Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME's most influential people of 2020 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was named the next Air Force Chief of Staff, it was extraordinary for many reasons. As 2020 comes to a close, we examine this leader who was recently named one of Time’s most influential 100 people. 

Brown was formerly the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and also led as Executive Director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff and Deputy Commander of United States Central Command.  Brown’s legacy of strong leadership and experience made him a strong candidate for the Air Force’s highest position of authority. As the first Black chief of staff to command a force, it was a historic moment for America. His confirmation was cheered far and wide across the country and the military community.  

He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a historic 98-0 vote. 

After being officially sworn in as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, he talked about the men and women of color who came before him saying, “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force Chief of Staff.” Watching in the wings of his swearing in ceremony were the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black unit of fighter pilots who served bravely and faithfully during World War II. The Airmen willingly fought for their country despite facing deep racism and ongoing segregation, creating a legacy that still reverberates today.  

Despite the tremendous honor of being nominated as the next Chief of Staff for the Air Force, the appointment came with a tremendous weight for Brown. In his acceptance speech he shares that he alone cannot “fix centuries of racial discrimination in our country” and that despite the hope his nomination brought, it also carries a burden for him. 

Months before his swearing in, Brown released a raw and direct video on social media in June of 2020 following the death of George Floyd captured on video at the hands of police. It was a event that sent shockwaves across a country already experiencing deep divisiveness on matters of race and the current pandemic. Brown’s decision to make a statement was nothing short of courageous and admirable. In an interview with Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, Brown shared that his video response to the killing of George Flloyd was promoted by his son Ross. He told Lamothe that he became emotional over their shared experiences as Black men. Despite the looming confirmation hearing and not knowing what current leadership was going to say, he knew what he himself needed to do. 

After looking into the camera, he told viewers exactly what was on his mind. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.” He also went on to share experiences where, despite wearing the same flight suit as his fellow pilots, he was questioned on whether he was one or not. 

The video has now been seen by millions of people. Not long after his response and other military leaders’ similar and united statements, the Air Force announced plans to review racial disparities within the force as it pertained to military justice. It was a step in the right direction. 

Since taking the leadership role of the Air Force, he has focused on change and innovation, from the bottom up. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he encouraged young airmen in particular to focus on creativity and to use their voice without fear of consequences for speaking up. His message of unity and collaboration from the junior enlisted to the ranking highest officer is another reason he has already established himself well among Airmen and the military as a whole.  

air force chief of staff
Maxwell AFB; Ala. – Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown; Jr.; speaks with senior leadership and Air University faculty on his vision for AU; Aug. 26; 2020. (US Air Force photograph by Melanie Rodgers Cox/Released)

Seeing Brown’s name among the expected celebrities, athletes presidents and Supreme Court Justices – is an impressive feat in itself. But it is the history and struggles he endured within his story that brings the significance home to so many who are desperate for change. Brown is a symbol of not just courage and strength but also, hope. Hopefully one day soon, we won’t be celebrating firsts anymore. Instead, diversity and inclusion will just be exactly who we are, not just who we promised to be.

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Skip Wells Foundation cuts ties with ‘Marines and Mickey’ over stolen valor claims

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Skip Wells’ girlfriend, Caroline Dove, holds his photo. (AP photo by Russ Bynum)


On February 26 the Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation announced that it was disassociating from “any and all relationships with the Marines Mickey Foundation” alleging organization’s founder, John Simpson, was misrepresenting his rank in the Marine Corps and misappropriating his charity’s funds.

The Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation was created to honor Skip Wells – one of the four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting tragedy. It donates to organizations in and around the area Skip had grown up. The foundation also gave over $135,000 to Marines Mickey – an organization that sends Marines and their families to Disney World. Skip’s mom Cathy, who heads the foundation had partnered with the charity because she and her son had always taken yearly vacations to the resort. She wanted other Marine families to have that experience as well.

But now, they feel their donations were given under false pretenses, and want the funds returned.

A post on Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation’s Facebook said John Simpson claims to be a Former Recon Marine, Drill Instructor and Msgt., but they no longer believe this to be true. The post states he was discharged from the Marine Corps due to bad conduct – and was an E1 admin clerk. The post goes on to say ‘there will be federal charges for stolen valor, 501c3 tax fraud, and many other criminal charges the authorities at the federal level are currently investigating.”

