An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he's trying to save the family - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

The last words of a heroic Iraqi interpreter who sacrificed himself to save American soldiers from a suicide bomber were: “Take care of my son. Take care of my wife.” US Special Forces troops are now fighting to honor that dying request.

When a suicide bomber detonated his vest during a vehicle inspection near the Syrian border in September 2007, Barakat Ali Bashar put himself between the bomber and then-Staff Sgt. Jay McBride. Bashar, a new father of only a week, was critically wounded in the attack, and he died at a military hospital in Mosul.


Bashar “had dozens of ball bearings in his body causing injuries that nobody could have survived,” McBride, a former medic, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “I owe him my life.”

Bashar, described as “kind of young and a little more western than your typical Iraqi,” served as an interpreter for US Special Forces fighting Al Qaeda in northern Iraq. After his death, his family received some financial compensation from the US government, but they remained in Iraq, a country later overrun by the Islamic State.

The family, already a target because of their Yazidi heritage, was also in danger because of Bashar’s work with the US military. They fled their home near Mount Sinjar, leaving behind their personal possessions and all evidence Bashar had served with the US Army, and headed to a refugee camp in Kurdistan, where they still live today. Bashar’s family emailed Stars and Stripes and revealed that they live in constant fear.

One of the problems encountered during the visa application process was the lack of proof that Bashar had served with the US military. The family has since obtained written proof that Bashar “was declared dead in a U.S. Army hospital and he was an interpreter who served with [U.S. forces].” They are awaiting a follow-up interview with the State Department.

McBride and other US veterans have been writing letters and petitions in support of the family’s special visa application since 2015. “Is this how you treat a family of someone who worked five years with the U.S. Army; someone who was loyal to the U.S. and Iraq; someone who gave his life serving with U.S. Army soldiers and trying to protect them?” McBride told Stars and Stripes, adding that he would happily put the family up at his house if that was an option.

Bashar “never faltered in his commitment to help American forces, even after his family was threatened and their names were placed on a list that was circulated around the region describing him as a traitor for supporting American forces,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Swett, another Special Forces soldier, wrote in support of the family. “He believed in the American dream even more than we did. Unfortunately, [Bashar] never realized his opportunity to see the country that he sacrificed so much for.”

“We, the people of the United States of America, put this family at risk and I feel it is our duty as a civilized nation to [ensure] their safety,” Army Master Sgt. Todd West wrote in a separate letter.

Featured image: U.S. Army Pfc. Jacob Paxson and Pfc. Antonio Espiricueta, both from Company B (“Death Dealers”), 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provide security from a street corner during a foot patrol in Tameem, Ramadi, Iraq.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Lists

9 John Bolton quotes that prove he’s the worst national security ‘expert’

In the latest of a series of White House personnel changes, President Donald Trump on March 22, 2018, replaced his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, with John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN.


Bolton is well-known for his hawkish statements, to say the least.

“John Bolton was by far the most dangerous man we had in the entire eight years of the Bush administration,” Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, tweeted on March 16, 2018. “Hiring him as the president’s top national security advisor is an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war.”

Also read: John Bolton still thinks the Iraq War was a good idea

It’s quite the statement about an administration that included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and other notable hawks of the 21st century.

Here are nine things Bolton has said that scare the national-security establishment.

1. “The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories; if you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” Bolton said in a 1994 speech, referring to the UN’s headquarters. He added later: “There’s no such thing as the United Nations.”

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

2. “I expect that the American role actually will be fairly minimal,” Bolton said in 2002, before the US invasion of Iraq. “I think we’ll have an important security role.”

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

3. “The main thing people feared at that time was Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons stocks,” Bolton said in 2009, defending the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

In reality, what most feared was the Bush administration’s false claims that Hussein had nuclear ambitions and that the Iraqi government had ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

Source: Hoover Institution

Related: Trump’s newest advisor really wants to bomb North Korea

4. “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” Bolton told the Washington Examiner in 2015. “I think decisions made after that decision were wrong, although I think the worst decision made after that was the 2011 decision to withdraw US and coalition forces.”

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Source: Washington Examiner

5. “I think obviously this needs to be done in a careful and prudent fashion,” Bolton said in 2008 of a strike on Iran. “But I think that the strategic situation now is that if we don’t respond, the Iranians will take it as a sign of weakness.”

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

Source: Fox News

6. “A strike accompanied by effective public diplomacy could well turn Iran’s diverse population against an oppressive regime,” Bolton wrote in 2009, advocating a strike on Iran by Israel. “Most of the Arab world’s leaders would welcome Israel solving the Iran nuclear problem, although they certainly won’t say so publicly and will rhetorically embrace Iran if Israel strikes.”

