In early September 2018, the Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II entered the Central Command area of operations for the first time.
The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the attached Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 is the first continental U.S.-based Navy and Marine Corps force to deploy with the Lightning II. The Essex ARG/MEU team is currently conducting a regularly scheduled deployment.
While in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, the amphibious force is trained and equipped to conduct maritime security operations, crisis response operations, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence operations to reinforce to the U.S.’s commitment to partner nations in the region.
“As a forward-deployed force we are appropriately postured to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the world’s most important sea lanes,” said Gerald Olin, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1. “The embarked Marines of 13th MEU allow us the flexibility to rapidly respond to crises and set conditions that promote security in the region.”
Following a six-month comprehensive, pre-deployment training period, the Essex ARG/MEU was certified for deployment. The training consisted of three integrated at-sea periods which collectively ensured the Navy/Marine Corps team is at its highest level of readiness to accomplish missions across the range of military operations. VMFA-211 was certified for deployment across all mission essential tasks to include deep air support, close air support, offensive air support, and electronic warfare.
USS Essex (LHD 2) transits the Pacific Ocean.
(Photo by Communication Specialist 3rd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.)
“When combined with inherent capabilities of the 13th MEU and Essex ARG, the F-35B strengthens the amphibious force through new and increased multi-mission capabilities, making our team a more lethal and survivable crisis response force,” said Col. Chandler Nelms, commanding officer, 13th MEU.
The Essex ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47). During deployment they will operate with embarked forces of the 13th MEU, PHIBRON 1, the “Blackjacks” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and detachments from Assault Craft Unit 5, Naval Beach Group 1, Beachmaster Unit 1, Fleet Surgical Team 3 and Tactical Air Control Squadron 11.
The 13th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 Reinforced and VMFA 211; the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/1; and the Logistics Combat Element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 13.
The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but says it’ll take longer than his predecessor predicted.
Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island on Friday.
“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.
Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.
Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”
While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.
“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, metropolitan area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.
“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.
Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.
Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.
“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”
Cardenas, 52, said he stopped working as a deliveryman in Santa Fe because of problems with his right knee in 2013 and became homeless after he used up his savings. He moved into an apartment in the Santa Fe area in 2016 with the help of a VA grant program and is now a student at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.
“I’m at a loss for words because it’s so great,” he said. “It makes you feel like a functioning person in society.”
To get homeless veterans into permanent homes, the Obama administration used a program that was created in 2008 and combines rental assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development with case management and clinical services from the VA, so-called HUD-VASH vouchers. Some areas of the country currently have a waiting list for a voucher, including Los Angeles.
While programs for helping homeless veterans received funding increases in fiscal 2017, there’s less money for new HUD-VASH vouchers. There’s $40 million available, compared to $60 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers in 2016 and $75 million in 2015, according to HUD.
“We urge the VA to prioritize finishing the job and I have absolute confidence the new secretary has that commitment,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “We need to see that commitment exercised in additional federal resources.”
Shulkin said he’s committed to maintaining the voucher program and continuing strategies that are working, such as housing people first and then pointing them toward help to confront the root cause of their homelessness.
Hollywood has suffered yet another loss. Iconic TV and film actor Sam Shepard recently passed away at the age of 73 from complications with ALS. The Oscar-nominated and award-winning playwright’s career lasted almost five decades, and he’s accredited with over 65 movies roles.
The Illinois native was the son of Army officer, Samuel Shepard Rogers Jr., who served during World War II as a bomber pilot — which probably contributed to the longtime actor’s acumen in military roles.
Here are the four times Shepard played an outstanding military officer.
In 2005, Shepard played Capt. George Cummings, a “mission before the man” thinker, in charge of three radical Navy pilots picked to team up with a new fourth wing man — an independently thinking stealth jet.
After a fierce lightning strike, the AI stealth jet begins to create havoc and now must be taken down and destroyed at all costs.
2. Black Hawk Down
In 2001, Ridley Scott decided to cast Shepard as Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the overall commander of Task Force Ranger and the chief of Joint Special Operations Command. According to most accounts, Garrison did everything in his power to retrieve his men from the battlefield after a raid in Mogadishu quickly went south.
