China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.
A report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.
China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.
While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.
Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.
In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”
Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.
In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.
Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.
“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.
Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.
Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.
The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.
Okay let’s be honest, it’s the combat planes that get most of the attention.
What airplane did “Top Gun” turn into a star? The F-14 Tomcat. “Iron Eagle’s” sex appeal came from the spritely F-16 Fighting Falcon. Even “Flight of the Intruder” made the portly A-6 Intruder attack plane the belle of the ball.
An E-2D Hawkeye and a C-2A Greyhound assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 fly over USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) as the ship travels to its new home port of San Diego, California. Zumwalt was commissioned in Baltimore, Maryland, Oct. 15 and is the first in a three-ship class of the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced multi-mission guided-missile destroyers. (U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt/Released)
So, where does that leave some of the support planes? Out in the cold, and that just ain’t fair.
A Navy release on Oct. 21 centers on one of the most important planes in a carrier’s air wing – the E-2 Hawkeye airborne radar and control plane. Specifically, the new E-2D, which is making its Pacific Fleet debut with Air Wing 11 on board USS Nimitz (CVN 68), is a game-changer for the Sea Service.
The E-2D made its debut with the fleet last year with VAW-125 when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) deployed to the Middle East, Mediterranean Sea, and in the Western Pacific.
The E-2 has been in service since 1964 – sharing the same airframe as the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery, or “COD,” aircraft. Initially, it used the AN/APS-138 radar, which was later replaced with the AN/APS-145. The E-2C entered service in 1971, and since then has been continuously upgraded.
The E-2D, though, adds a new radar, the AN/APY-9. This Active Electronically Scanned Array radar not only provides more detection capability, it makes it harder for an opposing plane to know if it is being seen.
The E-2D has far more than better eyes, though. It also can help guide missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the RIM-174 SM-6 against aerial targets.
But wait, there’s more! The E-2D also has some other upgrades that will help make this plane even more of a game-changer than it was before. It will gain a mid-air refueling capability, enabling it to stay aloft longer. It also will feature a glass cockpit, which not only improves situational awareness for the crew, but will allow the plane’s co-pilot to serve as a tactical controller in emergencies.
So, give the E-2 its due. Without this plane, it’s a safe bet that Maverick and Iceman would probably have no idea where the bandits were until it was too late.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
The Battle of the Bulge was a Hail Mary pass by a führer who was quickly running out of options. Hitler desperately needed a decisive victory on either his Western or Eastern front. Remembering his series of victories after sneaking through the Ardennes forest in 1940, he went for a repeat in 1944.
On Dec. 16, 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks slammed into 80,000 Allied troops. Listen to troops who were there explain what it was like to turn away Hitler’s desperate gambit.
1. Over 1 million men were involved in the battle.
Instead, rookies became veterans overnight and fatigued veterans dug deep to slow the German advance. Anti-tank teams targeted choke points in villages and mountain passes, creating flaming barricades of destroyed German armor that slowed the Blitzkrieg to a crawl.
3. The famous “NUTS!” response to a surrender request was basically bored paratroopers joking around.
Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe and Col. Harry Kinnard II at Bastogne after the battle. Photo: US Army courtesy of the Eisenhower Archives.
McAuliffe had twice said, “Nuts,” when briefed on the surrender request, first to his acting chief of staff that woke him and then to his headquarter staff. When it came time to draft the formal response, McAuliffe couldn’t think of what to write. His men, who had found the “nuts” comments funny, urged him to just respond with those four letters.
4. German soldiers illegally wore American uniforms to sneak behind enemy lines.
A major part of Hitler’s gamble was the belief that he could sow disorder in the American lines by sneaking English-speaking Germans in and having them sabotage equipment.
5. One of the worst war crimes committed against Allied troops in World War II took place during the battle.
The Malmédy Massacre occurred Dec. 17, 1944, when a group of over 100 Americans, mostly artillerymen with the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, were captured by German SS troops taking part in the German attack.