Source: Wall Street Journal

More: The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 23rd

7. “The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program,” Bolton wrote in 2015. “Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.”

Source: New York Times

8. “King Abdullah of Jordan, who is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country, unlike our president,” Bolton said in an August 2016 speech to the conservative American Freedom Alliance.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

Source: American Freedom Alliance

9. “It is perfectly legitimate for the United States to respond to the current ‘necessity’ posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first,” Bolton wrote in February 2018.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Articles

The Philippine military has wiped out an ISIS training camp

ISIS-linked militants in the Southern Philippines have conducted a series of violent clashes with government forces, killing at least 7 soldiers but suffering the loss of over a dozen fighters.


An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Philippine Marines train on automatic weapons in classes from the US Marine Corps. Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn

The militants come from at least three separate groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS. One of the smaller groups launched an attack on a small army outpost on Mindinao, an island in the southern Philippines. The Philippine Army repelled the attack and then countered, killing 12 militants but losing six of their own soldiers.

The counterattack was aimed at an ISIS training camp. ISIS flags have been flying at camps on Mindinao for months, but it’s not clear if these are new camps or just new flags.

In fighting with other ISIS-aligned groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Philippine Forces lost another soldier but killed an unknown number of militants.

The group Abu Sayyaf was routed in Dec. 2015 when 300 Philippine soldiers with artillery and air support attacked the main camps and killed their leader, Najib Hussein. But, they’ve continued to attack government positions throughout the south.

“[Islamic State] influence is growing stronger and it is expanding,” Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research told AFP.

Despite Philippine forces finding ISIS flags, bandanas, and other items on the battlefield, other experts assert that the Philippine groups’ allegiance to ISIS is just a ploy for the Islamic State’s money and weapons.

“It really has nothing to do with ideology,” Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College, told reporters. “This is all about resources.”

The groups involved in the worst of the fighting have existed for years longer than ISIS, and their violence has been going on for years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Manhattan terrorist asked to fly ISIS flag in hospital

The man who allegedly killed eight people on Oct. 31 in the worst terror attack New York City has seen since 9/11 had planned to continue his rampage down the West Side Highway and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday.


Federal prosecutors charged Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, with providing support to the terrorist group ISIS. He is also facing charges of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Saipov, who is in police custody and recovering from his injuries at Bellevue Hospital, waived his Miranda rights verbally and spoke to law enforcement officials about the attack, the complaint said.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
NYPD Counterterrorism officers are investigating an attack that killed 8 and injured more in lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017. The attack is being considered a terrorist attack.

He told authorities he began planning an attack in the US roughly one year ago, and decided two months ago to use a truck “in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians.” He also said he chose the date of Oct. 31 because it was Halloween — a date he believed would draw more civilians out onto the street.

Saipov’s original plan was to plow the rented truck into civilians near the West Side Highway and the drive on to the Brooklyn Bridge to continue the bloodshed. Saipov never made it to the Brooklyn Bridge as he crashed the truck into a school bus near the West Side Highway’s bicycle path.

Also Read: This is what makes the NYC attacker a terrorist

From there, Saipov exited the truck while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and brandished a paintball gun and pellet gun. According to the complaint, Saipov also had a bag of knives, but left them in the truck before exiting.

He also admitted to writing the note found by authorities, which they said was written in Arabic and said the Islamic State would endure forever.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Still from an image released by Al-Furqan media group.

Saipov said he was was motivated to carry out the attack after watching a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the US were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.

Saipov also told authorities he had intended to display the black-and-white ISIS flags in the front and rear of his truck, but eventually decided against it so as not to draw attention to himself.

The complaint also noted that Saipov had asked during his interview with authorities if he could display the ISIS flag in his hospital room. He told them that “he felt good about what he had done,” the complaint said.

popular

5 of the worst things to put in a burn pit

If you’ve ever deployed to the Middle East, then you’ve probably experienced a few explosions here and there, heard a firefight once or twice, and smelled some pretty nasty sh*t burning nearby.


Well, that burning sh*t is either the bad guys torching tires as a signal to warn others that allied forces are in the area, or it’s the smell of a burn pit coming from a military base.

For years, troops serving on the frontlines have burned their unwanted trash, either in barrels or in large burn pits, set ablaze with diesel fuel.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

Since burn pits are the primary avenue through which troops discard their waste products, plenty of items get thrown into the pits that shouldn’t be near an open flame — like the following.

