Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.
Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.
“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”
Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).
The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.
A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
Now is not the time to be nervous. What if I don’t qualify? I’ll never see corporal. Okay, okay, okay… remember what you were taught. 300-yard line equals the tip of the post, or is it tip of the chevron? What if none of my shots hit the…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear.”
These thoughts can be all too familiar for some Marines during their annual rifle requalification. Marines can experience a lot of pressure when qualifying on the range, because every Marine’s primary job is to be a rifleman, regardless of their occupational field. As such, it is important that every Marine has the confidence to fire under the most adverse of conditions. If a Marine is not confident in their shooting abilities, then qualifying can be difficult without proper instruction from a subject matter expert.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Austin Meise, small arms repairer/technician, Headquarters and Support Battalion (HS Bn), Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, mentioned that his first time shooting was when he was in recruit training. He asked a lot of questions and used a rifle data book that was given to all of the recruits by their primary marksmanship instructors.
MCB Camp Pendleton’s Marksmanship Training Unit is dedicated to furthering the building blocks learned in recruit training, and further the training continuum approach to maintain proficient combat marksmen. During grass week, Marines practice without live firing, the four marksmanship shooting positions: sitting, kneeling, standing, and prone.
“If you properly apply the fundamentals, you will shoot black all the time,” said Meise, in regard to targets commonly fired upon at ranges. “Before the Marine Corps, I never shot a weapon, but with the guidance I received from the instructors, I now consistently fire expert on the range.”
Lance Cpl. Eric Janasiak, a rifleman with Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.
(US Marine Corps photo)
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Garald John, combat marksmanship trainer, HS Bn, MCB Camp Pendleton, explains that the worst thing for CMTs, PMIs and combat marksmanship coaches is having one of their Marine’s fail on the range for annual training.
“One of the most commonly asked questions is, ‘how do I get a more stability in the standing position?'” said John. “The guidance I give them is: to rest their forward tricep on their chest as much as possible to get more stability, but mainly I express to just take their time to apply the fundamentals.”
With the CMT by their sides, Marines also practice the maneuvers needed to accomplish a proper ammunition speed reload as well as opportunities to use the computer based, indoor simulated marksmanship trainers to run-through drills they will perform during their firing week.
“For the Marines that come to our MTU, I would say one-on-one coaching time is what helps most,” explained John. “The first time we run everyone through the ISMT, and we assess that they are struggling, we’ll ask if they’d like to stay back for extra practice giving that Marine the chance for further one-on-one training. We give them recommendations on how to be more stable or improve breathing techniques. Whatever we see they need help in the most, we try to assist as much as possible.”
Cpl. Berkeley Lewis, a rifleman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fires his M4 carbine during training at the SR-7 range at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeff Drew)
Once the live firing commences, Marines are accompanied by their CMCs. While a Marine’s effort is individual, CMCs are there to provide guidance, and answer questions.
“During firing week, people tend to let their ego get in the way,” said Meise. “When Marines see a bad shot, expecting more or better results, they begin to worry. Worrying causes them to forget the fundamentals! They’re focusing on the shot, but not the form.”
John said that during grass week, the coaches and the CMTs always get Marines to a point where the instructors and coaches are confident enough to say every Marine has the potential to qualify for annual rifle training.
“When I see Marines achieve more than what they thought they could, it really makes me look forward to what I may see in the future of my Marine Corps,” said John. “I know it is because coaches try to uplift the shooters and the shooters try to uplift each other increasing everyone’s confidence and overall mindset.”
Deep breath. Fundamentals: stable shooting position, slow steady squeeze, natural respiratory pause, expect the recoil…
“Shooters you may commence firing when your TAAARRGETS appear”
Yup. Robot fighter planes are in flight, and they’re about to come to market.
First, a quick look at the weapon’s missions. It’s supposed to fly in combat, perform early warning missions, and conduct reconnaissance. So, basically, it’s a jack of all trades. According to a Boeing press release, the plane will:
— Provide fighter-like performance, measuring 38 feet long (11.7 metres) and able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles — Integrate sensor packages onboard to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and electronic warfare — Use artificial intelligence to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft.
Boeing hasn’t announced the plane’s exact capabilities which, since they want to eventually sell it around the world, is probably a good idea. No one who buys the plane is going to want all their adversaries to already know its limits, even if there is no pilot to kill.
