Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on November 21, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.
ISIS’s last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on November 17, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq’s border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.
Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS’s territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.
Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.
The rise and fall of ISIS
Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.
The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.
At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.
In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.
Threat from ISIS remains
But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups.
The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS’ continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.
In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world.
Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country’s northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.
Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It’s likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran’s regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Retiring from the armed forces can be a very stressful transition because there is no magic crystal ball that allows you to see into your future as a civilian. Veterans often have strong networks built over the course of their military service, but as useful as these networks are, they are also apt to keep you from branching out into something new, or taking time off to pursue uncharted possibilities. You don’t know what you don’t know, so it is easy to fall into a trap where income becomes the driving force behind career decisions rather than a deep introspective look into what you really want out of life. This leads to a pursuit of employment rather than fulfillment, and ends in a contract that forces you to trade more of your precious time for money. After giving so much to your country, and asking your family to sacrifice just as much or more, taking time to reconnect with them and yourself before a second career is worth your consideration. You might be pleasantly surprised where it will lead.
Consider the following in your calculus:
Military service didn’t leave much room for hobbies and passions. Do you have any languishing in the recesses of your life?
Military regulations and culture compelled you to identify yourself by an all-consuming job title, which in turn suppressed your identity as an individual. You were the Admiral, the Colonel, Skipper, Warrant, Chief, Senior, Top, OPSO, COS, the LPO, the First Sergeant. Do you really know who you are anymore without a job title to define you?
Time keeps ticking, but money comes and goes. Is time more valuable than money when you realize that you can bank one but not the other?
This last thought is the one that gave me the most pause. If you are shackled to a life dictated by consumerism and workism, your “one day” list becomes less and less achievable. This is paradoxical, because chances are you might be making a decent salary on top of your retirement income, but you don’t have time for you, your spouse, your kids, your dog, your forgotten hobbies, or your wild and crazy ambitions. Why? Because your new job might provide a comfortable existence and a title to impress your friends, but it doesn’t guarantee you will have time for anything on your bucket list. How many successful people have all the toys in the world but no time to use them? More than you think. In this article, I will argue that as a veteran, you have been given all the resources you need to thrive in a life of your choosing. To be clear, I am not suggesting that you become completely “checked out” and retreat from society never to work again. Instead, I am advocating for a period of time that prevents you from rushing headlong into a second career. This will give you some “maneuver space” to sort through the stress, the noise, and the pressure that is screaming at you to immediately get a job and keep slogging forward. That space might be a few months, or it might be a few years, but either way, it is time well-spent.
Try this little exercise. Mentally fast forward to the end of your life. You are looking back on your experiences wondering why you worked your whole life, yet missed out on so much living. Maybe you wanted to take a year and surf the south Pacific, or fish the great rivers in Alaska, or hike the Appalachian Trail, or follow the Tour de France, or start a business, or write a novel, or raise alpacas, or sell it all and buy a sailboat…but you didn’t, and now you are too old and tired to do anything but look back with sadness and regret. You realize there was always something standing in the way; there were always reasons why you couldn’t. So, instead of doing, you resigned yourself to watching others as you scrolled through your social media feeds and groused about your boss, staff meetings, the person who chews their food too loudly in their cubicle, the jerk who cut you off on your commute, and the endless mundane aspects of life in “The Matrix.”
As you contemplate those lost dreams, you might be asking yourself with a twinge of frustration, “Why didn’t I go for it? What was I afraid of? What was the worst thing that could have happened to me if I had unshackled myself from the ‘golden handcuffs,’ put down the electronic tether, and lived the life I always imagined?” You might be surprised to learn the worst thing that could have happened was nothing from which you could not have quickly recovered.
Now, rewind to the present. Ask yourself this question, “Have I ever allowed myself to fail?” If you made it all the way through a 20-year (or more) career, chances are the answer is a resounding no! So why do you think you will start failing now? I’ll let you in on a little secret…you won’t. You already know how to succeed. The sad truth, however, is that many of us never take a chance, because we focus on the reasons we shouldn’t…the fears…rather than the reasons we should…the inspiration.
