Iran will respond with equal countermeasures if the United States moves to block its oil exports, the Foreign Ministry says.
“If America wants to take a serious step in this direction it will definitely be met with a reaction and equal countermeasures from Iran,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted as saying by the government news agency IRNA on July 24, 2018.
The United States has told countries that they must stop buying Iranian oil or face consequences.
The warning came after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and moving to reimpose tough sanctions.
The deal with six world powers provided Iran with some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed President Hassan Rohani’s suggestion that Iran may block oil exports from the Persian Gulf if its own exports are stopped.
President Hassan Rohani
Tensions have increased between the two countries in past days.
Trump warned Rohani on Twitter earlier this week to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
The tweet appeared to be in response to Rohani saying any conflict with Iran would be “the mother of all wars.”
Tehran dismissed Trump’s warning on Twitter, which he wrote in capital letters.
Mimicking Trump’s tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif replied, “UNIMPRESSED … We’ve been around for millennia seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Speaking on July 24, 2018, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Trump’s tweet did not deserve a response, saying his comments were “undiplomatic and demagogic.”
“The United States is experiencing disorder and wildness in its diplomatic relations,” Larijani was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
It happened in a flash and changed Jason Redman’s life forever.
Redman — a lieutenant on a Navy SEAL team — and his assault squad were searching for an Al-Qaeda operative in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 when they were ambushed. Redman’s left elbow nearly exploded when two rounds tore through his arm. As the team retreated for cover, another round tripped through the right side of his face, shattering his jaw and tearing off half his nose as it exited.
Nobody would have questioned Redman had he chose to let that moment ruin his life.
Instead, Redman pushed forward and started several organizations designed to help wounded veterans.
Now, he’s receiving the Red Bandanna Hero Award for his efforts.
Named for Welles Remy Crowther — “The Man in the Red Bandanna” who rescued more than a dozen victims of the World Trade Center attacks — the award pays tribute to the “everyday hero who exemplifies the American Spirit and defines us as a nation,” according to a news release. It is given by the American Heroes Channel and the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, and the winner gets to donate $10,000 to the charity of his or her choice.
Redman will receive the honor during an Oct. 27 ESPN broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State football game. And he will be featured on an American Heroes Channel story about the award on Oct. 28.
“Before I was wounded, I wanted to stay in the Navy for 30 years and become the commander of a SEAL Team,” said Redman, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It’s amazing how life turns on a dime and unfolds right in front of you.”
Redman is the CEO and founder of Combat Wounded Coalition and Wounded Wear. He also has a speaking and consulting firm called SOF Spoken. With Old Dominion University he is creating the Overcome Academy, which will help military men and women returning to civilian life. All operate under the Combat Wounded Coalition umbrella, which he started with his wife, Erica.
“If anybody should have the light shine on them, it’s him,” said Kevin Gaydosh of O’Brien et al. Advertising in Virginia Beach, which supports Redman on some of his projects. “Talk about an inspiration. We certainly believe in him and what he’s trying to do.
Redman, 42, also has written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” and will appear in an upcoming film about Navy SEALS. He recently had a role in an episode of the Hawaii Five-O television series.
“Some people suffer through a bad event and stay in that spot,” said Redman, who joined the Navy in 1992 and finished SEAL training three years later. “Others push and drive forward by learning and growing.
“But no, if you told me after I was wounded that I would have a book, a non-profit, that I’d be speaking and acting, I would say no and that you needed an instant drug test.”
Redman barely survived his injuries because of blood loss, and doctors initially thought he would lose his arm because of the injuries to the elbow. Forty surgeries, thousands of stitches, hundreds of staples, and countless hours of rehabilitation helped him regain some normalcy.
But progress was slow.
“Like so many wounded warriors, I was broke,” said the father of three children. “I was used to making things happen, and it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”
Redman admits that he let himself go. He stopped working out and wasn’t eating right. He drank more than he should have. But a visit to the doctor changed all that.
“He told me I would die of a heart attack,” Redman said. “My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, so it was all there.”
“Now I’m pretty much on a fitness quest.”
Back on track, Redman is excited about the award he said belongs to all those he’s trying to help.
“Every morning I wake up I’m thankful I have another day,” said Redman, who retired from the Navy in 2013. “If I die today, because I’m already living on borrowed time, I know that I did it right today.
