As we settle into the new normal of our kids distance learning and all of us staying home as much as possible, it’s important to stay connected to our family members and friends around the world. One great way to stay connected is through the power of shared storytime.
For 30 years, United Through Reading has helped military families stay connected through deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, and irregular work hours. Now with shelter in place orders across the country, their app is a great way to stay connected to extended family members in the military.
With the free United Through Reading App military families are able to record and enjoy storytime on demand and also receive complimentary books!
The app launched in May 2019 and uses TroopID to verify military affiliation.
“By using TroopID, retirees, veterans, service members, and their immediate family members have a United Through Reading story station in their pocket – opening up endless possibilities to connect with their families over storytime,” said Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading.
CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall reads everyday to her one year old grandchildren Dakota and Hunter, but last year when she found herself traveling away from their home in Colorado, she turned to United Through Reading.
“Reading their favorite stories provides consistency in their little lives. When Grandma can’t physically be there – the recordings are the next best thing. They get to hear Grandma’s voice, see my face and all the silly things they love. The recordings also are available on ‘their time’ as I’m not always available at the right time to read a story but the recordings are always there.”
The babies loved it, crawling right up to the laptop their mom Ashley set up for them to have storytime with Grandma, giggling and following along.
Photo courtesy of CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall
For Caitlin Sommer, United Through Reading helps her kids connect with her brother Jesse who is in the Army. Jesse sent a number of books and recordings to his sisters ahead of a deployment and Caitlin’s two sons watch them two to three times a week.
“The sappy side of me – I want them to know Jesse, their brain spans are goldfish, for me when he comes back they can pick up where they left off,” she said. “As video chat becomes more common, even today with social distancing, it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Reading is really important to kids; it’s wonderful they have a personalized video from their uncle.”
Whether you want to connect with your niece or nephew, grandchild, or godchild, United Through Reading is a way to stay connected no matter the distance. To learn how to use the app check out this video:
And the best part about the app? You can send a book to the child for free! So start reading along with all of the kids in your life today – for now and future times away from home. Download it today at utr.org/app.
The intensifying trade war between China and the US has caused a massive rift between the countries, but sources say tension is also rising internally among elite members of the Communist Party of China.
Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has worked diligently to consolidate power and cement his rule over China, claiming control over the country’ military and government and cracking down on all forms of political dissent.
In the process, Chinese propaganda has pushed hard on the portrayal of China as a strong, nationalistic country, with Xi at its core.
Several sources close to the government told Reuters that this aggressive branding had backfired, further provoking the US as it ramps up tariffs in one of the largest trade wars in economic history.
An anonymous government-policy adviser told Reuters of a growing concern among leadership that China’s economic outlook had “become grim” as its relationship with the US deteriorated over trade.
“The evolution from a trade conflict to trade war has made people rethink things,” the policy adviser said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“This is seen as being related to the exaggeration of China’s strength by some Chinese institutions and scholars that have influenced the US perceptions and even domestic views.”
Two additional sources told Reuters that disapproval was being felt among senior government members and that backlash might hit the close Xi aide and chief ideological strategist Wang Huning, who has been widely credited for crafting Xi’s strongman image.
“He’s in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much,” a source tied to China’s leadership and propaganda system said.
And discontent has echoed through the ranks of China’s Communist veterans.
Sources told the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun that several party elders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao sent a letter in July 2018 to Communist leadership urging a review of economic and diplomatic policy and noting the party’s tendency toward personality-cult leadership.
A veteran member of the Communist Party who was said to be close to Hu told Sankei Shimbun that signs of waning support for Xi’s “dictatorial regime” had been emerging since June 2018, as Xi’s prominent presence in state propaganda was beginning to diminish. In July 2018, Xi’s name was noticeably absent from the front pages of the state mouthpiece People’s Daily — twice in one week.
In response, China announced 25% tariffs on billion worth of US goods meant to take effect the same day — though critics have suggested China is running out of cards to play as the US imports more Chinese goods than the reverse and can deal far deadlier blows to China’s economy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Joe Serna escaped death so many times while deployed with the Army’s Special Forces. He was blown up by explosive devices on multiple occasions over three combat deployments to Afghanistan. One threw him from his vehicle, another nearly drowned him in an MRAP in an irrigation canal, and a Taliban fighter detonated a grenade in his face. Like many combat veterans of his caliber, both mental and physical wounds followed him home.
After his medical retirement, alcohol-related events landed him in hot water with the law until the day he violated his probation and ended up in front of North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera.
Serna’s MRAP was thrown into a canal by an IED in 2008. Three other soldiers drowned, including one who rescued Serna.
