Guests and family members who flock to the Arlington Cemetery this Independence Day week will have to leave their America flags at home.
Current law does not permit people to bring American flags to grave sites after Congress passed legislation following protests from the Westboro Baptist Church at service members funerals, The Washington Post reported July 4.
Former Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers helped pass the Respect For America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, making it illegal to protest funerals within 300 feet of a cemetery. The legislation had the unintended consequence of barring the bringing of “any placard, banner, flag, or similar device.”
Flags are permitted, however, if they are “part of a funeral, memorial service, or ceremony.”
Violating the law can bring penalties of up to a year in jail. While the bill received bipartisan support, the ACLU contended the law violated the First Amendment based on censorship.
“If someone is in there with the colors in a respectful way, or paying homage in a respectful way, then they should allow it,” Paul Rieckhoff founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
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It’s always fun to sit around and war game which country could beat up which, and it’s even better when you have hard facts to back up your decisions.
Below is a summary of the top ten militaries in the world, according to Global Firepower, which tracks military power through publicly-available sources. We’ve scrapped Global Firepower naval comparisons since they track naval strength by number of ships, making a patrol boat equal to a supercarrier. This list of the largest navies by weight is being used instead.
Below the spreadsheet we’ve added a breakdown of each military power.
Despite a small tank force, low number of aircraft, and low number of military personnel, the United Kingdom maintains a spot in the top five with the world’s fifth largest navy and fifth highest military budget. The British military is also aided by geography as it’s hard for an invading force to attack an island.
France doesn’t post up the most impressive numbers of ships, planes, and tanks, but what equipment it has is modern and very capable. Mirage and Rafale jets, Tiger helicopters, LeClerc main battle tanks, and the only nuclear-powered carrier outside the U.S. provide the main muscle behind the French military. France also manufacturers much of its own military supplies, meaning it has the ability to create more equipment in a protracted war.
Most outsiders may not know about an Air Force tradition that gives the hard-charging crew chiefs of some of the most high-tech airplanes in the world a chance to show a little personality.
You might have seen some funny videos or gifs here and there featuring Air Force maintainers directing taxiing aircraft with the flair of a funny dance or outrageous outfit, and you might have wondered how they got away with it without their commander coming down on them like a ton of bricks.
What you’re seeing is “Freestyle Friday,” a military version of “casual Fridays” where Air Force crew chiefs – the tactical aircraft maintainers who coordinate the maintenance and care of the world’s most expensive airframes — are allowed to have a little fun on the job.
Crew chiefs have one of the hardest jobs in the Air Force; one that requires a lot of training, long hours, and a lot of responsibility to make sure the planes are in tip-top shape for their dangerous missions. There’s a reason the crew chief often gets his name on the nose of a plane with the pilot’s.
Some consider Air Force crew chiefs and maintainers the “grunts” of the Air Force, and no one should be surprised when they have a little fun on the flightline during Freestyle Fridays to blow off a little steam.
Crew chiefs have to deal with exhaustion from a high operational tempo, hearing loss from the jet noise on the flightline, and may sometimes feel a little underappreciated by the rest of the maintenance group.
Like most enlisted folks with this level of responsibility, they’re known for blunt talk and a no-nonsense attitude. They take care of the planes they’re charged to maintain very seriously. So it’s no surprise they’re known to be hardasses for doing things their way.
Sometimes there can be total domination by an individual or a team.
In sports, we could see it in something like Gayle Sayers scoring six touchdowns in a game, or Randy Johnson pitching a perfect game. In war, it can be racking up a lot of kills in quick succession, like Chuck Yeager’s becoming an “ace in a day.”
So here is the rarely-told story of how one destroyer escort, the USS England (DE 635), pulled off utter dominance in anti-submarine warfare – six kills in less than two weeks. The famed Second Support Group lead by Frederick J. Walker of HMS Starling in its best stretch took 19 days to get six kills (31 January, 1944 to 19 February, 1944).
USS England was a Buckley-class destroyer escort, displacing 1,400 tons with a top speed of 23 knots, and was armed with three 3-inch guns; a quad 1.1-inch gun; some small anti-aircraft guns; three 21-inch torpedo tubes; a “Hedgehog” anti-submarine mortar; and a number of depth charge launchers. This was a potent arsenal against aircraft, surface vessels and submarines.
