Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf left California on Jan. 20, 2019, for a months-long mission in the Pacific to support US Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of the US military’s geographic combatant commands.

Coast Guardsmen aboard the Bertholf left Alameda on the 30th day of what is now the longest government shutdown in US history. They left a few days after not getting their first paycheck since that shutdown started and without knowing when the next will come.


“We’re going to live up to the name national-security cutter. We’re going to be doing a national-security mission.” Capt. John Driscoll, the Bertholf’s commanding officer, said in a video release. “When we get underway, we’re going to be working for the United States Indo-Pacific Command combatant commander, and we’re going to be executing national-security operations throughout the Pacific.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Capt. John Driscoll, commanding officer of the USCGC Bertholf, holds a navigational brief with his crew, July 10, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Weydert)

Like other US military branches, the Coast Guard has continued operations during the shutdown that began Dec. 21, 2018. Some 41,000 active-duty Coast Guard personnel and about 1,300 civilian employees are still working.

Unlike other military branches, which are part of the fully funded Defense Department, the Coast Guard is part of the Homeland Security Department, funding for which was not approved before the shutdown, which was prompted by a dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over money Trump wants for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Many operations related to live-saving or national security, like the Bertholf’s deployment, have continued, but other activities — routine patrols, safety boardings, issuance and renewal of licenses — have been curtailed.

The service didn’t have funds to send its latest boot-camp graduates, who graduated Jan. 18, 2019, to their new assignments.

The Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials were able to move money around to ensure personnel were paid on Dec. 31, 2018, but they are unable to repeat that maneuver, and the Jan. 15, 2019 payday passed without a check for Coast Guard personnel.

“To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our nation’s history that servicemembers in a US armed force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said in a January 15 letter to service members.

If the shutdown lasts into late January 2019, some 50,000 retired Coast Guard members and civilians will likely go unpaid.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Family and friends reunite with crew members on Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s flight deck after the cutter’s return to homeport in Alameda, California, from a 90-day deployment, Sept. 4, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

Base pay for the more than 14,000 junior members of the Coast Guard who make up about one-third of the active-duty force is at or just below the poverty level, three retired Coast Guard master chief petty officers wrote in a Jan. 18, 2019 op-ed. “Most of these members do not have the resources to go without pay over any extended period of time.”

Efforts to help and expressions of support for Coast Guard members and their families have sprung up all over the country.

In New London, Connecticut, home to the US Coast Guard Academy and officially designated as a Coast Guard City, residents have set up food pantries and spread information about other kinds of support. Local businesses have offered discounts, and utilities have waived late fees.

But city relies on the roughly 1,000 people in the Coast Guard’s workforce there and the 1,000 cadets in the academy.

“The longer it drags on, the harder these impacts are going to be felt,” Mayor Michael Passero told the Associated Press. “It’s going to start to drain public resources, and it’s going to start to take away from our economic base at some point.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Coast Guard cutter Bertholf on a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Trees)

In Kodiak, Alaska, residents rely on the Coast Guard for economic activity and for support living and working in one of the world’s most dangerous waterways, where fishing is a major enterprise.

Locals have donated fish and game to their neighbors. Some businesses are offering discounts to Coast Guard members and families; others are giving customers i.o.u.s instead of bills, according to The New York Times.

“I think it’s important that the people in the faraway land DC understand what’s going on in a small town,” Mayor Patricia Branson told The Times. “And how people are affected by all this nonsense.”

The Coast Guard itself has been able to offer some support.

In a Jan. 18, 2019 letter, vice commandant Adm. Charles Ray said Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, an independent nonprofit charitable organization that serves the Coast Guard, had expanded limits for interest-free loans and that all active-duty and civilian employees are now eligible.

Ray also said Coast Guard child-development centers “have deferred payment and suspended collection on delinquent accounts” for civilian and military members affected by the shutdown.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Coast Guard Station Juneau crew members prior to man-overboard training in Alaska, Jan. 24, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)

Ray’s letter sounded a note of caution about housing, saying the Coast Guard was working with the Defense Department “to notify all privatized government housing sites that Coast Guard [basic allowance for housing] allotments will not be available until funding is restored.”

“However, the government does not have the authority to suspend or delay payments for these privatized contracts,” the letter adds. “We recommend providing the ‘letter to creditors’ available on the [Coast Guard] website to your housing manager that encourages flexibility until this situation is resolved.”

Some measures have been introduced to Congress that would ensure funding for the Coast Guard despite the shutdown, but those bills still need to pass both houses and be approved by the White House.

A week before the Bertholf left Alameda, more than 600 service members, including 168 families, gathered there for a giveaway organized by the East Bay Coast Guard Spouses Club, with everything from fresh fruit to diapers.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Petty Officer 3rd Class Blake Gwinn, a maritime-enforcement specialist aboard Coast Guard cutter Bertholf, with his son Alex after a 95-day deployment in the eastern Pacific, April 22, 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart)

“It’s worrisome. I have to put food in my family’s belly,” Coast Guard mechanic Kyle Turcott, who is working without pay, said at the Alameda event.

Alameda is homeport for four of the Coast Guard’s 418-foot national-security cutters, which carry a crew of about 110.

“I know it is hard for these crews to be leaving behind their dependents and spouses. It’s a thousand times more so when everyone is wondering when their next paycheck will be and how they can support” family left behind, Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, said in the video release.

