US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

The US Coast Guard and its allies announced the seizure of approximately 23,000 pounds of cocaine and 8,800 pounds of marijuana before offloading the illegal drugs at Port Everglades, Florida, during a press conference on Wednesday. 

“The outstanding Coast Guard women and men on this ship are the very best. Their professionalism, teamwork, and dedication produced multiple interdictions through often harrowing and arduous conditions,” said Capt. Todd Vance, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter James. “With absolute certainty, we know that each interdiction saves lives and helps to protect others from violence, extortion, and instability; byproducts of the illegal drug trade in the Western Hemisphere.”

Over the course of approximately three months, the combined task force conducted 20 separate interdictions with eight American and United Kingdom ships, dealing a heavy strike against the drug trafficking organizations responsible for the illegal narcotics. The seized narcotics are estimated to have a street value of $411.3 million.  

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Crew members aboard the Coast Guard cutter James stand next to approximately 23,000 pounds of cocaine and 8,800 pounds of marijuana Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at Port Everglades Cruise Port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Coast Guard seized the drugs with an estimated $411.3 million wholesale value. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa Rodriguez/US Coast Guard, courtesy of DVIDS.

The operation was successful despite one of the task force’s ships being forced to make an early return to port because of a surge of COVID-19 infections. The USCG cutter Stratton returned to port Nov. 18, 2020, after crew members tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Out of the 133 crew members, 11 had tested positive by the time the Stratton returned to its homeport at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California. 

The USCG cutter James’ most recent deployment was part of the efforts of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF) to combat illegal trafficking of all types in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. The task force, located at Naval Station Key West, Florida, conducts detection and monitoring operations in the Joint Operating Area in order to maintain security in the US and her allied countries. 

The US Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, including the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands, all played a role in the recent counterdrug operations.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
The HNLMS Groningen’s crew interdicts a suspected drug boat in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 27, 2020. HNLMS Groningen is a Holland-class offshore patrol vessel operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy and was part of the recent countertrafficking operation. Royal Netherlands Navy photo, courtesy of DVIDS.

The USCG 7th District Southeast said in a press release, “The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation.”

Capt. Vance gave an example during the press conference of one of the task force’s recent interdictions. He said that USCG and Dutch Caribbean surveillance aircraft located a drug smuggling vessel somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. The UK launched an aircraft from its Royal Fleet auxiliary ship Argus, with a USCG law enforcement group of eight to 10 personnel attached. The group completed a successful interdiction of the drug smuggling vessel, with the interdiction and boarding led and conducted by the USCG.

“If that’s not joint international collaboration, I’m not sure what it better looks like. A coordination like this happens every day in this theater of the world,” said Vance. He continued to recognize the various US and foreign ally partnerships, who “work together to stop the drugs from poisoning our communities. Who work together to reduce the influence and corruption of transnational criminal organizations and their corrupt influence on regional leaders. They work together to enhance safety, security, and regional security here in the Western Hemisphere.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

6 of the most important core exercises you’ll ever do

When gym amateurs think about doing core exercises to get rid of love handles and to gain ripped abs, they probably think they must do tons of sit-ups and leg raises.

The truth is when we refer to “ab exercises,” we’re typically only targeting our transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and our internal and external oblique muscles. These are the four muscles that make up our abdominals. Our “core” consists of our abs plus many “stabilizer” structures like the pelvic floor, hip abductors, lower chest, and lower back. These are the areas many athletes target when they put themselves through a tough core workout.

Aside from getting those abs to pop out, having a strong core directly relates to how our bodies are balanced and our agility levels. As a bonus, a strong core helps promote our immunity, which can fend off colds and cases of flu while in season.

Unlike most muscle groups, putting ourselves through an intense core exercise program can be accomplished without using a single weight or having a ton of space. These movements can be done in virtually any location.

Out of the dozens of core exercises out there, we tend to go with these six movements three to four times a week to improve our overall health and wellness… and (we’re not going to lie) to get ripped abs.


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The “dead bug”

The name of this exercise might make it sound simple, but the dead bug is a lot harder to pull off than you think. You start off by positioning yourself like you’re a dead bug turned over on its back. With your legs and arms extended upward, keep all those core muscles we spoke about as tight as possible before lowering one of your legs down to the floor. As you slowly lower your leg, your back will want to arch itself to assist you with the load.