But expect aviation media to keep a firm eye on the plane. One of the biggest selling points of autonomous fighters is that the planes won’t be limited to speeds, turning rates, and altitudes where humans can survive. See, the human meat sack in the middle of the plane is often the most fragile and valuable part of it. So everyone wants to know what the plane can do without a pilot.
“The Boeing Airpower Teaming System will provide a disruptive advantage for allied forces’ manned/unmanned missions,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Boeing Autonomous Systems. “With its ability to reconfigure quickly and perform different types of missions in tandem with other aircraft, our newest addition to Boeing’s portfolio will truly be a force multiplier as it protects and projects air power.”
In the ALPHA AI program, developed with a team from University of Cincinnati an artificial intelligence running on a cheap computer defeated skilled fighter pilots in simulations.
And the Air Force already began packing the computers into older jets to test the concept, leading to a 2017 test where an empty F-16 flew in support of human pilots. The program, Have Raider II, was ran in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and their Skunk Works program, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if Lockheed unveiled its own proposal soon.
There are legal limits on autonomous fighting systems, but the key component is that they ascribe to at least “man-in-the-loop” protocol where a human makes the final decision for any lethal engagement. But Have Raider II and the BATS envision robot fighters flying next to human-crewed planes and under the direction of the human pilots, so both will likely be accepted on the international stage. And, Boeing hasn’t said that BATS will necessarily have lethal weapons.
Weapons like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 are sold across national boundaries to American allies. Boeing has developed an unmanned fighter that it hopes to sell across the world as well.
(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)
BATS was developed in Australia and, as mentioned above, Boeing hopes the final iterations will have a place in the air forces of U.S. partners around the world. But there is some downside to the new robot paradigm for the U.S. and its allies.
China’s military is improving at a great rate, growing larger and more technologically advanced by the week. One factor that’s holding them back is a shortage of pilots and good candidates for the training. So if China is able to develop a similar breakthrough, they can pump new planes into the air as fast as the factories can crank them out. And they’ve already made Dark Sword, an autonomous stealth drone with some fighter characteristics.
When you hide behind a keyboard and computer screen, it’s easy to lie about who you are or what you’ve done. Almost anyone can go on the internet and say they’ve done this, that, and the other thing — and the veteran community is just as guilty of this.
There are shameless veterans everywhere who will go on the comments section and start shooting off lies faster than a GAU-8 Avenger dispenses 30mm rounds.
But honest veterans everywhere know the truth because they’ve been there and they know which lies are the most common.
This one is just plain stupid. If you’re proud of your service, there’s absolutely no reason to lie about what you did while you were in. Everyone plays a part in the big picture, so nothing you did is better or worse than what someone else did. Maybe you didn’t go to combat — so what? Take pride in the fact that you helped others prepare for it.
2. What they did “in-country”
No matter when or where troops are deployed, there tons of POGs out there who never see direct combat. For whatever reason, these veterans will lie to make their deployment sound like a Call of Duty mission. Maybe they feel ashamed. Or maybe they want to seem cool because they have that Afghanistan Campaign Medal on their chest but not a Combat Action Ribbon.
3. How badass they are at shooting/fighting
If someone really is a great shooter, they’ll have proof. Someone who made rifle expert will have the badge to prove it and those who are just really good shots will have pictures of their targets.
But veterans who were always garbage on the rifle range will not only lie about their skill but, when cornered, they’ll throw out excuses for why they didn’t do well on the range.
4. That time they were with Special Forces
POGs will read this and go, “but I was with Special Forces,” conveniently leaving out the fact that they were administrative specialists who just made sure the operators got paid on time. Chances are, they didn’t spend much time — if any — sleeping outside or eating MREs.
Veterans who are insecure about their service will do everything mentioned above and then go on to say that they did a ton of other things. They’ll tell you about that one time they rescued a cat out of a tree or saved an Afghan child from a whole squad of Taliban while carrying their best friend on their back.
They’ll tell you Medal of Honor-worthy stories, but what they won’t tell you is that the cat was in the Patrol Base and their platoon commander ordered them to get it out — or that they couldn’t carry the wounded the whole way and the child was never there.
Some veterans will go on the internet and make it seem like it was an easy day after they got the infamous peanut butter shot. But every other veteran knows damn-well they couldn’t sit down or walk properly because they were in so much pain.
*Bonus* How much free time they had
Some veterans like to go online and claim that they were always “in the sh*t,” but everyone knows they had a ton of free time.
