A former NFL Arizona Cardinals cornerback is training for his new team — the Army.
Spc. Jimmy Legree is in his second week of Basic Combat Training; after he graduates he’ll continue training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become a communications specialist.
Serving in the military was one of his childhood goals, said Legree, who is assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery.
“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” said Legree, who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2013.
There are similarities between football and BCT, and it was an easy transition for him, he said.
Spc. Jimmy Legree, D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Okla.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
“You have your head coaches and that’s similar to drill sergeants who are correcting any mistakes that you make, said Legree, who played two seasons for the Cardinals.
“In football you wear a helmet and shoulder pads, and here you wear your ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet) and all your equipment.”
Former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman is an inspiration for him, said Legree.
“He is definitely inspiring — his passion for the game, and his passion for the country was motivation for me,” Legree said.
Legree’s parents were not in the military, but other extended family members and some of his friends have served in the armed forces, he said. His brethren of former teammates supported his decision to join the military.
Legree enlisted at Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Once they (recruiters) found out I played for the NFL they were all ecstatic, but definitely excited to get me enlisted, get me going.”
Legree is treated no different than the other 215 trainees in the battery, said Capt. Steven Paez, D/1-19th FA commander. The trainees came here to become professional American soldiers and everyone is treated the same.
Spc. Jimmy Legree (with mouthpiece) practices combatives Dec. 11, 2019, with Pvt. Anthony Randolph at Fort Sill, Okla. Legree, who played two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, is in his second week of Basic Combat Training.
(Fort Sill Tribune staff)
Paez said he learned Legree had played in the NFL when he was serving him Thanksgiving dinner. (It’s an Army tradition where senior leaders serve junior soldiers the holiday meal.)
“I noticed he was a little older (age 28) than everybody else, and I asked him what he was doing before he got here. He said, ‘I was in the NFL.'”
Legree is not the oldest trainee in the battery, Paez said. The oldest is 34 years old; the youngest is 17.
Senior Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jason Aqui, D/1-19th FA, described Legree as a mature, humble, positive, and quiet trainee.
“I’ve definitely noticed that he brings the platoon together to accomplish its tasks,” Aqui said. He was also one of the more physically fit trainees coming into BCT.
Drill sergeants will take advantage of Legree’s maturity and put him into leadership positions as the 10-week BCT progresses, Aqui said.
The battery will graduate Feb. 21, 2019, and Legree said he is already thinking of a long military career.
The era of the 1980s through the mid-1990s was a great time to be a member of the U.S Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, 7th SFG(A). The unit had barely escaped the ax during the post-Vietnam drawdown. It had also survived the malaise of the Carter years, when Special Operations, and specifically Special Forces, was a four-letter word. (Being an SF officer in those days was the kiss of death for an officer’s career.)
Yet, during that time, a danger was looming: Latin America was close to being lost to communism.
Latin America was a hot spot. Marxists had taken over in Nicaragua. They were looking, like the Cubans, to export their vision of communism to the rest of the hemisphere. El Salvador and Guatemala were embroiled in bloody civil wars, Honduras was going through a “latent and incipient” insurgency, which no one but the Group believed existed. Active civil wars were ongoing with insurgents in Colombia (FARC), Peru (Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso), and to a lesser extent in Bolivia. Compounding the problem, all three countries had issues with narco-terrorists that further destabilized the governments. Other countries, such as Argentina and Paraguay, seemed to have military coups far too frequently.
But all of that began to change in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Reagan was not going to stand for that. Hence, there were plenty of places for the Green Berets of 7th SFG to practice their training, or as my first team sergeant said, “Do Green Beret shit.”
El Salvador was the first area where the President drew a line in the sand. The Salvadorian government was weak and ineffective. The military was backward, characterized by little professionalism, and was committing numerous human rights abuses. In 1980, the country was on the brink of falling. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), an umbrella organization formed in 1980 out of five separate Marxist-Leninist groups, had the government on the precipice.
In 1981, the Salvadorian Army numbered around 11,000. It was a poorly led, poorly equipped, and badly trained army. It was basically a static, defensive force. The FMLN was close to winning the war: Its forces operated freely in much of the country and owned the night.
Slow Beginnings and Limits on Troop Support
The U.S.’s first priority was to give the Salvadorian army updated vehicles and equipment; then improve the forces’ quality through training and better tactics. By 1990, the size of the Salvadorian military had quadrupled to more than 45,000. By the mid-1980s, the training of the troops had progressed to where the army was capable of conducting offensive operations. It, therefore, moved into previously FMLN-held areas and maintained a firm hold on the population centers. While doing so, it whittled the FMLN down to size, from a high of about 13,000 in 1980 to about 7,000 in 1990.
