BTS became the first Korean music act to have a #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when the English-language single “Dynamite” topped the charts in August. They achieved another milestone this week with “Life Goes On,” their second #1 hit and the first record sung mostly in Korean to top the American charts.
And yet, a dark cloud loomed on the horizon. All males in South Korea are required to enlist in the military and complete either 18 months (Army or Marine Corps), 20 months (Navy) or 21 months (Air Force) service. They can complete their obligation anytime after they turn 18 but must start by the time they turn 28.
BTS is so hot right now, bigger than the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC added together at their peak. They’re undisputedly the most successful Korean music group of all time. Not only does their music sell, they’re generating millions of dollars in sales of BTS-branded shirts, hats, posters, card games, pillows, mugs, dolls, phone accessories, puzzles, tote bags, candles and other merchandise too numerous to list here.
Jin (first names only, please) is the group’s oldest member at age 27 and he’s turning 28 on December 4, so the singer was faced with having to leave the group at the height of their international popularity to complete his military service. Fellow group member Suga will also turn 28 on March 9, 2021 so the crisis was real for the seven-member group.
The South Korean parliament wanted to take action but had a tight needle to thread here. How could they keep the country’s #1 cultural export going while not appearing to cater to the decadent lifestyles of international popstars?
Their solution was to pass a law that allows entertainers who have received a government medal for global cultural impact to defer their service for an extra two years until age 30. That gives Jin 730 more days to pursue his career before duty calls.
Jin has long acknowledged his commitment to service. In 2019, he told an interviewer, “As a Korean, it’s natural. And some day, when duty calls, we’ll be ready to respond and do our best.”
BTS (also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates to English as Bulletproof Boy Scouts) has one of the most devoted fan bases in music history, rivaling the devotion that the Beatles or Michael Jackson inspired at their peaks.
Those fans may not be too happy about the compromise, since athletes like soccer player Son Heung-min (now playing in the English Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur) and more than a few classical musicians have been exempted altogether from service for their contributions to South Korea’s image around the world.
Maybe BTS can keep the hot streak going and the government will grant a new waiver in two years. Or maybe Jin and Suga will complete their service and return triumphantly to their careers just like U.S. Army veteran Elvis Presley did back in 1960.
At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.
“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”
Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”
The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:
Light Machine Gunner
By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.
“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.
BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.
The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Tim, O.V., and Blake speak with The Marine Rapper a.k.a. TMR about all the A-level training our service members receive but don’t capitalize on it when they get out.
Every veteran’s journey after the military is different.
While some of us pursue the career along the lines in which the military trained us for, others take a different path and sometimes fall short of their full potential.
“They [veterans] have a set of skills, they have leadership abilities, and there is so much more we can do,” Blake passionately states. “Granted, I’m a writer, and I have five degrees, and none of them have to do with writing.”
A veteran finding his or her purpose is essential to life outside of the military.
So when did TMR decide to become a rapper after serving the Corps?
“When I started getting better at it,” TMR jokingly admits. “In the Corps, I wasn’t at the level I am now.
If you’ve ever surfed the internet looking for military rap songs, chances are you’ve come across the unique sound of “The Marine Rapper.”
Known for sporting a red mohawk and wearing an American flag bandana, TMR served 10 years in the Marine Corps as a Combat Correspondent where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals during his service.
After successful tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, TMR left the Marine Corps in February 2014. After entering back into civilian life, TMR began focusing on music as a profession and for cathartic expression.
Taiwan is planning a series of new, large-scale combat drills to boost military readiness for the possibility of armed conflict with mainland China.
Taiwan’s military announced Jan. 9, 2019, that new drills are “being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” according Maj. Gen. Yeh Kuo-hui, chief of the Ministry of National Defense’s Operations and Planning Division, the Associated Press reported, citing Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
2019’s exercises will include a month of combat readiness training in the first quarter, another month-long live-fire exercise in the second quarter, joint anti-landing operations in the third quarter, and joint anti-airborne maneuvers in the fourth and final quarter, Focus Taiwan reported.
China claims absolute, indisputable sovereignty over Taiwan, an autonomous democratic territory perceived in Beijing as a renegade province. “We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to achieve reunification, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a message to the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has an 3-million-member army and the world’s second largest defense budget. Taiwan lacks the numbers, but it does have a technologically capable fighting force, which the island hopes could repel a Chinese invasion.
Beijing has previously warned Taipei that efforts to bolster its military capabilities are pointless.