Ultimately, the Battle of the Bulge failed and the Americans continued their advance. With the large losses of both men and material Germany suffered in the Battle of the Bulge, the Third Reich was doomed. Hitler would go on to kill himself Apr. 30, 1945 (or, maybe not) and Germany surrendered May 8.
The Times Free Press in November 2016 published a story that included information about Vietnam veteran Stephen D. Holloway, who was speaking at a Veterans Day event in Pikeville, Tenn., and claimed to be the most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Holloway’s public claims were challenged by veterans of Vietnam and other conflicts, and the Times Free Press has spent more than a year investigating his military record. To date, Holloway maintains his claims are accurate, though few of his medals and awards have convincing documentation. This is part 2 of a two-day series.
The U.S. Supreme Court deemed lying about military service or medals a matter of free speech when in 2012 it struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Intentionally lying about, embellishing or fabricating one’s military service, medals or awards was protected speech under the First Amendment, the court ruled. But in 2013, President Barack Obama signed a revised version of the Stolen Valor Act that defined the violation as relating to fraudulent claims about military service “with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”
In other words, lies that materially benefited the person who uttered them could be a criminal violation. That’s aside from the fact that many veterans feel lies about military records or medals diminishes the sacrifices made by others.
The embellishment of military service records is not rare. But it is rarely prosecuted by federal authorities under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
Mary Schantag, chairwoman of the POW Network, has investigated hundreds of cases in which people’s lofty claims about their military service turned out to be false.
She said that, without a prosecutor willing to take on a stolen valor case, the best way to fight back usually is to publicly question a person’s claims.
“If he was asked, did he refuse to provide orders? Did he claim they burned? Did he claim he lost them? Did he claim they’re secret?” Schantag said.
“The ball basically is in his court, and there would be a lot of guys out there asking the same question: Why is it on his DD-214? [military discharge papers] Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the orders? Where’s the evidence?”
Schantag said she has seen close to 100 cases in which false information got into military records, whether through self-editing, intimidation of a clerk who handled documents or other means.
“Unless there are orders for this someplace, unless [the claimant] has witnesses, it’s still questionable,” she said.
Violation of the Stolen Valor Act is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. The problem is finding a federal agency with the resources and staffing to devote to the cases, Schantag said.
“They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,” Schantag said. “It’s common sense. That’s reality. But the state level may have the ability to pick that up. It’s a federal crime in most instances, falsifying military records but it pales in comparison to the level of other crimes going on that the FBI has to go after.”
Several states have stolen valor laws on the books, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to news reports.
Schantag’s voice began to break when she described her passion for the issue.
“It is to make sure our military history and the lives lost to fight for freedom, to make sure those things are accurately told,” she said. “These liars are changing military history and if you think about it, 50 to 100 years from now, who’s going to be able to figure out the truth or a lie?”
Stolen valor takes away from those who spilled blood and, in some cases, lost their lives, she said.
“You get these guys that want that status,” Schantag said. “But they didn’t earn it. They don’t have the nightmares these other guys wake up with because of what they went through. They just want the recognition. They don’t want the pain. They don’t want the nightmares. They just want to be somebody’s hero, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Stolen valor has been a high-profile issue in East Tennessee and the region before.
Charles Kaczmarczyk and his wife, Martha, were the focus of an NBC “Dateline” program titled “Secrets in the Smoky Mountains” that aired in the fall of 2016, revealing how a Veterans Affairs investigation showed they faked military service and disabilities to obtain fraudulent benefits.
The investigation also led to the revelation that Martha Kaczmarczyk murdered her ex-husband as the con began. News reports detailed an initial indictment accusing Charles Kaczmarczyk of creating fake Air Force documents showing medals and decorations he did not earn, as the couple reaped benefits in their social status and finances.
The Monroe County couple is in prison now, with Martha sentenced to 50 years for her ex-husband’s murder.