The FMLN resorted to kidnappings and assassinations. Town mayors were a frequent target: in 1989 alone 214 of 262 were threatened with assassinations. Twelve were assassinated and 90 resigned.
The FMLN launched a desperate country-wide offensive in November 1989 in a final attempt to take over by encouraging the citizens to rise up. It failed and lost over 2,000 guerrillas.
Beginning in 1983, following the recommendations of Green Beret trainers, the Salvadorian armed forces adopted better COIN tactics to deny the FMLN from gaining popular support. For example, the Salvadorians started attacking the insurgents’ sanctuaries, movement routes, and supplies. They started to deploy smaller, air-mobile units. And they used small units to patrol more frequently at night when most guerrilla activities occurred. But we have jumped ahead…
When it came to the trainers, the U.S. was in a vastly different place politically than it is today. We had just pulled out of Vietnam. Thus, the U.S. was not going to tolerate another long-drawn-out conflict with massive amounts of troops involved. Beginning in 1981, the first U.S. trainers in El Salvador were an A-Team of 12 Green Berets. They were “permitted” to only carry sidearms for protection.
Congress decided to cap the number of trainers at just 55. Two Americans would be assigned to each Salvadorian brigade. There were very strict rules for the training advisors. A-Teams and other conventional troops would be brought in for just the ridiculously short time span of two weeks. During that time, they had to conduct whatever training could be accomplished before they would be forced to leave.
But the SF community found ways around the Congressional limitations. It started bringing Salvadorian battalions to the United States to be trained by members of the 7th SFG. The first one to be brought to the U.S. was the Atlacatl Battalion. It was brought to Ft. Bragg, NC. The Atlacatl Battalion was a quick reaction, counter-insurgency unit. More battalions were later brought to the U.S.
But a better alternative awaited just over the border with El Salvador’s traditional enemy, Honduras.
The U.S. set up a Regional Training Center in Trujillo, Honduras. Salvadorian units could rotate through there for training. Later the training Honduran troops were trained as well.
The cost was high for a “peacetime” effort. During the war in El Salvador, 22 U.S. troops died defending the country. One SF advisor, Greg Fronius, is the subject of an earlier article.
In another engagement, a “not in combat” SF A-Team, ODA-7 from 3/7th SFG, defended a Salvadorian barracks. The battle was the subject of an excellent piece by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe.
Congress and the Pentagon, in an effort to snow the American public from what exactly the advisors in El Salvador were dealing with, refused to admit that the troops were in a combat situation, even though, combat pay had been authorized in 1981. Thus, Fronius was denied a combat decoration. He was instead given a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) which is a peacetime award.
Human Rights Record
The Salvadorian Army had a terrible human rights record dating back to 1980. One of the things that the trainers accomplished was to incorporate human rights training in all levels of the military.
This also meant that at times, at peril to the advisors themselves, they’d report abuses by the military to the MILGP in San Salvador. Greg Walker, who was one of the 55 advisors on the ground there detailed one such incident.
“I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla’s skull (at the unit’s base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.
The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.”
The subject was a very touchy one. Yet the Green Berets made their reputation known even amongst the FMLN. In Walker’s book, titled “At the Hurricane’s Eye” he recounts when the FMLN asked for the U.S. SF to remain during the initial peace process to ensure that everyone was protected.
“At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US “Green Berets” remain with Salvadorian military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.”
Walker was one of several SF soldiers who led the fight for the men who did their time in El Salvador to finally be recognized for what were essentially combat tours. Everyone who rotated through there is now eligible for an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal while many are authorized CIBs and combat awards. The men of ODA-7 were finally recognized 14 years later. They were awarded CIBs, four Bronze Stars with “V” device, and an ARCOM with “V” device.
The 7th SFG’s record in El Salvador was one of great success. El Salvador was on the brink of falling. And through the combined military and political efforts of many Americans, it was saved. This one was an example of how a small group of dedicated SF soldiers can turn the tide in a brutal civil war.
The US recently opened talks with Saudi Arabia to potentially allow the Gulf country to enrich and process uranium within its borders, a move that could be driven by the growing threat of Iran.
Early March 2018, Energy Secretary Rick Perry led a delegation in London to discuss the conditions of the potential nuclear deal, Associated Press reported.
