Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

British counterterrorism police are now leading the investigation into the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy, showing that UK authorities are treating the case with increasing seriousness.


A spokesman for the London Metropolitan Police confirmed the news to Business Insider, citing the “unusual circumstances” of the incident.

“The Counter Terrorism Policing network will lead the investigation as it has the specialist expertise to do so,” Scotland Yard said. “It has not been declared a terrorist incident and at this stage we are keeping an open mind as to what happened.”

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed on a bench at a shopping center in Salisbury, south England, on March 4, 2018. Both remain in a critical condition at a nearby hospital. An update on the substance they were both exposed to is expected on March 6, 2018.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Armed police officers near Downing Street gates. London, Great Britain. (Photo by Stanislav Kozlovskiy)

Mark Rowley, assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, said, “the focus at this time is to establish what has caused these people to become critically ill.”

Also read: This is what a fancy Russian spy compound actually looks like

“We would like to reassure members of the public that this incident is being taken extremely seriously and we currently do not believe there is any risk to the wider public.”

Earlier, he told the BBC’s Today radio program, “if you look back at other cases like [Alexander] Litvinenko, if necessary, we will bring that investigation into the counterterrorism network.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Alexander Litvinenko.

Alexander Litvinenko was a former KGB spy who was poisoned in London in 2006. He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder on his deathbed.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the incident “a tragic situation,” but denied knowing any information about the case, Reuters reported. He added that Russia would be ready to cooperate with the investigation if asked.

When asked to respond to media speculation in the UK that Russia had poisoned Skripal, Peskov said, “it didn’t take them long.”

Related: 4 ways to have fun with that Russian spy ship off the coast

Skripal worked for the Russian military intelligence and foreign ministry until 2003, before being sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2006, Sky News reported.

He confessed that he had been recruited by British intelligence in 1995, and passed the identities of Russian agents in Europe for around $100,000.

He was granted asylum in Britain after being pardoned by Russia in a 2010 “spy swap” deal with the US, under which 10 Russian spies arrested by the FBI were released.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China and Russia want to push the US out of the Asia-Pacific

Four Chinese Navy ships have departed for joint drills with Russia in the latest sign of growing cooperation between the two militaries that could challenge the US armed forces’ role in the Asia-Pacific.


A destroyer, missile frigate, supply ship, and submarine rescue ship departed Sept. 13 from the port of Qingdao, home to China’s North Sea fleet, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The drills are being held in the Sea of Japan near the Korean Peninsula and the Sea of Okhotsk off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Xinhua said.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The exercises are the second stage of an annual joint drill, the first part of which was held July 22-27 in the Baltic Sea — the first time the countries had exercised together in the northern European waterbody.

Russia and China are closely aligned on many diplomatic and security issues, with both countries calling for a negotiated settlement of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, preceded by North Korea suspending its nuclear and missile activities in return for the US and South Korea halting their regular large-scale wargames.

July’s joint drills in the Baltic stirred concern among countries in the region, where tensions are already high over increased displays of military force by both Moscow and NATO.

Both Russia and China say the exercises are not directed at any third parties.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The Chinese ships taking part in the exercises are among the country’s most advanced, components of a growing fleet that poses a significant challenge to the US Navy’s traditional dominance in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has long chafed at the American presence and is a strong critic of its alliances with Japan, Australia, and other countries in the region.

China already has the world’s largest navy, with slightly over 300 vessels, compared to the US Navy’s 277 “deployable battle force ships,” according to the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute. The US Office of Naval Intelligence forecasts it will have 313-342 warships by 2020.

While China’s ships are technologically inferior to those of the US Navy, their sheer numbers allow China a significant presence on the open sea, institute professor Andrew S. Erickson wrote in a recent study.

Articles

Combat Marine and double amputee just became a Long Island cop

Matias Ferreira is a combat Marine who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on March 24, 2017. Prior to the graduation, he was elected as president of his academy class, and a recruit platoon leader. All of this while walking on two prosthetic legs.


You read that right. Matias Ferreira is a double-amputee.

According to a report by Newsday, Ferreira lost both of his legs after he was wounded by an improvised explosive device during the fighting in Musa Qala, Afghanistan.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Ferreira recovering after losing both his legs in an IED blast in Afghanistan (Screenshot from PIX11.com video).

Ferreira is not the only double amputee serving in law enforcement — PIX11.com reported that one other is serving as a state trooper in the western United States.

Ferreira’s roundabout journey to being a police officer involved playing on a select softball team with other amputees, and a moment of heroism in October 2015.

According to the New York Daily News, the ex-Marine leapt into action with his brother and future father-in-law while leaving his wedding rehearsal to rescue an infant from a burning car.

“Instinctively you just react, you don’t freeze, and thankfully we were able to make a difference,” Ferreira said at the time.

Now, he will do so again. After 29 weeks of intensive training in the gym, the classroom, and the swimming pool, during which Ferreira refused offers of special treatment.

Below is an interview that he did with Fox and Friends. Semper Fi.