3. One Kill
Shepard starred as Maj. Nelson Gray alongside Anne Heche in 2000’s crime drama”One Kill.” The two actors played Marine officers who began an affair with one another in this TV movie directed by Christopher Menaul.
4. The Right Stuff
In 1983, Shepard took on the role of legendary Air Force test pilot Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager who became the first man to exceed the speed of sound during flight. In the film, Yeager has to help the original Mercury 7 astronauts get prepared for their upcoming space mission.
Army Pfc. Craig H. Middleton was the Mk. 19 gunner on his convoy when it came under an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan. But despite his grievous wounds, Middleton was able to beat back the ambush and help save the lives of two wounded airmen — an action that earned him the Silver Star.
Middleton and his unit, Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, were making their way through a dry riverbed bordered by steep hills in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2011, when a series of rocket-propelled grenades rained down from the hills on one side.
The first RPG impacted a scout truck, the second hit the truck behind Middleton, and the third flew through the back window of Middleton’s Mine-resistant, Ambush-protected, All-Terrain Vehicle and exploded inside it. Middleton was instantly peppered with shrapnel up and down his legs, but he was still doing better than the two Air Force joint terminal attack controllers in the back of the vehicle. Both of them had received shrapnel and blast damage to their upper bodies.
(Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Phillip Steiner)
The wounded and embattled gunner opened up with his Mk. 19, firing 40mm grenades where the rockets had come from as well as any muzzle flashes or fighters he could spot. Out of targets, Middleton dove into the back of the MATV and applied a tourniquet to one of the JTACs.
While he treated the first JTAC, another RPG hit the vehicle, so Middleton rushed back up to engage the enemy.
The Army platoon inflicted an estimated 25 kills against the insurgents despite tough odds. As the fighters retreated, Middleton reassessed the casualties and spotted a severe groin bleed on the second JTAC which he treated with another tourniquet.
For his actions in Nangarhar Province that day, Middleton was awarded the Silver Star in a 2012 ceremony. Unfortunately, his wounds proved severe enough that he underwent a medical separation from the military. In an interview during that process, the cav scout told Army Staff Sgt. Elwyn Lovelace that he hoped to become a dentist and enjoy a nice, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work life.
We hope you’re not sick or sick of memes, either. Somehow quarantine is dragging on but the memes and tweets still don’t disappoint. Another week, another meme-drop. Stay safe, wash your hands and remember: Laughter is the best medicine. That is, until we have medicine.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in our time in quarantine together… isn’t it that pants are optional?
2. Gamers for the win
You sweet little adorable social recluses. At least you’re better at talking to people online than anyone else we know. We’re sorry we never saw this as a skillset.
True story, Pam. True story.
Who needs the freshman 15 when you have the COVID-19?
5. Two types of people
Definitely team carrot cake over here.
6. Zoom church
The struggle is real.
7. Wine break!
Of course we’re still watching. What else would we be doing??
We like this a latte.
9. Self care
You know everyone checks the closets. The car is safe. For now.
525,600 minutes. In Zoom meetings, in cancelled plans, in meals cooked, and cups of quarantine coffee.
11. We salad you
And if you need a snack, you’re all set.
That’s what I’m taco-ing about.
He was willing to make a deal….
14. Weekend at Kim’s house
Any chance that guy is just quarantining? No?
They’re probably on the black market with the hand sanitizer and TP.
This one will never get old.
18. CAROLE BASKIN!
Poor woman is *almost* as hated as a North Korean dictator.
Can you imagine social distancing at Central Perk?
Poor Furby looks like every dude out there right now.
He’s looking pretty smart right about now.
Everyone should have that neighbor. Also, please come do all our Home Improvements.
23. Grapes of mom’s wrath
This history lesson brought to you by Chardonnay.
24. MURDER HORNETS
Go home 2020. You’re drunk.
25. Chin up!
Hahaha, noticing the decline in selfies on social media, aren’t ya?
26. 2020 progression
Jokes on all of us.
27. Lockdown message
You can barely tell.
Living that best solo life. You were born for this.
29. Please forward
Karen would have sent the message.
We hear deuling is pretty good too.
31. Make the call
I mean just how many games of that weird snake situation could you play?
Though the distinction between training and exercising might seem unimportant — it isn’t. How you label your physical activity says more about you, your mindset, and your probable rate of success than any PFT score ever could.
