China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

China is voicing support for the possible U.S.-North Korea summit, despite concerns that it will be left out of talks that could dramatically alter regional security and political dynamics.


U.S. President Donald Trump surprised the world when he agreed to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s offer to meet about ending Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Also read: South Korea’s plan to convince President Trump to visit North Korea

The rapid turn toward diplomacy could defuse building tensions over the North’s accelerated testing of missile and nuclear devices to develop a nuclear-armed long- range missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

The Trump administration has led a “maximum pressure” campaign that imposed tough sanctions on Pyongyang, and planned for possible military action, if needed, to force the Kim government to give up its nuclear program.

 

Chinese support

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was delighted with the progress being made to reduce regional tensions and facilitate direct talks between Trump and Kim.

The Chinese leadership has closely consulted the U.S. and South Korea on the prospects of talks. Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Science in China said Beijing has nothing to fear from being left on the sidelines of the upcoming summit between Washington and its ally in Pyongyang.

More: North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

“Beijing’s role will not be diminished. Neither will China’s interests be compromised if the U.S. engages in direct talks with the North Koreans,” said Lu.

The Global Times, China’s Communist Party newspaper, also reacted to the prospect of a Trump/Kim summit by urging the Chinese people to “avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized.”

Also anxiety

Yet other China scholars in the region worry that Trump’s diplomatic initiative could undermine Beijing’s influence and further strain already tense relaxations between Xi and Kim.

“There is evidently anxiety on the progress being made in the absence of its [China’s] influence all of a sudden,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, a professor with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies in Seoul.

North Korea has still not reacted to Trump’s response, nor confirmed the offer for a summit that was communicated though a South Korean envoy that met with Kim in Pyongyang.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation of South Korea’s president. (Photo released by KCNA)

If the summit does happen, Trump would be the first head of state who Kim Jong Un will meet since he came to power in 2012. The North Korean leader has yet to meet with Chinese President Xi.

Even though North Korea is dependent on China for over 90 percent of its trade, relations between the two allies has been strained over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The young leader of North Korea has also not cultivated friendly ties with China, and has repeatedly ignored Beijing’s calls for Pyongyang to refrain from provocative missile and nuclear tests.

Related: Analysts say that despite North Korean missile test, Kim Jong-un is likely years away from an ICBM

In contrast, Kim Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader, often visited with the leaders in Beijing, despite his own disagreement with China over nuclear weapons. In the 2000s China led six party talks – that included the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia — to reach a denuclearization deal. But in 2009 Kim Jong Il walked away from these talks to resume his country’s nuclear development program.

President Xi’s frustration with past failure and with the young North Korea leader may also be part the reason why Beijing is willing to sit out the denuclearization talks this time.

“China wants to play some role, but the greatest obstacle is Kim Jong Un’s hostility against China,” said Shi Yinhong, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing.

Improving U.S.-North Korea relations could further estrange Kim from Xi. With a nuclear deal in place, the Trump administration would no longer need Beijing’s support on sanctions and could take a more confrontational approach to deal with Chinese trade issues and to counter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

Aligned benefits

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet
Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, linking Dandong with North Korea.

For China, there are clear benefits to a North Korea nuclear deal. It would reduce the potential for conflict in the region and restore expanding cross border economic activity.

Rather than lead to confrontation with the U.S. on other issues, there is also speculation that Beijing could leverage its support of U.S. led sanctions to end Washington’s objections to China’s claims in the South China Sea, or to the “One China Principle” on Taiwan.

“There have been discussions about trying to obtain the cooperation of the U.S. to unify Taiwan into China, after securing a good deal with the U.S. on the North Korea issue,” said Seo Jeong-kyung, with the Sungkyun Institute of China Studies.