They probably spent an unholy amount of time watching adult films, playing video games, or playing cards with their buddies.
There are no stupid questions…except for these ones!
When civilians have burning questions about the military, they turn to the only trusted source out there: the internet. Luckily for us, this means we get to relive our glory days and have a little bit of amusement. What’s the best thing to do when civvies ask something like, “Should I wear my cowboy hat at basic training for the Air Force?”
Gather a group of your military buddies, have some drinks, and turn the camera on:
Should you wear your cowboy hat to basic training? | Dumb Military Questions 101
For the record, it was a unanimous ‘yes’ to wearing your cowboy hat to basic training. It was the first time there was peace, belonging, and unbridled respect among the five branches.
Other questions were less universal or specifically catered to the specops vets in the group:
“How do special forces soldiers *really* open velcro quietly?”
Luckily, Green Beret Terry Schappert was on hand with a few suggestions. “Just throw a flashbang grenade. That gives you enough time and noise to open the velcro.” Problem solved. Thanks, Schappert.
“Are tall and strong soldiers more effective than short, thin soldiers?”
Now this one opened up some varied points. On the one hand, tall, strong soldiers can’t fit inside tanks, as U.S. Air Force vet Mark Harper sagely observed. But on the other hand, just look at U.S. Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke. Do we even need tanks? Really? If given the choice between the two…
Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”
A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.
Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.
While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.
Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.
“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.
“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.
Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.
She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.
The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”
Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.
Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.
But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.
In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.
Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.
“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.
“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.
Putin: ‘No new arms race’
The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”
Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.
The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.
Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.
“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”
Putin and the seven dwarves
Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”
Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.
The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.
The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.
Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.
But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”
Reports of fraud
With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.
But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.
Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.
Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.
They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.
Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.
While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.
Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.
“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.
Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.
Think of all the parts of the U.S. government that can and should have a plan to keep working after a nuclear attack. The Department of Defense? Sure. Congress? Yup. FBI, NSA, and CIA? Yeah, they seem necessary in the aftermath. But there are two groups you may not have thought of who plan to dig in and get the job done: The IRS and the USPS.
Yeah, you’re almost certain to keep getting taxed after a nuclear attack, and you might even be getting notices through the mail (though, not if you were in the city that got hit).
But the IRS and USPS weren’t focused on that, and they were actually working with the Parks Service for a good reason: Those three agencies were key to a rebuilding plan.
If your city is hit by a hurricane or crippled by an earthquake, you’re evacuated to cities outside of the danger zone. But if multiple cities or dozens are hit with nuclear bombs, then there likely won’t be suitable infrastructure to support all the refugees in nearby cities. So, the plan was to move them to the national parks.
A role player pretends to be injured during Exercise Scarlet Response at Guardian Center, Georgia.
(U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Dylan Bowyer)
But what then? Hundreds of thousands of lives would be gone, and billions of dollars in buildings and infrastructure destroyed. Even in the midst of the grief, the government would have a job to do. There would be millions of people living in the parks, and it would fall to the USPS to process who had remained in the city, who had escaped, and who had died.
And that could include delivering notices of new tax plans. If only one or two cities were lost then, as crazy as it sounds, that would mean the IRS could get back to business as usual with few major changes. It would be horrible, but the American economy would shake itself off and get back up.
But a more extensive attack would’ve changed the way the U.S. worked for generations. There would be no guarantee that income and corporate taxes could cover the insane costs necessary to rebuild lost cities, decontaminate hundreds of square miles of terrain, and support the war being waged against the attacker.
So the Treasury Department had a plan to restart the economy and to help the IRS develop a new collection plan within 30 days of an attack. The new tax plan could be something as simple as a flat sales tax (congratulations, libertarians!) That would greatly simplify the IRS’s job, something that would be pretty necessary if their offices in Washington D.C. were hit.
And it would be necessary in a cash-based economy. Yes, cash-based. The plan was to slowly release stockpiled billion in cash until they could get back to printing money. In an odd twist of fate, that was mostly two-dollar bills. A 1970s printing run of the currency had failed to impress the public, so the government just used the unpopular bills to create their stockpile.
The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier, and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.
Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.
“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.
Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Jan. 15 near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.
The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials.
Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.
Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.
The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”
But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.
Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order.
The B-2 is more threatening.
It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram (30,000-pound) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.
The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.
The Marines announced on Jan. 14 the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.
The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.
Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.
