Representative Duncan Hunter has declared that Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, is “a greater threat to the Marine Corps than ISIS” because of his efforts to open combat roles to women in spite of a study conducted by the Marines that indicated that warfighting effectiveness would suffer as a result.
“The reason the military is there is not to be a transgender, corporate organization,” Hunter told POLITICO, referring to the Pentagon’s plans to allow transgender service members to serve openly. “The military is there to execute American policy overseas, protect our allies and kill our enemies. It’s not a corporation. We’re not all treated equal.”
Hunter is most tweaked about Mabus’ memo to the Corps directing them to gender-integrate boot camp and to lose the word “man” from military job titles.
“These are long lasting,” Hunter said. “These changes that they’re making are not thought out, they’re not researched, they’ve not been debated. The American public has no idea what’s going on … It’s going to get people killed.”
1. A POW escaped prison to have an affair with the daughter of a Nazi worker
When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia on September 1, 1939, 20-year-old British hairdresser Horace Greasley was drafted into the British Army.* Unfortunately, the aspiring barber was better with scissors than he was with a rifle, and he was captured and sent to a Polish POW camp almost immediately. Most people would be too devastated by this turn of events to even think about scoping out potential romantic opportunities, but Horace Greasley is not most people.
A few days into his imprisonment he met Rosa Raubach, the beautiful daughter of the camp’s quarry director, and the two began a secret affair that lasted for nearly a year before he was transferred to a different prison. But the story doesn’t end here — instead of giving up on his prison girlfriend, Horace decided he was up for a challenge, and continued the relationship under the Nazis’s noses. With the help of his friends he would crawl under a section of barbed wire fencing to escape back into his old prison and reunite with his lady love, rather than search for a way to neutral territory.
The pair kept up this forbidden rendezvous about three times a week for five years. Amazingly, Horace and Rosa were never found out by the Nazis — the only thing that stopped the couple was the liberation of Poland at the end of the war, when they went their separate ways.
2. This Civil War couple cross-dressed and became Union outlaws to defy the Confederacy
Keith and Linda Balock loved the Union just as much as they loved each other, so when their home state of North Carolina sided with the Confederacy, they knew it was time to take drastic measures. Realizing that Keith would have to enlist in the Confederate army or risk imprisonment (and probably worse), the husband and wife swore to stay together — even on the front lines. Linda donned men’s clothes and posed as “Sam” Balock, Keith’s fictitious brother, and the pair entered the army together, planning to defect to the Union as soon as they reached Northern territory.
Before they could cross Union lines, however, Linda’s true identity was discovered, and she was forced to leave. Unwilling to be apart from his wife, Keith decided he would get himself discharged too. The next day he went out to the forest, stripped naked, and rolled around in poison ivy until he could convince Confederate doctors that he had an incurable disease. Once released, the pair fled to the Appalachian mountains, where they lived as Union raiders for the rest of the war and worked to sabotage Confederate military efforts.
3. Two Jewish resistance leaders met in a concentration camp, fell in love, and planned their escape together
When 24-year-old Marla Zimetbaum was arrested and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau because of her Jewish heritage, she vowed to do whatever it took to bring her Nazi oppressors down. What she didn’t realize at the time, however, was that she wouldn’t have to do it alone. While working as a prison interpreter, she met fellow inmate Edward Gilenksi, a young Polish man who was plotting his escape from the camp. She began crafting the escape plan with him, and the two young people, who were both rumored to have been part of Jewish resistance groups, fell in love.
In June of 1944, Gilenski disguised himself as an SS guard and Zimetbaum as a male prisoner, and they made it outside of the camp’s perimeter gate. Once there, Zimetbaum changed out of her men’s clothes and the pair pretended to be a Nazi and his girlfriend out for a walk. They swore to stay together no matter what happened, and lived together in freedom for four days before Zimetbaum was discovered buying groceries and arrested. Keeping his promise, Gilenski turned himself in, and the two were tragically executed on the same day. Before their deaths the two reportedly rallied their fellow prisoners to continue the resistance against the Nazis, and became symbols of Jewish resistance against the Nazi regime.