It’s possible the deal, which could allow US firms to build nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, may waive a US government prerequisite — called a 123 Agreement— that ensures countries agree to the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.
The talks come as President Donald Trump focuses on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the country’s role as a threat in the Middle East.
Despite the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal, which significantly reduced the country’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, some officials are concerned that Iran’s facilities could still lead to the creation of nuclear weapons.
As the world focuses on Iran, Saudi’s nuclear ambitions continued to expand, leading experts to draw connections in the timeline of Iran and Saudi Arabia’s heightened nuclear ambitions.
Saudi Arabia sees an opportunity to get on par with its nuclear nemesis Iran
Experts say Saudi Arabia’s renewed push towards nuclear power is linked to Iran’s growing threat in the Middle East.
“It is hard not to draw conclusions regarding Saudi Arabia’s interest in nuclear power given how much it views Iran as a regional threat,” Lydia Khalil, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, told Business Insider.
Khalil points to Saudi Arabia’s desire for a modified 123 Agreement with the US as evidence of the kingdom’s close eye on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for energy has impacted Saudi Arabia’s decision in that they argue that they should be treated no differently than other countries,” Khalil said.
In 2011, a Saudi prince expressed concern over Iran’s nuclear capabilities and said the kingdom could consider its own nuclear weapons if both Iran and Israel eventually had nuclear weapons. That stance was reportedly reiterated by officials in 2012.
Khalil explained that if the Saudi-US deal did not include crucial restrictions on uranium enrichment as typically required with American-brokered deals, the nation certainly has the capacity to pursue nuclear weapons “as any determined country would.”
Additionally, without putting clear restrictions on enrichment towards weapons in place, Saudi Arabia could weaken nonproliferation protocols throughout the region, opening up the possibility for a nuclear arms race.
“Given [Crown Prince] Mohammed Bin Salman’s unpredictable foreign policy and domestic policy decisions of late and his current unilateral hold on power — who knows where this can all lead in the future.”
The Army Career Skills Program provides soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training, and internships.
IMCOM has 200 career skills programs hosted at 32 garrisons, with more than 4,000 employers that return an impressive 93% career placement rate for soldiers. Managed by Installation Management Command, the program is open to soldiers 180 days prior to transitioning out of the military.
“Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than 17,500 soldiers have been placed directly into high-wage careers post military service, contributing to a steep decline in unemployment compensation payments for the Army,” said Christine Krieger, Indtai Inc. contractor, Army Continuing Education System assistant program manager, IMCOM.
“The Career Skills Program helps soldiers turn their military skills into post-service careers,” Krieger said.
Partner employers recognize the importance Army values and ethos bring to their companies in direct support of soldier for Life.
The Army Career Skills Program provides Soldiers transitioning out of the Army with an opportunity to participate in free or minimal-cost apprenticeships, on-the-job training, employment-skills training and internships.
(US Army photo)
The program has won several prestigious awards, including the American Business Awards Gold Stevies for Best Overall Organization of the Year (governmental) and Best Overall Customer Service Team of the Year (small, nonprofit); the Council of College and Military Educators Barry Cobb Government Organization Award; and the Federal Recognition Awards for Large Teams (second place). The program also was a finalist for the Harvard University Innovation in American Government Award in 2018.
IMCOM’s latest federal career skills program is a collaboration with the Army Civilian Human Resources Agency providing internship at soldiers’ garrisons with direct appointments to federal careers as HR classifiers and specialists.
Programs vary by Army garrison. Some of the areas covered are heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration; sprinkler fitting; forestry land management; diesel technician; welding; software and computer systems; telecommunications; air frame and power plant; and painting, drywall and glazing.
Efforts are ongoing to increase federal agency participation, expand successful programs, and serve transitioning populations in nontraditional garrison locations.
Soldiers interested in the program should visit the local installation administrator at their Education Center or Transition Office.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Hunter was accompanying a 50-man joint Special Forces team as they moved forward in Taliban-ridden Kunduz Province on Nov. 2, 2016.
As they snaked through an alleyway during the night mission in search of a high-value target in Boz Qandahari village, the U.S.-Afghan team came upon a barrier, “a large metal fence, that blocked the way, and it wasn’t supposed to be there,” according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
That’s when the first enemy grenade was launched, and bullets started to spray during the ambush, said Wilson, who presented the Air Force Cross — second only to the Medal of Honor for valor in combat — to Hunter, a combat controller, on October 17 for his steadfast decisions and courage during the U.S. Army-led mission in Afghanistan.
