A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. (Wikimedia Commons)
Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.
The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.
But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.
Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.
On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.
“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.
A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.
According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.
Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.
“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.
But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.
“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”
In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.
“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.
The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.
While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”
“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.
Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.
A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.
“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.
In the mid ’80s, TheA-Team was a hit action-comedy television show about a crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escape from a maximum security stockade and find their way into the Los Angeles underground. Throughout the series, they survive as soldiers of fortune wanted by the government.
Over the course of five seasons, the A-Team turns to mercenary work and travels the world, stopping villains-of-the-week and trying to clear their names. Of course, throughout the 98-episode run of the series, plenty of unrealistic events get overlooked (i.e. “B.A.” gets shot with a .50 cal in the leg and walks it off later that episode).
That being said, let’s take a look at the major events that kicked off the entire awesome series with a more critical eye — there’re a few problems at play here.
The A-Team consists of Col. “Hannibal” Smith, Lt. “Faceman” Peck, Sgt. 1st Class “B.A.” Baracus, and Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock. The fictional Green Berets were told to rob the Bank of Hanoi to defund the NVA under military orders. They were successful in seizing the gold bullions, but the only person who knew they were on official duty was killed before they returned. They were stung and became the fall-guys for the theft. They’re sent to prison, escape, and become mercenaries before the pilot episode begins.
The often-mentioned, but detail foggy, event revolved around a covert mission to rob the bank under the command of one man, Col. Morrison. He was killed and everything pertaining to the mission was burnt to the ground. In reality, nearly every mission ever, no matter how covert, is known by more than five people and a mission this sensitive would have been scouted, mapped, and supported by a number of specialists. Somebody other than just Colonel Morrison would be available in court to testify that they were acting under orders.
Yet, the A-Team is still guilty. Every troop has the right and the duty to disobey an unlawful order. Sure, the Bank of Hanoi may have been bankrolling NVA forces, but they were also a civilian bank. Attacking a bank in a poor, war-torn country and stealing the money that may also belong to civilians is against many articles of the Geneva Convention.
Regardless of the context, pillaging is a war crime under both Fourth Geneva Convention; Articles 33-34 and Protocol II; Article 4 of the Geneva Convention. An attack on a civilian complex, despite allegiance to an enemy, goes against Protocol I; Articles 43-44 because the armed robbery was against non-combatants. And obviously, escape from prison is classified as a crime.
Surprisingly enough, many things they do as mercenaries (when they’re hired on for missions by a third party for both combat and bounty-hunting missions) and as vigilantes (when they act where law enforcement in its absence) are clear in the eyes of the law. Rocky start aside, The A-Team is an amazing show, who’s most popular prior-service character is actually prior service.
The Times Free Press in November 2016 published a story that included information about Vietnam veteran Stephen D. Holloway, who was speaking at a Veterans Day event in Pikeville, Tenn., and claimed to be the most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Holloway’s public claims were challenged by veterans of Vietnam and other conflicts, and the Times Free Press has spent more than a year investigating his military record. To date, Holloway maintains his claims are accurate, though few of his medals and awards have convincing documentation. This is part 2 of a two-day series.
The U.S. Supreme Court deemed lying about military service or medals a matter of free speech when in 2012 it struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Intentionally lying about, embellishing or fabricating one’s military service, medals or awards was protected speech under the First Amendment, the court ruled. But in 2013, President Barack Obama signed a revised version of the Stolen Valor Act that defined the violation as relating to fraudulent claims about military service “with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”
In other words, lies that materially benefited the person who uttered them could be a criminal violation. That’s aside from the fact that many veterans feel lies about military records or medals diminishes the sacrifices made by others.
The embellishment of military service records is not rare. But it is rarely prosecuted by federal authorities under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
Mary Schantag, chairwoman of the POW Network, has investigated hundreds of cases in which people’s lofty claims about their military service turned out to be false.
She said that, without a prosecutor willing to take on a stolen valor case, the best way to fight back usually is to publicly question a person’s claims.
