The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Russia violated opposition politician Aleksei Navalny’s rights over numerous arrests and jailings, calling them “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.”
The human rights court in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15, 2018, delivered its ruling, rejecting an appeal filed by Russia over a previous judgment favoring Navalny.
The court upheld its previous decision that found Navalny’s seven arrests and two instances of pretrial detentions by Russian authorities between 2012-14 violated his rights, “lacked a legitimate aim,” and “had not been necessary in a democratic society.”
He immediately hailed the decision, writing on Twitter, “Won. Fully. The government is crushed…Hooray!”
He also told reporters that the ruling was an example of “genuine justice” and was “very important not just for me but for other people all over Russia who are arrested every day.”
As part of the ruling, the court ordered Russia to pay Navalny about 64,000 euros in compensation, costs, and expenses and said its decision was final and binding.
Moscow did not immediately comment on the court’s ruling.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critics, attended the hearing, along with his brother Oleg, and posted a photograph of the two of them at the ECHR on Instragram.
Russia’s Constitutional Court has previously ruled that officials can ignore judgments by the ECHR if they are found to contravene the Russian Constitution.
Russia has lost a number of high-profile cases in Strasbourg and been ordered to pay out hefty compensation in scores of politically embarrassing cases.
Navalny was originally prevented from boarding a flight out of Moscow on Nov. 13, 2018, to attend the hearing.
The Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP) said he was barred from leaving due to what it said was debt he owed Kirovles, a state timber company at the center of a politically charged criminal case in which he has now been convicted twice.
The FSSP later said the fine was paid and that restrictions on Navalny’s travel abroad had been lifted.
He said he would sue the FSSP over what he called “illegal activities” and demand compensation for the 29,542 rubles (6) in financial losses he said he and his lawyer sustained due to the FSSP’s decision to bar him from leaving.
The ECHR ruling was on an appeal filed by Russia over a court decision in February 2017 that ruled in favor of Navalny, but Russia filed an appeal to challenge the decision.
Navalny, 42, has organized large street protests on several occasions since 2011 and has published a series of reports alleging corruption in Putin’s circle.
He has repeatedly been jailed for periods ranging from 10 days to a few weeks, usually for alleged infractions of laws governing public demonstrations.
Navalny had spent nearly 200 days in jail since 2011, including 140 days since the start of his attempt to challenge Putin in the March 2018 presidential election, his spokeswoman has said.
Electoral authorities barred Navalny from the ballot, citing convictions in two financial-crimes cases he and his supporters contend were Kremlin-orchestrated efforts to punish him for his opposition activity and for the reports alleging corruption.
Navalny was convicted in 2013 of stealing money from Kirovles and was sentenced to five years in prison. But the sentence was later suspended, sparing him from serving time in prison.
In 2016, the ECHR ruled that the Kirovles trial was unfair and that the two men had been convicted of actions “indistinguishable from regular commercial activity.”
The Russian Supreme Court then threw out the 2013 convictions and ordered a new trial.
In February 2017, the lower court again convicted the two men and handed down the same suspended prison sentence.
“Rodent infestations can escalate quickly under certain circumstances,” commissary officials said in a statement released Thursday. “DeCA regrets any inconveniences the store closure has caused to our commissary patrons and is working to diligently address the issue so the store can be reopened.”
The store was shuttered at 7 p.m. Oct. 11, according to base officials. Details weren’t immediately available on the extent of the rodent issue. The base shut down the store’s produce and bakery operations earlier that day.
Twentynine Palms is located in a remote area of California with few other nearby grocery options for families and troops stationed there. A Stater Bros. market is located about 10 miles off base, while a Walmart is about a 40-minute drive.
DeCA has dispatched a team of health experts to the store but does not yet know when the store will reopen, officials said.
“DeCA has sent public health, sanitation, engineer and store operation experts to the store and is working with installation personnel to ensure the facility is thoroughly cleaned and to address where and how the pests are entering the store,” commissary officials said.
“We plan to completely resolve the issues at Twentynine Palms and reopen the commissary once all health and sanitation standards are met,” they added.
Base officials said commissary shoppers who are worried about whether their recent purchases are OK to eat may be able to file a refund claim with the Navy‘s tort claim unit.
“They will need to fill out an SF 95 package. TCU prefers that the claims be emailed to them at TORTCLAIMSUNIT@navy.mil,” base officials said.
Those wishing to file a claim should include “supporting documentation for the loss, such as receipts or bank records,” they said.
The mailing address for TCU is: Office of the Judge Advocate General Tort Claims Unit Norfolk, 9620 Maryland Ave. Suite 205, Norfolk, VA 23511-2949.
It’s the kind of video that puts a lump in your throat.
But it’s also a crystal clear demonstration of the training that teaches Naval aviators to keep their cool.
In this incredible clip from the USS Eisenhower, a Navy E-2C Hawkeye surveillance plane coasts into what seems like a textbook landing during a calm day at sea off the coast of Virginia.
