In the mountains of Crested Butte Colorado, the Adaptive Sports Center is working to help people with disabilities enjoy physically rigorous activities both in indoor facilities and in the beautiful mountains of the area. They not only welcome disabled veterans and others who live an adaptive lifestyle, but they give lessons to those people and close family and friends to help them enjoy the sports safely. And a new building is helping them do even more.
Crested Butte is an inspiring place for an adaptive sports center as it is home to a lake, a reservoir, plenty of great rock climbing areas, mountain trails, and awesome slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and more.
But of course, many of those activities are challenging for veterans and others who have disabilities. So the ASC has always provided the special equipment necessary to make the slopes, trails, and more accessible. They also have trainers that can help disabled people learn how to use the equipment properly, and the trainers even help friends and family members learn unfamiliar sports and activities so that wounded veterans and others can bond as a group in the outdoors.
And while the ASC supports plenty of individuals and families with no military affiliation, they also make a point of helping veteran and military families like the Dryers, an Air Force family. Mitchell Dryer, a former Air National Guard firefighter, was injured in a fire and his daughter, Emeri, lost control of her legs to an infection as a baby.
Emeri learned to ski at the ASC. A skilled skier took her on the slopes after she had learned to give them the commands for “faster” and “slower.” Now, she carves the slopes with the rest of her family.
There are also participants like Jose, a veteran combat medic who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder but uses adaptive cycling and cooking to center and challenge himself.
The facilities and personnel at ASC are essential to making many of these transitions possible, but the folks at the center are celebrating the recent opening of a whole new facility that expands their care possibilities.
The Kelsey Wright Building was built in 2018-2019 and is now open. One of its prime offerings is that it allows participants to ski into and out of the building during winter programs, which is great because it houses lots of support activities for the ASC’s mission.
It has a space where personnel can assess the capabilities of participants, an area to modify, repair, and properly fit equipment, and an industrial kitchen. But it also has a lot of great space that isn’t directly tied to outdoor services. It has a classroom, a library, a housing area, and an adaptive climbing wall.
The ASC does ask participants to pay what they can for all the activities they use at the center, but everything is done at reduced cost, and they offer scholarships for those who need financial assistance. If your family or the family of someone you know would benefit from their services, you can find more information here.
If you’re interested in donating to the non-profit center to help it with its missions, you can do that here. The Adaptive Sports Center is a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible.
Sources report that the Senate Arms Services Committee has just confirmed Eric Fanning’s nomination to be Secretary of the Army. The nomination has been held up since June of 2015 when Senator John McCain, R-Az., threw a wrench in the process to protest Democratic changes to the nominations were forwarded and President Obama’s threat to veto the 2016 National Defense Authorization Bill. After that was cleared up the nomination was again thwarted by Senator Pat Roberts, R-Ks., this time over the idea that the prison at Guantanamo Bay might be closed and some of the prisoners transferred to Kansas.
Fanning, who is openly homosexual, became Air Force undersecretary in April of 2013 and served several months as acting secretary while the confirmation of now-Secretary Deborah Lee James was stuck in Congress. Before that, he was deputy undersecretary of the Navy and its deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013.
Former congressman and MSNBC television personality Patrick Murphy has been serving as acting Secretary of the Army for the last few months.
Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.
The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.
The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.
The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.
Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.
The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.
In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.
The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.
On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.
Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.
Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.
But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.
According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.
“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”
Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”
There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.
A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.
Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.
The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.
In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.
“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.
“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.
Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.
Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.
“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
Officials in charge of equipping America’s top commando units are looking for some high-tech drugs to help boost the performance if their 150 “multi-purpose canines.”
According to news reports, U.S. Special Operations Command wants to find pharmaceutical products or nutritional supplements that will enhance canine hearing, eyesight and other senses.
Think of it as a “Q” for America’s four-legged special operators.
According to an official solicitation for the Performance Enhancing Drugs, SOCOM is looking for a product or combination of products that will do the following:
Improve a dog’s ability to regulate body temperature
Improve acclimatization to acute extremes in temperature, altitude, and/or time zone changes
Increase the speed of recovery from strenuous work
Decrease adverse effects due to blood loss.