“There’s been an incredible outpouring of support for the families here in the Alameda region. The tension and the anxiety for the crew is real,” Fagan said. “We stand by to help support those families that are left behind the same way that we’re going to support the crew as they sail for the western Pacific.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Macron will bring a ‘Devil Dog’ Marines tribute to the White House

French President Emmanuel Macron said April 22, 2018, that he is bringing a living tribute to “Devil Dog” Marines who fell in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood to the White House as a symbol of the two nations’ enduring ties.

The oak sapling from the battle site will be presented to President Donald Trump in hopes that it will be planted in the White House garden, Macron said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program from the Elysee Palace in Paris.


Macron arrives in the U.S. April 23, 2018, on a three-day visit that is expected to focus on the way forward in Syria following the April 13, 2018 missile strikes, and on France’s concern that Trump may pull the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to halt Iran’s nuclear programs.

“Retreat? Hell, we just got here”

The battle of Bois de Belleau, or Belleau Wood, about 60 miles north of Paris near the Marne River in the Champagne region, has entered Marine Corps lore. It’s best known among Marines as the place where they were first called “Devil Dogs” for their fierce defense in June 1918, that blunted the German spring offensive.

A dispatch from the German front lines to higher headquarters described the Americans blocking their way and mounting counter-offensives as fighting like “Teufel Hunden,” or “Hounds of Hell.”

At one point, French forces moving to the rear to regroup urged the Marines to join them. The response from a Marine, attributed to either Capt. Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, or Maj. Frederic Wise, was, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918).
(Illustration by Georges Scott)

Once they consolidated their positions, the Marines would attack six times through mustard gas and withering machine-gun fire before the Germans were driven from the wood. An estimated 2,000 Marines were killed.

An official German report later described the Marines as “vigorous, self-confident, and remarkable marksmen.”

Army Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, marveled at the tenacity of the “Devil Dogs” of Belleau Wood in a quote that has also become part of the Marine legend.

“The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle,” Pershing said.

He added that, “the battle of Belleau Wood was for the U.S. the biggest battle since Appomattox and the most considerable engagement American troops had ever had with a foreign enemy” to that time.

The oak sapling Macron will give to Trump was taken from a site near the so-called “Devil Dog Fountain,” where U.S. troops gathered after the battle of Belleau Wood. The fountain’s spout is in the shape of the head of a bull mastiff.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
(Photo by G.Garitan)

The gift of the sapling is not the first time Macron has sought to firm up relations with a world leader by playing to their affections for the armed forces and military pageantry.

During a state visit to China early 2018, Macron gave Chinese President Xi Jinping a horse from the elite French Republican Guard. Macron had remembered that Xi was impressed with his official escort of 104 horsemen during a visit to Paris in 2014.

July 2017, in Paris, Trump was similarly impressed by the military formations and fly-bys at the annual Bastille Day Parade. The parade in France was believed to have been a factor in Trump’s decision to order a military parade in Washington, D.C. on Veterans Day 2018.

Trumps, Macrons to dine at Mount Vernon

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
President Donald Trump with President Emmanuel Macron.

On April 23, 2018, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, will join Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for a private dinner at the historic Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate of George Washington. Macron will also address Congress and attend an official state dinner at the White House.

Although they have had differences on climate change, tariffs, and Syria, Macron said he was committed to working with Trump and he sidestepped the possible repercussions from the long-running special counsel investigation swirling around the White House.

“I never wonder [about] that,” Macron said of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. “I mean, I work with him. I work with him because both of us are very much at the service of our country on both sides,” Macron said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Here, in this office, I’m not the one to judge and in certain way, to explain to your people what should be your president,” Macron said. “I’m here to deal with the president of the United States. And people of the United States elected Donald Trump.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This airman went from Afghan interpreter to the USAF

Imagine having to conceal your identity in order to feel safe and protect the ones you love. Changing the route you take to work, wearing disguises so you won’t be recognized, or reducing the amount of vacation you take because you know it’s safer to be at work than not.


For many of us, this way of life would seem farfetched or unrealistic, but for one Airman, this was his reality. Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad, 60th Aerial Port Squadron, transportation Journeyman, used to be an Afghan national working as a head interpreter with U.S. forces at Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan. As the head interpreter, Javad was relied upon for his expertise, which meant he was on all the important missions.

Also read: This hero was so deadly, they called him ‘Black Death’

“I would go out on missions and it was like I was actually in the Army,” said Javad. “I would go weeks without a shower, I would carry 100-150 pound bags of ammo, sleep on the ground, walk all day, climb mountains, and jump out of helicopters.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo, Feb. 28, 2018. Javad was a linguist for U.S. forces while living in Afghanistan and fled to the United States in 2014.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

Despite the constant diligence to remain obscured, in 2013, the locals somehow figured out Javad was working with U.S. forces.

“Once they knew who I was, my family and I were no longer safe,” said Javad. “My life was threatened by the insurgents, my wife was accused of helping infidels and was threatened with kidnapping. I knew after that, I couldn’t work here anymore.”

Thus began a courageous and remarkable journey that led Javad to America and enlisting in the U.S. Air Force.

Javad was born in Afghanistan during the war with the Soviet Union. His family fled to Iran because the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan made it too dangerous to stay.

“We left in 1989 when I was two during the Soviet-Afghan War because it was too dangerous for my family to stay,” said Javad “We came to Iran under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, so we were discriminated against.”