In April, military veteran and former Holly Springs, Ga., police officer Shane Ladner was convicted by a Cherokee County jury on six felony counts of making false statements. Jurors found he lied about awards he received from the Army in the early 1990s, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
Ladner had told people he carried out top-secret missions in Central America, Cuba and Somalia. He led people to believe he was a decorated war hero who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during a firefight in Central America, according to the Journal.
Jurors convicted Ladner of submitting a falsified DD-214 to his former employers and to the Cherokee County Tag Office to obtain a tax-exempt Purple Heart license plate for his Ford F-150.
In a 2016 story about a Veterans Day ceremony in Pikeville, Tenn., Vietnam veteran Stephen Douglas Holloway told the Times Free Press he was a POW and had earned more than 50 medals, including nine Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, three Army Commendation Medals, three presidential citations and scores of others.
But those medals were not all listed on Holloway’s military severance documents the newspaper obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, part of the National Archives.
A primary release paper, the DD-214, is given to all military service members when they are discharged. Holloway has two DD-214s filed in the National Archive for his first enlistment. They’re identical except for the awards listed.
One of the National Archive copies and a matching copy provided by a family member show Holloway earned a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal.
The other says he also earned “(9) PURPLE HEARTS, BRONZE STAR, ARCOM W/V, SILVER STAR.”
Veteran students of military documents and fakery contacted by the Times Free Press saw several problems with that DD-214.
The awards are out of order, for one thing, and the rarity of a Silver Star, in combination with the other suspicious claims, raises questions about that award, as well. Of the 60 million people to have served in the American military, only about 130,000 earned the Silver Star, experts said.
Bruce Kendrick, a member of Ernie Pyle Chapter 1945 of the Military Order of Purple Hearts, said Holloway’s failure to provide proof of his awards is suspicious, too. Decorated veterans usually are happy to produce documentation of their service and medals, he said.
“If somebody sees me wearing this [military veteran’s] hat and they say, ‘I don’t believe you,’ then I’ll prove it. I don’t mind it. It’s not going to offend me or anything like that,” Kendrick said. “I’ll get out my DD-214 and if that doesn’t satisfy them, I’ll meet them somewhere else and I’ll bring them these things, and I’ll bring these pictures and I’ll bring them these orders and let them read them.
“It’s that important to me,” he said.
Two national experts in the area of stolen valor contend that anyone awarded nine Purple Hearts would be a national hero, a legend.
The fact that no one has heard of Holloway is one of many red flags raised, said Anthony Anderson, founder and CEO of Guardian of Valor LLC and a retired Army staff sergeant.
Virginian Doug Sterner, founder of the organization Home of Heroes and its website, echoes Anderson’s assessment. Sterner and his wife, Pam, in the last decade or so played a role in the early versions of the federal legislation.
Sterner noted details of the major decorations listed on Holloway’s DD-214. Pointing to horizontal alignment of the type and some differences in the shape of the characters and the spaces between them, he said the document looks like “it went through at least two iterations on at least two typewriters.”
Also, Sterner said the awards are in reverse order of the way they should be listed, with the most valorous medals first and the lesser ones — the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal — last.
“It’s obvious to me that those four awards were added to the DD-214 and were not put on there when the DD-214 was actually generated,” Sterner said.
Sterner said a fire at the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, destroyed 16-18 million military personnel files. Because of that, veterans are allowed to submit paperwork to be placed in their files, an opportunity that could be tempting for people who wanted to embellish their records.
Records show Holloway is a Vietnam veteran who served almost 27 months as a supply clerk with the 71st Transportation Battalion between Jan. 5, 1967, and Aug. 17, 1969, before being honorably discharged as an E-5, or Specialist Second-Class.
A Statement of Service obtained by the newspaper dated Aug. 1, 1983, said Holloway was honorably transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve on Aug. 17, 1969, where he remained until he was honorably discharged Sept. 7, 1971. Then he re-enlisted Sept. 8, 1971, for four years but was discharged “under honorable conditions” in just over 11 months.