As the Hawkeye traps the number four wire, it seems as if the plane made a good arrest. But while the twin turboprop airplane strains to a stop, the cable suddenly snaps, sending sailors on the flight deck scrambling and the plane plunging off the end of the flight deck. It takes a heart-stopping 6 seconds for the plane to pull out of the dive and into view above the line of the flight deck.
According to the Virginian Pilot newspaper which obtained the investigation report into the March 18 incident, the arresting gear was misprogrammed for the Hawkeye’s landing, causing the cable to snap. While the aircrew landed the plane safely ashore, eight sailors were injured on the flight deck.
The military community is chock-full of milspouse super-achievers – men and women who manage to find personal and professional success despite the many, many (did we mention many?) obstacles the military throws their way. Anyone living the milspo life already knows dozens of people who make a mockery of the dependa stereotype, and we wrote this story to highlight a few. Here are five more milspouses making their marks on the world.
The country music star
RaeLynn sang her way into America’s ears as a contestant on The Voice in 2012. Five Top 40 hits and two albums later, the talented performer and military spouse is showing the world that being married to the military doesn’t mean giving up on dreams. Her husband, active duty soldier Joshua Davis, enlisted after they were married in 2016, and the couple has been juggling the demands of Army life and Music Row stardom ever since. As she told People Magazine, “There’s a level of sacrifice that you have to do as a military spouse that the average person might not have to do,” she said. “You can’t talk to your significant other all the time. There’s the fear of when they do deploy, of not seeing them again and that underlying fear of just hoping that they’re okay.” We feel you, girl.
Sheila Casey has given most of her life to the military. For 40 years she kept the home fires burning so her husband, former Army Chief of Staff General George Casey, could rise to the very top rank in the Army, and she did it without losing her own career or identity in the process. Sheila now serves as Chief Operating Officer of The Hill, a top U. S. political publication that covers The White House, Congress, policy, campaigns, lobbying, business and international news. Prior to joining The Hill in 1997, she was Director of Finance at the Texas Council on Family Violence in Austin, Texas, and worked as an audit manager for Grant Thornton, a national CPA firm. And she did it all while living that milspo life all over the United States, Europe and Egypt and volunteering with a number of organizations, including as chair of Blue Star Families Board of Directors. She also gives her time to Parents as Teachers; The National Domestic Violence Hotline; Snowball Express; the Washington Press Club Foundation; the Board of Advisors for ThanksUSA; The Bob Woodruff Foundation; The Military Child Education Coalition, and the GI Film Festival.
John Oliver came to the U.S. to do comedy and quickly found fame with his hilarious appearances on “The Daily Show.” In fact, that’s kind of how he met his wife, former U.S. Army medic Kate Norley, who was motivated to enlist by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks at age 19. Norley served in Iraq as a combat medic and a mental health specialist and became a veteran’s rights advocate after leaving the Army. Oliver was covering the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota for The Daily Show, and she was there campaigning with Vets for Freedom. And this is where their story gets funny. Oliver and his crew were caught in a restricted area and, with Oliver in the U.S. on a temporary visa, he and the crew were worried they might get arrested, so they ran. Norley and the veterans campaigning with Vets for Freedom hid them from security, giving Norley and Oliver one of the best “how we met” stories ever. Three years later, they were married. “When you’ve married someone who’s been at war, there is nothing you can do that compares to that level of selflessness and bravery,” Oliver has been quoted saying. “I feel humbled daily by what she has managed to do with her life versus how I’ve decided to fritter away mine.”
Most of the country became aware of Nikki Haley in June 2015 when the then-South Carolina governor stepped in to unite and soothe her state after a white supremacist attacked an African American church in Charleston, killing nine people. Haley masterfully handled a tense, painful moment and helped her state heal. As the first woman to be the governor of South Carolina and the second Indian-American to be a governor of any state, she brought a unique perspective to the tragedy. As the sister of a retired soldier and the wife of an officer in the South Carolina National Guard, she understood the risk of inaction. In fact, Haley’s husband deployed to Afghanistan in 2013, while she was governor. (Oh, NBD. Just juggling all the demands of solo parenting AND an entire state.) “I am unbelievably proud of him and yes, we went through the deployment and single mom stuff, and all that when he was deployed in Afghanistan,” Haley told Military Families Magazine. “I wouldn’t trade it, just because of the pride he has, the pride that we all have for him. We suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Haley in the coming years. She was appointed as the U.N. Ambassador by President Trump, a job she served in for two years, and is widely suspected of having Presidential ambitions of her own.
It’s probably been a minute since Ruth Bader Ginsburg thought of herself as a military spouse. But before she became the Notorious RBG – okay, long before, she was an Army wife. After graduating from college, she married her boyfriend, Martin Ginsburg, and the two moved to Ft. Sill in 1954 because Martin had been drafted into the Army. He served for two years, and then the couple both continued their educations in law and both began legal careers, with Ruth’s culminating in her current position as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Martin passed away in 2010 and is buried in Arlington Cemetery. We think those two years as a milspouse must have made an impression on RBG because the first time she argued a case before the Supreme Court, she did it to hook up a milspouse. The year was 1973 and her client was a female service member who wanted military spouse protections for her husband. Back then, the husbands of women who served were not considered dependents and did not receive benefits unless they “were dependent on their wives for over one-half of their support.” But the Notorious RBG helped change that.