There were not many educational opportunities for Javad growing up in Iran because of his refugee status. His parents decided to return to Afghanistan in 2004 since it was safer.

Related: 3 fallen JROTC cadets honored for heroism in the Florida shooting

“We came back to Afghanistan so I could seek higher education because neither of my parents had that opportunity,” said Javad. “They wanted that option for me. I got my education, my bachelors and a double major in chemistry and biology.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses for a photo with his wife Sara, and three children Sana, Yusef, and Benyamin, March 6, 2018.  (Photo by Louis Briscese)

After completing his education, Javad still found it difficult to find meaningful work.

“Afghanistan had a new government and it was corrupted,” said Javad. “It was difficult to get jobs unless you knew the right people.”

Javad had taken classes on computers, language, and received a certification in accounting. This helped him find a job where he could now provide for his family.

“After graduating college, I worked for an accounting firm,” said Javad. “After a year and a half, I was promoted to general manager.”

Unfortunately, after a horrific motorcycle accident kept him in the hospital for six months, Javad lost his job as a general manager with the accounting firm.

“I knew that without knowing anyone in the government, I was going to have to start from the bottom again,” said Javad. “The only other option I had was to become a linguist with U.S. forces.”

The day Javad applied for the linguist position, over 200 others were attempting the same.

“There’s a written and verbal skills test, interview, and security background check,” said Javad. “Only 10 of us made it through those stages. Once you get through that, there’s another few months of security screening with the Central Intelligence Agency and medical exams.”

Javad’s first assignment was with the USAF at FOB Shindand.

More: 5 more of the greatest military heroes you’ve never heard of

“I was assigned to the Base Defense Operations Center for the Air Force,” said Javad. “I was translating all the daily, weekly, and monthly security reports.”

While assigned there Javad met Senior Master Sgt. Michael Simon II, who was serving on a 365-day deployment as a Mi-17 crew chief air advisor.

“Javad was assigned to the FOB as an interpreter, translating from Dari or Pashto to English,” said Simon. “We worked together on several occasions in support of the Afghan Air Force training and advising missions.”

What Javad didn’t know at the time was that Simon would play an instrumental role years later as he transitioned from Afghanistan to America. During his time at FOB Shindand, the USAF was replaced by the Army, and his duties and responsibilities changed significantly.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Airman 1st Class Mohammad Javad from the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., poses with some keepsakes he collected during his time as a linguist with U.S. forces, March. 6, 2018. (Photo by Louis Briscese)

“We were given the option to resign or accept new roles,” said Javad. “Sure enough, within a month, I was riding in convoys outside the wire. Things were a lot different now.”

Javad spent three years at FOB Shindand and witnessed some horrific things.

“I saw Army soldiers get shot and killed. I saw Afghan civilians get shot and killed,” said Javad. “I was the head interpreter and was always going out with Battalion commanders and other high-ranking officials.”

Despite the difficulties of his job and awful experiences he witnessed, Javad felt something for the first time.

More reading: A former slave and two-time Olympian just became an Airman

“I was a local,” said Javad. “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, but they never treated me like a stranger. They trusted me, they worked with me. That was a feeling I’d never had in my life before until I worked there.”

After his identity was disclosed and Javad knew he was no longer safe in Afghanistan, he applied for a Special Immigrant Visa so he could come to America. This wasn’t an easy decision because Javad was living as an upper middle-class citizen in Afghanistan.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan poses for a photo outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

“I was a homeowner with lots of land,” said Javad. “I owned a car and motorcycle. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell anything because no one would buy anything built with the money from America. I was choosing between my belongings or my life.”

In the summer of 2014, Javad took his pregnant wife with only the belongings they could fit in a suitcase, the $800 they received for selling their wedding bands and traveled to the United States to begin a new life.

“When we arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado, we had nothing,” said Javad. “I needed a sponsor for my SIV and Simon agreed. With the help of Simon, we were able to sustain some sort of normalcy until we could get on our feet.”

Simon got donations from his church and the local refugee service in Colorado Springs. Lutheran Refugee Service lined up a starter apartment with basic furnishings.

“My sister had coordinated with a group of close friends and churches to get a lot of items needed outside of the basics already provided,” said Simon. “Then the rest was up to Javad and his determination to succeed.”

Despite having an education, Javad found it hard to find work.

“I had to find a job because I barely could afford a month’s rent,” said Javad. “Nobody would give me a job because I didn’t have a history of work in the U.S.”

After meeting a family who had a local business, Javad found some temporary work, but more importantly, a life-long friend.

“They ended up being like family to us,” said Javad. “They called me son and they were the only ones who came to my graduation at basic training.”

Working in a warehouse didn’t bring in a lot of money for Javad and he struggled to make ends meet.

More: This SAS soldier escaped capture by walking 190 miles to safety

“For the first four months, I didn’t have a car,” said Javad. “I had to walk four miles one way, work eight hours, and walk another four miles back, in the winter, in Colorado Springs.”

After a year in the U.S., Javad felt that serving in the armed forces may provide a better life for him and his family.

“I worked four years with the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and had a little sense of what life was like in the military,” said Javad. “I know there’s a lot of sacrifices you have to make when serving your country, but in the end, I wanted to give back to the country that helped me a lot.”

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Mohammad Javad, center, an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan speaks with a local national outside Forward Operating Base Shindand.