Wilson said Hunter, assigned to 23rd Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron, kept his position, never faltering as he called in “danger-close” airstrikes from AC-130 Spooky gunships and AH-64 Apache helicopters within 20 meters of their position.
Danger-close refers to strikes coming within 100 meters of friendly personnel. The firefight lasted for eight hours.
“What was truly extraordinary as I reviewed this story was the amazing precision and professionalism of the team,” she said, speaking before the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron; Air Force Special Operations Command commander Lt. Gen. Brad Webb; and the AFSOC community at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Hunter managed to position himself between the insurgents and his team, “shielding the wounded with his body, while providing suppressive fire with his rifle,” according to the citation.
After clearing the compound, and taking cover with a few team members, Hunter exposed himself to gunfire again as he heard calls for help in the distance, “dragging a wounded teammate 30 meters to safety,” the citation states.
For the next four hours, the airstrikes kept coming from the AC-130 “Spooky 43” gunship crew and the helicopters, including multiple 105mm rounds within as little as 13 meters from his location.
“Doesn’t an insurgent fear, more than the sound of a jet fighter, the sound of an AC-130 gunship?” Wilson said.
In all, 1,787 munitions rained down on the enemy’s position, which included 31 “danger-close” engagements, the citation said. More than 50 lives were saved, and 27 Taliban fighters were killed.
“Every [Joint Terminal Attack Controller], aircraft commander and ground force commander knows the risk of a danger-close mission,” Wilson said.
“But 31 without a single fratricide [by friendly fire] on the ground is just astounding,” she said.
“Thanks to [Staff] Sgt. Hunter, and his efforts to always be closest to the enemy, to put himself in the rear when everyone else got out of the way. To make sure his team was safe. He risked his own life and put himself in position to maintain tally on the target,” Wilson said.
The secretary honored two Army Green Beretskilled in action that day: Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer and Maj. Andrew Byers. Byers was posthumously awarded the Silver Star in February.
“Special operations is a force that we call when we really need the absolute best,” Wilson said.
She added, “There’s no better friend — and no worse enemy — than the United States special operations forces.”
Jake Wood has seen and done a lot in his life, so you know when he calls receiving the Pat Tillman Award for Service “humbling,” it’s a meaningful statement. The co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon was a United States Marine and scout sniper in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s testified in Congress on veterans’ mental health and briefed the last three Presidents of the United States about the issues returning veterans face.
Now, he’s been recognized by the ESPY awards, the annual presentation from ESPN and ABC honoring athletes for their performance in sports and sports-related activities. While deploying American military veterans to help disaster areas other rescue organizations won’t touch isn’t necessarily a sport, one can argue it’s definitely athletic.
But you don’t have to argue for Jake Wood.
Tillman as a Ranger and as a Cardinal.
The Pat Tillman Award for Service is presented at the ESPYs to honor an individual with a strong connection to sports who has served others in a way that echoes the Tillman legacy. Previous honorees include 2016’s Sgt. Elizabeth Marks, who overcame hip injuries sustained in Iraq but still became the world’s number one paraswimmer. In 2015, it was awarded to Danielle Green, who joined the military after playing basketball at Notre Dame and lost her arm in Iraq. Green returned to help other veterans struggling to adjust to life after the military.
For Jake Wood, this award hits close to home. Wood was playing on the offensive line at the University of Wisconsin when Pat Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2004. It was after Tillman died that Wood told his coach he was off to join the Marine Corps, where he spent four years.
He was out for just three months before he saw the devastation in Haiti. It was in Port-Au-Prince that a handful of volunteers formed the first heartbeat of what would be come Team Rubicon. Now, the organization is 80,000 members strong.
Wood in Haiti on Team Rubicon’s first mission.
And Jake Wood, the former o-lineman for the Badgers, is being recognized for forming a group that helps those most in need while giving struggling military veterans a new mission in life.
NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the SpaceX Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil for the first time since 2011.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:48 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, 2019, for the launch of the company’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight, which will be the first time a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed for humans will launch to the space station. The launch, as well as other activities leading up to the launch, will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station at approximately 5:55 a.m. Sunday, March 3, 2019.
This will be the first uncrewed flight test of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking and landing operations.
A SpaceX, Falcon 9 rocket lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The flight test also will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying SpaceX’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight, which will fly NASA astronauts to the space station, is targeted to launch in July 2019.