A letter from John Simpson was posted on the Marines Mickey website homepage that countered the accusations of the Wells Foundation, claiming he too had spoken to authorities, and that he was advised that the actions against him amount to blackmail and extortion.

“We did several events that had Marines and Mickeys name and Skip Wells’ name attached to it, these funds raised sent 14 families to Disney since October 2015. In my opinion, a donation made is not stolen when used for the mission plainly stated and publicly known. Our Mission had existed for over a year and a half prior to the tragedy in Chattanooga. and that is why, Representatives, Representing Ms Wells called my Foundation the night of the tragedy… telling us, they wanted to send all monies expected to be donated to her over the coming weeks to be instead given on to Marines and Mickey for the purpose of Sending Marines to Disney.”

After that letter was published, Skip Wells Foundation page posted the following:

We had to act immediately to protect Cathy and the Foundation from further loss. What you personally do with the information we provided is up to you. He is telling people that we are attempting to take over his foundation and harm his reputation. We can assure you that our one and only priority is to protect Cathy and recover over 135k in fraudulent donations to Marines and Mickey and him personally….

As far as Stolen Valor, I never said I was a Force Recon Marine, never said I had been on one tour to Afghanistan, much less four.

Many are following these developments and are posting own findings: James Hill found a cached copy of the site’s “About Us” page and posted a screenshot of it in the comments. The photo shows there was a section on the page titled, “How We Came About” and it reads: “Marines Mickey began in May 2014, Founded by John Simpson, a Retired Marine, who was a Recon Marine and also a Parris Island Drill Instructor….”

The current version of that page no longer contains this section.

Cait Nestor posted a photo of Parris Island’s Off-Limits Establishments list which includes Marines Mickey.

The Wells Foundation is in the process of obtaining an official copy of Simpson’s DD-214 using the Freedom of Information Act. Ms. Wells told WSB-TV2 if the funds are recovered, she will put them back into her foundation.

MIGHTY SPORTS

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

The sound of cheering carried across the Alliant Energy Center as the top athletes from over 100 countries took the field Aug. 1, 2019, during the 2019 CrossFit Games opening ceremony.

Amongst a sea of U.S. competitors, Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz and Capt. Chandler Smith took it all in as they looked around the crowded North Field. Kurz proudly displayed his Army Special Forces flag as a nod to the Special Forces community. Those cheering included members of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Warrior Fitness team who were there to support their teammates and engage with the fitness community.

It took Smith and Kurz years to get to this moment, as they stood ready for the “world’s premier” CrossFit competition. At this level, victory would not come easy, considering each workout would test the limits of their athletic ability and resolve.


Capt. Chandler Smith

Just hours after the opening ceremony, Smith was back on the field for his workout in the men’s individual bracket. He was ranked 40th overall at the start of the games.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. During the first workout of the day, Smith placed second overall and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

There was a lot at stake during the first cut of the competition. Out of the 143 men participating, only 75 would make it to the next round. The first workout was also designed to be a true test of strength and endurance.

Each competitor would need to complete a 400-meter run, three legless rope climbs, and seven 185-pound squat snatches, in under 20 minutes. The field of competitors would then be ranked based on their overall time. For some athletes, the first workout was more than they could handle.

Smith came out strong and maintained his overall pace. In the end, he took second place — 35 seconds behind the leader, Matthew Fraser.

“I knew my competitors were going to come out fast,” Smith said. “I wanted to stay within that top three. By the third set, I wanted to pick up on my squat snatches. This was a good start for the rest of the weekend.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2, 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

Moving into the second cut of the competition, Smith looked loose and determined to continue on his previous success.

Competitors had 10 minutes to complete an 800-meter row, 66 kettlebell jerks, and a 132-foot handstand walk. Like the first round, athletes would be ranked and scored on their overall time.

Smith was not far behind the leader after the first exercise. Sitting in a good position, he moved into the 16-kilogram kettlebell jerks and quickly fell behind after a series of “no-repetition” calls by the judge.

Smith placed 48th overall in the workout and only 50 athletes would move on to compete on day two.

Through it all, he wasn’t overly focused on his position, he said. For the first time in a long time, Smith said he was having fun, and he planned to approach each workout with the same high level of intensity.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

“The experience has been phenomenal because I have been around a lot of folks that stayed positive,” he said. “I have learned so much about what it takes for me to perform at my peak. This will hopefully help me in the future in regards to maximizing [my] performance potential.”