Articles

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Beijing issued a scathing rebuke on July 3 of a US warship’s patrol a day earlier near a contested island occupied by Chinese troops in the South China Sea — the latest irritant in the two powers’ increasingly fraught relationship.


The patrol, the second known “freedom of navigation” operation under the administration of US President Donald Trump, came as the White House appeared to grow ever more frustrated with China over its moves in the waterway and lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sunday’s operation, which involved the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Stethem guided-missile destroyer, was conducted within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago, a US defense official confirmed to The Japan Times.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
USS Stethem. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian A. Stone

China’s Defense Ministry lambasted the move in a statement, issuing what appeared to one of the strongest condemnations yet of the US operation which Washington says is aimed at affirming its right to passage.

The US “actions seriously damaged the strategic mutual trust between the two sides” and undermined the “political atmosphere” surrounding the development of Sino-US military ties, the statement said. The Chinese military, it added, would take bolstered measures in the waters, including “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols.”

The tiny islet is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and is not one of the seven fortified man-made islands located in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain, which is further south.

Late July 2, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched military ships and fighter jets in response to warn off the Stethem, which it said had “trespassed” in “the country’s territorial waters.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement using the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.

The US, he said, “has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands.”

Lu said the US “deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea” and “is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation, and development,” adding that the patrol “constitutes a serious political and military provocation.

FONOPs represent “a challenge to excessive maritime claims,” according to the US Defense Department. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of land within their territory.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The patrol was believed to be the second near Triton Island, after a similar FONOP under the administration of President Barack Obama in January 2016. The July 2 operation was first reported by Fox News.

Ahead of the patrol, there has been growing speculation that the White House is frustrated not only with Beijing’s moves in the strategic waterway, but also its failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month, when he wrote: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi  China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

And on June 30, in a step that the White House said was not aimed at Beijing, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The sanctions came just a day after the US announced a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Earlier last week, the US State Department also listed China among the worst human-trafficking offenders in an annual report.

According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia expert at the Center for a New American Security think-tank in Washington, the July 2 FONOP was “not particularly provocative,” and was “basically a repeat of an earlier one.

“But given that the administration also announced North Korean sanctions and a Taiwan arms package, it’s hard to see the timing as pure coincidence,” Rapp-Hooper said. “This may not be an effort to pressure China to specific ends, rather a ‘snap back’ in Trump administration foreign policy, which was solicitous of Beijing for several months as it sought help on North Korea.”

“The White House now understands that Beijing will not solve this problem for it,” she added.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Photo from The Moscow Kremlin

Zack Cooper, an Asia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted the timing between previous FONOPs and the rapid-clip announcements of recent US actions against China.

“These four actions have come in just five days,” he said, adding that the last FONOP was just under 40 days ago, while the one before that took place more than 215 days earlier.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in a statement that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

“US forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis,” Knight said. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Photo from US Navy

“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” he added.

China has continued to militarize its outposts there — despite a pledge to the contrary — as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Now, with fewer constraints on a tougher approach to China across the board, experts say Trump could butt heads with Beijing over a number of issues.

“What we know for sure is that the Trump administration is now more comfortable with higher levels of friction with China than in previous months,” said Ely Ratner, a former deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to make the most of your next PCS

Every few years you pick up your life leaving your friends and all that has become familiar to follow the love of your life to a new duty station. PCS…

No matter how many times you move, that same excitement and crazy anxiety to start all over again appears. It is so easy to lose yourself in chaos.

The chaos of getting things settled, finding a job, or just trying to find that normal day to day for your kids!


Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

Starting over is never easy.

Everything is so foreign no matter how much research you do. It is easy to fall into the shadow of the military world around you or just that mom-life, forgetting just who you are. Being able to establish yourself from scratch takes a lot out of you especially when you do it over and over again.

It is easy to say the last place you were was the best. But really each new place is what you make of it.

Finding yourself, or in other words, allowing yourself to bloom is key to thriving in a new place.

But the question is where do you even start? Who are you or who do you want to be?

Being a military spouse or a parent makes up just one tiny piece of that. A new duty station gives you the opportunity for improvements and new goals.

You always wanted to open up your own business, well now is your opportunity.

Take the leap and start taking college courses. Get your degree!

Find your voice again by advocating for your new community.

Volunteer to help out at the local food pantry.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

(Photo by Rémi Walle)

Just because you are putting down temporary roots does not mean you have to give up on you and what you want! There are many different programs offered at every duty station to help you thrive. From classes on networking, and job assistance to educational resources and volunteer programs. These things put into place to help you benefit yourself.

Mask your fears and try something new.

Do not hide out counting down the days until you move again.

Join the gym, or go to a playgroup with your kids.

Meet new people, you never know when you will find those lifelong friends. You should feel confident in yourself and all that you do or want to do.