On September 11, 2001, America was attacked. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From the ashes of that horrible day rose a wave of patriotism that unified a nation to say in one voice, “We will never forget.”
Across the country, and especially in the state of New York, monuments and memorials to the people we lost that September day stand in keeping that promise. Of course, the most prominent of these is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan which is located at the World Trade Center. The memorial fountains bear the names of the people that perished there nearly two decades ago and the museum houses incredible artifacts and stories collected from that day. However, remnants of that day can be found elsewhere too.
One of the reflecting pools (9/11 Memorial Museum)
Roughly 190 miles north of the World Trade Center lies the city of Saratoga Springs, NY. Just over 30 miles north of the state capital of Albany, Saratoga Springs is a hub for thoroughbred horse racing as the home to the Saratoga Race Course as well as the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The city is also in close proximity to the Saratoga National Park which preserves the Revolutionary War site of the Battles of Saratoga. Nestled among some of the town’s famous natural mineral springs stands a sculpted metal structure paying tribute to the tragedies that took place on 9/11.
Tempered By Memory (Author)
Crafted from World Trade Center steel, Tempered By Memory serves as the focal point of the town’s 9/11 Memorial Monument. A plaque at the memorial explains to visitors that the Saratoga Springs community lost residents in the attack and how first responders, ironworkers, and humanitarians from the area assisted with response and recovery efforts in the aftermath. In 2002, Saratoga Springs residents and businesses created a respite program which granted retreats to 178 NYC firefighters, policemen, and their families.
In 2010, the Saratoga Arts Center Council, Saratoga Springs City Council, and the Saratoga Springs Naval Support Unit entered into a collaboration to bring steel artifacts from the World Trade Center to the community. After a year of work by local sculptors and a volunteer team of ironworkers, crane operators, and community-wide support, Tempered By Memory was completed in 2011. On the eleventh anniversary of the attack, the sculpture was donated by Saratoga Arts to the City of Saratoga Springs. Reinforced by the healing and restorative properties of the natural mineral springs that surround it, Tempered By Memory invites visitors to quietly reflect on the history of the site and transcend the tragedy.
However, if the sculpture brings more pain than healing and a visitor finds themself in need of further inspiration of hope, they need only look off to the side. Planted a few yards away from the center of the memorial is a rather unassuming tree. Compared to the large and lush trees in the park, this diminutive Callery Pear Tree appears to be out of place.
In fact, the tree is called the Survivor Tree and was grown from a seedling of the last standing Callery Pear Tree that once stood on the site of the original World Trade Center. The attack on 9/11 nearly destroyed the original tree which now stands at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Since its return to the site in 2010, the original Survivor Tree has spawned seedlings which have been gifted to communities that have endured tragedy. In addition to Saratoga Springs, recipients of Survivor Tree seedlings include Las Vegas, Parkland, Boston, Manchester, and Paris. The trees serve as a reminder of hope, strength, and unity through adversity.
Saratoga Springs Survivor Tree (Author)
Though memorial events for the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attack will look different compared to previous years as a result of COVID, tributes like Tempered By Memory and Survivor Trees across the country and around the world stand as monuments to the memory of the people lost on that terrible day and the loved ones that they left behind.
Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack that killed at least 35 people including several children in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on April 4, opposition groups and a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed in the town of Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, had died from the effects of the gas, adding that dozens more suffered respiratory problems and other symptoms.
The Britain-based monitoring group was unable to confirm the nature of the substance, and said it was unclear if the planes involved in the attack were Syrian or those of government ally Russia.
The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.
The Observatory said medical sources in the town reported symptoms among the affected including fainting, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth.
The victims were mostly civilians, it said, and included at least nine children.
The pro-opposition Edlib Media Centre (EMC) posted a large number of photographs of people receiving treatment, as well as images showing what appeared to be the bodies of at least seven children in the back of a pick-up truck.
Photographs circulated by activists showed members of the volunteer White Helmets rescue group using hoses to wash down the injured, as well as at least two men with white foam around their mouths.
The Syrian National Coalition, an alliance of opposition groups whose leaders live in exile, accused President Bashar al-Assad‘s government of carrying out the gas attack and demanded a UN investigation.
“The National Coalition demands the Security Council convene an emergency session… to open an immediate investigation and take the necessary measures to ensure the officials, perpetrators, and supporters are held accountable,” the body said in a statement.
Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including the Fateh al- Sham Front, a former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the al- Nusra Front.
It is regularly targeted in strikes by the regime, as well as Russian warplanes, and has also been hit by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, usually targeting jihadists.
Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013, as part of a deal to avert U.S. military action.
But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then, with a UN-led investigation pointing the finger at the regime for at least three chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015.
The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons.
The attack on April 4 comes only days after forces loyal to Assad were accused of using chemical weapons in a counter-offensive in neighboring Hama province.
