The news comes nearly a week after sources close to the Donald Trump campaign indicated the real estate mogul is seriously considering former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his running mate, an outside-the-box choice that would bring a registered Democrat and an Iraq war critic onto the 2016 Republican ticket.
The Clinton campaign’s look at Stavridis has been widely applauded by former colleagues of the once-Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, some of whom consider him a “warrior scholar” with deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape and a thought leader in national security policy.
“Admiral Stavridis is one of the finest military officers of his generation,” former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy told Reuters in a statement. “He is a person of great ability and integrity, and an exceptional leader. He has the talents, experience, judgment and temperament to serve the American people at the highest levels of our government.”
A year before his retirement from the Navy in 2013, Stavridis was given a speaking slot at the prestigious Ted Talks, where he discussed his vision for a new global strategic policy in which security would be “built with bridges instead of walls.” The video has reportedly been viewed over 700,000 times.
Stavridis now serves as the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, one of the most prestigious graduate schools of foreign and national security policy in the United States. Before that, the 1976 Naval Academy graduate served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and the top military official at Southern Command.
According to his official bio, Stavridis has written six books and published hundreds of articles on leadership and strategic policy. And his accomplishments extend well beyond the lecture hall and onto the ship’s bridge, where he was awarded the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet (USS Barry DDG-52) in the mid-1990s, and he was awarded the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership after his command of Destroyer Squadron 21 in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.
Stavridis also led the Navy’s Deep Blue think tank, a service policy shop that often challenges leadership and technology assumptions and pushes new innovations for Navy strategy and tactics.
Covert action is making its name again. Back on the strategic foreign policy stage, covert action is a way to achieve diplomacy without direct military confrontation. Kinetic operations by way of targeted killing have become a hot (and disputed) topic.
Even though Presidents Ford in 1976, Carter in 1978, and Reagan in 1981 signed Executive Orders to ban political assassinations, the U.S. has engaged in targeted killings through drone strikes to kill enemy combatants on the battlefield. Signature strikes that target behavior patterns and personal networks often result in increased collateral damage, namely to civilians. Some of these actions are overt while others are covert, or at least clandestine in some nature.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone.
So, who does these things? Is it the military, CIA, or even both?
The answer to the purview of this comes down to law. More specifically, to the debate between authority in U.S. Title 10 and 50. The debate is widely and often invoked to address when the military is taking over actions or missions within the domain of the intelligence operations of CIA.
Title 10 describes the legal authority for military operations regarding the DoD’s organizational structure.
Meanwhile, Title 50 captures CIA’s authority to conduct its intelligence operations and covert action.
The legal stipulations of military versus CIA legal authority are a little more complex, but the two catchall designations are what matter in the larger scope. And that is how practitioners interpret it.
However, the differentiation in the purview between military and CIA operations is not always clear. As changes to the way we fight become more complex and dynamic with each operation, DoD and CIA officers constantly attempt to find themselves in the correct lane for engaging in their respective operations.
Perhaps the easiest example of this was when CIA found the potential for the Predator drone in aerial surveillance. CIA undoubtedly assumed that the aircraft would fall into its own designation. The debate went on between CIA and DoD. Even though the UAV was classified as an aircraft, CIA contended that it was only a platform to collect imagery intelligence. CIA won.
Once CIA tried to weaponize the UAVs by incorporating Hellfire missiles into their framework, DoD fought CIA again. This time, the Air Force made the argument regarding Title 10 versus Title 50. Already established to be an aircraft, a weaponized UAV would fall under Title 10 as the purview of the military. Being weaponized, the Predator was no longer just an imagery intelligence collection asset but more of a kinetic killing machine. Its job was not just to pick up and track high-value targets as much as it was to send warheads to foreheads. This time, the Air Force and DoD won.
So, the designation for military or CIA control of drone warfare is not black or white. It exists in the grey zone.
That is why drones remain a tricky topic for use regarding both surveillance and kinetic operations. It is still a working and developing decision of who calls the shots and who owns the infrastructure.
When it comes to boots-on-the-ground operations regarding both kinetic and non-kinetic operations, the debate becomes even more contested. Because of its charter, CIA is the only agency responsible for and charged with covert action. Action abroad in this context has always been part of CIA’s history: some of it good, other parts bad.
However, sometimes the military conducts operations that to the naked eye would appear to be consistent with covert action. The big difference is that these operations that may well be clandestine are not covert or designed to be plausibly deniable.
If a U.S. military operation goes sideways, the U.S. Government is forced to acknowledge it. And contrary to popular belief, that includes higher tier units, such as Delta Force, DEVGRU, and others.
Kinetic covert action protocols on the ground are only deniable if under the sanctions of CIA. Meaning they would have to have been performed in a paramilitary context by the Special Activities Division (SAD), including Ground Branch, Global Response Staff …
The U.S. military cannot and does not perform covert action.