“I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force,” Wu Qian, spokesman for the Chinese defense ministry, stated in late December 2018, stating that the People’s Liberation Army will continue to conduct exercises and operations near Taiwan.
The Chinese military carried out 18,000 military drills in 2018 and China’s armed forces are expected to continue to ramp up training in response to perceived threats to Chinese national interests. Taiwan’s military is doing the same.
“We want to assure citizens that the military is constantly beefing up its combat preparedness and stands ready to fight for the survival of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” Taiwan’s military spokesman Chen Chung-chi said recently.
In 2019, for the first time ever, the Council on Foreign Relations listed Taiwan as a potential flashpoint on its annual Preventive Priorities Survey, although it was ranked as a Tier II concern beyond other possible conflict zones, like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Afghanistan Defense Ministry says the military operation against Daesh is ongoing in Pachir Aw Agam district in the southeast of Nangarhar province and security forces will soon reach to the Tora Bora region recently captured by the group.
The security forces are determined to defeat and eradicate Daesh from the area, the Afghanistan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said on June 16th.
Daesh captured the strategic Tora Bora region on June 13th. The area was used as a hideout by Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, who was killed in a US operation in 2011.
“Our security forces are in Pachir Aw Agam district and Daesh will be eliminated in the near future. The military operation against Daesh will continue without any delay,” Waziri said.
Meanwhile, Nangarhar Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said Tora Bora will never turn into a safe haven for Daesh fighters.
“Daesh fighters have come to Pachir Aw Agam, but they will be defeated. Daesh and their supporters should be aware that there is no place for them [in the district],” Rahimi said.
Reports indicate that at least 600 families have left their houses in Dara-e-Sulaimankhail village close to Tora Bora area in Pachir Aw Agam district.
“Daesh came and captured the [Tora Bora] area and we left our villages,” a resident of Sulaimankhil said.
“Our goods have remained in our houses and all the people have fled,” another resident of Sulaimankhil said.
A number of military analysts said the presence of Daesh in Tora Bora would pose a serious threat to Nangarhar and its neighboring provinces.
“The reason behind the changing of Daesh into a big threat is that we concentrate on others instead of those who are killing the people and who loots their properties,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former Deputy Minister of Interior.
On June 15, Abdul Saboor Sabet, the head of the National Directorate of Security in Nangarhar, claimed that Pakistani militia fully supported Daesh in their offensive against the Tora Bora region this week in eastern Nangarhar province.
In a trip to Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district, Sabet said that Pakistani militia are still backing Daesh militants in the region.
“Daesh militants sustained heavy loses, whenever they suffer a toll, they get reinforcements from the other side of the border who are the Pakistani militias. The [Afghan] public uprising forces are bravely defending all districts against the enemies,” said Sabet.
Earlier this week, Waziri stated that up to 700 Daesh operatives had been killed in Nangarhar as a result of a military operation by security forces over the past three months.
Among the stolen intel were 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs that Netanyahu claimed showed Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions and deceived powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Netanyahu said that stash was made up of 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files stored on 183 CDs. He said the haul collectively weighed half a ton.
Netanyahu didn’t confirm how Mossad, known for its stealthy missions, obtained the material, but did say they had been stored in “a dilapidated warehouse.”
“Few Iranians knew where it was — very few,” Netanyahu said.
And now more details on the Iran mission have since emerged. A senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Mossad first discovered the unnamed warehouse in Tehran in February 2016, and began its surveillance from there.
The official also claimed that Mossad agents broke into the building one night in January 2018, took the 110,000 documents, and returned them to Israel that same night.
Iranian media has remained quiet on the raid, likely embarrassed that the spy agency stole an incredible number of documents under the cover of night.
But the value of the stolen documents that have so far been made public is up for debate.
While the White House said Netanyahu’s presentation provided “new and compelling details” about Iran’s past behaviours, some experts disagreed.
“Everything he said was already known to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and published,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted.
“There is literally nothing new here and nothing that changes the wisdom of the JCPOA.”
JCPOA stands for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and is the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force is increasing computer simulations and virtual testing for its laser-weapons program to accelerate development and prepare plans to arm fighter jets and other platforms by the early 2020s.
To help model the effects of such technologies, the service has awarded Stellar Science a five-year, $7 million contract for advanced laser modeling and simulation.
The Albuquerque-based company is expected to continue the work started in 2014, when the Air Force tapped the group to develop computer simulations and virtual testing of directed energy weapons.