Javad decided to enlist in the USAF and entered basic training in February 2016.

“I wanted to be part of a really big picture,” said Javad. “I did it mainly because the U.S. military saved my life and I wanted to do my part.”

The decision to join the USAF did not surprise Simon because his commitment, dedication and hard work align with the USAF core values.

For Javad, to start from scratch with just a suitcase and dedicate his efforts to providing for his family is the true American dream,” said Simon. “Now he’s a member of the 1 percent club who voluntarily choose to serve this great nation. To say I’m proud of Javad would be an understatement.”

A week before graduating basic training, Javad received an unexpected gift.

“I was notified that I was officially a U.S. citizen,” said Javad. “I was overwhelmed with pride. When I saw the flag being raised at graduation and we saluted, I couldn’t stop myself from crying because I finally had a flag I could be proud of.”

After basic training and technical school, Javad arrived at his first duty station here at Travis Air Force Base, California. He’s enjoyed the people, mission, and the area.

“My unit treats me like any other Airman,” said Javad. “They don’t see me as a person from Afghanistan, they see me as an Airman.”

Javad has yet to deploy since joining the USAF but said he would like to return to Afghanistan as an Airman and citizen of the U.S.

“I would be happy to deploy to Afghanistan because I know the mission over there is important,” said Javad. “I would love a special duty assignment as a linguist and use my language skills to help my fellow Airmen.”

Javad’s short-term goal is to help his parents get to the U.S.

Related: This Pearl Harbor survivor was buried in the ship he escaped from

“My parents had to escape Afghanistan and flee to another country,” said Javad. “I feel responsible because I come from a culture where your kids are your retirement, so now they are struggling until I can find a way to bring them to America.”

Once Javad secures his family in the U.S., he plans on achieving his long-term goal which is to become an officer in the USAF.

“I couldn’t become an officer when I enlisted even though I had the education because I wasn’t a citizen,” said Javad. “Now that I have my citizenship, I will pursue officer training school and get my commission.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force now trains with surgical robots

As the use of surgical robotics increases, the Air Force Medical Service is training its surgical teams in the latest technology, ensuring patients have access to the most advanced surgical procedures and best possible outcomes.


To address the demand for training military healthcare providers, Maj. Joshua Tyler, director of robotics at Keesler Air Force Base, helped to establish the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE). The first of its kind in the Air Force, the facility trains Air Force, Army, Navy, and Department of Veterans Affairs surgical teams to use state-of-the-art medical robotics. Access to this type of training was previously only available through private industry.

Also read: Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

“Robotic surgery is becoming the standard of care for many specialties and procedures, but Air Force surgeons had limited opportunities to train with surgical robots,” said Tyler. “We needed a way to get surgeons trained without relying solely on the private sector. With the creation of InDoRSE we are able to do just that by using existing facilities and personnel.”

The InDoRSE training site addresses challenges unique to military healthcare. The training also uses a team-based model, which helps overcome some of the challenges of implementing of robotic surgery in military hospitals.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General, visits the Institute for Defense Robotic Surgical Education (InDoRSE), with Maj. Joshua Tyler, the program’s director, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Oct. 18, 2017.

“Between deployments, operational tempo, and varying surgical volumes at military facilities, it is important that whole teams are fully trained on surgical robotics,” explained Tyler. “Also training the nurses and medical technicians, in addition to the surgeon, ensures that everyone has tangible experience with the robot, and helps get surgical robotics up and running much quicker.”

Related: This portable robot can hunt IEDs for six hours

Robotic surgeries have been shown to deliver better outcomes for patients than traditional surgery. Robotics offers increased mobility for the surgeon, allowing them to make smaller incisions, and gives them better visualization. This precision leads to more successful surgeries and quicker recovery times, which improves patient satisfaction and lowers costs.

“The best outcomes I’ve ever given my patients came using robotics”, explained Tyler. “We see significant decreases in post-surgery pain, surgical site infection rates, and length of hospital stay. That quicker recovery means patients get to return to their normal life more quickly.”

The InDoRSE facility at Keesler stood up in March 2017. There are already plans to double its training capacity soon. Soon after Keesler’s facility opened, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base set up their own surgical robotics program. Travis Air Force Base in California and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada are currently working on their surgical robotics acquisition now.

“Use of robotics is increasing in many medical specialties,” said Tyler. “Providing opportunities for our whole surgical teams to receive training on this cutting-edge technology is vital to the AFMSs focus on continuously improving the patient experience.”

Articles

Watch the Coast Guard capture a sub stuffed with 6 tons of cocaine

Guardians with the USCGC Bertholf captured a semi-submersible boat on Mar. 3 with 12,800 pounds cocaine worth nearly $203 million dollars in its hold. The boat was moving up the Central American Pacific Coast when it was spotted by a Customs and Border Protection aircraft who radioed the Coast Guard cutter.


The bust happened 300 miles southwest of Panama. The U.S. Coast Guard is generally thought of as operating only on the U.S. coast but actually deploys around the world to assist other maritime forces and enforce international law.

See video from the capture below:

(h/t Los Angeles Times)

Articles

Brits fighting ISIS vow to avenge Manchester victims

British volunteer fighters combating the Islamic State group in Syria have vowed to avenge the victims of the Manchester attack by defeating the extremists in their de-facto capital.