SOCOM’s military working dogs have been front and center on several top commando raids — with the most famous being Cairo, a Belgian Malinois who joined SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
SOCOM, though, is also looking to neutralize enemy K9s through what another solicitation calls “canine response inhibitors.”
Now, during the Vietnam War, the preferred “canine response inhibitor” was known as the “Hush Puppy.” But these days SOCOM is looking for some less permanent methods, including:
Inhibit barking, howling, and whining
Induce movement away from the area where the effects are deployed
Like the performance enhancers, the “canine response inhibitors” could also be used outside the military.
So, the company or companies that win the hearts and minds of SOCOM’s puppies could catch a huge break.
America’s first great military debut on the international stage took place in 1898 when it launched a war against Spain. No longer was the U.S. military limited largely to the American continent. The new Navy, pushed forward by its new Assistant Secretary Theodore Roosevelt, would not only fight in both oceans, it would win decisively.
Commodore George Dewey at Manila Bay, his stunning first blow against the Spanish fleet.
(U.S. Naval Historical Center)
And, at the point of its first and greatest victory in the Spanish-American War, a Navy commodore took a quick break for breakfast while slaughtering Spain. And we don’t mean a few sailors were sent belowdecks at a time for food. We mean the entire fleet disengaged, everyone had breakfast, and then came back to finish the shellacking.
The buildup to war centered around control of Cuba, a Spanish colony that desired independence. Americans, meanwhile, were split on the issue. Some wanted Cuban independence, some hoped for a Cuban state, but almost everyone agreed that Spain should screw off.
But there was tension between the hawks and the pacifists in the country. Not everyone thought it was a good idea to risk a war with Spain, a major European power. So, as a half measure, the USS Maine was sent to Havana Harbor to safeguard Americans and American interests during the struggles between rebels and Spain.
The wreck of the USS Maine is towed out of Havana Harbor.
(R.W. Harrison, Library of Congress)
But on February 16, 1898, the Maine suddenly exploded in the harbor. Investigations in the 20th century would find that the explosion was most likely caused by a bad design. A coal bunker had exploded, an event which occurred spontaneously in other ships of similar design. But the conclusion of investigators at the time was that the explosion was caused by a mine, and the implication was that Spain planted it.
America, already primed for conflict, declared war. And Roosevelt got his man Dewey the orders to take two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers, and a gunboat to the Philippines to strike the first blow.
The Spanish Admiral Patricio Montojo had a large fleet in the Philippines with 13 ships, but they were old and outdated. The armor was thin at key points, many of the guns were too small to do serious damage against newer battleships and cruisers like America’s, and they were tough to conduct damage control on, so fires could easily rage once started.
American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.
Montojo knew that the Americans would likely come for him, and he also knew that his fleet would struggle against the newer U.S. ships, so he decided to place his own vessels under the protection of shore batteries.
He sailed to Subic Bay where modern shore batteries were supposed to have been recently completed. But when he arrived, he found that not a gun was erected. Because of the constant fighting with Filipino rebels, the engineers had been unable to build the important defenses.
During the early hours of May 1, Dewey sailed into the harbor with his six ships in a battle line. He initiated the attack, and American ship after American ship paraded past and launched shells into the ineffective Spanish ships. Dewey turned back for another pass, and the ships repeated their process.
American ships file past the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay. In the actual battle, darkness and smoke obscured the Spanish ships, so the American forces were unsure how much damage was being done.
Dewey and the Asiatic fleet kept this up for hours. They were like a saw ripping into the Spanish fleet but with cruisers for teeth instead of shards of metal. But around 7:35, Dewey received a message that the 5″ guns had only 15 rounds remaining per gun.
Dewey knew that his gunners would need time to re-arm, and there was no point to doing it while under threat of the Spanish guns. So he took a look at the time, and ordered the fleet to withdraw. While this would later be reported as a withdrawal for breakfast, that wasn’t the initial intent. As Dewey would later write:
It was a most anxious moment for me. So far as I could see, the Spanish squadron was as intact as ours. I had reason to believe that their supply of ammunition was as ample as ours was limited. Therefore, I decided to withdraw temporarily from action for a redistribution of ammunition if necessary. For I knew that fifteen rounds of 5-inch ammunition could be shot away in five minutes.