Aircraft-launched laser weapons could eventually be engineered for a wide range of potential uses, including air-to-air combat, close air support, counter-UAS(drone), counter-boat, ground attack and even missile defense, officials said.
Lasers use intense heat and light energy to incinerate targets without causing a large explosion, and they operate at very high speeds, giving them a near instantaneous ability to destroy fast-moving targets and defend against incoming enemy attacks, senior Air Force leaders explained.
Low cost is another key advantage of laser weapons, as they can prevent the need for high-cost missiles in many combat scenarios.
Air Force Research Laboratory officials have said they plan to have a program of record for air-fired laser weapons in place by 2023.
Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, took place last year at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The High Energy Laser test is being conducted by the Air Force Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico.
The first airborne tests are slated to take place by 2021, service officials said.
The developmental efforts are focused on increasing the power, precision and guidance of existing laser weapon applications with the hope of moving from 10-kilowatts up to 100 kilowatts, Air Force officials said.
Service scientists, such as Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias, have told Scout Warrior that much of the needed development involves engineering the size weight and power trades on an aircraft needed to accommodate an on-board laser weapon. Developing a mobile power source small enough to integrate into a fast-moving fighter jet remains a challenge for laser technology.
Air Force leaders have said that the service plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35.
Air Combat Command has commissioned the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration which will be focused on developing and integrating a more compact, medium-power laser weapon system onto a fighter-compatible pod for self-defense against ground-to-air and air-to-air weapons, a service statement said.
Air Force Special Operations Command has commissioned both the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Support Facility Dahlgren to examine placing a laser on an AC-130U gunship to provide an offensive capability.
Another advantage of lasers is an ability to use a much more extended magazine for weapons. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on or in an aircraft, a directed energy weapon system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel, Air Force experts said.
According to Stellar Science, “The goal of this research project was to compute the three-dimensional (3D) shape and orientation of a satellite from two-dimensional (2D) images of it.”
Stellar Science possesses expertise in scientific, computer-aided modeling and 3D-shape reconstruction, as well as radio-frequency manipulation and laser physics.
The US Navy’s prototype ship-mounted laser weapon. | US Navy photo
Officials throughout the Department of Defense are optimistic about beam weapons and, more generally, directed-energy technologies.
Laser weapons could be used for ballistic missile defense as well. Vice Adm. James Syring, Director of the Missile Defense Agency, said during the 2017 fiscal year budget discussion that “Laser technology maturation is critical for us.”
And the U.S. Navy recently announced that their destroyers and cruisers will possess these systems to help ships fend off drones and missiles.
WATCH: AC-130 gunships could be outfitted with lasers
Secretary of Defense James Mattis said September 18th that he’s going to look into the possibility that the military’s “can do” attitude may be responsible for the recent spate of deadly training accidents.
Almost 100 service members have been killed in training accidents since June, which reflects a definite spike in recent years, and Mattis said he’s examining whether military leaders have pushed troops beyond what they’re able because of a desire to always say “yes” to operational demands.
“I would say, having some association with the U.S. military, we’re almost hardwired to say “Can do.” That is the way we’re brought up,” Mattis said. “Routinely, in combat, that’s exactly what you do, even at the risk of your troops and equipment and all. But there comes a point in peacetime where you have to make certain you’re not always saying, ‘We’re going to do more with less, or you’re going to do the same with less.'”
Mattis noted, however, that the military applauds people who decline to continue training precisely because they feel their troops aren’t prepared.
“But my point is that we always look for this and we reward people for raising their hand and saying, ‘No more. I’ve got to stop.’ We’ve had people actually stop training where they thought their troops needed to rehearse before they went forward,” Mattis said. “And that’s not that unusual, tell you the truth. So I am not concerned right now that we’re rewarding the wrong behavior.”
So far, in response to the collisions involving the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the Navy has relieved six senior officers of duties, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, which is located in Japan. The Navy stated that the 7th Fleet commander was removed because of a loss of confidence in command ability.
Mattis was similarly noncommittal about whether there was a direct line from sequestration and budget cuts to training accidents, but pledged to look into that possibility.
As part of the newly passed COVID-19 relief legislation, lawmakers are demanding answers from U.S. intelligence agencies and the Defense Department on the potential existence of UFOs and other unidentified aerial phenomena.
The $2.3 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation passed last month includes the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal 2021, which provides more resources toward investigation gathering and “strengthening open source intelligence” collection among the agencies, according to a release from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill in June. The Senate passed the legislation in July.
