How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.


China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.

The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.

In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

China is building impressive and inexpensive drones

The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.

The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.

The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China’s Wing Loong. China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.

The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.

The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.

The US has restrictive regulations and policies

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.

A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.

In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.

Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.

The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.

In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.

China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.

In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.

By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.

In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.

China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.

China’s future drone projects are even more impressive

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China’s Cloud Shadow (Image Kevin Wong @defencetechasia Twitter screengrab)

Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.

There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.

Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.

China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.

Also Read: This is what China plans to do with its air force of the future

Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.

In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.

In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.

This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
China shows off its newest drone in a Youtube video. (Image YouTube screengrab)

Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.

“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”

For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.

However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Online commissary privileges finally available to newly eligible shoppers

Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.


However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.

Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.

DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.

“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”

Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.

Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

images02.military.com

Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”

“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”

But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.

“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The Chinese military’s exploitation of the coronavirus pandemic

In Davos in 2017, Xi Jinping painted a vision of a China-led globalist world. The Chinese Communist Party’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a taste of Chinese global leadership: it includes a breathtaking degree to which other nations, desperate for transparency and reciprocity in the form of detailed information and medical supplies, have been left in a lurch, and therefore vulnerable to Chinese coercion. This is not an opportunity for cooperation with China. This is not a moment for a reprieve in America’s competition against the communist regime; it is a harrowing foreshadowing of what is at stake if we lose.

Competition with China spans the spheres of economics and diplomacy, but undergirding the entire effort is American hard power. It is our military, both our military capabilities as well as our willingness to employ them, that keeps Chinese territorial expansion at bay. And even during a global pandemic of Beijing’s making, Beijing’s military has been very busy. It is why the United States must follow through with the Pentagon’s plans to recapitalize our strategic deterrent and other military plans meant to deter Chinese aggression.


How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the United States and its partners to pause wargaming exercises that are meant to reassure allies and bolster readiness to protect the health of its military members. In contrast, China has not slowed down provocative, offensive military maneuvers. Beijing just days ago conducted naval drills near Taiwan’s shores, has continued to buzz Taiwan’s airspace, it sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel in international waters, and according to State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, the Chinese government has continued to make developments on military bases China built on reefs and islands on which it erroneously claims sovereignty.

Defense officials have repeatedly warned that the first island chain is vulnerable to Chinese aggression. Nested in that first island chain are Taiwan and Japan, valuable allies, and who will be critical allies in the U.S. effort to weaken China’s leverage and expose its malign behavior. They are among others in the larger Indo-Pacific region to include India and Australia that will anchor our cooperative efforts to defend national sovereignty against CCP authoritarianism.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said the Pentagon is committed to mission readiness during the pandemic. He also told Congress in February that the “highest priority remains China, as its government continues to use — and misuse — its diplomatic, economic and military strength to attempt to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in its favor, often at the expense of others.”

While deterring China and assuring allies entails much more than our strategic deterrent, the cornerstone for deterring military aggression of the worst kind is our nuclear arsenal. The nuclear modernization strategy laid out in the Trump Nuclear Posture Review must continue to move forward on time, and the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be a pretext for delays.

The cost of the entire nuclear enterprise is roughly 5 percent of all national security spending devoted to the recapitalization, sustainment, and operations. The Obama administration began the modernization effort, and the Trump administration has determined to carry it through while adapting it based on the actions of China as well as Russia.

Defense officials have warned that in addition to Russia, China presents formidable nuclear challenges, and the trends are not headed in the right direction. Although China refuses to be transparent about its nuclear program, the United States knows China has significant capabilities that leverage cutting edge technology and assesses China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear arsenal by the end of the decade. Additionally, China’s nuclear weapons are central to China’s military plans and intentions.

Despite the significant continuity between administrations about nuclear modernization, there will be efforts to cancel or delay some components of the force, and dealing with pandemics will be used as a pretext. For years, ideologically motivated groups have focused on the intercontinental ballistic missiles, or “land-based leg” of the triad, specifically, as an opportunity to find financial savings. Some have argued against eliminating the leg altogether while some argue it makes more sense to continue to extend the life of the current fleet, the old Minuteman IIIs with Cold War era technologies, rather than pursue its replacement called the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). But military leaders have repeatedly warned that the decades’ old Minuteman IIIs would have trouble penetrating future air defenses, and the cost to pursue GBSD will not be more expensive than another life extension program that would leave the United States underprepared. Now is not the time to delay the next generation of our nuclear weapons.