On day two of the competition, Smith competed in three events.

The day started with a 6,000-meter ruck with increasing increments of weight. Competitors then moved to the “sprint couplet” event, where they had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and a second sled push back to the finish line. Smith placed fourth in the ruck and 32nd in the sprint couplet.

The last event of the day took place in the arena, where athletes had 20 minutes to complete as many reps as possible. Each rep included five handstand pushups, 10 pistol squats, and 15 pull-ups. Smith placed 13th in the final workout of the day, landing him a spot in the top 20.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, takes a rest after completing in the first round of the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. Smith placed second overall after the first workout and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge)

“I would give my performance a nine out of 10,” he said. “I met my goal of making it to the last day and maintained the right competitive attitude throughout the competition.”

Moving on to day three, Smith had one last workout to try to break into the top 10. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across North Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

Smith gave his all, but at the end of the workout, he tied for 13th place. Officially cut from the competition, he held his head high as he walked off the field ranked 15th overall.

“I controlled everything I could, and gave my absolute maximum effort on all events,” he said. “I feel like I made significant growth this year. I will try to replicate my training and couple it with my improved mental onset to achieve a better result here at the CrossFit Games next year.”

Overall, Smith is honored to represent himself as both a soldier and an athlete, he said. He feels lucky to represent the force at large, knowing there are so many talented soldiers in the fitness field throughout the Army.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“The biggest lesson I can pass on: keep a positive perspective,” he said. “The nature of the Army means our schedules are unpredictable and constant [athletic] training can be hard to come by.”

Soldiers that learn to work past those scheduling conflicts will have a better respect for their journey, Smith said. In the end, there is always an approach a soldier can take to be successful — they just have to find it.

“Leaders in the Army don’t see problems, they see solutions,” he added.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz

The men’s master competition started on day two of the CrossFit Games. Kurz, a Special Forces officer assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade, Maryland, was competing in the 40- to 44-year-old age bracket.

Kurz got into CrossFit shortly after graduating from the Special Forces qualification course. While assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he received his level-one CrossFit certification and delved deeper into the sport.

Whenever he deployed as an Operational Detachment Alpha, or ODA commander, Kurz and his teammates would often engage in CrossFit-type workouts to keep them fit for the fight, he said.

“In an ODA, everybody is always competitive. We would do our [CrossFit] workout of the day and post them on the board. That healthy rivalry makes you better,” he said.

“We have some phenomenal athletes in the Special Forces community, but they train for something different,” Kurz said. “It was good to represent them [at the CrossFit Games].”

Coming into the Games, Kurz was ranked 4th overall and 1st in the online qualifier. On the floor, he appeared healthy and determined, but behind the scenes, he was quietly recovering from a minor shoulder injury, he said.

During his first timed workout, Kurz completed a 500-meter row and 30 bar-facing burpees. He placed fifth out of 10 athletes in his bracket. Hours later, he was back on the floor for his second event. He maintained an excellent position to move up the ranks.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

During the second workout, athletes needed to complete five rounds of exercises. Each set included three rope climbs, 15 front squats, and 60 jump rope “double-unders.”

The combination of upper body exercises exacerbated his pre-existing injury, Kurz said. In frustration, he let out a loud yell during the event as he finished in last place.

“I was only pulling with one arm,” he said. “At this level of competition, if something goes wrong, there is nowhere to hide. It is frustrating, but it was also a great learning experience. Everybody wants to be on top of the podium.”

The final event for the day was a 6,000-meter ruck run with increasing increments of weight after each lap. Kurz placed 5th in the workout.

On day three of the games, Kurz had to complete two workouts. The first event was the sandbag triplet. Athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line. Kurz placed 7th in the event.

The second event of the day, known as the “down and back chipper,” was the most taxing workout thus far. Kurz had to complete an 800-meter run, 30 handstand pushups, 30 dumbbell thrusters, 30 box jump-overs, and 30 power cleans. Competitors had to then go back through the same exercises, finishing the event with the run.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz set a deliberate pace, knowing the event would depend on how his shoulder fared on the second set of handstand push-ups. On the last 10 reps, fatigue and a series of “no-reps” bogged him down, he said. Time expired while he was on his last 800-meter run, and judges were calling on him to stop. He kept running and crossed the finish line while the event crew was setting up for the next heat.