U.S. Army Soldiers clean the outside of a CH-47 Chinook during detail aircraft decontamination training near Erbil, Iraq, Mar. 1, 2017. This training is part of the overall Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity by training and improving the capability of partnered forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Josephine Carlson)
On March 30, air strikes on several areas in the north of Hama province left around 50 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the Observatory, which could not confirm the cause of the symptoms.
The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns, and munitions used.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The April 4 gathering in Brussels has been billed as a follow-up to a donors’ conference last year in London, which raised about $11 billion for humanitarian aid programs in the devastated country.
Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.
Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.
Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.
Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.
(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)
While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.
The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:
leaders who care about their soldiers,
leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
leaders who are knowledgeable.
Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.
Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)
There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.
Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.
Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.
Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)
Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.
As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.
Just throwing my two cents in: If you’re a POG who uses someone else’s gruntness to make you seem more badass, then you have no room to complain about an officer getting an award for someone else’s work.
France’s special operators in Iraq are collecting intelligence on their own citizens and then distributing it to Iraqi forces, according to the Wall Street Journal. The intent appears to be ensuring that as few French citizens as possible learn to fight under ISIS tutelage and then conduct attacks at home.
An estimated 1,700 French citizens have joined militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and France has little reason to want any of them back. Gathering intelligence on the most dangerous of them and handing it over to the Iraqis is a convenient way to reduce the threat without violating French laws on extra-judicial killings.
The U.S. has killed Americans in drone strikes and firefights, but only one of them was specifically targeted. Anwar al-Awlaki was a New Mexico-born Muslim cleric who preached a particularly anti-American and violent reading of Islam. He was targeted and killed in a drone strike in 2011.
France appears to be sidestepping the controversy that embroiled the Obama administration after the killing of al-Awlaki by outsourcing the dirty work.
We all have that friend who marches to the beat of their own drum. The one who challenges the stereotypes of how the world has always been or, even scarier, doesn’t care. These are the friends who don’t follow normal routines, who see life not just as doing work but as a chance to build something bigger than themselves. They are seemingly fearless.
For me, that friend is James Brobyn.
As a “Mustang,” a prior enlisted Marine, who worked his way to the Naval Academy and then into leading Marines in combat as an infantry officer, James has always taken risks. Even after he took off the uniform, he continued to pursue challenges that seemed too risky to consider, even for the most battle hardened. He helped the Travis Manion Foundation grow from a small family-led nonprofit into a nationally recognized powerhouse. He’s started businesses, closed businesses and started them again. James’ battles can be scary both to your health and to your finances but I’ve learned that my friend is not fearless. Instead, he finds his strength in a single word that defines who he is at his core: INTEGRITY.
In ancient Rome, the Legionnaires, not unlike Marines today, would conduct inspections before battle. Paramount in this ritual was their breastplate, the armour that protects soldiers from enemy arrows or swords. Legionnaires would spend countless hours polishing their breastplates and tightening straps. Not a single crack or chip was permitted. When a soldier passed inspection, he would pound his fist into the metal and yell, “Integritas,” (Integrity) for all others to hear. This was not only an affirmation that the armour was sound but also that the heart and soul it protected was of whole, pure character — ready to take on any challenge in battle.
James has called me into his battles both figuratively and literally many times over the last two decades. We served together in the Marines and deployed together to Iraq. He’s been my boss twice. He fired me once only to hire me back 10 years later. Another story for another time but I am grateful for everything he has taught me. Above all else, James is not afraid of hard work. In between these battles, James would disappear for a few months and then reappear with a phone call. Even to this day, he still starts each conversation with my callsign from Iraq, “White 1.”
Not long ago, James called me again. “White 1, I got something for you.” He paused. “I’ve started a cannabis company and I want you to come see what we’ve built.” Of course, I was intrigued but also weary. Cannabis is an industry tied with all kinds of risk. It’s legal in some states, not in others. It’s celebrated by some of my friends (especially veterans) and hated by others, including my own family. There is a stigma that cannabis is the Wild West, a gold rush of former drug dealers and shady investors trying to get rich in the grey area. It’s a world of multiple tribes jockeying for power. Honestly, it felt a little like James was asking me to go back to Iraq. I stuttered, “Is this legal?”
My friend could only laugh, “Yes, we’ve built our business with integrity from the ground up.” Two days later, I was on a plane to a cannabis farm in Michigan. What I saw changed my entire view of both James and the industry.
The American Fiber Company (AmFI) is a multistate cannabis brand that delivers pharmaceutical grade products directly to consumers and wholesalers. It is also the result of a three year journey that took James and his team from Colombia to Canada to the United States. AmFi operates three dispensaries in Michigan; they’re the first company approved to import FDA certified 100% organic CBD oil into the United States and they’ve partnered with world class research facilities to ensure their products maintain the highest safety standards. My first question to James: “How the hell did you build all this?”
James reminded me, “We did the hard work. We built the framework. We run it the right way with Integrity.”
I recently chatted with James to understand more about his journey from combat to cannabis.
