Ongoing U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea regarding Chinese artificial island-building are leading many at the Pentagon to sharpen their focus upon the rapid pace of Chinese Naval modernization and expansion.
While Chinese naval technology may still be substantially behind current U.S. platforms, the equation could change dramatically over the next several decades because the Chinese are reportedly working on a handful of high-tech next-generation ships, weapons and naval systems.
China has plans to grow its navy to 351 ships by 2020 as the Chinese continue to develop their military’s ability to strike global targets, according to a recent Congressional report.
The 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission recommended to Congress that the U.S. Navy respond by building more ships and increase its presence in the Pacific region – a strategy the U.S. military has already started.
Opponents of this strategy point out that the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers, the Chinese have one and China’s one carrier still lacks an aircraft wing capable of operating off of a carrier deck. However, several recent reports have cited satellite photos showing that China is now building its own indigenous aircraft carriers. Ultimately, the Chinese plan to acquire four aircraft carriers, the reports say.
The commission cites platforms and weapons systems the Chinese are developing, which change the strategic calculus regarding how U.S. carriers and surface ships might need to operate in the region.
These include the LUYANG III, a new class of Chinese destroyer slated to enter the fleet this year. These ships are being engineered with vertically-launched, long-range anti-ship cruise missiles, the commission said. The new destroyer will carry an extended-range variant of the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, among other weapons, the report says.
Furthermore, the Chinese may already be beginning construction on several of their own indigenous aircraft carriers. China currently has one carrier, the Ukranian-built Liaoning. It is not expected to have an operational carrier air wing until sometime this year, according to the report.
The Chinese are currently testing and developing a new, carrier-based fighter aircraft called the J-15.
Regarding amphibious assault ships, the Chinese are planning to add several more YUZHAO LPDs, amphibs which can carry 800 troops, four helicopters and up to 20 armored vehicles, the report said.
The Chinese are also working on development of a new Type 055 cruiser equipped with land-attack missiles, lasers and rail-gun weapons, according to the review.
China’s surface fleet is also bolstered by production of at least 60 smaller, fast-moving HOBEI-glass guided missile patrol boats and ongoing deliveries of JIANGDAO light frigates armed with naval guns, torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.
The commission also says Chinese modernization plans call for a sharp increase in attack submarines and nuclear-armed submarines or SSBNs. Chinese SSBNs are now able to patrol with nuclear-armed JL-2 missiles able to strike targets more than 4,500 nautical miles.
The Chinese are currently working on a new, modernized SSBN platform as well as a long-range missile, the JL-3, the commission says.
While the commission says the exact amount of Chinese military spending is difficult to identify, China’s projected defense spending for 2014 is cited at $131 billion, approximately 12.2 percent greater than 2013. This figure is about one sixth of what the U.S. spends annually.
The Chinese defense budget has increased by double digits since 1989, the commission states, resulting in annual defense spending doubling since 2008, according to the report.
Some members of Congress, including the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., are advocating for both a larger U.S. Navy and a stronger U.S. posture toward China’s behavior in the region.
NATO naval officials have repeatedly warned about Russia’s submarines — a force they say is more sophisticated and active.
US Navy officials have said several times that Russian subs are doing more now than at any time since the Cold War, though intelligence estimates from that time indicate they’re still far below Cold War peaks.
But the most significant capability Russian subs have added may be what they can do on land.
Long-range Kalibr cruise missiles are launched by a Russian Navy ship in the eastern Mediterranean.
(Russian Defense Ministry photo)
Asked about the best example of growth by Russia’s submarines, Adm. James Foggo, the head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, pointed to their missiles, which offer relatively newfound land-attack capability.
“The Kalibr class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Foggo said on the latest edition of his command’s podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe,” he added.
The Kalibr family of missiles — which includes anti-ship, land-attack, and anti-submarine variants — has been around since the 1990s.
Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.
The land-attack version can be fired from subs and surface ships and can carry a 1,000-pound warhead to targets between 930 miles and 1,200 miles away, according to CSIS’ Missile Defense Project. It is said to fly 65 feet above the sea and at 164 to 492 feet over land.
After the first strikes in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Kalibr was accurate to “a few meters” — giving them a capability not unlike the US’s Tomahawk cruise missiles.