Kill One – 18 May, 1944
The USS England was operating with two sister ships, the USS George (DE-697) and the USS Raby (DE-698) when she was ordered to intercept the Japanese submarine I-16. Navy codebreakers had cracked a message that I-16 was delivering supplies to Japanese troops. The England made five attacks using the Hedgehog and scored the kill.
Kill Two – 22 May, 1944
Again, Navy codebreakers provided information on Japanese intentions. This time, they sent a line of subs to sit astride a route that Adm. Bill Halsey had used to move the Third Fleet on two previous occasions. The USS George first detected the Japanese submarine RO-106 at 3:50 AM local time on May 22, but missed. Less than an hour later, the USS England fired the first salvo of Hedgehogs and missed. But at 5:01, the England’s second salvo scored hits that triggered an explosion.
Kill Three – 23 May, 1944
After scoring that kill, the three destroyer escorts began scouting for the rest of the line. The next day, the American vessels found the Japanese RO-104. The USS Raby and USS George missed with eight Hedgehog attacks over two hours, starting at 6:17 in the morning. The USS England then took over, scoring on her second attack at 8:34 AM.
Kill Four – 24 May, 1944
The American destroyer escorts continued their sweep up the Japanese submarine picket line. A half-hour later, the England made sonar contact, and after 24 minutes, launched a Hedgehog attack, putting the Japanese sub RO-116 on the bottom.
Kill Five – 26 May, 1944
Eventually a hunter-killer group consisting of the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Hoggatt Bay (CVE 75) and the Fletcher-class destroyers USS Hazelwood (DD 531), USS Heerman (DD 532), USS Hoel (DD 533), and USS McCord (DD 534) relieved the three destroyer escorts. The escorts maintained their search formation, and came across the RO-108. USS England picked up the target at 11:04 PM, then launched an attack with Hedgehogs, scoring direct hits on her first salvo.
Kill Six – 31 May, 1944
After re-supplying, the three destroyer escorts were joined by the USS Spangler (DE-696), another Buckley-class destroyer escort. They re-joined the Hoggatt Bay hunter-killer group, and continued their mission. On May 30, the hunt began when USS Hazelwood picked up the RO-105 on radar at 1:56 AM. Commander Hamilton Hains, the escort commander, ordered England to hold back. A depth-charge attack failed, leading to a lethal 25-hour game of cat and mouse during which over 20 hedgehog attacks missed. Finally, Hains sent the England in. One salvo of hedgehog later, RO-105 was on the bottom of the Pacific.
Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison wrote that Hains later sent a message to USS England, asking “God damn it, how do you do it?”
The response from Cmdr. C.A. Thorwall, the CO of Destroyer Escort Division 40, who has his flag on board USS England, was both witty and politically incorrect.
“Personnel and equipment worked with the smoothness of well-oiled clockwork. As a result of our efforts, Recording Angel working overtime checking in [Japanese] submariners joining Honorable Ancestors,” Morrison was quoted as saying in Volume VIII of his History of United States Naval Operations of World War II.
Admiral Ernest J. King vowed, “There will always be an England in the United States Navy.”
After her exploits, the USS England carried out escort missions. She would not see much more action until May 9, 1945, when she was attacked by three dive bombers. England shot one down, but the plane crashed into her, forcing the ship to return to the United States for repairs.
The end of World War II lead to the ship’s decommissioning the month after Japan surrendered. And she was sold for scrap in 1946.
In 1963, a Leahy-class destroyer leader was named USS England (DLG 22). Later re-designated a cruiser, this ship served in the Navy until being decommissioned in 1994, and sold for scrap 10 years later.
To date, there are no ships currently in service or under construction with the name USS England.
In Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad during the 1980s, a family of six brothers and one sister — all very close in age — played in the streets and parks of their hometown, enjoying the simple things in life they had at the time. Through the decades, the times and the city had changed, and the streets and parks were not as simple.
Alsaeedy, the son of an Iraqi army reserve officer, said Iraq was a joyous place to grow up. “We played basketball, walked to school — all the children in the neighborhood were close,” he added. “There were negatives in politics, but we believed in our father, and everything was fine.”
Alsaeedy’s dream was to travel. “Everybody’s goal [in high school] was to travel the world, places like [the United Kingdom], U.S., and Europe,” Alsaeedy said. He kept that dream with him before pursuing a degree in biochemical engineering at the University of Baghdad.