In 2016, Serna’s record of offenses and failure to follow his probation put him in front of a North Carolina Veterans Treatment Court, a system of justice designed to hold returning veterans accountable for their behavior while accepting the special set of circumstances they might be struggling with in their daily life. Veterans Treatment Courts demand mandatory appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and a structure similar to the demands of the service.
Judge Lou Olivera was presiding over Cumberland County, North Carolina’s veterans treatment courts. Olivera is a veteran of the Gulf War and is especially suited to handle cases like Serna’s. The judge ordered the green beret to spend 24 hours in jail for his probation violation, not anything unusual for a judge to do. What Olivera did next is what makes his court exceptional.
Olivera convinced Serna’s jailer, also a veteran, to allow the judge to share Serna’s sentence. Judge Olivera was volunteering to be a battle buddy for the green beret while he did his time. The judge drove Serna to the neighboring county lockup, where jail administrator George Kenworthy put them both in jail for the night.
“He did his duty,” Serna told People Magazine. “He sentenced me. It was his job to hold me accountable. He is a judge, but that night he was my battle buddy. He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”
Serna had no idea Judge Olivera planned to share his sentence as the two drove to the Robeson County, N.C. jail. Olivera knew of Serna’s combat records, and that the green beret spent a night in a submerged in an MRAP, struggling to stay in an air pocket, with the bodies of his drowned compatriots around him. So a night spent in a cramped box seemed like a harsh sentence that could trigger harsher thoughts, but the judge knew the soldier had to be held accountable. So he decided he wouldn’t be alone in the box.
“Joe was a good soldier, and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone… I’m a judge and I’ve seen evil, but I see the humanity in people. Joe is a good man. Helping him helped me. I wanted him to know he isn’t alone.”
The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) unit, otherwise known as Delta Force, is a highly selective, extremely secretive unit under the Joint Special Operations Command.
Since its inception in 1977, it has been involved in several high-profile and high-risk operations, like the 1993 mission in Somalia that inspired the movie “Black Hawk Down,” as well as classified operations the public will likely never know about.
Here’s what is publicly known about Delta Force.
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978. Blue Light would be disestablished that same year
(US Army photo)
Delta Force is the Army’s secretive, elite special operations group. Along with the Navy SEALs, it is the most highly trained special operations force in the US military and the world.
Delta Force, headquartered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, draws candidates from throughout the military, including the Coast Guard and National Guard, but mostly selects from the Army. Many of the operators likely come from the Army Rangers and the Green Berets.
Beckwith saw the need for a force that could mobilize quickly to fight unconventional threats — a force like the British Special Air Service, with which he served as an exchange officer in 1962.
ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video released in April 2019.
Delta Force’s operations are often secret, but we do know that the unit was involved in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Delta Force was famously involved in the 1993 operation to capture Somali militia leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu and the subsequent effort to rescue Army pilot Michael Durant after his helicopter crashed during the mission.
Five Delta operators were killed in that incident, as well as 14 other US troops. Several hundred Somali fighters and civilians were also killed.
Delta was also involved in a failed effort to retrieve hostages from the US Embassy in Iran in 1980.
Delta Force has been heavily involved in the war in Afghanistan and both Iraq wars and was instrumental in capturing Saddam Hussein.
Delta pulled out of Iraq when US forces there left in 2011, but it has been a consistent presence in the fight against ISIS in the country, Wesley Morgan wrote in The Washington Post in 2015.
Delta Force had close ties with the Iraqi Kurds who were fighting ISIS and operated in Syria, including killing high-ranking ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf there in 2015, Morgan wrote.
(Photo from Kill bin Laden)
There were approximately 1,200 Delta Force operators as of 2017.
Delta Force, also called The Unit or Task Force Green, is a counter-terrorism Special Missions Unit under Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC.
The military doesn’t officially acknowledge Delta Force, but its existence is well known. Many of its operations are classified and will likely never be known to the public.
In addition to physical qualifications, Delta Force operators must be psychologically fit to conduct grueling operations.
After recruits pass the physical and psychological portions of the assessment, they are taught skills like marksmanship and covert trade craft — CIA tactics like dead drops and other espionage methods — during a six-month Operator Training Course, former operator Eric Haney says in his book, “Inside Delta Force.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.
During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.
FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.
California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.
Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”
The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.
The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.
Russian television anchor Pavel Lobkov was in the studio getting ready for his show when jarring news flashed across his phone: Some of his most intimate messages had just been published to the web.