Conventional weapons are also necessary to deter Chinese aggression. Remember, the aim is to deter the aggression in the first place, rather than respond once China decides to act on its malign intention to attack U.S. bases or territory of a sovereign nation. The United States can do this if it convinces Beijing it has the will and capability to retaliate defensively in response to an offensive act of aggression such that Beijing will regret the decision.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

So, in addition to the nuclear program, there are meaningful changes underway. For example, the U.S. Marine Corps is focused on deploying a force in the Indo Pacific theater in cooperation with our allies, which is inside the range of China’s massive missile force. This force would be so formidable and with so many targets distributed throughout the region that it allows the U.S. military a high degree of resiliency. The USMC also wants offensive long-range missiles, drones, and rocket artillery, and lots of them. Notable, now that President Trump withdrew from the dated INF Treaty due to Russian cheating, the USMC can have the range of missiles it needs. The United States will also need a mix of defensive systems with the ability to intercept the first rounds of missile attacks to preserve the U.S. ability to respond and with more options at its disposal. This offense-defense mix that includes passive and active defenses will complicate Beijing’s calculations and will dissuade an initial move and preserve peace.

The current COVID-19 pandemic will impact all areas of the U.S. government and reshuffle initiatives and divide attention. But it’s vital to appreciate the severity of China’s actions, that China is the cause of this historic crisis, and that its military is exploiting it to gain an advantage over the United States in the near and long term. The United States must work to ensure they fail.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nationally recognized day for women veterans almost snuck by us

There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.


On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.

Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.

Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.

Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”

“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”

As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)

VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.

Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.

Articles

China has commissioned its newest guided-missile destroyer

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
Screenshot CCTV News/YouTube


The largest naval exercise in the world is underway in the Pacific, and to show the world that it means business, China officially commissioned its fourth vessel of a new model of guided-missile destroyers on Tuesday.

Equipped with advanced weapons that can engage other ships and submarines, the independently developed Yinchuan will be China’s most advanced guided-missile destroyer in service. The ship will be able to engage in all manner of operations, including aerial defense, anti-sea operations, and antisubmarine missions.

The Yichuan, at more than 150 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide, has an estimated load displacement of 7,000 tons.

Although the unveiling was met with fanfare and a parade, Chinese military expert Cao Weidong told China Central Television that the Yinchuan was inferior to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in terms of size and munitions capabilities.

But other unnamed experts, according to China.org.cn, have speculated that the Yinchuan would outperform the Japanese Atago-class, the South Korean Sejong the Great-class, and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Yinchuan is the fourth ship in its class to be unveiled by China to date.

Articles

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why some Marines in combat zones don’t get Combat Action Ribbons

The Marines in Afghanistan are definitely in combat, even if they are not being awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, the former commander of Task Force Southwest said on Feb. 1.


“It’s absolutely a combat mission,” Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr. told reporters at a roundtable. “The only difference is we’re not maneuvering directly on the enemy. From the command element perspective: It’s full spectrum combat. We shoot at the enemy, they shoot at us.”

Turner led the task force of roughly 300 Marines from April 2017 until January 2018. During that time, Marines helped Afghan troops and interior ministry forces go on the offensive in Helmand province, the home of many senior Taliban leaders and a significant source of the opium that feeds the Taliban’s coffers, he said.

Despite being deployed to Afghanistan for nine months, none of the Marines in the task force were awarded the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Times has reported. The CAR is a coveted decoration, especially by younger Marines, because it certifies combat experience.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
Combat Action Ribbon awarded by the United States Department of the Navy. (Image Wikipedia)

But on Feb. 1, Turner cautioned against using the CAR as a litmus test to determine if the Marines in Afghanistan are on a combat mission.

“It’s too simplistic to say that nobody earned the Combat Action Ribbon; therefore, they weren’t in combat,” Turner said. “They’re very much in combat. We just weren’t achieving the criteria of the Combat Action Ribbon.”
Sgt. Mohamed Amin and his cadre of fellow instructors at the Camp Commando School of Excellence outside Kabul have their work cut out for them. They have been given the arduous task of executing President Ashraf Ghani’s order to double the commando force in four years, without sacrificing quality.

The CAR recognizes Marines who have taken part in direct action against the enemy, according to the decoration’s requirements. Marines who come under direct fire or are exposed to explosions can be eligible for the award. The CAR is typically not given to Marines who come under indirect fire unless they engage in offensive counter-fire operations.

Also Read: Sailors and Marines are now eligible for these new award devices

With help from the Marines, Afghan security forces went on the offensive for 250 days of the 280-day deployment, Turner said. The Marines advised the Afghans at various levels of command and helped coordinate artillery and air support.