4. 60 years after Stalin banished her family to Siberia, this Russian woman reunited with her husband
Only three days after his marriage to Anna Kozlov in 1946, Boris Kozlov had to return to fight with his Red Army unit in Communist Russia. The couple kissed goodbye and waved as Boris returned to his post, expecting to see each other again in a few weeks. They had no idea that they would not be reunited until 60 years later. After Boris left, Anna and her family were banished to Siberia during Stalin’s purges, and they were unavailable to leave word for any of their family or friends. When Boris returned home, expecting to be greeted by his beautiful young bride, he was crushed — she was nowhere to be found. Desperate, he scoured the town for news of her disappearance, but found nothing.
Meanwhile, Anna considered suicide, convinced she would never again see the love of her life. After a while and at the pressure of their families, they both reluctantly moved on and remarried, resigned to the fact that their marriage was not meant to be. Half a century later however, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the deaths of both their spouses, Anna returned to her hometown — and ran into Boris. She saw him getting out of his car while she walked about her old street, and the two miraculously recognized each other. They married each other again days later — finally leading the life they had dreamed of as young newlyweds.
5. 20-year-old Olga Watkins infiltrated Dachau to find her Jewish fiance
Olga Watkins was leading an ordinary, happy life when her fiance Julius Koreny was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and taken away. Devastated, she ignored the pleas of her family and friends to give up on Julius — who had surely been killed by the the Nazis — and instead set out to find him herself. Her quest led her on a 2,000 mile journey from Zagreb through Nazi-occupied Europe, to the gates of Dachau and finally Buchenwald, one of The Third Reich’s most notorious concentration camps.
Terrified but determined to free Julius, Olga asked for a job as a secretary in the camp offices and began searching for clues amongst the Nazis who captured her lover. Finally, with the American liberation only days away, Olga got her hands on Julius’s documentation — only to find he’d been transferred to Buchenwald. Only half-hoping he’d be alive, Olga rushed to the now liberated and nearly desolate camp — and against all odds — found Julius, who was recovering from typhus. A few days later, the remaining survivors of the camp joined together to help throw them a wedding, and the star-crossed lovers were married.
6. “Stonewall” Jackson’s last words were for his beloved wife
Most people know Confederate General Thomas Jackson, AKA the notorious “Stonewall” Jackson, for his often ruthless battle tactics and dauntless leadership. Few, however, know of his passionate love for his wife. A devout Christian, Jackson was incredibly devoted to his marriage to the love of his life, a woman named Mary Anna Morrison. Though he was smitten with her from the beginning, they hit some obstacles when they first began courting — Mary Anna had sworn she would never marry a soldier, Democrat, or a widower, and Jackson was three for three. She soon got over these concerns, however, and the two were married in 1857.
The couple was inseparable, and Jackson was overjoyed when Mary Anna gave birth to their baby daughter, Julia, in 1862. Sadly, he was wounded in friendly fire at the Battle of Chancelorville just a few weeks later, but Mary Anna raced to his location and was with him as he drew his last breath. Before he closed his eyes for the last time, Jackson whispered to his wife, “Let us pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.” Mary Anna chose to dress in mourning black for the rest of her life to honor her beloved husband, and never remarried.
Editor’s note: An original version of this post contained wording that made it sound like Horace Greasley was drafted by the Czech Army. Though he was called up after the invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was a Briton called up by the British Army for service. The wording updated to make this more clear.
When 10th Group Special Forces soldier Kyle Daniels returned from his last combat deployment, he was frustrated by what he saw. He understood that he’d been fighting for America’s freedom, including the important freedom to protest. But he didn’t like seeing the American flag burned.
So he did something about it.
Daniels designed and developed a flag that will not burn. Now, after two years of research and hundreds of prototypes, on Sunday, June 14 – Flag Day 2020 – the Firebrand Flag Company will launch its first product: A first-of-its-kind, official, fire-retardant U.S. Flag made in America from the same kevlar and nomex fabric that keeps our service members and first responders safe.