In 2011, the US Office of Naval Intelligence quoted a Russian defense industry official as saying Moscow planned to put the Kalibr on all new nuclear and non-nuclear subs, frigates, and larger ships and that it was likely to be retrofitted on older vessels.
But the system wasn’t used in combat until 2015.
In October that year, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 Kalibr missiles at ISIS targets in Syria. The submarine Veliky Novgorodfired three Kalibrs from the eastern Mediterranean at ISIS targets in eastern Syria later that month, and that December a Russian sub fired four Kalibrs while en route to its home port on the Black Sea.
A Russian Navy ship launches Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian sea at targets over 1000 miles away in Syria.
“There’s no operational or tactical requirement to do it,” NORTHCOM Commander Adm. William Gortney told Congress in early 2016. “They’re messaging us that they have this capability.”
Russia has used “Syria as a bit of a test bed for showing off its new submarine capabilities and the ability to shoot cruise missiles from submarines,” Magnus Nordenman, the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider in early 2018.
A 2015 Office of Naval Intelligence report cited by Jane’s noted that the “Kalibr provides even modest platforms … with significant offensive capability and, with the use of the land attack missile, all platforms have a significant ability to hold distant fixed ground targets at risk using conventional warheads.”
A long-range Kalibr cruise missile is launched from the Krasnodar submarine in the Mediterranean.
(Russian Defense Ministry photo)
“The proliferation of this capability within the new Russian Navy is profoundly changing its ability to deter, [or to] threaten or destroy adversary targets,” the report said.
While Russia’s submarine force is still smaller than its Soviet predecessor, that cruise-missile capability has led some to argue NATO needs to look farther north, beyond the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap that was a chokepoint for Russian submarines entering the Atlantic during the Cold War.
Today’s Russian subs “don’t have to go very far out in order to hit ports and airports and command and control centers in Europe, so they don’t have to approach the GIUK Gap,” Nordenman said in a recent interview. “In that sense the GIUK Gap is not as important as it used to be.”
Foggo said US submarines still have the edge, but the subs Russia can deploy “are perhaps some of the most silent and lethal in the world.”
Concerns about land-attack missiles now mix with NATO’s concern about bringing reinforcements and supplies from the US to Europe during a conflict.
“That’s why Russian submarines are a concern,” Nordenman said in ealry 2018. “One, because they can obviously sink ships and so on, but related, you can use cruise missiles to shoot at ports and airfields and so on.”
“We know that Russian submarines are in the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing a very complex underwater battle space to try to give them the edge in any future conflict,” Foggo said. “We need to deny that edge.”
US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the in the Indian Ocean, March 16, 2014.
The US Navy has asked for more money to buy sonobuoys, supplies of which fell critically short after an “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017.” NATO members also plan to buy more US-made P-8A Poseidons, widely considered to be the best sub-hunting aircraft on the market.
But the Kalibr’s anti-ship capability has also raises questions about whether ASW itself needs to change.
At a conference in early 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Varley, deputy commander of the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter force, said anti-ship missiles were pushing ASW away from “traditional … close-in, cloak and-dagger fighting” to situations where an enemy submarine “sits 200 miles away and launches a missile at you.”
“That becomes an air war,” he said. “We need to stop it becoming an air war. We need to be able to have the ability to defend against that.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China’s first homegrown aircraft carrier and the first of the country’s new missile destroyers set sail for sea trials recently, sparking speculation that a new carrier battle group may be in the making.
The first of China’s advanced Type 055-class guided-missile destroyers — apparently the Nanchang — set sail Aug. 24, 2018, from the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, according to the China Daily. The Type 001 aircraft carrier, China’s first indigenously produced carrier and the country’s second after the Liaoning, followed suit Aug. 27, 2018.
The focus of the carrier trials, the second in 2018, will be the ship’s propulsion systems, but Chinese analysts believe these trials could also look at command, communication, and management systems, as well as the ship’s navigation and weapons systems, the Global Times reported.
The Type 055 destroyer displaces 10,000 tons and is considered to be the largest and one of the most advanced noncarrier warships in Asia. The ship is expected to play a role similar to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and serve as a key escort for China’s aircraft carrier battle groups, according to the South China Morning Post.