A nuclear deal would also increase pressure on the United States and South Korea to reduce their military presence and remove the THAAD missile defense shield that was deployed on South Korea in 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the China and Taiwan dueling propaganda videos

Mainland China made a video of its fighter jets flying around Taiwan, so Taiwan returned fire with a video of its forces preparing to a repel a Chinese invasion.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a music video titled “My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island” on Feb. 3, 2019. The upbeat video released ahead of the Chinese New Year calls for reunification with Taiwan, a priority for the Chinese military.


Taiwan has formally protested. “This approach aims at reunifying Taiwan with force and will only have counterproductive results as Taiwanese will find it repulsive and distasteful,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement on the matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zyFpYRyOY0
《我的战鹰绕着宝岛飞》

www.youtube.com

Watch Mainland China’s video below:

In addition to the sharp rebuke, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released its own video, a 90-second video named “Freedom Isn’t Free” that features clips from 2018’s military exercises.

“Many men and women serving in the armed forces will miss New Year’s Eve dinners with their families, but they will not be absent from standing on guards to protect the country,” the ministry said in its statement on Facebook.

“Our resolve to protect every inch of the nation’s territory has never wavered, our constant efforts to strengthen the military’s combat ability has never changed.”


onstandby24/7

www.facebook.com

Watch Taiwan’s response video here:

In an earlier address, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to rule out the use of force to secure the reunification of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese general warned a top US admiral that “if anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Chinese military regularly conducts so-called “encirclement drills” around Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory that Beijing perceives as a renegade province.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a helicopter snatch soldiers out of water in awesome 360 video

A 360-degree video from the US Army shows how the military rapidly inserts and extracts soldiers in areas where a helicopter can’t safely land, and it’s insanely cool.

The video, taken by members of the Army’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, shows a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the 2nd Batallion, 25th Aviation Regiment snatching a team of soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division out of the water during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) training.



wet-SPIE extraction training (360 video)

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(Click and drag your pointer across the screen to rotate the video and get the full 360-degree experience)

A variation of the Vietnam War-era troop transfer approach known as the Stabilized Body (STABO) method, SPIE can be carried out on land and in the water, The War Zone, which first took note of the Army’s new video, reported Nov. 18, 2018.

Standard SPIE ropes run from 120 to 150 feet in length and can be used to carry anywhere from one to ten people at a time. For insertion, the SPIE system is considered impractical compared to fast rope rappelling, but this method has its advantages for “wet” extractions.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Reconnaissance Training Company Marines received an aerial view of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California during Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training at San Mateo Landing Zone.

(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez)

The way it works is relatively simple. Troops hook their harnesses to a rope attached to a helicopter, which lifts them up to a safe height (above any potentially dangerous obstacles) and then flies away with them dangling below.

At the landing zone, the troops are lowered down one at a time to unhook and clear the way for the next person.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Marines hang from a UH-1Y helicopter during special patrol insertion and extraction training at Stone Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Sept. 23, 2015.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Austin A. Lewis)

This somewhat unusual insertion/extraction approach, initially developed for jungle warfare, gives the military more options in contested areas, rough terrain, and on water. The new SPIE video from the Army was filmed off the coast of Hawaii.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy and Marines train for sea invasions at BaltOps 2019

When US Marines and sailors arrived in the Baltic region in June for 2019’s Baltic Operations exercise, they did so as national leaders came together in Western Europe for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

But the 47th iteration of BaltOps wasn’t tailored to that anniversary, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Sellin and Marine Maj. Jeff Starr, two officers tasked with planning amphibious operations for BaltOps 2019, in a June 2019 interview.

When they started planning in February 2019, they were aware of the timing, but the schedule was shaped by more immediate concerns. “This is the best weather time to be in this area of the world,” Sellin said.


Sellin and Starr focused on big-picture planning and sought to get the most out of the exercises — “ensuring that we were able to include as many possible craft, as many … landing craft on the amphibious side as possible,” Starr said

“As we traveled and visited all these different countries and different landing locations,” Starr added, “we really had an eye for the specific capabilities and limitations of all the craft that were going to be involved, so that we could make sure to get the maximum inclusion for our NATO partners and allies.”