According to The Fort Hood Sentinel, an Army newspaper, there are five types of discharge: Honorable; General, Under Honorable Conditions; Under Other than Honorable Conditions; Bad Conduct; and Dishonorable.
The documents obtained by the newspaper show Holloway’s rank at his second discharge as E-4, which is lower than E-5. The documents did not explain the difference, and other paperwork obtained by the Times Free Press — “2-1” jackets, manila document holders with an index listing the contents — link many of the claimed medals to the time period associated with the Army Reserve, despite the fact that the box for listing “wounds” is empty though Holloway claimed to have been wounded in combat nine times. Officials have said the 2-1 forms can be modified by civilians or veterans.
Anderson said that, given the medals he claims, Holloway should have at least maintained his rank or been given a significant promotion, unless there was a problem with his service.
The Times Free Press has asked the National Personnel Records Center for documents related to Holloway’s second tour of duty. The paper also contacted Holloway’s family members throughout the past year but, beyond providing one of the DD-214s the newspaper has now obtained, they have declined to participate in the story.
There are three vehicles at Holloway’s Hixson residence, two that bear Tennessee-issued Purple Heart license plates and one that has a Tennessee-issued Silver Star plate. The Times Free Press has verified that all three are registered in Holloway’s name.
Is there an investigation underway in Holloway’s case?
Since early summer, Anderson and Sterner’s requests for Holloway’s military service records have been stymied. Both say they were told the records had been released to someone else or possibly another government agency. The Times Free Press shared the records it obtained so far with the military experts and veterans who assisted with the story.
Anderson and Sterner said they have encountered only two reasons for the files to be removed by another government agency: an investigation to add earned commendations or awards or an investigation into a problem in the record.
When the United States as a nation was in its infancy, President George Washington even weighed in on the issue of claiming unearned military awards. On Aug. 7, 1782, as a military general, Washington issued a general order creating several new military decorations for the Continental Army, among them the Badge of Military Merit, which would later become the Purple Heart when it was reconstituted by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, according to the website dedicated to the history of the first president, mountvernon.org.
“[S]hould any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished,” Washington states in the order.
“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”
Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars. Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.
“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.
“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world. So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.
“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”
“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”
The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.
The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue. It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.
“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”
The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.
“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”
The problems the Marine Corps is having with its F/A-18 Hornet force have been a boon to one plane that was originally slated to go to the boneyard much earlier.
According to Foxtrot Alpha, the AV-8B Harrier has recently gained a new lease on life as upgrades are keeping the famed “jump jet” in service. In fact, the Harrier force has become more reliable in recent years, even as it too sees the effects of aging.
The Marine Corps is planning to replace both the F/A-18C/D Hornets and the AV-8B Harriers with the F-35B Lightning II, the Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35B has already been deployed to Japan, while the F-35A, operating from conventional land bases, just recently deployed to Estonia.
Originally, the Harriers were slated to be retired first, but the delays on the F-35 and a review that not only changed how the Marines used the Harrier, but also discovered that the Harrier airframes had far more flight hours left in the than originally thought gave them a new lease on life.
As a result, the Marines pushed through upgrades for the Harrier force, including newer AMRAAM missiles and the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound system that combined both GPS guidance with a laser seeker. Other upgrades will keep the Harriers flying well into the 2020s.
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)
The Harrier has been a Marine Corps mainstay since 1971 – often providing the close-air support for Marines in combat through Desert Storm and the War on Terror. The Harrier and Sea Harrier first made their mark in the Falklands War, where the jump jets helped the United Kingdom liberate the disputed islands after Argentinean military forces invaded.
Any time someone sets out to make a war film, he or she risks getting swept up into the action, the combat, the inherent drama that comes with the subject. The truly great war movies recognize the smaller elements, the ironies and subtleties of life during conflicts. Day One, a short film from U.S. Army veteran turned filmmaker Henry Hughes, is such a movie.