I first saw this difference at The Basic School in Quantico. Some of my peers were former college athletes, and a few were training in our off-time for an upcoming marathon. These peers had goals and a plan to achieve them. The rest of us were just doing what I now call “exercising,” random workouts on random days, inconsistently.
I’m on the far left, standing and squinting.
(Photo by Michael Gregory)
The Marines who were actually training were the only ones I knew who could keep a solid schedule and maintain their fitness levels during The Basic School. The rest of us got by on an ever-dwindling fitness reservoir that was nearly empty by the time I finally finished the school.
I finally started applying this training mentality to fitness during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course. The course itself was a constant physical beat-down, but in the few classroom lectures, we were taught how to set up a MCMAP and combat conditioning plan for our units. It was then that I realized I could design a plan to become progressively more difficult as fitness levels increase, the same way a pre-deployment workup gets more complicated as the deployment date nears.
A classic case of the slay fest.
(Photo by Cpl. Brooke C. Woods USMC Recruit Depot San Diego)
How I loathed unit PT…
I used to think I hated PT just because I disliked being told what to do.
I have come to realize I actually hated unit PT because it is exercise and not training.
Most units plan solid workups to prepare each member of the unit to the max extent possible with all the skills and proficiencies needed for when they are actually ‘in country.’ This is training, a clear plan that progressively increases in difficulty and complexity with an end state in mind.
I have rarely seen physical fitness approached in the same logical way in unit PT.
Most units approach PT in one of two ways: as a slay fest or a joke.
A Slay Fest: (n) from the ancient Greek Slayus Festivus, meaning make as many people puke or stroke out as possible in an effort to assert physical dominance and make less-fit service members feel inadequate.
A Joke: just going through the motions and checking the quarterly unit PT requirement box.
Neither one of these has the intention of making better the members of the unit. In fact, slay fests often lead to injuries which have the opposite effect on unit readiness, while potentially initiating a hazing investigation because a junior NCO decided to play drill instructor.
Is this a training session or exercise? …Seriously though, what is this?
In the Marine Corps, I saw what could be accomplished when a proper training plan is followed to the most minute detail. I also saw what type of chaos or indifference towards fitness can result from no plan and/or unchecked egos.
This is why you should be training. The most successful athletes are those that have a plan in place that works them towards a goal. I’m a firm believer that everyone is an athlete no matter what your job or current station in life.
Marines are constantly reminded that it doesn’t matter what your MOS is, you could find yourself in combat and you better be prepared for it. Even though some roll their eyes at the idea of a finance technician lobbing grenades in a firefight, they still have an underlying feeling of pride that this is a potentiality.
Promotion on Iwo Jima. I swore to not waste anyone’s time with exercise on that day.
(Photo by Jeremy Graves)
I carry that with me to this day. Constantly thinking about what I would do if a fight breaks out — or if ‘patient zero’ of the zombie apocalypse strolls into my part of town — doesn’t keep me awake at night in dread. It keeps me awake at night in giddy anticipation because I’m training for that sh*t every. Damn. Day.
Of course, your reason for training doesn’t need to be so heavy, violent, or world-altering. Simply wanting to be able to throw a perfect spiral with your future son is a perfect reason to be training. If you need a more immediate time frame, choose a challenge: sign up for an adventure race, a marathon, an adult sports league, or a powerlifting meet (I just took second in my first meet and got a free t-shirt #winning #tigerblood). Train for the on-season or the event day.
As a member of the military community, it’s in your blood to conduct work-ups. Now it’s your turn to determine where and when that “deployment” is and how you train for it. Exercise is a word for people who throw out their back trying to get the gallon of Arizona Iced Tea off the bottom shelf and into their grocery cart. They need exercise; you need to be training.
U.S. Army leaders say the next war will be fought in mega-cities, but the service has embarked on an ambitious effort to prepare most of its combat brigades to fight, not inside, but beneath them.
Late 2017, the Army launched an accelerated effort that funnels some $572 million into training and equipping 26 of its 31 active combat brigades to fight in large-scale subterranean facilities that exist beneath dense urban areas around the world.