Daniels has big ambitions for his flag company. “I want Firebrand Flags to be the official flag company of the U.S.A.,” he said. “I want every home, business and government building in America to proudly fly one of our flags. And, if, for some reason, one of our enemies got ahold of one of our flags, it wouldn’t be much use as a propaganda tool. They would have to go to extreme lengths to destroy it, much like they do when they are face to face with an American service member. Old Glory can now defend itself.”
Early on, Daniels shared his vision with his former Green Beret commander, Jason Van Camp. Van Camp immediately invited Daniels to join his Warrior Rising incubator. Warrior Rising helps veteran entrepreneurs find mentors who can help realize their business goals and transition to the private sector. “I’ve known Kyle since the Special Forces Qualification Course. I believe in Kyle. He was a perfect fit for Warrior Rising,” Van Camp explained. “He had passion and zeal for making a flag that would literally dominate the narrative about flag burning but needed to evolve a new set of business skills to realize his vision.”
The mission wasn’t going to be easy. To make a flag that would look, feel and fly like a real flag but that wouldn’t burn, Daniels needed to engineer new materials and design a manufacturing process that previously didn’t exist. There were plenty of roadblocks along the way. The process to make the flag required entirely new cutting machines and the largest purchase of Kevlar fabric outside of the U.S. military. But Daniels applied the resilience he learned in the military to his business. As Daniels put it, “You have to adapt, overcome and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the mission.”
At a Warrior Rising event, Kyle met yet another ex-Green Beret, Chase Millsap, the Chief Content Officer at We Are The Mighty. We Are The Mighty is a publisher and content studio focused on the military and veteran communities. Millsap loved the Firebrand mission from the outset. “We tell stories that celebrate service. Kyle’s unburnable flag is an awesome product with an amazing story.” It took Milsap no time to convince his colleagues to jump on board and the two companies have formed a partnership to bring the Firebrand Flag to market. WATM is the proud media partner of Firebrand Flags.
Get your unburnable flag today. The first 150 orders before June 26 save , and get free shipping (a value). All orders placed by June 26 are guaranteed to arrive in time for the 4th of July.
FIREBRAND FLAG COMPANY – Founded by Green Beret veteran Kyle Daniels, Firebrand Flags is the 1st company to develop a 100% made in America, fire retardant officials U.S. Flag.
WARRIOR RISING – A 501c(3) which empowers U.S. military veterans and their immediate family members by providing them opportunities to create sustainable businesses, perpetuate the hiring of fellow American veterans and earn their future.
WE ARE THE MIGHTY – Launched in 2014, We Are The Mighty (WATM) was created to give military veterans a voice to tell the most authentic, entertaining and inspirational stories about the military and by the military.
Got a sore throat or a sprained ankle and don’t want to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital? Got sick at 8:00 on a Friday night and don’t want to wait until Monday to see a VA doctor? A new VA program may be for you.
As of June 6, 2019, the VA offers medical care to eligible veterans at selected civilian urgent care facilities nationwide.
Dr. Jake Williams, Veterans Affairs dentist, poses for a photo January 9, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
This is an expansion of the VA’s Mission Act, which itself was an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act. The Choice Act was passed in 2014 as the result of highly publicized problems with veterans not being able to get appointments at VA hospitals in a timely manner.
Under this new expanded program, veterans are eligible to get limited urgent care from civilian doctors regardless of how close they are to a VA facility.
The Wichita Veterans Administration Hospital, also called the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, located at 5500 East Kellogg Avenue in Wichita, Kansas.
If you are enrolled in the VA health care system and have received VA medical care within the last 24 months, you should be eligible for this program. However, you should contact your local VA medical facility before visiting a civilian urgent care provider. Only certain services and providers are covered under this new benefit. If you visit a provider that isn’t part of the program, or you get medical treatment that isn’t covered under this program, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.
You don’t have to go to a civilian doctor if you don’t want to. The VA says that most of its locations, including hospitals and community-based outpatient clinics, offer same-day services for most situations.
You should contact your local medical office to check your eligibility. Or you can call (866) 606-8198. You can also find civilian community-care locations near you at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.
Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX
One way this program differs from regular VA medical care is that you may have to make a co-payment to see the civilian doctor. The amount depends on your VA Priority Group and how many times you visit civilian doctors each year. Typically, you get three free visits each year.
Co-Payments for Office Visits
Priority Groups 1-5. There is no co-payment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is .
Priority Group 6. If the visit is for medical treatment related to combat and chemical exposures such as Agent Orange; contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC; Gulf War Syndrome, etc., as well as some mental illnesses, there is no co-pay for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is . If the visit is not related to these conditions, the co-payment is per visit, for all visits.
Priority Groups 7-8. The co-payment is per visit.
There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.
Co-Payments for Prescriptions
If you get a prescription from an urgent care center, you should fill it at a VA network pharmacy. If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you will have to pay the full price at the drug store and then file a claim with the VA to get your money back.
If you are given a prescription for what the VA considers routine or maintenance drugs (such as blood pressure or cholesterol drugs), you will have to get those filled by the VA.
While the prospect of negotiations between North Korea and the US are beginning to look very promising, experts say there is “no way” North Korea trusts the US and would ever sign off on its nuclear weapons program.
Early March 2018, South Korean president’s office, the Blue House, announced that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was willing to abandon his country’s nuclear arms if certain conditions were met. The Blue House also said North Korea would suspend provocations, like nuclear and missile testing, during negotiations.
After meeting with South Korean officials, President Donald Trump seemed optimistic about the North’s proposal, and agreed to meet with Kim by May 2018, with the potential to discuss denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
However, experts remain skeptical of North Korea’s pledges to halt its nuclear weapons development.
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, said there is “no way” North Korea could trust the US enough to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons,” Mearsheimer said at a lecture hosted by the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies in Seoul on March 20, 2018, according to Yonhap. “The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.”
Mearsheimer said that “there’s no way North Koreans can trust the U.S.” when it comes to a denuclearization deal. He cited examples of the US’ unsuccessful denuclearization deals in the Middle East, including Muammar Gaddafi who gave up Libya’s chemical weapons and was killed less than a decade later.
“If you were North Koreans, would you trust Donald Trump? Would you trust any American presidents?”
Mearsheimer added that there was no country that “needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea,” in order to protect its leader. While the US has not explicitly stated its intention to pursue a regime change in the North, Trump and his administration have certainly alluded to the possibility.
Mearsheimer added that North Korea was even less likely to give up their weapons in the current climate.
“Give up their nuclear weapons? I don’t think so, especially as security competition heats up in East Asia. You wanna hang on to those weapons.”
Iran has unveiled a fighter jet which it says is “100-percent” locally made.
Images on state television showed President Hassan Rohani on Aug. 21, 2018, sitting in the cockpit of the new Kowsar plane at the National Defense Industry exhibition.
It is a fourth-generation fighter, with “advanced avionics” and multipurpose radar, the Tasnim news agency said, adding that it was “100-percent indigenously made.”
State television, which showed the plane waiting on a runway for its first public display flight, said that it had already undergone successful testing.
The plane was first publicly announced on Aug. 18, 2018, by Defense Minister Amir Hatami, who gave few details of the project.
The United States has demanded that Tehran curb its defense programs, and is in the process of reimposing crippling sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
Trump called the 2015 agreement, under which Iran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, “the worst deal ever.”
Iran and Israel engaged in a war of words two days after an exchange of missile fire in Syria, with a prominent Iranian cleric threatening to “raze” two Israeli cities if it “acts foolishly” and attacks Iranian forces in Syria again.
Israel’s defense minister issued his own warning, saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will face only “damage and problems” unless he kicks the Iranian military presence out of his country.
Israeli minister Avigdor Lieberman said Assad should especially beware of Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that oversees operations outside Iran’s borders.
“I have a message for Assad: Get rid of the Iranians, get rid of Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Force. They are not helping you, they are only harming,” Lieberman said.
“Their presence will only cause problems and damage. Get rid of the Iranians and we can, perhaps, change our mode of life here,” he said.
On May 10, 2018, Israel accused Iran of firing rockets from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the first time that Iran is believed to have attacked Israel with rockets.