Every military member goes through transition class on their way out of the service. You learn that it is possible to reinvent yourself, but it isn’t easy. You are instructed to make a list of your assets, your liabilities, and any gaps you have in your skill set, then cross-reference it against what you need to break into a sector outside of what you have been doing for the past twenty-plus years. You are told to be willing to move to an area where that sector has a presence, be patient, be willing to evangelize yourself, build a network in your new community, use your hard-earned benefits to get the education or certifications you need to fill in any gaps, and be willing to start at the bottom. If you do these things while exhibiting all the qualities that made you successful on active duty, you will succeed.
What if I told you that same blueprint for reinventing yourself professionally is just as useful for reinventing yourself personally, and going after those “one day” dreams before you blindly (or deliberately) trade one overlord for another. With a little bit of planning and foresight, you can do it, and if I haven’t made my position clear, I think you should. When else will you get a planned break in your professional life to do something crazy?
I started my transition playing by the rules. I spent hours…no, weeks…working on a resume. I went to career fairs. I interviewed for jobs. I received job offers. None of it felt right in my gut. I started terminal leave in June 2018 in a panic-stricken state, grasping for a lifeline. At my wife’s urging I had been exploring the idea of trade school using my GI Bill benefits, but I was afraid to commit. “It’s not what I am expected to do,” was my typical reason, which was ridiculous. I was afraid of the unknown and everything that came with it. That was the truth. I had reached the first portal of fear, and with my wife’s encouragement, I stepped through it.
Once again, I found myself grasping for the familiar and hiding from my fears. I applied for a government job overseas, knowing it wasn’t what I really wanted. A friend was recruiting me to come back to the staff I had left a year and a half earlier, but after I submitted my resume, there were knots in my stomach. “What am I doing,” I asked myself. “Is this what I really want?” I wasn’t ready for staff meetings and point papers again. I wasn’t ready for days when I went to work at dawn and came home after dinner just to get up and do it all over again while my life ticked away a second at a time.
My wife had a dream that we could sell it all and go sailing. I was adamantly opposed. “If there is one thing I learned at the marine trade and technology school,” I joked, “it is don’t buy a boat!” The truth of the matter is I was terrified of selling everything and buying a boat. There were too many voices in my head telling me it would be our ruination…MY ruination. I hid behind my biggest fear – money. We couldn’t afford it. End of story.
But, it wasn’t.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you put your mind to it. As I tell my children, there is a solution to every problem, we only need to outthink it. So we looked at the problem again and realized we could afford it. But, I still wasn’t ready to commit. I needed a push.
Fate intervened on my behalf. Much to my surprise, my resume never made it through the initial screening for the civil servant position, so I never got the job interview on the staff overseas. Despite my ego being bruised, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I was a free man again. A few weeks later, after some long, introspective conversations with my wife, I agreed to the sailing adventure. Failure had somehow opened a pathway to an outcome I did not think possible. That was in March 2019. Four months later, we would be boat owners after an exhausting push to sell, donate, or repurpose just about everything we owned. Three months after that, we would be getting underway from Hampton, VA for a 1,600 nautical mile ocean passage to Antigua.
How did we go from “normal life” to “boat life” so quickly? We followed the same blueprint I received in the transition seminar. We laid out a plan, prioritized our resources, and focused everything we had on the achievement of our goal. I had already filled in the knowledge gaps by becoming a certified marine mechanic. Anyone who knows boats will tell you that 90% of boat ownership is boat maintenance, so I felt confident I could handle that responsibility with my new skills. I grew up sailing, so that wasn’t an issue, but living aboard a boat full-time was another story. We hired a couple who had twice circumnavigated with their kids as “cruising coaches.” We built a network by talking about our plans with people who could help and guide us. We made sure we were able to fund our dream by paying cash for a boat and living within the means of my retirement income. Using our new and growing network, we found a boat, brokered the deal, and moved aboard on July 31, 2019.