But during this withdrawal, Dewey learned two pieces of joyous news:
But even as we were steaming out of range the distress of the Spanish ships became evident. Some of them were perceived to be on fire and others were seeking protection behind Cavite Point… It was clear that we did not need a very large supply of ammunition to finish our morning’s task; and happily it was found that the report about the Olympia’s 5-inch ammunition had been incorrectly transmitted. It was that fifteen rounds had been fired per gun, not that only fifteen rounds remained.
So Dewey suddenly realized that, first, he had the upper hand in the fight and, second, his men didn’t actually need to redistribute ammo. So, he ordered his men to take a break and get a bite to eat. Meanwhile, he called his captains together and learned that no ship had serious damage or fatalities to report. (One man would later die of either heatstroke or heart attack.)
So, after his men ate, Dewey returned to the attack and hit the city of Manila, quickly forcing its surrender. But he would have to wait for Army forces to arrive to actually hold it. It was the opening days of America’s first great overseas war, and the Spanish fleet was already in tatters, and the U.S. Navy was already a hero.
ABOARD USS AMERICA — The Marine Corps’ F-35B is almost ready for its close-up.
The F-35B has entered the home stretch of sea trials on the amphibious-assault ship USS America off the coast of San Diego, California. The third and final stage of testing is 21 days of fine-tuning the fifth-generation stealth fighter’s capabilities.
Stacking the deck, planners purposefully placed the amphibious warship in rough waters in order to evaluate how the pilot and aircraft would adapt.
Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.
So, she decided to join the military.
She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.
At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.
She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.
Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”
This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.
Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.
Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.
When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”
The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.
“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.
Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.
When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.
After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.
Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”
These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.
According to the VA, there are 40,056 homeless veterans — and 453,000 unemployed veterans — with 22 veterans a day committing suicide.
Navy SEAL veteran Eli Crane believes it doesn’t have to be this way.
Crane, the founder of Bottle Breacher, is a strong advocate for veterans and believes they lack a unifying community, something he hopes to change with a new movement called Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood.
Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood is Crane’s movement to unite all veterans in a sense of brotherhood and accountability to each other. Crane says that most veterans underestimate how important it is to associate with other veterans, especially when it comes to the individual’s welfare.
His company, a lifestyle accessories brand that gained fame for their unique bottle openers made from recycled bullet casings—and a successful appearance on the Shark Tank TV show—hires a large number of veteran workers and supports both veteran and military non-profits.
In addition to his commitment to hiring veterans, Crane is also working to solve what he believes is a major issue facing the community.
“One of the worst and most disappointing things that I have seen since I have left the military,” Crane says, “is the trash-talking and infighting within the veteran community.”
Warriors without a war
According to the Disabled American Veterans, one of the chief contributing factors to veteran suicide is the loss of mission, purpose and community. Crane also succumbed to this when he transitioned out of the Navy. He wanted to leave all the stress and feelings of burnout behind, and was ready to focus on his family—but the idea that he had abandoned something, rather selfishly, kept biting at him.
When Crane connected with other veterans, he found what he had left behind and rediscovered his love of helping others.
“You see, most of us are hard-wired for service,” Crane says. “Most of us become hard-wired, while we are active duty, to try to take the load off the back of our brothers and put their needs before our own.
Continue the mission
Veterans are mission-driven and when they are connected to a community of fellow veterans, research shows that it helps with depression, grief, and other psychological conditions. Peer support and motivation is also key to helping people succeed, and has been proven to reduce costs for mental and physical health services—for veterans as well as civilians.
By identifying and acknowledging veterans, Crane hopes that these efforts will build the community that they need to thrive mentally, emotionally, and economically.
He says, “If the majority of us spent more of their time building each other up and helping each other out, you wouldn’t see half of the problems you see our veterans struggling with.”
The division between service branches, theater or decade served, rank or lack thereof — these are just some of the things that are used to create animosity among veterans. Things that really don’t matter, according to Crane.
“Are we being our brother’s keeper? Are we reaching out to those that are struggling to acclimate and transition?” Crane asked.
The common experiences of veterans far outweigh the differences, and it’s those commonalities that the community should be focusing on.
To bring these things to light, Crane is asking veterans to share what it means to be a part of the Veteran Brotherhood on social media (see below on how to participate in Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood).