Nothing should hold you back from you being exactly who you aspire to be. You only have one life so make each place you live the best.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Russia has pledged to go ahead with a massive WWII memorial parade despite its growing coronavirus outbreak

Despite steadily mounting infections from the coronavirus in Russia, President Vladimir Putin has so far refused to cancel a massive parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Soviet triumph Nazi Germany.

The annual Victory Day parade on May 9 typically includes tens of thousands of troops, military equipment, and hundreds of thousands of spectators.


The event came under fire last week after social media footage showed thousands of re-enactors rehearsing for the event, despite a government ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

One video, found by Rob Lee, an open source military researcher who focuses on former Soviet militaries, shows re-enactors at a military base in Alabino, outside of Moscow.

Video purportedly of Russian troops at the Victory Day Parade rehearsals in Alabino who aren’t quite meeting the 1.5 meter social distancing requirement instituted by local officials. https://vk.com/milinfolive?w=wall-123538639_1404052 …pic.twitter.com/JIQLTPFUMQ

twitter.com

Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny circulated the video, and other politicians criticized organizers for letting them go ahead.

The government announced it would halt rehearsals, but still planned to hold the main event on May 9, according to the Guardian.

The 2020 parade had been scheduled to be especially large, given its importance marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, which cost tens of millions of Soviet lives.

Putin had planned to include not only the cream of Russia’s modern military but thousands of WWII-style re-enactors armed with historically accurate gear.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

To prepare for the event, Russia spent years accumulating working models of the famous Soviet T-34 tank, sourcing them from as far afield as Laos and Albania.

Russia’s coronavirus outbreak, currently at 6,000 recorded cases but growing fast, may yet end hopes of the parade going ahead.

Russian government officials have attacked news organizations that report on the increasing number of cases in Russia, as well as anyone who suggests the event should be canceled.

static.kremlin.ru

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “May 9th is a sacred date for millions upon millions in Russia and [ex-Soviet] countries. The Victory Day parade is scheduled (sanitary measures taken) and will march on Red Square,” according to the Guardian.

Alternative plans being considered for the parade, according to multiple Russian media outlets, include conducting the parade for TV cameras without a live audience, or postponing it until other historically significant anniversaries in September or November.

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

Life Flip

How this SEAL transitioned from officer to entrepreneur

Making the transition from military to the civilian workforce is a challenging phase in the lives of veterans. While the thought of spending more time with family is comforting, starting afresh and beginning an all-new career can be quite a daunting task. After their military lives come to an end, most veterans begin their hunt for jobs but there are a few who have a different plan in mind.


From military to entrepreneurship

Meet Sean Matson, a former Navy SEAL who carved his path to entrepreneurship after having spent 10 years as a SEAL in the US Navy. While he is still serving his country in the Navy Reserves, Sean was deployed five times to a lot of austere locations during his 10-year active-duty career.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Sean Matson restocks a Strike Force display. (Photo by The Virginian Pilot and Vickie Cronis-Nohe)

Like many other veterans, Sean’s transition to the civilian workforce was not an easy one. Not only was he unemployed after leaving the military, he was also stuck in the middle of a nasty divorce, causing him to almost lose custody of his children and face tremendous debt. All this while he was making ends meet to start his very own brand – Strike Force Energy, an energy drink.

The story behind Strike Force Energy

So, what made this ex-officer launch his own energy drink? Having spent years in the military, Sean understood the importance of energy drinks and caffeine among the military troops. He noticed how the existing drinks in the market were not doing the job of fueling the military — and to make matters worse, the bulky energy drink cans were nothing short of a burden. This gave rise to Strike Force Energy, an energy drink primarily targeted to the military troops.

Also read: Nick from Ranger Up on entrepreneurship, why most business books suck, his hero Captain America

In a market filled with dubious energy drinks, Sean introduced a healthier and affordable alternative with Strike Force Energy. With zero sugar, zero calories, and the right amount of caffeine, taurine, and B vitamins, this energy drink promises to give you a boost without having an adverse impact on your health. What’s more, its pocket-friendly packaging and attractive price point makes it popular among customers and retailers. Strike Force Energy comes in four flavors: original, grape, lemon, and orange, and it is available in packets or 750-milliliter pump bottles.

Strike Force Energy garners a positive response

This veteran-owned, American-made company enjoys exceptional margins and lower distribution costs compared to its competitors. “Our product has an over 70% gross margin due to in-house manufacturing and distribution combined with a 50:1 relative shipping and storage cost,” says Sean. Its compact size also makes it easy to ship while occupying minimal space. Not just that, this drink has also been gaining preference over competitors owing to its taste.

In two years of business, the founders have received an incredible response and experienced exponential growth since inception. The brand has also made inroads into retail stores such as 7-Eleven and is also garnering interest from other retailers, grocery stores, and fast-food chains.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Strike Force Energy product.

Brand with a social mission

While his brand is doing incredibly well, Sean has not forgotten his roots. A socially responsible entrepreneur, he is committed to giving back to society through his venture. Strike Force Energy has partnered with non-profits and donates 10% of their gross sales to them to provide support for law enforcement officers and their families across America.