1. Unspent rounds

It’s common for troops to experience a misfire when discharging their weapons for various reasons. After they clear the chamber, they either let the unspent round fall to the ground or, sometimes, they get tossed into a burn pit.

That’s a bad idea. Bullet projection is based on igniting the gunpowder inside the shell as a propellant. No one wants to get shot by a burn pit.

Just because the primer was struck and nothing happened doesn’t mean the round is dead — it’s still alive. Sort of like a zombie.

2. Human remains

This is just nasty. Who wants to smell a bad guy’s leg roasting over an open flame in the burn pit? On second thought, please don’t answer that.

3. Batteries

Various types of batteries will explode if exposed to intense heat. No troop wants to get hit with shrapnel during a firefight, let alone get blasted by battery fragments while inside the wire.

(Mr. Thinker | YouTube)

4. Miscut detonation cord

Occasionally, small amounts of det cord get improperly cut, resulting in some unwanted wire that gets tossed away. No bueno.

If certain det cords come in contact with an accelerant, the heat from the fire can cause an explosion. Being too close to that blast can result in injury — and no one wants that.

(MyXplosionTV | YouTube)

Also Read: 4 of the worst things about getting promoted

5. Unexploded ordnance

This is pretty obvious, right? It’s amazing what gets thrown into a burn pit.

MIGHTY FIT

From the football field to the battlefield: 7 vets with NFL ties

The National Football League has been plagued by questions of patriotism in the last few years. But whether or not the NFL kneels or stands this year, it’s important to remember that some of the players and coaches have served, too.


An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

1. George Halas

Halas was instrumental in the creation of the NFL and responsible for founding the team that went on to be the Chicago Bears in 1920. Nicknamed “Papa Bear,” Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons, leading them to six NFL titles. Halas served in the Navy during World War I and returned to Navy service from 1942-1945.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

2. Ralph Wilson, Jr.

Enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2009, Wilson founded the Buffalo Bills following his service in the Navy during World War II. He was also instrumental in the merger between the AFL and the NFL in 1970.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

3. Kevin Greene

Greene retired from the NFL in 1999 and ranks third among all-time sack leaders. He led the NFL twice in that category with an impressive career playing for the Steelers, Rams, Panthers, and 49ers, with five appearances in the Pro Bowl. Greene was a member of ROTC at Auburn and served 16 years in the Army Reserves.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

4. Alejandro Villanueva Martínez

Villanueva is an offensive tackle for the Steelers. A veteran Army Ranger, Villanueva was a captain in the Army, served in Afghanistan, and was decorated with a Bronze Star.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

5. Tom Landry

Hall of Famer Tom Landry was a coaching phenom for the Dallas Cowboys. He led his team to two Super Bowl titles and had 20 straight winning seasons. Equally impressive was Landry’s service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. The B-17 co-pilot flew 30 missions and survived a crash in Belgium. He passed away in 2000 at age 75 as a legend and a hero.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

6. Dick “Night Train” Lane

The Hall of Famer had an incredible 68 career interceptions during his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Cardinals, and Detroit Lions. For nine straight years (1954-1963), Lane earned first or second-team All-NFL honors. He played in seven Pro Bowls and during his rookie season, had an unprecedented 14 interceptions – a record that still stands today. Lane served in the Army during both World War II and the Korean War.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

7. Roger Staubach

Staubach, nicknamed “Captain America,” won the 1963 Heisman Trophy during his time as quarterback at the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduation, Staubach served his commitment in the Navy, which included a tour in Vietnam. Following his service, Staubach joined the Cowboys and played in Dallas for all 11 seasons of his professional football career. During his tenure, the Cowboys won two of their five Super Bowl appearances.

The list of NFL greats who served their country continues with inspiring men like Pat Tillman, George McAfee, Mike Anderson, and so many more. But for every big name in the NFL, there are countless men that gave up their football dreams to serve their country.

You may not have heard of Jack Ankerson, but he only played three NFL exhibition games in 1964 before Uncle Sam called him up to serve his time. By the time his commitment was done, so was his chance to play in the NFL. But Jack, like so many others who chose service above self, is everything that’s right with America and the sports we love to watch.

Whether they’re a hometown hero or a household name, we salute all of our football playing and football-loving veterans.

Articles

Here’s what it takes to be on the Marine silent drill team

Discipline, self-control, and honor are just some of the defining characteristics of a U.S. Marine who serves as a member of the 24-man silent drill team. Also known as the “Marching Twenty-Four,” the drill team’s function is to demonstrate the outstanding professionalism of the Marine Corps.