Crane hopes that these efforts will raise awareness of the different ways that the veteran community at large can be proactively involved in supporting the community.
The name of his organization, Long Live the Veteran Brotherhood, comes from a Navy SEAL saying, Long Live the Brotherhood. When he would hear that phrase, Crane felt a deep connection to his team and the greater community that the SEALS represent.
He felt that the veteran community would benefit from a similar message, reminding them that they are also connected to a much larger and just as powerful group.
“At the end of the day, the brotherhood shouldn’t end when we take off the uniform,” Crane said.
Crane’s top transition tips for veterans:
Build a team. It is most likely that like the rest of us you have many weaknesses and are not capable of building anything amazing by yourself. Surround yourself with loyal and talented people who share your values and your mission.
Don’t count on anything from anyone. If you’re willing to work as hard in the private sector as you did in the military you will crush it.
If you are intending to become an entrepreneur, I highly recommend the side-hustle. That means that you have a full-time gig that pays the bills and you run your start-up on nights and weekends.
Resilience is the most important thing when exiting the service. Like most of us, you will encounter plenty of adversity and hear countless “No’s”. If you are diligent and give yourself the freedom to fail while applying the lessons learned you will eventually become successful.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the next chapter of your life. Enjoy the process.
Jacob Warwick is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for LifeFlip Media—a full-service PR agency that helps veteran brands tell their business and military transition stories in a way that attracts customers and helps grow their business.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In keeping with his elevation of military leaders to roles in policymaking, President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to set US troop levels in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary James Mattis, though that power reportedly comes with limits.
But the administration has yet to settle on an overarching strategy for the US’ nearly 16-year-long campaign in the war-torn country.
Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, called in Erik Prince, who founded the Blackwater private-security firm, and Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire who owns military contractor DynCorp, to create proposals to use contractors in Afghanistan rather than US troops.
According to the Times, Bannon was able to track down Mattis at the Pentagon on July 8 and brought in Prince and Feinberg to describe their proposal to the defense secretary.
Mattis, whom the Times said “listened politely,” ultimately declined to include their ideas in his review of the war in Afghanistan, which he and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster are set to deliver to Trump this month.
Prince’s proposal reportedly adhered to what he outlined in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year. In that editorial, he said the war in Afghanistan was “an expensive disaster” and called for “an American viceroy” in whom authority for the war would be consolidated. He also said the effort should take an “East India Company approach” using private military units working with local partners.
Prince and Feinberg’s inclusion in the administration’s Afghanistan policy-proposal process is of a piece with Trump’s advisers’ efforts to bring a wider array of options to the president’s attention. While their proposal looks unlikely to be included in the final plan, their inclusion by Trump aides raised alarm among observers — and not only because of Blackwater’s sordid record in Iraq.
Deborah Avant, a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, pointed out a number of shortcomings in the plan Prince outlined in The Journal.
Contractors would still be required to work with the Afghan government, just like US and NATO forces, she writes, who may not be receptive to their expanded presence.
Contractors also don’t integrate well with local political goals and forces, which is essential in counterinsurgency operations.
Avant also noted that empowering local partners in environments like Afghanistan had been shown to facilitate the rise of warlords — as generally happened under the East India Company when it worked in there in the 19th century.
Privatizing the war effort in Afghanistan would likely reduce some of the costs, however — a point that White House assistant Sebastian Gorka emphasized when he defended consultations with Prince in a CNN interview with Jake Tapper.
“If you look at Erik Prince’s track record, it’s not about bilking the government. It’s about the opposite,” Gorka said. “It’s about saving the US taxpayer money. It’s about creating indigenous capacity … This is a cost-cutting venture.”
Despite that fact that Prince and Blackwater secured extensive and lucrative contracts under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama, Gorka described consultations with the Blackwater founder as a break with the tired, uninformed thinking inculcated by Beltway insularity.
“We open the door here at the White House to outside ideas. Why?” Gorka said, adding, “Because the last eight years, in fact the last 16 years, Jake, to be honest, disastrous. The policies that were born in the beltway by people who’ve never worn a uniform, the people that were in the White House like Ben Rhodes, Colin Kahl, they helped create the firestorm that is the Middle East, that is ISIS today. So we are open to new ideas, because the last 16 years have failed American national interest and the American taxpayer.”