Days earlier, the veteran journalist had come out live on air as HIV-positive, a taboo-breaking revelation that drew responses from hundreds of Russians fighting their own lonely struggles with the virus. Now he’d been hacked.
“These were very personal messages,” Lobkov said in a recent interview, describing a frantic call to his lawyer in an abortive effort to stop the spread of nearly 300 pages of Facebook correspondence, including sexually explicit messages. Even two years later, he said, “it’s a very traumatic story.”
The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago.
The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics or Washington.
The list of journalists provides new evidence for the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Fancy Bear acted on behalf of the Russian government when it intervened in the U.S. presidential election. Spy agencies say the hackers were working to help Republican Donald Trump. The Russian government has denied interfering in the American election.
Previous AP reporting has shown how Fancy Bear — which Secureworks nicknamed Iron Twilight — used phishing emails to try to compromise Russian opposition leaders, Ukrainian politicians and U.S. intelligence figures, along with Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and more than 130 other Democrats.
Lobkov, 50, said he saw hacks like the one that turned his day upside-down in December 2015 as dress rehearsals for the email leaks that struck the Democrats in the United States the following year.
“I think the hackers in the service of the Fatherland were long getting their training on our lot before venturing outside.”
New Yorker writer Masha Gessen said it was also in 2015 — when Secureworks first detected attempts to break into her Gmail — that she began noticing people who seemed to materialize next to her in public places in New York and speak loudly in Russian into their phones, as if trying to be overheard. She said this only happened when she put appointments into the online calendar linked to her Google account.
Gessen, the author of a book about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, said she saw the incidents as threats.
“It was really obvious,” she said. “It was a classic KGB intimidation tactic.”
Other U.S.-based journalists targeted include Josh Rogin, a Washington Post columnist, and Shane Harris, who was covering the intelligence community for The Daily Beast in 2015. Harris said he dodged the phishing attempt, forwarding the email to a source in the security industry who told him almost immediately that Fancy Bear was involved.
In Russia, the majority of journalists targeted by the hackers worked for independent news outlets like Novaya Gazeta or Vedomosti, though a few — such as Tina Kandelaki and Ksenia Sobchak — are more mainstream. Sobchak has even launched an improbable bid for the Russian presidency.
Investigative reporter Roman Shleynov noted that the Gmail hackers targeted was the one he used while working on the Panama Papers, the expose of international tax avoidance that implicated members of Putin’s inner circle.
Fancy Bear also pursued more than 30 media targets in Ukraine, including many journalists at the Kyiv Post and others who have reported from the front lines of the Russia-backed war in the country’s east.
Nataliya Gumenyuk, co-founder of Ukrainian internet news site Hromadske, said the hackers were hunting for compromising information.
“The idea was to discredit the independent Ukrainian voices,” she said.
The hackers also tried to break into the personal Gmail account of Ellen Barry, The New York Times’ former Moscow bureau chief.
Her newspaper appears to have been a favorite target. Fancy Bear sent phishing emails to roughly 50 of Barry’s colleagues at The Times in late 2014, according to two people familiar with the matter. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential data.
The Times confirmed in a brief statement that its employees received the malicious messages, but the newspaper declined to comment further.
Some journalists saw their presence on the hackers’ hit list as vindication. Among them were CNN security analyst Michael Weiss and Brookings Institution visiting fellow Jamie Kirchick, who took the news as a badge of honor.
“I’m very proud to hear that,” Kirchick said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the wide net cast by Fancy Bear underscores efforts by governments worldwide to use hacking against journalists.
“It’s about gaining access to sources and intimidating those journalists,” said Courtney C. Radsch, the group’s advocacy director.
In Russia, the stakes are particularly high. The committee has counted 38 murders of journalists there since 1992.
Many journalists told the AP they knew they were under threat, explaining that they had added a second layer of password protection to their emails and only chatted over encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, WhatsApp or Signal.
Fancy Bear target Ekaterina Vinokurova, who works for regional media outlet Znak, said she routinely deletes her emails.
“I understand that my accounts may be hacked at any time,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m ready for them.”
“I’VE SEEN WHAT THEY COULD DO”
It’s not just whom the hackers tried to spy on that points to the Russian government.
Maria Titizian, an Armenian journalist, immediately found significance in the date she was targeted: June 26, 2015.
“It was Electric Yerevan,” she said, referring to protests over rising energy bills that she reported on. The protests that rocked Armenia’s capital that summer were initially seen by some in Moscow as a threat to Russian influence.
Titizian said her outspoken criticism of the Kremlin’s “colonial attitude” toward Armenia could have made her a target.
