Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

Army Spc. Charles Choi, 32, originally from South Korea, has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University. He has education and skills that make him a highly valued prospect for the military, but he hasn’t made it to Basic Combat Training after signing up with the Army Reserve.

He has been waiting for two years.


Yes, I’m in limbo,” Choi said in an interview with Military.com. “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.”

Choi is one of several non-citizen enlistees who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital To National Interest program, and spoke with Military.com about how they’ve been stuck waiting months or years for clearances and security screenings to process.

The program, created to attract those with highly sought skills for military service, has been essentially suspended amid political battles over immigration policy. Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures. Some can’t risk the wait.

For Choi, that’s especially true.

“Delays are so long and we have a finite length to our visas and that’s where the real problem comes in,” he said.

His visa will expire in less than a year.

“So if they just keep us in limbo and if we run out of visa status, then we cannot work or drive,” he said. “It’s a very screwed-up situation.”

The complex history of MAVNI

In 2012, well before MAVNI fell victim to the nation’s ever-shifting immigration policies, then-Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno invited Sgt. Saral Shrestha to his Pentagon office for a photo op and a congratulatory grip-and-greet. Shrestha, who was born in Nepal, had just won the Army’s “Best Warrior” competition.

Shrestha, who earned citizenship through MAVNI, was honored later that year at the annual Association of the U.S. Army’s convention as the “Soldier of the Year.”

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
Sgt. Saral Shrestha.
(U.S. Army photo by Teddy Wade)

Shrestha’s motto is “Mission first, soldiers always.” He said that “MAVNI was a blessing” in his progress from student visa to the Army and then to taking the oath as a citizen.

In March 2018, Army Sgt. Santosh Kachhepati, a combat medic with the 62nd Medical Brigade with two tours in Afghanistan, was selected for the Enlisted to Medical Degree Preparatory Program, or EMDP2. He will begin his studies to become a doctor at George Mason University in Virginia in the fall.

“I consider this opportunity to be an Army physician an honor and a privilege to serve the medical needs of our soldiers who risk their lives protecting this nation,” Kachhepati said, according to a release from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

JBLM said that Kachhepati, also from Nepal, “came to the United States to attend college at the University of Texas at Arlington. He graduated U.T.’s Nursing Program with Honors in 2013.”

“He enlisted in Army in 2014 through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which allows certain qualified non-citizens to enlist in the U.S. military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship,” JBLM said.

MAVNI began in 2008 as a one-year pilot program with the goal with the goal of bringing in non-citizen recruits with language or medical skills for the nation’s counterinsurgency wars and giving them a fast track to citizenship in return.

Adm. Eric Olson, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said at the time that MAVNI recruits were “operationally critical” to the military’s needs. But the program from the onset was caught up in political immigration debates and the high command’s security concerns.

The program was suspended in 2009 over fears of insider threats in the ranks when Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, a psychiatrist born in the U.S., shot and killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others in a rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5 of that year.

The restrictions were lifted again in 2012, shortly after Shrestha won the “Soldier of the Year” award. Since then, MAVNI recruits have performed higher on entrance tests and had lower attrition rates than native-born troops, according to military data. But the program reached a turning point in September 2016.

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
Santosh Kachhepati
(U.S. Army photo by Cain Claxton)

The beginning of the end for MAVNI came in the form of a September 2016 memo to the service secretaries from Peter Levine, then the acting under secretary for personnel and readiness.

Levine said that the MAVNI pilot program “is currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2016.”

As it turned out, that wasn’t quite so.

In the same memo, Levine said that “changes in the enclosed guidance will strengthen and improve the execution of the MAVNI program.”

He said that for MAVNI in the coming year, “the maximum number of accessions will be: Army — 1,200; Navy — 65; Marine Corps — 65; and Air Force — 70.”

Despite the language suggesting the program’s continuation, Pentagon spokespeople said the program was effectively allowed to end October 2017, when tighter screening procedures were put in place for MAVNI recruits who had already signed up.

Mattis looks to save MAVNI

In a memo in July 2017, to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Pentagon personnel and intelligence officials warned of the “espionage potential” from foreign-born recruits.

“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the memo said.