“Most of us have one shot in this life. I got a second chance.”
Another aircraft will fly at the Air Force’s OA-X light attack competition next week.
Air Tractor and L3 announced August 1 they will offer the AT-802L Longsword to participate in the fly-off at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on August 8 and 9, according to a release.
Together, the companies developed the L variant off its predecessor, the AT-802U, the release said. The Longsword is a light attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.
“We are proud of the Longsword and the opportunity to participate in OA-X. We are looking forward to flying at Holloman AFB and showcasing our capabilities to the Air Force and to our partner nations,” said Jim Hirsch, president of Air Tractor.
“The AT-802L Longsword provides a highly effective capability based on a rugged, proven platform that adds class-leading technologies integrated by L3 for a simple, yet powerful solution,” added Jim Gibson, president of L3 Platform Integration and the L3 Aircraft Systems sector.
L3 developed a “certified, state-of-the-art glass cockpit and the L3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR Sensor,” ideal for medium-altitude ISR and search-and-rescue missions, according to the New York-based company.
Air Tractor, based in Texas, and L3 in March showed the aircraft during the Avalon Airshow in Australia, rebranding it the OA-8 with hopes of securing Asia-Pacific partners. Variants are operated by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, and Kenya.
The Air Force distributed formal invitations to the fly-off in March.
Sierra Nevada in May announced the Super Tucano will participate in the event, pitching it as “A-29 for America.”
Textron and AirLand LLC will showcase the Scorpion jet, as well as the AT-6B Wolverine, an armed version of the T-6 Texan II made by Textron’s Beechcraft Corp. unit and Raytheon Co., according to an April release from Textron.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other leaders have said the light attack plane will not replace the service’s beloved A-10 Warthog.
“We need to look and see if there are ways to save costs and do this in an efficient and effective manner … [and] it could create a building partnership capacity. Not every nation we want to build a partnership with needs an F-16 or an F-35,” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said at the time of the invite announcement.
Bunch reiterated the light-attack concept — should the “experiment” prevail and the Air Force choose to fund it — is a needed platform for current manpower levels.
“Why are we even exploring this concept? The need is, we need to be able to absorb fighter pilots,” he said. “Another reason is we want to look at a concept so we could have a lower operating cost, a lower unit cost, for something to be able to operate in a permissive … environment than what I would require a fourth- or a fifth-gen aircraft to be able to operate in.”
Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.
Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.
As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.
“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”
Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.
The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.
By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.
“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”
The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.
“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”
During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.
EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.
Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.
Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.
“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.
“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”
EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.
“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”
Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.
Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.
“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.
Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.
“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”
As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.
“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”
According to a recent Better Business Bureau study, service members are more susceptible to fraud than average consumers. In fact, scammers using the name “Exchange Inc.” have been attempting to fool soldiers and airmen into thinking they are working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to broker the sale of used cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, and boat engines.
“For years, scammers have used the Exchange’s trademarked logo and name without permission to purportedly sell vehicles in the United States,” said Steve Boyd, the Exchange’s loss prevention vice president. “Some military members have sent money thinking they’re dealing with the Exchange, only to receive nothing in return.”
Military exchanges do not have the authority to sell vehicles or represent private sellers in completing transactions in the continental United States. Scammers have left consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Department of Defense’s oldest and largest exchange service.
Scammers have left military consumers with the impression they are doing business with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service by using the name Exchange Inc. to dupe military consumers.
The scammers typically direct potential buyers to use multiple third-party gift cards to pay for purchases. Most recently, scammers required payment using Google Play gift cards. To verify any suspicious payment method requests, military shoppers can call Exchange Customer Service at 800-527-2345.
The Exchange operates solely on military installations and via ShopMyExchange.com. The Exchange does not act as a broker in private transactions and does not advertise in classified advertisement or resale websites.
Shoppers who believe that they may have been taken advantage of can file a complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.
Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.
The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.
“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”
Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.
His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.
Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.
That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.
Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.
Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.
“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”
And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.
“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”
If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”
Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.
The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.
“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.
“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.
Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.
“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”
Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.
That concept is still a work in progress.
“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”
International diplomacy between nuclear nations, like the US and North Korea, doesn’t rate as an easy task for even the most seasoned statesmen, but for some reason it’s commonly discussed in horse racing terms — carrots and sticks.