Eliot Higgins, whose open source journalism site Bellingcat repeatedly crops up on the target list, said the phishing attempts seemed to begin “once we started really making strong statements about MH17,” the Malaysian airliner shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people. Bellingcat played a key role in marshaling the evidence that the plane was destroyed by a Russian missile — Moscow’s denials notwithstanding.
The clearest timing for a hacking attempt may have been that of Adrian Chen.
On June 2, 2015, Chen published a prescient expose of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian “troll factory” that won fresh infamy in October over revelations that it had manufactured make-believe Americans to pollute social media with toxic rhetoric.
Eight days after Chen published his big story, Fancy Bear tried to break into his account.
Chen, who has regularly written about the darker recesses of the internet, said having a lifetime of private messages exposed to the internet could be devastating.
“I’ve covered a lot of these leaks,” he said. “I’ve seen what they could do.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office hoping to engage diplomatically with North Korea, but as tensions soar between the two countries, he’s considering his offensive options.
Moon called for South Korea to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if North Korea makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” according to NK News.
Moon told his top military officers they should “strongly push ahead with a reform of the military structure to meet [the requirements] of modern warfare so that it can immediately switch to offensive operations in case North Korea makes a provocation that crosses the line or attacks a metropolitan area,” NK News notes.
Additionally, South Korea is developing a three-axis system to respond to a North Korean attack that contains preemptive strikes on North Korea’s missile systems, air and missile defenses, and something called the “Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation system.”
Moon has tried to engage closely with North Korea, even going as far as suggesting the country host some of South Korea’s 2018 Winter Olympics, but to no avail as of yet.
At the same time, South Korea is building up a “decapitation force” meant to kill Kim Jong Un and other key North Korean leaders while building up missile defenses. Under Moon, the country has also developed an impressive ballistic-missile fleet that can drill deep underground to hit high-value targets in bunkers.
South Korean Vice Minister of National Defense Suh Choo Suk told reporters the country hoped to have perfected its offensive and defensive plan to win a war against North Korea by the early 2020s.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.”
NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”
When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.
The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.
I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.
Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:
“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.
As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.
All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:
“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!
The condemned and abandoned target subject (left side)
Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.
“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”
With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.
We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.
Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.
The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.
As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.
The accident magnet Chainsaw in this exaggerated version is launched through the windshield as the Jester laments: “What have I done” in German.
Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back injuring it, but otherwise, he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.
Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.
7.62 x 51 (NATO) Heckler and Koch (HK) G3 rifle
“How’s your ass, Guido?”
“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”
“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”
“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.
After a 60 year battle, Air Force Veteran Helen Grace James is finally given her long awaited — and well-deserved — honorable discharge.
In 1955, America was in the depths of the Lavender Scare — a time when homosexuals were fired in the United States Government — and Airman Second Class Helen Grace James was taken into custody for suspicion of being gay. She was one of thousands targeted during the nation’s witch hunt.
After hours of interrogation, she was told that if she did not sign the documents initiating her discharge, OSI (the Office of Special Investigations — kind of like the FBI for the Air Force) would “out her” to her family and friends. She told The Washington Post, “When they threatened to go to my parents, I just said that was it,” and so, under that duress, she signed the documents and ultimately ended her military career.
In the 1960s she managed to change her status as “undesirable” to “general discharge under horrible conditions.” Despite the upgrade, her status still caused her difficulties. “I tried to get USAA coverage for insurance, and they said ‘No, you can’t be a member, because you don’t have an honorable discharge. I [couldn’t] be buried in a national cemetery either,” she recalled to NBC.
And so, at the age of 90, she finally decided to apply for the “honorable” discharge upgrade with the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records. After a series of delays, James filed a lawsuit and on Jan. 24, 2018, was finally granted her honorable discharge.
For more than six decades, James has been discriminated against by the military for who she is and at long last can rest, vindicated.
“I’m still trying to process it. It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”
A French fishing trawler had a larger haul than normal, catching the NRP Tridente, a Portuguese Type 214 submarine, in its nets off the coast of Cornwall, England. Despite the Tridente hitting the trawler as it surfaced, no casualties on either vessel were reported in the incident. The sub was in British waters as part of a NATO exercise.
The Type 214, one of two Portugal purchased from Germany, is not the first to have been caught by a trawler. In April, 2015, a similar incident off Northern Ireland involving the British trawler Karen being dragged backwards at 10 knots was initially blamed on a Russian submarine before the Royal Navy accepted responsibility for the incident. The Karen suffered substantial damage to its deck but made it back to port.