Foreign-born recruits would have to “complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination prior to entry in the active, reserve, or Guard service,” the memo said. “Those in the MAVNI program and other foreign-born recruits may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services.”

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

However, Mattis, in a session with defense reporters in October 2017, said he was looking for ways to keep MAVNI alive despite the 2016 Levine memo that had again suspended the program.

“We are taking the steps obviously to save the program, if it can be saved,” Mattis said. “And I believe it can.”

In January 2018, on board his plane en route to Vietnam, Mattis held out the possibility that MAVNI could be renewed once enhanced vetting procedures were ironed out.

Mattis said that an internal examination had found that procedures were lax in screening MAVNI recruits.

“We were not keeping pace with our usual standard,” he said.


“We’ve got to look people’s backgrounds, and if you have a lot of family members in certain countries, then you come under additional scrutiny,” he added. “Until we can get them screened, we can’t bring in more.

“You’ve got to be able to screen them as they come in, rather than get them in and then you send them off to a unit and they say, ‘By the way, they don’t have security clearance yet.’ And then they say, ‘Well, thanks very much, but I can’t use them.’

“So it’s simply a matter of aligning the process, the recruiting process with the usual screening process,” Mattis continued. “There’s nothing more to it.”

Don’t go climbing Mount Kilimanjaro

The changes in the rules since 2016 have left more than 1,000 recruits already accepted into the military in a state of bureaucratic limbo with time running out on their visas while they await security clearances.

Choi, the Korean Army specialist, described filling out a form that required him to list his travel to foreign countries over the last seven years. He didn’t list a trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, which had occurred more than seven years before he filled out the form.

Six months later, an Army investigator gave him a call. They had found out about the trip to Tanzania and needed some “points of clarification,” Choi said. “The way they do it is just really not organized at all. It’s kind of clear this was made up on the fly.”

Choi said his battalion commander has urged him to look at the possibility of attending Officer Candidate School.

Army Reserve Pfc. Alan Huanyu Liang, 24, is also caught up in the same screening logjam while waiting to report to BCT. He was born in China, has been living in the U.S. for six years and has a bachelor’s degree from University of California, Los Angeles.

He signed his contract under the MAVNI program in May 2016.

“Since then, my life has been drastically changed by this program,” he told Military.com. “From the day I signed my contract, I have been eagerly waiting for my ship day [to BCT].”

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
The first Navy sailors to participate in the MAVNI program are issued the oath of citizenship by Stacey Summers, branch chief from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Chicago field office.
(U.S. Navy photo by Scott Thornbloom)

Now, he said, it has been almost two years and no progress has been made since he signed his contract.

“I have been drilling every month since I was in-processed into my unit, and I witnessed people coming later to the unit than I did get shipped and came back with a uniform,” he said. “I really, really envy them. I wish one day I can be in that uniform and serve like a real soldier. I keep asking my recruiter and all I am told is to wait.”

Another MAVNI recruit, who didn’t want her name used, told Military.com that she has been at a training base for two years after completing BCT while awaiting additional screening that would let her go to AIT, or Advanced Individual Training.

In the meantime, she does paperwork.

“You need the favorable adjudication [Military Service Suitability Determination] to go to AIT,” she said. “I’m between a rock and a hard place. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I am still motivated by the idea of serving.”

Lawyer who built MAVNI pushes to save it

“There’s an epic bureaucratic fight going on,” said Margaret Stock, a lawyer and former Army lieutenant colonel who was instrumental in planning and initiating the MAVNI program while still in the service.

“It’s an appalling example of bureaucratic incompetence,” she said of the efforts to kill the MAVNI program and subject those who have already signed up to endless screening.

“They’re saying the MAVNIs are some kind of security threat,” Stock told Military.com, but “there is no specific threat” that justify strictures that would kill a program that has already proven its worth.

“They pose the same threat that U.S. citizens would,” said Stock, the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.

To meet a range of emerging threats, “we need these people,” she said. “What we don’t need is people sitting on a base for 18 months doing nothing because of background checks.”

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Ronald Reagan got a Marine recruiting letter while he was President — his response was classic

Even though he was 73 years old and serving as President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan received a letter from the Marine Corps asking him if he would like to enlist in 1984.