However, that is not the end of the discussion. Within the bounds of Title 10, the DoD has found a way to get close to covert action without crossing the line.
The closest the U.S. military gets to covert action is called the Operational Preparation of the Environment (OPE). OPE consists of clandestine intelligence collection that may have a more distant relation to military action. Because OPE exists in a pseudo-covert action context, DoD has won legal jurisdiction of it by arguing that a theoretical, distant military operation might one day exist as a result of its being.
It goes beyond traditional military operations but doesn’t legally cross the line into covert action by CIA. It does, however, get close.
Everyone from DoD, CIA, and even ODNI knows that the delineation is not clear. They argue, they fight, and they come up with some sort of consensus. But while there might not be a distinct line in the ground differentiating CIA and DoD authority, there is a grey line or a buffer zone at the very least.
However, this grey line possesses ambiguity that can have very adverse implications for the national security community. Such ambiguity makes it difficult, if not impossible, for intelligence officers to conduct intelligence operations in their field of work if the collection of such intelligence is proscribed.
If the military continues to conduct clandestine intelligence in the form of OPE, leaders at both DoD and CIA will need to prescribe more delineated instructions for how and by who such intelligence will be collected. This goes beyond mere turf wars that happen all of the time within the intelligence community. It gives instructions as to who can operate in this capacity when covert action is not conducted but is on the borderline of being touched.
The DoD argument for OPE that such intelligence may need to be collected via clandestine means for the potential exploitation in a future, theoretical military operation will not suffice. It only provides legitimacy to the military in conducting such operations but does not provide a way for it to complement or work along CIA.
Gina Haspel, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Many of the covert operations undertaken by CIA are not very different from military OPE. The functions hold many of the same premises. The only difference is that DoD has made the argument for OPE’s potential value as to why it should be considered a military operation in accordance with Title 10 and not the covert action provisions of Title 50.
Accordingly, the functions of both DoD and CIA should complement one another as opposed to working against each other in the case of further jurisdiction debate. Leaders need to delineate the roles the processes should play in each agency while also proscribing intelligence requirements that can be satisfied according to each service.
There is no reason the DoD should not be able to conduct OPE. It is not covert action and does not fall exclusively into CIA’s charter. But it does border it.
That means there needs to be much more synchronization between DoD and CIA to facilitate intelligence collection on adversarial capabilities and intentions to fulfill intelligence requirements that are desperately needed.
However, the issue does not stop only with senior leadership. It has ramifications for operations officers at CIA and military officers, equally as well. While both cohorts know their jobs and the functions that are to be executed fairly well, operations such as that of OPE provide particular challenges that are still not widely understood. That is particularly the case because it is not firmly established in doctrine or proscribed to the legality of one agency or the other.
An operations officer at CIA who is tasked with clandestine human intelligence collection may be blindsided by OPE operations undertaken by the military that may disrupt or interfere with general Agency operations. Military intelligence collection may confuse Agency personnel as to their requirements as to whose prerogative or official duties the intelligence collection may involve. Further, intelligence collection of this sort in the same area of operations may interfere with CIA sources and asset networks that may inadvertently become shared with that of the military. Sources can quickly become compromised if they are not handled correctly, and too many asset handlers without adequate synchronization will do precisely that.
Likewise, many military officers are unaware of OPE and what it entails. It is not widely discussed, taught, or even presented to military officers in a way to educate them on what is encompassed by the military’s clandestine intelligence collection. Further, it is a discipline that is shared with a select few military personnel and officers who are not acquainted with it may also interfere with its operation. Conventional military hierarchies have become somewhat risk-adverse to date (for good reasons and bad) that their executive judgment (based on collective ambiguity relating to intelligence collection of this sort) may either interfere with or disrupt OPE collection efforts. The absence of clear guidance as to clandestine intelligence functions within the military can cripple the intelligence apparatus and needs to be further described in doctrine to allow for its potential and avoid interference of it inadvertently.
Summarily, the role of covert action between the DoD and CIA is rather clear. The Title 10 versus 50 debate has been exhaustively discussed in the literature and among practitioners. But where the line becomes grey has not. This is a problem for both DoD and CIA. Both agencies need to comprehensively describe the role of clandestine intelligence collection in both agencies. This is particularly true with OPE where the line is not delineated, education efforts are virtually nonexistent, and jurisdiction boundaries are more or less ambiguous. To facilitate the most successful and operationally safeguarded operations of this nature, DoD and CIA need to find a more delineated and prescribed approach to clandestine intelligence collection to fulfill the intelligence requirements that they need to satisfy.
President-elect Donald Trump has called for the cancellation of the new Air Force One in a tweet, citing the fact that the program would cost $4 billion.
This becomes the latest controversy over the aircraft used to transport the President of the United States, or “POTUS.”
According to a report by Fox Business Network, Trump initially tweeted his intent to cancel the contract, saying, “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!” Trump later backed up the tweet in comments outside Trump Tower.
Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!