“I was in my second year of college when everything happened — the troops arrived,” he said. “It was a year later when it seemed things began to settle down. We all were trying to educate ourselves on the matter, because we believed — and still do — that the U.S. forces and allies were there to transform the country and help. We felt there was not going to be any more tyranny system or sects of families taking over the country, doing whatever they felt they wanted … so we believed in the change and welcomed it.”
Trouble Finding Work
After graduating from college, Alsaeedy needed to find work, preferably in the engineering field. But it was extremely hard to come by, he said, due to the nature of the country and the fact that most employers hired only within their sects.
“I did not know exactly what to do or what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work for and with the service members,” he said. “It was not just about money or security. It was about being a part of something important to me.”
Unable to break into the U.S. contractor market, Alsaeedy’s education and skill set eventually gravitated employers to him within the private sector. In 2005, he found stability in the information technology field as a networking specialist for satellite communications.
“Then one day a man came into the shop and it changed my life forever,” he said. “He inquired about an internet network to be installed on a military base in Baghdad. I took the job. After the work was complete, they were very satisfied and needed more, so they hired me full-time. My English was very fluent, and I became a translator for them, too.”
While the years passed, Alsaeedy’s experiences and relationships grew through the ranks, and by 2007, he was a popular name among higher-ranking officials with the U.S. Air Force and the Marines in Qaim, Iraq.
Integrated Into Brotherhood
“I saw in the soldiers what very few of us [natives] see,” Alsaeedy said. “They were trustful, pleasant and respectful; they integrated me into their brotherhood.”
Insurgency propaganda said the Americans were in Iraq to destroy everything, Alsaeedy said.” But they were not,” he added. “They were building. They built infrastructure for the population and barracks for the Iraqi army. They supplied resources increasing our livelihood [and] creating jobs for husbands and fathers.”
At the end of 2007, Alsaeedy received some big news. Then-President George W. Bush allowed vetted contractors who had worked for the U.S. government for at least five years to be granted special immigrant visas for them and their families. The visa allowed them to live and work in the United States. At the end of 2009, Alsaeedy said, things started to change as U.S. troops began to withdraw.
“The protection was decreasing and so was the structure,” he said. “I knew if I stayed, my family and I were going to die soon.” In 2010, Alsaeedy met his five-year requirement to qualify for the special visa for him and his family to move to the United States.
Settling in Virginia
He settled in Norfolk, Virginia, where a new country and culture surrounded him. What he once knew as a world of war was now a life of peace and the pursuit of happiness, he said. He was immediately hired, and he worked for an oil and gas company from 2011 to 2012.
Alsaeedy said he felt grateful to the United States for the opportunities he’d received.
However, Alsaeedy said he “wanted to give them more.”
He enlisted into the U.S. Army in August 2013 as a combat engineer. Shortly thereafter, he attended basic training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Alsaeedy demonstrated his potential and quick-learning abilities, as well as outstanding physical fitness. He was afforded the opportunity to attend airborne school at Fort Benning, Georgia, upon graduation.
“I found out that I was going to be assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I knew it was an honor and a prestigious unit. I remember seeing the ‘Double-A’ patch in Iraq. And to realize that I am now one of those paratroopers along with my family — I was beyond excited and humbled. However, it truly did not hit me until I came to Fort Bragg and walked through the division’s museum. That’s when I realized I was a part of something special.”
In 2014, Alsaeedy arrived full of energy to Alpha Company, 307th BEB. He was a new Panther Engineer, and he integrated just fine among his leaders and peers.
“We did a lot of training,” he said. “We went to every kind of weapons range you could think of. I learned demolitions, steel cutting, [went on] too many ruck marches, and was just very happy.”
Returning to Iraq
But Alsaeedy’s heart was holding a deep secret: there was something missing.
“My real dream was to return to Iraq,” he said. “I wanted to be an asset to the unit. I had the language, the background and culture. I knew if I ever went back, I would put myself out there to be as valuable as I could for the 307th.”
In early 2015, the 3rd BCT deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. At the time, it was the newest campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. There, paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division provided advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.
In a twist of fate, Alsaeedy’s unit operated in the neighborhood where he was raised. His dream finally came true.
“It wasn’t easy at first,” Alsaeedy said while looking up with teary eyes. “But it was my leadership. They understood my situation. They supported me. It made my job and task much easier.”
Alsaeedy’s background and capabilities soon became an asset for his battalion commander all the way up to division command sergeant major and higher-ranking officials in tactical operations centers around the area of operations.