For this new type of warfare, infantry units will need to know how to effectively navigate, communicate, breach heavy obstacles, and attack enemy forces in underground mazes ranging from confined corridors to tunnels as wide as residential streets. Soldiers will need new equipment and training to operate in conditions such as complete darkness, bad air, and lack of cover from enemy fire in areas that challenge standard Army communications equipment.
Senior leaders have mentioned small parts of the effort in public speeches, but Army officials at Fort Benning, Georgia’s Maneuver Center of Excellence — the organization leading the subterranean effort — have been reluctant to discuss the scale of the endeavor.
(U.S. Army photo by John Lytle)
“We did recognize, in a megacity that has underground facilities — sewers and subways and some of the things we would encounter … we have to look at ourselves and say ‘ok, how does our current set of equipment and our tactics stack up?'” Col. Townley Hedrick, commandant of the Infantry School at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com in an interview. “What are the aspects of megacities that we have paid the least attention to lately, and every megacity has got sewers and subways and stuff that you can encounter, so let’s brush it up a little bit.”
Left unmentioned were the recent studies the Army has undertaken to shore up this effort. The Army completed a four-month review in 2017 of its outdated approach to underground combat, and published a new training manual dedicated to this environment.
“This training circular is published to provide urgently needed guidance to plan and execute training for units operating in subterranean environments, according to TC 3-20.50 “Small Unit Training in Subterranean Environments,” published in November 2017. “Though prepared through an ‘urgent’ development process, it is authorized for immediate implementation.”
A New Priority
The Army has always been aware that it might have to clear and secure underground facilities such as sewers and subway systems beneath densely-populated cities. In the past, tactics and procedures were covered in manuals on urban combat such as FM 90-10-1, “An Infantryman’s Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas,” dated 1993.
Before the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mission for taking large, underground military complexes was given to tier-one special operations units such as Army Delta Force and the Navy‘s SEAL Team 6, as well as the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment.
But the Pentagon’s new focus on preparing to fight peer militaries such as North Korea, Russia and China changed all that.
An assessment last year estimates that there are about 10,000 large-scale underground military facilities around the world that are intended to serve as subterranean cities, an Army source, who is not cleared to talk to the press, told Military.com.
The Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group — an outfit often tasked with looking ahead to identify future threats — told U.S. military leaders that special operations forces will not be able to deal with the subterranean problem alone and that large numbers of conventional forces must be trained and equipped to fight underground, the source said.
The endeavor became an urgent priority because more than 4,800 of these underground facilities are located in North Korea, the source said.
Relations now seem to be warming between Washington and Pyongyang after the recent meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But in addition to its underground nuclear missile facilities, North Korea has the capability to move thousands of troops through deep tunnels beneath the border into South Korea, according to the Army’s new subterranean manual.
“North Korea could accommodate the transfer of 30,000 heavily armed troops per hour,” the manual states. “North Korea had planned to construct five southern exits and the tunnel was designed for both conventional warfare and guerrilla infiltration. Among other things, North Korea built a regimental airbase into a granite mountain.”
For its part, Russia inherited a vast underground facilities program from the Soviet Union, designed to ensure the survival of government leadership and military command and control in wartime, the manual states. Underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities still beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands.
More recently, U.S. and coalition forces operating in Iraq and Syria have had to deal with fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria operating in tunnel systems.
Learning to Fight Underground
To prepare combat units, the Army has activated mobile teams to train the leadership of 26 brigade combat teams on how prepare units for underground warfare and plan and execute large-scale combat operations in the subterranean environment.
The 3rd BCT, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado is next in line for the training.
Army officials confirmed to Military.com that there is an approved plan to dedicate $572 million to the effort. That works out to $22 million for each BCT, according to an Army spokeswoman who did not want to be named for this article. The Army did not say where the money is coming from or when it will be given to units.
Army leaders launched the subterranean effort in 2017, tasking the AWG with developing a training program. The unit spent October-January at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, developing the tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, units will need to fight in this environment.
“Everything that you can do above ground, you can do below ground; there are just tactics and techniques that are particular,” the source said, adding that tactics used in a subterranean space are much like those used in clearing buildings.
(U.S. Army photo by Erick Warren)
“The principles are exactly the same, but now do it without light, now do it in a confined space … now try to breach a door using a thermal cutting torch when you don’t have air.”