Top 4 tips for military veterans making the transition

Sean Matson shares his top 4 tips for military veterans looking to transition to the civilian workforce:

1. Start earlier than you think you should

2. The skills you learn in the military completely apply to the civilian workforce

3. Treat others the way you would like to be treated

4. Remember, you have the power to influence much more as a civilian than you ever did in the military

This military officer turned entrepreneur is confident that his energy drink has what it takes to compete with the leading players in the market. When asked what the future looks like for his business, he says “We are either going to be the best energy drink company or be bought by the best.”

Strike Force Energy is available on Amazon or at Strike Force Energy. You can also find them in stores

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia wants to give its military small bomb-dropping drones

Russia is planning to supply its troops with small-scale drones that can drop bombs, Russian news site Izvestia reported July 2019. The quadcopters outfitted with explosives are modeled after similar commercial drones rigged with explosive devices used by ISIS fighters in Syria.

“This is a very tactical [unmanned aerial vehicle], we’re talking about small UAV with a close range,” Samuel Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, and a fellow in Russia studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, told INSIDER.

“Downrange, they will probably be able to strap a couple of grenades or bombs” to the UAVs, Bendett said.


While the UAVs aren’t yet outfitted with weapons, Izvestia cited sources in the Ministry of Defense saying the upgrade is imminent, and Bendett told INSIDER via email “given the relative simplicity in turning them into strike drones so they can drop grenades or mortar rounds, I would say that can happen relatively quickly.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in the Unmanned Aerial System Operations Program familiarize themselves with quad-copter flight controls at the Cadet Field House, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua Armstrong)

The US has pioneered drones in military operations, and many of them are larger than piloted planes and carry a suite of surveillance sensors and missiles. The armed MQ-9 Reaper has a 66-foot-long wingspan that’s twice that of an F-16 fighter. In contrast, the kind of small drones favored by remote-control hobbyists weren’t thought of as a weapon until their use by ISIS combatants.

“Suddenly ISIS does a 180 and turns these very simple, unsophisticated devices into very deadly ones,” he said. “So there was that realization that anything and everything could be turned into a weapon and therefore the Russian military should look at the successful adoption of the systems that have proven successful.”

ISIS fighters used drones to terrifying effect against the US-led coalition, the attacks did not result in a “large number of deaths,” according to a report by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.

Russian law enforcement agencies already use small drones, Bendett said. What’s new is Russia’s decision to weaponize them — and the Ministry of Defense announcement of the decision.

It’s unclear how large the drones will be, or how many Russia will utilize, although Bendett said they could number in the thousands.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac)

“I don’t believe that very small weaponized drones pose a particularly dangerous threat simply because a drone that weighs 33 grams simply can’t carry much of a payload,” Jeff Ellis, a partner at Clyde Co. in New York, told INSIDER via email.

“That being said, slightly larger drones can be used to target individuals or small groups and remain very difficult to detect and interdict,” he said.

The drones will need to be able to support secure communication and small-scale sensors before they are useful to the Russian military, Bendett said.

But anything that the military uses, Bendett noted, would eventually trickle down to Russia’s state security apparatus, including the FSB, but only for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts “for now.”

While the adoption of terrorist tactic by a state might seem ethically dubious, Bendett said that Russia has adopted other technologies used by extremist groups, like technicals — a pick-up truck that has a mounted machine guns.

Furthermore, Bendett said it’s important to note that the Russian military is thinking tactically. “For Russians it’s a very matter of fact thing right now,” he told INSIDER. “They’re seeing what works best, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll discard it.”

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

Articles

Got Your 6 chief explains why vets need to lead the nation through this election

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy


We Are The Mighty’s editor-in-chief Ward Carroll recently sat down with Got Your 6‘s executive director Bill Rausch — a West Point graduate and Iraq War vet — to talk about the organization’s campaign to compel Americans to vote by viewing the experience through the lens of military veterans and for vets to lead the effort by their example.

WATM: What do you hope to gain by going to the conventions?

Bill Rausch: Over the next two weeks, Cleveland and Philadelphia will be the epicenter of the presidential campaign, which is why our attendance as veteran leaders is critical. Both campaigns have been supportive in providing credentials to our team helping us achieve four main objectives, which are to educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets, engage the candidates on issues of importance to the veteran and military communities, compel veterans to participate in the electoral process as voters, community leaders, and candidates themselves, and, finally, to leverage the service and experience of veterans and military personnel as inspiration for all Americans to vote.

WATM: What should the veteran community take from your efforts over the next few weeks?

BR: Well, it’s not really about what veterans should take from it, it’s more like a challenge to veterans and the entire military community. Like we did during our time in uniform, we need to lead. As veterans and civic assets, we have a responsibility to call the country to action this November by participating in the electoral process — whether it be by registering and committing to vote, volunteering for a campaign, or running for state or local office. We need to engage candidates on policy issues that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Any candidate running for federal, state, or local office should be challenged to clearly define their policy stances on issues of importance to veterans. And, vets need to  educate the country about the value of veterans as civic assets. Veterans may have taken off the uniform but their commitment to service has not faltered. Veterans vote at higher rates, volunteer more, and participate in their communities at rates higher than their civilian counterparts. It’s time we change the narrative of the damaged veteran by showcasing and highlighting actual veteran leaders serving their communities.