The current Air Force One, the VC-25A, is based on the Boeing 747-200 airliner. The VC-25 entered service in 1990 under President George H. W. Bush.
Two VC-25As are in service, with the tail numbers 28000 and 29000. The planes are equipped to serve as airborne command posts, and have a range of 6,800 nautical miles.
The planes can be refueled in flight and also have the AN/ALQ-204 HAVE CHARCOAL infra-red countermeasures system. The previous Air Force One was the VC-137C, based on the Boeing 707.
The new Air Force One is based on the 747-8. While the current Air Force One has received upgrades throughout its life, the 747-200 has largely been retired from commercial aviation fleets.
This has caused the logistical support to become more expensive. The 747-8 also features a longer range (7,700 nautical miles) and will be easier to support.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on a conference call, “I think people are really frustrated with some of the big price tags that are coming out from programs even in addition to this one, so we’re going to look for areas where we can keep costs down and look for ways where we can save money.”
In a statement responding to President-elect Trump’s tweet, Boeing said, “We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States. We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.”
But abuse and maltreatment of recruits did not begin or end with Siddiqui, Military.com has learned.
In all, three different investigations into training inside one Parris Island battalion reveal a culture of hazing and violence that did not end until one recruit’s family sent an anonymous letter to President Barack Obama in April.
The investigations also reveal that drill instructors within 3rd Recruit Training Battalion had a history of singling out recruits based on their ethnicity and religion, and that another Muslim recruit had been subjected to severe hazing in 2015 when a drill instructor repeatedly shoved him into a clothes dryer and turned it on, and forced him to shout “Allah Akbar” loud enough to wake other recruits.
That same drill instructor would become a supervisory drill instructor in Siddiqui’s unit, the investigation found, and his treatment of the recruit, including forcing him to complete “incentive training” and physically assaulting and slapping him immediately prior to his death, provided impetus for the suicide, investigators found.
In all, 20 drill instructors and senior leaders from Parris Island’s Recruit Training Regiment face punitive action or separation from the Marine Corps for participating in or enabling mistreatment of recruits. Several drill instructors at the heart of the abuse allegations are likely to face court-martial for their actions.
The contents of the three investigations have not been released publicly as the findings have yet to be endorsed by Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. But Marine officials discussed the contents of the investigations and the recommendations of the investigating officers in response to a public records request.
Marine officials said Thursday that the incidents of hazing and abuse were confined to 3rd Recruit Training Battalion and not indicative of the culture within the Corps’ boot camps at Parris Island and San Diego.
“When America’s men and women commit to becoming Marines, we make a promise to them. We pledge to train them with firmness, fairness, dignity and compassion,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a statement. “Simply stated, the manner in which we make Marines is as important as the finished product. Recruit training is, and will remain, physically and mentally challenging so that we can produce disciplined, ethical, basically trained Marines.”
A lengthy investigation into the death of 20-year-old Siddiqui found the recruit had died by suicide, jumping from the third floor of the Company K recruit training barracks, slamming his chest against a railing at the bottom of the stairs.
Siddiqui had threatened to kill himself five days before, prior to the first full day of recruit training. He described a plan to jump out a squad bay window, investigators found, but later recanted and was allowed to remain in training.
In the short time Siddiqui was at the unit, investigators found he was repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist,” presumably in reference to his Muslim background. One drill instructor also asked the recruit if he needed his turban, officials said.
Findings show recruits were routinely singled out on account of their backgrounds and ethnicity. Drill instructors referred to one recruit born in Russia as “the Russian” and “cosmonaut” and asked him if he was a communist spy, investigators found.
In Siddiqui’s unit, recruits were subjected to unauthorized incentive training, in which they would lift footlockers, day packs and other heavy items and clean the squad bay in uncomfortable positions using small scrub brushes for hours. Drill instructors would also push and shove recruits and use Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training as an opportunity to pit recruits against each other, sometimes in physically unfair matchups.
Drill instructors told investigators that a more experienced drill instructor taught subordinates they needed to “hate” recruits to be successful at training them.
On March 13, Siddiqui, who previously had received a clean mental health evaluation, expressed a desire to kill himself. He was interviewed at the scene and turned over the the depot’s mental health unit, where he recanted and expressed a wish to return to training.
He was given a clean bill of health, described as “highly motivated to continue training,” and returned to his unit with no follow-up requested, investigators found.
Drill instructors would tell investigators that recruits frequently express suicidal ideations as an excuse to get out of training, and thus no serious incident report was made about Siddiqui’s threat. While drill instructors were told to ease Siddiqui back into training, they were not made aware of his suicidal ideations.
The morning of Siddiqui’s death, the recruit presented drill instructors with a note asking to go to medical with a severely swollen throat. He claimed he had lost his voice and coughed up blood overnight and was in significant pain. In response, he was told to do “get-backs” — to sprint back-and-forth the nearly 150 feet between the entrance to the bathroom, the back of the squad bay and the front of the squad bay.