In 1948, they first performed at the Sunset Parades at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. Their perfectly executed movements received such an amazing response from the crowd, the drill team was born.

Serving on the team requires extensive discipline, so finding new recruits is a challenge.

Related: 21 photos showing the awesomeness of the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon executes their refined movements with hand-polished, 10.5 pounds, M1 Garand rifles with fixed bayonets during the Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Each fall, the drill team prospects are hand-selected from the School of Infantry located in Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif. After a detailed interview process and rifle drill audition conducted by experienced personnel, those Marines who are selected are assigned a position and will serve a two-year ceremonial tour.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
These Marines spend hours practicing their drill to craft perfectly executed movements. (Source: US Military Videos and Photos/YouTube/Screenshot)

In addition to their ceremonial duties, the drill team members train alongside infantry Marines in the field to maintain their skills during the offseason.

When experienced team members request to move up in ranks and become rifle inspectors, they will go through a series of inspections graded by rifle inspectors who served in the previous season.

Also Read: 5 military training drills that’ll blow your mind

Although the team practices using verbal communication, not a single word will be spoken during their exceptional performance.

Articles

The number of counter-terrorism missions this White House has authorized will surprise you

Counter-terrorism operations outside of active war zones under President Donald Trump are outpacing the Obama administration by nearly five times, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Micah Zenko said July 31.


The US has launched at least 100 counter-terrorism operations since Trump took office. Zenko compared this number to the mere 21 operations launched under former President Barack Obama in his last six months in office. These operations include raids by US special operators, drone strikes, and other lethal actions.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
An MQ-9 Reaper, loaded with four GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs is ready for a training mission March 31, 2017, at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. USAF photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen.

The majority of the operations listed in Zenko’s analysis occurred in Yemen where the US is actively battling an al-Qaeda insurgency. Trump declared Yemen an “area of active hostilities” after taking office, which allows the military to carry out counter-terrorism strikes without going through a White House-led approval process.

Zenko’s previous April analysis revealed that the US averaged approximately one counter-terrorism strike per day in the first 74 days of Trump’s presidency. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more — and so they are,” a senior US defense official said of the Trump administration in April.

Trump has also considered changing the way the US targets terrorists in drone strikes. The new rules would instead target terrorists under military protocols which allow for some civilian casualties, as long as they weighed proportionally by the commander responsible for approving the operation. The loosening of drone strike protocol couples with broader counter-terrorism policy changes by the administration, including a change in rules of engagement in the fight against ISIS, more leeway for Pentagon commanders considering ground raids, and increased willingness to use military force.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Did everyone enjoy their freebies on Veteran’s Day? Congrats! Now enjoy these memes for free!


1. What’s better than getting a bunch of free food on Veteran’s Day?

(via Coast Guard Memes).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Getting free food while collecting a bunch of Facebook love.

2. Seriously. ‘Merica.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
But remember: If it’s burning but doesn’t shoot a rocket, go see the corpsman.

3. Sorry, F-35. No one cares (via Air Force Nation).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
We love you, Warthog.

SEE ALSO: The best A-10 memes on the internet

4. Adapt your equipment for your users’ knowledge level (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
This was probably the work of a bored staff duty runner.

5. It’s not easy to find talented snipers. You gotta take them where you can get them.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Sometimes he shoots birds and sends those humans to fetch them.

6. #InsideThatCounts (via Sh-t My LPO Says)

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
#SafetyFirst

7. Poor Coast Guard (via Coast Guard Memes).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

8. This last name must be so much fun at each new unit (via Devil Dog Nation).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
But he will likely be the scariest first sergeant.

9. Those awkward questions your child asks:

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

10. Air Force operators are hardcore (via Air Force Nation).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Still a nonner.

11. If you wanted good food, you should’ve joined the Air Force (via Sh-t My LPO Says).

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
It’s kind of shaped like a heart though, so you got that going for ya.

12. Air Force saving Marines in the one event they’re good at.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
If the enemy could combine gunfire and standardized testing, America would fall.

13. “Really, you waited until right now?”

(via Pop Smoke)

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
Enjoy your weekend. We’re sure your release formation is right around the corner. Just one more tasking first …

NOW: 7 features that would make military games more realistic

OR: 9 times when troops said what they really felt

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA offers mental health care for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.

One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.

The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.


Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.

The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.

You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who

  1. Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
  2. Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.

The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.

There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.

Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.