Don’t allow that to happen.

Keep your core tight as you bring your leg back up, and then repeat the whole process with the other leg. Continue onward until you hit failure. This is one of the best core movements in the book, so always keep this in mind when you’re looking to tone up your tummy.

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Scissor kicks

This is an exercise that many veterans want to forget about. We’ve done thousands of these bad boys during our command-led fitness adventures. Although you might not remember enjoying them during all your years of service, scissor kicks are a hell of a way to boost your body’s balance and get those abs ripped.

This supinated exercise is as easy as just moving your feet sideways while contracting your core muscles. However, you can exhaust your core in a matter of moments. After you hit 40 or 50 reps, you can quickly move into conducting a series of flutter kicks while you’re resting from all those scissor kicks you just did. Super setting your exercises burns more calories, which means you’re going to tone up faster.

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Russian twists

Although this movement sounds like a delicious vodka drink, it’s actually one of the hardest core exercises to master. Sure the idea of twisting your body so your fingertips can touch your hips sounds easy, but to do this movement correctly, you must balance yourself or risk falling over.

And no one wants to be seen falling on their side at the gym. It just looks bad. So, to master it, slow the motion down until you build up enough core strength to balance yourself perfectly.

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Alternating heel touches

We put this exercise here for a good reason. It’s not just an excellent movement but it’s also a great transitional motion after doing some Russian twists for a minute or two. Your core will probably feel like it’s on fire but alternating heel touches can help you catch your breath while still allowing you to tone up. By merely going from the same Russian twist position, start to touch your hands to your heels and an alternative motion.

You’ll feel this movement in your obliques and lower back.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riAutegDqdI

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V-ups

Remember how we talked about gaining balance through these core exercises? V-ups are one of the best movements to train the core to stabilize itself. By starting in a supine position, raise your lower and upper body up from the floor and attempt to touch your fingertips to your shins.

As you continue to get better, the goal is to touch your fingertips to your toe without falling over. Strengthening your body is a gradual process, so alway monitor your pain levels at all time.

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Two-point planks

Since the majority of the world has either heard of planks or seen someone do them, we want to challenge you by increasing its level of difficulty. After getting into a pushup position, raise up one leg up while lifting up the opposite arm to maintain your personal balance. After both limbs are extended for a second or two, lower them back down and proceed to lift your other limbs to complete the exercise.

We know it sounds super easy, but after a few cycles, you’ll feel your whole body start to shake. Don’t worry — that’s normal, even for advanced plankers.

Fitness is all about making goals and then destroying them once you’ve achieved them. So, set that goal and then break it.

Articles

A Chinese jet nearly collided with a US Navy plane again

A United States Navy EP-3E Aries electronic surveillance plane had a near-collision with a Chinese fighter in the East China Sea. The incident is the latest in a series of close calls between Chinese and American military assets.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, a Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighter armed with air-to-air missiles flew under the EP-3 and pulled up about 300 feet in front of the Navy plane, forcing it to make an evasive maneuver to avoid a collision.

The incident reportedly took place in international airspace, about 90 miles from Qingdao, headquarters of China’s North Sea Fleet.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the North Sea Fleet includes some of China’s most powerful assets, including a number of the nuclear-powered submarines in service with the People’s Liberation Army Navy. The incident came days after Adm. John Richardson, the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke with his Chinese counterpart about North Korea.

The United States and China have been involved in a number of incidents in recent months. This past May, another pair of J-10s had a close encounter with a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, coming within 200 yards of the plane, and making slow turns in front of the plane.

Also in May, the crew of an Air Force OC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane were on the receiving end of a “Top Gun” intercept that the Department of Defense characterized as “unprofessional.” In 2001, a J-8 “Finback” collided with an EP-3E, killing the Chinese pilot, and forcing the EP-3E to make an emergency landing at a Chinese airfield.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The United States has carried out a number of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region, including a passage within six miles of Mischief Reef. China has threatened to fine ships that do not obey its maritime edicts in the South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.