It may have been a clerical error or just a practical joke from the service to its commander-in-chief, or in the words of Reagan in his response, the result of “a lance corporal’s overactive imagination.” In any case, on Tuesday the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company shared on its Facebook page the letter he sent back to then-Commandant Gen. Paul X. Kelley on May 31, 1984, and well, it’s classic.

“I regret that I must decline the attached invitation to enlist in the United States Marine Corps,” Reagan writes on official White House letterhead. “As proud as I am of the inference concerning my physical fitness, it might be better to continue as Commander-in-Chief. Besides, at the present time it would be rather difficult to spend ten weeks at Parris Island.”

With his trademark wit, Reagan noted the Democrats would probably appreciate it if he left The White House, but had to pass since his wife Nancy loved their current residence and Reagan himself was “totally satisfied with his job.”

“Would you consider a deferment until 1989?” Reagan wrote. (It’s worth noting that Reagan served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force’s first motion picture unit during World War II).

Check out the full letter below:

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

MIGHTY SPORTS

The new Army Football uniforms will be in honor of the Big Red One

Every second Saturday of December, the soldiers of West Point settle their differences with the sailors and Marines of Annapolis in a good, old-fashioned football game. It’s a fiercely heated contest — and not just for the players on the field, but between entire branches.

Remember, when it comes to the troops, any little thing that can be used as bragging rights will be — even the uniforms are a type of competition. Traditionally, each team dons a new military history-inspired uniform for the Army-Navy game. Bringing the best threads to the gridiron isn’t officially a contest, but if it were, hot damn the Army would be winning.


Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

It’s unclear at this time if all Cadets on the field will be wearing the Black Lion or just the ones wearing the 28th Infantry Regiment on their lapel.

(West Point Athletics)

This year, the soldiers are honoring the First Infantry Division by sporting a uniform inspired by the Big Red One. It was chosen because 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. While there were many American units that fought, several of whom are still around, the 1st ID is often heralded for their decisive victory at the Battle of Cantigny.

The iconic Black Lions of Cantigny have been incorporated into the shoulders of the uniforms. The rest of the uniform is a flat black with red trimmings. It features, of course, the Nike logo (the team’s sponsor) and the unit insignia. On the collars are insignias that represent the various regiments of the 1st Infantry Division that fought in World War I.

On the back of the helmet, if you look closely, you’ll spot a subtle American flag. Sharp football fans will notice that the flag only has 48 stars on it. Keeping with WWI legacy, this was the flag that the soldiers of WWI fought under, long before Alaska and Hawaii became part of the Union in 1959.

Check out the announcement video below that was posted to the official Army West Point Athletics Facebook page.

Go Army! Beat Navy!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veteran amputee was denied a Six Flags ride — but here’s why

Retired Marine Johnny “Joey” Jones, who lost both his legs after stepping on an IED while deployed, was asked to exit a ride at Six Flags Over Georgia; since then, the story has appeared in multiple news outlets and sparked a heated conversation.

The Washington Post reported that Jones was “concerned with the way the park’s policy was presented to him” and that “the policy is too restrictive to accommodate people with disabilities.”

But there’s a good reason for roller coaster parks to be restrictive.


In 2011, U.S. Army Sgt. James Thomas Hackemer was ejected from a ride in a New York theme park and died.

Hackemer had been wounded in 2008 by an armor-penetrating warhead that caused the loss of his left leg and most of his right. He, like Jones, wore prosthetic limbs. After an investigation, a reportedly seven-figure settlement was reached between the lawyers for Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort and Hackemer’s family.

Jones didn’t see the handicapped sign for the ride when he climbed in with his 8 year-old son — but the ride operator noticed Jones’ prosthetics. Jones told The Washington Post that he wasn’t upset about being asked to leave the ride, but rather that the employees didn’t seem trained to properly accommodate his condition.

According to Fox News, Six Flags issued an apology:

“We apologize to Mr. Jones for any inconvenience; however, to ensure safety, guests with certain disabilities are restricted from riding certain rides and attractions,” Six Flags said in a statement to Fox News. “Our accessibility policy includes ride safety guidelines and the requirements of the federal American Disabilities Act. Our policies are customized by ride and developed for the safety of all our guests. Our policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis to ensure we continue to accommodate the needs of our guests while simultaneously maintaining a safe environment for everyone.”