Following each flight, NASA will review performance data to ensure each upcoming mission is as safe as possible. After completion of all test flights, NASA will continue its review of the systems and flight data for certification ahead of the start of regular crewed flights to the space station.
Full Demo-1 coverage is as follows. All times are EST:
Friday, Feb. 22, 2019:
(no earlier than) 6 p.m. – Post-flight readiness review briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, NASA Human Exploration and Operations
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
Astronaut Office representative
Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:
TBD – Pre-launch briefing at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
Astronaut Office representative
Saturday, March 2, 2019:
2 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for the 2:48 a.m. liftoff
5 a.m. – Post-launch news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
Steve Stich, NASA launch manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
Astronaut Office representative
Sunday, March 3, 2019:
3:30 a.m. – Rendezvous and docking coverage
8:45 a.m. – Hatch opening coverage
10:30 a.m. – Station crew welcoming ceremony
Friday, March 8, 2019:
12:15 a.m. – Hatch closing coverage begins
2:30 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins
7:30 a.m. – Deorbit and landing coverage
TBD – Post-landing briefing on NASA TV, location TBD, with the following representatives:
Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
International Space Station Program representative
Astronaut Office representative
The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the last ISIS stronghold in Syria crumbles, it’s clear that the leadership of the terrorist organization had no intention of fighting to the death with their devoted fighters. The whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have been unknown for some time, and those in his inner circle have been just as absent, from either the battlefields or the media.
Until now, that is.
“Guys, we’re totally coming to help you. Just keep fighting. We’ll be there in, like, two days. Pinky swear.”
It’s been six months since the world last heard from Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the Islamic State’s official spokesperson. But on Mar. 18, 2019, the terrorist group released a 44-minute audio recording in the wake of the mosque shootings in New Zealand.
That shooting killed some 50 muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The perpetrator was a white nationalist extremist from Australia, who broadcast the event all over social media. ISIS is trying to rebrand it as part of the Islamic State’s global struggle against the West.
“Here is Baghuz in Syria, where Muslims are burned to death and are bombed by all known and unknown weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
We’re pretty sure he meant to say “There is Baghuz…” because he is definitely somewhere else.
ISIS Is implying that muslims are being killed indiscriminately in Syria because of their religion. The truth of the matter is Baghuz is under attack from the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to take the town because it’s full of only ISIS fighters and their families. Those same ISIS fighters attempted a genocide against several Iraqi minorities at the peak of their power.
Despite what ISIS would have anyone believe, the global community of muslims has little to do with ISIS or its worldview.
Imam Alabi Zirullah warned his worshippers before the gunman could open fire on the group.
Alabi Lateef Zirullah is an imam at the Linwood mosque. He saw the gunman enter the mosque and warned the crowd to take cover. Linwood was one of two Mosques targeted and where seven people died.
“The heroes are those people who passed away, not me,” Zirullah said. “But I thank God Almighty for using me to save the few lives that I could.” The imam also had words for the attacker who stormed the mosque – words very different from ISIS’ message.
“I don’t hate him. He may have gone through a lot of bad experiences in his life. But that is no excuse to kill. We must overcome what has happened and be strong for the families of those who died. Hate cannot be the victor.”
Vice President Mike Pence addressed Air Force Academy graduates on Saturday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivered on Saturday the commencement address to the 62nd class of Air Force Academy graduates, which was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“America is being tested,” Pence said. “While there are signs we are making progress in slowing the spread, as we stand here today, more than 700,000 Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and tragically, more than 30,000 of our countrymen have lost our lives.”
He added: “But as each of you has shown in your time here, and as the American people always show in challenging times, when hardship comes, American comes together. We rise to the challenge and the courage and compassion and generosity of the nation you will defend are shining through every day.”
The vice president told the graduates they would now “commence [their] duties to defend this nation against all enemies foreign to us,” evoking President Trump and calling the novel coronavirus the “invisible enemy.”
“Class of 2020 – this is your day,” VP tells graduating cadets, seated 8 feet apart in accord with social distancing.pic.twitter.com/WAcCsbpago
Pence addressed the academy’s 2020 class in person at the Saturday afternoon ceremony, which occurred on US Air Force grounds in Colorado Springs, Colorado despite past reports that the vice president had considered sending pre-taped video remarks in lieu of an in-person appearance, according to CNN.