While not as prominently in the news as the South China Sea, the East China Sea is also the location of territorial disputes, notably the Senkaku Islands, which both Japan and China claim.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and NATO just took one step closer to war

The headlines in Georgia read that the country will one day join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – whether Russia likes it or not. The man who made the declaration is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Secretary was visiting Georgia at the end of a set of joint NATO-Georgian military exercises.

No firm date has been set but the Kremlin, long opposed to Georgia’s membership in the anti-Russian alliance, can’t be pleased with the idea of another NATO country along its border.


US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

From the 2011 Film “Five Days of War,” about the Georgian side of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.

The Russians have occupied part of internationally-recognized Georgian territory since capturing it in 2008. The aftermath of that conflict saw Russian occupation of the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian recognition of those territories as sovereign states, and a permanent Russian military presence in both areas. Thousands of Russian troops are stationed there to this day. Georgia still considers those areas to belong to Georgia.

That same year, the NATO membership decided Georgia would definitely become a NATO member one day. Secretary Stoltenberg reaffirmed the commitment of NATO allies to Georgia, saying there was nothing Russia can do to prevent the move.

“We are not accepting that Russia or any other power can decide what members can do,” he said. “No country has the right to influence NATO’s open-door policy.”

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

American and Georgian troops during military exercises in the Caucasian country.

Georgia has been in what Russia considers its sphere of influence since the days of the Tsar, which can put the country in a precarious situation so close to its powerful neighbor. Ukraine has also been trying to escape Russian influence since the fall of the Soviet Union and has tried to do so by moving closer to joining the NATO alliance. Russia considered Ukraine’s membership in NATO to be a direct national security threat, which led to the unofficial invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Russia used similar tactics in the lead-up to its 2008 invasion of Georgia, including the use of Russian-backed insurgents, Russian-made weapons, and even the first use of concurrent cyberattacks during a conventional armed conflict. If the Russian Army made such an aggressive move on Georgia as a NATO member, the attack would trigger NATO’s Article 5 – that an attack on one member country is an attack on all countries.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

American troops with the NATO flag in Afghanistan.

The first and only time Article 5 was automatically invoked, the alliance took immediate action. Less than a day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, struck the United States, NATO member countries informed the United Nations they were invoking Article 5 and that each country would take an immediate eight steps to assist the United States. While provoking the alliance isn’t Russia’s style, the addition of Georgia could still lead to a war.

On three separate occasions, the collective defense agreement came to member state Turkey’s aid at the request of Turkish officials. In 1991, 2003, and again in 2012, the NATO alliance responded with allied troops, weapons, and equipment to the call for aid from a NATO ally. A buildup of allied troops near the border with the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would surely be met with a buildup of Russian troops on the opposite side.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has not specifically responded to the recent statements made by Jens Stoltenberg, but most recently, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev warned of “a terrible conflict” brewing just by making such a move. He also questioned the wisdom of provoking such a conflict.

Articles

VA chief takes aim at veteran homelessness

The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.


Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.

“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.

“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.

Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.

“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”

Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”

To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.

While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.

“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”

Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The mail must go through: Your questions answered about coronavirus and the mail

As America works quickly to find ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it might not always be easy to know which industries are being affected and in what ways. Restaurants are offering takeout, cable companies are giving rebates on data usage, and the mail… well, the mail is working just like it always has. And for good reason.

Some people have expressed concerns that the coronavirus known as Covid-19 seems to have a fairly long survival window on hard surfaces like kitchen counters, so it seems feasible that one could be exposed to Covid-19 through a letter or package they receive. Others have worried that isolation procedures could disrupt delivery of mail and other shipments. Fortunately, most of these concerns can be readily dismissed.


So, here are some frequently asked questions, along with expert-backed answers.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Q:Is it safe to send and receive mail or packages amid the coronavirus outbreak?

A: Yes, according to the CDC and WHO.

Fortunately, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has already considered our concerns about viral transmission through the mail. They point out that the likelihood that the virus could potentially survive throughout the duration of shipping is so small, there’s really no risk associated with sending or receiving packages.

“In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures,” the CDC website reads.