It was not an easy transition from land life to sea life. In fact, it was harder than anything we had ever done. Being a military family, we were used to relocating and starting over every couple years, so we put all that experience to good use. But, this time it was different. It was all on us to get it done. There were at least three distinct points when we wanted to quit. We didn’t, largely due to the encouragement and instruction we received from people who had walked the same path. The rewards for persevering are too many to list. Suffice it to say, I answer to no master. I have learned more about myself and my family in six months than I have in six years. I have swum with a whale in 19,000 feet of water halfway between Bermuda and the Leeward Islands. We have sailed our way through 50-knot squalls and come out the other side stronger and more resilient. I have made lifelong friendships with people I would never have met had I stayed in my “safe” bubble. I have gained valuable perspective by using this time away from the rat race to sort myself; to be a better husband, father, and friend.
A good counterargument to this conversation would go something like this – “My professional stock is highest immediately after I retire. It will be irresponsible for me not to take advantage of that transition point and start building my professional resume in the real world. Statistics support the fact that I most likely will change jobs several times as I find my niche, so it doesn’t matter what I do. The important thing is to get into the ring and make a name for myself.” So you get a job and a fancy-sounding title that you eagerly post on LinkedIn. You beef up your profile with a power photo that has you leaning into the camera with a smile that says, “I’m a go-getter!” You add a description underneath that says something like, “I’m a results-oriented leader with a proven track record of astonishing accomplishments, fiscal maturity, operational prowess, cunning initiative, etc, etc, etc.” It becomes your identity, and it is the right thing to do, isn’t it? I certainly thought it was. But for me, at least, it wasn’t. I am not getting any younger. Neither are you. The counterargument doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. You can always get a job and make money, but you can’t make more time. Another aspect of this counterargument is that your network will abandon you if you take time for yourself and your family. I also believe that this is invalid, and would go so far as to suggest that your network will respect you more for leading in this manner.
We as Americans have it all backwards. We work and work and work until we hit the “golden years,” then we retire with the idea that we are going to take off from our empty nest and explore the world. I have heard so many tragic stories about people who FINALLY get some time to do the things they have always wanted to do only to be sidelined by unexpected health crises that leave them debilitated or worse. Derek Thompson, a senior staff writer for The Atlantic wrote a compelling article in February 2019 titled, “Workism is Making Americans Miserable,” where he argues that work has become, unfortunately, the, “centerpiece of one’s identity and purpose.” It’s an excellent, thought-provoking read.
Work, pay taxes, then die.
As a retiring military member, you have the resources to do what you want – healthcare, education opportunities, steady income, and many more benefits to jumpstart your second life. You only need to face down your fears and embrace the possibilities that lay before you. I am not done working, but I guarantee whatever employment I pursue in the future will be far different than what I thought I had to shoehorn myself into when I first transitioned from service. We have had a lot of people tell us how amazing our life is…how lucky we are…how courageous we are to be out sailing with our kids full time. We don’t see ourselves as different or special. We are just us, living a life of our choosing. We realized in hindsight that fear had been holding us back, not resources. Once we made our decision, we were flabbergasted by how everything suddenly seemed to align behind us. It was all there to begin with, but we were blinded by our fears of the unknown, and therefore too afraid to take a chance.
Fear is paralyzing, and in the weeks surrounding my transition there were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed and face reality. In the middle of those dark moments, a very wise friend of mine asked me to stretch my hands out in front of myself palms up, then she had me clench my fists. She looked at me and said, “There won’t be room for anything new in your life if you are holding onto everything so tightly, afraid to let go. You have to open your hands and be willing to release – toxic relationships, needless possessions, clutter, the wrong career, convenience, the safe and easy path, money. But more importantly, you have to open your hands so what you really want has a place to land.”