“If he was asked, did he refuse to provide orders? Did he claim they burned? Did he claim he lost them? Did he claim they’re secret?” Schantag said.
“The ball basically is in his court, and there would be a lot of guys out there asking the same question: Why is it on his DD-214? [military discharge papers] Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the orders? Where’s the evidence?”
Schantag said she has seen close to 100 cases in which false information got into military records, whether through self-editing, intimidation of a clerk who handled documents or other means.
“Unless there are orders for this someplace, unless [the claimant] has witnesses, it’s still questionable,” she said.
Violation of the Stolen Valor Act is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. The problem is finding a federal agency with the resources and staffing to devote to the cases, Schantag said.
“They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,” Schantag said. “It’s common sense. That’s reality. But the state level may have the ability to pick that up. It’s a federal crime in most instances, falsifying military records but it pales in comparison to the level of other crimes going on that the FBI has to go after.”
Several states have stolen valor laws on the books, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to news reports.
Schantag’s voice began to break when she described her passion for the issue.
“It is to make sure our military history and the lives lost to fight for freedom, to make sure those things are accurately told,” she said. “These liars are changing military history and if you think about it, 50 to 100 years from now, who’s going to be able to figure out the truth or a lie?”
Stolen valor takes away from those who spilled blood and, in some cases, lost their lives, she said.
“You get these guys that want that status,” Schantag said. “But they didn’t earn it. They don’t have the nightmares these other guys wake up with because of what they went through. They just want the recognition. They don’t want the pain. They don’t want the nightmares. They just want to be somebody’s hero, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Stolen valor has been a high-profile issue in East Tennessee and the region before.
Charles Kaczmarczyk and his wife, Martha, were the focus of an NBC “Dateline” program titled “Secrets in the Smoky Mountains” that aired in the fall of 2016, revealing how a Veterans Affairs investigation showed they faked military service and disabilities to obtain fraudulent benefits.
The investigation also led to the revelation that Martha Kaczmarczyk murdered her ex-husband as the con began. News reports detailed an initial indictment accusing Charles Kaczmarczyk of creating fake Air Force documents showing medals and decorations he did not earn, as the couple reaped benefits in their social status and finances.
The Monroe County couple is in prison now, with Martha sentenced to 50 years for her ex-husband’s murder.
In April, military veteran and former Holly Springs, Ga., police officer Shane Ladner was convicted by a Cherokee County jury on six felony counts of making false statements. Jurors found he lied about awards he received from the Army in the early 1990s, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
Ladner had told people he carried out top-secret missions in Central America, Cuba and Somalia. He led people to believe he was a decorated war hero who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during a firefight in Central America, according to the Journal.
Jurors convicted Ladner of submitting a falsified DD-214 to his former employers and to the Cherokee County Tag Office to obtain a tax-exempt Purple Heart license plate for his Ford F-150.
In a 2016 story about a Veterans Day ceremony in Pikeville, Tenn., Vietnam veteran Stephen Douglas Holloway told the Times Free Press he was a POW and had earned more than 50 medals, including nine Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, three Army Commendation Medals, three presidential citations and scores of others.
But those medals were not all listed on Holloway’s military severance documents the newspaper obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, part of the National Archives.
A primary release paper, the DD-214, is given to all military service members when they are discharged. Holloway has two DD-214s filed in the National Archive for his first enlistment. They’re identical except for the awards listed.
One of the National Archive copies and a matching copy provided by a family member show Holloway earned a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal.
The other says he also earned “(9) PURPLE HEARTS, BRONZE STAR, ARCOM W/V, SILVER STAR.”
Veteran students of military documents and fakery contacted by the Times Free Press saw several problems with that DD-214.
The awards are out of order, for one thing, and the rarity of a Silver Star, in combination with the other suspicious claims, raises questions about that award, as well. Of the 60 million people to have served in the American military, only about 130,000 earned the Silver Star, experts said.