WATM: And what about the broader American public; what should they take from this effort?

BR: Good question. We also want to challenge the American public. While we’re focused on the military community, this campaign applies to everyone. All Americans can honor the sacrifice of veterans by actively participating in our democratic process. Register and vote in November, regardless of your background or political leanings. We can all unite in the goal of increasing the political engagement of our citizens. In January 2005, 80 percent of registered Iraqis went to the polls to vote in the first national election after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Images were beamed around the world of Iraqi voters holding up their ink-stained fingers as a sign of pride and hope for the future. Despite our national commitment to spreading the institution of democracy to others, America’s voting turnout was a paltry 54 percent of the eligible voting public in November 2012. We can and should do better. And all of us — not just vets, but all of us — should insist that the debates deal with real issues, ones that impact the lives and welfare of veterans and military service members. Civilians have a responsibility to challenge candidates to outline their plans for supporting and empowering our veterans.

WATM: You’ve worked on a major presidential campaign, testified in front of congress and work with government leaders as the executive director of Got Your 6. Of all of that experience, what do you think  informs this campaign the most?

BR: I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq in May of 2006 on the heels of the December 2005 Iraqi election and I met with so many Iraqis who proudly showed me photos of themselves and their families holding up their purple fingers on election day. These men and women faced down roadside bombs, suicide bombers, and snipers to participate in their democracy with 80 percent turnout. Over the past 100 years, we’ve not even come close to that level of turnout. We can do better. We should do better. We will do better.

WATM: Given the plans and statements made by both candidates on reforming the VA, is there a candidate that you support?

BR: Got Your 6 is a non-partisan, non-profit veterans organization. We do not publicly support one candidate or party over the other. I am a member of the ‘veteran party’ and serving the veteran and military family community is my primary purpose this campaign cycle.

WATM: Do you know who you are going to vote for?

BR: I can tell you that I plan on voting at my local polling place, Fire Station No. 4 in Alexandria, VA with my wife and 2-year-old son. I believe that voting is a civic responsibility and that our country is stronger when more people participate in our democracy. For me, voting as a family is a way to lead by example and show my son the importance of voting in every election. It’s our duty and obligation as citizens of this great country to vote on November 8th, 2016 which happens to be veterans week and I can’t think of a better week for election day to fall on.

WATM: Agreed. Thanks for your time Bill, and we look forward to watching you and your team in Cleveland and Philadelphia over the next few weeks.

BR: Thank you, Ward, and Beat Navy.

WATM: Good luck with that.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army officer is in hot water for anti-war protests on Twitter

Brittany DeBarros is waging the kind of vehement public protest via Twitter against the Defense Department and US government that’s commonplace in the Trump-era — except that DeBarros is a captain in the US Army Reserve assigned to the Army’s Psychological Operations Command.


According to DeBarros’ Twitter account, she has been called up on two-week assignment since July 14, 2018, but each day since then DeBarros has posted tweets criticizing “the horror being carried out by our war machine for profit,” with the Army moving to investigate the officer’s remarks.

The “Dept. of ‘Defense’ is the largest oil consumer worldwide,” DeBarros notes in one tweet. “The violence unleashed directly is horrific, but it also has massive spillover impacts.”

“Defense corporations made contributions to 496 of 525 Congress members in 2018,” DeBarros said in her most recent tweet, posted on July 20, 2018, the seventh day of her assignment. Defense contractors are prolific political donors, though many of their contributions come from their political-action committees, owners, employees, or employees’ immediate families.

DeBarros, however, has stopped short of directly criticizing President Trump during her July 2018 protest; using “contemptuous words” against the president is a violation of military law.

DeBarros detailed her criticism of US foreign policy and its impact at home in a June 23, 2018 speech in Washington, DC, at a Poor People’s Campaign rally.

During the speech, DeBarros said she was a combat veteran who identified as a woman, Latina, white, black, and queer, and that as a person “existing at the intersection of these identities, I carry a grave conviction in my core that there can be no true economic, racial, gender liberation without addressing the militarism that is strangling the morality and empathy out of our society.”

“For decades, we have been lulled into complacency and inattention as our drones have obliterated weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, ordinary homes, and ordinary people,” DeBarros said.

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“We begrudge the poor for the pennies we give them to eat and survive but cheer for the nearly 0 billion annually we spend on defense. The military industrial complex is literally corporate greed weaponized,” DeBarros added. “From the militarized equipment in which our police forces and federal agencies are clad, to the large percent of current and former soldiers conditioned for war and then hired to occupy our streets to keep peace, is it any wonder that our neighborhoods are treated like combat zones, and our neighbors treated like combatants?”