Three training teams focus on heavy breaching, TTPs and planning and a third to train the brigade leadership on intelligence priorities and how to prepare for brigade-size operations in subterranean facilities.
“The whole brigade will be learning the operation,” the source said.
Army combat units train in mock-up towns known as military operations in urban terrain, or MOUT, sites. These training centers often have sewers to deal with rain water, but are too small to use for realistic training, the source said.
The Defense Department has a half-dozen locations that feature subterranean networks. They’re located at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Story, Virginia; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana; Tunnel Warfare Center, China Lake, California and Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, according to the new subterranean training manual.
Rather sending infrastructure to these locations, units will build specially designed, modular subterranean trainers, created by the AWG in 2014. The completed maze-like structure is fashioned from 15 to 20 shipping containers, or conexes, and sits above ground.
Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, talked about these new training structures at the Association of the United States Army’s LANPAC 2018 symposium in Hawaii.
“I was just at the Asymmetric Warfare Group recently; they had built a model subterranean training center that now the Army is in the process of exporting to the combat training centers and home stations,” Townsend said.
“I was thinking to myself before I went and saw it, ‘how are we going to be able to afford to build all these underground training facilities?’ Well, they took me into one that wasn’t underground at all. It actually looked like you went underground at the entrance, but the facility was actually built above ground.But you couldn’t tell that once you went inside of it.”
Shipping containers are commonplace around the Army, so units won’t have to buy special materials to build the trainers, Hedrick said.
“Every post has old, empty conexes … and those are easily used to simulate working underground,” Hedrick said.
Training is only part of the subterranean operations effort. A good portion of the $22 million going to each BCT will be needed buy special equipment so combat units can operate safety underground.
“You can’t go more than one floor deep underground without losing comms with everybody who is up on the surface,” Townsend said. “Our capabilities need some work.”
The Army is looking at the handheld MPU-5 smart radio, made by Persistent Systems LLC, which features a new technology and relies on a “mobile ad hoc network” that will allow units to talk to each other and to the surface as well.
“It sends out a signal that combines with the one next to it, and the one next to it … it just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” the source said.
Off the shelf, MPU-5s coast approximately $10,000 each.
Toxic air, or a drop in oxygen, are other challenges soldiers will be likely to face operating deep underground. The Army is evaluating off-the-shelf self-contained breathing equipment for units to purchase.
“Protective masks without a self-contained breathing apparatus provide no protection against the absence of oxygen,” the subterranean manual states. “Having breathing apparatus equipment available is the primary protection element against the absence of oxygen, in the presence of hazardous gases, or in the event of a cave-in.”
Soldiers can find themselves exposed to smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane natural gas underground, according to the manual.
Breathing gear is expensive; some apparatus cost as much as $13,000 apiece, the source said.
Underground tunnels and facilities are often lighted, but when the lights go out, soldiers will be in total darkness. The Army announced in February 2018 that it has money in its fiscal 2019 budget to buy dual-tubed, binocular-style night vision goggles to give soldiers greater depth perception than offered by the current single-tubed Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and AN/PVS 14s.
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle B uses a traditional infrared image intensifier similar to the PVS-14 along with a thermal camera. The system fuses the IR with the thermal capability into one display. The Army is considering equipping units trained in subterranean ops with ENVG Bs, the source said.
Units will also need special, hand-carried ballistic shields, at least two per squad, since tunnels provide little to no cover from enemy fire.
Weapon suppressors are useful to cut down on noise that’s significantly amplified in confined spaces, the manual states.
Some of the heavy equipment such as torches and large power saws needed for breaching are available in brigade engineer units, Hedrick said.
“We definitely did put some effort into trying to identify a list of normal equipment that may not work and what equipment that we might have to look at procuring,” Hedrick said.
Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for new American Security, was skeptical about the scale of the program.
Dempsey, a former Army infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, told Military.com that such training “wasn’t relevant” to fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He questions spending such a large amount of money training and equipping so many of the Army’s combat brigades in a type of combat that they might never need.
“I can totally understand taking every brigade in Korea, Alaska, some of the Hawaii units — any units on tap for first response for something going on in Korea,” said Dempsey, who served in the combat units such as the 75th Ranger Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division.