Bruce Kendrick, a member of Ernie Pyle Chapter 1945 of the Military Order of Purple Hearts, said Holloway’s failure to provide proof of his awards is suspicious, too. Decorated veterans usually are happy to produce documentation of their service and medals, he said.
“If somebody sees me wearing this [military veteran’s] hat and they say, ‘I don’t believe you,’ then I’ll prove it. I don’t mind it. It’s not going to offend me or anything like that,” Kendrick said. “I’ll get out my DD-214 and if that doesn’t satisfy them, I’ll meet them somewhere else and I’ll bring them these things, and I’ll bring these pictures and I’ll bring them these orders and let them read them.
“It’s that important to me,” he said.
Two national experts in the area of stolen valor contend that anyone awarded nine Purple Hearts would be a national hero, a legend.
The fact that no one has heard of Holloway is one of many red flags raised, said Anthony Anderson, founder and CEO of Guardian of Valor LLC and a retired Army staff sergeant.
Virginian Doug Sterner, founder of the organization Home of Heroes and its website, echoes Anderson’s assessment. Sterner and his wife, Pam, in the last decade or so played a role in the early versions of the federal legislation.
Sterner noted details of the major decorations listed on Holloway’s DD-214. Pointing to horizontal alignment of the type and some differences in the shape of the characters and the spaces between them, he said the document looks like “it went through at least two iterations on at least two typewriters.”
Also, Sterner said the awards are in reverse order of the way they should be listed, with the most valorous medals first and the lesser ones — the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal — last.
“It’s obvious to me that those four awards were added to the DD-214 and were not put on there when the DD-214 was actually generated,” Sterner said.
Sterner said a fire at the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, destroyed 16-18 million military personnel files. Because of that, veterans are allowed to submit paperwork to be placed in their files, an opportunity that could be tempting for people who wanted to embellish their records.
Records show Holloway is a Vietnam veteran who served almost 27 months as a supply clerk with the 71st Transportation Battalion between Jan. 5, 1967, and Aug. 17, 1969, before being honorably discharged as an E-5, or Specialist Second-Class.
A Statement of Service obtained by the newspaper dated Aug. 1, 1983, said Holloway was honorably transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve on Aug. 17, 1969, where he remained until he was honorably discharged Sept. 7, 1971. Then he re-enlisted Sept. 8, 1971, for four years but was discharged “under honorable conditions” in just over 11 months.
According to The Fort Hood Sentinel, an Army newspaper, there are five types of discharge: Honorable; General, Under Honorable Conditions; Under Other than Honorable Conditions; Bad Conduct; and Dishonorable.
The documents obtained by the newspaper show Holloway’s rank at his second discharge as E-4, which is lower than E-5. The documents did not explain the difference, and other paperwork obtained by the Times Free Press — “2-1” jackets, manila document holders with an index listing the contents — link many of the claimed medals to the time period associated with the Army Reserve, despite the fact that the box for listing “wounds” is empty though Holloway claimed to have been wounded in combat nine times. Officials have said the 2-1 forms can be modified by civilians or veterans.
Anderson said that, given the medals he claims, Holloway should have at least maintained his rank or been given a significant promotion, unless there was a problem with his service.
The Times Free Press has asked the National Personnel Records Center for documents related to Holloway’s second tour of duty. The paper also contacted Holloway’s family members throughout the past year but, beyond providing one of the DD-214s the newspaper has now obtained, they have declined to participate in the story.
There are three vehicles at Holloway’s Hixson residence, two that bear Tennessee-issued Purple Heart license plates and one that has a Tennessee-issued Silver Star plate. The Times Free Press has verified that all three are registered in Holloway’s name.
Is there an investigation underway in Holloway’s case?
Since early summer, Anderson and Sterner’s requests for Holloway’s military service records have been stymied. Both say they were told the records had been released to someone else or possibly another government agency. The Times Free Press shared the records it obtained so far with the military experts and veterans who assisted with the story.
Anderson and Sterner said they have encountered only two reasons for the files to be removed by another government agency: an investigation to add earned commendations or awards or an investigation into a problem in the record.