“I don’t care what’s wrong with you; you’re going to say something back to me,” a drill instructor yelled as Siddiqui began to cry.
Shortly after, the recruit dropped to the floor clutching his throat, though it’s not clear if he became unconscious or was feigning to deflect the drill instructor’s abuse.
In an effort to wake him, the drill instructor slapped Siddiqui on the face hard enough to echo through the squad bay. The recruit became alert, ran out of the squad bay, and vaulted over the stairwell railing, sustaining severe injuries in the fall.
Drill instructors called 911. Siddiqui would be taken to Beaufort Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Charleston, where he would receive blood transfusions and emergency surgery in an unsuccessful effort to save his life. He died just after 10 a.m.
The lawyer for the Siddiqui family, Nabih Ayad, did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding the investigations’ findings.
In the wake of Siddiqui’s death, multiple leaders have been relieved for failing to prevent the culture of recruit abuse. On March 31, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon was fired in connection with the investigation of prior allegations of recruit mistreatment, including the hazing and assault of another, unnamed, Muslim recruit.
Notably, the Marine Corps’ investigations stopped short of finding that drill instructors’ hazing of Siddiqui and other recruits was motivated by racial bias. They did find evidence that some drill instructors made a practice of exploiting recruits’ ethnicities as a way to harass them.
On June 6, Parris Island officials announced that Recruit Training Regiment’s commander, Col. Paul Cucinotta, and its senior enlisted leader, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas Dabreau, had been relieved in connection with the Siddiqui investigation.
Fifteen drill instructors have been sidelined since April amid allegations of recruit hazing and maltreatment, and two captains may also face punishment for failing to properly supervise drill instructors.
Marine officials said it may be one to three months before disciplinary decisions are made, including possible charges filed, regarding these 20 Marines.
Officials with Marine Corps Training and Education Command have also set in motion a host of new policies designed to prevent future mistreatment of recruits, said Maj. Christian Devine, a Marine Corps spokesman.
These include increased officer presence and supervision of recruit training; mandatory suspension of personnel being investigated for recruit hazing or mistreatment; better visibility of investigations above the regiment level, changes to the drill instructor assignment process to prevent chain-of-command loyalty from affecting leadership; creation of a zero-tolerance policy for hazing among drill instructors; and a review of mental health processes and procedures for suicide prevention.
“We mourn the loss of Recruit Siddiqui,” Neller said. “And we will take every step necessary to prevent tragic events like this from happening again.”
Dr. Biden and Vice President Biden greet soldiers from the Delaware Army National Guard 261st Signal Brigade at their homecoming in September 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann).
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.
In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.
“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”
Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.
The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.
To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.
Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.
At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.
By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.
Iranians got accustomed to the miniscule increases in their every day quality of life since U.S. and UN sanctions lifted. In 2016, the first year after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, the Islamic Republic’s economy experienced more than 12 percent growth after the five percent contraction it had the year prior. Along with that growth came a huge drop in inflation rates, increases in luxury goods, and a dip in the poverty rate.
But that’s all gone now, wiped away by the reimposition of UN/U.S. economic sanctions – and Iranians are not happy.
You can’t buy an iPhone when you can’t feed your family.
Many Iranians, however, saw little improvement in their lives, as many economic sanctions weren’t actually lifted before President Donald Trump reimposed them after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. Iranians say they can feel themselves breaking under the economic pressure, but they aren’t blaming Trump or the United States; they blame the regime. Little about Iran’s economy has changed in the last 40 years. Its inflation rate is now 37 percent and its unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent.
Oil revenues are a full third of Iran’s economy and President Trump has blocked it from being sold on world markets while promising to sanction any country who buys it. Still, the Iranians blame the government and its leadership.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Citizens of the Islamic Republic believe many in their government are corrupt, citing reports of former officials who embezzled millions of dollars and then fled the country before it could be recovered.
“The economic war is not from outside of our borders but within the country,” Jafar Mousavi, who runs a dry-goods store in Tehran, told the Associated Press. “If there was integrity among our government, producers and people, we could have overcome the pressures.”
The Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation was created to honor Skip Wells – one of the four Marines killed in the Chattanooga shooting tragedy. It donates to organizations in and around the area Skip had grown up. The foundation also gave over $135,000 to Marines Mickey – an organization that sends Marines and their families to Disney World. Skip’s mom Cathy, who heads the foundation had partnered with the charity because she and her son had always taken yearly vacations to the resort. She wanted other Marine families to have that experience as well.
But now, they feel their donations were given under false pretenses, and want the funds returned.
A post on Lance Corporal Skip Wells Foundation’s Facebook said John Simpson claims to be a Former Recon Marine, Drill Instructor and Msgt., but they no longer believe this to be true. The post states he was discharged from the Marine Corps due to bad conduct – and was an E1 admin clerk. The post goes on to say ‘there will be federal charges for stolen valor, 501c3 tax fraud, and many other criminal charges the authorities at the federal level are currently investigating.”