Israel struck back with its heaviest air strikes in Syria since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, saying it had attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in the country. A war monitor said the missile exchange left 23 fighters dead.
Israel has warned it will not allow Iran to establish a military presence close to its borders in Syria, where Iranian military advisers, troops, and allied Shi’ite militia have since 2011 played a key role backing Assad in his civil war against Sunni rebels.
Iran on May 10, 2018, called Israel’s accusations, which were supported and corroborated by the United States and Western allies, “fabricated and baseless excuses” to stage attacks in Syria.
A senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, warned that the Jewish state could face destruction if it continues to challenge Iran.
“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure…to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground,” he said in remarks during Friday Prayers that were carried on Iranian state television.
A prominent Iranian ally in Lebanon joined the verbal volley on May 10, 2018, warning that both Israel and the United States will face retaliation for repeated Israeli air strikes in Syria that monitors say have killed dozens of Syrian, Iranian, and Hizballah fighters in recent weeks.
Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who is allied with Hizballah, told the Associated Press in an interview that some 1,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in northern and eastern Syria to fight the Islamic State extremist group may be in danger.
“There are American interests in Syria and if there is a larger war, I don’t think even the American president can bear the consequences,” Berri said.
The White House on May 10, 2018, repeated its demand that Iran stop its “reckless actions” against U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
After a telephone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, “both leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens,” the White House said.
“It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
The first head of Britain’s secret service — which would one day be called MI6 — carried a swordstick, drove a personal tank, and would sometimes stab his wooden leg with a pen just to see how people reacted.
No one actually knows which British agent was the one who came up with the idea, but the book “Six: The Real James Bonds 1909-1939” notes that his fellow spies made so much fun of him that he had to be transferred to another office.
His name was — no joke — Captain Sir Mansfield Cumming and his agents lived by the motto, “Every man his own stylo.”
The truth was, British spies were searching for the perfect invisible ink during World War I and thought natural fluids were the ideal. The major issue with using semen to write letters? The smell eventually becomes very distinctive.
Cumming ruled that agents abroad using this method of secret messaging ensure their ink was fresh for every letter.
The book details an agent in Copenhagen, a Maj. Richard Holme, who apparently kept a ready supply on hand.
“…his letters stank to high heaven and we had to tell him that a fresh operation was necessary for each letter.”
In “Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink,” Kristie Macrakis writes that Cumming began inquiring about the use of bodily fluids as invisible ink as early as 1915 and told Walter Kirke, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence that he thought the best invisible ink was indeed semen.
Semen does not react to the iodine vapor test, a method that then turned all known invisible inks brown. This was particularly attractive to the spy agency, but unfortunately (for spies — not for those concerned with hotel cleanliness) heat develops semen ink and it appears in ultraviolet light.
The following is a WATM exclusive excerpt from Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ forthcoming book, As Tough as They Come, which will hit shelves on October 27:
We hiked only about 400 yards to the village. In addition to my weapons’ team, there were other squads along on the patrol, a total of twenty-eight soldiers. My lieutenant, Zachary Lewis, went to the left with the first and second squads, heading to meet with the village elders, while the rest of our men went with me around the village on the outside to offer support in case of an attack. Along with my gun team, I had my platoon sergeant and a medic, Sergeant Daniel Bateson. All looked calm. It seemed like just another day in Afghanistan. Another normal patrol.
We approached an abandoned ANA security post (two portable buildings), and stopped near the buildings to establish a security perimeter. I called for Fessey to bring the minesweeper. It’s a wand that goes up and around his arm, and it looks like a metal detector a guy would use at the beach. If the minesweeper makes a noise, that means something’s in the soil. Typically, we’re always listening to hear a beep. If we hear one, then we mark the spot, go around it, and have the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) guys dig out and dispose of whatever’s under there. Whenever we found an IED, we’d never mess with it ourselves. Mines can be unpredictable, and you want the experts to handle them. Some IEDs aren’t even made of metal, just plastic and glass, which can sometimes fool a minesweeper. But even then, the minesweeper is designed to have ground-penetrating capability. It can usually detect if something’s in the ground and it’s not soil.