When the United States as a nation was in its infancy, President George Washington even weighed in on the issue of claiming unearned military awards. On Aug. 7, 1782, as a military general, Washington issued a general order creating several new military decorations for the Continental Army, among them the Badge of Military Merit, which would later become the Purple Heart when it was reconstituted by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, according to the website dedicated to the history of the first president, mountvernon.org.
“[S]hould any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished,” Washington states in the order.
A member of the “shark watch” on a Coast Guard cutter had to open fire on a shark this week to dissuade it from continuing to approach his crew mates.
When you’re out on the open ocean, even recreational activities require proper planning and safety precautions, as the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball demonstrated in dramatic photos released earlier this week.
A carefully planned swim call, or a period of recreational swimming organized by the ship’s crew, started like any other — with rescue swimmers standing by and an armed “shark watch” standing guard from an elevated position, keeping his eyes trained on the surface of the water for any signs of danger.
Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball during a swim call (Coast Guard photo)
The Coast Guard maintains a “shark watch” or a “polar bear watch” any time crew members are in the water and there’s potential for danger posed by indigenous wildlife. This time, it was Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron who was tasked with keeping a lookout for any aspiring “Jaws” star as other members of the crew got a chance to kick back and enjoy the warm Pacific water.
Maritime Enforcement Specialist 1st Class Samuel Cintron on Shark Watch (Coast Guard)
It wasn’t long before Cintron and others spotted the grey silhouette of what appeared to be a longfin mako or pelagic thresher shark approaching the swimming crew. Cintron stood ready, and as the shark closed to within 30 feet or so of the swimmers, Cintron was ordered by his chief to open fire. The gunfire likely came as a real shock to the swimmers; many of whom were not aware of the approaching shark until the shots rang out.
Cintron fired a “well-aimed burst right at/on top of the shark to protect shipmates just feet away,” according to a post on the Coast Guard’s Facebook page. It seemed to do the trick at first, only to have the shark once again turn and close with the swimming crew, who were now working to evacuate the water in a calm and organized manner. As the shark once again closed to within 30 or so feet, Cintron fired another burst.
Cintron firing on the approaching shark. (Coast Guard photo)
“ME1 fired bursts as needed to keep the shark from his shipmates with amazing accuracy. The shark would wave off with each burst but kept coming back toward our shipmates,” according to the post.
It’s important to note that bullets lose a significant amount of energy the minute they impact water. In fact, it’s common for bullets to come apart and tumble harmlessly in just a few inches of water. There was no blood in the water near the shark, and according to Coast Guard public affairs, there were no indications that the predator was injured in the altercation.
The close encounter with a shark ultimately proved harmless, with the entire crew back on board and only one reported injury (a scrape, ironically enough, right in the middle of a tattoo of shark jaws on one crew member’s leg). Still, this unusual engagement is incredibly rare. According to Military.com’s Patricia Kime, the last reported shark sighting during a Coast Guard or Navy swim call was in 2009, and no shots were fired.
“We have hundreds of years at sea between all of us and no one has seen or heard of a shark actually showing up during a swim call. This goes to show why we prepare for any and everything,” ship officials wrote.
But you may not know that Stewart has been an advocate for troops throughout his tenure, and has used his show on occasion to advocate for veterans and veteran-related causes. Here are five times in recent years he tried to make a difference:
When he brought on Eric Greitens, CEO and Founder of The Mission Continues, to discuss how returning veterans could transition into service and leadership roles in the civilian world.
Since the 1960s TV version of Batman there have been a lot of Jokers, Riddlers, Penguins, and Commissioner Gordons. And now, the new version of The Batman will reportedly add two more versatile actors to the Robert Pattinson take on the caped-crusader. Biff! Pow! Get ready for Jonah Hill and Jeffrey Wright! But holy casting riddle Batman, who are they playing?