Some of that information includes what the Pentagon, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its counterparts know about unidentified aerial phenomena — also known as “anomalous aerial vehicles.” Lawmakers expect to see a report on the collected UFO data 180 days from the bill’s passage, according to the legislation.
News website Complex was first to report the details. The report will be unclassified, but will include a classified supplement.
Lawmakers are concerned that there is “no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” which is why a sweeping report on all relevant information regarding UAPs is essential, according to the bill’s text.
Lawmakers want information on any UAPs that were found using geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence, human intelligence, or measurement and signature intelligence, regardless of which agency or service collected the data, the bill states.
The UFOs don’t have to be out of this world, either. The legislation requires information on any technologies China, Russia, Iran, North Korea or others may possess in this field, including “aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries,” it adds.
In April, the Pentagon officially acknowledged three incidents reported by NavyF/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots after years of speculation that pilots were encountering alien spacecraft during training missions.
The Defense Department that month published videos of the incidents — one taken in November 2004 and the other two in January 2015 — “which have been circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017,” officials said in a statement.
“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military airspace incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said at the time.
The New York Times reported that pilots had sightings — and, in one instance, a near collision — while flying training missions off the East Coast between 2014 and 2015.
Then last August, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist officially created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, a Navy-led unit, to hunt down any pertinent encounters service members may have had with aerial objects that pose a threat to national security.
The U.S. government has looked into UFOs for years, most notably between 2007 and 2012 when the Pentagon began its Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, an effort championed by then-Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada and the Senate majority leader at the time.
The program was meant to “pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” the Defense Department said, motivated by events such as the 2004 “Tic Tac” incident, which was documented in one of the Navy’s released videos.
In that incident, F/A-18 pilots from the aircraft carrier Nimitz, operating off the San Diego coast, reported spotting a large, Tic Tac-shaped object that appeared to be floating without the assistance of an engine or exhaust plume.
In 2017, small American advisory elements here in Northern Iraq were operating at battle tempo as they mentored and assisted Iraqi units in a pitched fight to reclaim the city of Mosul from ISIS control.
That fight was won decisively, with an official Iraqi declaration of victory in Mosul in July 2017. And to further cement the advantage, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared complete victory over ISIS in Iraq on Dec. 9, 2017, just days before a Military.com visit to the country.
Among the Marine advisory units remaining at Al Asad and Al Taqaddum air bases in Anbar province, there is the satisfaction that comes with a mission accomplished.
But for some, victory brings its own unease: As the Marines endeavor to work themselves out of a job in Iraq, what lies beyond the current mission remains unclear.
When Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller paid visits to Al Asad, Al Taqaddum and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during a December tour of deployed units, his tone was congratulatory.
“You’re part of history now, because you were in Iraq when ISIS was defeated, tactically,” he said. ” … You have been catastrophically successful. The way this thing has turned in the last year is pretty epic. So, you should be proud of what you’ve done and what you’ve contributed to.”
Neller’s parting words to the Marines amounted to an order to hold down the fort for the duration of the deployment.
“You will not get blown up. You will not get attacked. No one will let anyone come in here who is a bad person and do anything to anybody … Do your job, until the wheels of that airplane leave the ground to take you home,” he said.
While pockets of ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and military advisers continue to pay attention to the Syrian border and work to prevent more extremists from entering the country, planners are already discussing how and when to bring home the Marine elements deployed in support of the fight.
These discussions dovetail with those ongoing at the joint level and in diplomatic channels.
The Associated Press reported Feb. 5 2018, citing a senior Iraqi official close to al-Abadi, that an agreement with U.S. leaders stipulated 60 percent of troops in Iraq will come home, while about 4,000 will remain in an advisory capacity amid ongoing efforts to eradicate remaining ISIS elements and restore security.
Decisions regarding individual units can be made and executed rapidly, as was seen in late November 2017, when officials with the joint task force overseeing the fight against ISIS announced that a Marine artillery unit deployed to Syria would be coming home early. A replacement unit, which had already conducted specialized training ahead of a planned deployment, was told to stay put stateside.
In Iraq, the first Marine Corps element to leave will likely be the additional security presence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, roughly 150 Marines who have been sourced from the Corps’ crisis response task force for the Middle East since 2015. During his tour, Neller told Marines he looked forward to bringing that contingent home soon.
“I think we’re close,” Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Central Command, told Military.com during a December interview in Baghdad.