“I never quit on a workout, and I wasn’t going to start today,” he said. “You have got to take the small victories. I was once told: ‘Persistence is a graded event.’ It is something that has always stuck in my head.”

Kurz laid it all on the line on the final day, submitting two of his best workouts of the competition. During the two-repetition overhead squad workout, Kurz lifted 280 pounds and placed second in the event. Moreover, he took first place in the final workout, known as the “Bicouplet 1.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During his second event, Kurz had to complete three rope climbs 15 front squats, and 60 double-unders over five rounds for time.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz placed 9th overall.

“I’m glad I was able to fight back on the last day and go out with an event win. Looking back, 9th isn’t what I expected, but I’m proud of my performance,” he said. “I think I turned in the best performance possible given the limits of my body.”

“We always say that in combat you can have the best plan, but the enemy always gets a vote on how things go. This is no different. I had solid plans going into the WODs, made the right adjustments on the fly, and pushed through the adversity. I capped it all off with an event win — I’ll take it.”

In the end, Kurz was proud to represent the Army and the Special Forces community, he said.

“As I look back at my old [Special Forces] team and I feel like many of them could have done the same thing if given the opportunity and the time to train,” he said. “I feel very lucky. My life led me in a certain way, and I was able to take all this time to get to this level.

“I’m super stoked that people are still excited, given how the weekend has gone for me,” he added. “It has been frustrating and humbling. Even though there were setbacks, I gave everything I had and I’m walking away with my head high.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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The Navy just named a destroyer after this Marine Corps hero

The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy’s upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.


Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
The Marine Corps’ first African-American aviator and first African-American general officer, Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo)

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.

During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
An illustration of the USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen during a Nov. 9 ceremony unveiling the future destroyer. (Photo: Department of Defense live stream screenshot)

The USS Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. is expected to reach the fleet in 2020 and will have the mission to fight against threats from the air, surface ships, and underwater vessels. The ship will be built according to Flight IIA configuration which features improved anti-air capabilities through updated AEGIS missile systems.

The newest versions of the Flight IIA configurations allow these ships to defend against multiple incoming missiles at once. The USS John Paul Jones shot down three missile targets at nearly the same moment in a 2014 test.

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This is why the US could leave Al Udeid

The sudden move by a coalition of Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, in early June to cut ties with and blockade Qatar perplexed US military officials and policymakers.


The Saudi-led coalition has made a series of demands of Doha for dropping the blockade, to which Qatar has shown no sign of assenting.

The spike in tension concerns US officials because of the massive Al Udeid military base in Qatar, where some 11,000 US personnel are stationed and from which US Central Command has run much of the war against ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

According to President Donald Trump, who has publicly backed the Saudi-led effort and criticized Qatar, relocating from Al Udeid would be no significant obstacle.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
President Donald Trump and King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia sign a Joint Strategic Vision Statement. (Photo from The White House Flickr.)

Trump was asked about the effect of the crisis on Al Udeid during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that aired on July 12.

“If we ever have to leave” Al Udeid, he said, “we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it.”

Trump did try to downplay potential conflict with Doha, saying, “We are going to have a good relationship with Qatar. We are not going to have problems with the military base.” But, he said, “if we ever needed another military base, you have other countries that would gladly build it.”

When asked this week about the situation around Al Udeid, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said the US has weighed other basing options as part of what he described has standard operational planning.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
The sun sets over Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren)

“I think any time you are doing military operations, you are always thinking ahead to Plan Bs and Plan Cs … we would be remiss if we didn’t do that,” he said, according to Military Times. “In this case, we have confidence that our base in Qatar is still able to be used.”

The break between Qatar and its neighbors was a departure from the relative stability seen in that part of the Middle East. The Saudi-led bloc’s initial condemnation of Doha came days after Trump left a friendly meeting with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and the US president appears to have thrown his weight behind Riyadh’s efforts — accusing Qatar of backing terrorism on several occasions, including during his remarks to CBN.

Trump has also joined with the Saudi-led coalition in rebuking Iran for what they see as Tehran’s meddling in the region. But the the conflict with Qatar appears to have strengthened Tehran’s position.

And since Al Udeid would be the jumping-off point for any anti-Iran operations in the region, deteriorating relations between Qatar and its neighbors and the US could affect their plans to contain Iran.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
B-52 Stratofortress aircraft arrive at Al Udeid Air Base. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Despite the tensions, the US has kept up operations at Al Udeid and with Qatar.