Nonetheless, Jones took to Twitter to call out the park:

twitter.com

In a follow-up Tweet, Jones maintained that this ride didn’t truly appear to have a safety policy as much as a liability policy, which is where his argument truly appears to stem from.

twitter.com

He’s advocating for fellow amputees and individuals with handicaps so they can feel included — rather than excluded — as they continue to live their lives.

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Navy intelligence once launched an investigation to find Bill the Goat

Bill the Goat is one of college football’s most-loved mascots. For more than 100 years, a version of Bill has been on the sidelines to support the Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy as they have literally tackled big time opponents like Army, Air Force and more. 

Somewhere along the way, vicious fans of opposing teams, especially service academy teams, decided their chances of winning would be better if Bill the Goat wasn’t there, or if the opposing team was worried about where Bill might be held hostage. This of course led to a series of goat kidnappings.

College football rivalry isn’t what it once was, but nowhere was rivalry better and more entertaining than between service academies. There’s something about the combination of youth, guts and billions of dollars of military training, hardware and vehicles that takes rivalry to a whole new level. 

bill the goat
US Under Secretary of the Army the Honorable Les Brownlee, welcomes the US Naval Academy (USNA) cheerleaders and mascot, Bill the Goat, during a pep-rally in the halls of the Pentagon in anticipation of an upcoming 105th Army-Navy football game.

The best of all college rivalry pranks has to be mascot theft. The more intricate and complex, the better. While there have been some epic mascot thefts in college football history, only the service academy thefts ever required intervention from the President of the United States. 

The Naval Academy’s mascot, Bill the Goat, is by far the most popular target for a heist. Since the three major service academies signed an agreement against mascot theft in 1995, Bill the Goat has been stolen at least three times, once ending up outside the Pentagon. 

Goatnapping missions from the United States Military Academy at West Point are the stuff of legend, with the first documented instance occurring in 1953 using an inside man and a boat. A “prisoner,” a West Pointer studying at the Naval Academy, let three cadets onto the ground at Annapolis who sailed the goat to West Point. 

That theft was ended with an order from President Eisenhower himself. Seven years later, it was the Air Force Academy who did the goat grab all the way from Colorado.  

In 1960, a full month before the Air Force-Navy Game, three Air Force cadets infiltrated the grounds at the Naval Academy and took Bill. He was flown to the Air Force Academy in the bomb bay of a B-26 Marauder. 

In response, the Navy allegedly used its intelligence assets to track the movements of Bill the Goat aboard the Air Force bomber, eventually tracing him to a farm in Colorado. When the Superintendent, Maj. Gen. William S. Stone found out, he brow beat his cadets into returning the goat to Annapolis. 

Ten years later, Midshipmen were able to get the goat of the Air Force Cadets during the Navy-Air Force game of 1970. The game was held at Washington, DC’s RFK Stadium and before the game started, a long motorcade flying Air Force General flags drove onto the field on the Air Force side. The Air Force cadets stood at attention for their general, as did the Midshipmen. 

When the door opened, out came Bill the Goat, along with two Mids dressed as cadets.

These days, Navy has increased the security around its mascot, as everyone from the service academies to other Maryland universities has made an attempt at goatnapping. Bill the Goat’s location is a closely-guarded secret, as is the security around him.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hispanic family defines meaning of service

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors those who have positively influenced and enriched the U.S. and society.

For the Fuentes family, that means celebrating the nine brothers who served in the military. Brothers Alfonso, David, Enrique, Ezequiel, Ismael, Marcos, Richard and Rudy all served in the Marine Corps, while Israel served in the Air Force.

Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, the Fuentes parents had 16 children: nine sons and seven daughters. The parents worried about the children but supported their decisions to enlist.


David was the first to enlist, joining the Marine Corps in 1957. According to his siblings, other students teased David in high school, calling him a “mama’s boy.” When one of David’s cousins—a Marine—came home on leave, he talked to David, who convinced him to join. That started a tradition that followed through all nine of the brothers.

Most of the brothers have used VA over the years, including receiving health care at VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System.

Reasons for serving

Each of the brothers had different reasons for serving.

