of the so-called expanded G7 summit is flawed, because it is unclear to us how the authors of that initiative plan to consider the Chinese factor. Without China, it is just impossible to discuss certain issues in the modern world,” he said, according to TASS.

Ryabkov also noted that Russia has proposed holding a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“This is a completely different format. We believe that work in that format, including on the most pressing current issues, is optimal,” Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov said Moscow has continued diplomatic efforts to draw up the agenda of a summit.

“We have submitted appropriate proposals to other partners in the P5 (permanent members of the Security Council), and we are waiting for their reaction,” he said.

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