James: White 1.
WATM:Blue 1. (James’s callsign from 2006). Boom. All right. Comms are up. So here’s my thought and you tell me what you feel comfortable with. I would really like to focus on your journey from combat to the cannabis industry as well as some of the crazy things that happened along the way.
James: Ok. So before I answer that, what is your goal with the article?
I think to myself, “Dammit. How did he turn that one on me so fast?”
WATM:Good question. I like to highlight influencers in our space that are at the top of their game. It’s a series of interview questions so people can get to know others that are making moves in our world. So are you making moves?
James: (He laughs). Yeah, ok, I think that makes sense. So I guess from my standpoint, I’m most excited about how the journey got me to this point right now. Honestly, every skill from the Academy to leading Marines in combat to the Travis Manion Foundation are all being used to build something.
All those core values that we learned and were beat into us. Do hard work with integrity, do it the right way. That’s what’s really neat about it. When you put those principles to work every day and you teach people to abide by them, you build your own tribe and it works. People want to be a part of something. And that’s what’s kind of cool about this. That’s what’s really been the neatest part about the cannabis industry. It’s a rich kind of this weird, you know, fraternity that lets in all types of people, which is great.
WATM:When was the first time you got introduced to cannabis?
James: My God, I was a teenager. I grew up in Philly in the 80s and 90s. At 15, 16, 17, it was part of the culture. Honestly, it wasn’t about weed. I was just trying to fit in with the local friends. Normal teenage stuff. And I wanted to keep up with my older brothers but I made bad choices and eventually my dad kicked me out of the house.
WATM:Kicked you out?
James: Yep, at 19, but honestly he should have done it earlier. In hindsight, I just wanted to find my tribe and the outcome was partying. I had it in sports, but, you know, as soon as you start getting older and you leave high school you lose the camaraderie. A lot of people do. So I made bad decisions. We’ll leave it at that.
WATM:What about the decision to join the Marine Corps?
James: When I was at boot camp, I was like, what the hell did I do? I thought that, like, every day. But I think most people do. When I got my aircrew wings, it was scary to be Lance Corporal, but I had two pilots in my squadron that I flew with consistently. They told me about a program for helping enlisted Marines get into the Naval Academy. They changed my life.
WATM:Why do you think they focused on you?
James: In so many ways, they took an interest in me and my long term well-being. Not short term, not as some piece of equipment, but in me as a person. Once word got around that there was traction on my application, honestly, I had half the squadron helping me out. I even had Staff NCOs that were taking me on ridiculous runs to train me to get ready to go to the Naval Academy. I mean, I think they just saw I gave a shit. I showed up every day.
WATM: Is there anything about your time at the Academy that stands out? Any major lessons learned that you still use today?
James: You learn how to win there. I believe it. It comes down to two things. First is the honor code. I think you see it with Captain Crozier (USNA ’92) and the recent situation on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Your integrity is what you have. If you give it away, then you have no foundation. Nothing to build from. It’s a house of cards. Secondly, the Academy teaches you that you can do more than any other person out there. Without a doubt. I mean, you know, the amount of stuff you can get done in 24 hours there is ridiculous. I keep those lessons with me daily.
James with the Marines of 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Iraq, 2006
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: You graduated in 2004, and we deployed to Iraq together not long after. What is there about leading Marines that stands out?
James: I loved my dudes. 2006 and 2007 were hard times to be in Iraq. We were given a mission to provide security for 30,000 people and not much more resources than what we had. That pretty much looks like a small business to me. It was the best entrepreneurship training that I’ve had. Honestly, combat is the closest thing to running a business in the cannabis industry. that I have found. You have to be nimble, understand uncertainty, take a look at risks and act. But at the end of the day, your plan never survives first contact. All you can do is surround yourself with good people.
WATM: How do you make the leap from combat to cannabis?
James: At first, I was just following cannabis related to veterans. There are a lot of positive benefits outside just the medical aspects. First off, dudes drink less, eat better and lose weight. There are multiple levels of benefit but I hadn’t thought about the business side of things until I met Dan Tobon, a former Army Sniper and Iraq veteran. We became fast friends. Dan had just started working on a project in Colombia where his family is from called NuSierra Holdings.
Colombia had approved export of cannabis products and it was anticipated at that time Canada and Australia would be able to import them, even THC products. So it was a big rush to get out of Colombia and go out to the commoditized cannabis world. Then we met John Leja, founder of PharmaCannis, who understood the retail side of the business and was trying to establish a packing facility in Toronto. I met John and Dan at a bar in Philly and they asked me, ‘Will you help us out?‘ I didn’t know much about cannabis but I knew we had supply and distribution so I said, ‘Sure. Let’s figure this out.’ I was on a plane to Toronto the next day.
WATM:There are so many stereotypes associated with cannabis, do you have a hard time getting over the stigmas or comparisons to a gold rush?