Three retired soldiers were honored at the Pentagon on Aug. 14, 2018, for exceptional gallantry in action against an armed enemy while serving in Afghanistan as civilian contractors.
Retired Army Master Sgt. William Timothy Nix, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Michael Anthony Dunne and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Ray Seabolt received the Medal of Valor, the Defense Department’s highest civilian award for valor.
Nix was working as a civilian contractor at a coalition base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 7, 2015, when he heard the massive boom of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
“I just grabbed a weapon and ran out,” Nix said.
Insurgents had breached the entrance at Camp Integrity, launching the deadly attack with a vehicle-borne IED and then using direct fire, hand grenades and suicide vests.
Nix and Dunne, a fellow contractor, rushed to the fight, teaming up with military personnel to defend the camp, suppress the enemy and evacuate the wounded.
“[The insurgents] blew the whole front of the camp. The gate came off. It collapsed the guard tower out there,” Dunne said, recalling that a suicide vest exploded 30 feet away from him. He thought he would die, he said, but he kept fighting.
Mr. Ray Seabolt, Mr. Tony Dunne, and Mr. Tim Nix will be presented the Secretary of Defense Medal for Valor.
(Screenshot from DoD video)
Nix was serving as an irregular warfare analyst for the NATO Special Operations Component Command Afghanistan in support of the Resolute Support mission. Dunne was an operations intelligence integrator there.
Fighting was intense and the situation was chaotic, they recalled. Army 1st Sgt. Peter “Drew” McKenna Jr., who was leading the charge against the terrorists, was killed, as were eight Afghan contractors.
Their citations laud their heroism for exposing themselves to direct enemy fire, hand grenades, suicide vests, and other explosives to suppress insurgents who had breached the camp. Their actions undoubtedly saved countless lives at great risk to their own lives, their citations read.
Bravery During Attack in Helmand
Seabolt received the Medal of Valor for his actions in response to an attack near Helmand on Dec. 17, 2015. He had spent 22 years in the Army and was serving as a civilian contractor and counter-IED expert with the Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Agency.
On a mission with U.S. Special Forces and Afghan commandos, something didn’t add up for Seabolt, he recalled. He knew very well that could be an ominous sign. “We walked inside this compound,” he said. “There was an open door, and I said, ‘That’s not normal.'”
Then, the withering, close range, semi-automatic and automatic fire from the enemy began. “We entered the compound with about 10 people, and there were two of us left in the fight,” he recalled. Two Afghan commandos were killed; the others were wounded.
Seabolt’s citation lauds his exceptional actions in exposing himself to enemy fire and suppressing the insurgents so Afghan commandos and U.S. Special Forces could move forward. He single-handedly fended off the insurgent onslaught until the return of other team members, it reads.
“Mr. Seabolt’s bravery and confidence instilled courage among the entire force, resulting in effective fires on the target, softening the objective and allowing the recovery force to approach with little resistance,” according to the citation.
Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency‘s deputy director for combat support, said he is honored and humbled to call the men Americans heroes and partners and colleagues in service to the nation.
“We honor these three men for the remarkable valor they exhibited on the battlefield, for reminding us of the awesome power of the human spirit and for symbolizing the fearless determination of great warfighters,” he said.
The men, who are all former special operators, exhibited the very best of what it means to be a servant and a citizen-warfighter, he said.
“Each of these award citations serves as a moving testament — and a fitting reminder — that the work being done by those who fight on the front lines and protect us all is exceptional, essential and extraordinary,” Rogers said.
Featured image: Left to right: Army Lt. Gen. Darsie Rogers, Defense Threat Reduction Agency deputy director for combat support, applauds after awarding the Medal of Valor to Michael Anthony Dunne, William Timothy Nix and Brandon Ray Seabolt at the Pentagon, Aug. 14, 2018. The men, retired military special operators, were recognized for their actions against an armed enemy while serving as civilian contractors in Afghanistan.
The Navy won’t file criminal charges stemming from the drowning death of Seaman James Derek Lovelace in SEAL training.
The San Diego County medical examiner had ruled the 21-year-old sailor’s May 6, 2016, death in a swim tank in Coronado a homicide, saying in a July 2016 autopsy report that the “actions, or inactions, of the instructors and other individuals involved were excessive and directly contributed to the death.”
Navy Cdr. Liam Hulin, director of the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command, reviewed the findings of a Naval Criminal Investigative Services probe and determined that Lovelace’s drowning “was not the result of a crime and will not pursue criminal charges against any personnel in connection with the death,” according to a statement issued on April 10 to The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Lovelace family,” said Hulin in the statement. “No loss of life in training is an acceptable loss.”