Below, you can see how the US and its partners trained for one of the most complex operations any military does, and how they did it in an increasingly tense part of the world.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ty-Chon Montemoino briefs US and Spanish marines on boarding a landing craft utility while aboard the USS Fort McHenry.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles prepare to exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US and Spanish Marines exit the well deck of the USS Fort McHenry on a landing craft utility, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gnierzno, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines and sailors and Romanian and Spanish Marines secure a beach after disembarking from a Polish using Soviet Tracked Amphibious Transports and from Landing Craft Utility ships using Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo Vehicles and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Members of the US Navy Fleet Survey Team conduct a hydrographic beach survey in Ravlunda, Sweden, ahead of BALTOPS 2019, May 8, 2019.

(Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/Kaley Turfitt)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines disembark a landing craft utility during a tactics exercise in Sweden, June 19, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines exchange information with Spanish marines on the flight deck of the USS Fort McHenry, June 14, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines and Romanian marines secure a beach after disembarking from Polish mine layer/landing ship ORP Gniezno in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Royal Marines exit a British navy Merlin MK 4 helicopter via fast rope as part of an amphibious assault in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

11 countries joined the BaltOps amphibious task group, and personnel from four countries took part in the landings. “Contrary to popular belief, the language barriers typically don’t prove too concerning for these planning efforts,” Starr said. “What does prove a little bit challenging for us is various communications systems and how they work interoperably.”

Lithuania borders the Russian province of Kaliningrad along the Baltic Sea, placing some of the amphibious exercises close to Russia.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Spanish amphibious assault vehicles exit the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Chris Roys)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

A Polish PTS-M carries Romanian Marines ashore during an amphibious assault exercise at Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

Like other officials involved in BaltOps, Sellin and Starr stressed that the exercise wasn’t directed at any other country. But tensions between Russia and NATO remain elevated after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — particularly around the Baltic states and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are NATO members (and rely on NATO air forces to patrol their airspace) as is Norway.

Sweden and Finland are not in NATO but have responded to increasing tension in the region. Both have worked more closely with NATO in addition to bolstering their own militaries.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines march to the beach from a landing craft utility for an amphibious assault exercise in Klaipeda, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

A Royal Marine disembarks the USS Mount Whitney onto a landing craft vehicle attached to British Royal Navy ship HMS Albion in the Baltic Sea, June 16, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Scott Barnes)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Landing craft utility vessels stand by at sea after transporting Marines during an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Romanian Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle exit a landing craft utility as a part of an amphibious landing demonstration in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marines perform a simulated amphibious assault from a landing craft utility in Lithuania, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

A US Marine and Spanish Marines buddy rush across the beach following an amphibious landing demonstration during the final event of NATO exercise Baltic Operations 2019 in Lithuania, June 16, 2019, June 16, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Tawanya Norwood)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

A US Navy landing craft offloads vehicles during an amphibious exercise at Kallaste Beach in Estonia, June 12, 2019.

(US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Jack D. Aistrup)

BaltOps 2019 took place just after the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and while that still colors popular perceptions of amphibious operations, Starr and Sellin said they don’t plan for the kind of massive landing that put hundreds of thousands of Allied troops ashore in Normandy in 1944.

On June 6, 1944, more than 130,000 Allied troops rushed ashore on Normandy’s beaches as part of Operation Overlord, the beginning of the assault known as D-Day.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Romanian Marines storm the beach during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019’s Distinguished Visitors Day in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

US Marine Cpl. Timothy Moffitt runs ashore during an amphibious assault exercise for Baltic Operations 2019 in Palanga, Lithuania, June 15, 2019.

(US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Antonio Garcia)

“The reality is as amphibious planners, our job is to give our commanders a variety of options … for ways to accomplish the mission, and it’s very much not limited to putting a huge force ashore,” Sellin said.

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

Articles

Former US general calls for pre-emptive strike on North Korea

The former top American commander in South Korea on Thursday said the Trump administration must be ready to launch a pre-emptive strike on North Korea before it tests a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.