Variety reports that Jonah Hill and Jeffrey Wright are in talks to play the as-yet-unknown villain in the film and Commissioner Gordon, respectively. No one has signed on the dotted line as of yet but, at least in Hill’s case, “both sides are engaging” in talks. Director Matt Reeves, who helmed the last two Planet of the Apes films, paused casting of supporting roles until he’d found his Batman. Pattinson signed on in May 2019, so Reeves was free to fill in a cast around him.
For our money, both are inspired choices. Wright, known for his role on HBO’s Westworld, has the raspy baritone and comforting presence to play Batman’s greatest Gotham PD ally. He seemed to confirm his involvement with a cryptic tweet in response to Reeves.
Hill has not posted any such evidence to social media, but he has shown remarkable chops in everything from juvenile comedies (Superbad, 21 Jump Street) to prestige dramas (The Wolf of Wall Street, which got him an Oscar nomination) to sci-fi (Netflix’s Maniac).
All in all, we’d see an indie drama starring these three, as Pattinson has moved on from his Twilight days to more serious fare like The Lighthouse, an intense black-and-white indie that will premiere next month. To have them in a film set in such a rich fictional universe should be seen as good news to anyone rooting for a quality reboot.
The biggest question prompted by the news: which villain would Hill play? The Penguin was widely speculated, but Collider reports that The Riddler is actually the more likely part, given the prominence of the role in the script and Hill’s longtime admiration for Jim Carrey.
The Batman will hit theaters on June 25, 2021.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
“This is actually how we would get SEALs off the ship submerged,” Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub told Business Insider.
“So you would stick a platoon of SEALs in here, 14 guys … you fill this chamber with water until you match the outer sea pressure. Once the pressure in and outside the ship match, the hatch will lift off open, and they can swim out of a fully filled chamber into open ocean.”
Once the chamber is filled with water, matching the pressure inside and out, “there’s an internal locking mechanism that would open” the top hatch where SEALs swim out, Senior Chief Darryl Wood told Business Insider.
The SEALs can then swim to retrieve what is known as a special-forces operations box, which would be filled with weapons and needed gear, from the tower.
In addition to getting SEALs off the ship, lockout trunks can be used for the entire crew to escape in case the submarine is downed.
This video gives a close-up look at the lockout trunk:
If you ever attend a military funeral or memorial ceremony, you may notice a group of men and women proudly holding rifles. Then, at a specific time, they aim their weapons up to the sky and fire, usually causing a slight stir in the crowd, even though everyone was expecting it to happen.
Don’t worry — those rounds are just blanks.
This practice is quite common throughout the world and, as with many traditions, it has a practical origin. Back when ships carried cannons, it was universally understood that immediately after firing, these weapons were rendered ineffective for a period of time — after all, reloading took a while. So, in order to demonstrate peaceful intent, ships would turn their cannons to the sky and discharge, telling those ashore that a ship’s weapons weren’t live.
Nobody knows why ships were designed, at one point, to carry precisely seven cannon. Some theorize that it’s related to the seven phases of the moon, others think it has to do with the biblical week, and some say it’s simply because seven is a lucky freakin’ number.
The cannon in shore batteries (with ample stores of dry, usable gunpowder) would fire three shots in return for every single shot they heard coming from the sea. For all you math geniuses out there, that equals 21 cannon shots. Upon hearing the return fire, ships at sea knew that the harbor was friendly — and the 21-gun salute was born.
It isn’t always 21, though. During a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the POTUS, former presidents, and presidents elect receive the traditional 21-gun salute. Other high-ranking officials, however, like the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military officers in command over multiple branches, receive a 19-gun salute.
(Photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Christine Singh)
Although hearing the 21-gun salute typically means you’re mourning the loss of a fellow patriot, know that this is a practice rooted in peace and history. With this salute, the fallen join those who gave us traditions so long ago.
Martial law came into force across a large swath of Ukraine on Nov. 28, following a clash at sea that Kyiv called an “act of aggression” by Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed was ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March.