With his hard work and commitment to his leadership and the unit’s mission, Alsaeedy received the first battlefield promotion for a noncommissioned officer during the OIR campaign. He was pinned with the rank of sergeant during the fall of 2015 upon the unit’s redeployment to Fort Bragg.
His accomplishments and accolades did not stop there. “When I became an NCO, great things began to happen for me and my family,” Alsaeedy said. He attended the Warrior Leader’s Course soon after becoming a sergeant, learning technical skills and correspondence in the craft of an NCO.
Alsaeedy’s motivation and physical fitness separated him from his peers. He wanted to go to Sapper School and master his craft as an engineer. “I may have had a more advanced role during deployment, but I am still an engineer in the 307th,” he said.
Early 2016 came around, and he began training with the division’s Best Sapper Team as it prepared to compete in the U.S. Army Best Sapper competition.
To keep himself busy and find new challenges, Alsaeedy attended the two-week Fort Bragg Pre-Ranger Course, which evaluates and prepares future candidates for the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning.
He never went to Sapper School, though. Immediately upon graduating the Pre-Ranger Course, he was put on a bus to Ranger School. Alsaeedy went straight through the 62-day course, a course that normally has a high attrition rate.
“I have been busy, that’s for sure,” he said. “But I felt the more I accomplish as an NCO and a paratrooper, the more I am giving back to the Army.
“I am just so grateful. I cannot put into words how I feel, landing the opportunity during the mid-2000s to becoming a citizen, a soldier deployed to my hometown and a Ranger,” he continued. “My wife and child love the installation, the people, and my daughter is receiving a great education from the schools on Fort Bragg. The Army adopted me, and I am forever in debt to the most professional and perfect organization: the 82nd Airborne [Division].”
On May 14, 2020, America lost one of her heroes to a deadly enemy: cancer. He was only 41 years old. But in those 41 years, Shurer accomplished more than most do in a much longer lifetime. His life was one of unwavering service – to his family, his friends and the nation he swore to protect, at all costs.
Ronald J. Shurer II was born in Alaska to parents actively serving in the United States Air Force. He spent his formative years in Washington state, eventually graduating from Washington State University with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduating, he hoped to become a marine. A previous diagnosis of pancreatitis prevented that dream from coming to fruition. In September of 2001 he was a graduate student with big plans.
9/11 changed them.
In 2002, Shurer enlisted in the United States Army and became a medic, eventually qualifying to be a part of the Special Forces. He completed his training, which included the national paramedic program and an internship in a hospital emergency room. In a previous interview with Military.com, he shared that he became a medic because he wanted to not only help during the war, but take care of the guys fighting it.
Shurer promoted to staff sergeant within the 3rd Special Forces Group in 2006. By November of 2007, he was deployed with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. That deployment would change the trajectory of his entire life.
On April 6, 2008 he was a part of a joint forces raid that was aiming to capture or kill Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the Shok Valley of the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. As he and his team worked their way through the valley, they came under enemy attack.
The Special Forces team was under fire from snipers, machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Almost immediately they suffered several casualties and were trapped. Despite the overwhelming danger, Shurer ran through the bullets to reach an injured soldier. He worked quickly to stabilize him and then joined in the firefight for over an hour, trying to make his way to more injured soldiers. He made it to four others and worked hard to save them. He was wounded in the arm and sustained a bullet to his helmet.
But he didn’t stop.
Shurer continued fighting to save the injured men until he got them evacuated. Reports indicate he even utilized his own body to shield them and keep them safe. He and other members of his team were awarded the silver star for their bravery and dedication during that fight.
He was honorably discharged in 2009 after returning home and went on to become a special agent in the United States Secret Service. Eventually, he was selected to be a part of the Counter Assault Team under the Special Operations Division.
In 2016, the Pentagon began conducting reviews of valor medal recipients. His story of service stood out. During the investigations in 2017, Shurer began to fight another enemy. Stage four lung cancer.
On October 1, 2018 he received the Medal of Honor from President Donald Trump, with a beard. Although many would go on to assume he was sporting in protest to the shaving rules, the truth was he couldn’t shave. The chemo caused painful rashes anytime he shaved.
On his award record, it states that he was given the recognition “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” He would carry this devotion and bravery into his next fight.