“Check this area,” was the only order I gave.
Fessey walked up a path used by villagers and scanned all around the area. He went up and back, and all was clear. No beeps. There was no reason to question anything. Fessey finished his minesweeping duties and went to set up on the far flank.
I called Riot up to me and asked him where he thought we should put up the gun. I knew where it should go, but I wanted to let him decide, making sure he knew his stuff. He motioned to exactly where I thought we should put it, a good spot, and I said, “All right. Go get Neff and bring him up here.” That was it. Riot left to go get Neff, and as he did, I set my backpack down. The backpack touching the dirt was all it took.
Such a simple act of war. My world erupted.
I saw a flash of flame and heard a huge ka-boom. Hot jagged pieces of explosives ripped through me. I cartwheeled backward end over end, hit the ground, and slammed my face hard against the compacted earth. Instantly I felt my left eye starting to swell shut. I smelled burning flesh—my own. I tasted dirt, and I was wet with sweat and moisture like I’d just walked out of a hot shower.
Dirt fell everywhere through the air. It rained down and clung to my eyes, nose, and mouth. I don’t remember rolling over but I must have because I glanced to the side and saw that my right arm was completely gone. I caught a glimpse of my left arm, covered in blood and tattered. The arm trembled as if it had a will of its own. I looked down and saw that my right leg was also gone. The stump looked like a piece of raw meat. The bottom of my left leg was still attached but held on by only a few strands of skin. I saw all this in a flash, an instant.
I felt confusion but no panic. My first thought was of my guys. I flopped my remaining arm toward the microphone clipped to my plate carrier and somehow managed to push the button. “I hit a bomb,” I said. “I need help.”
Units from the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group returned home to Norfolk, Virginia, in July 2018, only three months after deploying.
The Truman’s time at sea was only about half as long as typical deployments, and the early return reflects the Pentagon’s shift toward “dynamic force employment,” a concept touted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as a way to make the military more responsive to emerging threats.
“The National Defense Strategy directs us to be operationally unpredictable while remaining strategically predictable,” US Navy Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said a release announcing the return to port, which he said was “a direct reflection of the dynamic force employment concept and the inherent maneuverability and flexibility of the US Navy.”
Grady said the carrier group “had an incredibly successful three months in the US 6th Fleet area of responsibility,” an area that stretches from pole to pole between the mid-Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.
The Russian Yasen-class nuclear attack submarine Severodvinsk
However, the Truman and its accompanying vessels finished their time at sea much closer to home — in the western Atlantic closer to Canada than to Europe, according to USNI News.
The cruiser Normandy and destroyers Forrest Sherman and Arleigh Burke are set to return to Norfolk in July 2018, while the destroyers Bulkeley and Farragut remain at sea, a Navy official told The Virginian-Pilot. An official with Fleet Forces Command did not return a request seeking details about what operations these ships have been performing. But anti-submarine operations have become a bigger priority for the US and its allies.
The Truman’s anti-submarine capabilities are limited to the helicopters it carries, but the strike group did deploy in early 2018 with more destroyers than usual.
Those ships are outfitted with sophisticated anti-submarine-warfare assets that aren’t typically used in the Atlantic, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former submariner, told USNI News in June 2018. Operating in the Atlantic would give carrier strike groups opportunities to carry out high-end exercises with partner forces, he said.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter from the “Dragon Slayers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 alongside the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
The North Atlantic become an area of renewed focus for NATO in recent years. Alliance officials have said Russian submarine activity in the area is at levels not seen since the Cold War (though intelligence reports from the era suggest that activity is far from Cold War peaks).
“The Russians are closing the gap,” Magnus Nordenman, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said in early 2018. “And they have departed from their traditional sort of approach — with lots of mass and lots of submarines but of sort of varying quality — and they are taking a page from our playbook, which is go for quality instead.”
The US and its allies have put more energy and resources into anti-submarine warfare. That includes a new focus on the Cold War maritime surveillance network that covered the sea between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK — known as the GIUK Gap. The US Navy has spent several million dollars refurbishing Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland to handle the advanced P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, though the Navy has said those upgrades don’t necessarily mean a permanent presence will be reestablished there.