The powerful Chinese destroyers, which are closer in size to cruisers, feature X-band radar and 112 vertical launch cells set up to fire HHQ-9 long-range surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles, and missile-launched submarine torpedoes. The ships are also armed with 130 mm dual-purpose naval guns and carry two anti-submarine helicopters.
The Type 055 destroyer’s primary rival is said to be the US Navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer, which boasts a wide range of advanced capabilities superior to anything China possesses.
The Type 001A aircraft carrier, while similar to its refitted Soviet-era predecessor, is “improved in some places,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told Business Insider. “It has a newer radar, it’s a little bit bigger, the flight deck is a little bit bigger, the island is a bit smaller, so they have more space. It definitely has some upgrades on it.”
More advanced carrier capabilities are unlikely, though, until the unveiling of China’s third carrier, which is commonly referred to as the Type 002.
The two ships, the Type 001A and the Type 055 destroyer, are expected to be delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Navy within the next year or so, according to Chinese military experts. The Type 055 destroyer would most likely serve as an escort ship for the Type 001A carrier, creating a new carrier battle group with advanced combat capabilities.
The development of such platforms allows China to gain greater experience with carrier operations as it seeks to project power at greater distances beyond its shores.
Featured image: Artist’s impression of type 055 destroyer.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Off the East Coast this month, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the first-in-class USS Gerald R. Ford, reached several major milestones in a matter of hours, marking the advancement of the carrier’s crew and its systems.
The Ford completed flight deck certification and carrier air-traffic control center certification on March 20, after it achieved Precision Approach Landing Systems certification and conducted two days of flight operations.
F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets from four squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing 8 conducted 123 daytime launches and landings and 42 nighttime launches and landings aboard the Ford over a two-day period, exceeding the minimum requirements for each by three and two, respectively.
“Our sailors performed at a level that was on par with a forward deployed aircraft carrier, and this was a direct result of the hardcore training and deployment-ready mentality we have pushed every day for the past year,” Capt. J. J. Cummings, the Ford’s commanding officer, said in a release. “Our team put their game faces on, stepped into the batter’s box and smashed line drives out of the park. It was fun to watch.”
The certifications, photos of which you can see below, are major achievements not only for the carrier but also for the Navy, as the Ford is now the only only carrier qualification asset — meaning it can conduct carrier qualifications for pilots and other support operations — that will be regularly available on the East Coast this year.
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Jawann Murray, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet on Ford’s flight deck during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 21, 2020.
Before flight deck and carrier air-traffic control certification, the Ford did Precision Approach Landing Systems certification. PALS is a requirement for flight operations. along with air-traffic controllers, it aids pilots in night or bad-weather landings and guides them to a good starting position for approaches.
The Ford is doing an 18-month post-delivery test and trials period, now in its fifth month.
The carrier finished aircraft compatibility testing at the end of January, successfully launching and landing five kinds of aircraft a total of 211 times.
After that 18-month period, it will likely return to the shipyard for any remaining work that couldn’t be done at sea.
Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Derrick Williams, USS Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck leading chief petty officer, goes over flight deck operations inside Ford’s flight deck control, prior to flight operations in the Atlantic, March 23, 2020.
The Ford’s carrier air-traffic control center team assisted the flight-deck certification and had to complete its own certification in concert with it. CATCC certification was the culmination of a process that started at the Naval Air Technical Training Center in Florida last year.
Since that process began in October 2019, instructors from the training center have been working with Ford sailors during every phase — testing the sailors’ practical knowledge, reviewing their checklists, and observing their recovery operations.
That training was vital to the Ford sailors’ success this month. “We had no rust to knock off,” said Chief Air Traffic Controller Lavese McCray. “We’ve tested and trained for so many operations that it made the [certification] scenarios look easy.”
Inspectors from Naval Air Forces Atlantic praised the carrier air-traffic control center sailors in their certification letter, according to the release.
“It was very apparent the entire CATCC team put forth a great deal of effort preparing for their CATCC certification,” the letter said. “All CATCC functional areas were outstanding. Additionally, the leadership and expertise exhibited by the Air Operations Officer and his staff were extremely evident throughout the course of the entire week.”