When Tapper defended the qualifications of the people advising Obama, Gorka objected, calling Rhodes’ master’s degree in creative writing — “fictional writing,” he said — “disastrous.”
“I think Gorka spends more time following Twitter and prepping his media appearances than he does thinking seriously about critical national-security issues,” Kahl, who was deputy assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice president from October 2014 to January 2017, told Business Insider.
“No US administration has had all the answers to the Middle East,” continued Kahl, who is now a professor in the Security Studies program at Georgetown University.
“But the two biggest sources of the ‘firestorm’ Gorka refers to were the invasion of Iraq, which gave birth to the forerunner of ISIS and created a vacuum filled by Iran, and the 2011 Arab Spring that upended the state system across the Middle East and set in motion a series of bloody proxy wars,” he added. “Neither of these key events were a consequence of Obama’s policies.”
Kahl also cited specific accomplishments of the Obama administration, among them eroding Al Qaeda leadership, securing the Iran nuclear deal, and setting the stage for the destruction of ISIS.
Blaming Obama for the rise of ISIS has become prominent Republican talking point since the US withdrew from Iraq at the end 2011.
Trump himself has attributed the group’s emergence to both Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was Obama’s secretary of state and Trump’s opponent in the presidential election.
The withdrawal date had been set by the Bush administration, but conservatives have criticized Obama for not making a deal with Baghdad to keep US troops on the ground there, which they say could’ve kept ISIS from gaining traction with Iraq’s Sunni minority.
Defenders have pointed to the US’ inability to quell insurgency in the country prior to its withdrawal, as well as Iraqi officials’ refusal to let US troops stay, as evidence that a protracted deployment was impossible and would have changed little. (Others attribute ISIS’ appearance to Bush’s dissolution of the Iraqi military.)
Since taking office, Trump appears to have embraced a more aggressive policy in the Middle East, underscored by several military engagements with pro-Syrian government forces in that country and by his hearty embrace of Saudi Arabia to the apparent detriment of unity among Gulf countries.
Kahl invoked these developments as reason for concern going forward.
“It is difficult to see how Trump’s approach, which combines a shoot-first mentality and an instinct to give regional autocrats a blank check to drag us into their sectarian conflicts, will make the region more secure or America safer,” he told Business Insider in an email.
“And the fact that Gorka and others in the White House are seriously contemplating turning America’s longest war in Afghanistan over to private military contractors who prioritize profit over the national interest is very troubling.”
Iran has debuted a new, locally built long-range missile system as it continues its defiant stance against the United States amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on Aug. 22, 2019, during the unveiling of the mobile air-to-surface missile system that since Iran’s “enemies don’t accept logic, we cannot respond with logic.”
“When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destruct the missile in mid-air,'” Rohani added in the speech from Tehran.
Rohani’s speech and the missile system are the latest volley in a war of words between Tehran and Washington that many worry will escalate into armed conflict.
The United States withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country.
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2015.
Iran’s economy has suffered under the sanctions, which target its oil and financial sectors.
Iran’s oil production has plummeted to 300,000 barrels a day or less while its economy will shrink by 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund projects. Unemployment remains high, at 12 percent.
A series of recent attacks on international ships, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the seizure of a British tanker, have added to volatility in the region and on the global shipping industry.
Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June 2019. It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
Despite the increased rhetoric and animosity, Tehran maintains that it does not seek confrontation with Washington that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.
“Will there be a war in the…Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Aug. 22, 2019, at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
According to Marine Corps Veteran and avionics technician Monica Patrow, there is more to female veterans than meets the eye. “My Marine Corps uniform will forever be the most prideful thing I will ever wear. But with the uniform comes uniformity. And being a female, you can lose your feminine touches. Being a pin-up is an honor and a privilege, just like my five years spent in the Marine Corps.”
The award-winning non-profit organization Pin-Ups for Vets just announced the pre-sales for their 2021 fundraising calendar. While founder Gina Elise may have 15 years of experience producing the iconic pin-up images, this year she had a little obstacle: the COVID-19 global pandemic.Female Veterans Become Pin-Ups For 2021 Calendar: PART 1
The Pin-Ups for Vets calendar has helped contribute to over ,000 for military hospitals to purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for veterans’ healthcare programs across the United States.