A letter from John Simpson was posted on the Marines Mickey website homepage that countered the accusations of the Wells Foundation, claiming he too had spoken to authorities, and that he was advised that the actions against him amount to blackmail and extortion.
“We did several events that had Marines and Mickeys name and Skip Wells’ name attached to it, these funds raised sent 14 families to Disney since October 2015. In my opinion, a donation made is not stolen when used for the mission plainly stated and publicly known. Our Mission had existed for over a year and a half prior to the tragedy in Chattanooga. and that is why, Representatives, Representing Ms Wells called my Foundation the night of the tragedy… telling us, they wanted to send all monies expected to be donated to her over the coming weeks to be instead given on to Marines and Mickey for the purpose of Sending Marines to Disney.”
After that letter was published, Skip Wells Foundation page posted the following:
We had to act immediately to protect Cathy and the Foundation from further loss. What you personally do with the information we provided is up to you. He is telling people that we are attempting to take over his foundation and harm his reputation. We can assure you that our one and only priority is to protect Cathy and recover over 135k in fraudulent donations to Marines and Mickey and him personally….
As far as Stolen Valor, I never said I was a Force Recon Marine, never said I had been on one tour to Afghanistan, much less four.
Many are following these developments and are posting own findings: James Hill found a cached copy of the site’s “About Us” page and posted a screenshot of it in the comments. The photo shows there was a section on the page titled, “How We Came About” and it reads: “Marines Mickey began in May 2014, Founded by John Simpson, a Retired Marine, who was a Recon Marine and also a Parris Island Drill Instructor….”
The current version of that page no longer contains this section.
Cait Nestor posted a photo of Parris Island’s Off-Limits Establishments list which includes Marines Mickey.
The Wells Foundation is in the process of obtaining an official copy of Simpson’s DD-214 using the Freedom of Information Act. Ms. Wells told WSB-TV2 if the funds are recovered, she will put them back into her foundation.
The South Korean military is reporting that North Korea launched several weapons into the sea, perhaps a sign that North Korea’s patience with Washington is growing thin.
North Korea launched a barrage of unidentified short-range projectiles early May 4, 2019, local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press release, according to the semi-official Yonhap News Agency. The weapons, which were initially identified as missiles, reportedly flew out to ranges of roughly 70 to 200 kilometers (43 to 124 miles).
At this time, it is unclear what North Korea has launched. The mysterious projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan.
North Korea’s last missile test was conducted in November 2017, when the country launched a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile — the Hwasong-15.
As an apparent good-faith gesture to facilitate bilateral dialogue, Pyongyang proposed a self-imposed long-range missile and nuclear testing moratorium while in talks with the US. Round after round of failed negotiations, which included two leadership summits attended by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un, have left both sides feeling frustrated.
The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile.
In November 2018, after an abrupt cancellation of a meeting between the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, the North tested a so-called “ultramodern tactical weapon,” apparently an artillery piece.
In April 2019, North Korea tested a “new tactical guided weapon,” reportedly components for a new anti-tank weapon.
A missile launch, while potentially intended to signal a desire for movement on bilateral issues, would not only undermine the president’s claims of progress with North Korea, but it would also risk bringing Pyongyang and Washington back to the exchanges of heated rhetoric and shows of force that had many wondering if nuclear war was just over the horizon in 2017.
The latest weapons launch comes on the heels of a meeting between Kim and the Russian President Vladimir Putin, the specific details of which remain murky.
Trump was reportedly “fully briefed” on North Korea’s actions by White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has been decidedly pessimistic in his view of negotiations with Pyongyang. Bolton has, in the past, argued in favor of using military force.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea has reportedly miniaturized a nuclear warhead, giving their intercontinental ballistic missiles the ability to deliver a nuclear payload for the first time. The rogue regime has also been moving anti-ship cruise missiles to at least one patrol boat.
The moves come amidst heightened tensions in the region and despite a unanimous UN Security Council vote imposing further sanctions.
According to a FoxNews.com report, the development of the warhead and further threats from the regime of Kim Jong Un prompted President Trump to state that the North Korean leader “best not make anymore threats to the United States.” The President went on to state that threats would “be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons, and has conducted a string of tests despite sanctions being imposed. One recent test involved an ICBM that could hit targets in half the United States. The regime also has a history of holding Americans hostage.
The war of words between Trump and Kim comes as another report by FoxNews.com indicated that two “Stormpetal” missiles were being loaded on to a “Wonsan-class patrol boat.”
Oddly, the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World does not list any “Wonsan-class” vessel in North Korean service, nor does GlobalSecurity.org. The only Wonsan-class vessel listed in service is a South Korean minelayer.
North Korea is credited by GlobalSecurity.org with a surface-effect ship about the size of most missile boats called the Nongo class, as well as a variant of the Osa-class missile boats called the Soju class.