I stood there for a moment clenching and unclenching my upturned hands. I am not a particularly spiritual person, but I was shocked at how profoundly her simple exercise struck a chord. “Money comes and money goes, and it should,” she concluded, “but even though we have had our backs to the wall a number of times, we always believed we would be fine because we kept our hands, figuratively of course, upturned and open.” She and her husband are better now than ever after launching their own business nearly twenty years ago. They had been let go from their previous jobs at the same time, when their kids were still young, and their stress levels already high. In that moment of darkness, they chose to open their own business and live life according to their own terms. It wasn’t easy, but looking back, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
In the final analysis, it’s not about how much you have, but what you do with it. Achieving your ambitions means making decisions, prioritizing and leveraging resources, and aligning efforts. Do you want to be linked in right away, or checked out to gain some perspective and clarity? The choice is yours, and it doesn’t matter how big your proverbial or actual boat is. It only matters that you believe in yourself and face down your fears. Trust me, someone always has a bigger boat. You can find dozens of YouTube channels where people are sailing the world on every manner of boat imaginable. I used to watch some of them and say, “Look at their boat. It’s so ugly, or small, or dilapidated.” My wife would answer, “Yeah, sure is…but they are doing it!” How true. Would you rather be sitting in a staff meeting wishing you were doing it, or actually doing it?
I’ll close with this final thought. Many, if not all of us, who are retiring from a career in the service lost shipmates, close friends, and comrades in training and combat. A few years ago, standing on a beach in Italy looking out into the Adriatic Sea, where a friend in Air Wing 17 had perished during a nighttime training flight off the USS George Washington (CVN-73) in 2002, I made a promise that if I somehow made it through my military career, I would not squander the opportunity to fulfill dreams and live an amazing life. I felt like I owed that to those who couldn’t. Life is short, and precious. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let a false sense of obligation keep you from doing the things on your “one day” list. If you do, that list will go unfulfilled.
We keep a sign on our boat that reads, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” It is a constant reminder for us to keep pushing forward. You can, too.
Glenn Robbins is a retired Naval Officer cruising full-time on a 46-foot catamaran named FEARLESS with his wife Andi and their two children, Gavin and Alexis.
Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.
The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.
Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.
But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.
“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”
In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.
Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.
“Many people were thanking him for his service, and frankly it just felt like the only reason he wore that was to be in the spotlight and make it about him, which I don’t think you are supposed to do at someone else’s wedding,” she said.
“If he wants to wear that to his own wedding then fine, but the whole point of having a dress code at a wedding is so that no one guest will stand out too much.
“I felt that he should have known this, since the whole point of uniforms in the military is so that you don’t stand out from everyone else!”
People in the forum were divided over whose side to take.
Some people pointed out that the marines formal uniform “looks classy and black tie,” but others argued it was “extremely disrespectful.”
The majority agreed that both the bride and the guest behaved badly.
As a former army sergeant pointed out: “Wearing formal military wear at formal civilian events is allowed per regulations (Army is AR 670-1, no clue for marines), but you have to be a special kind of a—— to wear it to a non-military wedding without specific permission of the couple.
Marines assigned to The Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon)
“The reason for this is the same as wearing white to a wedding — this puts you in competition with the bride. He should have dressed in civilian-wear, or at very least, checked with the couple getting married.”
As for the bride’s decision to ask him to leave, the former sergeant said that “kicking him out of the wedding was a bit much.”
“It’s your special day, but you shouldn’t forget that you play dual roles — you are both the host and the one fêted. Don’t forget that former role.
“You probably should have grimaced and just gone with it along with other faux pas such as Uncle Larry puking in the bushes and cousin Jenny making out with the DJ. With 300 guests, one person in uniform isn’t going to kill your day.”
This article originally appeared on INSIDER. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.
The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.
It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.
China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.
Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.
Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)
Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.
In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.