To comply with social distancing, the Air Force Academy graduates marched into the ceremony six feet apart and were seated eight feet apart. No family members or other spectators were allowed to attend the closed ceremony. The ceremony, which lasted about an hour and thirty minutes, was previously scheduled to occur on May 28 but occurred Saturday — six weeks earlier than scheduled.
“You know your family couldn’t be here because of the extraordinary times in which we live,” Pence said. “We know they’re watching from afar.”
The ceremony was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube so spectators could tune-in.
Pence brought attention to the 86 graduates who would become the first Air Force Academy graduates to work as part of President Trump’s Space Force, which was officially established at the end of last year.
“We are a nation of courage,” the vice president said. “With the courage strength and compassion of the American people, we will get through this. We will protect the most vulnerable and we will heal our land.”
He added: “The American people are doing their duty now comes your turn to do yours: to defend the people of this nation, and this we know you will do. For long after the coronavirus is defeated, your mission will go on.”
A Marine helicopter was illuminated by a laser fired from an Iranian vessel in the Strait of Hormuz June 14. The incident occured days after a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle shot down a drone over Syria that was later determined to be from Iran.
“Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles,” Commander Bill Urban, a 5th Fleet spokesperson said.
USNI News reported that the Iranian vessel was a missile boat, and approached the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11) on the night of June 13.
According to the report, the Iranian missile boat shined a spotlight on the Cole, then painted a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter with a laser, before running a spotlight on the Bataan. The Iranian missile boat came within 800 yards of the U.S. Navy vessels.
More than 100 midshipmen man the rails for a photo on the foícísle of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) during the 2016 Professional Training for Midshipmen (PROTRAMID) Surface week. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan Seelbach)
According to MilitaryFactory.com, the CH-53E is a heavy-lift cargo helicopter capable of carrying up to 55 troops. It has a top speed of 195 miles per hour and a range of up to 1,140 miles. It is capable of being refueled in midair by tankers like the KC-130. For self-defense it carries chaff and flare dispensers to defeat enemy missiles, and it has three ,50-caliber machine guns.
When Marines graduate recruit training, not only are they gaining the title of Marine, they are also gaining a family. The bonds of the Marines to their left and right often run thicker than blood.
Marines would give their lives for each other and when one of their own needs help, they never hesitate to step up. This link lasts a lifetime, even when their active duty time is finished. If there are two phrases that every Marine takes to heart, it’s “once a Marine, always a Marine” and “never leave a Marine behind.”
Because of these two deeply understood Marine Corps sentiments, the Recruiting Sub Station Sioux Falls Marines did not think twice about helping a Marine receive what she rightfully deserved.
Sergeant Sara McGaffee joined the Marine Corps in 2008 out of Sioux Falls, S.D. On Oct. 20, 2010, while deployed with Combat Logistics Battalion 3, McGaffee’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device while conducting convoy operations in support of Operation Steel Dawn II in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.
McGaffee sustained considerable injuries in the blast.
Due to an administrative oversight, however, McGaffee was never awarded the Purple Heart Medal. But, when the award finally came through, it was set to be mailed to McGaffee directly. Gunnery Sgt. Paul Odonnell, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of RSS Sioux Falls, heard her story and refused to let her receive such a prestigious award in the mail despite the fact that McGaffee was no longer on active duty.
McGaffee was awarded her Purple Heart Medal, Dec. 16, during a traditional Marine Corps ceremony in front of Marines and her local friends and family.
The Purple Heart Medal is awarded to members of the military of the U.S. who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy.
“Having Sgt. McGaffee’s friends and family here today just goes to show how incredible the state of South Dakota is,” said Odonnell. “We had an opportunity to do this ceremony the right way and I think we captured what it really means to always be a Marine. We support our family.”
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has confirmed that an announcement will be made on June 28, 2018, regarding a planned summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“There will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting,” Bolton said after holding talks on June 27, 2018, with the Russian president in Moscow.
Trump will raise a full range of issues with Putin, Bolton said, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Putin has denied.
The adviser said he did not rule out concrete results to come out of the summit, adding that the leaders believe it is important to meet, despite their differences.
Earlier, a Kremlin aide said the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — will be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides. He said several more weeks were needed for preparations.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin said that Bolton’s visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.
“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.
Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”
When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
Bolton also said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
At least part of the meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by others including Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.
Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”
Ushakov’s comments suggested that the summit is likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13, 2018. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15, 2018 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26, 2018, that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March 2018 after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over issues including the war in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.
Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.