In diplomatic negotiations, a nation will offer another nation a carrot, or some kind of benefit, while threatening a stick, some kind of mobilization of leverage.
Carrots can be economic benefits or normalizing relations. Sticks can be military force or economic sanctions. Today’s diplomats still talk about North Korea in these terms, or as you would talk about training a horse.
But Christopher Lawrence of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government told Business Insider that approach could be all wrong, and hidden in the history of failed talks with North Korea could be a better way forward.
North Korea won’t trade missiles for carrots
“If the regime ever agrees to give up nuclear weapons, it will not be for fleeting rewards or written security guarantees, but for a long-term, completely different political relationship with the United States going forward,” Lawrence wrote in his new paper on North Korean diplomacy.
In other words, carrots won’t solve the crisis. Demonstrably, sticks, in the form of sanctions and military threats, haven’t solved it either.
Instead, Lawrence proposes looking back to 1994, when North Korea’s nuclear program was in its infancy and the US actually significantly rolled back its plutonium capability, which it could use to make weapons, in exchange for building light water reactors, which are used for nuclear power.
No other acts of diplomacy with North Korea ever had the same level of physical results. Instead of the US simply cutting a check and promising not to invade, a US-led consortium began building energy infrastructure, which could function as a physical bond to imply a commitment to peace.
Therefore, US carrots to North Korea “will only be meaningful if they speak credibly about the political future — and physical, real-world manifestations of a changing relationship, such as shared infrastructure investments, often speak more credibly than written words,” writes Lawrence.
Talk is cheap. Infrastructure isn’t.
Kim Jong Un apparently wants the US to guarantee his security, but “written security assurances are less than credible,” Lawrence told Business Insider. “If we get what we want out of North Korea, why would we follow through?”
North Korea seems sensitive to shifting US rhetoric, as its reaction to being compared to Libya and Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal clearly show.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
Instead, Lawrence said the US and its allies should focus on building real infrastructure in North Korea to improve the country. The US’s carrot here would happen at a synchronized pace to North Korea taking steps to denuclearize.
“I think think the main insight is we should not be thinking in terms of gifts to the regime, but points of US skin in the game,” Lawrence said.
A slow push of US investment and infrastructure in North Korea would allow Kim to control the propaganda narrative, and own the achievements as his own, rather than handouts from Trump, which could help sell the deal.
This could potentially solve the issue of North Korea opening up to the outside world too fast and becoming destabilized when its impoverished, closed-off population gets a taste of outside life.
The continuing US relationship with North Korea and the physical presence of US investment in the country provides a mechanism for keeping the talks on track. If North Korea doesn’t make good on its end, the US “can turn the lights out” on its investments, according to Lawrence.
Far from thinking about who will win or lose the upcoming summit by counting up the carrots and sticks at the end of the horse race, Lawrence offers a vision of what building a lasting peace in Korea could look like.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One would think that without a security clearance, the Director of Naval Intelligence would lose his job. In the case of Navy Vice Adm. Ted Branch, that didn’t happen.
Branch was caught on the periphery of the “Fat Leonard” scandal, due to his actions while commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
You’ve probably heard of it by now. Numerous Navy officers and individuals tied to a contractor in the Far East have been indicted for all sorts of charges, including retired Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, whose indictment was unsealed on March 14, according to a Defense News report.
Branch had his security clearance suspended in 2013, months after he became Director of Naval Intelligence. A March 2016 report by USNI News noted that then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus discussed the situation with the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing.
“When I was informed in late 2013 that Adm. Branch was possibly connected to the GDMA case, I thought because of his position I should remove his clearance in an excess of caution. I was also told — assured — at that time that a decision would be made in a very short time — in a matter of weeks, I was told — as to whether he was involved and what would be the disposition of the case,” Mabus explained to Senator Joni Earnst (R-IA).
Branch’s situation had languished for almost two and a half years at that point.
“Naval intelligence is OK. The whole situation is less than optimal and frustrating, but we are where we are,” he told Military.com in Feb. 2016. “And we will persevere. And I will lead in this capacity until somebody tells me to go home.”
Branch retired on Oct. 1, 2016, upon the confirmation of his successor, Vice Adm. Jan Tighe.