“We’re not having a lot of success in getting telling the soldier experience story,” says Hughes, an American Film Institute alum. “I don’t think we’ve changed much how we look at war and the stories that come out of it. Troops are portrayed as either victims or heroes. We still think war is ironic, that we go in and we’re surprised by the things that we find in war. Maybe there’s some bad things about it, and we’re like ‘oh that’s a surprise!’ But it’s not a surprise. War is a very mixed bag, but it can be spiritual and it can be fun and it can be dangerous and it can be morally wrong at times and it can also be one of the things you’re most proud of because you do some really good things.”
Day One is based on Hughes’ own experience with his translator while he was an infantry officer in 173d Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The movie follows a new female translator’s first day accompanying a U.S. Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist in Afghanistan. Her job brings up brutal complexities as gender and religious barriers emerge with lives hanging in the balance.
“Having a female interpreter definitely changed my perspective of fighting, particularly having been on two deployments,” Hughes says. “The first time, it feels very new and romantic and exciting. The second time, you aren’t seeing a lot of impact in the way you would like and so you start wondering if you’re doing the right thing. In this instance, I had this Afghan-American woman with me at all times, and she was the person I communicated with locals to and she had access to the Afghan women in a way that I have never had before.”
“In my first deployment we didn’t even look at the women,” Hughes continues. “I remember that was a thing we did as a company. When we were on a trail and a woman came by, we would clear the trail, turn out, and allow them to walk by. Now all of a sudden, I mean I’m not face to face with these women but my interpreter would tell me she just spoke with a woman that would give us a very different perspective from what we would usually get. It’s interesting in that way.”
Hughes’ Army perspective spans more than just his time as an Army officer. He was also a military brat, following his dad with the rest of the family, living in Germany and Texas. As an officer in the 173d, he went to Airborne and Ranger School, Armor School, and Scout Leaders Course to prepare for his time in Afghanistan during 2007 and 2008 and then again in 2010.
“I’m very interested in exploring the military stuff because it is such a hyperbolic life.” He says. “Things are just so condensed and so strange and powerful. It’s like the meaning of life is life hangs in balance sometimes. You get that moment in the military and most people don’t ever work in those types of absolutes.”
Hughes has always been the artistic type. He went to a high school that had a TV studio, which inspired the creative side of his personality. He’s also come to believe that the military is the perfect place to start a filmmaking career.
“You take so many lessons from your military experience and apply them into filmmaking because it is so team-oriented and team-based. The ability to communicate and draft up a single clear mission or objective. Those skills that I learned as a young officer are paying massive dividends now, being creative.”
Hughes also believes a good storyteller must step out of his or her comfort zone to empathize with the characters and relate them to the audience.
“With trying to express yourself artistically, you have to be a little bit more vulnerable. ‘What is actually at play here,’ as opposed to ‘How do I accomplish this?’ I think you have to be a little bit more introspective whereas in the military, we’re very external and action-driven. It’s just analysis but we all do tons of analysis in the military too. I think it’s a good thing.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to Syria on Dec. 11, declared victory, and announced the pullout of his troops.
Accompanied by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin spoke to Russian troops at the Khmeimim air base, which has been the headquarters of Russia’s military mission in Syria since its military fighter planes first arrived there in 2015.
In his remarks, Putin ordered the start of “withdrawal of troop contingents” from Syria, adding that a Russian presence would remain at both the air base and at the naval base in Tartus.
Putin congratulated the Russian troops involved in Syrian combat, saying,
The homeland is proud of you … and if the terrorists raise their heads again, we will strike them with such blows which they have not yet seen.
Syria’s six-year civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced more than 6 million civilians. Russia and Iran have sided with Assad in the conflict, which has run concurrently with efforts to defeat the Islamic State terror group in the north African nation.
Putin has ordered similar drawdowns of Russian troops from Syria in the past.