The certification process is meant to test pilots and crews on operations they’ll face when deployed. In one recovery scenario, aircraft were stacked behind the Ford in 2-mile increments, waiting to land every minute, which deployment-ready aircraft carriers are required to be able to do. The Ford landed aircraft 55 seconds apart.
“The human element critical to [flight deck certification] is the relationship between ship’s company and the air wing in the ‘black top ballet’ of flight deck operations,” the release said. “During hours-long evolutions, the teams work together to communicate pilots’ status, their requirements, and provide them services.”
The March 20 certifications came a day after the Ford’s 1,000 recovery of a fixed-wing aircraft using its Advanced Arresting Gear on March 19 at 5:13 p.m. Moments later, the ship had its 1,000 launch with its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System.
The Ford’s first fixed-wing recovery and launch using AAG and EMALS were on July 28, 2017.
AAG and EMALS have been two of the most nettlesome of the Ford’s many new technologies, exceeded in their growing pains perhaps only by the Advanced Weapons Elevators, which are still not finished.
The Ford has the first new carrier design since the 1960s, which added to the difficulty of its construction. AAG and EMALS are both meant to support the greater energy requirements of future air wings and operate more safely than similar gear on older Nimitz-class carriers.
The Ford’s accomplishments come as the Navy grapples with a fleet-wide challenge in the coronavirus. The service’s first case came on March 13, when a sailor on the USS Boxer, in port in San Diego, tested positive. The first underway case came on Tuesday on the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Tuesday that three cases were detected on the Theodore Roosevelt. He said those were the first cases on a deployed ship and that the affected personnel were awaiting transfer off the carrier.
The “Big Stick,” which carries some 5,000 crew, visited Vietnam earlier this month. The Navy’s top uniformed officer said Tuesday that it wasn’t clear if the cases stemmed from that visit.
“Whenever we have a positive on any ship … we’re doing the forensics on each one of those cases to try and understand what kind of best practices, or the do’s and the don’ts, that we can quickly promulgate fleet-wide,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said at the Pentagon.
Asked about specific policy changes, Gilday said, “we’re on it” but “no specifics yet.”
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Christopher Nardelli, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s air department, arranges the “ouija board” in Ford’s flight deck control, during flight operations in the Atlantic, March 22, 2020.
There are no reported cases on the Ford, which Gilday said Tuesday was also carrying “a couple of hundred shipyard workers” who were “working on many of her systems to continue to keep her at pace and on schedule” for deployment.
“We’re very proud of the fact that they are out there at sea with us and that they’re so committed to the Navy,” Gilday said of the shipyard workers.
But the Navy secretary said Tuesday that the service was in touch with industry partners to let them know it was aware of the challenge posed by the coronavirus.
“We rely particularly on our shipyards and our depots … We need them to continue to operate because you can’t lose those skills. We have to keep them maintained. So we’ve been very clear and very consistent in talking to our commercial partners,” Modly said.
“We are also concerned about the health of their people. We don’t want them putting them at risk either,” Modly added. “But we just need to be aware of what they’re doing in that regard, so that we can adjust our expectations about what they can deliver and when they can deliver.”
In this day and age, allowing a minor to enlist in the military and be sent off to war is practically impossible — especially with our modern tracking systems.
But at the start of the 20th century, an accurate method of recording individual troop movement hadn’t been invented; thousands of soldiers would eventually go missing through the course of the war, many of whom were actually children.
After WWI reared its ugly head, military recruiters were paid bonuses for every man they enlisted. Countless young men, many of them orphans or just seeking adventure, would simply lie about their ages to join up.
The recruiters saw dollars signs and looked past any age issues as they wrote the coercible young boy’s names down, signing them up on the spot. Many feared the thought of going off to war but thought they would look weak if they didn’t take part with their friends — the ultimate peer pressure.
These young boys swear in to join the fight. (Source: The Great War/ YouTube/ Screenshot)
The idea was extremely controversial at the time, but it didn’t stop the boys from volunteering as they showed up to the local recruiting offices in droves. It’s estimated that 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army alone.
Once they signed up, they were sent through some basic infantry training then whisked off the front lines.
Most famously was John Condon, an Irishman who is believed to have been the youngest combatant killed; at the age of 14, he died during a mustard gas attack in Belgium while serving in the third battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment.
Two female officers will make history on Friday by becoming the first women to graduate from the traditionally all-male U.S. Army Ranger School, officials said.