During Branch’s time as captain of the Nimitz, the 10-part PBS documentary series “Carrier” was film on the vessel. The series was produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, the same company that did the Oscar-winning film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
“The terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, sought not just to take the lives of U.S. citizens and crumble buildings; they hoped to break America’s spirit,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial observance. “They failed,” he said.
“The American people showed on that day and every day since, we will not be intimidated,” the vice president said. “Our spirit cannot be broken.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva hosted Pence for the annual remembrance for families and friends of those who fell at the Pentagon.
Seventeen years ago, terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. One hundred eighty-nine people perished — 125 service members and civilians working in the building, and 59 men and women and children aboard the flight.
The losses at the Pentagon, combined with those at New York City’s World Trade Center and in a field crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, totaled2,977 men, women and children.
A special burden
“To the families of the fallen gathered here and all those looking on, the cherished final moments you shared with your loved ones no doubt seem like just yesterday: a goodbye kiss, a tender embrace, or one last wave,” Pence said.
“Just know that your nation understands that, while we all suffered loss that day, we know you bear a special burden,” he added. “But we gather here in the shadow of the building where your loved ones departed this life to say that you do not bear that burden alone. The American people stand with you and we always will.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honor the flag during a 9/11 ceremony at the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2017.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The vice president said that even before the smoke cleared and the fires were put out, Americans began to answer the call and step forward to serve the nation.
“It’s amazing to think in the 17 years since that day, nearly 5.5 million Americans volunteered to serve in the armed forces of the United States,” he added. “Those courageous men and women turned a day of tragedy into a triumph of freedom.”
Hatred will not prevail
Mattis told the families and friends of victims that, “[In] the shadow of our rebuilt Pentagon, we are all part of your larger family. We stand with you every day in honored tribute of the fallen, of your loved ones.”
In that spirit, the secretary added, “this morning we commit ourselves to remembering and honoring the lives that might have been. We keep faith with the innocent who perished. We take solace in their deaths were not in vain, for in their passing they empowered us forever with our enduring sense of purpose. And we remember that hatred disguised in false religious garb to murder innocents will not prevail.”
We remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who fell here in America, and then on far-flung battlefields, he said.
“We salute the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines who nailed our colors to the mast, giving their last full measure of devotion, declaring proudly that Americans do not scare,” Mattis said.
Strength and resilience
Together with the families of the fallen, we remember all that is good, true, and beautiful about those we have lost, “And if we remember them, if we honor them by living as they would have us live, if we in the Department of Defense do our best every day to protect America’s promise to the world, then we keep our promise to them and to ourselves and to future generations,” the secretary said.
Selva told the audience that the ceremonies across the country, “inspire us to reflect not only on the nation’s strength and resolve after those brutal attacks, but also on the strength and resilience of individual people who continue to carry on, even to thrive, in spite of the pain of losing a loved one.”
The vice chairman said all should take comfort in knowing that those who died imparted a legacy of selfless service, courage and patriotism, and a belief in the high ideals, all of which continue to inspire a new generation of grateful Americans who have answered the call to serve.
“So today, let us reaffirm the commitment that as long as we have breath to breathe, our military members will defend this nation,” the vice chairman said. “We will ensure that future generations of America are able to enjoy the same freedoms and liberties that we inherited.”
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
Many celebrities use their influence to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about. Something as simple as a social media post or attending an event can bring support and attention for an organization. For the military veteran community, celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Bob Hope have used their influence so much that it becomes part of their lifestyle.
But there are many other superstars who have gone above and beyond in supporting troops, although most people have no idea. Here are 11 superstars you probably didn’t know were passionate about supporting veterans.
1. Kathy Griffin
The multi Emmy award winning actress and comedian has been a long time supporter of the troops performing on USO tours, hosting VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, and offering veterans free backstage tickets to her shows. She has been awarded recognition for her commitment in supporting the troops.
2. Jared Allen
Jared Allen is a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and current player for the Chicago Bears. He was so inspired by his interaction with troops on a USO tour that he created the non-profit Homes for Wounded Warriors which builds and remodels homes for wounded warriors.