British volunteer fighters combating the Islamic State group in Syria have vowed to avenge the victims of the deadly suicide attack at a pop concert in Manchester on May 22.

The British combatants, who have been fighting among the ranks of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units [YPG] in Syria, promised on May 23 to soundly defeat the extremists in their de-facto capital of Raqqa.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

IS has claimed responsibility for the the massacre that killed 22 people including one girl aged just eight at a concert by US pop star Ariana Grande.

“We’re taking it to them. When I go to Raqqa I’m giving them no quarter. I will expect no mercy from them and I will not give them no mercy,” said Michael Enright, a YPG fighter from Manchester.

“I will remember Manchester,” he swore in a video posted on Twitter.

He added that he had become accustomed to death while fighting in Syria but the attack targeting children and teenagers in his hometown was “heartbreaking”.

Macer Gifford, another YGP volunteer, said in an online statement that IS would soon be crushed in Raqqa, adding that the British government must back Kurdish forces their fight.

“We will destroy their military capital which will effectively cut off the snake’s head,” Gifford said.

“We must urge the UK government to do more to defeat [IS] in Syria. Terror has been brought to London and Manchester. Our children have been targeted!”

He added that British authorities should follow the lead of the US and send military aid to the YPG’s ally the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF].

Also read: This colonel-turned-mercenary has been battling terrorism for decades

In November last year, the SDF — a Kurdish-Arab alliance — began an offensive aimed at taking the city of Raqqa.

The fighters are still 40 kilometres from Raqqa to the west, and have not controlled any territory directly to the city’s south, which is bordered by the Euphrates river.

The SDF has said the long-awaited attack on Raqqa would start at the beginning of the summer, probably in June.

The Kurdish forces have received a steady stream of recruits from the West to help in the fight against IS extremists.

In December last year, a 20-year-old British YPG fighter was killed during the ongoing Raqqa offensive, making him the third Briton to die fighting IS in Syria.

Critics have however cautioned that the YPG and its allies are committing human rights abuses, and pursuing an agenda for Kurdish independence including by collaborating with the Syrian regime, despite its atrocities that eclipse those of IS.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

We found 13 hilarious military memes from around the internet and collected them for you. It’s kind of what we do on Fridays.


1. Being able to just pick it up and shoot is a great feeling (via Military Memes).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Some things needed the bipod more than others.

2. Sure, sure, sure. Clean, clean, clean (via Devil Dog Nation).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
You know how famous the barracks are for being clean, right sir?

SEE ALSO: A Navy carrier just broke the record for dropping bombs on ISIS 

3. Best part is, Plan C is an M4 and Plan D is an M9 (via Devil Dog Nation).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Plan E is a KA-BAR so you’re screwed even then.

4. Yup, sorry man. Mandatory training across the force (via Air Force Nation).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Otherwise, how will people know it’s important to wear a PT belt?

5. This is what the senior NCOs imagined when they heard the new armor would be made of plastic:

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Should probably find some camouflage tape for that.

6. The Marines might be coming out ahead in this one:

(via Pop Smoke)

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Sucks that it’s Arby’s, but it’s still five bucks more than anyone else is getting.

7. When we say everything stops for colors, we mean everything (via Coast Guard Memes).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Now, fold the flag properly. The gloves are no excuse.

8. Seriously, Carl. We’re all hoping (via Military Memes).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Just kidding. We’d be heartbroken. Maybe.

9. These boots are going to be about 20 volts shinier than they used to be (via Sh-t my LPO says).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Nice coffee mug, by the way.

10. BRRRRRT!

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Also, whatever tries to kill my grunts, whatever wears the wrong flag, etc. The list is pretty long.

11. The Coast Guard knows what brings all the recruits to the station (via Coast Guard Memes).

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Remember high schoolers, the services are carefully selecting what parts of the military they show you.

12. Don’t remember going over the procedures for this in sustained airborne training:

(via Military Nations)

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
But congrats to the happy couple!

13. Do the Marines consider properly spelled words to be classified information?

(via Military Memes)

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
This explains so much.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Stalin tried to blame the massacre of Katyn on the Nazis

On April 13, 1943, Nazi Germany announced the discovery of a series of mass graves containing the bodies of thousands of Polish officers who had been arrested and then executed by the Soviet Army. Seventy-five years later, the Katyn massacre is still a sensitive issue between Poland and Russia.


Articles

6 separation beards and what they say about your personality

Being clean shaven every day in the military is an absolute must — unless you’re a special forces operator and are allowed to grow out a manly beard. Every morning, men (and some women) wake up during with a 5 o’clock shadow that is required to disappear before morning muster.


But the day you signed your DD-214 and no longer fall under the rules and regulations of shaving, it’s time to grow out that impressive separation beard — just because you can.

Not every beard is right for the individual. With several types of styles to choose from, it’s necessary to grow one that fits your specific personality. Don’t worry, we’re here to help you pick one out that fits your unique look.

Also Read: The Army may allow all soldiers to sport ‘operator beards’

1. The Mountain Man

Not to be mistaken for the “Homeless Man,” this style says “I work my ass for a living, but it’s usually somewhere outside in the cold.” It’s popular for keeping your face warm and catching food crumbs.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
You may take his life, but you’ll never take his separation beard!