Even though the Marines did not fight alongside Afghan units, they were attacked by Taliban rockets and mortars about 20 times during the deployment, Turner said. None of the Marines were wounded.

On Jan. 15, Turner transferred command to Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, who commands a larger task force that will be able to have U.S. military advisers permanently assigned to Afghan battalions, Turner said.

Watson has told Task Purpose that he has the authority to allow Marines to accompany Afghan troops and police into battle, if needed.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
A U.S. Marine with Task Force Southwest fires the M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle as part of the combat marksmanship program at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2018. Task Force Southwest is continually working on combat marksmanship to ensure proper sustainment of basic Marine combat skills, so they can better train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Conner Robbins)

“Whether or not we exercise that authority is going to depend on how we assess the situation at the time, and obviously I’m not going to get into specifics on that,” Watson said in a Jan. 15 interview.

After nearly 16 years of war in Afghanistan, it is not clear how much of territory the Taliban controls outright or is contesting. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff, said the U.S. estimates that the Afghan government controls about 60%of the country, but a recent BBC report claims the Taliban is active in 70% of Afghanistan.

McKenzie said he does not believe the BBC story is accurate, adding that he “couldn’t completely follow their logic as stated in the article.”

“We certainly don’t think that the Taliban has a presence to some degree in 70% of the countryside – and we would disagree with that,” McKenzie told reporters Feb. 1 during a Pentagon news briefing.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

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He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

An audio recording of the high-pitched sound that American intelligence officials believe caused U.S. diplomats in Cuba brain damage was released Thursday afternoon.


The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording October 12th. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.

The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.

Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.

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The US flag flaps in the stiff breeze off the Florida Straits at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. Photo from US State Department.

The U.S. has confirmed 21 cases, and American intelligence operatives incurred arguably the worst damage reported thus far. U.S. spies have suffered brain damage, unrelenting hearing loss and other severe outcomes.

Reports of ongoing, mysterious attacks befalling U.S.-government personnel and other foreign citizens in Cuba are complete “nonsense” and “without evidence,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday.

“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel, the likely successor to Cuban President Raúl Castro, said Sunday.

Castro has also rejected any notion that the Cuban government is behind the attacks.

The U.S. Department of State has responded to the reported attacks, ordering all nonessential personnel in Cuba to evacuate the island. The State Department also issued a travel warning for all Americans not to visit the island nation until the attacks are resolved.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An insider explains why today’s Navy is actually stronger than ever

As most of you are aware, in the last several months the US Navy has suffered two collisions at sea. On 17 June the USS Fitzgerald lost 7 Sailors and on 21 August, the USS McCain lost 10 Sailors. The Surface Warfare community has not experienced such a loss in nearly 30 years since the explosion on the USS Iowa that killed 47 sailors.


After the collisions, I have quietly tried to make sense of what happened. I have just recently returned to the Surface Warfare community after spending the majority of my career working in the world of Naval Special Warfare. At this point, I am an outsider looking in and trying to learn about my new environment, and to make sure I am pulling more than my weight of the work load.

While trying to understand what happened, I have made the mistake of reading comments posted on Social Media of what people think happened. Comments from people from all walks of life and most who seem to have never served a day in their life in the Navy or on a Warship. One comment has particularly bothered me. After the Navy announced the firing of several Admirals, including a Command Master Chief, one podcaster stated the collisions happened because the “Navy has gone soft.”

I want to assure anyone reading this: The United States Navy has never been stronger than it is today.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Krystina Coffey

I know it’s hard for most of us to remember a time that the US has not been engaged in war. We have been in Afghanistan for 16 years and Iraq for 13 years. No one knows that better than pre 9/11 service members, especially given there are very few of us still on Active Duty. But before Operation Enduring and Operation Iraqi Freedom, during the time that most Army units were running training evolutions, the Navy was steadily deploying around the world to carry the Big Stick. Before Bosnia, before the Gulf War, before Panama, before Vietnam, before the Korean War….The Navy has quietly and steadily deployed during War Time and during Peace time since its inception 241 years ago.

No one does it better than we do.

As I have stepped back into the Surface Navy, I have done so with very little experience and official Surface Warfare qualifications. So I have started at the bottom of the training pipeline with 18 and 19 year old Seaman and brand new Junior Officers.

Classes are typically taught by senior 1st Class Petty Officers and Chiefs, and some are taught by trusted 2nd Class Petty Officers. Most of the training has been done “in house” and the instructors still have a day job. Some of the Instructors are Gunners Mates and are responsible for any and all aspects of ammunition on board the ship, whether its 9mm rounds, 5 inch rounds, or highly precise, multimillion dollar missiles.