The West Point graduates, who have not been identified, are in their final days of the grueling two-month leadership training program. Two separate sources told Military.com that they will receive the highly coveted Ranger tab on Friday.
The service later confirmed in a press release that two women and 94 men completed the 62-day course, which includes everything from PT and swim tests, to land navigation exercises and a 12-mile foot march, to obstsacle courses and parachute jumps, to mountaineering tests and mock patrols.
“Congratulations to all of our new Rangers,” Army Secretary John McHugh said in the release. “Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level.”
He added, “This course has proven that every Soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential. We owe Soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best Soldiers to meet our Nation’s needs.”
The Army had already sent out invitations to more than 30 media outlets, including Military.com, to attend the ceremony. The female candidates and their male Ranger buddies plan to sit down for an interview the day before the event.
The two were among a trio of women who since April have been participating in the physically and mentally exhausting leadership course held in three phases at Fort Benning in Georgia and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The third woman is currently repeating the second or “mountain” phase of the program.
Fort Benning began its first co-ed Ranger course on April 20. Nineteen women and 380 men were pre-screened for the program. Eight women made it through the first week, called Ranger Assessment Phase, but didn’t pass the subsequent Benning Phase. They were “recycled,” or allowed to attempt the Benning Phase a second time, but failed. Five women were then dropped from the program and three were invited to start over from day one, along with five male candidates.
The Army said more than a third — or 34 percent — of students who enter Ranger School recycle at least one phase of the course, adding to the student’s physical and mental fatigue.
The integration of women at Ranger School is a key part of the Army’s effort to study how to open direct-action combat jobs such as infantry to women. Under a 2013 directive from then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the military services must open all combat jobs to women by next year or explain why any must stay closed.
While the female Army officers will be entitled to wear the Ranger tab, they still won’t be allowed to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, the special operations forces unit, or receive the special skill identifier code added to the end of their military occupational specialty — unless existing rules and regulations are changed.
One toddler helped inspire a company that now helps hundreds of military children deal with one of the most stressful times of their lives: seeing their parents leave for deployment.
“It doesn’t have to be sad,” said Bridget Platt, the founder and CEO of Daddy’s Deployed and wife of a Marine Corps aviator. “And that’s what I wanted to do. Create this story where [kids] are the star even if their family is separated at the time.”
Founded in 2012, Platt’s company creates custom-designed children’s books that explain where mom or dad are going, what they’ll be doing, and how they’ll stay in touch through tools like Skype. The first book she ever created was for her own daughter, with pictures of the family literally cut out and glued onto the pages.
But her inspiration came three years before, while working with a two-year-old girl named Claire at the child development center on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
“She was perfectly behaved, would eat every meal, play outside, and she shared. She was potty-trained and would nap everyday,” Platt said. “And then her dad deployed and all of that changed. She started having accidents. She wouldn’t eat. She would literally cry out for him at naptime. And I remember thinking that somebody has to do something to help these kids but I was just too far from it at that point. We were newlyweds. We didn’t have any children so I couldn’t wrap my head around what that concept might be.”
Once she had her own children, and with the help of her brother — a Harvard Business School graduate — she put together a business plan, copyrighted a logo, and brought on a great illustrator to help with creating the book’s artwork.
Now, parents can go on the Daddy’s Deployed website (there’s a Mommy’s version as well) and order their books, after putting in their information such as their name and rank, branch of service, what kind of job they have, and their children’s names. In about three weeks, Platt and her team will send back a personalized book with the family drawn into their own story.
“The whole point of it is that when the kids open page one they see their family in the story,” Platt said. “They see themselves in the story. They see their dog in the story. So that they know that it’s this happy, brightly colored vision of what their life could be or is going to be.”
Beyond the custom books relating to deployments, Platt told We Are The Mighty she has plans to expand her offerings. The company recently launched a book about military moves, and it is currently looking into selling eBooks and other interactive materials, such as audiobooks where the deployed parent can read the story to their loved ones.
“My favorite thing is when people first look at the book that didn’t know about the company beforehand,” she said. “The most common thing that is said to me is, ‘why didn’t I think of this?’ And that shows me that there was a problem and we are answering it. And that is the best thing. My response is always the same: ‘I’m really glad you didn’t.’ But in my mind I’m like, ‘Yes! Thank you for saying that.'”