The Nongo-class can hold from as many as eight anti-ship missiles. Osas generally held four SS-N-2 anti-ship missiles, according to Combat Fleets of the World.
The Stormpetal is also not a known missile system to either source. GlobalSecurity.org, does note that many indigenous North Korean missile designs are ballistic missiles or artillery rockets. The North Koreans have also designed an indigenous version of the SS-N-2 Styx known as the KN-01, and a version of the SA-10 Grumble known as the KN-06.
Feature image: A 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion critical skills operator surfaces from the ocean and advances up a beach, completing a combat dive exercise in Key West, Fla., Feb. 18, 2015. (DoD Photo).
Today, a female college student is set to make history by graduating from one of the toughest special operations courses in the entire U.S. military.
Sandboxx News has learned that on Thursday a female cadet will become the first woman to ever graduate from the Army Special Forces Underwater Operations School (SFUWO).
A rising junior at a state school and a member of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), the female student has also been chosen as the class honor graduate, a remarkable distinction reserved for the best student who has distinguished him or herself through his or her physical and mental fortitude.
“The news is a very big deal. [Combat] Dive school is arguably the toughest school in the military with the highest attrition rate. It demands perfection and attention to detail every single day. The course is long and wears down everyone,” John Black, a retired Special Forces warrant officer and combat diver, told Sandboxx News.
Graduating from one of the toughest special operations schools in the military will set the female cadet up for success in her military career, whether she pursues a conventional or special operations path.
Located in Key West, Florida, SFUWO trains Army special operators, such as Rangers, Green Berets, and even Delta Force operators, to become combat divers, dive supervisors, or dive medical technicians. Although SFUWO is an Army school, commandos from other services, such as from the Air Force Special Operations Command, also attend from time to time.
A six-week course, the CDQC graduates approximately 300 students every year. It teaches surface and subsurface waterborne infiltration, including the use of the Draeger closed-circuit/ semi-closed-circuit underwater rebreather.
Admission to the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC)—the flagship course of the SFUWO and the one that the female cadet will be graduating from—is highly selective. A special operator must have already excelled at his home unit and passed several in-house assessment and training courses before getting orders to Key West.
It isn’t uncommon for seasoned Rangers and Green Berets to fail CDQC. It’s also not uncommon to have fatalities in what is, by all accounts, a very difficult course, both physically and mentally. Only a few weeks ago, a Green Beret from the 10th Special Forces Group died during the CDQC.
“Dive school is extremely difficult. To endure the physical and mental aspects of the course, it’s a huge achievement. To be the honor grad is a big deal. She’s the fastest and the best. Big congratulations to her and those that will follow,” Black added.
This isn’t the first time an ROTC cadet has graduated from the Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Several universities send ROTC cadets to the schoolhouse during the summer, with a rare few making it through. However, up to this point, no female, regardless of service status, had ever graduated.
Although this is a high point for the Army special operations combat diver community, not everything is rosy within their ranks. The community has been suffering from some degree of neglect throughout the past two decades of fighting terrorism in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Note that when writing “Veterans Day,” there is no apostrophe. It’s not a day that belongs to veterans, it’s a day for the country to recognize veterans – all of them.
The United States has a tradition of recognizing those who fight in its wars. Memorial Day began as a way for Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades (the day was originally called Decoration Day). Eventually, it would come to recognize all Americans troops killed in action.
Veterans Day was born from the trenches of World War I. The horrors of that war spurred not just Americans but most combatants to recognize those who fought in that terrible conflict.
In America, the anniversary of the war’s end became known as Armistice Day. After the brutal fighting of World War II and Korea, Armistice Day became Veterans Day.
The United States certainly isn’t the only country to experience the devastation a war can take on its population (and especially on those who fight that war). A few others take a day to recognize the significance of those who serve.
1. Australia and New Zealand
The land down under celebrates it veterans on what is known as ANZAC Day, on April 25. The day marks the anniversary of the first major military action from Australia and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I, the Battle of Gallipoli, against the Ottoman Turks. The first ANZAC Day was in 1926 and was later expanded to include the World War II veterans.
These days, ANZAC Day begins at dawn, with commemorations at war memorials and reflections on the meanings of war.
Since 1928, Belgium recognized its fallen on Armistice Day with the “Last Post” ceremony. A bugler calls out the “Last Post,” noting the end of the day (a British song, similar in effect to the modern U.S. Army “retreat”). Poppies are spread out from the tops of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.
The French also recognize Armistice Day on Nov. 11. The country throws military parades and its people wear black or dark clothing.
While Denmark was officially a neutral country in WWI, it doesn’t share the Nov. 11 remembrance with other Western European countries. Instead, Denmark honors living and dead troops from any conflict on its Flag Day, Sep. 5th.
Volkstrauertag is a day honoring the nation’s war dead on the Sunday closest to Nov. 16. The German president speaks to the assembled government and then the national anthem is played just before “Ichhatt’ einen Kameraden” (“I had a comrade”).