After years of development, and having only just entered service officially with the US Air Force last year, the F-35A Lightning II will finally be declared fully combat ready next month, heralding a new age of air power for the service.
Aviation Week reports that the 34th Fighter Squadron, based at Hill AFB, Utah, will take delivery of brand new F-35As fresh from the production line in Dallas, Texas. What differentiates these latest stealth jets from the F-35As currently flown by the Air Force is that they will come with the Block 3F software upgrade.
Block 3F is the final step towards enabling the aircraft to fully utilize every air-to-surface and air-to-air weapon it was built to field in combat. Currently, the F-35s flown by the Air Force and US Marine Corps operate with a limited weapons load while Lockheed Martin and other program contractors ready the Lightning II’s software.
The F-35 was created as part of the Joint Strike Fighter program of the late 1990s, bringing about a dedicated multirole replacement for the F/A-18 “Legacy” Hornet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the AV-8B Harrier II jumpjet operated by the Marine Corps.
By building aircraft with similar architecture – just different engines – the Department of Defense theorized that money could be saved in the long run while keeping operational readiness for the military’s entire fighter fleet at an all-time high. As such, Lockheed Martin has developed three variants of the F-35: the A model for the Air Force, the B model short takeoff/vertical landing for the Marine Corps, and the carrier-capable C model for the Navy.
The F-35 was originally designed to work in tandem with the F-22 Raptor – the Raptor serving as an air superiority fighter while the Lightning II functioning more as a swing-role “Swiss army knife” aircraft. The deployment of the Block 3F software is a huge leap towards making that goal a reality today.
This upgrade comes in the wake of a training deployment conducted by the 34th Fighter Squadron to the United Kingdom earlier this year with F-35As that were still limited in their warfighting capabilities – most in terms of the weapons they could carry and employ. The Marine Corps has also pushed its F-35Bs out to Japan, but are also serving in a limited capacity until the new software update is rolled out.
With fears of a potential confrontation with North Korea, and with the rise of Chinese and Russian stealth fighters on the horizon, maintaining an edge with its own fifth generation fighters has become a major priority for the Air Force. According to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the F-35s which were deployed to the UK in spring could have been sent to battle if called upon, though their pilots would not be able to access the aircraft’s full potential, with the limited software built into their aircraft at the time.
The Pentagon expects to place more than 100 F-35s in Asia within the next three to four years to counter the Chinese air force’s fielding of its own fifth generation fighters like the J-31 Gyrfalcon and the J-20 multirole fighters.
A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.
In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.
The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.
“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”
The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.
US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.
The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.
In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.
A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”
“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.
The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”
A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.
“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”
Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.
The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.
Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.
After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.
Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.
However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.
To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.
To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.
This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.
In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.
To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 — that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.
Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.
As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.
In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.
A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.
It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.
Earlier this summer, Chinese and Indian border forces fought a shootout in Ladakh, in the Galwan River Valley, along India’s disputed border with China. On Jun. 15, 2020, India’s armed forces managed to push Chinese advances back across the disputed border, but not before both sides took heavy losses for such a skirmish.
The Indian military says it lost 20 soldiers in the fighting, while China won’t admit how many it lost (U.S. intelligence estimates as many as 34). Among those was 23-year-old Gurtej Singh from Punjab.
He had only been in the military for less than two years, according to India’s Femina Magazine – but joining was his lifelong goal. In December 2018, he was able to join the 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon, Sikh Regiment. And it was 3 Punjab Ghatak Platoon that was called up to aid the Indian Bihar Regiment when it came under heavy fire from the Communist Chinese troops.
Gurtej SIngh was coming to the rescue of his fellow soldiers. And he was about to do some incredible damage.
Once on the scene, Singh was armed only with his issued kirpan knife. Four Chinese soldiers were on him almost instantly, Indian officials told Femina. Two of them tried to pin him down as he swung his knife at the other two. The scuffle soon veered toward a steep cliff face. Singh lost his balance and slipped, throwing all four enemies off the cliff – and falling himself.