While pulling the extra Marine Corps element out of Baghdad would signal improved confidence in the local security situation, Gideons pointed out that the embassy could be reinforced again within hours if conditions change.
“It’s not like if we pull the Marines out of there, we’re leaving the embassy, and State Department personnel, alone and unafraid,” he said. “That’s an hour-and-a-half flight from [an undisclosed task force hub in the Middle East] to here.”
Decisions about how and when to redeploy contingents of several hundred Marines at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad will likely be made in spring 2018. In addition to security elements at each base sourced from the crisis response force, the Marines maintain smaller colonel-led advisory elements in each location: Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, and Task Force Lion at Al Asad.
For the Marine Corps, the smallest and most junior in rank of the services, the cost of providing these senior advisory units is not insignificant.
“You all came from units, and nobody came to your unit and replaced you when you left,” Neller told the troops at Al Taqaddum. “I’m sure they’d love to get you back. I’m anxious to get you back too. But I also don’t want to do something that would be so risky that it would cause you to risk all the success you’ve gained.”
In an interview with Military.com, Neller pointed to the Iraqi parliamentary elections as a possible decision-forcing point. Whether or not al-Abadi is re-elected, Iraqi leadership will then be best positioned to express what support they would like from the United States going forward.
“You’ve got two colonels … at Al Taqaddum and Al Asad, people slated to come in to replace both of them, what are they going to do?” Neller said. “So this happened pretty fast; so we’ll give everyone some time to figure it out.”
While Neller said the two elements represented a very senior capability for what has rapidly become a sustainment mission, he also expressed concern that a hasty decision based on ISIS’ apparent defeat could lead to instability.
“Right now, we’re sitting, kind of adjusting and let the situation kind of settle,” he said. “Because it’s not settled; It’s settling … the [ISIS] caliphate is technically gone, but there’s still other things moving.”
A new focus
For the Marines’ crisis response task force in the Middle East, which operates across a half-dozen countries, the turn the fight against ISIS has taken could mean an opportunity to focus majority efforts on non-combat operations for the first time in the unit’s history.
Created in late 2014 in the wake of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the unit was designed to be a multi-purpose 911 force custom-built for the region.
The unit wasn’t built specifically for the fight against ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria. But it was tasked with supporting Operation Inherent Resolve immediately. For its entire existence, the anti-ISIS fight has been the unit’s central focus.
Gideons, the task force commander, said roughly 500 Marines from the task force continued to operate in Iraq and Syria in support of efforts to defeat ISIS as of late December.
“But we still have a responsibility, day in and day out, to be a theater-wide crisis response force,” he said. “So I think it’s this juncture of, ‘OK, we’ve got a lot of capability in the [task force], let’s support OIR.’ But OIR is drawing down, do we want to keep that there … or take those things that we pushed into Iraq and Syria, make [the unit] kind of whole again and ready to respond across the region?”
There’s no lack of regional hot spots to vie for the unit’s time. Regions that may present missions for the task force, Gideons suggested, include Afghanistan, where U.S. troops advise local forces battling ISIS and the Taliban; Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have attempted missile attacks on American ships; and the adjacent Bab el Mandeb strait, a key transit choke point between Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
“It’s an interesting crossroads,” he said. “There’s a tremendous amount of capability.”
Whether the unit will stay the same size in the transition process remains to be seen.
Neller told Marines forward-deployed to Norway that he’d like to “pull back” from the Middle East slightly in favor of concentrating more manpower and resources on Russia and Europe.
The Marines’ 2,300-strong crisis response force, equipped with half a squadron each of MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 Hercules aircraft, is designed to be scalable, able to grow or shrink based on regional combatant commanders’ requirements.
But Gideons said he didn’t anticipate any change to the size of the unit in the near future.
“Just at my level, I think we’re probably about right; there’s an element of right-size,” he said.
As senior leaders negotiate the way forward, Marines on the ground continue to ponder the implications of what they’ve accomplished.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Johnny Mendez, operations chief for Task Force Lion at Al Asad, is still marveling at how quickly and decisively the Iraqi troops he helped advise moved to defeat ISIS and reclaim their country.
Compared with what he observed during a deployment to Anbar province a decade ago in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mendez said he’d seen a transformation in the soldiers’ attitude, drive and determination to win.
“Ten years ago, we were doing operations; we were doing full support,” he said. “Now, it’s nice to see, from the backseat, that they’re actually taking pride in what they’re doing. It’s different.”