(Pin Up for Vets)
Not only that, the calendar has a special meaning for the veteran ambassadors featured in its pages. “In addition to helping these female veterans embrace their femininity again, many of the ladies have said that being involved with our organization has given them a renewed sense of purpose after transitioning out of the military. It has given them a community again — and a mission to give back,” Elise reflected.
She knew she didn’t want to cancel the 2021 calendar — but safety was her chief concern and sacrifices had to be made.
In previous years, she was able to invite veterans from across the country to participate, but this year she limited her search to veterans within driving distance. In the past, her breathtaking locations have ranged from The Queen Mary to airfields and hangars. This year, she managed her calendar shoot at one outdoor location, Hartley Botanica, with military precision and carefully coordinated timetables to limit personal exposure and contact.
The result is exceptional.
U.S. Marine Ahmika Richards described what makes Pin-Ups for Vets so unique. “It is special to be involved with Pin-Ups for Vets because of the amazing work they do. They are an organization that gives back to a vulnerable part of our community — and that alone is invaluable. Their work is a great support to us veterans and I am so grateful that I was able to contribute to their organization through the 2021 calendar, which was an absolutely beautiful and wonderful experience.”
Coast Guard veteran and machinery technician Sarah Weber, currently working towards her doctorate in Psychology echoed Richards’ sentiments. “The best part of being involved with Pin-Ups For vets is the camaraderie. I work a lot with veterans in transition these days, on campus and clinically, and it is clear to me how much benefit there is in maintaining connection to a community of former or current service members. However, in most traditional organizations meant for those purposes, it is difficult to find many women veterans. This is not the case with Pin-Ups For Vets. I meet so many amazing, talented, big-hearted women through being involved with this organization. We can talk about the women-specific aspects of service, and it has been such a relief. This, on top of the fun of dressing up, volunteering and helping raise money for the cause of other veterans makes this the perfect way of staying involved in a community which I care so deeply about.”
While the organization’s 50-state VA hospital tour has been interrupted due to the pandemic, Pin-Ups For Vets is now shipping out care packages enclosed with gifts of appreciation to hospitalized veterans around the country. The organization also continues to ship care packages to deployed U.S. troops around the globe.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran of a “heavy price” if it or its allies in Iraq attack U.S. troops or assets in Iraq.
“Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on U.S. troops and/or assets in Iraq,” Trump tweeted on April 1.
“If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” he added.
It was not immediately clear if Trump meant the United States actually has intelligence of such a plan.
Over the past year, the United States has accused Iranian-backed militias of attacks on Iraqi military bases hosting coalition forces and on foreign embassies, particularly the U.S. mission.
Hours before Trump’s tweet, a top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned the United States of consequences of “provocative actions” in Iraq.
“Any U.S. action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record,” General Yahya Rahim Safavi said, according to the semiofficial news agency Tasnim.
On March 11, a rocket attack on an Iraqi base killed two U.S. troops and one British soldier, heightening tensions in the region.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which was followed by deadly U.S. air strikes on the pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah militia group.
Tehran warned Trump against taking “dangerous actions.”
In December, Washington blamed Kataib Hezbollah for a strike that killed a U.S. contractor and triggered a round of violence that led Trump to order the killing of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike in Baghdad the following month.
In retaliation, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Three different Air Force Global Strike Command bombers will conduct a first-of-its-kind trifecta flyover during the National Anthem performance at the 55th Super Bowl, Feb. 7, over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
“Supporting this event is a tremendous honor for our command and the U.S. Air Force,” said Gen. Tim Ray, AFGSC commander. “We look forward to this opportunity to showcase the reliability, flexibility and precision of our bomber fleet to the nation during this exciting event.”
The aircraft will take off for the Super Bowl LV flyover from their respective bases, join up for the flyover, and return to base following the event, demonstrating the flexibility of AFGSC’s bombers and their ability to deploy anywhere in the world from the continental United States.
The U.S. Air Force performs close to 1,000 flyovers a year, which serves as a way to showcase the capabilities of its aircraft while also inspiring patriotism and future generations of aviation enthusiasts. These flyovers are done at no additional cost to the taxpayer and serve as time-over-target training for our pilots, aircrew and ground control teams.