The Taliban says it has appointed five militants who spent more than a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to be members of its political office in Qatar, where they will take part in any future Afghanistan peace talks.
The five former Taliban commanders — Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noorullah Noori — were settled in Qatar following their release from the U.S. detention center in Cuba in 2014, but until now had not been directly involved in political activities, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Oct. 31, 2018.
The men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in return for former Taliban captive, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
The Taliban announcement came amid gathering momentum for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
Qatar has emerged as a principal contact point between the Taliban and the U.S. government. In October 2018, Taliban officials met the recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.
Recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
They met there in 2018 with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.
Taliban officials said the five Taliban commanders were close to the militant group’s late founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and are also close to its current leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
One Taliban official told Reuters that as former Guantanamo prisoners, they had been subject to restrictions on their movements, but they are now free to travel and attend peace negotiations.
The appointments follow the release by Pakistan in October 2018 of senior Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
A Taliban official told AFP the group had requested the release of Baradar and several others at the meeting with Khalilzad.
Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.
This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.
It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.
Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.
This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.
“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)
Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.
It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.
Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.
(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)
A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.
Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.
He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.
Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.
For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.
The Army is issuing Soldiers a new small arms 5.56 ammunition magazine designed expressly for the M4/M4A1 carbine and M16 family of weapons.
The 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, was the first unit to receive the new “Enhanced Performance Magazine (EPM), as free issue In July,” said Anthony Cautero, Assistant Product Manager for the M4/M4A1 Carbine.
Other units are acquiring smaller quantities through the standard supply system.
Cautero said the regiment received 6,800 magazines in July.
More than 49,000 of the new magazines will be issued to other units at JBLM before the end of the year, he said.
Army engineers and scientists optimized the EPM to work with the M4/M4A1, M16 rifle, and standard military 5.56mm small arms round, the M855A1.
The M855A1, known also as the Enhanced Performance Round (EPR), has been in use since 2010.
Following the EPR’s release, engineering tests of M4/M16 rifles firing the M855A1 showed that the weapons were sensitive to the EPR’s steel tip.
A Picatinny Arsenal, N.J. engineering team subsequently made a design change to the magazine that corrected this issue.
The EPM eliminates weapon wear caused by the steel-tipped M855A1 at the upper receiver/barrel extension interface, a condition discovered during laboratory testing.
Soldiers insert the EPM into the magazine well of a carbine’s lower receiver that positions rounds for feeding.
The forward moving bolt and bolt carrier assembly strips the rounds from the magazine and feeds them smoothly into the chamber for firing.
Soldiers also can use the new magazine with the previous standard military 5.56mm round, the M855.
The EPM is tan-colored and has a blue-gray follower. The latter is the spring-loaded plastic component that positions each round up into the lower receiver of the weapon. Each magazine holds a maximum of 30 rounds.
Tests show that the EPM increases system reliability and durability.
It also ensures optimal performance in M4/M4A1 and M16 weapons when used with the EPM and EPR, Cautero said.
The Army expects to field more than 1.8 million of the new magazines over the next 12 months.
Center Industries of Wichita, Kansas, is the manufacturer.
Cautero said the Army has received more than 700,000 of the new magazines from the company to date.
When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.
Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.
The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.
Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.
(U.S. Army photo)
The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.
When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.
The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.
Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.
(U.S. Army photo)
The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.
During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:
“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”
Video posted on YouTube and numerous social media sites appears to show a Kilo-class attack submarine in very close proximity to a raging fire with thick black smoke.
The footage was filmed in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, home of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. Five submarines and a number of vessels are seen moored in close proximity to one another. Two submarines are very close to the blaze, with the fire possibly touching at least one submarine.
The Pacific Fleet’s press service released a statement saying that the fire was part of “damage control exercises,” which seems unlikely given the intensity of the blaze.
The Kilo-class submarine is one of Russia’s main non-nuclear attack submarines. Designed and first fielded in 1980, the sub has been sold to and is used by a number of countries, including China, India, Iran, and Vietnam.