The US and Qatari navies completed exercises in the waters east of Qatar in mid-June, running air-defense and surface-missile drills. The US also signed off on a weapons deal with Qatar less than a week after Trump spoke approvingly of Saudi-led action against Doha.

Pentagon officials have said tensions around Qatar were affecting their long-term planning ability, echoing comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prior to Trump’s first remarks supporting the blockade.

But Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said operations there are continuing as before.

“Despite the situation going on with Qatar, we continue to have full use and access of the base there,” he told Military Times. “We are able to re-supply it, we’re able to conduct operations.”

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Veteran launches ‘The War Horse’ to tell stories of Iraq, Afghanistan

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Cindy Schepers | The War Horse


One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.

Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”

Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.

He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.

In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.

“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”

Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.

The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.

Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.

In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.

While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.

“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”

Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/

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Opinion: Why Lt. Gen. McMaster is the right choice for Trump

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.


President Donald Trump just named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his next national security adviser.

The 54-year-old Army officer is the epitome of the warrior-scholar, and he’s as well known for his heroics in battle as he is for his intellectual pursuits.

Also read: Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

Though former national security adviser Michael Flynn was rather controversial — the retired general peddled conspiracy theories and ultimately resigned because of his ties to Russia — I don’t suspect anything other than professionalism and solid advice being given to the president by McMaster.

Here’s why.

He commands a great deal of respect among his troops.

Much like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who was revered by his troops while serving as a general in the Marine Corps, McMaster has earned a great deal of respect from soldiers. That’s because his career has been marked by personal heroism, excellent leadership, and his tendency to buck traditional ways of thinking.

As a captain during the Gulf War in 1991, McMaster made a name for himself during the Battle of 73 Easting. Though his tank unit was vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi Republican Guard, he didn’t lose a single tank in the engagement, while the Iraqis lost nearly 80. His valor and leadership that day earned him the Silver Star, the third-highest award for bravery.

Then there was his leadership during the Iraq War, during which he was one of the first commanders to use counterinsurgency tactics. Before President George W. Bush authorized a troop “surge” that pushed US forces to protect the population and win over Iraqi civilians, it was McMaster who demonstrated it could work in the city of Tal Afar.

He’s far from a being a ‘yes’ man.

McMaster is the kind of guy who says what’s on his mind and will call out a wrongheaded approach when he sees one. That tendency is something that junior officers love, but those maverick ways are not well-received by some of his fellow generals. Put simply: McMaster isn’t a political guy, unlike other officers who are trying to jockey for position and move up in their careers.

In 2003, for example, McMaster criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Iraq War plan that placed too much of an emphasis on technology. McMaster also pushed back on his boss’ refusal to admit an insurgency was starting to take hold in 2004.

He’s been held back in his career because of it — he was passed over two times for his first star — but it wasn’t due to incompetence. Instead, his fight to be promoted from colonel to brigadier general was seen as pure politics, and McMaster doesn’t like to play. He was eventually promoted in 2008, but that hasn’t made him any less outspoken.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
US Army photo

He’s a strategic thinker with a Ph.D.

McMaster has a lot in common with another famous general: David Petraeus.

In fact, he was one a select few officers that were in the Petraeus “brain trust” during the Iraq War.

McMaster is an expert on military strategy, counterinsurgency, and history. And he, like Petraeus, stands out among military officers, since both earned advanced degrees. McMaster holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, where his dissertation went far beyond the readership of just a few professors.

Titled “Dereliction of Duty,” McMaster’s dissertation became an authoritative book on how the United States became involved in the Vietnam War. Much of the book’s focus is on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were heaped with criticism for failing to push back against President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“McMaster stresses two elements in his discussion of America’s failure in Vietnam: the hubris of Johnson and his advisors and the weakness of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” reads a review on Amazon.

Whether McMaster can transition well from the Army to the White House is the big question now, but he’s one of the best people Trump could have picked. And like Mattis, he’s not afraid to challenge the president’s views.

“He’s not just a great fighter, and not just a conscientious leader,” one Army officer told me of McMaster. “He’s also an intellectual, a historian and a forward-thinking planner who can see future trends without getting caught up in bandwagon strategic fads.”