The CDC aren’t the only ones saying mail is safe to send and receive. The experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) have echoed the CDC’s sentiments in their own releases.

“The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low,” the WHO said.
US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Q: Are mail rooms shutting down at basic training?

A: No, and if that changes, we’ll let you know right away.

Sandboxx News’ close relationship with Sandboxx Letters gives us a unique insight into how the letters apparatus runs, and just how closely our friends on the Letters side of the business keep in touch with the mail rooms at basic training installations all around the country.

Sandboxx’s operations team have been working double time to keep open lines of communications with mail rooms around the force, making sure they’ll be the first to know if there’s an issue and relaying the updates to Sandboxx’s executive leadership, Customer Happiness team, and us at Sandboxx News.

“Under normal operations we call every mailroom that we ship to across all 5 branches of the military once a month,” explains Bobby Vigil, Sandboxx’s Operations Manager and a Marine Corps infantry veteran.
“Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have been calling mailrooms once a week and will continue doing so, so we can stay on top of any changes made to base operations.”

The mail printing procedure at Sandboxx is also particularly safe for a number of reasons. Most of the Sandboxx staff has switched to working remotely, so the operations crew has limited exposure to others. The process of printing and even stuffing the letters into envelopes is all handled by machines, so there’s very little chance for issues to arise.

Sandboxx Letters works with FedEx for to ensure rapid delivery. You can see what they’re doing to make sure packages get through on their site here.

Q: Will mail be delayed because of the coronavirus?

A: It isn’t now, but we’ll let you know if that changes.

It may be safe to send and receive letters, but many have found themselves wondering if letters will still reach their destination in a normal amount of time amidst all the changes businesses have made to minimize the spread of Covid-19.

At least for now, the answer is that things are progressing more or less as usual. Letters are still being delivered in the usual amount of time through the regular postal service, and most letters sent through Sandboxx will still reach basic training the next day, just like always.

Sandboxx Mailroom Update Concerning COVID-19

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Of course, this is one answer that may change over time. As America continues to manage this outbreak, some services may run into delays. Remember that if delays do come, they’re likely the result of ensuring the safety of the package carriers.

If any changes do arise pertaining to coronavirus and the mail, Sandboxx News will keep you informed, just like we do with basic training changes, Covid-19 testing requirements from Tricare, and PCS changes.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has to worry about the non-NATO members of historic war games

Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.

As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”


NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.

Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018

(US Marine Corps photo)

“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”

But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.

Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”

Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.

In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.

Russian officials have also warned both of them.

Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”

Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.

“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)

Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”

But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.

Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”

Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)

Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.

Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.

They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.

“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.

“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The world wants China to own up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”


To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.

In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
President Xi Jinping
(Photo by Michel Temer)

“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.

“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.

In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”

Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Liu Xiaobo

At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.

“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.

In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”

In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”

Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.

Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Wu’Er Kaixi

However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.

“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”

Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.

In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.

On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.

“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.

“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA seeks emergency shelter provider for 100 vets

The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System is seeking a contractor to offer on-site contracted residential services for approximately one hundred homeless veterans per day. The Contractor shall rapidly stabilize veterans of the program through treatment, addressing mental health, physical health, substance abuse and other psychosocial problems.

Vets Advocacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to revitalizing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Campus, is helping to amplify the search for a contractor to help provide services.

Offers are due Monday, Dec. 23, 2019.


Homeless Veteran Lives in His Car in Los Angeles

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According to the Los Angeles Times, there are 3,878 veterans who lack a “fixed, regular, or adequate place to sleep” on any given night in Los Angeles County. While the number of homeless people in L.A. has been on the rise in the past year, the good news is that the number of homeless veterans “stayed essentially flat” (and even declined in the year before.

The reason for this trend is credited largely to financial assistance from the government.

“In the past, homelessness was largely viewed as an economic problem,” Dr. Jack Tsai, an Associate Professor and Clinical Psychologist at Yale University, told The Defense Post. “But due to deinstitutionalization of those with severe mental illness and the increasing visibility of homelessness in large cities, homelessness really has become a public health problem and one closely related to mental illness.”

The Defense Post goes on to say, “Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness due to combat-related injury or illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, or sexual trauma while in service, according to the National Coalition to End Homelessness. These traumas, if untreated, can result in substance abuse which affects a person’s ability to earn a stable income and increases the risk of homelessness.”