Since 1963, Yom Hazikaron, or “Day of the Memory,” has been Israel’s day for celebrating its fallen troops and for those who died in terrorist attacks and politically-motivated violence. It’s traditionally held on the 5th of Ivar (on the Hebrew calendar) but will be held in the preceding days to avoid falling on Shabbat.
Italy also celebrates its veterans with the marking of the end of World War I. Since Italy spent the bulk of the war fighting the Austro-Hungarian Empire and peace on the Italian Front was separate from the rest of the Western Front, the end of the war – and Italy’s veterans – are celebrated on Nov. 4.
8. The Netherlands
Veteranendag, recognizing everyone who served in the country’s military, happens on the last Saturday in June. The celebration has gained importance since the country began deploying to Afghanistan. Celebrations include a ceremony in front of the King of the Netherlands in the Hall of Knights, a parade in The Hague, and a meeting between veterans and civilians at the Malieveld, a National Mall-type area in The Hague.
As a member of the Commonwealth, Nigeria originally shared Nov. 11 as Remembrance Day but changed it to Jan. 15th to commemorate the end of the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.
Veterandagen is celebrated every May 8, coinciding with the World War II Victory in Europe Day. Norway’s observation of the day is recent, as they’ve only been celebratingit since 2011.
The Swede celebrate their veterans and those who served as UN Peacekeepers every May 29 with a large ceremony in Stockholm, attended by the Swedish Royal Family.
12. The United Kingdom and the Commonwealth
Those watching the news or sporting events on BBC or CBC may have noticed a red, flower-looking device on the lapels of the announcers. Those are poppies worn for Remembrance Sunday. For the month or so leading up to Nov. 11, Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries wear poppies to remember those who died in war. Wear of the poppy actually started with an American school teacher, but became a symbol of WWI because of the poem “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae.
Twists and turns, bumps and bruises, the occasional crash. For many Veterans, the sport of bobsled is a metaphor for life.
Army Veteran Will Castillo’s story began on April 27, 2007. Castillo – then a staff sergeant – was riding along with Spc. Eddie Tamez and Pfc. David Kirkpatrick on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq, when their Humvee struck an improvised explosive device (IED).
The aftermath was a blur. When Castillo awoke, his sister and mother were by his bedside.
“I could hardly talk I was so heavily medicated,” he said. “I was just trying to survive.”
He was 27 years old, and his injuries had cost him his left leg – but he was alive. Tamez and Kirkpatrick did not survive.
Castillo spent the next two years at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering and learning to navigate life with one leg. Visitors came by to give him hugs, handshakes and well wishes. The Director of Homeland Security even offered him a job.
In 2009, he was discharged from Walter Reed, and he moved to Orlando to start anew. But life wasn’t good.
“I had survivor’s guilt. I thought about my guys, what had I done wrong. I was depressed. I was suicidal.”
His marriage crumbled, and his mental health deteriorated.
“All the struggles I was going through. I was Baker Acted,” Castillo said, referring to the Florida law that allows for emergency or involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.
He recovered, remarried and again tried to rebuild. But his struggles continued and, in 2015, he divorced for the second time.
In 2017, Castillo returned to Walter Reed for a follow-up operation to his injured leg. His life took an unexpected turn.
“A friend of mine was there and said to me, ‘You should try bobsled.’ I was extremely overweight, but I figured it would be something to keep me busy.”
Army Veteran Will Castillo displays his gold medal from the Empire State Winter Games para bobsled competition. Castillo is one of the world’s top ranked sledders in the sport. (Courtesy photo)
His first attempt was skeleton, a sport where the slider rides face down and head-first on a small sled down an ice track at speeds of more than 80 mph.
“It was terrifying,” he said. “I was 260 pounds. I was crashing into the walls. Those little sleds are not made for that weight.”
After a year at skeleton, he switched to monobob, a one-person bobsled that looks like a rocket on ice skates. He knew instantly he’d found his sport.
“Everything just slowed down, I was able to see everything. There was danger, but I did it. There’s no disability on that ice. For that one minute, it’s awesome.”
Veterans like Castillo are dominating the sport in the United States, thanks in large part to camps like the ones at Lake Placid. From 2015 to 2020, VA’s Adaptive Sports Grant had funded 16 camps for Veterans at Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, the only two bobsled track sites in the country.
Thanks to the VA grant, Veterans’ only cost to attend is travel to and from the camp.
Camps are typically five days and allow Veterans to stay on site at the Olympic Training Center. Once there, Veterans receive training from strength and conditioning experts, physical therapists and sports psychologists. After completing initial training, they head to the ice track where they learn the fundamentals of para-bobsled and skeleton.
“With bobsled, things are pretty expensive,” Seevers said. “To get the ice time and the bobsleds is a lot. Each of the bobsleds is ,000. For us to rent the sleds and pay for track time is typically between ,500 and ,000, dependent on the number of Veterans sliding.”