A March 2015 incident off the coast of Scotland was blamed on a Russian sub. That time, the sub not only came close to dragging the fishing boat Aquarius down as it tried to free itself from the net, it also made off with the trawler’s two-ton catch of haddock and skate, according to The Daily Mail. The Aquarius survived the close call.
The Type 214 sub displaces just over 2,000 tons when submerged. It is armed with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes that can fire IF-21 Black Shark torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and can reach speeds of up to 20 knots. The Type 214 also has air-independent propulsion, which enables it to re-charge its batteries without having to use diesel engines and a snorkel, albeit it does maintain that capability.
Fishing trawlers are not the only vessels that have caught subs. In 1983, the frigate USS McCloy (FF 1038) caught a Soviet Navy Victor III nuclear-powered submarine K-324 with its towed-array sonar. The submarine was disabled, forced to surface, and had to be towed to Cuba for repairs. In 2009, a Chinese submarine also got caught in a towed array cable. The AN/SQR-19 system of USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) snagged the sub’s propeller as well. While the submarine was not damaged, the John S. McCain needed to repair its towed array sonar system.
Such incidents have high stakes for the submarines. Most submarines only have a single propeller and shaft, and damage to either can leave the submarine stranded a long way from home. In this case, the Tridente was able to make it back to port.
One thing that has happened a number of times this year are close encounters. Or, to put it bluntly, times where the U.S. military got buzzed. Three countries were major offenders: Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s a breakdown of the incidents by country.
There were at least four major incidents where Russia buzzed American forces. On Feb. 10, an Ilyushin Il-38 “May” maritime patrol aircraft and three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers carried out multiple passes on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). In May, a Su-27 Flanker came within 20 feet of a P-8 Poseidon. The following month, an Air Force RC-135 was buzzed by another Flanker. In November, another P-8 Poseidon had a Russian fighter come within 50 feet.
The Chinese have been major offenders in unsafe encounters. In 2001, one of their fighter pilots collided with a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. The crew of the EP-3E made it, but the Chinese pilot was killed. In May, there were two incidents, starting with a Su-30 doing a Top Gun stunt. About a week after that, two Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters buzzed a P-3. In July, there was a near-collision between a J-10 and an EP-3E.
The Iranians have had their history of unsafe interactions and picking fights. These are not just limited to aerial incidents, either. In January and April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) was harassed by Iranian “fast attack craft” in the Straits of Hormuz. A third incident involving the Mahan took place in May.
In June, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. July saw the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats. August saw two incidents where Iranian drones buzzed a carrier. The first incident, on August 8, nearly caused a mid-air collision with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. An Aug. 15 incident saw a close pass on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Hopefully, 2018 will not see more of these passes, but these three countries do seem to make it a habit.
United States Seventh Fleet has new damning controversy worse than everything else the “Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club” has had to deal with this year. This time it isn’t about a Petty Officer 3rd Class hiding in an engine room, disastrously low morale among lower enlisted, or another collision.
At the time of writing this, 440 active-duty and retired sailors, to include 60 Admirals, are being investigated for ethics violations in connection to Leonard Glenn Francis and Glenn Defense Marine Asia. Formal criminal charges have been field against 34 personnel, 19 of whom have already stood in Federal court. All of them pleaded guilty.
The Singaporean contractor, known as “Fat Leonard,” was arrested in September 2013 for bribery and defrauding the U.S. government through falsified service charges. He is serving 25 years and forfeited $35 million from his personal assets. $35 million is the amount of money he admits to swindling out of the Navy.
Francis managed to con the Navy for over ten years by bribing Navy officials to look the other way and worming his way into meetings with Admirals to gain insider knowledge. His bribes included alcohol-fueled parties, private vacations, pure cash, and many other luxuries. The bribery with the worst optics still remains the six figures worth of prostitutes he would bring to those officials.
Capt. Daniel Dusek, the former commander of the USS Bonhomme Richard, received a 46-month prison sentence and ordered to pay $100k in fines and restitution for connections to the scandal. Dusek admits to “succumbing to temptations before him” and gave classified information to “Fat Leonard.”
Francis received a decommissioned British naval vessel, RFA Sir Lancelot, and converted it into a party boat, rechristened as the Glenn Braveheart, to entertain top U.S. Navy officials in 2003. Once there, he would entice the Naval officers with the bribes and prostitutes to gain unfettered access into the inner workings of the Navy, use the intimate knowledge and access to secure valuable contracts, and then overcharge the Navy for his fraudulent invoices.
The true scope of “Fat Leonard’s” corruption is still not known and the number of involved Naval officials isn’t known at this time as investigations continue.