This contract will provide services to 100 veterans who may be of the following eligible homeless veteran populations: males, over the age of 55, or high priority veterans with acutely elevated suicide risk factors.

Offers are due Dec. 23, 2019. The contract will be for a base and three one-year option periods beginning on or about March 1, 2020. Anyone interested can view the complete solicitation here.

Articles

Mattis wants to see a body before he’ll believe ISIS leader is dead

Amid ISIS’ defeat in the Iraqi city of Mosul and ongoing fighting in its self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria, the fate of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains unknown.


Russia said in late June that it believed he had been killed in a bombing raid on Raqqa, but earlier this week Moscow admitted that it was unable to confirm the death and said it was getting contradictory information.

Despite an observer group saying Baghdadi has been killed, Defense Secretary James Mattis and other US commanders are skeptical.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“I think Baghdadi’s alive,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon July 21, according to Military Times. Mattis has made similar statements before, and he told reporters that absent evidence Baghdadi was still commanding ISIS, it was possible he was acting in a religious or propaganda role for the terrorist group.

“Until I see his body, I am going to assume he is alive,” Mattis said. The US intelligence community has also seen no evidence Baghdadi is dead.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the leader of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, hasn’t confirmed the death either, but earlier this week he said he had no “reason to believe he’s alive. I don’t have proof of life.”

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

While Baghdadi’s whereabouts remain unclear, the group he led appears to be on the wane. Iraqi forces have recaptured Mosul — after ISIS fighters there destroyed the mosque where Baghdadi declared ISIS’ “caliphate” in summer 2014 — and US-backed fighters have advanced into Raqqa, though much hard fighting remains there.

Like Baghdadi’s fate, who will succeed him is also unclear. Experts believe that two lieutenants, ISIS war minister Iyad al-Obaidi and the group’s security agency chief, Ayad al-Jumaili, are the most likely candidates. Both served in the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein and then joined the Sunni Salafist insurgency in Iraq in 2003, after Hussein was deposed by the US invasion.

Leadership questions aside, the group looks to remain present in some form. In June, US officials were quick to note that ISIS remained a threat in both Iraq and Syria after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the group was at its end. And even with ISIS eroding, the tensions that fostered or accompanied its rise and other drivers of conflict are likely to endure.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Last surviving Doolittle Raider turns 102

The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II celebrated his 102nd birthday on Thursday.


Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole has remained active, attending commemorative events in recent years including April ceremonies for the raid’s 75th anniversary at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“I’m holding together,” Cole said Thursday by telephone, adding with a chuckle: “The only thing is I need a lot of WD-40.”

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
Chief of the Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David L. Goldfein, talks to Lt. Col. (Ret.) Richard E. Cole, the sole surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders (right) during the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid Memorial Ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, April 18, 2017. Also attending was Jeff Thatcher (left), the son of Doolittle Raider Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who passed in June 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Wesley Farnsworth)

President Donald Trump called the Ohio native in July as Cole was recovering from a fall, to check on him and thank him for his service.

“It was a nice surprise,” Cole recounted. “He was very polite and cheerful. It was very upbeat.”

Cole is originally from Dayton, and now lives in Comfort, Texas. He has a daughter who lives nearby and two sons.

He said in April he hadn’t expected to be the last Doolittle Raider survivor because he was older than most on the mission. Cole attributed his longevity to being an optimist and living a life of “moderation.”

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment
160418-N-HI816-001 WASHINGTON (April 18, 2016) This infographic shares the history of the Doolittle Raid – how America struck back after Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy graphic by Annalisa Underwood/Released)

He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army soldier leads the way after historic accomplishment

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster was 37 years old when she attended Ranger School. While the average age of attendees in the course ranges in the early 20s, that didn’t deter her, and in October of 2015 she graduated from the course.

She was the first woman in the U.S. Army Reserve to do so.

Four years later, her advice to others is simple.

“You have to be ‘all-in,'” said Jaster. “Be willing to give everything you have for the school and maintain your integrity. The first week is published therefore you know what to expect and how to succeed. Once you’ve passed the physical entrance exam (RAP week), you will need to have the mental toughness to push through conditions that could beat a lesser person down.”