“I don’t think any talking, any diplomacy, is going to convince Kim Jong-un to change,” retired Army Gen. Walter Sharp said of the North Korean leader in suggesting the possibility of a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the nuclear threat.

Also read: As North Korea gets more ambitious with missiles, Japan looks to US for backup

Should North Korea put a missile such as the three-stage Taepodong 2 on the launchpad, and the U.S. was unsure whether it carried a satellite or a nuclear warhead, the missile should be destroyed, said Sharp, the former commander of U..S. Forces-Korea and the United Nations Command from 2008 to 2011.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

The U.S. also must be ready to respond with overwhelming force if North Korea retaliated, Sharp said. “If [Kim] responds back after we take one of these missiles out,” he should know “that there is a lot more coming his way, something he will fear,” Sharp said.

“I think we’re to that point that we need to have that capability. I am to that point,” he said, adding that the U.S. could not risk relying solely on anti-missile defenses to counter North Korean long-range missiles.

Sharp spoke at a panel discussion on challenges from North Korea at an all-day forum sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on the national security issues that will confront President-elect Donald Trump.

Others on the panel, while sharing Sharp’s concerns about the North Korean nuclear threat, worried about the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike. Despite North Korea’s nuclear tests, “there is potential in diplomacy,” said Christine Wormuth, the former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.

“I’m concerned about pre-emptive action on the launchpad,” Wormuth said. “What does Kim Jong-un do in response? I worry quite a bit about our ability to sort of manage a potential retaliation.”

During the campaign, Trump called Kim Jong-un a “bad dude” and a “maniac,” but also said he might be willing to meet with Kim over a hamburger to defuse tensions on the peninsula.

The panel discussion came a day after the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its export revenues. The latest sanctions were in response to the country’s fifth and largest underground nuclear weapons test, which occurred in September.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s exports of coal — its main export item — by about 60 percent and also imposed a ban on its export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the sanctions would cost North Korea about $800 million annually.

“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons, but this resolution imposes unprecedented costs,” she said.

In a statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the sanctions would have no effect on the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

“There will be no greater miscalculation than to think that Obama and his henchmen can use the cowardly sanctions racket to try to force us to give up our nuclear armament policy or undermine our nuclear power status,” the statement said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Air Force Secretary is a trained astronaut – and so much more

It’s time to put your politics away for a moment and prepare yourselves for the most badass service secretary since Teddy Roosevelt left his post as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. President Trump nominated Ambassador Barbara Barrett to be the Air Force’s new civilian leader. She already has close ties to the Air Force as a former administrator at the FAA and board member of the Aerospace Corporation.

Even though outgoing SecAF Heather Wilson was an Air Force officer and Barrett has never served in the Air Force, Barrett is still an accomplished aviator, scholar, and astronaut.


I wanted to make a joke about how much more accomplished and awesome she is than every previous SecAF, but have you seen the resumes of these people? Air Force Secretaries are the real Illuminati.

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

Except I guarantee Barbara Barrett can take all four of these guys in a fistfight.

Time will tell if Barrett will take the job. The lawyer turned Harvard-educated diplomat is probably busy heading the boards of some of the most influential and brilliant institutions of our time, including the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, The Smithsonian Institution, and the RAND Corporation. But the former Ambassador to Finland founded the Valley Bank of Arizona, partnered at a large law firm in her native Arizona, and worked at the top levels for Fortune 500 companies before age 30 – at a time when many women were relegated to getting coffee for middle management.

But let’s talk about feats of strength and athleticism that will win her the respect of all the troops, not just the ones under her command. An accomplished aviator, Barrett was the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier, she’s an inductee in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, and even trained with the Russians in Kazakhstan to be a backup astronaut on a 2009 international spaces station mission.

Back on Earth, she’s just as impressive. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Barrett didn’t stop there. As Ambassador to Finland, she biked hundreds of kilometers all around the country.