“Conceptually I don’t knock it. The only reason I would question it is if it comes with a giant bill and new buys of a bunch of specialized gear. … It’s a whole new business line for folks whose business tapered off after Afghanistan.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A low-flying military plane zoomed between buildings in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, for roughly half an hour on Jan 18, 2019, panicking residents who said they had no warning of the flyover, and feared it might strike a building.
Residents took to social media, sharing photos and videos of the sight. The large, dark gray plane could be seen circling the city’s skyline, flying just over the tops of buildings and past office windows.
But local news outlets reported that the flyover was just part of a training exercise ahead of Governor-elect Bill Lee’s inauguration on Jan. 18, 2019.
One Nashville resident, Madison Smith, told INSIDER she works on the 16th floor of the Fifth-Third Bank building in downtown and her colleagues phoned the police, and later evacuated the building, when they realized the plane kept weaving through the city’s downtown core.
“You kept seeing it circle around downtown,” she said. “So it came back by our building a second time, and the whole building shook.”
Smith said she and her colleagues realized it was a military plane, due to the size and color, and figured it must have been some sort of government operation. But they couldn’t help but think of 9/11, she said.
“What if something malfunctioned and the wing came into one of our buildings? That wasn’t far-fetched because of how low it was,” she said. “Definitely people were concerned. I was concerned. My colleagues were concerned.”
Nashville residents complained on Twitter that the plane was flying too low over the city, and appeared to just barely miss certain buildings and landmarks.
People in the videos can be heard exclaiming and cursing as the plane draws closer. One person can even be heard speculating which buildings the plane might strike.
But the test run may all have been for nothing — The Tennessean reported that Jan. 19, 2019’s inaugural flyover has already been canceled due to weather concerns.
Smith said the idea was “ridiculous in the first place,” adding that she hoped Lee would release a statement reassuring the residents who panicked.
“Congrats on your inauguration, I don’t think that’s a great start. Just to frighten your people straight off the bat,” she said. “A military operation in a city is just striking to me. Especially to have it all for nothing, I wouldn’t have wanted him to do it in the first place. Let’s just have a parade.”
Lee’s transition team did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Two US Air Force bombers have conducted a rare live-fire drill in South Korea and flown close to the heavily militarized border with North Korea — a show of force following North Korea’s test-launch of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile.
South Korea’s military said in a statement that the exercise was meant to “sternly respond to the series of North Korea’s ballistic-missile launches.”
The statement said the long-range B-1B bombers, accompanied by South Korean jet fighters, simulated an attack on enemy ballistic-missile batteries and precision air strikes against underground enemy command posts.
It said each US bomber dropped a 900-kilogram laser-guided smart bomb that was designed to destroy a fortified bunker.
The bombs were dropped on targets at a firing range about 80 kilometers south of the land border with North Korea. The planes then flew close to the border before turning back to Anderson Air Base in Guam from where they were deployed.
“Through this drill, the South Korean and US air forces demonstrated strong determination to thoroughly punish the enemy for its provocative acts, and showed off their capability to pulverize enemy command posts,” the South Korean statement said.
The US Air Force said two of its B-1B bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea late on July 6 in a move that asserts the right to treat the area as international territory, despite China’s territorial claims in the busy waterway.
Those flights were conducted after the US bombers participated in a joint training exercise with Japanese jet fighters over the neighboring East China Sea — just to the south of the Korean Peninsula.
Washington wants China to do more to pressure North Korea to stop its research into long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
Also in response to North Korea’s July 4 test, which demonstrated that North Korea’s arsenal is capable of striking parts of Alaska with an ICBM, US and South Korean forces on July 5 fired ballistic missiles in a drill simulating an attack on North Korea’s leadership.
South Korea said that test was meant “as a strong message of warning.”
The US Missile Defense Agency said on July 7 that it would soon test an anti-ballistic-missile system in Alaska.
Taiwan is planning a series of new, large-scale combat drills to boost military readiness for the possibility of armed conflict with mainland China.
Taiwan’s military announced Jan. 9, 2019, that new drills are “being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” according Maj. Gen. Yeh Kuo-hui, chief of the Ministry of National Defense’s Operations and Planning Division, the Associated Press reported, citing Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.