“My plans were to quit school and join the Marines to get away from home,” Ismael said. “A friend of mine told me he would do the same. We went to the Marine recruiting office one weekend and were told we were the two highest ranking officers in Navy Junior ROTC, graduate with honors and we will place you both in our 120-day delayed buddy program. We both graduated June 2, 1968, and were in San Diego June 3.”

Another brother said his reason was to possibly spare his children from going to war.

“I volunteered to go to Vietnam,” Richard said. “My thoughts for volunteering is that when I would have a family, I could tell my kids that I already went to war so they wouldn’t have to.”

Echoing that sentiment, another brother said he served to possibly spare his brothers from going to war.

“I did three years in Navy Junior ROTC because I always knew that I wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps and in case it came down that I had to go to war, then maybe my three younger brothers would be spared,” Rudy said. “That was the reason I enlisted, to protect my three younger brothers.”

The youngest brother said he felt compelled to follow his brothers’ examples.

“Being one of the youngest of nine brothers, I did not want to be the one to break tradition, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps and followed in my brothers’ footsteps,” Enrique said.

About the brothers

Alfonso served in the Marine Corps from 1973-1979 as an infantry rifleman. He served at a Reserve unit in his hometown of Corpus Christi. He also deployed to Rome for training.

David didn’t get teased again after he came home on leave in his Marine Corps uniform. He worked on helicopter engines, assigned to the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California. David served from 1957 to 1960. He passed away June 15, 2011.

Enrique served in the Marine Corps from June 1975-June 1979. Following training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, he served on embassy duty in both Naples, Italy, and Sicily from 1976-1978. He finished his time in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.

Ezequiel enlisted in the Marine Corps July 1, 1965, serving as an aircraft firefighter. He served in Yuma, Arizona, and Iwakuni, Japan. He honorably discharged from the Marine Corps June 30, 1969.

Ismael served in the Marine Corps from June 1968 to June 1972. He served at MCB Camp Pendleton as a cook. After dislocating his shoulder, he transferred to the correctional services company.

Israel enlisted in the Air Force in 1966, serving as a weapons mechanic on A-37s and a crew chief on B-58 bombers. He served at Bien Hoa Air Base from 1968-1969 during the Tet Offensive. He discharged in 1970.

Marcos joined the Marine Corps under the delayed entry program Nov. 10, 1976—the service’s 201st birthday. He served from June 1977 to August 1982, serving at a motor pool unit in MCB Camp Pendleton and a Reservist with the 23rd Marine Regiment.

Richard served in the Marine Corps from 1966-1970. He served with Marine Helicopter Squadron 463 in Vietnam from July 1968 to December 1969. He served in Danang and Quang Tri as a CH-53 Sea Stallion door gunner and as a maintainer on helicopter engines.

Rudy served from January 1972 to February 1977 as military police, transport driver and weapons instructor. He volunteered five times to go to Vietnam, getting denied all five times. He assisted during the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The hilarious reason Winnie the Pooh is banned in China

Many Chinese citizens responded in a peculiar way to Feb. 25, 2018’s announcement that the Chinese Communist Party may get rid of presidential term limits — by posting images of Winnie the Pooh on social media.


The pictures target Xi Jinping, who could now stay in power for decades and potentially paves the way to one-man rule that China has not seen since the days of Mao Zedong.

Also read: China’s president is kind of a big deal

The joke is that Winnie the Pooh, the fictional, living teddy bear made by English author A. A. Milne, looks strikingly similar to Xi, supposedly because both of them look somewhat chubby. Critics of the Chinese leader often use the cartoon character in a derogatory way.

 

The meme has been circulating around Chinese and Western social media since Xi became president in 2013, and has been out in full force since the CCP’s announcement.

One image showed Pooh Bear hugging a large pot of honey, with the words “Wisdom of little bear Winnie the Pooh” in Chinese and “Find the thing you love and stick with it” in English. Another image showed a screenshot from an episode that shows the bear wearing a crown and other royal regalia.

China censors Winnie the Pooh

The memes have provoked Chinese censors to clamp down on the circulation of the cartoon bear on social media apps like WeChat and Sina Weibo.

It appears the censors are going beyond just taking down pictures of Winnie the Pooh. Entire messages relating to the topic of Xi as a dictator or negative talk about him serving for life are being deleted minutes after being sent to friends or posted online.