The change had less to do, he said, with the Marines’ assistance than it did with an elemental struggle, driven by ISIS’ wanton destruction and disregard for human life and dignity.
“Honestly, it was just the fight between good and evil,” Mendez said. “I think it was the local population and the local people were done seeing so much bad being done. They took pride in, this is their country. I couldn’t put my finger on it [before], but that was it.”
Col. Damian Spooner, the commanding officer of Task Force Spartan at Al Taqaddum, said he had observed a similar change.
During a Military.com visit to the base, Spooner said it had been more than a year since it had come under enemy fire, another indicator of how Iraqi troops, rather than Marines, were prosecuting the fight.
“Ten years ago, when we were here, I would have given anything to have the Iraqis doing the fighting, instead of Marines dying every day over here,” Spooner said. “And now, here we are, and the Iraqis are going out. I think what’s important about that is, they have earned this. They have liberated Iraq, they have defeated Daesh, and it gives me hope for the country that there’s something there that they have earned, and they’re not going to give it up easily. I think that’s very important.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Carreon, current operations officer for the crisis response task force, cautioned that the fight isn’t over, and that ISIS, denied control of major cities, would move underground and mount an insurgency campaign.
But even in the current lull following a declaration of victory, Carreon said emotions are mixed among deployed Marines.
“I think Marines want to kill bad guys, right?” he said. “So if you take that out of the equation, I don’t know how that makes us feel. Probably not happy.”
The United States Postal Services has been in the news lately as they, just like the rest of us, are feeling the impact of the economy. Now, there’s a way to support everyone’s buddy the USPS and a cause more than worthy of your support: PTSD.
In late March, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, issued the following statement after House Democrats introduced a stimulus package with emergency funds to save the Postal Service from imminent bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus crisis:
“The Postal Service is in need of urgent help as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House. Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”
According to the Postal Service, it is facing a potentially drastic direct effect in the near term on mail volumes and could be forced to cease operations as early as June.
A halt in Postal Service operations could have grave consequences across the country. For example, the Postal Service delivered more than a billion shipments of prescription drugs last year, and that number is expected to grow rapidly as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
These negative effects could be even more dire in rural areas, where millions of Americans are sheltering in place and rely on the Postal Service to deliver essential staples.
In addition, more than 25% of votes cast in recent elections are distributed through the mail and are critical to America’s democracy.
The resources included in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, would:
provide a billion emergency appropriation;
eliminate the Postal Service’s current debt; and
require the Postal Service to prioritize medical deliveries and allow it flexibility to meet crisis conditions.
So, how can you help? Buy stamps. And, for 10 cents more than a regular stamp, you can buy a “Healing PTSD” stamp. The additional cost is diverted to fundraising efforts for veterans with PTSD. The photo depicted is by Mark Laiata and is an illustration of a green plant sprouting from the ground, covered in fallen leaves. The image is intended to symbolize the PTSD healing process, growth and hope.
“The Postal Service is honored to issue this semi-postal stamp as a powerful symbol of the healing process, growth and hope for tens of millions of Americans who experience PTSD,” David C. Williams, vice chairman on the service’s board of governors, said in a press release issued when the stamp was introduced in December. “Today, with the issuance of this stamp, the nation renews its commitment to raise funds to help treat soldiers, veterans, first responders, health care providers and other individuals dealing with this condition.”
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Jericho Hill is a band created by Army veteran Steve Schneider and Navy corpsman McClain Potter. They began writing music together in 2012 while studying at Shoreline Community College just north of Seattle, bonding over their military experiences.
In 2014, Steve and McClain invited friends to play with them, including singer Malcolm Williams, drummer Adam Birchman, and bassist Nick Skinnell, officially creating Jericho Hill, a reference from “The Dark Tower,” a book McClain read during deployment. The band is united by the military, whether they themselves wore the uniform or a family member.
They found that music was not only healing for them, but a way to share stories with others. The military was a strong influencer for their music, which has evolved to bring awareness to issues like suicide, trauma, and depression.
One of the traditions of Jericho Hill is to play an as-yet unrecorded song “Great Day to be Alive” during their shows as a tribute to the friends they have lost. They also work hard to connect with other veterans and musicians, demonstrating how music can help vets readjust to civilian life.
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.
Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.
This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.
The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th.
Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.
There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.
If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.
Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.
“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all
the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who
have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything
so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.
The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.
The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.
“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”
If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.