A safety review into the incident that had been put on pause by the criminal investigation will now begin, according to the Navy.
The 21-year-old Lovelace died during Combat Swimmer Orientation, a test that takes place in the first week of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to assess a SEAL candidate’s swimming abilities.
Students tread water and perform what the Navy says are survival skills that include removing a swim mask, uniform, and their boots.
The county medical examiner’s autopsy report revealed that a SEAL instructor repeatedly dunked Lovelace and that the student’s drowning was exacerbated by a heart condition.
“To honor those who have fallen in combat we must provide the most realistic and operationally relevant training possible. To honor those who have fallen in training we must effectively mitigate the risks of that training,” said Capt. Jay Hennessey, Commander, Naval Special Warfare Training Center.
“[Naval Special Warfare] training has been refined over more than 50 years, informed throughout by lessons learned in combat overseas as well as in training at home. We learn not only from our successes, but also from operational and training failures, mistakes and accidents. While these tragic occasions are infrequent, they greatly impact our small close-knit force and magnify the responsibility we feel to our teammates who have paid the ultimate price.”
U.S. Navy SEALs splash into the water from a combat rubber raiding craft attached to an 11-meter rigid hull inflatble boat, during a capabilities exercise, at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary L. Johnson III.)
The medical examiner’s probe indicated that Lovelace suffered from an anomalous coronary artery, which might have contributed to sudden cardiac death during the intensive training exercise. Although Lovelace appeared conscious when pulled out of the pool, witnesses said his [skin] had turned purple, his lips blue.
Navy officials have long contended that the medical examiner’s homicide ruling meant only that Lovelace died “at the hands of another” and did not necessarily suggest a crime had been committed.
Lovelace was from Crestview, Florida. Navy officials briefed his father in Florida on April 8.
“We have maintained contact with the Lovelace family,” said Naval Special Warfare spokesman Capt. Jason Salata. “Our primary point of contact, is Seaman Lovelace’s father. He is designated as his official next of kin, as a courtesy the Navy has also reached out to Seaman Lovelace’s siblings and offered counseling and other services. As part of the prosecutorial review of this case, the father’s input was carefully considered.”
In an email to the Union-Tribune, Salata said that the criminal probe followed Pentagon protocols standard to any death that occurs in training. Led by the Navy Region Southwest’s chief trial counsel, a team of prosecutors with no ties to the SEALs reviewed the probe’s findings before they were forwarded to Naval Special Warfare’s commanders.
When asked by the Union-Tribune if any SEAL instructors would receive letters of reprimand or counseling statements for their role in the incident, Salata wrote that no other action “is being taken on anyone in connection with the case.”
Students in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL class 279 participate in a surf passage exercise during the first phase of training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf passage is one of many physically strenuous exercises that BUD/S class 279 will take part in during the seven weeks of first phase. (U.S. Navy photo by Kyle Gahlau)
Salata said that the Navy intends to make the probe’s findings public once criminal investigators close their case.
Lovelace was only in the first week of a student’s six-month odyssey to become a SEAL. A notoriously difficult course, only about a quarter of the candidates make it through without dropping out.
In the wake of his drowning, Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command paused the program to review and reinforce protocols for pre-training briefs, emergency action, and all in-water instruction procedures, Navy officials told the Union-Tribune.
The Navy added instruction on the signs and symptoms of water training injures and lifesaving procedures.
Today, two additional safety observers are in the water with the class, plus two safety swimmers at the water’s edge to remove struggling students quickly. The instructor-student ratio now is one to seven; it was one to 10.
In 2016, 75 students could be in the water at one time. Now, no more than 49 can enter the pool.
He was at least the fifth SEAL student to die during training over the past three decades.
In 1988, John Joseph Tomlinson, 22, from Altoona, Pa., died of hypothermia near the end of a 5 1/2 -mile ocean swim off Coronado in the 17th week of the 25-week course.
Ten years later, Gordon Racine Jr., 25, of Houston died during a pool exercise in his first month of training.
In 2001, Lt. John Anthony Skop Jr., 29, of Buffalo, N.Y., died during a “Hell Week” swim.
Three years later, Boatswain Mate 1st Class Rob Vetter, 30, died at a Coronado hospital days after he collapsed during a conditioning run in the second week of the program.