A US military combat drone has been shot down over Yemen, marking the second time in three months the US has lost an unmanned aerial vehicle over the war-torn country.
Yemen’s Houthi insurgency claimed responsibility, announcing that it downed a US MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drone, a $15 million unmanned aerial combat vehicle developed by General Atomics, in Dhamar, an area to the southeast of the Houthi-controlled capital of Sanaa.
“We are aware of reporting that a US MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen. We do not have any further information to provide at this time,” US Central Command initially said in response to Insider’s inquiries Aug. 20, 2019.
Two officials speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity confirmed the that a drone was shot down. While one said it was the Houthis, another cautioned that it was too early to tell.
“It’s the Houthis, but it’s enabled by Iran,” another US official told Voice of America.
In a follow-up response to media questions, CENTCOM said Aug. 21, 2019, it is “investigating reports of an attack by Iranian-backed Houthis forces on a U.S. unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operating in authorized airspace over Yemen.”
The US military has, to varying degrees, for years been supporting of a coalition of mostly Sunni Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, fighting to restore the internationally-recognized government in Yemen as the Houthi rebels backed by Shia Iran push to topple it.
“We have been clear that Iran’s provocative actions and support to militants and proxies, like the Iranian-backed Houthis, poses a serious threat to stability in the region and our partners,” CENTCOM said in its statement Aug. 21, 2019.
The Houthis shot down an US MQ-9 in mid-June 2019 with what CENTCOM assessed to be an SQ-6 surface-to-air missile. The US believes that the rebel group had help from the Iranians.
“The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance,” CENTCOM said in a statement
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(Photo by Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt)
Around that same time, Iranian forces fired a modified Iranian SA-7 surface-to-air missile at an MQ-9 in an attempt to “disrupt surveillance of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] IRGC attack on the M/T Kokuka Courageous,” one of the tankers targeted in a string of suspected limpet mine attacks the US has blamed on Iran, CENTCOM revealed, USNI News reported at the time. The Iranians failed to down the aircraft.
Toward the end of June 2019, Iranian forces successfully shot down a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude long endurance (HALE) drone operating over the Strait of Hormuz.
President Donald Trump had initially planned to retaliate militarily against Iran but cancelled the mission after learning that striking would result in significant Iranian casualties, which would make the response disproportionate as the Iranians attacked an unmanned system.
Tensions between Iran and the US have spiked in recent months, as Washington put increased pressure on Tehran, leading it to push back with carefully calculated displays of force just below the threshold of armed conflict. The Houthis in Yemen have taken shots at the US before, firing not only on US combat drones but also US warships.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump revealed new details about a mystery missile during an address at West Point Saturday, appearing to offer new insight into a high-speed weapon he previously called the “super duper missile.”
In mid-May, Trump boasted about US military strength from the Oval Office, and in the process, he announced that the US is building a new missile faster than anything currently available.
“We’re building incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We have no choice with the adversaries we have out there,” the president said.
“We have — I call it, the ‘super duper missile,'” Trump said, explaining that he “heard the other night, 17 times faster than what they have right now, when you take the fastest missile we have right now.”
“You’ve heard Russia has five times and China’s working on five or six times. We have one 17 times, and it’s just gotten the go-ahead,” he said.
The prevailing view of the president’s remarks was that the president was referring to some type of hypersonic weapon. The Department of Defense said in a statement shortly after the president’s announcement that the Pentagon “is working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries.”
Hypersonic weapons are able to travel at high speeds and along unpredictable flight paths, making them difficult for traditional air-and-missile defense systems to intercept. The development of these weapons has become a point of competition between the US, Russia, and China.
Speaking to the graduating class of 2020 at the US Military Academy at West Point Saturday, Trump provided new information on the weapon he boasted about last month.
“We are building new ships, bombers, jet fighters, and helicopters by the hundreds. New tanks, military satellites, rockets and missiles, even a hypersonic missile that goes 17 times faster than the fastest missile currently available in the world.”