Ukraine introduced martial law in 10 of its 27 regions — including all of those that border Russia or have coastlines — after Russian coast-guard craft rammed and fired on three Ukrainian Navy vessels off the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea on Nov. 25 before seizing the boats and detaining 24 crew members, six of whom were wounded.
Ukraine imposes martial law as tensions with Russia escalate
In two days of hearings, courts in Russian-controlled Crimea ordered all 24 to be held in custody for two months pending possible trial, defying calls from Kyiv and the West for their immediate release and also signaling that the Kremlin wants to cast the incident as a routine border violation rather than warfare at sea.
The detention period can be extended, and the Ukranians face up to six years in prison if convicted on charges of illegal border crossing.
Seems #Russia will try to barrel through aftermath of the #KerchStrait confrontation by treating it as a court case. 15 of 24 #Ukraine sailors already sentenced to 2 months pretrial detention, including three in Kerch who must be the wounded. Other 9 expected today.
In his first public comments on the incident that increased already high tensions between Kyiv and Moscow and sparked concerns of a widening of the simmering war between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Putin reiterated Russia’a accusation that the Ukrainian boats trespassed in Russian waters — a claim Kyiv has denied.
“It was without doubt a provocation,” Putin told a financial forum in Moscow.
He claimed that the confrontation was orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who opinion polls indicate faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in an election now officially scheduled for March 31.
“It was organized by the president ahead of the elections,” Putin said, adding that Poroshenko “is in fifth place, ratings-wise, and therefore had to do something. It was used as a pretext to introduce martial law.”
Putin claimed that the Ukrainian “military vessels intruded into Russian territorial waters and did not answer” the Russian coast guard. “What were they supposed to do?”
“They would do the same in your country. This is absolutely obvious,” he said, responding to a question from a foreign investor at the forum.
While laying the blame squarely on Ukraine, Putin — whose country could face fresh Western sanctions over the clash — also sought to play it down, saying it was nothing more than a border incident and calling martial law an exaggerated response.
Opinion polls in Ukraine suggest that Poroshenko faces an uphill battle in his expected bid for a second term in a presidential election scheduled for March 31.
Some Kremlin critics suspect that it was Putin who orchestrated the clash, in an attempt to bolster his own approval rating amid anger in Russia over plans to raise the retirement age.
In earlier comments at the same conference, Putin said he hopes he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 summit later this week in Argentina, as planned.
Trump cast doubt on the meeting on November 27, telling The Washington Post that he might not meet with Putin as a result of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, adding: “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”
The Ukrainian parliament late on November 26 voted to impose martial law for 30 days in the provinces that Poroshenko said are the most vulnerable to “aggression from Russia.”
The 10 provinces all border Russia or Moldova’s breakaway Transdniester region, where Russian troops are stationed, or have coastlines on the Black Sea or the Sea of Azov close to Crimea.
Among other things, martial law gives Ukrainian authorities the power to order a partial mobilization, strengthen air defenses, and take steps “to strengthen the counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and countersabotage regime and information security.”
It is the first time Ukraine has imposed martial law since Russia seized Crimea in March 2014 and backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in a war that erupted in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk the following month.
Those moves, which prompted the United States, the European Union, and others to impose sanctions on Russia, followed the downfall of a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president who was pushed from power by a pro-European protest movement known as the Maidan.
While Russian forces occupied Crimea before the takeover and are heavily involved in the war in eastern Ukraine, according to Kyiv and NATO, the clash in the Black Sea near Crimea was the first case in which Russia has acknowledged its military or law enforcement forces have fired on Ukrainians.
Before Putin made his comments, the Kremlin called the introduction of martial law a “reckless” act that “potentially could lead to the threat of an escalation of tension in the conflict region in the southeast” of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Russian military said it will bolster the defenses of Russian-controlled Crimea by add one S-400 surface-to-air missile system to the three already deployed there.”
The new air-defense missile system will soon be put on combat duty to guard Russian airspace,” Colonel Vadim Astafyev said. State-run news agency RIA Novosti said the system will be operational by the end of the year.