He was able to stop his freefall with the help of rocks on the cliff face. Injured in the head and neck, he returned to the scene, rewrapped his turban, and started wrecking the Chinese soldiers with his knife. In a move that would make American Chosin Reservoir veterans proud, Singh stabbed seven more Chinese soldiers one-by-one.
Until he was stabbed from behind, leaving him mortally wounded. Singh would die there, but not before turning around and taking out his own killer first.
Gurtej Singh: 12, Chinese People’s Liberation Army: 1.
Singh’s remains were returned to his family in Punjab and he was laid to rest in the Sikh tradition with full military honors.
Xi Jinping, who was not reached for comment, probably hopes there was only one Gurtej Singh.
U.S. Army Europe and Africa will organize and host the most significant military exercise in Europe this year. Last year’s pandemic restrictions might have caught most militaries off guard, and certainly had an enormous impact on the DEFENDER Europe 20. However, this year’s exercise includes a COVID prevention and mitigation strategy. DEFENDER Europe 21 kicked off in March and will last until June in an activity that consists of 27 nations and over 30,000 troops from Europe and North America.
DEFENDER Europe is a yearly exercise planned and led by U.S. Army’s Europe and Africa Service Component Command. It is a joint and multinational exercise designed to strategic and interoperability readiness between NATO, U.S. and partner militaries. Although last year was a success, this year’s increased participation and widened geographical posture will further test the integration of air, land, sea and cyber capabilities.
The multi-domain nature of modern warfare will be tested by significant participation of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force as air and sea routes will be utilized and tested to connect allies across Europe, Asia and Africa. Existing and new sophisticated assets such as air and missile defense equipment will be tested to ensure partner interoperability. The recent merger of United States Army Europe and the United States Army Africa into one service component command aims to increase the capability to conduct joint, large-scale and multi-domain operations.
The recently reactivated V Corps will also lead the charge in readiness and interoperability both at the operational and tactical level. The Forward Command Post is located in Poland, and it will control the rotational forces in Fortress Europe and operational command and mission control. The exercise will include U.S. Army’s Security Force Assistance teams who provide training and assistance to partner nations at lower echelons.
Logistically, it will be one of the most challenging exercises conducted with five logistic centers located in four countries. The use of naval routes will be done through five ports with over 1200 pieces of equipment transferred from the U.S, while the only Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore operation will be conducted in Albania. The U.S. Army will have three Prepositioned Stock sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, with over 1000 pieces of equipment being drawn.
What makes this year’s exercise complex and challenging is the fact that it consists of five other exercises:
A combination of different exercises in size and nature, with some of the events co-occurring in over 31 training areas around Europe, sends a clear message to any threat. While DEFENDER Europe 21 is defensive in nature, it can quickly shift to any other type of operation in response to any crisis in Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine and Africa. Although Russia remains the most significant threat in Europe and around Europe, the exercise also aims to provide strategic security partnerships to the Western Balkans and the Black Sea regions.
The commanding general of the V Corps, Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, is excited for his corps’ opportunity to cooperate with European allies in deterring NATO’s threat. “DEFENDER Europe 21 is a critical exercise that will provide V corps with another great opportunity to build readiness in our march towards full operational capability and promote interoperability as we work alongside allies and partners,” he said.
The Russian annexation of Crimea and other parts of Ukraine back in 2014 was a wake-up call to Western Allies and its NATO-chartered grouping. The increased U.S. posture of forces and U.S.-led exercises are seen as the mechanisms to deter and prevent any additional attempt by Russia to destabilize the Old Continent. This year’s exercise will reaffirm the determination of the U.S. and its European NATO allies after a turbulent year marked by the global health crisis.