A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.
Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.
“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”
“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.
It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”
Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.
“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”
Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.
“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”
As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.
Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.
I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).
But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…
“This is great – you can help counteract the stereotype that only big bull dykes join the Army just by being there,” the recruiter said (yes, really).
That was one of my first introductions to how much my appearance would constantly be noticed – and openly discussed by others – as a female soldier. I had signed up to do Hometown Recruiting (between initial entry training and going to your first permanent duty station, you can spend a week helping local recruiters out for a few hours every day without getting charged leave, while still having your evenings free). Instead of going back to my hometown, I’d decided to visit a friend in New York City, and the station I was assigned to apparently thought my key asset was not looking the way they apparently assumed lesbians look.
Later in my military career, people regularly told me, “You’re really pretty for being in the Army.” This baffling pseudo-compliment made me uncomfortable, and I developed a joking stock response: “What, all the pretty girls join the Air Force?” … while at the same time wondering if what they meant was that as civilians go, I’m ugly. It was further confirmation that at least initially, my appearance was a key part of how people would form opinions of me as a soldier.
Recently, an internal email from the female officer heading an Army study on how to integrate women into previously closed ground combat jobs and units to the public affairs office was leaked and much of it published by Politico. In it, she urged that public affairs personnel choose photos of “average looking women” to illustrate generic stories. I’m not thrilled with all her word choices, but I’m worried that her core message has been obscured by quibbles over terminology and the relish media outlets and pundits take in trying to turn everything into a major story. If she had wrapped her message in more obfuscating language – perhaps saying women who do not seem to be trying to conform to modern beauty norms by use of appearance-enhancing efforts instead of the shorthand pretty, maybe it wouldn’t have led to the same degree of public outcry. (I also empathize with her on a personal level: I’m not careful in how I phrase messages that are not meant to be public and certainly wouldn’t want some of them leaked!)
The heart of her argument fell much farther down in the story: compared to photos where women troops are obviously wearing makeup, photos of female soldiers with mud on their faces “sends a much different message—one of women willing to do the dirty work necessary in order to get the job done.”
This immediately resonated with me based on my own experiences. While I was deployed to Iraq, I got a few days of RR in Qatar. While there, I went shopping, bought makeup, got a massage, and drank a few (carefully rationed!) beers. Upon my return to Mosul, Bruce Willis and his band (who knew?) came to our FOB on a USO tour. On a whim, I wore the mascara from my RR – it had been nice to feel feminine for a few days.
Guys asked me about it for weeks. All the male soldiers in my unit noticed I’d worn makeup. They commented on it. It changed how they looked at me and thought about me. And they all knew me, had known me for months or years already.
So when it comes to Infantrymen who haven’t served with women before, do I think that this picture might make them think differently about women joining the combat arms than these? Yes. Yes I do.
OK, I purposefully chose extreme examples. It’s not always that cut-and-dry. When my friends and I were discussing this story on social media, we argued about whether or not women in various photos were wearing makeup (yes, really). It isn’t always easy to tell, and for many women, makeup is a fraught issue. I know women who will never be seen without makeup. While I was in Advanced Individual Training at Goodfellow Air Force, one of my suitemates got up an hour before we had to do physical fitness training to put on full makeup. Full makeup – to go run for miles – in the heat of a Texas summer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. (Recently reading this piece on indirect aggression among young women made me think hard about my negative reaction and wonder if I’d react the same way now that I’m a decade older…)
Part of the kerfuffle about this, to me, comes down to the problems of real versus ideal.
In my ideal world, the way I look is meaningless, whether I wear makeup doesn’t matter – I’ll be judged on how competent I am. But in the real world, I have to be aware of the fact that (in normal settings) wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” So I’ve worn makeup to every job interview I’ve ever gone on. Once I’ve gotten the jobs, there have days I skipped wearing makeup to the office – I can work toward making my ideal world a reality by demonstrating to my colleagues that my appearance and competence aren’t connected. But the important days, when I wanted to make a good first impression? I lived in the real world.