You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

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

Articles

Pentagon chief says military is stronger 5 years after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal

In a statement marking the 5th anniversary of the repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law that barred gay men and women from serving openly in the military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said today’s military is stronger than ever since the repeal.


“I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” Carter said. “The American people can take pride in how the Department of Defense and the men and women of the United States military have implemented this change with the dignity, respect, and excellence expected of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”

Carter expressed optimism as the military continues to become more inclusive.

“As the memory of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ fades further into the past, and we move forward together to face new challenges,” he added, “we recognize that openness to diversity and reaching out in a spirit of renewed inclusiveness will strengthen our military and enhance our nation’s security.”

Also today, the Pentagon’s personnel chief  released a letter to service members, families and veterans, encouraging people who received less-than-honorable discharges from the military based solely on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and its precursor laws and policies to seek a correction of their records.

“If there is something in your record of service that you believe unjust, we have proven and effective policies and procedures to by which to consider and correct such errors,” acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel Peter Levine wrote. “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is a vestige of our past and I encourage you to honor the 5th anniversary of the Department’s implementation of its repeal by coming forward and requesting a correction.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia might be preparing to invade Ukraine right now

The Russian military is massing troops at its border with Ukraine, says Ukrainian and U.S. military intelligence agencies. The buildup includes more than 300 tanks and the support troops necessary to move those tanks, all within five miles of entering Ukrainian territory. It’s the latest in a series of Russian provocations aimed at seizing Ukrainian assets.


After the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the Russian government and military have engaged in a near-nonstop effort to provoke Ukraine while violating its sovereignty. Ever since, the Kremlin has also been funding separatists in Eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, which borders Russia. It’s not known if the movement of Russian troops within sight of Ukraine’s borders has any bearing on the Luhansk insurgency.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

Russia has been holding massive war games since 2015, the year after capturing Crimea from Ukraine.

(Photo by K. Kallinkov)

In response to the mass of Russian troops, Ukraine implemented martial law and began the deployment of its Marines and airborne brigades, as well as military exercises involving air strikes and naval forces in the area. Along with the Russian buildup of armored forces, Russian military airfields along the border are being upgraded and modernized.

The buildup not only exists along the recognized Ukraine-Russia border, but Ukrainian military intelligence believes there is a significant buildup of Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula as well.

The Kremlin is further testing the strength of the global order,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told Radio Free Europe.If the world agrees, the Sea of Azov and then the Black Sea will be turned into a Russian lake.
An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

A Russia-backed rebel armored fighting vehicles convoy near Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015.

(Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)

In November, 2018, the Russian Navy seized three Ukrainian ships as they tried to traverse the Kerch Strait, linking the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. Ukraine shares a coast with both the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea with Russia, but the Kerch Strait is the only waterway for Ukrainian ships to leave the Sea of Azov for the Black Sea. Six Ukrainian sailors were wounded when Russian Coast Guard vessels fired on their ships. Russia also detained 24 Ukrainians.

In recent days, Ukraine has done what it can to resist Russian interference in its affairs, including fighting the rebels in the Donbas region and separating the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Russian Orthodox Church. The country has also been building up its military and defense systems since 2014, according to NATO officials.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family

A Ukrainian BTR-80 armored personnel carrier deployed to the Donbas Region of Eastern Ukraine.

(Ukraine Ministry of Defence)

“The Ukrainian military today is very different from the military that they had in 2014,” Kristjan Prikk, the top civilian in Estonia’s ministry of defense, told the Washington Examiner. “The Ukrainians have built, bought, [had] donated quite a lot of equipment. They’ve been putting heavy emphasis on mobility — anti-armor capabilities, communications … It’s definitely a credible fighting force.”

Prikk keeps a close eye on the Russians, especially after Estonia joined NATO, the Western anti-Soviet-turned-anti-Russian alliance in 2004. Ukraine has been trying to join the alliance since 1994 but public support for NATO was very low until the Russian annexation of Crimea 20 years later. Russian President Vladimir Putin is extremely opposed to Ukraine joining the alliance and threatened to annex the Eastern portion of Ukraine if it does so.

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Navy has first female applicants for SEAL officer, special boat units

More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.


Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.

Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.

“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”

Related: This is how the military is integrating women

A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.

Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.

“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.

Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.

An Iraqi interpreter saved his life, now he’s trying to save the family
U.S. Navy special warfare combatant-craft crewmen (SWCC) from Special Boat Team 22 drive a special operations craft-riverine. SWCC are U.S. Special Operations Command maritime mobility experts. | U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger

It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.

According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.

These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.

The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process

Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.

But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.

“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.

Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.

“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”

Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.

Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.

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