He said that the missile can strike a target 1,000 miles away, striking within 14 inches of center point. These appear to be the most specific details to date about the missile in question.
Trump’s description of the new missile as being 17 times faster than the fastest missile currently available in the world is likely an exaggeration or a misunderstanding, for while hypersonic systems tend to be faster than some missiles, such as Tomahawk cruise missiles, they tend to be slower than some ballistic missiles.
For instance, the US Air Force’s LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile can hit speeds as high as Mach 23, over 17,600 mph. A weapon able to travel at speeds 17 times faster than that would be unbelievably fast.
“We have the superfast missiles — tremendous number of the superfast. We call them ‘superfast,’ where they’re four, five, six, and even seven times faster than an ordinary missile,” he said at the time.
The US conducted a test of a hypersonic glide vehicle in March, verifying a design that will be used to develop weaponry expected to come online in the next few years.
Despite President Donald Trump’s bold proclamation that a North Korean nuclear missile capable of hitting the US “won’t happen,” Kim Jong Un appears to be on his way — faster than many had thought — to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could flatten Washington.
But a nuclear-armed North Korea wouldn’t be the end of the world, according to some senior military officials.
“We can deter them,” retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former head of US Pacific Command, said of North Korea at a National Committee for US-China Relations event. “They may be developing 10 to 15 nuclear weapons. We have 2,000. They can do a lot of damage to the U.S., but there won’t be any North Korea left in the event of a nuclear exchange. That’s not a good regime survival strategy, and even Kim Jong Un would understand that.”
The U.S. has to live with the fact that Russia, the world’s second-greatest nuclear power, openly opposes Washington’s foreign policy in nearly every dimension, and that Pakistan, a country rife with corruption and Islamist groups gaining traction within and around its borders, has nuclear weapons.
A senior Defense Department official with expertise in nuclear strategy told Business Insider that while the US has said it cannot and will not accept a North Korea armed with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, that amounted more to an opening position in an ongoing negotiation than an intention to use military force to stop it.
F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets from the USS Carl Vinson’s Carrier Air Wing fly over the carrier strike group flanked by two South Korean destroyers on May 3. US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown.
“You never undermine your official position going in,” the official told Business Insider. “You’re never going to voluntarily back away from that. You’re going to actively work to make sure they don’t get” an ICBM.
“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing, and we don’t want it,” the official said. “But if we lose that one, we survive it.”
Despite bluster on both sides — whether posturing that the US may attack to cripple North Korea’s nuclear program or that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons on the US or allies — the defense official and other experts Business Insider contacted said they found both cases extremely unlikely and undesirable.
“It’s always in the US’s favor to be somewhat ambiguous about what they will or won’t do,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program. “That’s because there’s no good thing to do. They have to convince South Korean allies and North Korean adversaries that they’ll do anything to protect Seoul, even all-out nuclear war.
There’s a real risk that, even without nuclear weapons, Seoul would fall in a conflict with North Korea. Photo from Stratfor
“But those experienced military leaders know. They’ve run the models. They’ve run the numbers,” Hanham said. There’s just no way to fight North Korea “without chaos and enormous death and damage to the world.”
Because US nuclear weapons would have to fly over China or Russia and most likely would spread deadly fallout in South Korea or as far as Japan, nuclear conflict with North Korea would be likely to bring about World War III — a great power war between nuclear states that the world has developed nuclear weapons to avoid.
To an extent, the US already lives with and deters a nuclear North Korea daily. Hanham said that although it hadn’t been verified, North Korea most likely had a deliverable nuclear weapon that could hit the 10 million civilians in Seoul or the 25,000 permanent US troops stationed in South Korea.
So North Korea will continue on its path toward a nuclear weapon that could hit anywhere in the US — but like Russia, China, and Pakistan, it probably wouldn’t use it.