In my ideal world, the way people dress is unimportant. But in the real world, I wore a suit on my last job interview, too – and so did my husband, because this isn’t just about gender. (Although apparently if either of us had applied to work in the tech world, it may have benefitted us NOT to wear suits.) You meet the social norms of the world you want to inhabit, and then you can work to change it from the inside. But if you thumb your nose too heavily at the mores of the organization you want to join, you risk not getting that opportunity.
Almost all of my women veteran friends who posted about this story on social media seemed (to me) angry that the ideal world hasn’t yet materialized, pissed off that people think about women’s appearances at all, irritated that men in the military might let something as trivial as eyeliner distract from the far more important question of whether or not a woman soldier can accomplish the mission effectively. I get that.
But several of the male troops and vets that I know said they got COL Arnhart’s point and agreed with the core message on at least some level (while agreeing the wording was suboptimal). I imagine part of this is that they aren’t triggered in the same way by words like “pretty” and “ugly,” which can be tremendously emotionally charged for women – and that may give them the space to more clearly acknowledge the real world we still inhabit. (Although one of them less charitably posited, “When we see a picture featuring an attractive female soldier, it undermines the message mostly because we’re all very immature.”)
All signs currently indicate that the Army will be opening ground combat arms jobs to women (I’m not as sure about the Marines). This is a tremendous step forward for both women and the Army. COL Arnhart, who has since stepped down, was – in my take of the situation – urging a couple of colleagues to be mindful of the real world we still inhabit while setting the stage for those women, in order to slightly diminish the obstacles that will be awaiting them. Those women, by demonstrating their competence, strength, and abilities, will help accomplish the mission, regardless of how they look – and that will help drag the ideal world once step closer to reality.
In an effort to reach a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by the end of next September, the Army is now willing to overlook some mental health issues that in the past would disqualify potential recruits.
According to a report from USA Today, the Army has lifted a 2009 ban on recruits with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and self-mutilation. The ban was imposed in the wake of a series of suicides involving Army personnel. The Army policy is that with “proper documentation,” such as a psychiatric exam, a detailed statement from the prospective recruit, medical records, and photos submitted by the recruiter, a waiver can be granted.
“With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman told USA Today. “These waivers are not considered lightly.”
In October, WATM reported that the Army was making exceptions for marijuana use and relying on so-called “category IV” recruits to make its quota. The fiscal year 2017 quota was 69,000. While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.
Elaine Donnelly, the President of the Center for Military Readiness, told WATM when asked for comment, “I’m wondering if the Army’s dubious and possibly unprecedented ‘solution’ to the recruiting problem is symptomatic of the larger issue of the decline in interest among qualified potential recruits. If interest is declining steeply, along with physical capabilities needed to succeed in boot camp, why is that happening? To simply draw a correlation between a stronger economy and difficulty meeting recruiting goals overlooks the obvious: correlation is not causation.”
“Perhaps the reason recruiters are struggling more than they did during strong-economy years in the past is because young people are not attracted to an organization that seems more interested in political correctness than in its primary mission – defending the country. To find out, the DoD will have to ask the right questions,” she added.
Last month, a federal court issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from implementing an August 25 memo by President Trump that would have the effect of revoking the June 2016 order by President Obama allowing transgendered individuals to openly serve.
Army veteran Kenneth Carter wasn’t going to stop dealing or using drugs and alcohol, until prison forced him to. Rather than just bide his time behind bars, he used it to build a future he could be proud of. Now he’s helping others do the same.
On April 6, 2021 Carter shared in a LinkedIn post that he was four years sober. He hoped to inspire others by detailing his experience and sharing his truth, thinking maybe a few people would like the posting. Instead, over a half a million people responded with likes and it led to almost 50,000 comments.
Carter was in prison for two and a half years for trafficking cocaine. After being set up by someone he knew and dealing to an undercover police officer, you’d think it would have been the worst experience of his life. Instead, prison saved him. But his story and road to prison was long.
“My mom was in the Army and that’s what made me want to join. I heard all of the stories about her driving trucks, in the Army and wanted to do it too,” Carter said. “Immediately after highschool I joined and was in it before I even graduated. I was in basic training when 9/11 happened, that was really rough.”
He deployed to Kuwait for a year after graduating boot camp. Although Carter said he witnessed friends being impacted by serving in a combat environment, he didn’t think he was. Overtime, he noticed some changes in his own personality and behavior which he realized were connected to his time as a soldier. But he wouldn’t connect those dots until it was too late.