As expected, this year’s exercise will include strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures consisting of pre-deployment virus testing and quarantining. Such insistence only reaffirms the U.S.’s resolve to provide strategic support and interoperability to NATO and partner militaries, regardless of the widespread infections. Such an approach will undoubtedly give much-needed reassurances after an absent NATO summit in 2020. One thing is for sure, without long-term stability and peace in Europe, the U.S. cannot even begin to battle the military threats posed by Russia and China.
The Defense Department’s budget request for 2019 released Feb. 12 called for a 2.6 percent military pay raise, a modest increase in the end strengths of the services, and major rebuilding programs aimed at retaining the U.S. edge over China and Russia.
Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist said the 2.6 percent pay increase proposal for fiscal 2019 would boost the pay of a staff sergeant by $1,169 next year.
The 2.6 percent increase would come on top of the 2.4 percent increase for 2018 authorized in December by President Donald Trump by executive order.
In addition, the DoD “expects moderate and manageable increases in pay will continue in the near term and will match the growth in private-sector wages,” the budget documents said.
There was some initial confusion on the proposed increases in the end strengths of the services because of the congressional delays in the approval of funding, but it appeared that the Pentagon was recommending an overall boost in the size of the force of more than 17,000 — almost all of it for active-duty personnel.
Reserve and National Guard forces would see only modest increases. Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserves would add 800 forces total; and the Army and Air National Guard would add 500 troops apiece.
If approved by Congress and the White House, the Pentagon’s $716 billion budget request for 2019 would provide funding to build 10 Navy ships, including three guided missile destroyers, two Virginia class submarines, and one Littoral Combat Ship.
It also would fund more than 400 new aircraft, including 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 24 F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters, 60 AH-64 Apache helicopters and 68 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
The $716 billion in proposed defense spending for FY2019 would amount to about a 10 percent increase over military spending in 2017.
Congress finally moved past a series of continuing resolutions and reached agreement on a two-year budget deal that called for nearly $700 billion in defense funding for FY2018 and $716 billion for FY2019.
Technically, the action taken by Congress produced another continuing resolution until March 23 to allow the 12 appropriations committees in Congress time to allocate the money going to government operations, but congressional leaders and the White House said the agreement reached was a done deal.
The total of $1.4 trillion in military funding over two years will be directed more to building the lethality and capabilities of the force rather than the end strengths of the services, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Feb. 11 while traveling to Europe for a week-long series of security meetings.
“I am very confident that what the Congress has now done, and the president is going to allocate to us in the budget, is what we need to bring us back to a position of primacy” among the world’s militaries, Mattis said.
“We will be standing up some new elements, cyber is one example, and we will be recruiting more mechanics in the Air Force and recruiting more soldiers and sailors,” Mattis said.
In addition, “we’ll be buying more stuff” to bolster depleted inventories, particularly on munitions, Mattis said ahead of the release Feb. 12 of the Defense Department’s overview of the fiscal 2019 budget request, and the individual requests of the services.
However, the end result of the massive infusion of money will be a military that’s “not a lot bigger, organizationally. It’s built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up,” Mattis said ahead of the release of the budget request.
At a Pentagon briefing, Norquest said the budget was shaped by Mattis’ National Defense Strategy which concluded that “Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity.”
“The U.S. seeks cooperation with our competitors from a position of strength,” Norquist said but “the U.S. must be prepared to compete, deter war, and if necessary, fight and win.”
The $716 billion represented about a $74 billion increase over current defense spending, Pentagon officials said.
About $30 billion for the Department of Energy and other agencies that contribute to national defense was included in the $716 billion, reducing the DoD’s share to about $686 billion. About $617 billion of the $686 billion was slotted for the Pentagon’s base budget and about $69 billion for the so-called “war budget,” or Overseas Contingency Operations fund mostly for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
The OCO funding would allot 46.3 billion for Afghanistan operations, $15.3 billion for Iraq and Syria, $6.5 billion for the European Defense Initiative to bolster NATO, and about $900 million for security cooperation agreements with a range of countries, Norquist said.