Kilo-class submarines based out of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were recently used to launch cruise missiles into Syria.
The Kilos have had a history of accidents, especially in India. In 2013, a fire erupted on the INS Sindhurakshak, which caused an explosion that killed 18 crew members and sank the sub. In 2014, a fire started on the INS Sindhuratna that killed two Indian Navy officers. That fire was blamed on malfunctioning batteries.
Khizr Khan came to national prominence after his impassioned speech at last week’s Democratic National Convention. His remarks touched on the value of his son’s sacrifice for the country and why he believes Muslim immigrants should be allowed to take part in the American process.
Some of Khan’s remarks were aimed directly at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, including asking whether Trump had ever read the Constitution. In response, Trump fired back in a way that has offended many in the veteran community. Trump specifically addressed the silence of Capt. Khan’s mother, Ghazala Khan, and implied that she likely didn’t speak because her husband (and the Muslim faith) wouldn’t allow it. She later addressed his comments in a Washington Post op-ed and told him it was a mother’s grief, not her religion, that rendered her incapable of speaking.
In a joint letter, seven veterans organizations have asserted that the Khan family’s right to question the intentions and actions of presidential candidates and other potential elected officials should be respected.
We are all Gold Star Families, who have lost those we love the most in war. Ours is a sacrifice you will never know. Ours is a sacrifice we would never want you to know.
Your recent comments regarding the Khan family were repugnant, and personally offensive to us. When you question a mother’s pain, by implying that her religion, not her grief, kept her from addressing an arena of people, you are attacking us. When you say your job building buildings is akin to our sacrifice, you are attacking our sacrifice.
You are not just attacking us, you are cheapening the sacrifice made by those we lost.
Transitioning to a civilian career doesn’t have to be boring. Here are 7 ways to join the civilian workforce while preserving the adrenaline rush that made the military rewarding (and, dare we say, fun):
1. Wilderness guides
Wilderness guides help campers, hunters, and adventurers navigate the backcountry safely while teaching them survival techniques. Vets who excelled in survival training and loved patrolling through the woods will excel here. Most guides hold a certificate or degree that can be paid for with the G.I. Bill, but a degree isn’t required. Avg. Salary: $42,000
Vets who want to keep working in small teams under challenging conditions might enjoy firefighting. Candidates need to maintain their fitness and can get a toehold by volunteering for a fire company, getting a fire science degree, or preferably both. And you can really ramp up the energy as a smoke jumper. These elite firefighters parachute ahead of the path of a wildfire, laying down the first line of defense against it spreading. Avg. Salary: $39,000
Diving demands attention to detail and the ability to work under pressure, especially when something goes wrong. All diving work includes the inherent danger of working underwater, of course, but those who want to up the ante can work in shark tanks, underwater caves, or even nuclear reactors. Avg. Salary: $41,000
4. Law enforcement
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation – SWAT Team
There are many parallels between the military and law enforcement. Both require teamwork. Both wear uniforms. Both demand comfort around weapons. And both require a lot of discipline. Many police departments (like Oakland PD, for instance) have programs to recruit veterans. Also, vets can collect the G.I. Bill at many police academies on top of their academy pay from the police department. Avg. Salary: $41,000
It may not be as exciting as carrier operations, but civilian pilots are needed to fly everything from jetliners to air ambulances to news choppers. Military pilots with lots of flight hours and a good safety record can easily transition to a civilian career. Those without any experience will need to stop off at a civilian flight school first — an expensive and time-consuming proposition, but ultimately worth the effort for those who want to take to the skies. Avg. Salary: $61,000
6. Helicopter lineman
Vets who loved hanging out of helicopters while on active duty might be interested in working for utility repair companies that need people to work on remote high-voltage power lines. Aerial lineman walk along the wires or ride in a hovering helicopter. Many companies require that applicants have lineman experience before working in the air, so vets entering the field will likely start in a ground position before moving up to helo ops. Avg. Salary: $56,000
7. Videographer or photographer
Media agencies need footage and pictures from extreme weather events, war zones, and disaster areas. Media specialists and combat camera vets are ready-on-arrival for these sorts of assignments. And like the military, the job requires a lot of travel and can be dangerous. Avg. Salary: $52,000
The Army is working on a future Bradley Fighting Vehicle variant possibly armed with lasers, counter-drone missiles, active protection systems, vastly improved targeting sights, and increased on-board power to accommodate next-generation weapons and technologies.