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The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones launches a Standard Missile 6 during a live-fire test of the ship’s aegis weapons system. Photo from US Navy.

In addition to teaching, managing their daily tasks and subordinates, most of the instructors are also balancing Duty. Duty is not their day job. It’s the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week job of ensuring proper security is being maintained on the ship and making sure the ship is ready to start to get underway if needed. Duty is broken down into sections and each Sailor essentially works for 24 hours a day once or twice a week. A sailor may work a normal work day and then stand watch in the middle of the night, and is expected to work a full day the next work day, only running on a few hours of sleep and lots of caffeine.

The overwhelming amount of hours spent working on the ship each week is more than anything I have seen during my time in NSW. Like most jobs in the military, it’s a thankless job that most Sailors never truly see the results of their labors. And to my astonishment over the last few months, the Sailors don’t complain about the work on the ship. They complain about the food. They complain when the coffee grounds run low. The Junior Enlisted complain about the Junior Officers. The Junior Officers quietly complain about the Senior Officers, And the Chiefs complain about everyone.

But when the bells ring, everyone is beside each other backing up the other one so the ship can get the attention it needs. They are a family. And like any family, there are of course some dysfunctional members, but as a whole, it’s an amazing thing watching these crews breathing life into Warships.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market
USN photo

I can’t speak to high level policy decisions that happen in the beltway, or even administrative orders from Millington, but I can speak to the level of dedication at the lower levels. Sailors are hardworking. They are unruly at times, but will back each other up when its time. They are professional, and know their jobs because that’s what Sailors do. They work long hours, more than most will ever know, and they do it when Wars end and people forget ships are still required at Sea. At times, they work in terrible conditions covered in grease and smelling of Jet fuel and only a few hours of sleep, and often for weeks or months with no days off.

They are the hardest Sailors in the world.

While recent events are heartbreaking, I want to assure everyone that the United States Navy is still the strongest Naval force this earth has ever seen. Horrendous mistakes were made on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain, but these ships were good ships and had good crews. These were also extremely hard worked ships ported in foreign piers.

And as of right now, the Navy has acknowledged that training in specific areas fell short. With that in mind, remember the Navy has kept ships out to Sea for 241 years. Even as you read this, there are 10’s of thousands of Sailors somewhere in the world, fiercely carrying the Navy’s Honor wherever they go. The Navy will correct the course and continue to provide diplomacy wherever is needed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines train to save lives from downed aircraft

Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.

The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.

“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”


During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.

“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”

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Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.

“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”

ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.

How Chinese drones are set to swarm the global market

Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)

The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.

“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans will get access to Commissary, Exchange, and MWR services

The Commissary is about to get a lot busier on Saturdays. Starting in January 2020, veterans with service-connected disability ratings, Purple Heart recipients, and former POWs will be able to access Exchange and Commissary services both in-person and online. Designated caregivers of eligible vets will have access too. The benefit goes into effect for all Exchange services, including NEX, AAFES, CGX, and MCX. But that’s not all.

Veterans will get access to on-base Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services too.


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This could be you.

(MWR Life)

To get access to the AAFES Exchanges, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Exchanges, Commissary, and MWR facilities, including the American Forces Travel site, all you need is a Veterans Health Identification Card, the one issued to you by the VA when you enroll in VA Healthcare. This will give you access to on-base facilities. For veterans who aren’t enrolled in the VA system, they will not be able to access U.S. military installations, but will still have access to the Exchange websites.

What’s especially great about the new rules is expanding access to veteran caregivers. Designated primary caregivers for eligible veterans will be able to get on base to these facilities without their veteran being present as long as they have the eligibility letter they will receive from the VA’s Office of Community Care.

These are just the new recipients of these benefits. Medal of Honor recipients and 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans have always had access to Exchange and Commissary services, and they still will.

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.00 haircuts for everyone!

The move comes from the passage of the Purple Heart and Disabled Veterans Equal Access Act of 2018 that funds the improvement of physical access control on military installations to give expanded access to these facilities to disabled veterans and their caretakers. It’s a smart move for the Exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency, both of which have struggled to expand their customer base over the past decade. After the success of allowing vets to use online Exchange services in 2017, the new bill expanded access to physical locations as well.

With the MWR facilities included in the new benefit, this means veterans and caretakers will also have access to RV campgrounds, recreational lodging, bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more.

Anthony’s Pizza, here we come.

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