“Do not let ‘quit’ in,” she continued. “That means once you allow quitting into your mind as an option, it will move in, live there, steal your motivation, and eventually defeat you from within.”

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

Maj. Lisa Jaster in late 2015, after her graduation from Ranger School that previous October.

(Courtesy of Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster)

The all-in attitude that Jaster says is the key to success for Ranger school has also been tantamount to accomplishments in other aspects of her life. As a citizen soldier, she demonstrates that one can serve their country while continuing to have a civilian career.

In the past three years, Jaster has been a senior project engineer with Shell Oil Co. before becoming the director of civil engineering for MS Engineering. She also has become a professional speaker with Leading Authorities, holding engagements across the country.

In the Army Reserve, she has been a battalion executive officer, an engineering team lead supporting the Iraqi Security Forces during Operation Inherent Resolve, and is now the brigade executive officer for the 420th Engineer Brigade, 416th Theater Engineer Command.

Throughout all of her experiences, her definition of leadership and what is expected of leaders has one constant: be consistent in your words and actions, and set the example for others to follow. This definition has served her well in both her military and civilian life.

“Everyone needs to be led as an individual, and each individual brings something to the fight as long as they are vested in the end state,” said Jaster. “A leader is someone who inspires those around them to be better versions of themselves.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, poses with her family after promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col. Jaster graduated from Ranger School in 2015, the first female officer in the Reserve to do so.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Traditionally,” she continued. “I have said that consistency is the most important aspect of leadership to ensure subordinates can perform in the absence of guidance,” After Ranger School, I have created the three Cs – Consistency, Communication and Competence. There are a lot of other aspects to being an effective leader, but these are necessary starting blocks.”

Jaster approaches her personal life with the same care as her professional one. A dual military couple, she and her husband, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Allan Jaster, have two children. Their support of each other and their children has been a critical factor in their accomplishments.

“Balancing the Citizen (employee, mom, wife, sister, daughter, and individual) with the soldier is very complicated,” said Jaster. “I used to try to silo both aspects of who I am but found that so much bleeds over from one job to the other that I need to be fluid with those lines.

“What that means,” continued Jaster. “Is that Army conference calls can happen during cheer practice, and I might need to review proposals for work while I am in the field with the Army. It means being open and honest with my spouse, my military boss, and my civilian supervisor about what I can handle and what might be coming up. Having a strong support team with regards to extended family, friends and hired help is critical to ensure nothing at home drops.”

Jaster does not want her Ranger School experience to define her. Since her completion of the course, she has advised to not identify soldiers and civilians by their race, sex or creed, but their skills, attributes and performance.

She created the hashtag #deletetheadjective for social media to emphasize her message, and throughout all of her speaking engagements, she has consistently stated the best teams are those with the highest level of competencies, not just a group identity. Being in the Army Reserve has allowed her to serve her country while creating awareness, and discussion, of the topic.

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lisa Jaster, executive officer, 420th Engineer Brigade, receives a new patrol cap from her family signifying her promotion from Maj. to Lt. Col.

(Photo by Capt. Daniel Johnson)

“Ranger school was just part of my path,” said Jaster. “It was not an end state. I have a larger public voice because of graduating from Ranger School. My true failure or success is what I decide to do with that voice. If I can live by the Ranger Creed and set an example which brings our community together for a smooth gender integration, then that is the goal I am striving for.”

Looking forward to the future, Jaster continues to strive for excellence. Whether in uniform or out, she has used her previous accomplishments to continue to fuel her drive to succeed and set the example for others to follow. Her discipline and dedication to her family, civilian profession, and military career is a standard she refuses to let falter.

“Ranger School does not make me a good or a bad officer,” said Jaster. “It does mean there are certain external expectations of me that were previously only self-imposed. This gives me an additional drive to continue to train martial arts, strength, endurance and tactics, even when time constraints make it difficult and my current job doesn’t require it.

“I am looking forward to being a battalion commander,” she continued. “After battalion command, I am not sure what the Army holds, but I plan to stay in uniform as long as I can.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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