Also designed to be lighter weight, more mobile, and much better protected, the emerging Bradley A5 lethality upgrade is already underway — as the Army works vigorously to ensure it is fully prepared if it is called upon to engage in major mechanized, force-on-force land war against a technically advanced near-peer rival.
As the Army pursues a more advanced A5, engineered to succeed the current upgraded A4, it is integrating 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared sensors for Commanders and Gunners sights, spot trackers for dismounted soldiers to identify targets and an upgraded chassis with increased underbelly protections, and a new ammunition storage configuration, Col. James, Schirmer Project Manager Armored Fighting Vehicles, said earlier this Fall at AUSA.
BAE Systems, maker of the Bradley, told Warrior the platform’s modernization effort is designed in three specific stages. The first stage in the modernization process was the Bradley Track Suspension to address suspension upgrades, BAE statements said. The subsequent Bradley A4 Engineering Change Proposal, soon to enter production, improves mobility and increases electrical power generation. More on-board power can bring the technical means to greatly support advanced electronics, command and control systems, computing power, sensors, networks, and even electronic warfare technologies.
Maj. Gen. David Bassett, former Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems, described the upgrades in terms of A3 and A4 focusing upon the Bradley from the turret ring down — leading the A5 effort to more heavily modernize Bradley systems from the turret up. This includes weapons sights, guns, optics, next-generation signals intelligence, and even early iterations of artificial intelligence, and increased computer automation.
During several previous interviews with Warrior, Bassett has explained that computer-enabled autonomous drones will likely be operated by nearby armored combat vehicles, using fast emerging iterations of artificial intelligence. These unmanned systems, operated by human crews performing command and control from nearby vehicles, could carry ammunition, conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy defenses or even fire weapons – all while allowing manned crews to remain at a safer stand-off distance. At one point, Bassett told Warrior that, in the future, virtually all armored vehicles will have an ability to be tele-operated, if necessary.
Also, while Army Bradley developers did not specifically say they planned to arm Bradleys with laser weapons, such innovation is well within the realm of the possible. Working with industry, the Army has already shot down drone targets with Stryker-fired laser weapons, and the service currently has several laser weapons programs at various stages of development. This includes ground-fired Forward Operating Base protection laser weapons as well as vehicle-mounted lasers. A key focus for this effort, which involves a move to engineer a much stronger 100-kilowatt vehicle-fired laser, is heavily reliant upon an ability to integrate substantial amounts of mobile electrical power into armored vehicles.
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump invited military mothers and spouses to the White House May 9, 2018, in honor of Mother’s Day, and the president signed an executive order to enable military spouses to find work more easily in the private and federal sectors.
“Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday, is celebrated just one time per year,” the first lady said to the gathering in the White House East Room. “Today, I want to take this opportunity to let you all know that as mothers who are members of the military community, you deserve recognition for not only your love for your … children, but for the dedication and sacrifice you make on behalf of our country each and every day,” she said.
The president said he was honored by the presence of military spouses. “We celebrate your heroic service — and that’s exactly what it is,” he said.
The president talked about spouses’ hardships during long deployments. “Some of them are much longer than you ever bargained for, and you routinely move your families around the country and all over the world,” the president said.
(Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
“[My] administration is totally committed to every family that serves in the United States armed forces,” Trump said. “Earlier this year, I was proud to sign that big pay raise … and I am proud of it.”