James: I learned alot from John and Dan about how to stop thinking of cannabis as a shiny object of gold that’s going to make everyone rich but as a commodity that’s going to be turned into an amazing consumer product. If you reframe cannabis that way, you can start thinking about designing a strategy where you can gain footholds into different parts of the supply chain that are completely compliant, legal, and then allow us to really take a good market share of the industry.
James and the Author in a American Fiber Company grow facility
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM:Was this venture your training for the American Fiber Company and setting up a cannabis business in the U.S.?
James: 100%. In 2018, it felt like every state was its own country when it came to cannabis. Some were recreational, others were medicinal only and others, it was flat out illegal. We had a plan for how to set up a multi-state operation but it’s hard to work because every jurisdiction has its own rules. And you literally have to go into jurisdictions. You have to work with the locals. You can’t just pop in your model and make it work. You have to build from the ground up and it all came back to finding the right people. People with integrity. American Fiber established our first operations in Southwest Michigan.
WATM:You’ve mentioned integrity a lot. What does integrity really mean to you?
James: It’s not about just telling the truth. It’s about following through. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do. Doing it the right way. Even if it’s hard — especially if it’s hard. That’s the key here because that’s how you normalize the industry. We work with the state and federal regulators to do the hard work that people don’t want to do.
WATM: Like becoming the first company in the U.S. to legally import full spectrum CBD oil?
James: That’s just one example. We never set out to be the first company in the world to import full-spectrum CBD oil out of Colombia into the US, but we figured out how to get it compliant with Customs and Border Protection. But we’ve also taken on other challenges that are just as hard. We’ve built a research partnership in Delaware with Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biology so that we can figure out how to start collecting real data on health benefits so that we can go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, get approved by the FDA on certain products and continue to provide safe quality, cannabis products to our consumers. And that’s why it’s a long game.
The American Fiber Company Team in Michigan
Photo Courtesy of James Brobyn
WATM: Is the long game paying off?
James: I think so. Take the current COVID-19 restrictions for example. Every state that had medicinal and recreational policies deemed cannabis business essential. I mean, yeah. Our team in South Michigan is out there every day serving patients curbside, delivery, and hopefully drive-through soon. We’re moving into a post-prohibition world right now and now it’s pretty exciting.
WATM: Where do you see American Fiber in that world. Maybe 5 years from now?
James: Oh, my God. That’s like 50 decades in this industry. Well, let me tell you what the ultimate goal is, and it’s how we’ve always tried to build a company. I always felt that we built a company that we could take public. Ultimately, I want American Fiber to be synonymous with all the values that make our people and country ready to face whatever challenge comes ahead. Hard work, commitment and integrity.
On July 9, a female National Guard soldier became the first woman to graduate from U.S. Army Special Forces training since Capt. Katie Wilder did so in 1980, earning the coveted Green Beret. The woman, whose identity the Army is withholding for personnel security purposes, joins more than a dozen women who have completed elite schools that were only available to men until the Pentagon opened all combat jobs, including special operations positions, to women in 2016.
Coffee or Die spoke with several men who served in special operations units alongside women in combat to get their thoughts on the historic event.
Special Forces soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June. 10, 2020. Photo by Patrik Orcutt/U.S. Army.
Luke Ryan, right, served as a team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Photo courtesy of Luke Ryan/Coffee or Die.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Jariko Denman served with the 75th Ranger Regiment for 16 years.
“In Afghanistan, women in Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) attached to us and other special operations forces, including Green Berets and [U.S. Navy] SEALs. CSTs were enablers, just like explosive ordnance disposal techs or others whose specialties we needed to support our missions.
“On my last four deployments as a task force senior enlisted advisor, we had CSTs with us, so I’ve been in firefights with women, chasing down bad guys alongside them. There was never a case in my experience of women weighing us down. I can’t say that for every other enabler who attached to us. Women coming into that job realized they were going into that hyperkinetic environment, and they brought their ‘A’ game. They knew they could not be a weak link, so they came in shape, and they were very successful.
“For any leader building a team, we know the team isn’t as strong if everybody looks and thinks the same. You want a diversity of skills and backgrounds because that diversity reflects your needs. High-performing individuals who have vastly different life experiences are an asset in SOF.
“As long as we maintain the same SOF qualification standards for everyone, I think women in SOF are just as capable as men, and I’m glad to see more women joining our ranks and getting the same special designations men have always had the opportunity to attain.”
Joe and Shannon Kent with their sons. Photo courtesy of Joe Kent/Coffee or Die.
Luke Ryan served as an Army Ranger and team leader with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
“I was on the mission where Captain Jenny Moreno was killed in action in October 2013. She was a nurse by trade but was attached to my Ranger platoon as a Cultural Support Team (CST) member. When she saw that several of my Ranger buddies had been seriously wounded, she moved to help them without regard for her own safety. She was killed in the process. That kind of selfless bravery is something I will never forget. I hold her in the same high regard as I hold my Ranger brethren who were killed doing the same thing.
“Women have already been fighting in special operations components for years. That part isn’t new. They were attached to our unit for my four deployments, and I will never doubt the ability of a woman to be courageous and effective on the battlefield. Moreno didn’t have a Ranger scroll, but in my opinion, she earned one. If I see her in the next life, I’ll give her mine.