Nevertheless, focusing on the GIUK Gap may fall short of the challenge NATO now faces.
For much of the Cold War, the Soviet navy lacked land-attack cruise missiles and would have had to leave its “bastion” in the Barents Sea in order to engage NATO forces, which made the GIUK Gap an important choke point at that time, according to Steven Wills, a military historian and former US Navy surface-warfare officer.
But with the development of sub-launched missiles — especially the modern Kaliber cruise missile — “Today’s Russian Navy can remain within its Barents bastion and still launch accurate attacks against ships in the Norwegian Sea and NATO land targets without leaving these protected waters,” Wills argues in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security, a professional military journal focused on naval strategy.
NATO should adopt a deterrent posture like that of the Cold War, Wills says, “but the locus of the action is much further north than Iceland.”
NATO’s decision to reestablish an Atlantic Command, to be based in Norfolk, is a welcome one, Wills writes, but that headquarters should focus on air and port facilities around the Norwegian and Greenland seas, even forward-deploying to oversee activity there. Surface vessels may need to partner with unmanned assets to cover a greater area as sea ice recedes.
Russia’s Northern Fleet is based on the Kola Peninsula on the Barents Sea, and a more active NATO naval presence in the area would almost certainly draw protests from Moscow, which has accused the alliance of trying to box in it and its allies in Europe. But a presence in the northern seas is necessary, according to Wills.
“The real ‘Gap’ where NATO must focus its deterrent action is the Greenland, Svalbard, North Cape line at the northern limit of the Norwegian and and Greenland Seas,” he writes. “It is again time to consider deterrent action and potential naval warfare in the ‘High North.'”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
About 5,000 U.S. troops are sailing toward the Middle East with an F-35B detachment, marking the first time the American Joint Strike Fighters are likely to conduct real-world combat operations.
Sailors and Marines with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit left San Diego in July 2018 for a six-month deployment to the Middle East and Western Pacific. The three-ship ARG includes the amphibious assault ship Essex, amphibious transport dock Anchorage and dock landing ship Rushmore.
The 13th MEU includes an F-35B detachment from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, based out of Yuma, Arizona.
“This is the newest and most lethal aircraft that the Joint Force has, and the fact that it’s coming into the [U.S. Central Command] theater and potentially seeing some combat operations is a big deal,” Lt. Col. Jaime Macias, chief of plans at Marine Corps Forces Central Command, said in a Marine Corps news release leading up to the deployment.
ARG-MEU deployments are typically publicized by the Defense Department, but this one — the first to leave the U.S. with an F-35 attack squadron detachment — was not. Citing operational security, officials declined to explain the change in policy.
The F-35B Lightning II
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
“The Essex Amphibious Ready Group with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit got underway from San Diego, July 10, 2018,” Lt. Tim Gorman, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman, said in a statement. “For reasons of operational security, we are not publicly disclosing any additional details.”
The sailors and Marines conducted a six-month-long certification process before departing. The team is ready to respond to crises that erupt during their deployment, according to aMarine Corps video about the workup.
The Marine Corps’ variant of the Lightning II stealth jet is designed for sea deployments since it can take off and land vertically.
“Throughout the training, we’ve seen this platform increase our ability to gain a foothold for our operations,” the video states. “This is the most capable aviation platform to support our riflemen on the ground.”
In addition to the F-35 detachment, the MEU also includes Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines; Combat Logistics Battalion 13; Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166; and a command element.
This marks the second time in four months that the F-35B has deployed aboard a Navy ship. In March 2018, members of the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121patrolled the Pacific from aboard the amphibious assault ship Wasp.
The East Coast-based Iwo Jima ARG and 26th MEU are slated to wrap up a Middle East deployment in August 2018 as these Marines and sailors move in.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.
The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.
A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.
It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.
The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.
It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.
A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.
It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.
North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.
The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.
Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):
“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.
“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”
She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.
“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.
What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.
She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”
She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.
The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.
It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.
He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.
“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.
“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”
Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.
“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”