2.  The Chuck Norris

One of our favorites, this traditional style relays to the world that not only can you be rugged, but you take enough time to trim up. This typically looks good enough to step into the boardroom for a presentation, then head right out to the gun range.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
Chuck Norris doesn’t shave — he orders his beard to stop growing.

3. The “I’m not too worried about it”

This unique look informs the world you’re just chilling, you’re in no hurry, and whatever happens, happens.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Related: This Air Force fighter ace was the inspiration for ‘Mustache March’

4. The Galifianakis

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Named after the talent actor-comedian Zack Galifianakis, this ensures your fellow man that you’re a hard worker, but you know how to crack a good joke and don’t take life too seriously.

5. The Fuzz

Not everyone can grow a full separation beard — some of us grow them in thin-to-thick patches.

This doesn’t inform the world you have low testosterone (the male’s dominant hormone) because it isn’t a facial hair growth factor — dihydrotestosterone is the chemical that promotes thick beard growth and unfortunately is linked to hair loss. Bummer!

We still respect your commitment.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown
You get points for trying.

6. The Shaggy

A fashionable look for those who received their separation paperwork and ran straight to the bar, leaving their razor or clipper behind in the barracks.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Did we leave any out? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army to kill marksmanship shortcut that made soldiers less deadly

The U.S. Army’s new strategy to improve marksmanship will eliminate a shortcut that units use for individual weapon qualification — a long-standing practice that has eroded lethality over the years, infantry officials said.

Army officials at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia are awaiting final approval of the new marksmanship manual that will prepare the Army for a new, and much more challenging, qualification test.

The new course of fire — which forces soldiers to make faster decisions while firing from new positions — will drastically update the current, Cold War-era rifle qualification course. That course required soldiers to engage a series of pop-up targets at ranges out to 300 meters.


The stricter qualification standards will also do away with the practice of using the Alternate Course of Fire, or Alt. C, to satisfy the annual qualification requirement, Sgt. 1st Class John Rowland, marksmanship program director at Benning’s Infantry School, told Military.com.

Alt. C is an Army-approved 25-meter course in which soldiers shoot at targets scaled down in size to represent actual target sizes out to 300 meters. At that short range, however, the trajectory of the 5.56mm bullet is extremely flat and unaffected by wind, making it easier to score hits, experts say.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Pvt. Bobby Daniels of D Company, 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, makes an adjustment to his M-4 rifle during combat familiarization training at Fort Benning.

“It is an approved qualification that largely has been abused, based off of lack of training management and proper planning. And it has come at the cost of lethality,” Rowland said. “That is going to be very impactful for units because they are very used to not being very proactive and not being able to fall back on, ‘well we’ll just do Alt. C.’ And that is no longer going to be the case.”

Army training officials at Benning have been spent the last two years validating the training strategy and course of fire for a new marksmanship qualification standard that is designed to better prepare soldiers for the current operational environment, according to Melody Venable, training and doctrine officer for the Infantry School.

“We have visited various units across the Army, and we have tested and validated parts of it as needed,” Venable said.

Soldiers who have shot the new course “are doing very well at it,” Venable said.

“They appreciate the training that the training strategy provides, and they enjoy the course of fire because it’s more realistic,” she said.

The new qualification course is designed to use the current marksmanship ranges across the Army.

“It’s still 40 targets; it’s still 40 bullets,” Rowland said. “It’s the same targets that people have been shooting at for years.”

But the new course adds the standing position to engage targets on two occasions during the course in addition to the kneeling and prone positions. The course requires soldiers to change magazines on their own and seek cover on their own while they engage multiple targets at the same time, Rowland said. The current course consists mainly of one-at-a-time target exposures.

Coast Guard deploys without pay amid shutdown

Sgt. Nicholas Irving, of 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, takes aim during the “Defensive Shoot” event at Wagner Range on Fort Benning.

The next milestone in the effort will come when Brig. Gen. David Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence, signs the new manual that will guide the marksmanship effort so it can be published and sent out to the active force, National Guard and Reserve, Venable said.

Once that happens, leaders throughout the Army will have time to provide feedback on any challenges they might face in putting the new qualification strategy into action.

“Units have 12 months from the time of publication to provide the Infantry School and the MCOE with feedback on their issues with implementation of the training strategy or the course of fire,” Venable said, adding the many of the ranges across the Army are likely to require some updating.

“At this time, we are not there with a hardcore implementation date. … We don’t know all the second- and third-order effects that the changes are going to produce.”

But one of the clearest differences of the new qualification standards is that Alt. C is no longer a valid qualification, Rowland.

“That is going to be a huge change for the Army,” he said.

Army units can still use Alt. C to extend their annual qualification rating by six months if a deployment or high operational tempo prevents them from going to a range and qualifying with the new course of fire, Venable said.

“In areas where they don’t have range access — let’s just say they are downrange and they are 250 miles to a primary range — units can use Alt. C because they can’t get a range. However, they have to have a general officer approve the use of Alt. C,” Venable said. “They still have to come back and shoot the [new] course of fire to qualify.”

Using Alt. C extends a soldier’s current rating of marksman, sharpshooter or expert, but it cannot change it, Rowland said.

“If you are marksman and you conduct a validation event [with Alt. C] and you get a perfect score — you are still a marksman; you are not expert,” Rowland said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MUSIC

This Marine veteran is a rising star in the outlaw country scene

It’s important for veterans to follow their dreams after they leave the service. Uncle Sam instilled in us veterans the drive we need to stand on top in this dog-eat-dog world, and it’d be a damned shame to skip out on putting that drive to work. After all, we weren’t told to knock politely on opportunity’s door — we were taught to breach it.