Noting that the White House is taking action to expand employment opportunities for military spouses, the president said service members’ spouses would be given “treatment like never before,” noting that the unemployment rate among military spouses is more than 90 percent.
But that is going to change, he added.
“[For] a long time, military spouses have already shown the utmost devotion to our nation, and we want to show you our devotion in return,” the president said. “America owes a debt of gratitude to our military spouses — we can never repay you for all that you do.”
Following his remarks, Trump signed an executive order addressing military spouse unemployment by providing greater opportunities for military spouses to be considered for federal competitive service positions.
The order holds agencies accountable for increasing their use of the noncompetitive hiring authority for military spouses, and American businesses across the country are also encouraged to expand job opportunities for military spouses, the president said.
For most people, going to the gym is a safe place for people to work out and burn off stress. Unfortunately, not all gym goers show up for the right reasons. They show up to watch others break a sweat and find an angle to hit on people.
Now, it’s okay to meet and interact with other patrons while you’re at the gym. In fact, it’s recommended for everybody to open lines of communication when the situation presents itself. However, there are definitely people that don’t know how to find ways of producing normal interactions.
Instead, they watch people they’re attracted to from far away, looking for an excuse to start up a conversation or any type of communication. These are called “gym creepers.” Although they tend to work out every so often, their mission is to hit on every person they find attractive — until someone gives in.
Most gym creepers don’t even know they’ve been secretly given that title. So we came up with a list to let you know if you’re one of them.
When you first enter the gym, you’re usually greeted by a staff member at the check-in desk. It’s their job to be as helpful as possible. This doesn’t mean you should start flirting with them immediately because they smiled at you when you entered.
There is nothing wrong with carrying on a light conversation with one of them, however, if you continually become a chatterbox every time you see them because you think you’ll eventually score a date — you might be a gym creeper.
Staring at people in the mirror
This is one of the ultimate signs you’re a gym creeper. If you’re lifting weights and roll your eyes in the direction where a cute guy or girl is workout via the mirror, there is a good chance you’re gym creeping. It’s okay to look at an attractive person once in a while during a rest period, but when you start staring, that’s when things can get weird.
People in the gym are highly mobile as they move from one workout station to the other. That’s pretty standard. If a good-looking gym patron that was working next to you gets up and travels to a new area to continue their exercises and you follow them to stay close, you might be a gym creeper.
Most people will get a pass if this minor stalking occurs once or maybe twice. But when it continues from area-to-area, you’re definitely a gym creeper.
Asking your gym crush random questions
Some people will do practically anything to get a chance to talk to their gym crushes. But, unless that moment happens naturally, it’s pretty awkward to walk up to them with a random question.
“Do you lift here often?”
Yes, they do. And yes, they’ve heard that question before. Cue eye-rolls from everyone else nearby.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. joined the Army so he could do something different. But first, he had to do something extraordinary.
Just seven months ago, the 6-foot-1-inch teenager was overweight at 317 pounds and unable to pass the Army’s weight requirements.
The former high school football offensive lineman admitted his diet was full of carbohydrates, but he vowed to slim down so he could sign up.
Luis, 18, recalled being part of something bigger than himself while playing on his football team, and he craved for that again with the Army.
“I transferred that same mentality over to life after high school,” he said Aug. 14, 2019.
Initially, his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long, was skeptical, but still supported his goal.
Long, who has served as a recruiter for almost four years, said he often sees potential recruits struggle to pass requirements even when they only have a few pounds to lose.
“They never put the effort into it,” he said. “They never actually care enough and they don’t go anywhere. And then you turn around and you got someone like Luis.”
Before and after shots of Luis Enrique Pinto Jr., who lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. Luis enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
Luis was born in Oakland, but later grew up in Peru and Las Vegas. He currently works as an electrician at construction sites, but recently decided he wanted to be the first in his family to serve in the U.S. military.
“You’ve got one life. I don’t want to wake up and do the same thing every single day,” he said. “There’s a whole world out there.”
Before he could sign the enlistment papers, he cracked down on his diet and stepped up his fitness to cut his weight.