In arriving at the budget request, the DoD also bowed to political realities and eliminated any request to close excess bases and facilities, which the Pentagon had long sought to cut costs through establishment of another Base Re-Alignment and Closure Commission. “There is not a request for another BRAC round in this budget,” Norquist said.
The defense budget request was part of the overall $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 proposed budget for all government spending put forward Feb. 12 by Trump and the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The Trump budget would boost spending for infrastructure and border security along with the military while proposing politically difficult cuts to entitlement programs.
His proposed budget “provides resources to enhance missile defense and to build the planes, tanks, warships, and cyber tools that the brave men and women who defend us need to deter aggression and, when necessary, to ﬁght and win,” Trump said at the White House.
“Most importantly, the budget provides funds to increase the size of our armed forces and to give our men and women in uniform a well-earned pay raise,” he said.
Trump said that when he told Mattis the amount of the military’s share of the budget, Mattis replied: “Wow — I can’t believe we got everything we wanted.”
One Marine veteran is on a mission to make sure the war stories of his generation are told — and told right.
Thomas Brennan, a medically retired sergeant-turned-journalist, is preparing for the launch of The War Horse, an independent journalism site dedicated to chronicling the effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website brands itself “the authority on the post-9/11 conflict and the ONLY digital magazine profiling all men, women, interpreters, and dogs killed since 9/11.”The idea for the site came to Brennan while he was working as a staff writer for The Daily News out of Jacksonville, North Carolina, a town adjacent to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“It all started with me getting aggravated that stories weren’t being gathered about World War II vets and World War I vets and we’ve waited so long to tell the stories of years prior,” Brennan, 30, told Military.com. “War has been a constant in human existence since the very beginning, and I just think it’s about time that we really report on it and understand and conceptualize everything that war is.”
Brennan is in a unique position to tell those stories, as someone who has experienced the realities of war as a Marine and who has reported on the military as a civilian. Brennan served nearly nine years in the Marine Corps as an infantry assaultman before retiring in 2012. On Nov. 1, 2010, Brennan was wounded on a deployment to Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade detonated next to him. He was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury, and has since also documented his struggles with post-traumatic stress.
He began freelancing for The New York Times’ At War blog while still in uniform, documenting his medical appointments, his combat memories, and even, wrenchingly, of his suicide attempt in November 2013 as he battled war wounds and feelings of worthlessness.
In 2014, determined to hone his craft as a writer, he enrolled in the investigative program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism.
“I like to think that [The War Horse] is my master’s thesis that I was working on,” Brennan said. “I used everything up there to my advantage.”
Brennan envisions his project as a collaboration of freelance writers and photographers to produce long-form stories about veterans complete with photographs and multimedia elements. He has assembled a board of advisers including Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia, and Kevin Cullen, a journalist and columnist at the Boston Globe and Pulitzer Prize recipient.
The Institute for Nonprofit News is assisting him with the administrative elements of running a startup. To fund the first phase of his site, he is launching a Kickstarter campaign in early 2016 aimed at raising $50,000. That money will fund the first four long-form stories and assist with grant-writing and development to allow the website to grow, Brennan said.
Early stories on the site will focus on redefining intimacy after genital mutilation from war, military sexual trauma, and the military awards system, among other topics, he said. Brennan is also planning a special project on Marine veteran Kyle Carpenter, who received the Medal of Honor in 2014.
In addition to the works of journalism, the site will also feature a compilation of multimedia profiles for all US personnel killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001. Called the Echoes Project, it will also provide an opportunity for those who knew the fallen service members to share stories about them.
While good reporting on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and those who fought in them already exists, Brennan said his background and goals may give troops and veterans more confidence to come forward and tell their stories.
“I think the one common thread that I bring to the table is I know the fear that exists [among troops] when it comes to approaching journalists,” he said. “Having people who are personally involved in these different worlds is going to open up the possibilities.”
Learn more about the project at http://www.thewarhorse.org/