That’s a service secretary you can get behind… which you’ll have to because most of us would have trouble keeping up.

Articles

Obama says climate change is a bigger threat than ISIS

The White House released Sept. 21 a new presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies — including the Pentagon and CIA — to devote its defense and intelligence resources to fighting the impact of global warming.


The Obama administration order comes on the heels of a recent report from an environmental group that climate change is a significant and growing threat to national security.

“Climate change and associated impacts on U.S. military and other national security-related missions and operations could adversely affect readiness, negatively affect military facilities and training, increase demands for Federal support to non-federal civil authorities, and increase response requirements to support international stability and humanitarian assistance needs,” Obama wrote. “The United States must take a comprehensive approach to identifying and acting on climate change-related impacts on national security interests, including by maintaining its international leadership on climate issues.”

China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet
Mitchell Zuckoff, an author embedded with the Joint Recovery Mission – Greenland, signals to helicopter pilot Tom Andreassen, of Air Greenland, where to land near the nunatak on a glacier near Koge Bay, Greenland, Aug. 16, 2013. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta H. Disco.)

So what could the order mean for American troops and intelligence operators?

The military has faced several years of budget cuts, and several major programs, like the littoral combat ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, and the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, are having some real problems. The F-35 Lightning II is also having its teething problems (albeit those are resolving themselves).

A briefing document issued alongside the memorandum added that climate change is more of a threat to American security than cyber attacks or terrorism.

“For all the challenges and threats we face as a nation — from terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, from diseases like Ebola and Zika to Russian aggression in Ukraine — no threat is more terrifying in its global reach or more potentially destructive and destabilizing than climate change,” the memorandum said.

Despite painting the grim picture, the briefing, conducted by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Senior Advisor Brian Deese ended on a hopeful note.

“Just as we work to defeat any adversary before they have the ability to attack, we must similarly prepare for and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the briefing document says.

The move has drawn criticism from some. Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, said that the briefing document “reflects delusional group-think substituting for sound policy in the White House and Pentagon.”

“Preparations for bad weather and extreme events such as hurricanes are always prudent, but normal and even abnormal seasonal changes cannot be compared to deliberate attacks from armed human adversaries,” she said. “Furthermore, there is no way that our government or other governments can ‘mitigate’ dangerous weather, or even normal weather. It is unsettling to see high-level officials in the White House buying into narratives such as this.”

Alternate energy projects have been a priority in the Department of the Navy since President Obama took office in 2009. A Washington Free Beacon report last month noted that three of the major projects pushed by Navy Sec. Ray Mabus had not been cost-effective.

Donnelly also expressed concern that “the two documents appear to authorize a power grab on the part of unelected officials who would use ‘national security’ as an excuse to act upon unsupported theories of climate change.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Memorial Day let’s look a little deeper into our veteran characters

Breaking into Hollywood is hard. We all know that behind every working writer, director or actor there is a lot of hard work, failure and luck. I should know; my path to booking the role of Gilly, an Afghan war veteran on FX’s Mayans, came from actually going to war and being lucky enough to survive.

In Gilly, I’ve tried to channel the pure joy that veterans feel when they are part of a pack, either in uniform or riding motorcycles. There is also the fierce loyalty to one another that can turn into a heated argument or a hug. But at the end of the day, there is reality.


China looks on as Trump and Kim decide to meet

(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)

My reality as I was writing this was to stop to answer a call. It was a call I didn’t want to receive. I was being notified that one of my friends – a Marine combat veteran – had committed suicide. In an instant, his story was over. He wanted to be an actor. We were making plans to meet up in Los Angeles, so I could help him network and find his way into film and television. He had so much more to give this world… but now he’s gone. This Memorial Day, I will remember him, but more importantly, I will channel the hurt inside into my craft.

War and homecoming are some of the greatest highs and lows of the human experience. The thrill of combat, the isolation of coming home as an outsider and the pain of losing a friend are the basis for characters that would impress Miesner, Chekhov and even Stanislavski. So the question I ask myself this Memorial Day is, why aren’t more veterans working in Hollywood?