“As far as integrating into traditional special operations units, I’ve seen the courage of women in SOF tested on the battlefield, and I’m in full support of it. As long as standards are maintained, allowing women in SOF will be a non-issue.”
Rob Garnett in Eastern Afghanistan on his last deployment in 2010. Photo courtesy of Rob Garnett/One More Wave.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joe Kent served as a Ranger and Special Forces operator. His wife, Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed while serving on a special operations task force in the fight against ISIS in 2019.
“My wife trained as an Arabic linguist and signals intelligence collector. In Iraq, special operations forces relied heavily on intelligence professionals who had to work with local Iraqis to develop informants and gather intelligence for our missions. Iraqi women often had intelligence we needed, and women like Shannon stepped up to provide a capability that none of us had. Her contributions gave us a more complete picture of whatever situation we were heading into, which was invaluable.
“As years went on, Shannon gained more and more trust in the SOF community, and her performance in special operations opened doors for other intelligence professionals to try out for special operations forces.
“Anyone who has served alongside women in special operations should know it was just a matter of time before a woman would wear the Green Beret and Special Forces long tab.
“As Americans, our country has decided we’re going to have this all-volunteer force, so we get the military that shows up and volunteers to go fight. Plenty of women have fought and died, and to say they can’t go be combat arms or special operators is wrong. My wife was good enough to die alongside SEALs and operators on her fifth deployment but not have the same opportunity to prove herself in SOF qualification courses? That’s ridiculous.
“I’m very glad the ban on women serving in combat arms and special operations was lifted, and my hat’s off to the woman who completed Special Forces qualification.”
Nolan Peterson has covered conflict around the world. Photo courtesy of Nolan Peterson/Coffee or Die.
Rob Garnett served as a Navy SEAL for almost 23 years.
“In Baghdad in 2003, I was waiting with an Iraqi Interpreter at one of the entrances to the Green Zone to escort an Iraqi National inside. As vehicles moved through the ‘s curves’ of the base access point, we heard the guards start shouting ‘Stop!’ at a small car approaching the gate. When the vehicle didn’t stop, the soldier standing next to me began firing at the approaching vehicle, and I began to fire as well. The vehicle slowly came to a stop after the driver was killed. As the soldiers moved to inspect the vehicle, they found the trunk was full of 155 rounds made into an IED.
“When I walked over to the soldier who had first engaged the vehicle to say ‘great job,’ I realized this person was not a soldier but an airman, as well as a female. I remember joking with her and saying, ‘No females in combat, right?’ She just smiled and said, ‘Fuck off.’ She told me she didn’t plan on letting anyone inside that wasn’t supposed to be there.
“From my perspective, we aren’t getting female commandos in SOF now; we are getting MORE commandos. We can engage with more of the population when we include females in SOF operations, and I feel like most folks wouldn’t be as concerned about someone’s gender but more about a new team member’s performance.
“I would guess the soldier who completed SF training doesn’t want to be known as the first female SF soldier; she just wants to be a commando like everyone else.”
Nolan Peterson is a former Air Force special operations pilot who served with the 34th Special Operations Squadron.
“On my first deployment to Afghanistan, I served alongside a woman pilot whose impact I’ll never forget. On a long night mission, orbiting above a Taliban compound, helping good guys kill bad guys, I was pretty stressed and anxious. My greatest fear was I’d screw up somehow and get Americans hurt, or worse.
“They measure a pilot’s worth in hours flown because experience matters most. And, lucky for me, I was copilot to a woman who had years of combat experience. She had actually been one of my instructor pilots and played a big role in training me, and I was able to do my job that night in spite of the nervousness — thanks in no small part to the steady leadership and proficient skills of my pilot. It’s easy to do your job well when you’ve got a good example to follow.
“As we left station and started flying back to Bagram, we could see meteors streaking overhead through our night-vision goggles. Then the sun began to peak over the Hindu Kush.
“‘Pretty cool, isn’t it?’ I remember her saying. Then, as if granted permission, I suddenly stopped being so afraid of screwing up and took a moment to appreciate that, yes, this was, in fact, pretty damn cool. Then she told me I’d done well that night and had turned out to be a fine pilot. She was confident I’d go on and make her proud. Since she’d played a key role in training me, my performance was a reflection on her too. That small compliment she gave me was worth more than any medal.
“More than anything, on that debut deployment I’d wanted to prove myself to the people who’d mattered most — that’s to say, the people who’d been to war before me. And that pilot had been to war a lot. Hell, she’d spent most of the best years of her life either in war zones or training for them. She was a warrior, a professional, a mentor, and a damn good pilot. And getting her stamp of approval was one of my proudest moments.
“So when it comes to the recent news of a woman graduating the Special Forces Qualification Course, I think it’s long overdue. Women have been serving in combat and in special operations forces for years. They volunteer for the same risks, assume the same responsibilities and have had to uphold the same standards as their male counterparts. Once the bullets are flying, all that matters is that you’re good at your job. And without a doubt, to make it through the Green Beret selection process, that woman has clearly proven herself to be among the best of the best.”