Moscow claims that Crimea is part of Russia, but the overwhelming majority of countries reject that and still consider it to be part of Ukraine.
Poroshenko said that Russia’s actions threatened to lead to a “full-scale war” and accused Moscow of mounting a major buildup of forces near Ukraine.
“The number of [Russian] units that have been stationed along our entire border has increased dramatically,” Poroshenko said in a television interview late on November 27, adding that the number of Russian tanks has tripled. Russia has not commented.
The clash in waters near Crimea was by far the biggest confrontation at sea after more than four years of war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,300 civilians and combatants have been killed.
It followed months of growing tension over the waters in and around the Kerch Strait, where Russia opened a bridge leading to Crimea in May.
The strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports.
In comments to The Washington Post published on November 27, Trump said he was considering canceling his scheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires on November 30-December 1.
Trump told The Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” from his national-security team about the incident.
“That will be very determinative,” Trump told The Washington Post. “Maybe I won’t even have the meeting…I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on November 28 that “preparations are continuing, the meeting was agreed.”
“We don’t have any other information from [U.S. officials],” he said when asked about Trump’s comments.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert urged European states to do more to support Ukraine and said Washington wants to see tougher enforcement of sanctions against Russia.
European Union leaders said they were considering ratcheting up sanctions on Russia for illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov over the weekend and because of its defiance of calls to release the Ukrainian crew members.
On November 27, Russian courts in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Kerch ordered 15 of the Ukrainians to be held in custody for two months. Hearings for the other nine on November 28 produced the same result.
The mother of detained sailor Andriy Eyder, Viktoria Eyder, told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service in the Black Sea port city of Odesa that her son was “wounded and is hospitalized in Kerch.”
The court rulings put the sailors in a situation similar to that of several Ukrainians, including film director Oleh Sentsov, who are being held in Russian prisons and jails for what Kyiv and Western governments say are political reasons.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, BBC, Interfax, and RIA
The Pentagon can resist all it wants, but beards have made a comeback.
The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society even conducted a study to explore how individuals with (or without) facial hair are perceived by others. Women rated men with facial hair as more attractive and appearing healthier than those who were clean-shaven — and now male service members want change.
Today’s military men, however, are just going to have to rely on the uniform to gain an edge over civilians — since the advent of the gas mask, facial hair has been strictly regulated by the military. There are certain exceptions, however, such as a new regulation that will allow service members to wear a beard for religious reasons or operations where a beard could help service members blend in better with the local population.
But until the U.S. military embraces the beard, it’ll remain a rare sight on our warriors.
All the more reason to admire the best military beards in history.
Harry served from 2005-2015, even secretly deploying on combat missions in Afghanistan before his location was publicized and he was pulled out for security reasons. He’s the epitome of cool, he fully recognizes the meaning and importance of service, and he’s proof that a military beard can still look professional.
Ulysses S. Grant
The man led the Union to victory and served two terms as president. That is the beard of victory right there.
Maj. Gen. George Crook
Crook cut his teeth fighting Native American tribes in Oregon before the Civil War. When he was called on to serve the Union, he used the same tactics in the face of the rebel enemy. His beard is exactly the kind you’d expect from a man the Apaches called “Grey Wolf.”
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The military is always evolving and new things happen every day. With each changes comes a new set of challenges and new opportunities to succeed. Thankfully, there are many talented photographers in the community that capture these struggles and triumphs.
Here are some of those moments from this past week:
A crew chief from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, prepares one of the unit’s F-16 “Fighting Falcons” to shut down after the aircraft arrives at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., April 19, 2018, in preparation for the Thunder Over Louisville air show on April 21. The Kentucky Air Guard is once again serving as the base of operations for dozens of military aircraft participating in the show, providing essential maintenance and logistical support.
Medical Soldiers participating in Eager Lion 2018 carry a simulated casualty on a litter to a UH-60 Blackhawk. The 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, Charlie Company, along with the 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Assault Helicopter Battalion conduct a medical evacuation validation for Exercise Eager Lion 2018 from King Abdullah II Air Base in Az-Zarqa, Jordan, April 14, 2018. Eager Lion is a major Exercise with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, designed to exchange military expertise and improve interoperability among partner nations.