If you want a prime example of what hard work, talent, and dedication gets you, look no further than Gethen Jenkins, a Marine Corps veteran and one of the best damn musicians to break into the outlaw country music scene.


Born to a military family in West Virginia and raised in a rural Indian village in Alaska, Jenkins enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served honorably for eight years, including a 2003 deployment to Iraq. When he finally left the service, he stayed around Twentynine Palms, California, and began pursuing his dream of playing country music.

Jenkins grew up around country. Ever since he was a kid, he’s been playing the guitar and writing his own music. So, becoming a professional musician was the natural next step for him. And so, he set to be like the great outlaw country stars of the past.

He met the guys that would later join in him becoming The Freightshakers at a bar in Long Beach. As coincidence would have it, they were looking for a singer to complete their outfit. Jenkins got the gig the very next day. Where the Honkytonk Belongs, a song from the album of the same name, was their first hit.

Take a listen.

His style is a unique blend of his inspirations, from bluegrass to honkytonk to outlaw. Since their formation, Jenkins and the Freightshakers have played over 1,000 gigs and have earned a number of accolades, including the 2015 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Outlaw Group, the 2017 California Country Awards for Best Male Vocalist and Best Album, and LA Weekly even named Jenkins “2018’s Best Outlaw Country Artist.”

And they’re just getting started. Their next album, produced by the legendary Vance Powell, will be called Western Gold. Jenkins wrote or co-wrote every song on the album. It is set to drop sometime next year.

The song, Bottle In My Hand, was released last summer and is the first single off the upcoming album.

And, while we’re at it, go ahead and listen to this cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man because it’s just too good not to.

The cover works so well because it’s a natural fit. Longtime drummer and songwriter for Skynyrd, Artimus Pyle, also served in the Marines in the late 60s before entering the world of professional musicianship.

That same foundation is what’s going to propels Jenkins’ career, we’re sure of it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet North Korea’s most powerful woman, Kim Yo Jong: Kim Jong Un’s 30-something sister who could lead the country if something happens to him

As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sought to raise his international standing, a figure seen by his side almost constantly during his meetings with world leaders is none other than his younger sister Kim Yo Jong.

Those frequent appearances have taken on a new significance in recent days, as rumors swirl that the dictator is gravely ill after a surgery. Kim Jong Un’s line of succession is hazy — he is believed to have three children, but they are too young to take control over the country, and his brother has reportedly been deemed unfit to lead.


That has prompted speculation that Kim Yo Jong is next in line, though the country has never had a female leader.

During the two summits between the US and North Korea, Kim Yo Jong was front and center during the historic show of diplomacy between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

She also traveled to South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics, becoming the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the south since the Korean War in the 1950s.

Like her brother, and much of the rest of their family, few details are known about Kim Yo Jong and the life she lived before reaching a prime leadership role in the North Korean government.

Here’s what we know about her so far.

Like many of Kim’s family members, Kim Yo Jong’s exact age is difficult to pin down. But she’s believed to be in her early 30s, likely born in 1989.

Kim Yo Jong as a girl: this is the earliest photo we have of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, taken while she was at school in Switzerland.pic.twitter.com/LrDFgGBzdt

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She’s the youngest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Yong Hui, a former dancer.

She was partly educated in Switzerland at the same school Kim Jong Un attended. But she returned to North Korea in 2000 after completing the US equivalent of the sixth grade.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%3Fwidth%3D1300%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=327&h=f892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1&size=980x&c=3282151137 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5c76d86b2628981e0e185319%253Fwidth%253D1300%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D327%26h%3Df892c8a2729aafffe7a2825c410497bf48761ebcad11d2871036e6f55e3653b1%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3282151137%22%7D” expand=1]

The Liebefeld-Steinhölzli public school in Köniz, Switzerland.

Sandstein/Wikimedia Commons

Kim Yo Jong appeared destined for a powerful career from a young age. Kim Jong Il once bragged to foreign interlocutors in 2002 that his youngest daughter was interested in politics and eager to work in North Korea’s government.

It’s completely unclear where she was or what she was up to between 2000 and 2007.

In the following years, she conducted a lot of behind-the-scenes work for her father, Kim Jong Il, and brother Kim Jong Un. She played a particularly significant role in helping Kim Jong Un take over instead of his older brothers.

Her first public appearance was in 2011 at Kim Jong Il’s funeral.

Kim Yo Jong’s first recorded public appearance: The North Korean princess appeared among the mourners at her father’s funeral at the end of 2011.pic.twitter.com/GWPw4dgbZU

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Kim Yo Jong made headlines in 2017 after she was promoted to a top position in her brother’s government: the head of the propaganda department of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

That’s not just a fancy title — Kim Yo Jong plays a crucial role in controlling her brother’s public image.

Kim Yo Jong’s role in the North Korean regime is not just ceremonial. She’s actually working, protecting the image of her brother Kim Jong Un and making sure that everything runs smoothly.pic.twitter.com/hWsQnPIZzr

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In public, Kim Yo Jong appears to have greater freedom than other top government officials in North Korea, occasionally appearing in photographs unaccompanied, rather than constantly being in the presence of Kim Jong Un.