When Carter left the Army, he started driving trucks for civilian companies. Before the military, he wasn’t much of a drinker, he said. But slowly he found himself reaching for alcohol more and more. A tragic accident would make it even worse.
Carter had forgotten his lunch at home one day, so he drove back to get it. On his way down the road he passed a man on a bicycle as he was making his way through a construction zone. Carter passed him, eventually making a right turn to get on his route. Unbeknownst to him, that man on the bicycle had sped him to try to pass him at the same time. The bicyclist hit the truck and lost his life.
Carter said he’s never shared that part of his story before, until now.
“It haunted me. I started thinking about what I could have done. I had to speak to the family and the children of the man. It was really rough,” he explained.
Traumatized after the death of the bicyclist, he quit his job and began drinking even more. “It was six days a week. There was a guy who offered me coke [cocaine], saying it would balance me out. I ended up trying it and it was very addictive and it led me to wanting to sell it,” Carter shared.
Five years later, he would be caught selling to the undercover officer. Despite facing charges and being out on bond for a year, Carter said he kept doing drugs and drinking. “Nothing phased me until I went to prison,” he explained. His time behind bars would lead to deep reflection and the recognition he didn’t like who he had become.
Through processing it all, Carter would come to realize there were moments in his life which led to the prison cell. His mother was a proud soldier but when she went to serve, she had to leave her children with her mother, their grandmother. “There were four of us kids and she abused me constantly,” he explained. “I try to forget about it, really I was just suppressing it.”
The military has long been an escape for many individuals hoping to create a better life than what was waiting for them as a civilian. A 2018 RAND study of the Army found around 25 percent of soldiers joined for pay, benefits and around 22 percent joined to leave a negative environment.
When Carter found himself behind those bars, he did everything he could to feel because for so long, his emotions had been shut off. The avoidance and boxing of emotions is common in trauma survivors. “I went into my cell and looked at the mirror, which was just metal. I looked myself dead in the eyes and I had to see myself…I felt embarrassed,” he said. “I shed a few tears because it hurt, deeply.”
He spent the rest of his time in jail building a company. Two months after he left prison, he officially launched Ameriton Freight and Logistics. When he looks back on the past year and a half since walking out a free man, he sees more work to be done. “I am not satisfied because I want to be further but I am happy where I am at,” Carter said.
Carter never shared his experience of abuse, until now. As a child he was taught there was no help out there and if there was, not to trust it.
“Being black…we always said, Black people don’t do therapy. It just doesn’t happen. There’s a stigma against it. ‘Why do you need to talk to a white person about your problems, they don’t understand.’,” Carter explained. He’s found himself mentoring a lot of men and youth of color for that very reason, helping them by sharing his story and experiences.
As Carter looks back on his traumatic childhood, military service and his subsequent fall from grace, he’s grateful. The experiences, both good and bad, have shaped him into who he is today and it’s a person he can joyfully look at in the mirror and see reflecting back at him. Carter hopes his story will inspire others to begin their own journey of sobriety and healing, too.
A proposal submitted to the Russian parliament would scrap the constitutional limit of two consecutive presidential terms, enabling Vladimir Putin to remain in power past 2024.
The proposal published on the State Duma website on May 18, 2018, would restrict presidents to three straight terms instead of two. It comes less than two weeks after Putin started a new six-year term as president — his second in a row and fourth overall.
It was submitted by the legislature in Chechnya — a region whose head, Ramzan Kadyrov, has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Putin and said he should rule for life.
Putin, 65, has been president or prime minister since 1999. Facing the limit of two straight terms in 2008, he steered ally Dmitry Medvedev into the presidency and served for four years as prime minister before returning to the Kremlin in 2012.
Elected again on March 18, 2018, in a vote that opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said deprived voters of a genuine choice, Putin would be barred from running again in 2024 under the existing constitution.
That barrier has led to widespread speculation about Putin’s future moves, with many analysts predicting he will seek a way to keep a hold on power after his current term. The most straightforward path would be to change the constitution.
When lawmakers in Chechnya announced plans for the proposal earlier in April 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the issue was not on Putin’s agenda and that Putin had made his position on changing the constitution clear in the past.