DeBarros’ protest has gained the attention of the Army, which confirmed her assignment to Army Times and said it was looking into her statements.

Officials at US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command “are aware of the situation surrounding Cpt. Brittany DeBarros,” Army spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Crofoot told Army Times. “To maintain the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment at this time.”

Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers are permitted to make political statements in public while they have civilian status but doing so is not allowed while they are on active orders. DeBarros did not reply to Facebook messages sent by Army Times, nor did she respond to a Twitter message sent by Business Insider on July 23, 2018.

DeBarros’ June 2018 speech came just a few days after the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Spenser Rapone.

Rapone — an Afghanistan combat veteran and a 2016 West Point graduate — posted pictures of himself at his West Point graduation in a T-shirt with Che Guevara’s face and with a sign reading, “Communism will win,” inside his hat.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy

Rapone, who says he retains an honorable discharge from his enlisted service, posted the photos in September 2017, telling the Associated Press he did so in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.

The photos provoked backlash, including a call for an investigation by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, which prompted West Point to say Rapone’s actions “in no way reflect the values” of West Point or the Army.

Rapone enlisted in the Army after high school and served as a Ranger in Afghanistan but became disillusioned with the military soon after joining, he said in June 2018 on an episode of What a Hell of a Way to Die, a left-wing podcast hosted by two combat veterans.

“By the time I deployed, I encountered most people who had no real interest in why we were fighting and [were] more so interested in just the next time they could go out and kill brown people and just [terrorize] the Afghan population,” Rapone said.

“To this day, we had this nebulous idea of going after the Haqqani network, and I’m sure they’re not great dudes, but it’s like, are they really threatening the United States of America?” Rapone said. “And isn’t it the United States that caused Afghanistan to turn into [a] hellscape?”

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

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This ship defense weapon hits inbound enemy missiles

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Raytheon


The U.S. Navy and numerous NATO partners are developing a new, high-tech ship defense weapon designed to identify, track and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles and other threats, service officials explained.

The Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile Block II, or ESSM, is a new version of an existing Sea Sparrow weapons system currently protecting aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, amphibious assault ships and other vessels against anti-ship missiles and other surface and airborne short-range threats to ships, Navy officials said.

The ESSM Block 2 is engineered with what’s called an active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can achieve improved flight or guidance to its target by both receiving and actively sending electromagnetic signals, said Raytheon officials.

The ESSM uses radar technology to locate and then intercept a fast-approaching target while in flight; the use of what’s called an “illuminator” is a big part of this capability, Raytheon officials said.

The current ESSM missiles use what’s called a semi-active guidance system, meaning the missile itself can receive electromagnetic signals bounced off the target by an illuminator; the ESSM Block 2’s “active” guidance includes illuminator technology built onto the missile itself such that it can both receive and send important electromagnetic signals, Navy and Raytheon officials explained.

Block 2 relieves the missile from the requirement of having to use a lot of illuminator guidance from the ship as a short range self-defense, senior Navy officials have said.

A shipboard illuminator is an RF signal that bounces off a target, Raytheon weapons developers have explained.  The antenna in the nose in the guidance section [of the missile] sees the reflected energy and then corrects to intercept that reflective energy, the Raytheon official added.

The emerging missile has an “active” front end, meaning it can send an electromagnetic signal forward to track a maneuvering target, at times without needing a ship-based illuminator for guidance.

“The ESSM Block 2 will employ both a semi-active and active guidance system.  Like ESSM Block 1, the Block 2 missile, in semi-active mode, will rely upon shipboard illuminators,” Navy spokesman Dale Eng, Naval Sea Systems Command, told Scout Warrior in a written statement.

Also, the missile is able to intercept threats that are close to the surface by sea-skimming or diving in onto a target from a higher altitude, Navy officials explained.  The so-called kinematic or guidance improvements of the Block 2 missile give it an improved ability to counter maneuvering threats, Navy and Raytheon officials said.

ESSM Block 2 is being jointly acquired by the U.S. and a number of allied countries such as Australia, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey. All these countries signed an ESSM Block 2 Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, designed to solidify the developmental path for the missile system through it next phase. The weapon is slated to be fully operational on ships by 2020.

“The ESSM Block 2 will be fired out of more than 5 different launching systems across the NATO Seasparrow Consortium navies.  This includes both vertical and trainable launching systems,” Eng added.

U.S. Navy weapons developers are working closely with NATO allies to ensure the weapon is properly operational across the alliance of countries planning to deploy the weapon, Eng explained.

“The ESSM Block 2 is currently in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. The ESSM Block 2 will be integrated with the various combat systems across the navies of the NATO Seasparrow Consortium nations,” Eng said.

The ESSM Block 2 weapon is part of what Navy officials describe as a layered defense system, referring to an integrated series of weapons, sensors and interceptors designed to detect and destroy a wide-range of incoming threats from varying distances.