Some have speculated that she was promoted partly in an effort to continue Kim Jong Un’s dynasty. While she’s out of the line of succession, some believe she could take over the country’s leadership if something happens to Kim Jong Un before his kids are old enough to rule.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented role for her, either. Kim Yo Jong once briefly took control of the country’s affairs while her brother was ill in 2014, according to a South Korean think tank run by North Korean defectors.

She stepped onto the world stage in February 2018. In a rare show of diplomacy between the two Koreas, Kim Yo Jong traveled to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Everyone’s eyes were on Kim Yo Jong at the start of the games. She shared a historic handshake with South Korean President Moon Jae In, and both broke out in smiles.

During the opening ceremony, she sat right behind US Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Kim Yo Jong and Pence did not speak with each other.

Her interaction with South Korean leaders was a rare show of diplomacy and warmth. Given her experience in propaganda, she likely knew exactly what she was doing to try and curry favorable attention.

In April 2018, she played a crucial role in the peace talks between the two Koreas. Leaders from the two nations met at the Demilitarized Zone, and Kim Yo Jong was notably the only woman at the table.

Though she stayed well away from the spotlight, leaving that to her brother, it was clear Kim Yo Jong played a significant role in orchestrating the talks and ensuring the day ran smoothly.

She was her brother’s right-hand woman when he and Trump signed the agreement acknowledging North Korea’s intentions to denuclearize.

Kim Yo Jong sparked curiosity at one point, when she switched out the pen that was provided for the summit with her own ballpoint pen. It’s unclear why she swapped the pens, but some have speculated that it was for security reasons.

Anyone else spot this? There were two “Donald Trump” signing pens, NK official came in and shined up the one for Kim, then at the last minute Kim Yo Jong pulled out her own per to use instead of the one provided. Kim used that and back it went in her blazer. (Pool video)pic.twitter.com/dZWEK22IdF

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She made headlines in February 2019 when she was seen holding her brother’s ashtray while he smoked during their train journey to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Kim Jong Un takes smoking break on way to Summit

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Kim Yo Jong was featured prominently in the preparations for her brother’s talks with Trump, often rushing ahead to make sure everything was ready.

She even went viral at one point when she seemed to be hiding in the plants as Kim Jong Un met with the US president at the Metropole Hotel.

An incredible addition to annals of “Where’s Kim Yo Jong?” from @nknewsorg’s @chadocl.pic.twitter.com/9zZSUAnsL2

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It has become increasingly clear over the past several years that Kim Yo Jong was one of her brother’s most trusted officials, and her power in the regime was only growing.

But in the Hermit Kingdom, no one’s position is ever truly secure under the mercurial leadership of Kim Jong Un. He’s known for turning on family members quickly when they fall out of favor — and it remains to be seen whether Kim Yo Jong is an exception.

Kim Yo Jong was not listed as an alternate member of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo — the party’s top decision-making body — and did not appear at any high-profile events during an important party gathering in April 2019.

She also missed a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin later that month, fueling speculation that she had been demoted.

One theory is that Kim Jong Un ordered her to lie low after his failed summit with Trump in February 2019.

But in early June 2019, Kim Yo Jong was spotted for the first time in 52 days, suggesting she was back in her brother’s good graces.

In October 2019, North Korean media released strange photos of Kim Jong Un riding a white horse atop a mountain with historic and symbolic significance.

Experts told Business Insider that the photos are packed with political meaning — and could foreshadow a frightening military advancement.

Since then, her profile has only grown. In March 2020, Kim Yo Jong made her first-ever public statement, insulting South Korea as a “frightened dog barking” after the country condemned one of North Korea’s live-fire military drills.

“Such incoherent assertion and actions… only magnify our distrust, hatred and scorn for the South side as a whole,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement.

The following month, Kim Yo Jong was reinstated as an alternate member of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo, suggesting that all has been forgiven since the collapse of last year’s summit.

Given these recent developments, it’s clear that Kim Yo Jong’s power has grown tremendously in recent years, fueling speculation that no other family members besides her could take over.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Elon Musk accepts Ford’s challenge for Cybertruck tug-of-war rematch

A top Ford executive implied on Nov. 25, 2019, that Tesla’s video showing its new Cybertruck beating an F-150 in a tug-of-war might not have been completely fair.

“Hey @elonmusk send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” Sunny Madra, who leads Ford X, the automaker’s mobility-ventures lab, said on Twitter. Not long after, Tesla’s billionaire CEO accepted the challenge, saying “bring it on.”


On Nov. 21, 2019, as part of a laser-filled reveal that didn’t always go to plan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went out of his way to take shots at Ford and other automakers.

“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” he said.

Ford was quick to fight back.

“We’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do,” a Ford representative told Business Insider.

Madra’s tweet appears to be the first time since the Tesla reveal that a Ford executive has publicly discussed the Cybertruck. Musk responded to the Ford executive’s challenge on Nov. 25, 2019: “Bring it on,” he said.

For its part, Ford has big plans for its own electric-truck fleet.

Earlier this year, Ford showed off an electric F-150 prototype that handily towed 1 million pounds of train cars for 1,000 feet. (For context, a properly configured Ford F-150 pickup truck can tow 13,200 pounds.)

It’s not clear whether Tesla will take Madra up on the offer of a test, which could be the first of its kind for the nascent electric-vehicle industry — and certainly a treat for automotive fans.

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

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