Shurer brought the world into his cancer treatments, often posting updates on Instagram. On May 12, 2020 he shared on Instagram that he had been unconscious for a week and on a ventilator. The post stated that the medical team was going to attempt to take him off but didn’t know how it would go. It was shared with a picture of him with a peace sign and his smiling wife, Miranda.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/CAIrKpypdQC/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Ronald J Shurer II on Instagram: “Very upset to write this…. been unconscious for a week. They are going to try and take it out in a couple hours, they can’t tell me if it…”
The Viktor Leonov has patrolled international waters flanking Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, every year since 2014, but since its arrival this week, it has sailed with no warning lights and ignored other ships, the US Coast Guard said in a marine safety information bulletin, according to CNN.
“The United States Coast Guard has received reports indicating that the RFN Viktor Leonov (AGI-175) has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia,” the notice said.
“This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.”
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Charles Mark Barney)
The notice warned local vessels to steer clear, advising they “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.”
The US Navy destroyer USS Mahan is patrolling in the same area, an unnamed defense official told CNN.
It is entirely normal for Russian surveillance ships to patrol international waters near US Naval outposts like Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Station Mayport, Florida, and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, but the erratic behavior of the Viktor Leonov is not.
“We are aware of Russia’s naval activities, including the deployment of intelligence collection ships in the region,” a US Northern Command spokesperson told The Washington Times.
USS Mahan steams in company with USS George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean during Exercise Mediterranean Shark.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Rex Nelson)
Air Force Airman 1st Class Lauren Nolan remembers running around the woods of North Carolina trying to catch a wild horse while she was a kid. She had fallen in love with a flea-bitten, little gray Arabian horse that nobody could manage to catch — except her.
Not yet tall enough to put the halter on, she remembers, she would put the rope around the horse’s neck and look to her dad for help.
For Nolan, a 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron materials management journeyman, this is where her passion for horses began, and that passion continues to be a blessing in her Air Force career.
“She can pick up on a horse’s personality in a second; she has a natural gift with them,” said Teresa Nolan, the airman’s mother. “Lauren would always get up really early. By the time I woke up, she would already be out in the pasture to see her horse and have her tied up, grooming her by herself.”
Stationed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas since 2015, Lauren has two horses that occupy her time: Tiz Sunshine, 4 years-old, and Shoobie, 6 years-old — both off-the-track thoroughbreds. She boards them in the local community and spends her off-duty time taking care of them and training them for barrel racing.
“When I leave work, if I’m not helping out at the barn, I’m working with them on barrels,” Nolan said. “Shoobie is a diva, and Tiz is a little doll button. If you’re trying to teach Shoobie something and she doesn’t understand, she’ll give you attitude right back. Tiz will do whatever you tell her; she doesn’t care. She will stand there, look at you and stick her tongue out at you — she is so quirky.”
Much as a military training instructor develops civilians into airmen, training horses takes the same time and perseverance, although it’s a milder process. Nolan works with the horses almost every day, and has even set individual goals for them. She wants them to be patterned with the barrels and running well by the spring, she said.
“I have to have a lot of patience,” she added. “You can’t take a 1,200-pound animal and turn it into a superstar overnight. It takes months and months, but it’s very rewarding to take a horse that didn’t really have a chance, work with it and make it into something.”
Nolan also uses patience at work. She works in an office ordering aircraft parts for the KC-135 Stratotanker. The stress of having the responsibility of ordering millions of dollars’ worth of equipment and the potential for mistakes can be somewhat daunting. If she has a bad day at work, she said, her outlet for stress is in the dusty barn and muddy pasture.
“It’s very relaxing to go and just hang out with them and get rid of all the stressors of the day,” Nolan said. “My family is over 1,000 miles away. I can’t see them but once a year, so the horses mean everything to me. Tiz and Shoobie have helped me more than anything else ever could.”
With the unique challenges military members face, from frequent moves to deployments, everybody needs a way to unwind. Spending time with the horses is Nolan’s way, and realizing how much Tiz and Shoobie help her, she is sharing this experience with others.
“Every once in a while, I’ll take airmen out to see them so they can have their little getaway,” she said. “They could come ride them, brush them or just interact with the horses to help them cope with whatever they’re dealing with.”
Nolan also brings airmen’s families out to see the horses. She specifically wants to help first-term airmen who are new to base, as well as children with deployed parents, she said.