I can’t tell you why, but what I can tell you is that veterans working in the entertainment industry have the potential to change the way the world sees those who serve and to create some of the most iconic moments of our generation. Thankfully, history is on my side. Audie Murphy, a decorated WWII veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor came to Hollywood and starred in over 40 films. His films, such as to Hell and Back, helped a nation come to terms after a massive world war. What most people don’t know is that James Cagney (yes that one) is the one who invited Murphy to Hollywood.

Seventy five years later, I am asking the Hollywood system to invite other veterans to join their ranks, as equals, just like I was embraced by the showrunners, cast and crew of the Mayans. In doing so, we have an opportunity to not only create amazing content but also harness some of the most captivating characters of our generation. Sadly, where we stand and who we are as veterans is not shown in the best light. That needs to change, and I intend to be a beacon for that change.

The common stereotype of combat veterans focuses on struggles with drinking, drugs, post-traumatic stress and even suicide while trying to find a sense of normalcy in society. Although there is truth in these experiences and I will never discount those who are hurting, it is a severe misrepresentation of who we are as a whole. The veteran community is filled with success stories — beautiful stories of courage, strength, and determination.

It wasn’t long ago when every gang member in a movie was portrayed as Hispanic or African American. Asians were depicted as liquor store owners who spoke broken English. Since that time, there has been a beautiful shift in the portrayal of other diversity groups, However, we still have a long way to go with regard to the portrayal of combat veterans.

(Courtesy of Vincent Vargas)

If there were more inspirational films with an honest narrative, would that have saved my friend? Would he have gravitated toward that inspiration and pulled himself from the darkness?

Maybe…

If we genuinely want to make a positive impact in the veteran community, we have to change the narrative! We have to tell stories about the ones who faced the hardships and adversity but continued to fight for their own success. We have to be more than they give us permission to be or expect us to be.

To my knowledge, out of the over 2.5 Million Americans who have deployed since 9/11, I am currently the only Iraq and Afghan war combat veteran to hold a recurring role on television series. I’m not sure why that is because there are so many talented veteran storytellers and actors out there. I don’t credit my success to any extensive training or some unbelievable skillset. It’s more of being at the “right place at the right time with the right look.” But since I am here, I’ve had the opportunity to see how Hollywood portrays us, and I am not exactly proud of how we are being represented.

What would make me proud is to see a massive influx of veterans working in the entertainment industry. Whether they’re onscreen or behind it, I want us to tell our own stories. And I want those stories to be genuine, successful and make us better people.

The world needs to know that we are more than just boots and weapons. The world needs to know that we have lives, families, accomplishments and goals long past the physical wars we fought.

If we want to see this change, we have to lead by example and become that change. Seeing the potential in ourselves and building up our brothers and sisters is literally a matter of life or death.

Will you stand with me and make that change?

R.L.T.W.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons the married service member is just as much a “dependa” as the spouse

The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.

Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.


The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.

Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?

While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:

Deployment

When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.

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Even when they are home, they aren’t really home

Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?

The PCS struggle is real

The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.

  • Organizing for the PCS
  • Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
  • Gathering copies of all the medical records
  • Finding new providers for the family
  • School enrollment
  • Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
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Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.

U.S. Air Force

Unit support

Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.

Caregiving

More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.

The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines, soldiers, and sailors participate in joint training exercise

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.

The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.

JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.


The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.

“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”

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U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.

The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.

After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.

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U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”

The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.

“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”

Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.

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U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”

All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.

“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

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Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

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U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

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In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Anti-drone protesters rally at Air Force Base north of Vegas

Anti-drone activists are protesting at an Air Force Base 40 miles north of Las Vegas where two demonstrators were arrested for blocking an entrance gate last week.


Codepink and Veterans for Peace are among the groups that gathered again Oct. 9 at the entrance to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs to protest the use of unmanned aircraft in military actions.