For instance, may ships have Aegis Radar and SM-3 missiles for long-range ballistic missile defense. Moving to threats a litter closer, such as those inside the earth’s atmosphere such as anti-ship cruise missiles, enemy aircraft, drones and surface ships, the Navy has the SM-6, ESSM, Rolling Airframe Missile and SeaRAM for slightly closer threats.  When it comes to defending the ship from the closest-in threats, many ships have the Close-In-Weapons System, or CIWS, which fires a 20-mm rapid-fire Phalanx gun toward fast approaching surface and airborne threats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force is preparing to fight in space ‘in a matter of years’

The Air Force already faces extensive operational obligations on Earth, but the service is shifting focus to prepare for what many see as the growing potential for conflict in space.


In a speech at the Air Force Association’s air-warfare symposium in Florida in late February 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said it was, “time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”

It’s not the first time Air Force leadership has underscored the importance of space.

Also read: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

Goldfein outlined the Air Force’s preparations for space operations in a February 2017 op-ed. In October 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized the interests the US has in space and stressed the Air Force’s obligation to prepare for conflict there.

“We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars,” she said at an event in Washington, DC. “We need to normalize space from a national-security perspective. We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported NASA’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, April 18, 2017. (US Air Force)

US national-security officials have said space will become a venue for a range of state and non-state actors with the continued expansion of the space industry and increased availability of technology, private-sector investment, and proliferation of international partnerships for shared production and operations.

“All actors will increasingly have access to space-derived information services, such as imagery, weather, communications, and positioning, navigation, and timing for intelligence, military, scientific, or business purposes,” Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said in a Worldwide Threat Assessment delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee early 2018.

Further reading: How the US is vulnerable to space-based attacks

“As if we don’t have enough threats here on Earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” Coats told the committee.

In his February 2018 speech, Goldfein said the question was not if, but when the US will be fighting outside Earth’s atmosphere.

“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” he said, according to Space News. “And we are the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new, contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 6, 2017. (US Air Force/Scott M. Ash)

Goldfein has been a proponent of multi-domain operations, which draw on air, cyber, ground, sea, and space to provide a full picture of the battlefield. Fighting outside the earth’s atmosphere will require new training as well as investment in new technologies, he said.

“We must build a joint, smart space force and space-smart joint force,” he told the audience in Florida.

Related: This is what happens to your body if you die in space

Asked March 2018 about congressional concerns over the Air Force’s preparations for operations in space, Wilson outlined specific moves the force is making to ready itself.

“I think it’s harder for people to understand [space] because it’s not where we normally breathe and live, but for the Air Force it is an area of tremendous emphasis — just look at the budgets,” she said at the Heritage Foundation.

The fiscal year 2018 budget had a 20% increase in funding for space programs, Wilson said, and the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal — which requests $8.5 billion for space programs — added more than 7% on top of that.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
The Air Force launched the ninth Boeing-built Wideband Global SATCOM satellite on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017. (US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

“We have shifted to next-generation missile warning — so a rapid change there to cancel two planned satellites and shift to a defendable missile-warning architecture. Jam-resistant GPS, so GPS III, is in this budget,” Wilson said, referring to the next set of satellites needed to keep the global positioning system operational.

The “National Space Defense Center is now set up and established so that we have a common operating picture of what’s going on in space, because unless you known what’s going on you can’t defend it,” she added. “Our budget also includes simulators and war-gaming to train space operators to operate in a contested environment. So there is a lot in this budget.”

More: SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

In the next five years, the Air Force plans to put $44.3 billion toward space systems, according to Space News — about an 18% increase over the five-year plan submitted in 2017. The new total includes $31.5 billion for research and development and $12.8 billion for procurement.

“The top-line numbers, I think, tell a story,” Wilson said at the Heritage Foundation. “But I think when you get down into the programs, there’s a real recognition that space will be a contested domain and that we are developing the capability to deter and prevail should anyone seek to deny the United States operations in space.”

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Veterans find new career paths with Easterseals Bob Hope Veteran Support Program

When Matthew Garcia, a sergeant with nine years of honorable service, left the Marine Corps in December he felt pretty invincible. His transition back to civilian life and new career would be easy, he thought.


Garcia had three combat tours under his belt and had just ended a successful tour as a Marine drill instructor, a demanding, intense but revered job at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot. For two weeks, attending the service’s Transition Readiness Seminar, he listened to speakers and counselors and took notes about resuming life as a civilian after his time in the military.

It was, he said, “like a water hose” of information and advice.

His broad plan was to find work in the San Diego area in a safety-related job. Before he left uniform, he had earned a key OSHA certificate. He felt confident but also felt nervous when he began his transition earlier this year.

“I didn’t know if I would succeed or not. The military life becomes the blanket that you understand,” said Garcia, 29, who served as a field wireman — the Marine Corps’ equivalent of a civilian lineman or network data specialist. “Would I fit in? Would I be successful? How will they receive me?”

As the months ticked off, the job offers eluded him. He hadn’t realized that his appearance, demeanor and daily routine had changed little from his time as a drill instructor, the epitome of the ramrod, Smokey-hat wearing, poster image of a Marine.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

“I got out but looked like I was still in” the military, he said.