Cardio was his toughest hurdle, he said. He began to do high-intensity interval training where he switched between jogs and sprints to improve his run time.
“Running wasn’t my strong suit,” he said. “Carrying all that extra weight and trying to run definitely increased my time.”
As the months dragged on, he extended his interval training. He now runs 1 mile in just six minutes and 30 seconds — about half the time he ran it when he first started.
His mother also motivated him to hit the gym, especially on those days when he felt like taking an off day.
“One thing she told me is to just show up,” he said. “Just show up and don’t worry about the workout that’s to come. You show up at the gym and once you’re there, you’re already there so might as well just get it over with.”
The near-daily workouts began to pay off and he shed pound after pound — 113 of them to be exact.
Now at 204 pounds, Luis has also seen a positive change in his attitude.
“When I was big, I was really insecure,” he said. “Now I’m walking with my head up high.”
His recruiter said Luis’ dedication to lose over 100 pounds should be an inspiration to others.
“That’s a human. He lost the equivalent of a human in seven months,” Long said.
Luis Enrique Pinto Jr. with his recruiter, Staff Sgt. Philip Long. Luis lost 113 pounds in seven months in order to pass the Army’s weight requirements. With help from his recruiter, he enlisted as a 14E, which is responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, and plans to report to basic training in September 2019.
With help from his recruiter, Luis was able to enlist as a 14E — responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot weapon systems, one of the world’s most advanced missile systems.
The new job also came with a ,000 bonus.
Luis plans to report to basic training in early September 2019. He started future soldier training this week to learn what to expect in the weeks ahead as well as in his Army career.
He also blew past the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which the Army now administers to new recruits to ensure they can physically perform a certain job.
“Every event was like it was made for him; it was easy,” Long said.
Whatever the challenge Luis may face in the Army, his recruiter has no doubt he can overcome it.
“To have that heart and that drive to keep pushing forward, it’s impressive. It got him to where he can enlist in the Army,” Long said. “That mentality is going to carry him through his career and through life and he’ll be extremely successful.”
Luis said he looks forward to the extra physical training within the Army lifestyle, as he now aims to drop down to 190 pounds.
“Hitting my goal weight definitely isn’t my end goal,” he said. “There’s still way more to come. I still want to get better.”
But for now, the wardrobe the Army plans to issue him should at least accommodate his current figure.
“I pretty much use my old shirts for blankets at this point,” he said, laughing.
Hellenic Navy frigate HN Aegean, front, and US Navy guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto in the Mediterranean Sea, July 26, 2020. US Navy/MCS3 Sawyer Haskins
In the last month, Greece and Turkey, two US and NATO allies, have repeatedly come close to a military clash over a piece of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
The latest tension ignited after Turkey reserved an area in the Eastern Mediterranean to survey for underwater natural resources. But the area is within the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Greece (though Greece hasn’t formally declared an EEZ due to tensions with Turkey).
Turkey disputes Greek sovereignty and has deployed the research vessel Oruç Reis to the region with a fleet of warships to guard it. Greece has responded by sending its fleet.
The survey ship Oruc Reis sailing with Turkish warships. Turkish Ministry of Defense
Despite the Turkish claims, and according to international law, the area of sea in question and the seabed under it belong to Greece because of the small island of Kastellorizo.
Although the island is about 2 miles from Turkey, it is inhabited and part of Greece. Thus, according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Kastellorizo has the same rights as any other part of Greece.
Kastellorizo, Greece’s easternmost island, is just 2 miles from mainland Turkey. Google Maps
The two fleets have been circling one another as tensions simmer, threatening to explode with the slightest accident, such as one a few days ago when Turkish frigate Kemal Reis tried to overtake Greek frigate Limnos.
Due to poor seamanship, however, the Turkish vessel did not calculate its path correctly and was rammed by the Greek warship. Although the damage was not life-threatening, the Turkish ship had to go into port for immediate repairs.