That’s exactly the kind of person Trump needs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Vietnam vet’s long lost dog tag resurfaced in Hurricane Irma debris

After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag — informally known as a “dog tag.”


Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.

The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.

“He had it with him when I first met him,” said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Wikimedia Commons photo by Linda Makiej.

Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the lone tag that he’d worn for so long disappeared.

“I just assumed when I didn’t see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it,” said Shelia Platt. “I never did, and I stopped thinking about it.”

Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.

Three years passed, and then something happened. Something “amazing.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Chain of events

William “Biff” Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.

Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.

That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.

On a recent weekend, Trimble’s regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing’s Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Logo for Disabled American Veterans.

It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.

The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble’s driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, “I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?”

Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.

Rekart checked the chapter’s membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Photo from Flickr user Jamie.

Home again

At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts’ number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.

The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother’s funeral.

When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.

She said simply that he wasn’t there, so the caller — it was Rekart — asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
A Coast Guard flood punt team assists with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. USCG courtesy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Matthews.

She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband’s dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.

She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: “Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?”

She settled on her husband’s niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts’ wedding texted her to find out if she’d returned from her evacuation, so she called him.

“I said, ‘You will not believe this story,'” she said.

At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.

“I hadn’t cried over him in a long time,” she said, “and when I came here, I started.”

Tag trek

Bing’s Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it’s on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt’s account, her husband wouldn’t have gone there.

So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment slides his hand down a pair of dog tags as he hangs them upon the pedestal on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg.

It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband’s clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.

Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn’t checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.

Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.

George Platt, she said, “was just a great guy; he was a great husband.”

The tag, she added, was “something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer’s. Because it was something that he always kept with him.”

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Sebastian Junger’s ‘Hell on Earth’ chronicles the rise of ISIS in Syria

War correspondent Sebastian Junger, most famous for his documentaries “Restrepo” and “Korengal” that followed paratroopers in the Korengal Valley, has teamed up with Nick Quested to create a new documentary with National Geographic detailing the hell that is life in ISIS-controlled territory.


“Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS” is cut together from over 1,000 hours of footage, most of it filmed inside the so-called caliphate.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
ISIS members conduct a checkpoint in their territory. The footage comes from an upcoming National Geographic documentary. (Image: YouTube/Deadline Hollywood)

This 13-minute teaser tells the story of families trying to escape, at first with smugglers and then on their own when their smuggler is caught by ISIS.

(Be warned that some of the images in the documentary are disturbing)

Previous reporting has shown how ISIS maintains control in its territory, how it makes its money, and how it recruits and deploys fighters.

None of it is good.

Torture and public executions are used to keep populations cowed, and money is raised through debilitating taxes, sex slavery, robbery, and other pursuits. And its fighters are recruited through international networks and then deployed at half pay or less, often as undertrained frontline fighters that amount to little more than human shields.

The full documentary is scheduled to air June 11.

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Major changes are in the works for Marine Corps Scout Snipers

Since the days of Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock and his exploits in Vietnam, the image of Marine Corps Scout Snipers has struck fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.


Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

And for good reason.

The Corps has one of the most comprehensive — and toughest — training schools for its sniper teams, with a grueling curriculum of long-range shooting, covert reconnaissance and advanced camouflage.

And that’s the problem, Corps infantry leaders say.

Marine officials have confirmed that Commandant Gen. Robert Neller is considering a plan that would make being a Scout Sniper a primary military occupational specialty in the Marine Corps, a move infantry leaders say would help units better meet the increasing demand for these highly-skilled specialists.

A Marine spokesperson declined to comment on whether the Commandant would sign off on the changes but said the Corps is looking into how to improve its Scout Sniper cadre.

“The Marine Corps is currently assessing the best way to train and sustain its Scout Snipers,” Marine spokesperson 1st Lt. Danielle Phillips told WATM. “It’s important we are thorough in our review to determine the best way the Corps can improve this vital capability.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Marine Scout Snipers play a key role in forward reconnaissance and observation for infantry battalions. Marine leaders say they can’t get enough of them the way the training is set up today. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

According to officers familiar with the process who spoke to We Are The Mighty on background, the way the Corps staffs its sniper platoons falls far short of the authorized goal of around 20 per platoon. One leader said on average a platoon has four trained snipers “if we’re lucky.”