Related: 11 classic banned books written by veterans

“I’ve posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again,” one micro-blogger wrote according to What’s on Weibo, an independent news site that reports on Chinese digital and social media. “I oppose to the amendment of the ‘no more than two consecutive terms of office’ as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution.”

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin)

China Digital Times and Free Weibo have reported that some of the phrases that Chinese censors are scrutinizing include “I don’t agree,” “election term,” “constitution rules,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and “proclaiming oneself an emperor.”

“Migration” and “emigration” are also subject to heavy censorship.

More: The 25 most ruthless leaders of all time

State censorship is not new in China and censors have gone after Winnie the Pooh images in the past. The country has also notably gone to great lengths to make sure the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, in which hundreds of unarmed Chinese citizens were gunned down by the Peoples Liberation Army, are not discussed — either in person or on the internet.

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This amazing weapon is made of narwhal tusk and meteors

Many great warriors throughout history enjoyed having rare, exquisite weapons. The fictional King Arthur had his “Excalibur.” The real-life Charlemagne had “Joyeuse.” But it was some unknown Inuit tribesman who had the rarest, most magical weapon of all – a spear made from the horn of a Narwhal, tipped by iron from a meteor.

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo

For centuries, the horn of what we know today as the Narwhal was a pretty uncommon sight in European countries. European kings as recent as just a couple of centuries ago believed the “horns” sold to them by Viking traders were from the mythical unicorn and used them in everything from crown jewels to their drinking goblets. In reality, they were actually the tusks of a medium-sized whale; what we know today as a Narwhal. While this didn’t make the tusk any less rare, it did mean the source was less mythical and just really cold – the Narwhal preys on other sea life in the cold Arctic waters of the North.

Meanwhile, much further back in Earth’s history, a particular meteorite collided with Earth. The iron-based ball hit what we know as Cape York, Greenland today. It left a chunk of iron ore that weighed 31 metric tons embedded in the Earth’s surface. The local Inuit called it Saviksoah, or “Great Iron” and used it as a source of metal for hunting and building their communities.

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
Explorer Robert E. Peary with a chunk of the Saviksoah meteor. (Wikimedia Commons)

The tusk of the now-endangered Narwhal can grow anywhere from five to ten feet in length and is a sensory organ, covered with nerves on the outer part of the tusk. So that tusk (which is actually a long, spiral tooth) doesn’t just fall out or shed naturally. For every Narwhal tusk, there’s a dead Narwhal out there somewhere. For the Inuit, they use the occasion to make hunting weapons from the tusks, and the length is ideal for making a spear.

To form an arrowhead, the natives need a source of metal, and, being unable to mine iron ore, they used the meteor as a source of the metal. Instead of using the blacksmithing techniques we all know through movies, televisions, renaissance faires, and whatnot, the Inuit had to use cold forging techniques – that means they just stamped the cold metal until it was beat into the shape they needed.

So it’s not impossible that this lance is the only example of a spear-like weapon forged from the cold iron of a million-year-old meteor then wedged atop the rare ten-foot tooth of a near-mythical Arctic whale. It’s just highly unlikely. And while people have been making weapons from the Ivory of Narwhals for decades now, know that killing one for its tusk is just as illegal as killing anything else for its ivory – only the Inuit are still allowed to hunt the creatures.


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vietnam war hero Charles Kettles has reportedly passed away

According to reports from the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, the Michigan Heroes Museum, and others, Lt. Col. Charles Kettles — the Vietnam war hero and Army pilot who received the Medal of Honor in 2016 for his resupply and rescue efforts in 1967 — died Jan. 21, 2019, at his home in Michigan.


Charles Kettles, at the time an Army major and flight commander in the 176th Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light), 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division, led a platoon of UH-1D Huey transport helicopters to resupply soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, during an ambush by a battalion-sized enemy force near Duc Pho. After leading several trips to the hot landing zone and evacuating the wounded, he returned, without additional aerial support, to rescue a squad-sized element of stranded soldiers pinned down by enemy fire, the White House says.