Disclosure: Nolan Peterson is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die; Luke Ryan is an associate editor, and Jariko Denman is a contributing writer.
The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).
Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:
21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 3.57
Political participation: 2.22
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 2.65
20. Azerbaijan — 2.65
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50
Functioning of government: 2.14
Political participation: 3.33
Political culture: 3.75
Civil liberties: 3.53
19. Afghanistan — 2.55
Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50
Functioning of government: 1.14
Political participation: 2.78
Political culture: 2.50
Civil liberties: 3.82
18. Iran — 2.45
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 3.21
Political participation: 4.44
Political culture: 3.13
Civil liberties: 1.47
17. Eritrea — 2.37
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 2.14
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 6.88
Civil liberties: 1.18
16. Laos — 2.37
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83
Functioning of government: 2.86
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 1.47
15. Burundi — 2.33
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 0.43
Political participation: 3.89
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 2.35
14. Libya — 2.32
Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00
Functioning of government: 0.36
Political participation: 1.67
Political culture: 5.63
Civil liberties: 2.94
13. Sudan — 2.15
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 1.79
Political participation: 2.78
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 1.18
12. Yemen — 2.07
Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00
Functioning of government: 0.00
Political participation: 4.44
Political culture: 5.00
Civil liberties: 0.88
11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)
Ah, the new soldier. A blessing for the command and an absolute nightmare for the first-line supervisor. You don’t know if they’re about to blow a few paychecks worth of money on strippers, salvia, or an overpriced Camaro. Worse, they could be the kind to hit on local girls and accidentally stumble into the first sergeant’s daughter. Here’s what the sergeant wishes the new kids would know before they even showed up:
It’s a Mustang. Try to look at it without buying one. At least for the duration of the article.
(Installation Management Command, Mr. Stephen Baack)
Seriously, don’t buy the car
OMG, you have a bonus check, and a few paychecks and so many people want to loan you money against your guaranteed government paycheck (unless you are in the Coast Guard, and then it’s mostly guaranteed but not totally, right?).
But you can Uber for a week or two and wait to buy a car you actually like at a decent price instead of getting the first Camaro you can see on the lot.
Don’t care if you’re on Tinder or Grindr, just please do like, a day of due diligence before hopping in the sheets with ’em.
(U.S. Army Amy Walker)
Really, you don’t need to get laid right away
Yeah, it’s been a long time since you got some. Unless, of course, you were one of the folks hooking up with randos behind the port-a-potties at basic training during blue phase which, ew, gross. You need to get checked out.
If you can get some on your first week at a new duty base, congrats. If you happened to get some back home during leave, good work, but don’t jump through a bunch of stupid hoops to get a new notch in your belt here the first week. Feel free to take a couple of weeks to get the lay of the land, find out who’s likely healthy and who is or isn’t a good idea for a partner.
Stumbling into the first dark room you can find is a good way to trigger IEDs, not a good way to enjoy yourself.
Please don’t let that be a mug of vodka. I mean, I know the dude in the photo is a sergeant and is experienced enough to handle it, but still. (For the record, it’s a water guy holding a mug of water.)
(U.S. Army Spc. Aaron Goode)
Drink in moderation
Yeah! You can finally drink again! Time to —!
No. Just no. Go get a couple of beers and sip on them. New soldiers drinking until they asphyxiate on their own vomit is the stupidest of cliches. Get drunk. Enjoy it. Get tipsy. Fall over once or twice.
Just don’t drive, and don’t keep drinking until you fall over a balcony. Please. Your NCO support channel has their own stuff to do this weekend that doesn’t include talking to the MPs about your untimely demise.
Yeah, we weren’t gonna go out and take photos of signs outside the nearest base, so here’s a photo of a soldier who still carries coins in her pocket for some reason.
(U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Keenan)
Avoid literally any place that advertises to you
Don’t care if it says “We accept junior enlisted,” “Finance E-1 and up,” “All ranks welcome” — if it advertises to the military, you shouldn’t be there. Those signs are basically the equivalent of a “Free Candy” sign on the side of a van, and you’re the unsuspecting child.
Please, don’t get in the van.
If (s)he has a military dependent ID, (s)he’s not for you
It does not matter how many times he or she bats their eyes at you, flexes their pecks, or makes obscene gestures with their mouth while pointing at your belt, you are not to engage with them if there is a single sign that they might be the child of a military member or married to one (especially married to one).
Just go find a local hottie…or maybe set up an online dating account.
Doesn’t even matter if your form isn’t perfect. Just do some d*mn sit-ups.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell)
Do like, four sit-ups every day
Yeah, you’re out of basic and AIT. Congratulations. But when your physical training drops to just the morning formations, there’s a chance that you’re going to start sucking every time you squeeze yourself into some overly tight PT shorts. So, please, for the love of all physical training regulations and military readiness, just do a couple of sit-ups every night before you nuzzle up to your PlayStation controller.