That realization came in the help Garcia received from Cynthia, an Easterseals Southern California Bob Hope Veterans Support Program employment specialist he met through a referral from a friend pursuing similar work. She coached him through writing his resume and practicing for job interviews. She reminded him to prepare for those interviews just as he did for promotion boards during his military career. And before he interviewed for his first job prospect, he sent her a photo of the clothing he planned to wear — just to be sure.

“I felt a lot more competent,” he said.

Garcia said that the one-on-one support he received from Cynthia and Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program was pivotal to bolster his confidence and ability to transition from the military and ultimately find meaningful civilian employment.

“She gave me some basic things that people don’t think about when leaving the military,” he said, like being mindful of differences in terminology he used and understanding how his military job experience translates to a civilian workplace.

He credits the personalized services with helping him settle into civilian work and life perhaps sooner and smoother than if he had tried it on his own. “Just the fact that she sat down with me and went over my individual resume made the difference,” he said. “She took the time to understand the field that I was going in.”

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Garcia

It paid off: In June, just six months after hanging up his military uniform, Garcia started work as a safety, health and environmental manager with Balfour Beatty Construction, a San Diego-based firm.

“I try to make sure I set a good example,” he said. “I get a lot of praise from a lot of my coworkers.” His boss, he said, is an Air Force veteran.

Garcia’s success story is one of scores of military service members transitioning from active or reserve duty with help from Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which aims to help veterans and their families return to a productive and healthy civilian life. The program provides tailored, one-on-one employment services and assists veterans who want to start their own small business.

Easterseals Southern California launched the employment services program in early 2014 for transitioning veterans, many who choose to remain in Southern California, and reservists leaving active-duty tours, with a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation.

The Bob Hope Veterans Support Program is free and open to veterans, whether they are separating from the service after completing their contracts or are resuming their civilian life as a drilling reservist or member of the National Guard. They must be a post-Sept. 11, 2001, veteran leaving active or reserve duty who intends to work in the San Diego or Orange county areas and who has an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as of 2014, there were 2.6 million post-9/11 veterans, and that community is projected to grow to nearly 3.5 million by 2019 as more service members exit the service and reservists complete active duty.

Santiago Leon is one of those reservists who sought out help as he resumed life as a civilian after an extended period serving full time in the Army Reserve.

The Army sergeant first class — he holds a leadership position and rank as a noncommissioned officer — has spent 16 years in the Army Reserve and said he’s “still going strong.” He is a senior instructor with the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy, a reserve job he fulfills during his two-week annual training period and monthly drilling weekends.

Leon has tallied about four and a half years of active duty time so far, much of that coming from three combat tours with activated Army Reserve transportation companies. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 and to Afghanistan during a 2009-2010 assignment, and as a platoon sergeant was in charge of 34 soldiers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and vehicles.

When he returned home, he focused on completing a Bachelor’s degree with his Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits and finding a job to support his wife and three children. Like many reservists, he attended two days of classes on transitioning home and returning to reserve status, but “when you’re coming back from a 13, 14-month deployment, the last thing you’re thinking about is paying attention,” he said.

Still, he thought it would be an easy transition.

But “it was another rude awakening,” recalled Leon, 34. “I was cocky. I thought, with me being a  senior enlisted soldier, I had a leg up… and would make $70,000 to $80,000 a year and job offers would be coming my way.”

But after interviewing for a part-time job that paid $9.90 an hour, “I didn’t even get called in for an interview,” he said. “My confidence, my ego, was gone. I was thoroughly depressed.”

It was a humbling experience. Leon, who wanted to find a job where he could help other veterans, one day walked into the Chula Vista Vet Center in south San Diego County and met a manager who referred him to the South County Career Center.

Counter-terror police investigate suspected poisoning of Russian spy
Photo: Courtesy of Santiago Leon

“That’s when my life changed,” he said. After about two years without work, within three weeks “I found my first job” as a workshop facilitator for transitioning veterans. Through  VetWORKS, a training, certification, and employment program for unemployed veterans in San Diego County, he came across Easterseals Southern California and met John Funk, director of veterans programs and a retired Navy veteran.

Leon got advice about his resume and assistance sorting through job leads through Easterseals Southern California’s employment services. John Funk “gave me a huge reality check,” which helped temper his passion but focus on his goals, he said. “To say you want a job does no one any good. What we want is a career. So if you start building your skill sets, little by little, you can be competitive.”

Today, he is a business services manager with Able-Disabled Advocacy in San Diego, thanks to a VetWORKS grant.

“The ES program, working one-on-one with John, it was instrumental,” Leon said. “It can become very disheartening applying for a job and not getting anything.”

Leon keeps that in mind as he speaks with potential employers, teaches classes on resume writing and mentors some vets through the process, reminding them that jobs don’t come automatically to them. he said. Easterseals’ employment specialists and counselors “challenge the veteran,” he said. “We work for the betterment of the veteran.”