Field grade officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, “Broncos,” 25th Infantry Division arrive to their first destination as part of a Mungadai exercise at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on April 17, 2018. The Mungadai is used as a Bronco Brigade leader development program is to create disciplined, trained, and ready professionals, prepared with operational and foundational knowledge, to take disciplined initiative while implementing and executing their commander’s intent.
U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1ST Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire an M777 Howitzer during Decisive Action Rotation 18-06 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., Apr. 16, 2018. The National Training Center allows units to integrate indirect fire into live fire training exercises, enhancing training for Army BCTs.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy NSWG4 Public Affairs)
Special Boat Team 20 personnel execute the insertion of two Combatant Craft Assault vehicles using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System during a training exercise April, 19, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided- missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) fire a .50-caliber machine gun during a bi-lateral interoperability live-fire gunnery exercise with the Finnish guided-missile patrol craft Hamina (PTG 80) April 17, 2018. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is on its fifth patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
U.S. Marine Corps Rct. Vivienne Herrera, with Platoon 4016, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, stands with her fellow recruits after completing an obstacle during the Crucible at Parris Island, S.C. April 20, 2018. The Crucible, a 54 hour day and night test of endurance, is the final and most demanding step before earning the title of United States Marine.
U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua P. Main, a rifleman assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (BLT 2/6), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), fires an M203 rifle at a simulated target during a combat mastery shooting range as part of Eager Lion 18 combat rehearsal, in Jordan, April 17, 2018. Eager Lion is a capstone training engagement that provides U.S. forces and the Jordan Armed Forces an opportunity to rehearse operating in a coalition environment and to pursue new ways to collectively address threats to regional security and improve overall maritime security.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabriel Kaczoroski)
A Coast Guard Station Islamorada 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement boatcrew prepares to rescue a family of four from the water Sunday, April 15, 2018 in Blackwater Sound near Key Largo. The boatcrew took the family to Gilberts Marina with no reported injuries.
The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.
This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.
War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.
The Joe Rogan Experience
The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.
American Military History Podcast
For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.
Mind of the Warrior
In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.
This Past Weekend with Theo Von
Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.
War on the Rocks
Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.
Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast
And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.
We all love the A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly known as the “Warthog.” For years now, this airframe has brought the BRRRRRRT and provided close air support to grunts on the ground. But the A-10 is actually older than many think.
For a combat plane, 46 is pretty old. Now, it’s not the grumpy, “get-off-my-lawn” level of old — the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress claims that honor. It entered service in 1952, making it old enough now to collect Medicare.
A number of A-10 Thunderbolts were painted green, but these days, they’re a plain gray.
At the time of the A-10’s introduction, NATO nations had half the tanks of signatories of the Warsaw Pact. The Warthog was intended to fight off those huge, armored hordes. The A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun (that provides its signature BRRRRRT), was only part of the solution. The plane is also able to haul over eight tons of bombs, rockets, and missiles.
One missile is of particular note: The AGM-65 Maverick. The A-10 has been loaded up with several variants of this powerful weapon, mostly the AGM-65D and AGM-65G. These variants use imaging infra-red seekers and are able to hit targets in any condition, day or night, clear skies or bad weather.
The A-10 has been in service for over 40 years and, still, no plane has been able to truly replace it.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman)
The Maverick has a maximum range of 17 miles and packs either a 125-pound, shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound, blast-fragmentation warhead. With this missile, the A-10 can pick off enemy anti-aircraft guns, like the ZSU-23, before closing in to drop bombs and give enemy tanks the BRRRRT.
Despite its age, the A-10 is slated to remain in service for a while. The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program in hopes of finding a true replacement, but the real solution may be to simply build more of this classic plane.
See how the Air Force introduced the A-10 back in ’72 in the video below.