Veterans among world’s elite
At the 2019-2020 Para World Cup competition, all five U.S. team members were Veterans. They finished the season ranked 7th, 16th, 18th, 21st and 24th in the world.
Castillo is the number one ranked para-bobsledder in the U.S. and will pilot USA 1, the name of the monobob designated for Team USA’s top slider, in upcoming competitions. It’s an opportunity he humbly accepts.
“It all starts with VA and those camps,” he said. “Then you really have to put the work in and you start seeing the rewards. You get to put that uniform on again (and) represent the USA with integrity and honor.”
Para bobsled and para skeleton are relatively new sports with the first international competitions having taken place in 2013. Still, neither sport is recognized as Paralympic eligible. But that may soon be changing.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is hoping her success can help the sport and other Veterans advance to the pinnacle of international competition.
Marine Corps and Army Veteran Sarah Frazier-Kim is one of the United States’ top para bobsledders. Athletes are hoping the sport will become one of the newest Paralympic competitions. (Courtesy photo)
“I always liked winter sports, even though I don’t like the cold,” she said. “I’d watch the Olympics on TV and bobsled and skeleton were sports I always loved.”
In 1995, Frazier-Kim was injured in a training accident in the Marine Corps. In January 2019, after years of complications, pain and suffering, doctors at Ft. Sam Houston amputated her right leg above the knee.
“(My doctor) asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I want to make Team USA. And he said, ‘We’ll get you there.'”
In November 2018, in anticipation of her surgery, she was sent for physical therapy to get her into shape.
“I changed from a mom body to an athletic body.”
After the surgery, she continued physical therapy with her therapist, an ex-football player.
“He worked me out like I was on the football team. I was working out like a beast, doing balancing exercises, strength training, and someone there knew Kim Seevers.”
Like Castillo, Frazier-Kim says she was invited to one of the camps at Lake Placid. She completed her first camp in October 2019.
In less than a year, Frazier-Kim has become one of the top female sliders in the sport. Para bobsled is gender neutral with men and women competing together.
“There’s nothing like it. It’s the most exhilarating feeling. The excitement, the adrenaline rush, you’re going so fast. It’s crazy,” she said.
But her rapid success did not come without bumps and bruises along the way.
“Your legs and shoulders are hitting the sides of the bobsled. It’s not for everyone,” she said. “You have to think about every curve while you’re being slapped back and forth.”
Despite the challenges, she says her goal now is simple – to be the best.
“I plan on doing it for as long as I can – as long as my body can take it. And being a Marine, I don’t know any other way.”
Got a sore throat or a sprained ankle and don’t want to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital? Got sick at 8:00 on a Friday night and don’t want to wait until Monday to see a VA doctor? A new VA program may be for you.
As of June 6, 2019, the VA offers medical care to eligible veterans at selected civilian urgent care facilities nationwide.
Dr. Jake Williams, Veterans Affairs dentist, poses for a photo January 9, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
This is an expansion of the VA’s Mission Act, which itself was an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act. The Choice Act was passed in 2014 as the result of highly publicized problems with veterans not being able to get appointments at VA hospitals in a timely manner.
Under this new expanded program, veterans are eligible to get limited urgent care from civilian doctors regardless of how close they are to a VA facility.
The Wichita Veterans Administration Hospital, also called the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, located at 5500 East Kellogg Avenue in Wichita, Kansas.
If you are enrolled in the VA health care system and have received VA medical care within the last 24 months, you should be eligible for this program. However, you should contact your local VA medical facility before visiting a civilian urgent care provider. Only certain services and providers are covered under this new benefit. If you visit a provider that isn’t part of the program, or you get medical treatment that isn’t covered under this program, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.
You don’t have to go to a civilian doctor if you don’t want to. The VA says that most of its locations, including hospitals and community-based outpatient clinics, offer same-day services for most situations.
You should contact your local medical office to check your eligibility. Or you can call (866) 606-8198. You can also find civilian community-care locations near you at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.
Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX
One way this program differs from regular VA medical care is that you may have to make a co-payment to see the civilian doctor. The amount depends on your VA Priority Group and how many times you visit civilian doctors each year. Typically, you get three free visits each year.
Co-Payments for Office Visits
Priority Groups 1-5. There is no co-payment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is .
Priority Group 6. If the visit is for medical treatment related to combat and chemical exposures such as Agent Orange; contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC; Gulf War Syndrome, etc., as well as some mental illnesses, there is no co-pay for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is . If the visit is not related to these conditions, the co-payment is per visit, for all visits.
Priority Groups 7-8. The co-payment is per visit.
There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.
Co-Payments for Prescriptions
If you get a prescription from an urgent care center, you should fill it at a VA network pharmacy. If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you will have to pay the full price at the drug store and then file a claim with the VA to get your money back.
If you are given a prescription for what the VA considers routine or maintenance drugs (such as blood pressure or cholesterol drugs), you will have to get those filled by the VA.