3. Judd Apatow
The award winning comedy writer/producer has many well known credits including “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “Bridesmaids,” and HBO’s “Girls.” What many don’t know is his passion in supporting troops by performing stand up comedy to raise money for wounded warriors, sending gifts to troops, and hiring veterans to work on his productions.
Owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince partnered his entertainment powerhouse with the Armed Forces Entertainment to organize an annual Tribute to the Troops since 2003. Prior to the show each year, he has WWE wrestlers and employees visit military bases and hospitals.
In addition to performing for the troops, the Grammy award-winning singer organized a fundraiser supporting a military charity, and invited many of her celebrity friends.
10. Barry Zito
The Cy Young award-winning pitcher founded the non-profit Strikeouts for Troops in 2005, which provides financial support to wounded warriors. He also flies out a group of veterans to watch spring training every year.
2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.
Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.
Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.
Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”
The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.
‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’
The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.
Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.
But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.
“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.
After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)
Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.
Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.
This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.
Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.
“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.
‘To recover peace and calm’
But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.
A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.
Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.
Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.
And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”
The Air Force F-35 is using “open air” ranges and computer simulation to practice combat missions against the best Chinese and Russian-made air-defense technologies – as a way to prepare to enemy threats anticipated in the mid-2020s and beyond.
The testing is aimed at addressing the most current air defense system threats such as Russian-made systems and also focused on potential next-generation or yet-to-exist threats, Harrigian said.
Air Force officials have explained that, looking back to 2001 when the JSF threat started, the threats were mostly European centric – Russian made SA-10s or SA-20s. Now the future threats are looking at both Russian and Chinese-made and Asian made threats, they said.
“They have got these digital SAMS (surface-to-air-missile-systems) out there that can change frequencies and they are very agile in how they operate. being able to replicate that is not easy,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Director of the F-35 Integration Office, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Surface threats from air defenses is a tough problem because emerging threats right now can see aircraft hundreds of miles away, service officials explained.
Furthermore, emerging and future Integrated Air Defense Systems use faster computer processors, are better networked to one-another and detect on a wider range of frequencies. These attributes, coupled with an ability to detect aircraft at further distances, make air defenses increasingly able to at times detect even stealth aircraft, in some instances, with surveillance radar.
While the Air Force aims to prepare for the unlikely contingency of a potential engagement with near-peer rivals such as Russia or China, Harrigian explained that there is much more concern about having to confront an adversary which has purchased air-defense technology from the Russians or Chinese.
Harrigian explained that the F-35 is engineered with what developers call “open architecture,” meaning it is designed to quickly integrate new weapons, software and avionics technology as new threats emerge.
“One of the key reasons we bought this airplane is because the threats continue to evolve – we have to be survivable in this threat environment that has continued to develop capabilities where they can deny us access to specific objectives that we may want to achieve. This airplane gives us the ability to penetrate, deliver weapons and then share that information across the formation that it is operating in,” Harrigian explained.
While training against the best emerging threats in what Harrigian called “open air” ranges looks to test the F-35 against the best current and future air defenses – there is still much more work to be done when it comes to anticipating high-end, high-tech fast developing future threats. This is where modeling and simulation play a huge part in threat preparation, he added.
“The place where we have to have the most agility is really in the modeling and simulation environment – If you think about our open air ranges, we try to build these ranges that have this threats that we expect to be fighting. Given the pace at which the enemy is developing these threats – it becomes very difficult for us to go out and develop these threats,” Harrigan explained.
The Air Force plans to bring a representation of next-generation threats and weapons to its first weapons school class in 2018.
In a simulated environment, F-22s from Langley AFB in Virginia could train for combat scenarios with an F-35 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, he said.
The JSF’s Active Electronically Scanned Arrays, or AESA’s, the aircraft is able to provide a synthetic aperture rendering of air and ground pictures. The AESA also brings the F-35 electronic warfare capabilities, Harrigian said.
Part of the idea with F-35 modernization is to engineered systems on the aircraft which can be upgraded with new software as threats change. Technologies such as the AESA radar, electronic attack and protection and some of the computing processing power on the airplane, can be updated to keep pace with evolving threats, Harrigian said.
Engineered to travel at speeds greater than 1,100 miles per hour and able to reach Mach 1.6, the JSF is said to be just as fast and maneuverable at an F-15 or F-16 and bring and a whole range of additional functions and abilities.