“I take anybody out to see the horses who needs it,” she added. “Being on base and in military life is stressful for a lot of the people. It has impacted and helped everybody I have ever brought out there — you can see it. The kids grin, laugh and giggle the whole time. It’s instant. They get all giddy the moment they see them.”
Just as Nolan takes pride in her work as an airman, she has pride in her horses. When she brings other people out to the barn to see Tiz and Shoobie, she said, she wants them to look their best.
“It’s in her nature, it’s who she is and what she loves,” Teresa Nolan said. “Lauren will do whatever she has to do to keep them healthy and well-fed, even it means she’s not going to have something, just to take care of the horses.”
She gets off work and switches from combat boots to cowboy boots. When she gets to the barn and heads to the pasture to round up the horses, she stops in her tracks. She’s got fellow airmen coming to the barn to see the horses and Shoobie looks like a walking mud puddle from rolling on the ground after a night of Kansas rain.
With a sigh, a few words mumbled under her breath and a hint of smile, she gets the watering hose and brush. Here they go again.
The US Navy hit a major milestone in its quest to make aircraft carriers a more deadly, potent force by sailing the USS Abraham Lincoln with F-35C stealth fighters training alongside F/A-18s for the first time.
The F-35C’s ability to launch off the decks of the US’s 11 supercarriers positions it as the replacement to the long-serving F/A-18 Super Hornet, and the first carrier-launched stealth fighter to ever take to the seas.
The USNI News reported on Aug. 28, 2018, that the F-35C has trained alongside F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes early warning planes.
The new F-35C prepares to takeoff alongside an F/A-18E/F.
Rear Adm. Dale Horan, charged with integrating the F-35C into the Navy, told USNI News that unlike previous tests that merely saw carriers launching and landing the stealth jets, this time they’re “conducting missions they would do in combat, if required.”
Additionally, the crew of the carrier will become familiar with maintaining the F-35C while at sea.
Since the F-35’s inception, boosters have billed it as a revolution in aerial combat. Never before have stealth aircraft launched off aircraft carriers, nor have planes with such advanced sensors and capabilities.
The US’s move towards stealth platforms meant to challenge the defenses of top-tier militaries like Russia and China represents a broader shift towards strategic competition against great powers, rather than the usual mission of suppressing small non-state actors on the ground.
The US Marine Corps says it needs ground-launched missiles that can seek out and eliminate enemy ships sailing in contested waterways.
“Part of the homework that the Navy and Marine Corps have done over the past six months is how we think we’re going to need to operate in the future as an integrated naval force,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
“That means the Marine Corps assumes a role which we have not had in the past 20 years, which is how do we contribute to sea control and sea denial,” he added.
The Marines have practiced striking stationary ships from land and sea with missiles launched from High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, but now the service wants to take it a step further and hit ships on the move.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, said the Corps wants a system with an active seeker that can chase down a moving ship, something it doesn’t currently have.
“We have to have a system that can go after that,” Smith told lawmakers. “That is what matters in a contested environment in the South China Sea or in the [Indo-Pacific Command] area.”
Changing the calculus of an adversary
The Marines are currently looking at the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which has a range of roughly 750 nautical miles, as a Ground-Based Anti-Ship Missile (GBASM) solution.
Smith said the service will test fire the system in June.
The NSM is “capable of sea-skimming, high-g maneuverability, and the ability to engage targets from the side, rather than top-down,” according to written testimony submitted to the HASC.
The NSM would be fired from a mobile launch platform based on an unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle called the Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires, or ROGUE-Fires, vehicle. The missile and the vehicle together are the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), the testimony says.
The GBASM and ROGUE-Fires vehicle are “rapid prototyping and development initiatives” for the Corps, according to documents submitted as part of the service’s 2021 budget proposal.
Both have proven successful in war games and simulations, Berger said Thursday.
“Game-changer is probably an over-the-top characterization, but it definitely changes the calculus of an adversary,” Berger said.
The fiscal year 2021 budget proposal included a request for 48 Tomahawk missiles, likely the maritime variant, which appears to be first for the Corps.
“What we need is long-range precision fires for a small unit, a series of units that can, from ship or from shore, hold an adversary’s naval force at risk. That missile is going to help us do that,” Berger told the SASC.
Berger said the Tomahawk “could be the answer or could be the first step toward a longer-term answer five, six, seven years from now.”