The Turkish frigate Kemal Reis after colliding with Greek frigate Limnos. Hellenic Ministry of Defense
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has calculated that this is the opportune time to act. Indeed, the international stars seem to be aligned in his country’s favor.
First, the US is heading toward a heated presidential election, which has historically distracted American attention from foreign affairs.
Second, Erdogan has a close relationship with the White House and has used it to reassure its ally.
Third, Ankara is shrewdly using Germany’s current presidency of the EU Council, which rotates between EU members every six months.
Germany and Turkey share a lucrative trade partnership. According to the World Bank, in 2018, Germany exported almost .5 billion worth of goods to Turkey and imported just over billion, making Berlin third in both imports and exports among Ankara’s trading partners. There is also a significant ethnic Turkish population in Germany that influences German politicians’ decision-making.
Despite its relatively weak global voice, Berlin is a leader in Europe, mostly because of its powerful economy, and has assumed the role of an umpire in this dispute.
The Greek position is to abide by international law, which is on its side, and meet every Turkish provocation with determination and force. Meanwhile, Greek diplomacy has managed to isolate Turkey, with a host of nations — including Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel — condemning Turkey’s actions. The US and France have conducted military drills with Greece in the area as a show of solidarity. (The US and Turkey have also conducted recent exercises.)
Crucially, Greece’s chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Constantine Floros, has said that a Greek response to a Turkish attack would not be confined to a particular area, likely making Turkish officials think twice before acting.
The Turkish position is to force Greece to the negotiating table — something, interestingly, that Greece also wants and has looked for since Turkey unilaterally stopped diplomatic discussions on the issue in 2016.
Ankara understands that its position in terms of international law is weak and its allies in the region few. Thus it believes that threatening war would make Greece more amenable to an agreement that gives Turkey a slice of the natural resources pie.
Turkey does not recognize the International Court of Justice or UNCLOS, both of which would be key in settling the dispute.
Implications for the US
The implications for the US and for NATO of a conflict between two members of the alliance are hard to judge. There has never been an incident where two NATO allies came to blows.
US-Turkish relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years. Turkey’s purchase the advanced Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system prompted the US to refuse delivery of the F-35 fighter jet. The Turkish invasion of northern Syria and targeting of the Kurds, a longtime US partner and a leader in the fight against ISIS, led to sanctions against senior Turkish officials and to tariffs on Turkish steel.
Moreover, the recent revelation that Ankara has been providing Turkish citizenship and passports to Hamas operatives is bound to further upset US-Turkish relations. The US declared Hamas a terrorist organization in 1997. The passports offer great freedom of travel to Hamas terrorists, aiding their malign activities.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill during an exercise with Turkish navy frigates TCG Barbaros and Burgazada in the Mediterranean Sea, August 2020. US Naval Forces Europe-Africa
The US does not want to push Turkey toward Russia or Iran, and successive US administrations have recognized the country’s value to US interests in the region, both in its general location and in the assets based there, like the nuclear missiles in Incirlik Air Base.
Yet if Turkey needs to be pushed to change its behavior — as its actions suggest it would be — then the US will have to rethink the geopolitical balance in the region.
Erdogan understands and takes advantage of his country’s strategic importance to the US, leveraging it to pursue an increasingly pugnacious foreign policy that often directly conflicts with the US’s.
If it comes to blows, the US and EU will call for an immediate end to the hostilities but probably do little more than that. It’s likely, then, that Greece and Turkey will sort it out between themselves, with the lasting geopolitical implications only becoming clear once the smoke has cleared.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (National Service with the 575th Marine Battalion Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
Ryan Hendrickson is a retired Green Beret who’s been through a lot. Despite overwhelming challenges, he refuses to wear the title of victim and instead calls himself a survivor. He wants you to do the same.