Read More: This is what makes Marine Scout Snipers so deadly

“A lot of kids come to the sniper school not prepared or not fully qualified, so they fail out,” the infantry leader said. “So we’re just not able to maintain the number of snipers we need in a battalion.”

That’s why Neller was forwarded a plan to make the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS a primary one, in hopes that the Corps will do more to make sure enough of the sharpshooters get to the fleet where they’re needed.

“There’s a struggle to find Marines who have the time to train up and get to a ‘school level’ of success,” said a senior Marine sniper familiar with the MOS change proposal. “Right now it’s almost impossible.”

The senior Scout Sniper, who spoke on background to We Are The Mighty, said if the change is approved, a Marine who signed on as an 0317 would go through boot camp and the School of Infantry then would immediately be sent to a Basic Scout Sniper course. After that, the Marine would go back to the fleet to fill a Scout Sniper job in a platoon rather than leaving to chance the option of being pulled into another combat arms job.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
If infantry leaders and senior Scout Snipers have their way, new Marines entering the Corps will have the option to enlist as an 0317 and go directly to sniper training after the School of Infantry. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Today, Marines who are selected for Scout Sniper have already completed one deployment and are approaching their end of active service, making it hard to keep snipers in the Corps even if they get the secondary MOS, the sniper leader said.

“There’s no way to make sure they stay in the sniper community,” he said.

As part of the change, the Corps is looking into modifying the Basic Scout Sniper course to focus more on the “scout” part of the training as opposed to shooting skills, the senior Marine leaders said.

Over the years, scout snipers have played an increasing role in reconnaissance and clandestine observation of targets where infantry leaders need “eyes on” key areas. Additionally, it’s been increasingly difficult to teach the advanced marksmanship skills that were once part of the basic sniper curriculum, contributing to the wash-out rates and making it harder for Marines to prepare for the sniper school.

The senior sniper said a lot of the advanced shooting techniques and other sniper-specific skills can be taught by senior NCOs once the new 0317 gets to his platoon. After a deployment in a sniper platoon, the Scout Sniper is better prepared for an advanced course and will help form a more seasoned cadre of leaders back at the platoon, he said.

But there are critics, senior Marine leaders acknowledge, particularly when it comes to the training changes.

“The old timers are pointing a bony finger at us and saying the new plan waters down sniper training,” the senior sniper said. “That’s an emotional response to how it used to be.”

“Nobody’s watering down what the Scout Sniper is and what he can do,” he added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ejection seat manufacturer kicks blame for B-1 problems

The U.S. Air Force is still investigating what went wrong after a B-1B Lancer experienced an engine fire followed by an ejection mishap in early 2018, forcing it to request an emergency landing.

But UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, wants to be clear: The seat itself is not the problem.

Whether you’re talking about a fighter jet or a bomber, the ejection seat is a complicated system that propels a pilot out of the aircraft in an emergency, John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC, said in a recent interview with Military.com. “There’s an electronic sequencing system, especially if you have multiple seats,” as in the B-1 bomber.


After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC believes “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” he said.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters in July 2018, “What we’ve learned from the investigation is there are actually two pathways to fire the seat, and there was one particular part that had gotten crimped, so that — when he pulled the handles — the signal to the ejection seat didn’t flow.”

But Fyfe said the issue has been oversimplified in media reports. It’s been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” he said.

While UTC also makes entire ejection systems, on “this particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

B-1B Lancers sit on the flightline at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

There’s also a hatch removal system, which blows each hatch above the four seats in the bomber, Fyfe said. “That sequences the order that the seats go out of the cockpit and has an inherent delay so that whatever’s above you, whether it’s a canopy … or hatches … those blow and there’s an opening. And then the seats fire.”

The service in June 2018 grounded its B-1B bomber fleet over safety concerns related to the ejection seat problem. The stand-down was a direct result of the emergency landing the Lancer made May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas. It was reported at the time that the B-1B, from Dyess Air Force Base, was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of an engine fire.

Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed that the bomber, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.

Weeks later, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed that a rear ejection seat didn’t blow.

The back ceiling hatch, which hovers over either the offensive or defensive weapons systems officer (WSO) depending on mission set, was open, although all four crew members were shown sitting on the Midland flight line in photos after landing the aircraft.

Air Force leaders have said the issue has not affected overseas operations and that maintenance crews have prioritized fixes on the faulty systems for bombers carrying out missions across the globe.