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Logos for CODEPINK and Veterans for Peace from CODEPINK.org and VeteransForPeace.org

Veterans for Peace spokesman Toby Blome of California says thousands of innocent children have been killed by drone warfare.

Blome and JoAnn Lingle of Indiana were arrested at the base on Oct. 6, the 16th anniversary of the war on Afghanistan.

The US military first used assassin drones there in 2001.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force prepares for knockdown fight near Russia

Russia has positioned a considerable naval armada in the Mediterranean near Syria after accusing the US of plotting a false-flag chemical-weapons attack in rebel-held areas — and it looks as if it’s preparing for war with the US.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, recently said the US had built up its naval forces in the Mediterranean and accused it of “once again preparing major provocations in Syria using poisonous substances to severely destabilize the situation and disrupt the steady dynamics of the ongoing peace process.”


But the Pentagon on Aug. 28, 2018, denied any such buildup, calling Russia’s claims “nothing more than propaganda” and warning that the US military was not “unprepared to respond should the president direct such an action,” CNN’s Ryan Browne reported. Business Insider reviewed monitors of Mediterranean maritime traffic and found only one US Navy destroyer reported in the area.

The same naval monitors suggest Russia may have up to 13 ships in the region, with submarines on the way.

International investigators have linked Syria’s government to more than 100 chemical attacks since the beginning of Syria’s civil war, and Russia has frequently made debunked claims about the existence or perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.

Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russian foreign policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Business Insider that Moscow was alleging a US false flag possibly to help support a weak Syrian government in cracking down on one of the last rebel strongholds, crackdowns for which chemical attacks have become a weapon of choice.

“Using chemical weapons terrorizes civilians, so raising fear serves one purpose: It is especially demoralizing those who oppose” Syrian President Bashar Assad, Borshchevskaya told Business Insider, adding that Assad may look to chemical weapons because his conventional military has weakened over seven years of conflict.

Since President Donald Trump took office, the US has twice struck Syria in response to what it called incontrovertible evidence of chemical attacks on civilians. Trump’s White House has warned that any further chemical attacks attributed to the Syrian government would be met with more strikes.

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Russian Akula-class submarine Vepr (K-157).

Looks like war

This time, Russia looks as if it’s up to more than simply conducting a public-relations battle with the US. Russia’s navy buildup around Syria represents the biggest since Moscow kicked off its intervention in Syria with its sole aircraft carrier in 2015.

But even with its massive naval presence, Moscow doesn’t stand a chance of stopping any US attack in Syria, Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical-consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider.

“Physically, the Russians really can’t do anything to stop that strike,” Lamrani said. “If the US comes in and launches cruise missiles” — as it has in past strikes — “the Russians have to be ideally positioned to defend against them, still won’t shoot down all of them, and will risk being seen as engaging the US,” which might cause US ships to attack them.

Lamrani said that in all previous US strikes in Syria, the US has taken pains to avoid killing Russian forces and escalating a conflict with Syria to a conflict between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — “not because the US cannot wipe out the flotilla of vessels if they want to,” he said, but because the US wouldn’t risk sparking World War III with Russia over the Syrian government’s gassing of its civilians.

“To be frank,” Lamrani said, “the US has absolute dominance” in the Mediterranean, and Russia’s ships wouldn’t matter.

If Russian ships were to engage the US, “the US would use its overwhelming airpower in the region, and every single Russian vessel on the surface will turn into a hulk in a very short time,” Lamrani said.

So instead of an epic naval and aerial clash, expect Russia to stick to its real weapon for modern war: propaganda.

The US would most likely avoid striking Syria’s most important targets, as Russian forces integrated there raise the risk of escalation, and Russia would most likely then describe the limited US strike as a failure, as it has before.

Russia has made dubious and false claims about its air defenses in Syria, and it could continue down that path as a way of saving face should the US once again strike in Syria as if Russia’s forces inspired no fear.

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