Small arms and automatic weapons fire continued to rake the landing zone, inflicting heavy damage to the helicopters. However, Kettles refused to depart until all reinforcements and supplies were off-loaded and wounded personnel were loaded on the helicopters to capacity,” the Army said in an official account of his actions. “Kettles then returned to the battlefield, with full knowledge of the intense enemy fire awaiting his arrival. Bringing reinforcements, he landed in the midst of enemy mortar and automatic weapons fire that seriously wounded his gunner and severely damaged his aircraft. Upon departing, Kettles was advised by another helicopter crew that he had fuel streaming out of his aircraft. Despite the risk posed by the leaking fuel, he nursed the damaged aircraft back to base.”

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
The satellite image of the Song Tra Cau riverbed, near Duc Pho, Republic of Vietnam. The graphic overlay depicts then-Maj. Charles Kettles flight path during the emergency extraction, May 15, 1967, as part of Operation Malheur.

Born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Jan. 9, 1930, Kettles left the Army in 1956 to start a car dealership with his brother, then returned to the ranks in 1963 as the Vietnam war began to heat up. He served two tours in Vietnam and retired from the Army in 1978 as a Lt. Colonel.

According to the Detroit News, the Veterans History Project launched a formal campaign to elevate Kettles’ Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor, with Congress waving the time limit to consider the Army aviator for the MOH.

Kettles earned a host of awards during his career, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, an Air Medal with Numeral “27” and the Army Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster, the Army says.

Editor’s Note: This piece was original written by Christian Lowe. The story was updated by Team Mighty upon hearing about the Kettles’ passing. Our very best goes out to this hero and those he leaves behind.

Articles

Russia claims it killed ISIS leader Baghdadi in airstrike

The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.


Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.

“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.

Why immigrant military recruits are in bureaucratic limbo
A pair of Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker aircraft. (DOD photo)

The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.

Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.

“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.

Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.

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Army evaluates new shoulder-fired rocket tech

The U.S. Army is testing new recoilless rifle technology designed give soldiers shoulder-fired rockets that are lighter and more ergonomic and in future, make them safe to fire in tight urban spaces.


Testers at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland are evaluating upgrades to the M3 recoilless rifle, also known as the Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System, or MAAWS. The improvements will make it more ergonomic, six pounds lighter and shorter.

Also read: The Army’s new grenade has a split personality

Maneuver officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, are also conducting a live-demo on the new Shoulder Launched Individual Munition, or SLIM, as part of the Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments, or AEWE, 2017.

SLIM is a new lightweight, disposable shoulder-fired rocket, made by Aerojet Rocketdyne. It weighs 14.9 pounds and is designed to be safely fired from inside enclosures without causing hearing or respiratory system damage, Army officials at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning maintain.

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A soldier tests the recoilless rifle known as the M3E1 Multi-role Anti-armor Anti-personnel Weapon System. | U.S. Army photo

“At 14.9 pounds, it lightens the soldier load, increases engagement lethality and flexibility by eliminating the need for multiple specialized rocket systems with single purpose warheads,” according to a recent press release from MCOE.

Officials from Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab will document findings in an initial report on live fire capabilities Nov. 1 and present them in conjunction with the AEWE 2017 Insights Briefing to the public on March 1, 2017.

Findings from the assessment of SLIM and other technologies will inform the material selection process for the Individual Assault Munition capabilities development document and final production decision, Benning officials say.

The Individual Assault Munition, or IAM, is a next-generation, shoulder-launched munition being designed for use by the Objective Force Warrior.

IAM will also contribute to survivability by enabling soldiers to engage targets from protected positions without exposing themselves to enemy fire, Army officials maintain. The new weapon is being designed to combine the best capabilities of the M72 LAW, M136 AT4, M136E1 and M141 BDM and replace them in the Army arsenal.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen test officials are testing improvements to the M3 MAAWS . The 75th Ranger Regiment and other special operations forces began using the recoilless rifle in 1991.

The Army began ordering the M3 for conventional infantry units to use in Afghanistan in 2011. The M3 weighs about 21 pounds and measures 42 inches long. The breech-loading M3 fires an 84mm round that can reach out and hit enemy bunkers and light-armored vehicles up to 1,000 meters away.

Program officials will incorporate modern materials to “achieve input provided by U.S. Special Operations Command and other services’ users,” said Renee Bober, Product Manager for the M3E1 at U.S. Army Project Manager Soldier Weapons, in a recent Army press release.