“I got an update here recently on the delivery schedule for the last lot to make sure those seats are healthy,” Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters at the annual Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference outside Washington, D.C., in September 2018.

“What you’ll do is you’ll use the good airplanes a lot more,” he said then. “And we give the commanders some latitude as to what they will fly and what they will and won’t fly in terms of risk. But in the end, we’re not going to put anyone in a position where they’re not safe.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever female admiral died at age 98

Retired Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk, the Navy’s first female admiral, passed away July 21, 2018. She was 98 years old.

“It took 197 years and a forward-looking Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, to break with tradition before Alene Duerk became the first woman admiral in the U.S. Navy,” said Naval History and Heritage Command director Sam Cox. “But the credit goes to Duerk. From the crucible of caring for wounded sailors, Marines and prisoners of war during World War II in the Pacific, she blazed a trail of stellar performance in tough jobs, serving as an inspiration for an ever increasing number of women officers who have followed her path.”


Born in Defiance, Ohio, on March 29, 1920, she received nursing training at the Toledo [Ohio] Hospital School of Nursing, from which she earned her diploma in 1941. From there, Duerk entered the U.S. Naval Reserve and was appointed an ensign in the Nurse Corps.

“Alene Duerk was a strong and dedicated trail blazer who embodied the very principles that continue to guide Navy Medicine today,” commented Vice Adm. Forrest Faison, Navy surgeon general, upon learning of her passing. “She will forever be remembered as a servant leader who provided the best care to those who defended our nation, honoring the uniform we wear and the privilege of leadership.”

Her first tours of duty included ward nurse at Naval Hospital Portsmouth in Virginia, Naval Hospital Bethesda in Maryland, and sea service aboard the Navy hospital ship, USS Benevolence (AH 13), in 1945. While anchored off the coast of Eniwetok, Duerk and the crew of the Benevolence would attend to the sick and wounded being brought back from the Third Fleet’s operations against Japan.

Upon cessation of hostilities on Sept. 2, 1945, Duerk and the Benevolence crew took on the task of repatriating liberated Allied prisoners of war, an endeavor that solidified her commitment to nursing and patient care.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020

An undated official portrait of Rear Adm. Alene B. Duerk.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Years later, when asked about her service for the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s History Project, Duerk said, “The time I was aboard the hospital ship and we took the prisoners of war, that was something I will never forget . . . that was the most exciting experience of my whole career.”

Thereafter, Duerk was assigned to Naval Hospital Great Lakes until being released from active service in 1946.

In 1951, Duerk returned to active duty serving as a nursing instructor at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Portsmouth, Va. and later as inter-service education coordinator at the Naval Hospital Philadelphia, Penn.
Her skills in ward management, surgical nursing and mentoring would be put to use over the next two decades while serving at hospitals in San Diego; and Yokosuka, Japan; at the Recruiting Station in Chicago; and in Wash., D.C.

In May 1970, following assignments as assistant for Nurse Recruitment in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) and assistant head of Medical Placement Liaison (Nurse Corps) at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Duerk was appointed director of the Navy Nurse Corps.

Over the next five years, Duerk provided direction for the Nurse Corps, updating policies affecting Navy Medicine and expanding the sphere of nursing into ambulatory care, anesthesia, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

Her selection to the rank of rear admiral was approved by President Richard Nixon on April 26, 1972. The first woman to be selected for flag rank, she was advanced on June 1, 1972.

Rear Adm. Duerk retired in 1975, but remained a strong advocate for Navy nursing through the remainder of her life.

Duerk was awarded the Naval Reserve Medal, American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze star; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Asia Clasp; and the National Defense Service Medal with bronze star.

Duerk’s biography offers greater insight into her service, it can be found online at the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command here: http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/women-in-the-navy/first-female-flag-officer.html

See the entry on Duerk at the Library of Congress Veteran’s History Project online here: http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.28852

The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.

For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.history.navy.mil.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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Veterans in Congress call for ban exemptions for Iraqi interpreters

Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.


The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.

The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.

Related: Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Brown Jr. one of TIME’s most influential people of 2020
Spc. Alaa Jaza, an Arabic linguist, advises Iraqi Army soldiers with the 73rd Brigade, 15th Division, on how to set battle positions to avoid friendly fire during a training event at Camp Taji, Iraq, March 25, 2015. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, CJTF-OIR Public Affairs

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.

Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.

“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”

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