Overall, the Air Force plans to buy 1,763 JSF F-35A multi-role fighters, a number which will ultimately comprise a very large percentage of the service’s fleet of roughly 2,000 fighter jets. So far, at least 87 F-35As have been built.
4th Software Drop
Many of the JSF’s combat capabilities are woven into developmental software increments or “drops,” each designed to advance the platforms technical abilities. There are more than 10 million individual lines of code in the JSF system.
While the Air Force plans to declare its F-345s operational with the most advanced software drop, called 3F, the service is already working on a 4th drop to be ready by 2020 or 2021. Following this initial drop, the aircraft will incorporate new software drops in two year increments in order to stay ahead of the threat.
The first portion of Block IV software funding, roughly $12 million, arrived in the 2014 budget, Air Force officials said.
Block IV will include some unique partner weapons including British weapons, Turkish weapons and some of the other European country weapons that they want to get on their own plane, service officials explained.
Block IV will also increase the weapons envelope for the U.S. variant of the fighter jet. A big part of the developmental calculus for Block 4 is to work on the kinds of enemy air defense systems and weaponry the aircraft may face from the 2020’s through the 2040’s and beyond.
In terms of weapons, Block IV will eventually enable the F-35 to fire cutting edge weapons systems such as the Small Diameter Bomb II and GBU-54 – both air dropped bombs able to destroy targets on the move.
The Small Diameter Bomb II uses a technology called a “tri-mode” seeker, drawing from infrared, millimeter wave and laser-guidance. The combination of these sensors allows the weapon to track and eliminate moving targets in all kinds of weather conditions.
These emerging 4th software drop will build upon prior iterations of the software for the aircraft.
Block 2B builds upon the enhanced simulated weapons, data link capabilities and early fused sensor integration of the earlier Block 2A software drop. Block 2B will enable the JSF to provide basic close air support and fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile), JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU-12 (laser-guided aerial bomb) JSF program officials said.
Following Block 2B, Block 3i increases the combat capability even further and Block 3F will bring a vastly increased ability to suppress enemy air defenses.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, service officials explained.
An F-35B dropping a GBU-12 during a developmental test flight. | U.S. Air Force photo
The AIM 9X is an Air Force and Navy heat-seeking infrared missile.
In fact, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided air-to-air missile for the first time recently over a Pacific Sea Test Range, Pentagon officials said.
The F-35 took off from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and launched the missile at 6,000 feet, an Air Force statement said.
Designed as part of the developmental trajectory for the emerging F-35, the test-firing facilities further development of an ability to fire the weapon “off-boresight,” described as an ability to target and destroy air to air targets that are not in front of the aircraft with a direct or immediate line of sight, Pentagon officials explained.
The AIM-9X, he described, incorporates an agile thrust vector controlled airframe and the missile’s high off-boresight capability can be used with an advanced helmet (or a helmet-mounted sight) for a wider attack envelope.
F-35 25mm Gun
Last Fall, the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter recently completed the first aerial test of its 25mm Gatling gun embedded into the left wing of the aircraft, officials said.
The test took place Oct. 30, 2015, in California, Pentagon officials described.
“This milestone was the first in a series of test flights to functionally evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun throughout its employment envelope,” a Pentagon statement said several months ago.
The Gatling gun will bring a substantial technology to the multi-role fighter platform, as it will better enable the aircraft to perform air-to-air attacks and close-air support missions to troops on the ground.
Called the Gun Airborne Unit, or GAU-22/A, the weapon is engineered into the aircraft in such a manner as to maintain the platform’s stealth configuration.
The four-barrel 25mm gun is designed for rapid fire in order to quickly blanket an enemy with gunfire and destroy targets quickly. The weapon is able to fire 3,300 rounds per minute, according to a statement from General Dynamics.
“Three bursts of one 30 rounds and two 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. In integrating the weapon into the stealthy F 35Aairframe, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors to reduce its radar cross section until the trigger is pulled,” a statement from the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter said.
The first phase of test execution consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over the course of three months to verify the integration of the gun into the F-35A, the JSF office said.
“Once verified, the team was cleared to begin this second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations,” the statement added.
The new gun will also be integrated with the F-35’s software so as to enable the pilot to see and destroy targets using a helmet-mounted display.