To assist in the project with funding and expertise, the M3E1 team turned to the Army Foreign Comparative Testing Program and began working with the M3’s Swedish manufacturer, Saab Bofors Dynamics, for testing and qualifying its next-generation weapon, known as the M3A1.

Saab unveiled the new M3A1 in 2014. It’s significantly lighter and shorter than the M3 recoilless rifle. It weighs about 15 pounds and measures 39 3/8 inches long.

The Army project team traveled to Sweden so they could observe and validate the vendor’s testing instead of duplicating it back in the U.S., said William “Randy” Everett, FCT project manager.

“It was an innovative solution that saved more than $300,000,” he said.

When testing and qualifications are completed in spring 2017, it is scheduled to go into type classification in the fall of 2017, Army officials maintain. After that, the system will be available for procurement to all Department of Defense services.

The upgraded weapon will able to fire the existing suite of MAAWS ammunition, Army officials maintain.

One of the upgrades will include a shot counter. For safety reasons, a weapon should not fire more than its specified limit of rounds.

Right now, soldiers are manually recording the number of rounds fired in a notebook provided with each weapon. The shot counter will help the system last longer because soldiers can keep a more accurate count of how many rounds go through each weapon, Army officials maintain.

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US military helicopter crashes off southern coast of Yemen

A US military Black Hawk helicopter crashed off the southern coast of Yemen while training its crew, leaving one service member missing, officials said.


Five others aboard the aircraft were rescued, officials said in a statement issued by US Central Command.

The crash took place on August 25. Officials said the accident was under investigation.

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Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Company C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Photo from DoD.

Asked if the crash involved another special forces raid, Central Command told The Associated Press that “this was a routine training event specifically for US military personnel.”

“Training events such as this are routinely held by US forces within a theater of operations in order to maintain their proficiency within the operating environment,” CENTCOM told the AP in a statement.

“Commanders deemed this location appropriate and safe for a routine training event, considering both the operational environment and weather conditions at the time.”

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A Missouri Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter (left) sits next to an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on the flightline. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Michaela R. Slanchik.

Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States has been carrying out airstrikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen, with at least 80 launched since the end of February.

A small number of ground raids using US Special Operations forces have also taken place, including one in January which resulted in the death of a US Navy Seal.

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Here are the US targets North Korea most likely wants to nuke

North Korea launched its longest-range, most capable missile ever on July 28, and experts say that all of the US, besides Florida, now lies within range of a nuclear attack from Kim Jong Un.


Fortunately, unlike an attack from a nuclear peer state like Russia, North Korea’s less-advanced missiles would only be expected to hit a few key targets in the US. And even that limited attack would still take North Korea years to prepare, since it still needs to perfect its missiles engines with more tests, in addition to guidance systems. It also needs to build and deploy enough of them to survive US missile defenses.

But a North Korean propaganda photo from 2013 showing Kim Jong Un reviewing documents before a missile launch (pictured below) may have inadvertently leaked the planned targets for a nuclear attack on the US. On the wall besides Kim and his men, there’s a map with lines pointing towards some militarily significant locations.

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Photo from Rodong Sinmun.

In Hawaii, one of the closest targets to North Korea, the US military bases Pacific Command, which is in charge of all US military units in the region.

San Diego is PACOM’s home port, where many of the US Navy ships that would respond to a North Korean attack base when not deployed.

Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana holds the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the entity that would be responsible for firing back with the US’s Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Washington D.C., of course, is the home of the US’s commander-in-chief, who must approve of nuclear orders.

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An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III ICBM launches during an operational test Feb. 20, 2016, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. USAF photo by Senior Airman Kyla Gifford)

All in all, the targets selected by North Korea demonstrate a knowledge of the US’s nuclear command and control, but as they come from a propaganda image, they should be taken with a grain of salt.

North Korea has developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security, according to more than a dozen experts interviewed by Business Insider. If Kim ever shot a nuclear-armed missile the US’s way, before the missiles even landed, US satellites in space would spot the attack and the president would order a return fire likely before the first shots even landed.

As unique as Kim is among world leaders, he must know a swift disposal awaits him if he ever engages in a nuclear confrontation.

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