2019’s exercises will include a month of combat readiness training in the first quarter, another month-long live-fire exercise in the second quarter, joint anti-landing operations in the third quarter, and joint anti-airborne maneuvers in the fourth and final quarter, Focus Taiwan reported.
China claims absolute, indisputable sovereignty over Taiwan, an autonomous democratic territory perceived in Beijing as a renegade province. “We make no promise to abandon the use of force, and retain the option of taking all necessary measures” to achieve reunification, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned in a message to the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has an 3-million-member army and the world’s second largest defense budget. Taiwan lacks the numbers, but it does have a technologically capable fighting force, which the island hopes could repel a Chinese invasion.
Beijing has previously warned Taipei that efforts to bolster its military capabilities are pointless.
“I want to stress that it is a dead end to deny reunification by using force,” Wu Qian, spokesman for the Chinese defense ministry, stated in late December 2018, stating that the People’s Liberation Army will continue to conduct exercises and operations near Taiwan.
The Chinese military carried out 18,000 military drills in 2018 and China’s armed forces are expected to continue to ramp up training in response to perceived threats to Chinese national interests. Taiwan’s military is doing the same.
“We want to assure citizens that the military is constantly beefing up its combat preparedness and stands ready to fight for the survival of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” Taiwan’s military spokesman Chen Chung-chi said recently.
In 2019, for the first time ever, the Council on Foreign Relations listed Taiwan as a potential flashpoint on its annual Preventive Priorities Survey, although it was ranked as a Tier II concern beyond other possible conflict zones, like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The White House warned the Syrian regime and their allies Russia and Iran on Sept. 4, 2018, that the US would retaliate if the Regime used chemical weapons on the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province.
“Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” Sanders added.
On Sept. 4, 2018, Russia began conducting airstrikes once again on Idlib, according to the Washington Post, raising fears that a full-on assault would soon begin.
Assad and Russia have had their sights set on Idlib for months, but an all-out attack has yet to be launched.
“The Turks are blocking the offensive,” Jennifer Cafarella, a senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War, previously told Business Insider. “The Turks and Russians continue to frame their discussion from the lens of cooperation, but that’s not actually what’s happening.”
Cafarella said that Turkey may allow a partial offensive in Idlib, but that Ankara can’t afford “to have another massive Syrian refugee flow towards the Turkish border.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Speaking to reporters following an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Zukunft said the Navy’s change had prompted a brief internal evaluation for the Coast Guard — and one with a definite conclusion.
“With the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [Steven Cantrell], we said, ‘What would the workforce think about this,’ and it would cause chaos,” Zukunft said. “I cannot afford chaos when every person in the Coast Guard has a 24-by-7 job to do.”
The Coast Guard, the smallest of the branches, has an active-duty force of about 40,000, compared to the Navy’s nearly 324,000. It also has a smaller ratings system, with fewer than two dozen separate ratings compared with 89 for the Navy.
The Navy and Coast Guard use the same naval rank system, which is different from that used by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Coast Guardsmen are “very proud of the rating badge that they wear on their sleeve,” Zukunft said, “so I’ve listened to my master chief and he’s provided me the best advice. So that was a very easy question for me to say ‘no’ to.”
The Navy has also had to contend with pushback from sailors and Navy veterans who have strong attachments to the 241-year-old ratings system, with culture and community built around certain titles.
A WhiteHouse.gov petition to reverse the decision reached 100,000 signatures within a month, prompting a member of the White House staff to issue a response backing the overhaul and promoting the Navy’s goals of creating additional opportunities and career paths for sailors and a more straightforward transition to jobs matching their skills as they enter the civilian sector.
The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, has engaged in a number of efforts to sell the concept to sailors, writing opinion pieces and essays addressing the fleet and traveling to the Middle East to participate in town hall meetings with some 9,000 sailors at the end of October and beginning of November.
Navy officials say the full transition to the new system will take time and be done in stages. Key decisions have yet to be detailed, including the future of Navy ratings badges.
Burke published a timeline in October indicating plans to update uniform insignia in keeping with the new job title system, but it remains possible that the badges will be redesigned rather than eliminated.
“Did we choose an easy path forward? Absolutely not,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published by Military.com on Nov. 20. “But I believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so.”