Tip of the Spear wasn’t supposed to be a book. It started as a journal for Hendrickson, a way to work through his thoughts and post-traumatic stress. But after a few months, he saw something in those writings – as did friends. “The therapeutic effect I got from writing actually turned into a book. I had to see the silver lining in something as bad as stepping on an IED [improvised explosive device]. A lot of people that were reading it said the book talks to everyone — not just military — as far as not being a victim in your life,” Hendrickson explained.
In September of 2010, Hendrickson was deployed to Afghanistan as an 18 Charlie, a Special Forces Engineer with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th special forces. He had just completed the elite schooling to earn the coveted Green Beret and was feeling on top of the world. The first chapter of Tip of the Spear takes the reader vividly through what it’s like to arrive in Afghanistan – and the mission that changed his life.
When Hendrickson and his team entered the deserted Afghan village before dawn, he said he knew something big was coming. When his interpreter went too far ahead of uncleared ground, he had no choice but to quickly and quietly get him back. “I grabbed him by the back of the shirt and moved him around. You never like to have any unknown area or blind spot, so I put the muzzle of my M-4 in the doorway of the compound and stepped back… right onto the IED,” he shared.
Hendrickson said he didn’t realize he hit it at first, remembering that he just felt like he couldn’t breathe because of the heavy dust and ammonia in the air. “As the dust started to clear, I saw that my boot was six inches away from my leg…When I reached behind my knee to pull my leg up, my boot sort of flopped over with my toes pointed at me. I saw these two pearly white objects sticking out of my pant leg. Then it kicked in that it was bone,” he said.
It was then that Hendrickson realized it was really bad. His team couldn’t rush in to support him either, since they knew that if there was one IED, there were probably five. His interpreter started a tourniquet, effectively saving his life. After a while, his team was able to safely make it to him and they got him out. “We could hear the Taliban on chatter celebrating that I got hit and that they were going to move into position to ambush us. They splinted the leg the best they could to put the lower and upper part together,” he said.
Hendrickson was in theater for over a week as they tried to stabilize him and keep him alive. When he made it to San Antonio, it would take 28 surgeries to reattach his leg. Then the real work began. “I had a sergeant major who came in to see me; he told me if I could get medically cleared he’d send me back to combat. That was the big driving factor behind me taking control of my life and hitting rehab as hard as I could. That and knowing the Taliban were cheering when I got hurt. I wasn’t going to let them beat me or win,” he explained.
Although he was medically retired, Hendrickson refused to accept it. After spending a grueling year in rehabilitation, he passed all the required tests and was reinstated into active duty through a special waiver. In March of 2012 – only a year and a half after almost losing his leg to an IED – his boots were back in the sands of Afghanistan.
It wasn’t easy though, he shared. The guys he was working with were concerned he’d be a liability. Hendrickson was sent to the biggest known IED province of Afghanistan, a real test given his own experience. He had to prove himself to his teammates and did it by methodically finding IED after IED, keeping them all safe.
Hendrickson would continue to serve and deploy for years after that. In 2016, he earned a Silver Star for heroic efforts during a difficult seven-hour firefight in Afghanistan. “It wasn’t what I did, it was what we did…It’s the same thing all of us say, we were just doing our job,” he shared. He headed home fromAfghanistan in 2017 and found himself struggling with a lot, mentally.
After trying unsuccessfully to talk with a counselor, he sought help through the chaplain. He advised him to write, using that avenue to tell his story and work through his thoughts. Those thoughts and writing were unknowingly turning into a story of his life, both the good and the bad. It was here that he found healing and the deep resiliency he needed to never feel like a victim again.
Tip of the Spear will bring the reader on a powerful journey through a difficult childhood leading to military service spanning three branches, ultimately leading Hendrickson to become an elite Green Beret. The story culminates with the unfathomable challenge of coming back from an injury that almost took his life and was certainly considered the end of his military career. Hendrickson refused to quit and fought his way past the odds stacked against him.
It’s Hendrick’s hope that readers will use his journey to be inspired to do the same in their own lives. Anything is possible he says, but first you have to become a survivor, not a victim.
To purchase your copy of Tip of the Spear, click here.