With the collapse last year of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty — which banned ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 km and 5,000 km (310 miles and 3,100 miles) — after the US withdrew in response to alleged Russian violations, the Marine Corps has more freedom when it comes to ground-launched missiles.
Asked if the request for Tomahawks was a result of the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty, Berger said he “would assume so” but “hadn’t linked the two together.”
“We just knew we need a long-range precision fires beyond the range that we were restricted to before,” he added.
With its vast training areas and prime location along California’s shorelines, Camp Pendleton is well known for producing the finest fighting forces on the West Coast. What Camp Pendleton might be less known for, however, is that it has been a backdrop to some of America’s most famous films. Throughout Camp Pendleton’s history, multiple movie producers have utilized its training grounds over Hollywood sets to recreate authentic war scenes of our Country’s most famous battles.
“[Working with the entertainment industry] gives us an opportunity to showcase assets and capabilities that are available to production companies,” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Katesha Washington, Entertainment Media Liaison Office (EMLO). “It allows us also to accomplish our mission of telling the story of Marines.”
Camp Pendleton has an ongoing story to tell that continues each day. Since the base opened, over 20 films have been produced including “Sands of Iwo Jima,” starring, John Wayne. During the filming which also cast 2,000 Marines, producers transformed the installation to resemble the Japanese island also using elements to resemble the volcanic ash from Mt. Suribachi. Additional familiar titles include TNT’s television series, “The Last Ship,” and Columbia Media Corporation’s, “Battle Los Angeles.”
With access to starstruck active-duty Marines and their familiar training grounds, producers are able to create authentic scenes without a need to hire actors or build sets in some cases. But the Marine Corps does not merely reduce production costs without some benefit. In giving Marines opportunities to share the limelight with some of their favorite characters, the Marine Corps legacy is captured by telling its stories and reaching an audience, they might not typically reach.
For over a century, the Marine Corps has helped producers, writers and directors coordinate personnel, aircraft and equipment. “There are several steps leading up to filming a production,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Matthew Hilton, also with the EMLO. “We figure out how and if we can or cannot support.”
There have been countless stories told and countless stories yet to be told when it comes to Camp Pendleton’s rich history and tradition. Watching the actions of its Marines and sailors come to life on the big screen, both fictionally and non-fictionally only serves to preserve the Marine Corps heritage and real-life activities. And remember, the next time you watch your favorite action film, it just might have been filmed on the one and only Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
In an effort to reach a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by the end of next September, the Army is now willing to overlook some mental health issues that in the past would disqualify potential recruits.
According to a report from USA Today, the Army has lifted a 2009 ban on recruits with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and self-mutilation. The ban was imposed in the wake of a series of suicides involving Army personnel. The Army policy is that with “proper documentation,” such as a psychiatric exam, a detailed statement from the prospective recruit, medical records, and photos submitted by the recruiter, a waiver can be granted.
“With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman told USA Today. “These waivers are not considered lightly.”
In October, WATM reported that the Army was making exceptions for marijuana use and relying on so-called “category IV” recruits to make its quota. The fiscal year 2017 quota was 69,000. While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.
Elaine Donnelly, the President of the Center for Military Readiness, told WATM when asked for comment, “I’m wondering if the Army’s dubious and possibly unprecedented ‘solution’ to the recruiting problem is symptomatic of the larger issue of the decline in interest among qualified potential recruits. If interest is declining steeply, along with physical capabilities needed to succeed in boot camp, why is that happening? To simply draw a correlation between a stronger economy and difficulty meeting recruiting goals overlooks the obvious: correlation is not causation.”
“Perhaps the reason recruiters are struggling more than they did during strong-economy years in the past is because young people are not attracted to an organization that seems more interested in political correctness than in its primary mission – defending the country. To find out, the DoD will have to ask the right questions,” she added.
Last month, a federal court issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from implementing an August 25 memo by President Trump that would have the effect of revoking the June 2016 order by President Obama allowing transgendered individuals to openly serve.
“The video shows one side of the attack, the American dead, some photos were shot by an American soldier, but ISIS took them after the photographer was killed,” the Twitter user wrote, according to the Military Times.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement that it was “reviewing the post and determining the veracity of the tweet and the assertions that there is an associated video.”
In addition to that inquiry, AFRICOM is currently investigating the ambush that led to the deaths of 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers — Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, and Dustin Wright; and Sgt. La David Johnson. The soldiers were reportedly engaged in a joint mission with Nigerien forces when they were attacked.